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.

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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.