As Citadel is over 4GB and until recently my monthly downloads have been capped at 12GB, I never expected to be able to play it. Fortunately, the cap has been thrown off, and now Citadel is mine to enjoy… mostly.
This new DLC can be cut pretty evenly into three chunks. First comes the mission where you hunt down someone who has stolen Shepard’s identity. I’ll avoid spoilers, not that it really matters as it’s a pretty weak plot that tries to seed itself in earlier games by alluding to foreshadowing that simply wasn’t there. For example, not once in Mass Effect 2 did I ever wonder who it was that put together the dossiers of your squad, and discovering that now doesn’t really add anything. It’s just a device to manufacture history with a character that frankly is new in every way.
Speaking of characters, the roster for Citadel is impressive, to say the least. Practically every squadmate of the trilogy who’s still alive is playable or at least present, and they all have fresh dialogue. The new girl Brooks is somewhere between charming and annoying with her nervous personality and temporarily loopy disposition (courtesy of a Medigel overdose). Even Wrex abandons his duties as leader of his people to help Shepard out, but I didn’t find this all that convincing. Bioware knew we wanted Wrex, so they gave us Wrex, and figured we’d be grateful enough that it didn’t have to be convincing. But this left me wondering if it was so easy for him to drop everything, why didn’t Wrex do so much earlier?
It’s the first smell of fan service, in which Citadel is practically drowning. In some cases it works, such as when Shepard decides to bring everyone on a mission, rather than just the usual squad of two. Most of the time, though, the game feels rather stuck up its own arse. From using Traynor’s toothbrush as a plot device, to Garrus making a crack about calibrations, to Shepard wasting time in a moment of peril by nattering on about how he likes to end conversations, the whole thing just feels way too self-conscious. I know it’s to appeal to the fans, but they’ve already got the memes; Bioware dog-piling on top just makes it feel dumb and forced.
Mercifully the cringe-fest is short lived, lasting only about two disappointingly easy hours (though to be fair, I did play this at level 60). Once it’s over, you finally begin the second chunk of Citadel, and get to hang out with friends at your sweet bachelor pad. You know, while the galaxy is being systematically destroyed. I can accept the reasoning that they’d be on the Citadel for a few hours every time the Normandy needs maintenance, but only just. On the other hand, once the socialising begins, such reasons no longer matter.
Most of your current and former squadmates contact you for some downtime in the ritzy new Silversun Strip, and each chooses to spend their time in ways reflective of their personality. Picking up Grunt from C-Sec after a wild night out is hands down the funniest moment of the entire DLC. Traynor’s space chess battle with an old rival (that we’re just hearing about now) is monstrously cheesy, but in a fun way. Watching a sports match with Vega and Cortez feels like a night in with the guys, right down to the petty squabbling over whose team is better. And of course, the options and activities differ slightly depending on who you have as your love interest. These multiple hours of socialising feel unique to each player’s Shepard, and they really highlight the personal and (for lack of a more apt word) human elements of the war.
The final chunk is the Armax Arsenal Arena and the video game arcade. The latter features some retro-style games to play, which are easy to pick up but rather frustrating if you want to top the scoreboards. I didn’t bother with that (though I did make Shepard beat Vega’s chin up record of 182, so you can’t call me lazy), opting instead for the arena.
Something of a substitute for ME3’s multiplayer for gamers who don’t like people, and a bit of a call back to ME1’s Pinnacle Station DLC, the arena pits you against enemies of your choice, in the area of your choice, with the strengths and weaknesses of your choice. It’s all very modular, allowing you to play with it until you find your ideal settings. You can also, through high scores, unlock new areas, enemies, squadmates, and more. Given that I was playing from an end-game save, it all felt a bit pointless, but I think playing a few rounds here and there as you work through the main missions will make it feel much more organic and rewarding.
I recognise that it’s unfair for me to judge Citadel solely on my end-game experience, considering it’s available from midway through the main missions. It’s not meant to be sat through in one contiguous play; it’s designed to fit seamlessly alongside the rest of the game, being less of a departure as was Omega, and more like reinforcement. However you play it, I’d say this final salute to Shepard and friends is worth the investment, as I know I’ll be playing it again.
Almost as good as real friends.