I’ve talked about this before. I did a review of the Citadel DLC in Mass Effect 3. It was the ultimate culmination of the series. It was a proper send-off that had so much heart. It made me think – if only the rest of this game had even a third of the heart that that DLC did. Part of me kind of hates that the thing that ME3 will be remembered for is the terrible ending. Don’t get me wrong, I viscerally hate it too. I hate everything that happens after the Victory Fleet returns to Earth. I spent a whole game making that army! Let me fight with them! What the hell?! Still, this DLC was amazing, and it was everything I could have ever wanted.
I wrote a post on how I would have done this DLC. Brief summary – I would have had it happen after the end of the game. If the game had had a better ending, that is. I would have had this be a comedic way to wrap everything up. It would have been with Shepard and the surviving crew of the Normandy going back to the Citadel, having beaten the Reapers and looking forward to some R&R. Anderson would give his old place to Shepard, and now they get to finally chill. But just as things are going well, in drops a new problem. If you’ve played the DLC, you know what I mean. Wouldn’t that have been perfect? Then the series would end with that party. It would have involved everybody in the game. It would have been the culmination of three games of relationship-building and character development. Granted, that would have made the DLC huge, but admit it – it would have been amazing.
Why did this DLC work? I think the answer is simple – because it felt good. Through the course of three games, we came to know and care about the characters in the story. We had fought beside them, gotten to care for their problems. Some of them we watched sacrifice their lives, in a way that felt important. All of these characters mattered to us. Now, we got to have a moment with them that was stupid, silly and overall pointless. But that’s fine. Because we still wanted to do it all the same. They were our friends.
You know what it reminded me of? That episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender where they watch the play about themselves. It was like a comedic roast, with each of the characters getting burned in their own special way, But we still liked it. It was willing to poke fun at itself. The characters gave each other shit. We got to see them not as comrades, but friends. Friends who came to know about each other and care deeply for one-another. The same happened in the Citadel DLC. And you know what – it is something that I think needs to happen more often. There is nothing wrong with a pointless episode of a show or a pointless add-on to a game, if it is meant to be stupid and fun. This works best with a series of games like Mass Effect. Where you have choices, and those choices matter. It allows you to get invested in the game, and that makes things so much better.
And it doesn’t have to be all pointless. I remember actually getting a little choked up when you saw the funeral for Thane. For real, that was hard stuff! He was a good ally and a friend to Shepard. Watching the tribute for him was a powerful moment. Then there are the messages that he left Shepard, and oh my god! That was so sad! So yeah, it can have serious bits. The aforementioned episode of Avatar had a couple of serious moments. Like when Aang confronted Katara about them sharing a kiss, which had never been addressed before then, or when Zuko has to confront the guilt he has been feeling regarding his uncle Iroh and how he had turned his back on him. Serious moments can be a part of something silly. When you care about the characters, it makes the moments that much more poignant.
A lot of people gave the game Gone Home a lot of shit. I’m not among them. I kind of like a game that is exploring emotions or playing to nostalgia. Truth be told, I knew how that character felt. I still have my collection of Pogs, somewhere. Not sure where, but they exist. My old cassette tapes are around my parents place somewhere, too. A game that allowed you to explore the emotional depths of a character is a good thing. So long as you get the emotions right. I also liked Dear Esther for that same reason. Both of them explored emotions. Same with one of my favorite games of all time – Journey. All of those games explored emotions that we could attach to, and all of them got a reaction.
My only regret about the Citadel DLC is that the actual end to the game didn’t have half the heart that this did. That was a real shame. But hey, we got the Citadel, and that is where I truly believe the game ends. Screw what happens back on Earth. That’s all bullshit that I redconned from my life. Also the reason why I am never playing Mass Effect 4, but whatever.
There is a lesson to be learned in letting players bond with characters and be able to see where that would go outside of the serious story missions. With gaming becoming as complex as it is, it is time we see more of this kind of stuff. At least, that’s what I think. Let me know your opinions in the comments section.
Until next time, a quote,
“Wait, job? You mean the rest of you are getting paid?” -Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC