Mass Effect 3: Leviathan Review

Leviathan fills in a few of Mass Effect 3's story gaps, but a grand reveal doesn't fully overshadow the plodding detective work that precedes it.

The Milky Way harbors untold mysteries. Mass Effect 3: Leviathan solves but one of the enduring enigmas left largely unexplained by the spacefaring series. As Shepard, you take on the role of supersleuth, spending much of this downloadable add-on piecing together clues that guide you to a final revelation. Yet revelations are most stunning when emotions are high, and Leviathan's meandering pace doesn't build enough tension for the payoff to leave you breathless. Leviathan fills a cavity previously left to fester, but doesn't rise above its role as a plot-hole plugger.

Yet there are impactful moments here: one that tugs at your heart, and another that fills you with ominous dread. The former scene is one of mourning, demonstrating how a strained relationship doesn't make losing a loved one any easier. Leviathan handles the complex emotions with care, and benefits from sensitive voice acting that smartly avoids melodramatic sobs. The latter moment takes place underwater, where gorgeous and entrancing deep-sea vistas contrast with the danger of an entire ocean threatening to squeeze you out of existence. It's here that the story means to reach its apex, but ultimately fizzles, the dramatic reveal lapsing into dry dialogue, and the remainder of the story playing out in cutscenes.

Compared to Mass Effect 2's finest add-ons, which matched emotional storytelling with exciting gameplay, Mass Effect 3: Leviathan comes up short. That oceanic reverie is singular but brief, the gameplay already having drawn to a close before you reach the story's climax. The bulk of the adventure occurs in a laboratory on the Citadel, where a scientist has discovered signs of a creature or being so powerful as to be a potential reaper-killer. Thus begins your career as detective Shepard, walking around the lab and clicking on things until you're allowed to continue.

That brute might look powerful, but it's not anything some incendiary rounds can't handle.

These adventure-game episodes seem designed to build suspense and deepen the narrative context, but they're more like busywork. Part of the joy of a point-and-click adventure is using clues and items to solve puzzles, which in turn leads to narrative discovery--a reward for your intellectual effort. Though Leviathan has puzzle-like events, they're too simple to be gratifying, or to even be called puzzles at all. The mechanic is repeated multiple times, each subsequent visit to the lab causing the pace to suffer as you wander around the same space, clicking on that which was unclickable before, and hoping to get to the good stuff. Attempts to create a sense of mystery instead lead to awkward moments when researchers and assistants speak in zombie-like tones, their eyes staring blankly at Shepard, who takes a remarkably long time to figure out that something's not quite right with these people. At least the charming EDI is often there to keep you company, and later, Vega shows up unannounced to comment on one of Leviathan's cheekier elements.

The good stuff comes in the form of some exciting shoot-outs featuring hulking brutes and shrieking banshees, always an intimidating combination in Mass Effect 3. There's more bumbling around than shooting, so firing off some biotic powers and lighting husks on fire with incendiary rounds come as welcome jolts of energy. Even the prerequisite escort mission is palatable, the area giving you a chance to leap across small chasms and find new cover opportunities. It's here that you look to the frightful skies, where the reality of a reaper invasion is all too clear, the harvesters swarming above making for an ominous presence as long as you don't look too closely at their stuttering animations.

Shepard contemplates all the button presses that led to this moment.

It's hard not to look at Leviathan in light of previous add-ons' stories. Mass Effect 2: Overlord's electronic jolts and disturbing conclusion punctuated a story that you experienced firsthand, rather than heard from the lips of others. Lair of the Shadow Broker then raised the bar with a memorable lightning-laced shoot-out in what might be the series' best combat environment. Leviathan's standout sequence could have been remarkable, had developer BioWare directed the tempo as carefully as it had done before. Yet for all its meandering, the adventure occasionally stumbles onto something special, and the sparks of brilliance that make this series so beloved are ignited once more. If only they'd shone brighter and remained longer.

