Phil vs. Phil: Mass Effect 3′s Citadel DLC Sucks No It’s Awesome
Hornshaw: You’re saying that Citadel made you laugh so staying true to its tone, structure, themes and underlying meaning isn’t a big deal as long as it’s “entertaining,” and that’s not a good way to tell stories. I’ve never said Mass Effect cannot be funny, but Mass Effect has never been comedy. There’s a huge difference. In any other medium, if a story switched in the middle to a bizarro world where everyone played the clown for a cheap laugh — literally everyone, with literally every line or every other line — you’d criticize it as being a schizophrenic mess. You’re telling me that because you like Mass Effect, you’re fine with good storytelling evaporating because you found this bit “entertaining.” If BioWare wants to make a comedy, it should, but it shouldn’t gut the innards of Mass Effect to create it.
It feels like you’re making a lot of excuses for Citadel while refusing to live in reality. You’re saying things like “It was entertaining,” “It’s the game of the generation for dedicated fans,” “We’re attached to them.” You’re telling me fan service on a massive scale trumps good storytelling because Mass Effect is popular. If that’s the kind of game you want, cool, have fun, but that’s not going to make game storytelling any better on the whole — it’s going to help keep it mired in juvenile elements and power fantasies and do nothing for the medium. And before you twist my words again, I’m not saying every game can’t be just fun, funny, or entertaining. But this game, this series, set out to be something more, and I’m actually really sad to see it reduced to a sitcom in its final moments for the sake of a fan service sendoff.
Owen: All I’m saying is that it’s fine for Mass Effect to have a lighter side. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. This is just a side story, not the main game. If you don’t like it, you can ignore it. Nothing is tarnished here.
Look, man, why are you being such a dick about this?
Hornshaw: Why are you being such a dick?! After everything that Mass Effect put us through, after it fought so hard to be something different and exciting, after years of smart science fiction, we’re left with “Mass Effect: The College Years.” I’m fine with humor, but to just ignore this stuff doesn’t do anybody any favors in helping game stories be more than “just games.”
Owen: I hate you.
Hornshaw: You are everything that’s wrong with video games.
Conclusion: What you have just seen is two men named Phil simultaneously beating their skulls up against opposite sides of a brick wall. It seems like destiny that people named Phil have names that are too similar to each other to ever be able to agree on anything. That is a flaw in their character.
And so we must today embrace the gray fallacy. Phil says black, and Phil says white, so the truth must be gray. In one sense, Phil is absolutely correct in that the story present in Citadel is an afterthought, and it totally sucks that it doesn’t have anything to do with the greater plot of Mass Effect 3. In another sense, Phil is also right in that it’s not a bad thing that BioWare decided to lighten the mood a bit and just have some fun. And, man, it really does have some seriously amusing stuff in there. But Phil would argue that they lightened it up too much, and he’s not wrong.
So it turns out that Citadel has pros and cons. Whodathunkit?
Phil Owen is a Game Front contributor and freelance writer. Find more of his work on Game Front here and connect with him on Twitter at @philrowen. Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.