Phil vs. Phil: Mass Effect 3′s Citadel DLC Sucks No It’s Awesome
Hornshaw: Wait, if we’re arguing that Mass Effect 1 and 2 include bad writing in allowing random side quests, then it’s time to have a different discussion. A precedent of bad writing doesn’t excuse additional bad writing. Side-stories as DLC aren’t unusual, but side-stories that totally throw out the tone of the overall story? That’s a little different. Regardless, we’re talking about Citadel, not anything else.
But as for Citadel having personality — sure, I guess that’s true. It has a ton of personality. Citadel has no problem inventing whole new personalities for characters, too. Hey, Liara’s totally a jokester! Hey, Wrex totally dances! Hey, Shepard totally wants to go to a swanky sushi place! Sure, Citadel is entertaining. So are sitcoms. But Citadel is absolutely, completely at odds with everything that Mass Effect is. Mass Effect is not a laugh-tracked comedy tour; it’s a mostly serious story about deeper issues like racism, cultural unity, humanity’s place in the universe, and the refusal of comfortable people to recognize a threat. Shepard herself makes disparaging remarks about the oblivious folks on the Citadel living it up while soldiers are dying literally everywhere; and then by this DLC, Shepard throws a party. It’s completely out of character for Mass Effect, and more importantly, it’s out of character for the characters. Citadel sells off everything that makes Mass Effect Mass Effect in order to dish out as much “entertaining” fan service as it can.
Not to mention that it’s not nearly as entertaining as you make it sound. Some of it is funny. Some of it is not.
Owen: Again, I say you are missing the point of this whole thing. Citadel “takes place” in the middle of the Mass Effect 3 story because, well, where else are they going to put it? I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say it’s not a true part of the bigger story simply because, as you put it, it’s so tonally inconsistent with the rest of it. That said, you act as if they aren’t allowed to have jokes or let the characters cut loose for a while outside the context of the Reaper War. That’s ridiculous.
Sometimes you have to accept things for what they are and not what you wish they were, and Citadel is a case in point. BioWare specifically said this DLC was intended to be a sendoff for Shepard and her buddies. Yes, it’s fan service. And, yes, it’s an excellent goodbye. You seem offended by the very idea of fanwank.
Hornshaw: Whoa, wait a second. “What they are and what I wish they were?” Citadel is exactly that. It makes up a new Mass Effect because, apparently, BioWare or fans or some combination thereof wishes Mass Effect was something that it’s not. Accepting Citadel for what it is does not mean excusing its flaws, and one of those flaws is the way it altogether abandons everything that Mass Effect has been up to that point. If I wanted a fanwank I’d write fanfiction.
But regardless of those issues, here’s the trouble with Citadel: I don’t want a three-hour goodbye. I want Mass Effect to be a story told with class and integrity, one which takes itself seriously and which takes seriously the many themes and characters it has built for the last five or six years. That story can, and does, include jokes. That story does not make a mockery of itself. Citadel throws out any need for Mass Effect to be a serious story that could make comments about anything in the real world. It turns it into a joke and a laughing stock. And if you liked it, that’s cool, I don’t begrudge you the ability to like it. If you wanted a goodbye, then congrats, you got one. Garrus and Tali are not real people and they’re not my friends and I didn’t want a chance to say goodbye to them. I wanted a Mass Effect that set itself up with serious themes and stakes, and treated those stakes, characters and themes with respect. Citadel undermines all of that, and that’s why I don’t like it. That doesn’t mean I’m mad that you do, and it doesn’t mean I’m mad at jokes.
Owen: You’re saying, more or less, that Mass Effect can only ever be this one thing and nothing else. They can’t have some fun with it if they want to. They can’t inject humor into a side story. They can’t make Wrex dance.
Yes, Citadel is not really what you would expect from a Mass Effect story. But that’s completely fine. It doesn’t undermine anything. It doesn’t change how you perceive all of the other Mass Effect stories we’ve been given; you still have all the super serious parts. It is just a new, different thing that is highly enjoyable. It’s the writers relieving the tension for a bit and letting us cut loose for once.
Whether you accept it or not, Mass Effect is the franchise of the generation for a lot of really dedicated fans. While they may not be the best or most innovative games of the past seven years, they’ve told a story and given us characters that many of us have grown quite attached to. That BioWare would want to give us one last go ‘round with these guys and let them have fun and be goofy is not cause for anger. That they managed to deliver a piece of content that is tremendously amusing, regardless of the context, is worthy of praise, I think.