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Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Jonathan Lester
BioWare, DLC, EA Games, Mass Effect 3, Mass Effect 3: Citadel

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Platforms: PC | PSN (£11.99) | Xbox Live (reviewed, 1200 MSP)

Developer: BioWare

Publisher: EA

Mass Effect 3's DLC pipeline has been a mixed bag. We like free multiplayer expansions, but BioWare's attempt to add new story content into a completed narrative stunk of desperation. Many of us (I speak for everyone at Dealspwn.com) simply can't face the idea of facing that ending again, and more to the point, why should we pay for more war assets that don't affect the final battle in any way? We know how it ends. Why fight it? Why bother?

Citadel is different. Though it's set before the final assault, BioWare knows that the majority of players will experience it well after their first playthrough, making it the spiritual end to the franchise if not the canonical one. It's like a Christmas or holiday special for your favourite TV show, penned after the fact by the same writers and starring the same actors who strive to make the ultimate fan service package. As such, Citadel is a barefaced excuse to just spend more time with the characters we've grown to love over the last few years, BioWare seemingly scouring the forums for every last 'what if' scenario and goofy, wonderful cameos. Topped off by an enormous house party and a rollicking adventure that brings new and old faces together for one final fling.

At face value, Citadel really shouldn't work as well as it does. But damn, it works.

After installing the DLC (a two-stage process on Xbox Live: you'll need to download the free second part after buying the first), you'll be able to access the Citadel content after the Cerberus coup attempt but before the attack on the Illusive Man's base. A quick check of your emails will reveal that Shepard is long overdue some shore leave, prompting him to visit the Citadel and take ownership of Anderson's lavishly-appointed apartment.

This seemingly innocent setup catapults you into a self-contained three mission storyline. A quiet meal with Joker quickly descends into a madcap escape from a team of mysterious mercenaries, with Shepard isolated and alone until his love interest shows up to save him. And Wrex, yes, Wrex, if you saved him in the original Mass Effect. The crew then infiltrates a black tie gala, which makes up for some awkwardly-implemented stealth mechanics with a wealth of optional dialogue. Depending on who you saved throughout the three games, your love interest and who you bring along, the sheer number of different dialogue permutations is absolutely overwhelming.

Saving the best for last, the final mission sees Shepard bringing his entire squad (and Wrex, of course) along for a rollercoaster ride battle against a larger-than-life new enemy, closing with a truly epic boss battle in a seriously surprising location.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Mass Effect 3's late game may be desperate and grim, but Citadel takes a totally different tone. Rather than dwelling on loss and sacrifice, it's a rip-roaring adventure that wouldn't feel out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon or blockbuster action adventure film. Like Blues Brothers or The Mummy, the whole thing is breezy and upbeat, chock-full of over the top one liners, catch phrases and any number of fist-pumpingly epic moments. All of the cast clearly relish the opportunity to revisit their roles one last time, belting out their hammy lines with gusto and just enough gravitas to stop Citadel from becoming a hammy pantomime.

Citadel's three missions can be bludgeoned through in just under two hours, but that would be missing the point. Levels (especially the second) are packed with exquisitely-written optional dialogue that references previous games, sometimes even subtly breaking the fourth wall to deliver some laugh-out-loud Easter eggs. There's new lore that expands the universe yet further, and some truly memorable moments (even Paragon/Renegade interrupts) that rank amongst the series' best. Ultimately, Citadel exists to let you spend more time in the Mass Effect universe, an opportunity that fans should seize with both hands.

Brilliantly, though, the story missions are just the tip of the iceberg.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Once you've defeated the new threat, Shepard is free to invite characters up to the apartment for some one-on-one time, or hang out with them in a new area called Silversun strip. Both familiar mainstays and old hands are available for a quick chat or a catch-up, whether it's playing arcade games with Zaeed, wingmanning Garrus in a bar, online shopping with EDI and more besides; especially if you managed to save the likes of Mordin and Miranda. You'll also get to spend some more quality time with your love interest, and Jack fans will be pleased to note that she finally has a romance scene of her very own [I'm sold - Carl]. Despite being relatively brief, these sections are superbly written, and often place characters into some goofy and unexpected situations.

If you happen to own the From Ashes DLC, you'll also get to meet a certain Hanar supercop... and call him a Cnidaria of below average intelligence. Oh yes. You know the line. The level of fan service borders on the obscene and embarrassing, sometimes even dangerously close to fan faction territory, but BioWare's trademark brilliance at delivering believable dialogue makes Citadel fit neatly into the universe.

