|Platforms||Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows|
There doesn’t seem to be a major release from one of the big name publishers that hasn’t received negative attention for one reason or another lately. Whether it’s nasty DRM, a lack of dedicated servers for multiplayer, or it simply doesn’t meet expectations in previews, a minority set of gamers love to complain vocally. The gaming press gives these guys attention and highlights the low-rated user reviews on Metacritic as evidence of either ignorant gamers or evil publishers, but the same development team is back in the office the next day making a sequel.
Mass Effect 3 is the latest target, and while a variety of complaints have bubbled to the top ranging from complaints about the ending to homophobic insinuations that Shepard could never, ever be gay, the main factor seems to be about the day one downloadable content, From Ashes. Similar to Mass Effect 2’s launch day Zaeed: The Price of Revenge, From Ashes features a new level and a new playable character.
I haven’t beaten Mass Effect 3 yet, but I have played this DLC and spent some time with the new character. Here’s my review on From Ashes, the first of undoubtedly many DLCs to come for Mass Effect 3.
We’ll start with the controversy, because it frames my opinion of the DLC as a whole. When word was leaked that Mass Effect 3 would feature day one DLC and would probably only be free to people ordering the Collector’s Edition, the internet threw a fit. This wasn’t totally unexpected for EA, at least, I hope it wasn’t. I wasn’t surprised, Mass Effect 2 gave you Zaeed if you bought the game new through the Cerberus Network, and I was buying the Collector’s Edition either way so it didn’t bother me much.
Bioware and EA went into defensive mode and said From Ashes was developed after the game went gold, basically the time between when the game was done and when it was released in stores. Developers worked on new content, contractors were held on longer, gamers got a bonus squadmate, and EA made more money; wins all around.
The crux of the issue is that they came out and publicly said From Ashes was made after the game was done, they weren’t withholding content. But as it turns out, it’s on the disc. You know, the disc that went gold and then they started working on the DLC (paradox!). This was obvious to me when I first popped the game in and somehow I had already downloaded the From Ashes DLC, huh? I was honestly really confused about how I could have obtained it already, but then I put the pieces together.
Look: don’t lie to us. Don’t tell us From Ashes is somehow special and not developed alongside everything else. Don’t lie to us and essentially tell us it is not on the disc. The internet is a smart place, and your lie was called out in a couple of days. If you want us to think that getting bought out by EA hasn’t changed you, then don’t lie to our face.
Anyways, the actual content: pretty mediocre to be honest. The new level is short and a huge missed opportunity, in my opinion. The new squadmate isn’t bad, but where Zaeed felt like an extra, From Ashes’ newbie feels integral to the story.
SPOILERS regarding this DLC below the screenshot!
SPOILERS regarding this DLC from now on.
The mission takes place on Eden Prime, where you spend the very first hour of the original Mass Effect, but you wouldn’t know it if they didn’t tell you. You spend 30 minutes running around some crate-sized houses killing Cerberus soldiers and picking up items and intel. There’s nothing besides some Prothean ruins that will remind you of your initial trip here, and I think that’s a huge wasted opportunity.
Why not retrace your steps from the first game? It would have been epic to see not only what’s changed in-game in three years, but have a direct comparison of how much better Mass Effect 3 plays and looks. Instead we just plod around in some generic area that almost seems thrown together, so much so that I would have readily believed this level was made in three weeks after the game proper was finished.
There’s no significant boss, just an Atlas mech that’s dropped from the sky, and the baddies are all generic Cerberus troops. The highlight of the level are some cutscenes that play as flashbacks to the last Reaper war with the Protheans, which says a lot about the excitement level of From Ashes.
Javik, the new Prothean squadmate is pretty unique. He has a few biotic powers available to him but is also pretty handy with the assault rifle. I really do like the way he was written, being woken up after 50,000 years of sleep finding himself the last Prothean alive. He recognizes humans, asaris, and turians as primitive species because that’s exactly what they were in his time. His demeanor reflects the situation he’s in and isn’t all that happy to even be around during another Reaper cycle.
Much of Javik’s story comes out after the Eden Prime stage, and you’ll spend almost as much time talking to him as you did running around for the rescue. Liara is obviously over-the-top interested in him, and the rest of the crew vocalizes their own opinions if you talk to them after the mission. And unlike Zaeed or even Kasumi in Mass Effect 2, Javik actually feels like a full-fledged character. He has more than one-liners to say and feels like he was written along with everyone else, or at least given similar amounts of attention.
As a whole, From Ashes is probably not worth the price of admission ($10), unless you’d like to see more of the Prothean’s story. The new character is decent, but the accompanying level is weak, and to add insult to injury, is subject to crashing if you do things “in the wrong order.” Plus, you’re paying for content that is already on the disc, that’s just a kick in the face, if you ask me.