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The Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC Is What It Looks Like When Fan Service Is Done Right

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BY May 3, 2020
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We’ve talked about the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the controversy that led to the Extended Cut DLC. Yet, one thing that has perhaps softened the strong negative reactions from some angry fans is another downloadable extra that debuted about a year after the game. The Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC is more than an hour’s worth of fan service done the right way. In most cases, the term “fan service” is not a compliment. It’s meant to suggest that instead of making the dramatic, emotional choice in a story, creators just hand their biggest fans what they think they want. Yet, after the trauma of the original ending of the game, this DLC was a much more fitting and sentimental send-off to this cast of characters.

As with any DLC, you can play this at any point during the events of the game or the “non-canon” endgame portion. Still, for players who got Mass Effect 3 the moment it debuted, the Citadel DLC felt like the true ending to the franchise. Essentially, the story sends the crew of the Normandy to shore leave on the Citadel. All hell breaks loose, Shepard and the gang have to kill some guys, and then you have a party. It sounds ridiculous on paper, but if you enjoy this franchise it’s just perfect. Squadmates and characters from past games come back for the fun. What really drives this DLC is the tone. It’s a shift from the normal games and really underscores that these comrades-in-arms are also friends.

The Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC Works So Well Because It Is Funny and Just Self-Aware Enough

mass effect 3 citadel dlc fan service wrex maya femshep tuxedo Image via BioWare

There are fun lore moments, such as when you get to see official Council documentation of crucial events in galactic history. There are interesting villains and combat scenarios, including a “combat arena” that allows players to craft their perfect battles from scratch. Finally, there is what seems like hours of new dialogue, character interactions, and self-referential jokes. For example, at one point you must choose your customary two squadmates. After you do that, the others will lament that they wanted to go. If there is a companion you never choose, they actually say, “I never get picked.”

Though, in one portion of the combat mission, you actually have all of your companions with you. Naturally, they are broken up into different teams and not actually with the character, but they are there. Later, during the “party” portion of the DLC, all you do is walk around, talk to, and eavesdrop on your squadmates as they hang out in Shepard’s new posh apartment.

The regular Mass Effect 3 game was pretty bleak. Even the heartfelt and sweet moments stood in the shadow of the massively devastating war against the Reapers. So, the pure cotton candy sweetness and lighthearted silliness of the Citadel DLC brought about a welcome change of tone. It allowed fans who grew to love these characters one last chance to spend some time with them before their stories came to a definitive end.

How a Fan Service-Focused DLC Could Have Backfired In a Big Way

mass effect 3 citadel dlc fan service armax arena Image via BioWare

In hindsight, releasing this downloadable content pack in the wake of the controversy is a gutsy move on BioWare’s part. If the jokes fell flat or, even worse, disrespected the characters in the eyes of the fans, it would have been gamer bedlam. Yet, they found the right balance between outright silliness and respectful nostalgia. The main plot of the DLC has, literally, nothing to do with the larger conflict. In fact, it involves one of the cheesiest of sci-fi tropes at its center. When this is revealed, the characters acknowledge how ridiculous it is. Later, they even tease Shepard about it. Yet, the combat portion of the DLC is, likely, some fans’ least favorite part. It’s not difficult, really. Still, it’s not an accident that the final payoff “mission” is a party where all you do is talk to your friends.

Where the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC really excels at fan service is the extra scenes and interactions you get with the other characters. Even the dull ones, like Canderous Ordo stand-in Zaeed Massani get strangely heartwarming and character-building moments. You can have a memorial for a fallen squadmate and some alone time with a love interest. It provides the players with much more feel-good story before utterly devastating the characters with the ending to the game.

The thing that makes the Mass Effect series so special are its characters. Even when the story itself falters against fan expectations the characters remain strong. The fan service found in the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC leans into that strength. And, it’s the best way to say goodbye them.

What do you think of the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC? Did you find it to be fun fan service or do you feel like it was overly silly and out of place in the larger narrative? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured image via BioWare.

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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