Phil vs. Phil: Mass Effect 3′s Citadel DLC Sucks No It’s Awesome

Phil vs. Phil is an occasional series that pits two writers who share a love of arguing and a first name against each other, as they take opposite sides on a topic and have at it.

Commander Shepard’s saga finally came to an end with the release of Mass Effect 3: Citadel. It gave us a new side story on the iconic Citadel space station, and it brought back most of our closest in-game friends so we could party together one last time.

Some of us (like Phil Owen) are happy with the closure Citadel granted us, and others (like Phil Hornshaw) think it was mostly just a bunch of fanwank. Today, Phil and Phil will meet on the field of battle in attempt to figure out if Citadel really was the conclusion we so desperately wanted. This is Phil vs. Phil.

Phil Owen: When I began playing Citadel, I was skeptical. This story didn’t have anything to do with the Reapers or Cerberus, and I didn’t like that all that much. But then Urdnot Wrex showed up and crushed an airspeeder, and I realized what this really was: a tale that takes place out of time.

Once I understood that, I could enjoy the goofiness of a clone Shepard and bask in the glory that is having all my old squadmates coming together to fight for me while spouting hilarious lines of dialogue one after another. This is shore leave, after all, and I’m supposed to have a good time. And I certainly did.

Phil Hornshaw: Man, am I ever tired of hearing about shore leave. Everyone who looks to talk about Citadel starts by excusing it by mentioning how, “after all, it’s shore leave.” Shore leave doesn’t exist when you’re fighting a war that will lead to your extinction. You don’t just take a break. My big trouble with Citadel is that in the context of the whole Mass Effect trilogy saga meta-verse of content sold to consumers, it’s the end, but it’s still a DLC that takes place in the middle of an existing story. That story is about the all-out fight for survival that unifies the entire galaxy. Nobody is taking shore leave when planets are burning, and Citadel weakens the overall story by excusing that.

I’m not a fan of the mental gymnastics required to make Citadel work. You say it’s a story out of time, others say that in their head canon it’s an epilogue or a side story or whatever else, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a part of the overall story and I shouldn’t have to do the work of making it fit when it obviously doesn’t. That’s what writers are for.

Owen: Ugh. “Mental gymnastics,” huh? Like justifying taking time out from looking for Saren to do literally any side mission in the first game or dealing with all your crewmates’ emotional bulls–t in the second while all the human colonies are being vacuumed up? Games having side stories that aren’t directly related to the main plot are not a new concept, and such side stories are not unusual at all as DLC.

But I don’t even think the context is that important. The reason I like Citadel is because it has actual personality, and it’s consistently funny and always entertaining, even if some of the fights are a bit more difficult than I would like. Still, I didn’t mind suffering through tough battles because what I got in return was so damn entertaining.

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14 Comments on Phil vs. Phil: Mass Effect 3′s Citadel DLC Sucks No It’s Awesome


On April 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Only one thing to say. Hornshaw got it right and Owen is a wanker. Can’t wait for the next dlc, where the star brat becomes a frat brat, doing beer bongs and shot guns. Smoking a little wacky weed, saying how the reapers just don’t understand him, then puking his guts up. Yeah, going to be great stuff.

Phil Owen

On April 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I’d play that.

The Defenestrator

On April 5, 2013 at 7:18 pm

I gotta go with Phil H. here. The Citadel DLC felt like they randomly inserted a scene from Benny Hill into “Schindler’s List.”

The occasional smart ass remark or comedic moment is fine to keep it from being a morose slog but this was way, way too over the top. The whole thing reeked of desperation: “Hey guys, you still like us, right? Well, how about if you slow dance with Garrus, do you like us now? Okay, fine, Wrex dances, DO YOU LIKE US NOW!? OKAY, JEEZ, BLASTO NOW LIKE US GODDAMMIT!”

They basically broke the story to mend the damage that came from breaking the story the first time. Which still leaves a broken story.

If this was post-DLC, I’d be completely on board because the big danger had passed. But we all know that can’t happen. Instead, they’re banking on people just playing the DLC as if it were something that was separate from the main story.

If your main problem with ME3 is that you wanted more of the characters, Citadel works. If your problem with ME3 is that BioWare pooched the story and then CONTINUED to pooch it, then it won’t.


On April 6, 2013 at 12:47 am

I’m pro citadel.

Also i’m on the side of Phil and not Phil!

Hans Cummings

On April 6, 2013 at 5:33 am

You know what? They’re both right.

Citadel has nothing to do with the mood or themes of ME3. It IS ludicrous that anyone would get an extended shore leave in the middle of a literal existential crisis. But, I enjoyed playing it. Moreso than the last 30 minutes of ME3, for sure. I could go on and on and on about the ending to ME3 and how it left me feeling unfulfilled and frankly, sorry that I pre-ordered the game (I’m not sorry I bought it, just sorry I spent full price for it). Citadel, with all its flaws, left me feeling good about leaving the trilogy behind, whereas ME3 without it feels like someone burnt down my house and pissed on the ashes.

