Well… that happened.
Mass Effect 3: Leviathan was the 2nd DLC released by BioWare, the first being From The Ashes. This DLC was put out after the Extended Cut controversy, where vocal fans of the Mass Effect franchise rose up in anger at the ending of the game. It wasn’t clear to me what BioWare was trying to do with this DLC. It seemed as if they were trying to do too much, wrap up as many loose ends as possible. The problem is, they only ended up creating gaping plot holes.
First, the good things.
The game play was phenomenal. BioWare outdid themselves again in creating a fun gaming experience. The controls were intuitive. The battles were intense. The challenges were different from the actual game in a very good way, making me feel like this is definitely new and added content! As game mechanics go, this is exactly what I look for in a game. So from a game design / game play perspective, you did perfect BioWare! Absolutely perfect.
Every map in the game felt different. The ship battle was confined, just like fighting on a derelict ship should be. Walking underwater was incredibly difficult. I kept on looking at the pressure gauge, hoping that I wasn’t about to go to far down and get crushed. Oh, and fighting through that digsite… wow. That was the first time I fought through a map that was collapsing! That offered challenges that I loved to no end.
The dialogue was a really nice touch as well. The many characters interacted with each other, making it feel like they are an actual team rather than two silent partners who just happened to fight enemies. I could tell they were there from what they said. Small touches like this adds to the overall experience.
The music was, as always, top notch.
On the other hand, the story….. no.. just, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
We begin with Shepard being told to visit Dr Garret Bryson, as he was trying to find a way to defeat the Reapers. We quickly learn it has to do with the Leviathan of Dis, a blurb from the 1st Mass Effect and the focal point of Mass Effect: Arrival. This DLC attempted to answer a simple question: what killed the Leviathan of Dis? Whatever killed it was powerful, and if Shepard could find it… it could turn around the Reaper war.
Now, as a rule, the overarching story should never be violated. For example, if we learn the Geth were synthetic, we should not see an organic Geth. If we learn Quarians lived in suits, we should not see a suitless Quarian. If Shepard learned something in one game, that thing he learned should matter in the proceeding games. These things were established in the game and critical to the overall narrative/story.
Commander Shepard knows more about mind control than anyone else alive. He’s personally seen three separate kinda of mind control in action (Rachni, Thorian, Reaper). If he ever sees anyone… and I mean anyone… acting strangely, he’s the one who would suspect mind control is going on. But when he saw people acting very strange, did he consider mind control as a reason? No. He didn’t even consider it. He saw Derek Hadley gun down Dr Garret Bryson, and Derek acted confused and disorientated.. but Shepard thought there was something wrong with him like he was crazy. He was showing the telltale signs of it… sounding strange, not having any memories of things, being horrified by the actions he did as if he wouldn’t have done it normally.. but still, he didn’t even consider it.
Or, when he went to an asteroid mine where everyone was acting bizarrely calm and robotic… and he just acted like everyone was being weird. It was painfully obvious they were all either robots/androids or under some sort of mind control. It was as if the writers were expecting the players to have never played the first Mass Effect game, as Shepard’s experiences with all the forms of mind control didn’t matter in the slightest.
Another concern I have with the story has to do with the final conversation Shepard had with the Leviathan. I firmly believe it broke the entire narrative for the game. Leviathan revealed to Shepard the existence of a singular Intelligence who was in control of the Reapers. This sort of information is a game-changer. Shepard was trying to find a way to stop the Reapers. That’s why he was trying to find the Leviathans. And then he was told that there was one program that was running experiments and that the harvest itself was all controlled by one thing.
I suspect BioWare was attempting to justify the existence of the Catalyst. If they could create an overarching story which clearly points to the Catalyst behind everything to do with the Reapers actions, then the ending would make far more sense. They didn’t account for one very simple thing. If Shepard knew that there was someone or something behind everything the Reapers did, then Shepard would have a target to go after. Shepard is at his best when he has a clear cut target. In ME-1, it was Saren. In ME-2, it was the Collectors.
There needed to be something to account for why Shepard didn’t act on this information. We didn’t receive that. The information was more for the player rather than for Shepard, and that’s a huge problem. Shepard was the one who heard this information and he was the one who was supposed to react to it.
The entire DLC was about following clues to locate the Leviathans. It was clearly emphasized they did not want to be found. The story didn’t get much more complicated than that, though it didn’t have to. It was your basic follow the clues story with the Reapers trying to discover them as well. So the story itself was for the most part unremarkable. Go to one spot. Fight. Explore. Find clue. Move onto next place. Repeat until you find the Leviathans.
The story really needed to be simple, as very little could have been out there about the Leviathans. If you remember the first game, Liara spoke about how there were multiply cycles, and there was less and less information about every previous race. So when you’re dealing with the very first race, there had to be next to nothing! This means, story-wise, the story needed to be as plain as possible until the Leviathans were unveiled. So, I’m not really talking about the story too much because, well, I don’t think there was too much there.
I don’t understand why the Leviathans weren’t part of the actual game. Shepard asked about the origins of the Reapers three separate times in the first game. This was very clearly something that was important enough to Shepard to ask about it. To ask the gamer to pay extra to receive the answers to questions asked in the very first game seems wrong.
So, can I recommend people purchase this game? Not really. It has great gameplay. So if you want to get it for the gameplay, you should. You really should. I cannot praise the gameplay enough. But for the story? That, I cannot recommend for the reasons I said already.