The Good
Multiple standout moments
Some fun action
Fills in an important gap in Mass Effect lore
The Bad
Prolonged sleuthing sequences are more boring than enlightening
Important plot elements are fed to you, not experienced firsthand
6
Fair
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6 comments
icebox98
icebox98

the dlc was great, especialy for tellin about the origin of the reapers. also, the war assets made me reach the 4000 ems target to save shepard

Llednar7
Llednar7

It was rather fun in my opinion. I kind of like that stuff, looking for clues and piecing them together. Though I agree the revelation was spoon fed to us, it doesn't take away the impact it causes on the lore of Mass Effect. 

wumpscutnut
wumpscutnut

Whatever. This was a really fun piece of DLC and was enlightening to the overall story and I think if you are a true fan of Mass Effect and play the game because you are invested in it's lore and story that you will find this DLC more than adequate. Kevin Van Ord seems like he's pants hurt over Mass Effect or something with these DLC reviews.

Tevi
Tevi

Good dlc fun and if you are from Atlanta you're team sucks

Valacan
Valacan

The story stuff is very important to the overall narrative and helps shed some light on one of the mysteries still around even after the extended cut ending. Anyone who cares about the story should absolutely play this.

zepedachemical
zepedachemical

Too much stuffing with your turkey ain't good. 1+Gb download! Bioware should have done lite dlc's instead of packing them with so much filler and gouging us with expensive content. Bethesda's doing the same thing. Both B's are partly to blame for the slump in game sells since late 11 early 12. Games are suppost to reel you in, the problem is, like any drug, the habit becomes more and more expensive. The drug being the steeply priced DLC.

EvanescentCrow
EvanescentCrow

The irony, after reading this review, is that the detective part was actually the only thing that kept me interested. The fighting, on the other hand, bored me because "once again, here we go, hide behind crates and shoot moving things... yawn".

 

The only part of the review I do agree is that the underwater part could've been more stretched out. I'd personally love to have the opportunity to do there a bit of what I did in Dr. Bryson's lab, but alas, all I got was some cutscenes.

 

Considering this is paid DLC, I would never recommend it, but if it was free, then yes, the detective part alone makes it a good addition, and definitely a change from all the annoying shooting the rest of the game already has.

Palhoca9
Palhoca9

You know, i don't see why people are always blaming EA for the screw ups of Bioware. Sure they may have some fault in it but Bioware wasn't always exactly perfect. I can remember a few game where the ending also didn't make any sense and/or the story sucked. One of those was KOTOR II. The ending in that game was horrible, yet nobody made all the rage that Mass Effect received. I guess ME is more popular... whatever, the point is Bioware guys aren't exactly angels, they have dropped the ball before.

theCCyberDDemon
theCCyberDDemon

Back to feedback it, it was good. One hour and some half to conclude it, it isnt very hard to play... wich isnt good but not bad either. I disagree with Kevin (at least one time in life i had to lol) The scenes arent boring. Its gave to the player some atmosphere, the best voice acting and cinematics so far. But clearly this is more like the old shovel plugging some voluntary plot holes doing his work than a trully tough-guy game experience... and i think they were right with that idea. I believe we will be satisfied with chalenges on the Omega SP DLC soon, now that probably doesnt need a deep story sequence but just biotics powers and futuristic gun blazes.

yasso
yasso

@misterbanks87 All that big talk might've been relevant if the review was about a full game. Unfortunately, you seemed to miss a fundamental pivot point here: this is not even an expansion, but a DLC! This means that there is never going to be any consideration or weight for "technical issues" unless somehow there are bugs (which would be shocking in a DLC built on a clean game). A DLC is also not expected to revolutionize any mechanics or combat basics for a game; merely adding new weapons or a squad mate is the best that can be expected. So in the case of the Mass Effect series specifically, the reviewer is doing the right thing actually by focusing so much on story, whether it is pacing or delivery. I would not be complaining about Kevin's review of this DLC, but saying that ME3 was actually a bit overrated, especially because there were deep flaws in the storytelling of ME3 as a sequel. Any good storyteller will be able to see how jarring it is to switch from charging emotions against the Reapers and Harbinger in ME2, then in a very jarring way, switch focus completely to Cerberus, and in the end, put a child in front of you to represent the Reapers; such crimes of storytelling really that completely burst the bubble of hundreds of thousands of fans, and all so that some executive can promote Transhumanism. ME3 should have been ME3, period, not the finale, because we should've gone back to an ME4 to conclude a LOT of unfinished business with the Reapers and the Harbinger who taunted us all the time in ME2. I only wish Kevin paid attention to these issues for ME2's review, but otherwise, believe that this review is fine. BioWare should've really done much better than this.

