Drive-By Reflection on Mass Effect 3’s The Citadel

My resolution to play female-fronted games for Women’s History Month has somehow become PLAY ALL THE MASS EFFECT, thanks in no small part to ME3’s final DLC, “The Citadel.”

In my playthrough (with FemShep!), Wrex dismissed the DLC’s driving conflict as something that “makes sense if you think about it.” Of course, it doesn’t actually make sense–at least not in the game that singled out Sir Isaac Newton as the “deadliest son of a bitch in space.” It does, however, make sense in the game in which all of the galaxy’s problems can be solved by walking towards different colored lights. It felt like a concession, “yeah, we know this is ridiculous, but it’s fun, so just go with it, ok?” And I did go with it. As I said on twitter, it’s a different side of the same coin that gave us the Catalyst. It doesn’t make sense, and the change in tone is jarring, but this time the reward–the emotional payoff–far outweighs the risks taken by muddling the game’s narrative integrity. This time, it felt like players were in on the joke, as seemingly throwaway lines from the game proper came back and paid off in surprisingly funny ways. In the end, “The Citadel” is every bit a love letter to both the fans and the games that brought them together. While it doesn’t fix the final game’s problematic ending, it celebrates what the game did right, and it extends an olive branch to those who felt betrayed by the way Bioware left its saga.

Mass Effect 3 - The Citadel
Eleanor Shepard and her crew.
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Mass Effect and Choice (or something like it. Part 2/2)

This was originally published on P as in Pterodactyl, April 24th, 2012.

At this point, I think I’ve finally progressed from anger over the awfulness of Mass Effect’s ending to “next time Bioware mentions its ‘artistic integrity’ EVERYBODY TAKES A DRINK,” which I suppose is the closest I’ll ever come to acceptance. That said, there’s still something I’d like to address. Specifically, I’d like to talk about the controversy over Mass Effect 3’s aforementioned artistic integrity and authorship.

Go ahead and grab a bottle. I’ll wait.

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Mass Effect and Choice (or something like it)

Major spoilers for the Mass Effect series below! This was originally published on P as in Pterodactyl, April 9th, 2012.

Now that it’s been several weeks since Mass Effect 3’s release—decades in Internet Years—there have been plenty entries in plenty mediums explaining exactly what is wrong with the game’s final 10 minutes. And it really does take plenty of entries in plenty of mediums to explain—there’s a lot wrong with those final 10 minutes. I won’t go into the specific plot holes here because they’re big—big enough to drive a whole space ship through while it deserts the biggest battle in human history to go… somewhere with a crew that should either be on the ground with me or vaporized. However, there’s one particular problem with the ending that has niggled at me since my first playthrough. This angry little itch has only gotten worse now that I’m approaching the ME3 hat trick and the game critic community continues to chew on the same problem. My main beef with ME3 boils down to the apparent lack of choice in the eleventh hour and whether we as players in Mass Effect’s vast sandbox really had any choice to begin with (and contending with the occasional addendum of “we didn’t have any so stop whining, losers”). (more…)