So the final DLC (Down Loadable Content) for Mass Effect 3 dropped today. Thus far I have resisted purchasing any of the DLC’s for this game. I had the same reaction to Dragon Age 2. I didn’t buy a single DLC. But for Mass Effect 1 and 2 and Dragon Age: Origins I bought every DLC. The games were just that good. But now my resolve is being tested.
From the trailer it’s apparently old home week all the living characters with whom you’ve adventured return. And you get a snazzy apartment. And maybe you get to spend some quality time with your love interest before bad guys try to kill you. Getting to reconnect with Wrex and Zaeed and others is very, very tempting, and the chance to spend more time with Kaidan — really tempting. But like the other DLC’s it suffers because it fundamentally affects nothing in terms of the ending, and I think it undercuts one of the great strengths of the third game. The building tension, stress and exhaustion under which Shepard is operating. One of the more powerful cutscenes in the third game is when Joker is desperate because Anderson has told him to “look out” for Shepard, and he awkwardly tries to ease the commander’s sense of grief and failure. It’s an honest and very human moment.
The entire setup also seems to violate Shepard’s fundamental character. You’ve been given this enormous apartment, but if you’ve played a paragon Shepard you’ve been trying to convince the Citadel to take in more refugees, and people are living cheek to jowl in squalid conditions. Why wouldn’t the good commander offer space in this giant apartment to refugee families? He’s got a pretty nice cabin back on the Normandy.
Then there’s the whole — Reaper’s are kicking the shit out of Earth, and other planets are burning, and millions are dying, but you’re going to have a party? Again, it seems so out of character. Apparently you’re back at the Citadel for repairs to your ship which helps explain this side mission and takes off some of the curse, but the tone is worrisome.
And somebody is trying to kill the person who is leading the effort to prevent the annihilation of all intelligent life in the galaxy? Why would anyone do that? Because they’re crazy? But now you have an insane antagonist, and that’s always difficult to pull off. They did manage to make that work in THE DARK KNIGHT primarily because of Michael Cain as Alfred’s wonderful story about taking out the bandit leader by burning down the forest, “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” But in Mass Effect 3 we’re talking the destruction of every living soul in every advanced civilization. That’s some pretty serious crazy if you want that to happen, and a very elaborate way to commit suicide if that’s what you actually after. For villains to be truly effective they have to think of themselves as the hero. As the writer you should be able to make a compelling argument for the villain’s position. Perhaps my training as a lawyer — to be able to argue both sides of a problem — has helped me with that, but I think it’s critical. Otherwise you just end up with villains who are evil because they are evil. Not a lot of nuance there.
Bottom line — I’ll wait to read the reviews. If there’s quality time with the characters and LI (Love Interest) then maybe, but if it’s mostly just a run-and-gun I’m less interested. I need the next great narrative driven RPG to come along. Maybe it will be Dragon Age 3? Sadly, I confess to being skeptical.