misterbanks87
misterbanks87

Kevin's reviews are confusing when it comes down to the final score.  I'm not a person who pays attention to scores, but a majority of people pass up games because review scores.  He always gives GREAT credit to the game, but then let the negatives weigh too much on the score when they are very small or very opinionated negatives that someone else may or may not agree with.

 

Technical issues and things like characters and plot not making sense are one thing, but pacing is up for interpretation therefore it shouldn't weigh so deep on the story.

 

Kevin usually speaks as if something like pacing is viewed through one lens and therefore his reviews become flawed.  Reviews are opinions of the person writing them, but they are also suppose to take into account that some times can be negative or positive depending on the person.

chinchillables2
chinchillables2

Yeah, his reviews are pretty cool. Dude has good insight... despite how friendly he looks. lol.

Buc0lic
Buc0lic

Fabulous job again. This is probably the best game reviewer on the net right here.

StaticKornSlipX
StaticKornSlipX

going through the main game's ending again will make you appreciate what bioware did with this dlc. Yeah, the parts at the citadel are unfulfilling  but the action picks up a lot in the latter half of the dlc. I disagree with VanOrd's take on this dlc...it adds a great amount of gameplay and the 800 ms points i spent was well worth it

rjfern7
rjfern7

Goodbye Bioware.  It was nice knowing you...

Tekken312
Tekken312

VanOrd's review is well-written and I had no trouble following along with what he was writing.

sieg6529
sieg6529

The worst part is that this will essentially remain unavailable to bargain-hunters because the DLC on Origin never seems to go on discount, no matter how dated it may be.  

Urizen316
Urizen316

I can't even read your reviews anymore without hearing your god-awful pronunciation.. Please, do something else.. be on the board of directors or play your violin and leave the gruntwork to the younger, still passionate videogame journalists?

jhonTeixeira
jhonTeixeira

this guy reviews like hes reviewing a book...

 

it seens that he doesnt want to review games anymore. Seens like he wants a new job

flamesofexuro
flamesofexuro

i thought the the story was pretty cool and the reveal at the end was awesome only thing i was hoping (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!) 

was that Leviathan would shoot out of the water tear the reaper the **** up and proceed to the final battle were he'd get Harbingers attention after shooting shepard at the beam and ripping Harbinger to pieces at least that wouldve cover Harbingers MIA from the end of the story plus it'd make for an awesome scene :P

stan_boyd
stan_boyd

I wonder if now that EAWare know they can make money off of thier fans to fix their broken story plotholes if they will next try and charge their customers for patches to fix broken gameplay mechanics in future games.

howie1926
howie1926

So far almost everything Kevin VanOrd has "reviewed" and given a bad review to has turned out to be amazing IMO and my friends opinions as well. How this guy got to be a senior editor is beyond me.

tymtraveller
tymtraveller

I liked the DLC, but the biggest problem is that no matter how you expand the lore, it doesn't change the mediocre-to-lousy ending (even with the extended cut).  Now, if the ending could be changed as a result of later DLC...It's just a fantasy, but wouldn't it be great if you could amass enough war assets to actually win conventionally?

Slade968
Slade968

@EvanescentCrow What? If there was any part of this that was filler it was the detective parts, if you could call it that. Run around and click on the already highlighted circles for a bit of dialogue... Not all that compelling. Check out LA Noire (or even the Batman games) if you want to see a detective game done right.

And the action is great in this game. If you are so bored then I would suggest a different class. I rolled vanguard for my first play-through and it was intense. There is something so badass about bio charging, dropping a nova to scatter a crowd of enemies and then mowing anyone left down with a shotgun and melee. That still hasn't gotten old for me. (Sentinel is fun too.) 

