Mass Effect: Pinnacle Station

Pinnacle Station
Pinnacle Station Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, Windows
Recommended? No
Buy from Amazon

Pinnacle Station is the second, and probably final downloadable content for Mass Effect. Unlike the first DLC, Bring Down the Sky, Pinnacle Station is not a new set of story-based missions but is instead a series of arena challenges. This is a bit disappointing considering Mass Effect 2 is probably about six months away and BioWare could have explored that game's future content by introducing some new characters, locations, or even the new alien races. But sometimes you just have to take what you're given, and Pinnacle Station is the patient fan's reward.

I honestly don't have anything against arena fighting, and I was just looking for any excuse to put Mass Effect back into my Xbox 360. I was one of those gamers that actually enjoyed the combat in the game, especially on the higher difficulties. While more story would have been awesome, more combat that doesn't take place in the same warehouse as all the other big fights is also very welcome. So here's my first opinion on Pinnacle Station played on the Xbox 360 with my level 60 Soldier on Insanity.

What I liked: Pinnacle Station opens up a new solar system to explore, and the station itself is in quite a beautiful location. It's tucked away in an asteroid belt near a very large, ringed planet. That planet is gorgeous to look at, but turn around and you get to gaze upon a galaxy spanning nebula. It's an incredible sight, the art direction of the station is truly a marvel.

In all, there are 13 total challenges available, with four types of challenges, four new arenas based off of Mass Effect locales, and a final, special challenge. The four types of challenges are Time Trial, just kill all the bad guys in a set amount of time; Hunt, kill bad guys to keep the clock from hitting zero; Capture, a simple king of the hill type game; and Survival, just live as long as possible. They're all rather simple and the maps are more or less ripped right from parts of the game.

I found Time Trial the most fun, the times to beat were very well positioned for an Insanity character, and I had to play the levels multiple times, memorizing where the enemies spawned to take them out in time. It was definitely challenging. Hunt was pretty imbalanced, I'll talk about that and Capture below. Survival could also be challenging, but it was never too much trouble to live past the two minute required mark, I often only faced the big bad guys at around five minutes and by that time wasn't really trying.

The final challenge is the most exciting and fun mission though. There are tons of bad guys, and you have a few automatic turrets at your disposal that you can turn on to up the carnage level. It's still a basic Survival like stage though, and I never came close to dying. They really hype this particular mission up too, as they keep asking if you're sure you want to go through with it, and how the safety measures will be turned off, and then there's the big wager. This is actually the coolest part of the DLC if you ask me, if you do win the final challenge, Shepard wins his own vacation home! You can even go there, and while there's actually not much to do, you can buy a random X-level item for 220,000 credits. I picked up a few Colossus armors in a short time, hopefully those will come in handy for Mass Effect 2.

What I didn't like: There's a bit of banter between Shepard and one of the aliens, I'm not sure why they even bothered as once you beat a few of his records, he just gives you a crappy weapon and walks off. I would have liked it more if I actually had to fight him or if there was more interaction with other challengers.

The captain of the station also constantly chimes in with his lame one-liners throughout every battle. Every couple of seconds you'll hear him say, "Give 'em hell!" or "Those med-packs don't come free" and my least favorite, "There's no award for getting shot the most, Shepard." Why doesn't the guy just shut up already? I'm trying to fight some serious battles here! For some reason, I was reminded of the game Bully while listening to the captain, not exactly sure why.

The Capture challenges were also incredibly easy. There's three or four king of the hill points throughout the levels, and you just have to run to them, stand on each one for about 15 seconds, and move on. For whatever reason, the enemies would barely attack you while you captured the points, you could literally beat these on Insanity without shooting your gun. Plus, the points aren't actually captured back by the bad guys, you just run from one to the another until they're all captured and hope you did it fast enough.

What I hated: On Insanity difficulty (the hardest difficulty in the game), nearly all organic enemies have a power called Immunity. When this is turned on, their health goes down very... slowly... when shot. Since many of the challenges are timed based, many of the battles consisted of me yelling at the game because I needed to kill five more enemies in ten seconds and they all just triggered Immunity. It's incredibly frustrating, and very grating on my nerves. It should be noted that as a soldier, I could also use Immunity to the point where it was almost never off. In this case, the only way I could get killed was to be camped by a few very big guys with rocket launchers.

And a second thing, during the Hunt challenges, you need to kill bad guys to keep the counter from hitting zero, every time you take one out, you get a few seconds back, well, you're supposed to I think. For the longest time, I could not get past killed 26 guys (when I needed to kill 40). It seemed like every time I would get around that mark, I either wasn't awarded any time or there were just no bad guys around to actually kill. Not to mention the first Hunt level I played, I needed to force my character to be killed because I had already reached the 130 kill mark when I only need about 30. It was a rather unbalanced game mode.

Would I recommend this? No, not really. Unless you're a hardcore Mass Effect fan looking for something to fill the time between now and the sequel, there's really no point in playing this (read Mass Effect: Ascension instead). It's just repetitive arena challenges that are mostly unbalanced and frustrating. I honestly did not have a lot of fun and was mostly just impressed by the art direction of the Station and vacation home. I am disappointed, as I believe BioWare had a huge opportunity to make Pinnacle Station a must-have download, but chances are it wouldn't have been Pinnacle Station then and instead something like our first visit to Omega or meeting some of the characters from Mass Effect 2. All I can hope is that the sequel is a little more inspired than this, but I have confidence it will be.

Pinnacle Station took me three hours to beat on Insanity with my level 60 Soldier and costs 400 Microsoft Points.

If you're new to Mass Effect and are deciding between this and Bring Down the Sky, I do wholeheartedly recommend that one. It features a new, huge world to explore, a giant firefight, and some great moral choices to make.

Mass Effect Pinnacle Station