Note that you still won't get to see Tali's face, but after my rage subsided, I realised that this is probably for the best. The only thing worse than never seeing Tali's mug is being forced to pay for it like a Quarian Amsterdam peep show.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Silversun Strip also holds a few surprises of its own, including some addictive minigames and a combat simulator that lets you battle waves of enemies with any combination of allies from the series. New modifiers and squadmates can be unlocked as you go, and though it's undernourished take on Mass Effect 3's multiplayer offerings, it's an entertaining diversion nonetheless.

Finally, you'll be able to throw a party. Shepard can choose the guest list and tone, deciding whether to organise an intimate gathering or a lary, wanging, chunging kegger, and affect its progress as the night develops. Once you start the ball rolling, the sheer number of potential conversations and different story options (don't let Wrex get in your shower) are absolutely mindblowing, leading to insane replay value as you constantly replay it with different guests and levels of intoxication. More to the point, fans will love to hang out with their friends, even the peripheral or DLC characters, in a totally relaxed setting; it's a joy to just stand back and watch your comrades have one last glorious night of fun before the end. Regardless of how things end, you'll all crowd around the sofa for a Kodak moment, bringing the series to a satisfying conclusion even though you know what eventually happens on Earth.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

As part of a newcomer's first playthrough, Citadel will make for a rewarding if slightly awkward distraction before the final assault. Though you might wonder why Shepard is willing to put the battle for survival on hold to max and relax, it's a welcome dose of levity amongst the grim determination and desperation. Even Shakespeare knew that a little happiness makes tragedy hit so much harder.

But Citadel isn't really for new players. It's for the fans, the gamers who love being in the Mass Effect universe, who love the characters and desperately want to spend more time with them. It's one last hurrah before the final battle. Though Citadel isn't the end in canonical terms, most Mass Effect 3 fans will complete the new content before putting down their controllers, sighing contentedly, and leaving it at that.

In fact, Citadel will basically become Mass Effect 3's new ending for most players. Your abiding memories won't be of that accursed blue child and his nonsensical choice-that-wasn't. Instead, you'll remember that one last jaunt, the party and the friends you made throughout half a decade. The way, frankly, it should be. Citadel corrects Mass Effect 3's Achilles Heel more comprehensively than even the Extended Cut ever could, without changing or compromising a single thing.


  • Rollicking adventure puts the band back together
  • Truly amazing amount of optional dialogue permutations, changes depending on your choices and playthroughs
  • Lets you hang out (and party) with your squad one last time
  • Gives Mass Effect a proper send-off and a new spiritual ending


  • Huge file size and multiple Xbox 360 downloads
  • Some awkwardly-implemented stealth mechanics
  • You'll still be left wanting more, despite impressive replay value

The Short Version: Mass Effect 3: Citadel is time spent in good company. A chance to say goodbye to friends we made over the best part of a decade, one last adventure, and good memories to supplant the gutwrenching disappointment of Mass Effect 3's true ending. Simpering fan service of the most exquisite kind.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review | Good Company

Click here for more info on our review and scoring process >>

Add a comment9 comments
Ilium  Mar. 9, 2013 at 01:03

This sounds almost too good to be true, Jonathan :)

I haven't been back to Mass Effect 3 since the first playthrough, but for the first time I'm considering it in light of this review. Can you use a previous save fie or is it best starting over?

JonLester  Mar. 10, 2013 at 16:50

I would absolutely suggest loading up a pre-final assault save file, playing through the Citadel content to the full, then leaving it at that. For your first time it's best enjoyed like a TV holiday/Christmas special, not as part of another playthrough. More to the point, it'll only make sense if it reflects the choices you've already made re love interest, survivors etc.

However, there are so many dialogue and party permutations that it's worth replaying it a few times, and then perhaps as part of a full series playthrough. I plan to do something similar with a 1-3 Femshep run.

EDIT: I'd refer you to the last three paras of the body text.

Last edited by JonLester, Mar. 10, 2013 at 17:04
csm3561  May. 29, 2013 at 00:53

I don't know why they would give them a "new ending" as you put it after they verbally abused Bioware's staff, caused the doctor's to leave the building, as well as tried to manipulate Bioware's PR words into getting what they want (eg. Bioware says the entire game is the ending, and they did see many previous choices pay off during the course of the game. As well as much closure during the game. Fans say the last 5 minutes is the ending. Fans demanded that the ending be retooled to suit how they saw it). Not the last 5 minutes, but they demanded that a suicide mission rewrite for the Priority Earth mission be made instead of what they got (doom and gloom). Essentially, they didn't like the doom and gloom mission, so they wanted it completely rewritten. Absolutely out of line in my books.

Then they use that whole customer is always right, as well as "well, if you don't do X, I'm not going to buy another game from you". It's emotional blackmail damn it.

