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Mass Effect 3: Citadel offers a galaxy of choices

Wednesday, 1 May 2013 14:23 GMT By Brenna Hillier

It’s the ultimate gift to long-patient fans, but Mass Effect 3 Citadel’s also the most technically ambitious module of BioWare’s much-praised divergent narrative system. Brenna Hillier reports.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel

Available now on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, for $15 or 1200 points.

The final piece of DLC for Mass Effect 3 – and Commander Shepard’s story.

Set before the final events of Mass Effect 3, it offers all new areas of the titular space station to explore; an action-packed mission sequence featuring the majority of the cast; multiple opportunities to reconnect with squadmates, including those who’ve been lost; and the chance to throw a massive party in Shepard’s pimpin’ apartment.

Get the soundtrack and throw your own space party.

Header image via fishbone76.

Some spoilers ahead but seriously, come on guys – Mass Effect 3 came out in March 2012.

Mass Effect 3: Citadel is the final piece of DLC the trilogy will receive, and although it takes place before the end of the third game, it’s probably the last Commander Shepard adventure many of us will ever play. It’s not just that it released a full year after Mass Effect 3, it’s that it quite deliberately sets out to give us what we wanted – a fan-service heavy chance for fans to farewell the valiant commander as she deserves.

BioWare ought to be and quite rightly is highly praised for serving up this last adventure, which sees the return of every possible cast member, and even brings back some who have passed beyond, in various respectful ways. It unites the whole crew of squadmates as we’ve never seen them before – one unit, fighting together – and later gives you the chance to see them at their silliest, drinking, dancing, and in more than one case, throwing up in the toilet.

Amidst all the praise and celebration, it’s easy to overlook the fact that in handing over this precious gift BioWare has been extremely clever. You don’t notice this as you play through Citadel, but it’s one of if not the most complex modules the series has produced to date. The sheer number of possibilities the story must allow for – who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s in bed with Shepard now, who was in bed with Shepard before, what DLC you’ve played, what decision you’ve made in each of the three games – is staggering, and unlike every other part of the game, you’re given free rein to pick whoever you want in your squad almost all the way through.

That means more dialogue than any section of comparable length has had to pack in before – and it’s all behind the scenes, where you’re unlikely to notice it. Unless you make a couple of wildly different playthroughs (or use save manipulators) your only hope of seeing much of this content is via YouTube, where you’ll uncover treasures that’ll make you realise there are stories upon stories in Mass Effect you never even knew existed.

“To give you a general sense of scale, the apartment party section in The Citadel contained roughly 25% as many plot states as all of KotOR, and had more plot states than any DLC we had ever done.”

“When measuring divergent story points, there are a number of metrics that we can use, but most applicable to the game would be a data construct called a plot state,” BioWare’s Mike Gamble and Dusty Everman told us in an email.

“Plot states are used to record and store various bits of information about your playthrough. Whether it’s if Wrex is alive, or if you’ve gone on a second date with Liara, plot states holds a wealth of information. Because of the sheer number and depth of these plot states, speaking generally about divergent story points is somewhat difficult. That said, to give you a general sense of scale, the apartment party section in The Citadel contained roughly 25% as many plot states as all of KotOR, and had more plot states than any DLC we had ever done.”

Let me repeat that for emphasis: the apartment party section. Not the whole DLC. How many is that? BioWare wouldn’t say, but it did tell us that the number of plot states for the trilogy as a whole is “easily in the thousands, especially when you consider the plot state complexity has been compounded subsequently for each game and DLC”.

Quite understandably, BioWare has never sat down and charted out the whole trilogy on one map. Possibly because it doesn’t have a big enough conference table.

“There is no singular map that holds all of the plot states. Instead, we use our writing and level design tools to manage them. That way, they can be easily manipulated by the designers, and our tools keep track of what each plot state does,” the developer said.

Dancing with Garrus? You. Are. On.

“Of course, there are still a few senior writers and designers who have a very good understanding of the system in its entirety.”

