WARNING, SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED MASS EFFECT 3
I downloaded it the day it came out but didn’t end up playing through it until just today. And boy, I gotta say, it reminded me of why I love this trilogy all over again.
Well, except maybe the ending.
To be honest, even before Bioware announced the “extended version” I had already resigned myself to the fact that no matter what I did, the endings were pretty much going to be set in stone and there would never be an outcome where everyone lives happily ever after (except in the fandom). Especially since it was confirmed that this DLC would be more of an explanation rather than an entirely alternate take, I knew that I shouldn’t expect anything ground-breaking or resolving. That being said, after having played through all FOUR varities, I have to say, it did give me some more closure, and I did like the more detailed dialogues that go more in-depth to each choice, although some parts just felt like a cop-out (who built the Crucible).
I started right before the assault on Chronos Station, since apparently that’s the best starting point to get all the changes that the DLC entails. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to play thorugh that entire mission, which took me over an hour alone because I forgot you had to fight Kai Leng at the end and I ended up getting killed like, five times before I kicked his sorry ass (“That was for Thane, you son of a bitch!”) I believe they did add in an additional line of dialogue, where the Prothean VI warns Shepard that it may be too late to reach the Citidel because TIM is already on his way there to warn the Reapers of the Alliance’s intent, which explains how/why TIM ends up on the Citidel.
Then I had to go back to Earth and fight my way through London all over again, and THAT took forever and a day too because there are so many waves of enemies and they are relentless, even on normal difficulty. Either that or I haven’t played in too long. Finally, the major changes start with the final push towards the beam to the Citidel; the entire scene was re-done, specifically with a focus on your squadmates getting (nearly) squashed by a flying Mako. This explains what happens to your squadmates, and why the Normandy was called down from the fight in orbit for an emergency evac. It’s especially worthwhile if your love interest is part of the team, because you get a really tear-jerker good-bye as they are forced to abandon you. Then it’s the whole Shepard-gets-hit-by-beam and the whole slow-mo dream/shooting sequence begins, and then it’s up the beam and into the final portion.
I believe they also changed the part where Shepard lands on the Citidel, because I remember the first time she just sort of comes to, whereas this time, you clearly see her teleported in, complete with a hard landing to boot (I was wincing from the impact). The dialogue between her and Anderson also changed a bit, I think to clarify the issue of how he could be ahead of you if he had been following you into the beam; it became more of a landing in different place rather than him wandering ahead. Cut all the way past the TIM drama and up to meeting the Catalyst.
Oh, that Catalyst. I still hate him, despite having more dialogue options and info about all the different choices available to you. The first time, my sister made the mistake of shooting him (because you can do this in the original version and nothing happens), but apparently the dev team took note of this and now it triggers a “fail” ending, in which the Catalyst will not help you and turns Earth, as Garrus puts it, into “a smoldering crater for the next cycle to wonder about”. I find this end to actually be very interesting, because this ending shows one of Liara’s surviving time capsules, complete with information on what happened to their cycle and how to defeat the Reapers; even the Stargazer/Child scene is changed, so that it’s a female speaking to the child, and now Shepard is only known through the archives. Well, as much as this one sucks since everyone dies, at least we know it wasn’t entirely in vain, since it apparently was enough to help the next cycle achieve peace. As someone on youtube put it, I call this ending the “fuck you” option. (It is also triggered when you reject all the choices presented to you.)
This is the first ending I chose, since it was my original choice. To be honest, I think it’s the best compromise, because everyone for the most part lives, and it sort of becomes a cheesy utopia, where all the races now work together (including the Reapers) to rebuild and live in harmony, and now we have access to all previous knowledge thanks to the Reapers. As EDI says, this new path could turn life into something that she can’t even imagine. Also, you feel good knowing that you at last help EDI know what it means to be human, and come on, she and Joker deserve to be together. Kinda cliché, but as close to a happy ending as you could get, I suppose.
I was actually surprised by the changes made to this choice; as best as I can figure, Shepard essentially becomes god (a la “Godoka”) and now controls all Reapers; they are seen helping to rebuild the relays as she narrates on the life she had to give up in order to become what she is now, an all-seeing force who is (supposedly) tasked with guarding this cycle and all life in the galaxy. Or something like that, it was pretty philosophical given that Shepard essentially becomes this hive-mind/god entity. I actually didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, because in essence she is still sort of there, just on a higher plane of existance and unable to interact with anyone. Still, there are plenty of arguments that could be made that in this sense, she is just turning herself into the Reapers and becoming in line with them. I don’t know. It’s too hard to say given that they don’t explicitly tell you what the Reapers will do in the future.
I ended up just watching this one on youtube because I got too tired of slogging through the same cutscenes three times in a row. Plus I was starting to get a headache. It is probably the most canonical ending, because you end up achieving what you’ve set out to do all along—which is to destroy the Reapers. The only thing that stops me from giving this the “best” score is that EDI and the Geth must die in order for you to “survive”; and no matter what it will always weigh heavily on me on taking EDI away, especially after all she and Joker have gone through. Fittingly, Hackett narrates this one, and everything turns out pretty well, since they confirm that they Citidel and the relays are being rebuilt, and that all the species in the galaxy will go on to achieve great things by working together. It remains to be seen if they will learn from this war about the risks of conflicting with synthetics, but hey, there’s always hope, right? If you’re a survivalist (which I am), this is the most surefire way to make sure you live, since at the plaque scene, your love interest holds the plaque, but doesn’t actually put it on the board, hinting that they believe you to have survived. Not to mention if your EMS was high enough, there is a secret scene at the end that shows Shepard’s N7 dogtag, and a sudden intake of breath. The only thing I cannot forgive is the fact that EDI and the Geth die; I mean, sacrifices aside, it’s just really, really unfair.
Overall, I commend Bioware at attempting to make amends and addressing a lot of the issues, although I knew it was a long shot that they would re-do it entirely. It was nice to have more closure and wrap-up, and know that the crew wasn’t permanently stranded on some foreign planet, and that most of the galaxy will be able to return to its former glory. They also show an additional scene where Joker finally relents and pilots the Normandy away from the Crucible after it fires up, which explains why they are escaping in transit. There were some annoying issues though, mainly with being able to select the closest save to trigger the new content; I’ve heard that there is supposed to be an auto-save right before you make your final choice, but each time I loaded it, it immediately skips to AFTER my choice, which means it is essentially only good for watching the last cutscene over and over again, not making a different choice. The result? I had to replay the entire “Return” mission all over again in order to access the choices, which takes at least half an hour since you can’t skip the cuscenes or the dialogue. It gave me a huge headache, and frankly, I can only handle seeing Anderson die next to me so many times.
But whatever, if you’re too lazy to play through it, there’s plenty to see on youtube.