It sounds like you don't like shooters though. I don't like fighting games all that much but I don't go out and buy one and complain that all the punching and kicking is annoying. That would be idiotic...

theCCyberDDemon
theCCyberDDemon

 @yasso  @misterbanks87 A few minutes after I started playing, i have experienced a severe bug on a ladder in the first mission DLC. My feeling about DLC are just these as well. I completed the entire game in 20 hours like most, what gives the idea that every problem in the game's story are simply voluntary by them. So that these holes can be worked out during the year with paid DLCs. EA failed to force Bioware in these industry kind of game, but after the Leviathan, I would like to see a Shepard in ME4. Alive or without him. He or his team struggling in another galaxy after a weird distress beacon or something. Yknow, some mind blowing stuff for another trilogy, with my old save game. One man can always hope...

pathosfire
pathosfire

Not to mention, when you review everything Soverign and Harbringer said about the Reapers in previous games, nothing the starchild says about them makes any sense and only serves to make the Reapers in ME1 and ME2 look like clowns.

KillerBill316
KillerBill316

 @jhonTeixeira "This guy" is reviewing the gameplay AND the story. When you review the story part, it helps to be articulate. I don't want a review that looks like a 2nd grader wrote it. And while I don't agree with VanOrd all the time, his reviews are at least the best written.

vincent_tai
vincent_tai

 @stan_boyd They would, if there's a market for it.  But it would seem there isn't. :-)

wide_ocean
wide_ocean

 @howie1926 

How your or your friend's opinion is supposed to benchmark a person's career is beyond me.

 

q-w-e-r-t-y
q-w-e-r-t-y

 @howie1926 What do you specifically disagree with in his review? I found it pretty spot on. Or are you just complaining for the sake of complaining?

Hrodwulf666
Hrodwulf666

 @tymtraveller The fact that this DLC imparts so much in terms of law creates a problem with the main game, This should have been in from the start. Its a huge story arc that with a bit of embellishment would have made the main game so much more mysterious dark and palpable. why are we spending so much time on Cerberus...What is more important than this???? Also it causes issues if you play it early on, in that hardly anything else seems to equal its magnitude. In all I thought it was hugely atmospheric, I got it...  it was as engaging on a level that Bioware hasn't managed in a good while. Also the story poses another issue that makes ME2 look a bit stupid... If a Reaper is created at the end of every cycle... WHY were the collectors building a Reaper... If it is created in the image of the origin species, why was it humanoid... Also IF it is truly created in the image of the harvested species the it is created to scale... like Leviathan's genus... So why was the Humanoid reaper massive... Why did they bother with that at all??? 

SciFiRPGfan
SciFiRPGfan

 @tymtraveller I don't know. Sounds to me like a bad precedent - let's make a game with mediocre-to-lousy (using your words) ending and then charge players for a better one. That would be as bad as day 1 DLC IMO, because it would also imply intention to not show the best the studio can do just for a vanilla price.

 

Also, as sucky as Crucible is, the option of conventional victory would render it practically useless, which in return could make quite a mess out of the rest of the plot (which is about building it and figuring out how does it work).

 

And finally, conventional victory sounds like something that would take years, if not decades (unless it wouldn't actually be a conventional victory - i.e. replacing one a ton of suspension of disbelief requiring device with another).

vincent_tai
vincent_tai

 @tymtraveller Thanks for answering the question that I had in mind.  It sucks that the ending doesn't change about this DLC because Shepard's conversation with the catalyst would/should be a lot different after hearing the story from the Leviathan...

yasso
yasso

 @theCCyberDDemon  @yasso  @misterbanks87 I'd rather see BioWare admitting that they have failed us miserably in ME3, and have totally ****ed up the story, especially after the MAIN writer left BioWare (which is probably why ME3 got messed up in the first place and some executive jerk got to pull the strings to spread Transhumanism instead of produce a great finale)...and just re-do the whole thing really. Get back Mass Effect's main writer to the team, re-write ME3 properly, and call ME3: Reloaded or something like that, let us fight Cerberus in it, then in ME4 we get our REAL epic finale and the beautiful ending for the story that we all grew to love. And yes, mate, one man can always hope...or two men, in our case.