Can you imagine having all that information in your brain? You probably think you know the whole of Mass Effect pretty well, if you’re a fan. You probably know most of the unique and ambient dialogue options, either from experience or from browsing fan-made compendiums like the Mass Effect Wiki. But it’s almost guaranteed that there’s at least one little snippet you’ve never heard of or seen, that would delight or amuse you.

Let’s take a few examples from the beginning of Citadel, directly from BioWare:

  • At the start of the DLC, the squad mate who comes to your rescue before the car lot is your ME3 love interest (i.e. Liara, Ashley, Kaidan, Garrus, or Tali), or Liara otherwise (i.e. your love interest is Miranda, Jack, Thane, Jacob , Traynor, Cortez, or you don’t have a love interest).
  • If Wrex is alive, he takes out the merc shuttle. Otherwise, it’s James.
  • If Traynor is the love interest, Shepard can kiss her at the Normandy airlock to prove she’s the real Shepard.
  • If EDI is brought along as a squad mate when returning to the Normandy, there is humorous scene where her control and senses within the Normandy are disconnected.
  • If Jack is a love interest, one of her character moments is her giving Shepard a tattoo. Otherwise, she has adopted a varren.

This is, of course, just a tiny sampling; at almost any point in Citadel – or Mass Effect in general, really – when a character speaks, who it is and what they say is determined by something you’ve done. For example: part way through Citadel, Shepard and two squadmates are locked in a vault. The three characters exchange a few comments, and one character is plainly more nervous than the others. But on your second playthrough, depending on who you’ve brought with you, the nervous character may take the other role.

“We went with an order determined by who seemed most likely to be worried or had an anxious personality, and then, failing that, by who was funniest in each role. For example, Tali will always be the worried one if she’s present, and Wrex will never be the worried one,” BioWare explained.

Even just this one short exchange would need to be played dozen of times in order to hear everything on offer.

In this way, players are almost guaranteed to see and hear different dialogue with every combination of squadmates they bring along; even just this one short exchange would need to be played dozen of times in order to hear everything on offer.

Few gaming franchises have captured the attention Mass Effect has over its all too brief life to date (just look at the reaction to the original ending. When was the last time you got so upset about the abrupt goodbyes of your favourite characters that you started a petition and raised significant cash for charity?) and Citadel is the perfect bit of closure to that attention. BioWare is to be applauded for its commitment to giving fans the satisfying, bittersweet farewell they wanted. But it must also be commended for pushing consequential choice in gaming to such a level that most players don’t even know it’s there.

Every Mass Effect 3 players’ story is unique, built from the thousands of actions big and small made over the course of who knows how many tens of hours. When you explore the Citadel one last time, remember that you might be the only Shepard ever to walk that particular path.

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14 Comments

  1. SplatteredHouse

    I thought this came out a while ago. There was a whole load of noise about it, at least.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. theevilaires

    Its a shame I haven’t gotten past a hour of the 1st game and I’m missing out on a lot from this series. Where did I go so wrong to get backlogged like this :(

    #2 2 years ago
  3. TheBlackHole

    I love the series, but this DLC was a shit load of running back and forth, with some interesting character development at the end.

    Way overrated though.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. TheWulf

    It definitely wasn’t one of their best. It did feel a little fanfic-y, but it also had some pretty brilliant moments. It was fairly fantastic, then, but as DLC goes it was no Lair of the Shadow Broker. But I still enjoyed it.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. TheWulf

    @3: Yeah, that’s the conclusion I arrived at. It’s fun but ultimately it can be skipped. You’d actually be missing out on more story by skipping Leviathan.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Clupula

    While it has the least to add to the story, it was, by far, my favorite of the DLC add-ons, simply because it allowed me to do something you almost never do in ME3, and that’s have fun. It was great to see characters that definitely should have been in the game (I really think not letting you recruit even one of the ME2 characters was a huge mistake, since that game was probably the best in the trilogy) and it made the ending feel like there actually was closure before it.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. YoungZer0

    @4: Fanfic-y? Isn’t that what Mass Effect has become after the first one? Or why do you think was it suddenly possible to date Garrus in ME2?

