keskiviikko 11. heinäkuuta 2012

DLC REVIEW - Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut | Xbox 360 | 2012

RELEASED: June 2012
PRICE: FREE [-> April 2014]

Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut is the supposed solution to the biggest debate of the video game scene of 2012. Mass Effect 3 came out in March, and in just a few days after its release, just about every forum for game discussion was filled with angry messages written by long-time Mass Effect fans, who found the ending of the game to be confusing, hollow and just slapped onto the final product. On top of all, there were actually three endings, all of which looked almost exactly the same once chosen. Many of these fans also thought that the linear, action-oriented gameplay and limited interaction with NPC's cleaned the table of everything that used to make Mass Effect so great - amidst the rave reviews on the net, there were also reader reviews that scored the game from 1 to 5 on a 1 to 10 scale. "I'm never playing Mass Effect 3 again." "I'm never touching the Mass Effect trilogy again." "The whole of BioWare can go fuck themselves." Mass Effect 3 might go down as one of the most acclaimed games of 2012, but also one of the most hated ones. They couldn't just start from scratch and make a new game for all those fans who were disappointed with the gameplay, but BioWare did spend a fuckton of valuable DLC resources to fix the ending. Was it worth it? I guess we'll never know, but the Extended Cut is sure to please - especially since it's completely free of charge.

Rewind, elaborate

If you recall, I never had a huge beef with the ending. I just knew from the beginning that the player would have to truly struggle to keep Shepard alive. Alas, I'm guessing that Shepard's death was overshadowed in the dung department by everything else that's going on according to most enraged fans. Here's how it goes down: Shepard beams up to the "heart of the Citadel", where a holographic image of "the kid" tells him/her that he is actually the Catalyst, and that he actually controls the Reapers. The Reapers - synthetics, mind you - were created to purge the world of all civilization (except for one chosen race that would run the next cycle), before synthetics could destroy it from the within. Logical, ain't it. He also states that even though he controls the Reapers, he is the only weapon capable of destroying them. He's designed for it, something we've known - or thought we've known - from the beginning. At this point, we're not quite sure what to make of him. After a very confusing conversation straight out of any recent Assassin's Creed ending, the kid gives Shepard three choices. He can either destroy the Reapers and end their trail of destruction in this particular cycle, assume master control of the Reapers, or synthesize organics and synthetics to make the galaxy reach the final phase of evolution. Every choice leads to the same visual outcome. Shepard dies, an energy blast sweeps over space, uh... _something_ happens to the Reapers, the Normandy crashes in a jungle, and the credits roll.

This is it, Jeff. One last push.
Like I said, I had no huge beef with the ending as I was so intrigued and fascinated by the story leading up to it, a story that in my case spanned three games, that perhaps I was a little blind. After hearing that some fan had actually started gathering people's signatures to force BioWare to write a new ending to the game, I started to reflect on it a bit more. By the time I understood why people hated the ending so much, the Extended Cut was announced. At first, I was really skeptical, as were my friends. Without provoking each other at all to think such, we were sure that BioWare would only make things worse by submitting to the nerd rage. If only a new ending would've been our only concern; we also acknowledged that applying a new ending to such an expensive game would take up a lot of resources and energy from BioWare. Will we ever see downloadable content for the single-player campaign besides From Ashes? What will happen to Dragon Age III? How long will it take until BioWare can afford to undertake any new major project? It's funny and ironic that even though Extended Cut was made to answer questions, it raises some wholly different kinds of questions.

'Til now, I've talked about a "new" ending; the correct term is "extended", just like the title says. This means that the whole synthetics-saving-the-world-from-synthetics thing still makes no sense, but at least it's explained a bit more thoroughly and plausibly by ways of extremely expanded dialogue with the Catalyst. Also, new, well-placed, seamless cutscenes work towards more dramatic value to fill the hollow gaps in the final rush to the beam, and the aftermath of the Reaper attack that almost relieves Shepard of the pain of life. I especially approve of Shepard's brief, but effective goodbye to whoever he/she romanced, if the love interest happens to be a member of the final squad.

The original Catalyst conclusions to the game remain as near-identical as they were before, but each "different" decision is followed by a different sequence, triggered after the Normandy's crash - which was the final image of the original game - narrated by a different major character. What's going on with crew members and major NPC's is shown via a hand-drawn slideshow, which was a bad call in my books. The slideshow does indeed stick out like a sore thumb, but it's over quick enough. Finally, your final choice, as well as your final EMS rating dictate what happens in the very final cutscene of the Extended Cut. This is where I draw the spoiling line, but let's just say you'll get at least some of the closure you asked for. Especially if your EMS rating is high enough.

On the other side of that beam lies BioWare's
solution. I suggest we have a smoke.
If your EMS rating was high enough in the original game and you chose a certain path, you've already witnessed some of this closure - but, the thing is that the required EMS rating was originally WAY too high. 4000 points could only be achieved with near-perfect prior knowledge of just about every single consequence of every single action, and pretty much a strict Paragon alignment, aside from a few mandatory Renegade decisions. Now the limit is only 3100, which allows you to play Mass Effect 3 just the way you want to play it, and still achieve the perfect ending if you've got your mind set on it.

Finally, the Extended Cut includes a fourth ending, which is one of the most depressing endings to any game, ever. I guess this ending was designed for people who complained about the lack of choices, or thought a Renegade Shepard was a pussy in Mass Effect 3 - this is the part where I yell "YO!", but I still didn't choose this ending. It's a bit too hardcore, and makes sense even less than anything that ever happens in Mass Effect 3 - it's an easter egg, nothing more. However, as depressing as this ending might be, there's a new Stargazer cutscene after the credits written for this ending, which restores some optimism.

Overall, I'm happy with the way Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut turned out, but I'm still wondering was rewriting the ending really worth sacrificing future DLC and delaying projects unrelated to the Mass Effect trilogy? After all, there are people who will still hate this game - stubborn, ungrateful bastards who will do everything in their power to fail to note BioWare's effort to make the game better. A successful effort, I might add. And a free one.

< 8.8 >

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