Commander Shepard leads a serious life. The galaxy is facing a major threat, and the disparate races that inhabit it need an attitude adjustment if they're all going to survive. Juggling these issues has afforded the commander precious little time to catch his breath. And now, here at the end, it's finally time for a break.
In this final piece of single-player downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, the battle-weary Commander Shepard is plucked from the world of galactic warfare and diplomatic intrigue and dropped into a most unfamiliar setting: a fun evening with friends. For one long night, the war is put on hold, and everyone is invited to reflect on how far they've come.
That's not to say this hefty, four-gigabyte update won't offer plenty of combat. In fact, you could almost draw a line down the center of this release. The first half deals with Shepard overcoming a dangerous new threat while on shore leave. Once that is resolved, the second half is strictly person-to-person (or person-to-alien) interactions.
This new threat is a private military corporation that is, frankly, a less-capable version of Cerberus. It employs a few new tricks, such as shield-detonating kamikaze drones and cluster grenades, but mostly it just gets mocked--mercilessly--by you and your squadmates. After the corporation makes an assassination attempt on Shepard, friends from past and present Mass Effect games descend upon it. Soon you find yourself fighting side by side by side with your entire team in unison, all of whom are hurling insults and exchanging friendly banter among the carnage.
The quest to stop these anti-Shepard militants is both challenging and humorous, with a surprise twist straight out of a cheesy sci-fi movie, but that won't be what you remember from this DLC. The combat is just a vehicle to get the band back together and reconnect atop the corpses of your enemies. The memories come when you're back at your fancy, new apartment planning for one massive party with the entire crew. That's when the tone of this story takes a dramatic shift to the comedic.
In addition to being the last piece of single-player DLC for the series, Citadel is the most humorous. Every little in-joke, callback, and reference the writers could work in, they did. Remember when Garrus would always talk about calibrations, or when everyone had to ride those elevators in the Citadel, or when Traynor made that comment about her fancy toothbrush? There's a joke for each of those--and so many more!
While these quips are great for a laugh, those looking for a bit more narrative substance will be left wanting. Maybe you don't care about Kaidan's cooking or EDI's taste in automobiles. If these rampant attempts at fan service don't strike a chord, you're simply out of luck. Developer BioWare's signature, grandiose storytelling takes a backseat here to simpler, one-off wisecracks. And a lot of dancing.
Once the dust has settled and the party is over, there is still more to do at the Silversun Strip: a new area of the Citadel and the setting for most of this DLC. There are plenty of disposable games at the casino and arcade, but most of your time will likely be spent at the battle simulator. This virtual reality game pits Shepard against waves of enemies, similar to ME3's multiplayer mode. Difficulty modifiers, such as less-effective shields or no medi-gel, help mix up the fun, but the most exciting feature is the unlockable teammates. Even if it's just for this mode, it's nice to fight alongside Jack, Samara, Wrex, and the others again.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel, swan song of the series, casts Shepard and friends off on one last comedic adventure, albeit in very shallow waters. It is an acknowledgment of all the fans out there who have fought alongside Normandy's crew across three games and six years. The old crew is brought together, but presented in a very different light. If you've helped Shepard endure from Eden Prime all the way to the Catalyst's chamber, then you'll have plenty to laugh about in Citadel.