    @6: Agreed. I felt cheated as I was dating Jack in ME2 and thought she was one of the better characters of the trilogy. She had a few scenes in ME3 but that was about it. Citadel added the little piece that was missing.

    IMO nothing can beat the ending of the Overlord DLC.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Joe_Gamer

    More damn ME news, not even new news either…Ultimate gift my ass, Bioware should NOT be “praised” for anything mass effect related. They have trodden upon a precious thing and have earned eternal enmity.

    Fan service Does not equal quality…

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Richenbaum

    Yeah it had some funny bits, but man the pacing was terrible. So much standing around and running around for very little reward. The casino heist part in particular. Oh my god was that long, slow, and boring.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Clupula

    @7 – Ah, yes, I was quite fond of the Lawnmower Man DLC in ME2. lol

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Clupula

    @7 – Jack was one of my favorite characters too. It quite bothered me that femShep and her couldn’t get together in ME2. If there ever was an ME character that was bisexual, it was Jack, yet I couldn’t date her unless I picked a male character.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Vice

    After ME3 I can’t bring myself back to these, once very beloved, series. Not even to see favorite characters like Garrus, Samara and Mordin once more.
    ME3 ruined the series for me THAT much. Thanks, BW.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. YoungZer0

    @11: Lawl. :D

    @12: Indeed it is odd, I could swear Jack mentioned that she had a threesome with a guy and another woman. Or something like that. But I’m pretty sure she gave off bi-vibes.

    Doesn’t matter, had sex.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Mjorh

    I haven’t played none of the DLCs , which one is better ?

    #14 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Sony has announced your free PlayStation Plus games for the month of February. Come February 3 in North America and February 4 in Europe, Plus members on both side of the pond will be gifted with the following: Transistor (PS4) Apotheon (PS4) Yakuza 4 (PS3) Thief (PS3) Rogue Legacy (PS Vita|PS4|PS3) Kick & Fennick (PS […]

  • Life is Strange launch trailer and final dev diary released

    With the first episode of Life is Strange releasing tomorrow, Dontnod Entertainment has released the last developer diary for the title as well as the launch trailer. Titled Creating Arcadia Bay, the video provides more information on the licensed soundtrack as well as the voice actors behind Max and Chloe. It also touches upon how […]

  • LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Marvel’s Avengers out this year

    LEGO Jurassic World and LEGO Marvel’s Avengers have been announced by Warner Bros., the former was outed by Toys R Us and then teased at the end of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, if you recall. LEGO Jurassic World encompasses all four Jurassic Park films and will be made available in June for 3DS, PC, […]

  • Pokemon, Super Smash Bros. top Nintendo’s million units sales list for Q3

    Nintendo has posted a list of titles which have sold millions of units as part of its quarter three earnings release. Global unit sales of 3DS titles for the nine months ending December 31, 2014: Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire: 9.35 million (life-to-date, same) Super Smash Bros.: 6.19 million (life-to-date, same) Tomodachi Life: 2.11 […]

  • How to take a screenshot on Xbox One: a lesson in frustration

    Trying to do just one simple thing seems to have 360 steps with Microsoft – why is the Xbox One’s functionality such a car crash? “The Xbox One’s definition of usability is in fact the exact opposite – this is a console designed to make life inconvenient for its players unless they sign up for […]

  • Game of Thrones’ Westeros is being made in Minecraft by 125 people

    WesterosCraft, the project dedicated to creating the entirety of Game of Thrones’ Westros has resurfaced. There are more than a few ambitious Minecraft projects, but hardly any as impressive as WesterosCraft. We first came across it all the way back in January 2013, but it looks much better now. “I would say the world is […]

  • Dying Light exploit gives you unlimited money and items

    Dying Light has been out for just over a day and an infinite money and item exploit is already out there. A simple exploit has been discovered in Dying Light that lets you duplicate weapons, all of which you can sell for profit. Win/ win. YouTuber PowerPyx lays out the steps in the handy video […]

