Downloadable content in video gaming is much akin to a short story spinoff to the novel from which it was conceived. It is completely unnecessary, but enhances the player’s experience within the main game. DLC is also very much commonplace these days, especially for big-name titles. It’s also usually confined to arbitrary expansions that don’t really matter, such as multiplayer map packs, or a new addition to your game’s arsenal of weaponry. However, story-centric downloadable content is increasingly being developed. Earlier this summer, the fantasy epic Skyrim received such content, in the form of the very-well executed scenario called Dawnguard. Now, it’s Mass Effect 3′s turn once again to add another chapter into an already gripping story.
Simply entitled ‘Leviathan,’ this is the third major piece of DLC to hit Mass Effect 3 since its launch. A story scenario called ‘From Ashes’ was released alongside the game back in March in a marketing technique referred to as Day One DLC, for which BioWare and Electronic Arts came under a bit of fire. Most were satisfied with From Ashes, however, as the add-on provided players with a new and exciting squad mate. After coming under even more fire from fans for a seemingly under-thought and disappointing ending, the dev team released an ‘Extended Cut.’ This expanded Mass Effect 3′s ending and provided further closure, and satiated the hunger of thousands of fans. This time around, however, BioWare adds an incomprehensibly powerful ally to Shepard’s War Assets, and provides more background information on the greatest threat the galaxy has ever faced.
The Leviathan scenario adds quite a few things to Mass Effect 3′s single player experience. First and foremost, the add-on provides a hefty sidequest of a little over three hours’ worth of playtime. This new mission takes Shepard and company across the galaxy, to previously unseen areas of the Citadel, and—most interestingly—into the abyss of a seemingly endless ocean. The revelations Shepard learns throughout the mission provide insight and background for the true origins of the reapers—including how they are able to use their indoctrination ability. Upon completion of the Leviathan mission, Shepard will have access to a new power, called Dominate—which acts as a lite-version of that sinister indoctrination.
The way Leviathan’s story is told is top-notch, and exceedingly creepy. The quest starts as all Mass Effect series DLC (post the original) starts, by Shepard receiving a new message at his private terminal. Turns out Hackett needs the Normandy crew to support stunning new research being performed by a Dr. Bryson of the Citadel. From Shepard and Bryson’s initial meeting, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Shepard and EDI play detective as they begin piecing together clues as to the whereabouts of a supposed “Reaper-killer.” In fact, most of the dialogue shared between Shepard and his crew throughout Leviathan is with EDI, and it was a treat getting to see their working relationship expanded a little.
As the add-on’s plot unfolds in a very dark manner, we begin to see why Leviathan would be perhaps the greatest War Asset Shepard could get his hands on. We also learn some things that impact plot points as far back as the original Mass Effect.
Unfortunately, that’s about all Leviathan has to offer. Aside from the fleshed-out story elements, the add-on doesn’t actually add that much on. The impacts it makes are interesting, and how it affects in-game universe of Mass Effect is huge, but you don’t need the aid of the Reaper-killer to complete the game.
The question is whether or not Leviathan’s story adds enough weight to the game’s main narrative to warrant a second playthrough, and here’s why. You can only access the Leviathan quest up until the point of no return in Mass Effect 3. If you only have save games of that point onward, you’ll have to begin a brand new adventure, then wait until after the Menae mission to start Leviathan.
Unlike Leviathan’s brethren, ‘From Ashes’, it doesn’t change the rest of the game by adding a new party member. Unlike ‘Extended Cut’, which was explicitly designed to only have new cutscenes, it doesn’t alter the events of the galaxy post-Reaper war. Even compared to DLC from earlier Mass Effect titles, such as Mass Effect 2′s ‘Lair of the Shadow Broker’ or ‘Arrival,’ Leviathan just doesn’t add that much to the mix. In fact, if you’ve already completed Mass Effect 3 once, the secrets you learn at Leviathan’s climax don’t hold that much weight—they sort of spoil one of the biggest reveals the game has to offer near its close.
Mass Effect 3′s Leviathan add-on is an intensely dark side mission, one which provides invaluable insights towards the defeat of the galaxy-ending Reapers. The way its story is told is fantastic, and it is a worthy side story to Mass Effect 3′s epic space opera. However, that’s all it is, and it’s all completely optional. There are no bonus characters, no character development for the heroes we already know and love. It does add a new power to Shepard’s arsenal, as well as one or two new pieces of weaponry—but it ends there. What it all comes down to is this–is ten dollars too much for another three hours of Mass Effect 3 gameplay? I’ll let you decide.
Christopher A. Carlson
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