Is it rational? Nope. It’s just a game. But games can provoke strong emotions, that’s one reason the Mass Effect series is so popular. ME3 without Citadel retroactively ruins most of Mass Effect as a series for me. With Citadel, I might actually go back and play them all again because I can go into Citadel as an ALTERNATE ending to the Red/Green/Blue choice the game wants to give me.

To me, it’s value is: It works for me.


On April 6, 2013 at 7:49 am

Have to agree with Owen here. Citadel is a great DLC, yes, it doesn’t fit in the game, but who cares, it’s still better than another serious DLC, which they would probably have screwed up, like Omega or Leviathan.


On April 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

To be honest, I’m not going to knock anyone but the wankers for liking this. As I’ve said before, I really wish I could like it. I really do. It’s soooo much more fun to be able to do some thing that you like vs something that just isn’t fun. But everything has a time and place. The Shepard I know from ME1 & 2 just wouldn’t be doing this. Not while his friends on earth are struggling every second just to survive. I just don’t see Shepard going, “Anderson and everyone on earth are biting it each and every day, so lets get drunk and screw.” Just don’t see it.
It would just like ‘the walking dead” Lee, Clem, Kenny and everyone, kicking a few back, hitting the bar and partying like there’s no tomorrow. Jukebox cranked, Clem shaking her booty on the dance floor, Lee getting drunk and passing out in the shower. Yeah, I’m sure some people would buy this too, but it would make any sense either. Just saying when something goes too far out of character, it’s just not the same game anymore. Cause this just wouldn’t have happened. Just my opinion.

Ray Bees

On April 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

Mindless afterthought fan service at an inflated price to squeeze one last bit of cash from the machine while trying desperately to convince the few remaining hangers-on that they’re on their side. I realise the story was completely and utterly destroyed by the ending but that’s no reason to exacerbate things. It’s fluff, nothing more than that. Entertaining for a few hours? Sure. Relevant to the story in any way? Quite the opposite, if anything it just dilutes the concept further.

Phil Owen’s entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is wrong. Technically, factually and ethically wrong.


On April 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Just wait assassin creed 14,because with a new super feature the animus will be able to travel to the future ,an so the lost grand son of Ezio will kill the last Templar who in fact, is the supreme Gets-maker ( Skynet in some way ), and every thing gonna be all right ,just don’t worry every thing has been planned long time ago, just spare some buks.
Sorry just can help it.
Good week end fellows.


On April 7, 2013 at 5:38 am

So they managed to get back all writers, actors, staff and spend hours in meetings, and more behind the screen, to write the Citadel… And no one dared suggest that they use this opportunity to REWRITE the ending ?
Cause the Citadel would have been awesome after the proper ending that we all deserved, saying goodbye (or start a new story like “let’s rebuild the galaxy together”) to friends that are still alive after the big fight at the end. But with the current ending(s), Citadel doesn’t work for me. I agree it is entertaining, it is well writen and consistent with itself (not with the rest of the game), I had a good laugh on most of the jokes, it felt good to have some new vilains to shoot at and some great places to discover.
But no matter what, I just can’t get out of my head how things are going to end, and I always get this “why bother” feeling that ruins everything.
Does it really make no sense at all to consider rewriting the end of ME3 ? Erase the current and create separate, alternate endings, one for each branch of the decision tree since the beginning of the game ? (including some where we can actually save the galaxy…)
To spend that much time and ressources to properly conclude the game trilogy would make a lot of sense to me as a fan (huge fan), and i’d be happy to pay extra for that. And then Citadel would be immensely enjoyable to me


On April 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Citadel was absolutely terrible. The fact that many people bought it suggests that we shouldn’t expect the game industry to grow up any time soon and tell good stories since kid jokes are way more profitable


On April 8, 2013 at 7:45 am

I had not bought any DLC for ME3, due to the ‘why bother’ factor.

I was sohoping that Citadel would be a post StarChild DLC, it’s what I’ve been hoping since March 8th 2012 when I finished the game originally.

I have not purchased Citadel. I have watched the copious amounts of YTube vids though. And the vids kept me from buying Citadel.

Hornshaw vocalizes what I thought was wrong with the Citadel DLC from the vids, and what kept me from buying it. (if Citadel had been post starchild I would have gone back and bought all the ME3 DLC)

And to Owen re: Saren in ME1, going after Saren was kind of THE WHOLE POINT of the game.


On April 10, 2013 at 3:01 am

The best thing about those kind of DLC is if you doesn’t buy it it never occured in your own canon.


On April 10, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I do agree it feels out of place and should have been the after party for destroying the Reapers, but I did enjoy the comedy and one liners this DLC brought. It was a total fan service to one bring the whole team together and to also make fun at anything and everything that made this series great. Yes, the price was a little steep for the DLC and am I sorry I paid $15 for it. Nope.