  • Sunset Overdrive concept art is as jovial as the game itself

    Sunset Overdrive is a colourful game which is partly due to its concept art. The concept art featured below is created by Vaughan Ling, one of the concept artsists who worked on Sunset Overdrive. Anyone who’s played the game will immediately recognise the locations, weapons, character designs and general atmosphere of the game through these. […]

  • Get an extended look at the PS4 version of Project CARS

    The PlayStation 4 version of Project CARS has been shown in 1080p 60fps. The video below is captured by racing game enthusiasts Team VVV from a preview build. You can see different racing disciplines being demonstrated here, on different circuits. The game’s impressive visuals get even better when the weather gets worse.

  • Battle Pod is the Star Wars arcade game you’ve waited your whole life for

    Star Wars: Battle Pod is an arcade game that lets you replay the battles of the original trilogy, and features an incredible cockpit. If you’ve never played a game at an arcade before, Star Wars: Battle Pod will definitely be the one to change your mind. It’s an arcade cabinet out of a classic Star […]

  • CoD Exo Zombies: how to unlock the Ride of the Valkyries Easter egg

    To no one’s surprise, Exo Zombies mode in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has some Easter eggs. The first Exo Zombies Easter egg, of surely many more to come, has been discovered. It’s a musical one that involves Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. How you unlock it is not as convoluted as you might […]

  • Dying Light is sub-1080p on Xbox One, full 1080p on PS4 – report

    Early analysis of Dying Light on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has revealed a few technical details about both ports. Digital Foundry has produced some analysis of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports of Dying Light based on some early testing. Both versions manage a solid 30 frames-per-second, only dipping below that in […]

  • Battlefield 4 Second Assault DLC free to all EA Access members

    EA is offering Battlefield 4′s Second Assault expansion free to anyone with an active EA Access subscription. Anyone with an active subscription to EA Access can download the Second Assault expansion pack for Battlefield 4 starting January 29 and through February 28, free of charge. All you need to do is find it on the […]

  • The Witcher 3 is getting optimised, but no visual downgrade

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is in the final stages of development and developer CD Projekt RED is making sure optimisation work doesn’t impact the game’s visuals. The Witcher 3 art producer, Michal Stec, spoke to Eternity in an interview and was asked whether the team will downgrade the visuals to get better performance. “No. […]

  • Can’t download Dying Light on PS4? Here’s a fix

    If you’ve bought Dying Light on PS4 and you’re having trouble downloading it, you’re not alone. Here’s how to beat the bug. Techland’s Dying Light is stumbling out of the blocks a little this week, with many PS4 users experiencing problems with their full-game downloads. A bug’s to blame. Your console thinks you’ve already installed […]

  • What The Witcher 3 owes to Skyrim – and how it surpasses it

    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt owes more than a nod to Bethesda’s Skyrim. I went to see The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and had a great time. I went in a fan of the books but not very experienced with the first two games. I came out with The Witcher 3 top of my gaming […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online has great monsters

    Dragon’s Dogma Online looks pretty rad – an undesirable quality in a game unlikely to come west, from our perspective. The first Dragon’s Dogma trailer was released this afternoon; admire its beauty below. The free to play online RPG was announced for PC, PlayStation 3 and PS4 overnight, but Capcom doesn’t intend to bring it […]

  • Xenoblade Chronicles X map about five times the size of last game’s

    Xenoblade Chronicles X is not a small game. This week’s Famitsu has a feature on Xenoblade Chronicles X giving some details on Monolith Soft’s next RPG and first Wii U game. According to Siliconera‘s translation of reports on the feature, the game’s map is about five times the size of that in Xenoblade Chronicles. The […]

  • Take on Mars expected to hit beta in April

    Take on Mars, the space sim from Bohemia Interactive will soon be reader for wider consumption. According to a new Take on Mars development roadmap, the sim will go into beta at the start of April, with full release expected in June. The project is currently available via Steam early Access, but between now and […]

  • Can you guess the next Mortal Kombat X character reveal from this fatality audio clip?