These fans don't deserve anything. No matter how loyal they claim to be. If they were my customers, I'd say "I don't want your business anymore. Please leave. I'll find new customers, who won't abuse my staff or write hateful threatening letters to my staff or their families (yes, some people actually did threaten their staff's family members, who had nothing to do with making the game).

JonLester  May. 29, 2013 at 09:09

@csm3561: I think you've slightly misunderstood me here. We've always said that BioWare shouldn't re-write the ending, and especially not to give players some sort of "happy" closure that would have been totally inappropriate given the desperate tone of the final mission. Mass Effect is their artistic vision - but as we saw with the extended cut, they weren't exactly proud of the conclusion...

That's water under the bridge. I'm suggesting that Citadel is the perfect way around this thorny issue. The original ending stands - for better or worse - but fans now have one last chance to have that 'happy' last bit of time with their favourite characters and friends without compromising the original game and story - especially since most players will experience Citadel long after completing ME3.

Last edited by JonLester, May. 29, 2013 at 09:22
jonvanderhoef  Jan. 24, 2014 at 00:07

In a way though, Citadel is an alternate ending. Not a completely new ending, because it doesn't rewrite or change the original ending. For many, Citadel is the ending the game should have had. Let's face it, fans are upset because there was no happy ending with their squadmembers.

They couldn't stomach that in 98% of the original endings (aside from when Shepard wakes up), everything died, and all your hard work went kaput. Although in the ending where Shepard lives, all that work gets kept intact. That is the epitome of choices mattering.

As many put it their choices don't affect the original ending. They did. It's just not explicitly shown, because Bioware assumed people could fill in the blanks. The "they didn't shown the aftermath of what happened to the galaxy" is such horseshit. This is an RPG. Use your imagination and decide what happened. Not everything has to be shown. This was the end of Shepard's story, not the entire galaxy. We saw the end of Shepard, and then cut to credits. End of the trilogy is the end of Shepard, not everyone else.

There was plenty of closure during the course of the game. You had plenty of times to make your peace with your squadmates, and they told you what their plans were after the war. They set this up like it was the last day on Earth. As if it was the last day alive. So there wasn't going to be an afterwards showing what people were up to, as many had hoped. Until people started twisting Bioware's arm and they made the EC.

Bioware never admitted that they weren't proud of the original ending or EC. You're putting words in their mouth.


Bottom line, people are mad because Mass Effect 3 didn't have a happy ending. Worst fanbase ever.

MattGardner  Jan. 24, 2014 at 09:43

It's not about the depressing ending or entitlement of any sort. It's about bad writing.

There were at least two moments before the actual ending that would have made for perfect, bittersweet, brave closing points, stuffed with futility. Instead we got ten minutes of Matrix Revolutions-esque waffle that not only made absolutely no sense in the context of the series, but actively tried to retcon certain aspects of the previous narrative.

It's hilariously awful, it's horribly paced, it's riddled with plotholes, and it's indefensible from a critical standpoint if you compare it with everything that BioWare have ever done (except maybe bits of Dragon Age II). It's one of the laziest endings to a series -- TV, literary, gaming, whatever -- that I've ever seen.

People got mad (many, sadly, to unfortunate and disgraceful degrees) because after 120 hours of quality writing, the finale was terrible. Making it happier wouldn't have helped any.

CarlPhillips  Jan. 24, 2014 at 10:56

Before I add to this discussion, I just want to say that I think the fact we're still talking about this topic with such passion goes to show how good the rest of the Mass Effect experience was. Regardless of the ending, I consider the Mass Effect trilogy to be one of, if not the, best gaming experience I've had the pleasure of playing.

Anyway, to the topic at hand:

I think the assumption that the fans couldn't fill in the blanks is a little off, as the once-popular Indoctrination Theory shows. Fans not only filled in the blanks left in BioWare's writing, but they envisioned their own ending that gave their previous actions and decisions meaning again.

Hell, it even spawned the wonderfully creative Marauder Shields.

Personally, I stand by the opinion that as soon as Shepard sets foot on Earth the game went into a downward spiral, both in terms of narrative and level design. I was expecting to make Virmire-like (or even Omega Relay-style) hard choices of which squad members would live or die, and while this was somewhat addressed in the EC on the run to the beam, it all boiled down to how much of the game the player had completed thanks to the GR score, which was still a cop-out compared to how ME1 and ME2 had handled player actions and choices right up to the very end.

Additionally, the CGI trailers promised much ground-pounding in the push to save Earth, and instead all we got were a few arenas and Anderson reminding us he was born in London. We never got to see the impact of (or, in fact, witness in any form) the Volus bombing squads Shepard had taken the time out to liberate, and it was these lack of such details in the final few hours that made the ending a bitter pill to swallow.