Raven_1981
Raven_1981

 @pathosfire this is exactly what I think, starchild ruined the reapers with his explanation

Slade968
Slade968

@q-w-e-r-t-y @howie1926 I kind of see where he is coming from. I thought it was a great DLC with the exception of the prolonged dialogue at the end. That is one thing I think Kevin nailed with the "Important plot elements are fed to you, not experienced firsthand." I still enjoyed hearing it though.

Kevin shows a lot of insight when it comes to this kind of review and I agree with a good portion of what he said. But still a 6? With the few negs he posted I expected a 7.5 at the lowest. The review and the number don't really match up. 

Idk, maybe I shouldn't consider a 6 "automatic garbage"

Hrodwulf666
Hrodwulf666

 @tymtraveller That said It also kind of channels you towards the Synthesis ending, in that if you defeat the reapers with Leviathan (and the two plus others) you will have an omnipotent organic threat with untold mind control abilities to contend with... or could have that have been too convenient a thread for mass effect 4. What would be there to stop Leviathan and its ilk taking over in the galaxies weakened state after defeating the reapers... Nothing really. Thus synthesis would be the best option, seeing as they would not be wiped out or subject to the control option... 

y3ivan
y3ivan

 @vincent_tai  @tymtraveller bioware stated that they WILL NOT change the ending, GOD child exists and deny the indoctrination theory. 

 

This dlc explains the backstory further prior to the ending.

Slade968
Slade968

@EvanescentCrow @Slade968 Pompous diatribe if I've ever heard any and not at all unexpected after visiting your page. As far as intellect, the only one lacking seems to be yourself. 

My point was that the so called detective mechanic that you championed wasn't anything special. I then pointed out some examples of it having been done better regardless of the genre. I wasn't comparing the games themselves at all.

I'd be willing to bet you spend a lot of your time in front of that computer of yours typing up every self-righteous "clever" thought that comes to mind not realizing that all that attitude does is alienate anyone who talks to you. I could suggest a few books you should read but I doubt you'd care to hear them because there is no way I could have an answer that you don't.

Regardless, when you grow up or gain some maturity, you may come to understand that vanity and self-indulgence won't get you far in this life and at the end of the day all you'll have is a few blog followers and an empty house.

theCCyberDDemon
theCCyberDDemon

 @yasso  @misterbanks87 I did not know he had left the team. But my hate is going against EA. We know that ME2 was great but have you noticed that only Shepard dies at the beginning of the game just to help the newcomers insertion on the ME series? So it could look like a fresh thing? These are the kinds of directions that a game story can't walk through, changing a original content to force you into something else. Another example of this strange direction can be seen at ME3 ending. It was somehow, made on purpose. I realized at the end of this DLC, that this "idea" would pacify our discontentment for that poor ending so we could change that ending into something better...gradually... with paid DLCs through 2012. They can't do that friend, this is wrong. Do not manipulate the players with such technical marketer crap..its just not right. Note that this technique might comes from the publisher and EA did it completely wrong after our big protests since then, and may this be a hard earned lesson to them.

pathosfire
pathosfire

They will not change the ending, and thousands and thousands of fans will never love Mass Effect the same again.

 

But it's over now.  It is what it is.  Oh well.

tymtraveller
tymtraveller

 @y3ivan  @vincent_tai  @tymtraveller

 I know they won't change the ending, that's wishful thinking.  But frankly, if you think about it, the leviathan dlc could (should?).  These beings are almost god-like in their domination ability and were the top of the food-chain in their time.  Spreading out the artifacts to allow them to increase their own influence opens a whole realm of possibilities, and consequences more than just a few more readiness points.

Mass Effect 3 More Info

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    Mass Effect 3 is the conclusion to developer BioWare's action role-playing sci-fi trilogy and completes the story of its protagonist Commander Shepard.
    8.4
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