Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
Despite the fact that ninety-five percent of the gaming community seem to hate it more than lung cancer, there was a lot to like about the final entry in Bioware’s flagship sci-fi franchise. Okay the writing was occasionally a little stilted, the slimy fingers of corporate greed certainly tarnished things, and the ending was a textbook example of a creative team having no idea how to end their trilogy, but the colourful, lovingly detailed universe still managed to tap into my Star Wars obsessed inner child. With the release of the excellent (if belated) Extended Cut, I felt that my exquisitely bearded yet tragically potato-faced Commander Shepard had finally been given the closure he deserved. The ruthless bastard.
Those looking for a continuation of the main storyline won’t find that here”
So it seems a little strange to be coming back to the universe months after finally defeating the Reapers. Downloadable missions certainly sit a little more awkwardly this time around, having felt like natural extensions to the story in ME1 and ME2. Leviathan can be played at any point after leaving Mars but before attacking the Cerberus base near the end of the game, so those looking for a continuation of the main storyline won’t find that here. Instead the add-on focuses on exploring the established back-story of the series.
You start the episode off by visiting Dr. Bryson, an archaeologist who has been studying the myth of the Leviathan of Dis, an ancient creature supposedly belonging to a species that pre-date even the Reapers themselves. Dr. Bryson has a real person’s face, rather than the lifeless blocks of speckled mulch that make up most of the Mass Effect galaxy’s human inhabitants. This lead me to dramatically overestimate his importance in the narrative.
Typically, you’ll be forced to do most of the busywork yourself in Leviathan. A large part of the DLC finds Shepard trying to track down the titular creature by sifting through the good doctor’s office for various clues, and then narrowing your search parameters accordingly. These segments work rather well, largely because they provide a break from the wall-to-wall combat that forms the majority of Mass Effect 3’s main storyline. The sense of mystery and the more studied, deliberate pace is a refreshing change from previous episodic DLC.
“The environments you travel to tend to be a little more interesting than those of the main game”
Your detective work ultimately leads you to several different worlds, all of which you can explore and fight through in ME3’s trademark third-person combat-and-chat gameplay. As is customary with Mass Effect expansions, the environments you travel to tend to be a little more interesting than those of the main game. A deep-sea trek near the end of the game and a sequence in an eerie mining station stand out, both neatly relying on atmosphere and the slow build-up of tension rather than explosions and gunshots.
When the aforementioned gunshots and explosions do break out, combat itself is largely similar to the Reaper sections of the main campaign, with a few techniques borrowed from the enjoyable multiplayer. Escorting a tech drone or lugging power cells around in the heat of combat aren’t particularly innovative gimmicks, but they do add some variation to the gun-play, which is beginning to feel a little too familiar at this point. Finishing the whole thing also rewards you with a neat new power and a couple of guns, another little incentive for those running a fresh save game.
Without wishing to give too much away, there’s an interestingly Lovecraftian vibe to the whole adventure, successfully building on established lore to provide some answers to questions still left hanging even after the main resolution. The final sections are gratifyingly grandiose, although I should mention that certain lines of dialogue seem quite muffled and difficult to pick out here, mainly due to the character in question speaking like he’s buried under four thousand mattresses. Whether you’re interested in this DLC will largely come down to how keen you are on the series’ mythology. There’s nothing here that casual fans will feel they have to see, but for those still looking for deeper insight into this world, or simply looking for more Mass Effect, this is another few hours of solid entertainment.
Seven out of ten