From the very beginning I wasn't expecting Shepard to make it out alive. I was prepared for the worst the entire time, for both him and his squadmates, but the way the ending was delivered was far too lazy in execution. That said, I eventually came to peace with the ending - it was what it was, and just like in real life, sometimes it doesn't quite go the way you wanted it to.

As for Citadel, for me it went beyond providing an "alternate ending" - it gave me the chance to give my Shepard's romance with Jack some proper closure, and not just a throwaway phone call. The same can be said for the FemSheps who romanced Thane. Yes, the main plot was a bit of silly, over-the-top, referenced-fuelled fun, but in the end I felt it as bittersweet because we ultimately knew that these friends, these comrades, who had just had a moment of piece, were about to jump back into the deadly fray to save the galaxy.

And you know what? Even in the face of all of these feelings, I'd be happy to do the entire trilogy again. Because it was awesome.

MattGardner  Jan. 24, 2014 at 11:47

Before I add to this discussion, I just want to say that I think the fact we're still talking about this topic with such passion goes to show how good the rest of the Mass Effect experience was. Regardless of the ending, I consider the Mass Effect trilogy to be one of, if not the, best gaming experience I've had the pleasure of playing.


We're still talking about it because it matters. That's what happens with great art and entertainment. And I agree with Carl, in spite of the ending, the ME series is one of my all-time favourites.

SeanBeiser  Feb. 10, 2014 at 03:43

It's about bad writing.

Just because something is poorly explained doesn't mean it's bad writing. Writing a story is only part of the game. You also have to edit the story, make the audio. Etc, etc. Unless people are insinuating that the rest of the team had their heads up their asses too.

I mean when you approach the control or synthesis ending, the music gets all eerie and sinister. Yet, in the destroy ending, it's more upbeat and hopeful. Bad game design? I don't think so. This was done this way intentionally.

A lot of that stuff can be solved by using common sense. However even doing that is considered lazy because it asks too much of the viewer.

It's either completely real, and very poorly written. Or unreal, and merely a product of Shepard's mind. A dream ending. Indoctrination.



Now if anyone says this should have been made more obvious, clearly didn't play the first game:


As it was very subtlety presented during the ending sequence, and the entire game as well. This didn't just come out of nowhere. The video also explains why Shepard just accepts Reaper logic and believes whatever he says.

A lot of these answers can be found in previous games or by reading the codex. However, people need Bioware to walk them through every little thing.

Like, how is Shepard alive after blowing up on the Citadel? I can't believe you think the writers thought it was cool to have someone blow up on a space station with a 10 km+ wide explosion, fall through Earth's atmosphere and land on Earth. No one would be able to survive that. Where the F is your head? This isn't lazy writing. Use some goddamn common sense here, man.

Shepard never left Earth. Look at the rubble when he wakes up. Listen to the background sounds. I can hear wind, like there was during the charge to the beam. Shepard has been on Earth the entire time.

Anderson being renegade doesn't make any sense because it's a lie. Illusive Man being paragon doesn't make any sense because it's a lie.

Mass relays being destroyed, EDI/Geth dying, and everyone starving to death doesn't make any sense because it's a lie.

Joker, a man with brittle bone disease crash landing on a planet, and being the first one to kick open the door and is relatively unharmed doesn't make any sense because it isn't real. All part of the indoctrination sequence.


Reapers resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestions. Suggestions like the mass relays being destroyed. EDI/Geth dying. And people believed what the Catalyst was saying too. Going by that, you are just as indoctrinated as Shepard is.


People were told that EDI/Geth would die, in addition to Shepard because he's partly synthetic. Yet he wakes up at the end. That was the hint, that the Catalyst was lying.

Instead we got ten minutes of Matrix Revolutions-esque waffle that not only made absolutely no sense in the context of the series, but actively tried to retcon certain aspects of the previous narrative.

Ending doesn't make sense in the context of the series? People have different opinions of the series. There is no right or wrong answer. You might think the themes of the game are Y, while some random guy in Poland might think they are X. Some people think the series was about the characters, and not about the Reapers, thus Citadel is a better ending for them. Trying to make something that would satisfy everyone would be impossible.

Going by that indoctrination thing, it has been a theme in all three games, and has been one of the Reaper's goals from the start. As Harbinger states "we will bring your species into harmony with our own".

Even Vigil noted something about this:


When the Catalyst talks about harvesting this is what he means:


This is who the Catalyst really is:

One final note from Bioware for all those who think the ending doesn't make any sense or was absolutely horribly written:


Not only did the Reapers fool a lot of people into doing their bidding, but they also fooled a lot of them into thinking that its ending was terrible and made absolutely no sense.

Last edited by SeanBeiser, Feb. 10, 2014 at 03:55

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