    Mortal Kombat X will have at least one very liquid-sounding fatality. NetherRealm is revealing Mortal Kombat X’s cats one character at a time, and has promised a new reveal during a community Twitch stream tomorrow. It also provided the following teaser video – it’s audio only, and apparently taken from a fatality sequence. What’s your […]

  • Nintendo Creators Program now recruiting YouTubers – PewDiePie, others weigh-in

    Nintendo has opened a Creators Program designed to ensure creators get a slice of ad revenue from videos featuring Nintendo assets, and some prominent YouTubers aren’t pleased with the company. Update “What Nintendo are missing out on completely is the free exposure and publicity that they get from YouTube,” wrote Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) on his […]

  • Xbox Live issues under investigation

    Can’t sign into Xbox Live? Microsoft is on the case. Xbox 360 and Xbox One users report being unable to sign in to Xbox Live. Microsoft is already aware of and working on the problem. “Our team is hard at work right now trying to get this resolved. Thank you for staying patient while we […]

  • Make money from your non-Valve mods with Steam Workshop

    Valve has opened the money-making side of Steam Workshop to third-party titles, giving enterprising modders more ways to make money. Steam now hosts curated Workshops for Dungeon Defenders: Eternity and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, the first non-Valve games to support the scheme. What that means is that community members can create, vote on and eventually even […]

  • Check out DmC: Devil May Cry’s new manual lock-on

    DmC: Devil may Cry developer Ninja Theory has released a video showing off the new, controversial lock-on mode. The new manual lock-on is causing quite a stir, although its reception is probably better than the white-wigged Dante who makes fans even more upset than the original makeover. “The primary purpose of this video is to […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes looks pretty fun

    Dragon Quest Heroes is yet another Omega Force take on an existing property – like Hyrule Warriors or the One Piece games. And it looks pretty sweet. We haven’t heard much from Dragon Quest Heroes here in the west because it hasn’t been confirmed for release outside Japan. This isn’t terribly surprising as we still […]

  • Square Enix to reveal new PS4 game this weekend

    Square Enix is doing something pretty mysterious right now. The Final Fantasy publisher is teasing something called Project Code Z. The project, which Square Enix is tweeting about in Japanese, English and German, is due for reveal at Tokaigi 2015 on Saturday. It’s a PS4 game, but that’s all we know. There’s a website you […]

  • Tetris has crowned its first known western Grand Master

    Tetris fans have a new western champion. Tetris is one of those gaming obsessions that goes much deeper than you might expect. For example, did you know that some versions of the game assess your performance and over you the chance to become a “grand master”? Turns out that’s a thing, and according to Polygon […]

  • Ken Levine’s next game teased as “sci-fi-ish” small, open-world RPG

    A series of tweets from BioShock creator Ken Levine has shed a sliver of light upon his next project. According to Levine he and his team are considering something a bit sci-fi and contemplating first-person mode. The team is developing the game for PC with a large in scope, expandable, systems-based narrative where more can […]

  • Become a lynx in new Shelter 2 trailer

    Shelter 2 casts players in the role of a lynx, which makes for quite a different experience to the badger of the first game. The first Shelter game had you evading predators, but in the second, you becomes one yourself. That doesn’t mean there are no dangers to face, of course. Judging by the trailer […]

  • Why King of Fighters 13 isn’t coming back to Evo

    Evo, the premiere western fighting game tournament, has dropped support for a few previously favoured titles. King of Fighters 13 had a loyal following, but isn’t featured in the Evo 2015 line-up. “Many things go into what games makes it to Evo, but the most obvious one is, ‘Is the community playing this game?’” Evo […]

  • An average Evolve match takes less than ten minutes

    Evolve players are pretty quick at hunting each other down. Evolve developer Turtle Rock has released an infographic brimming with statistics garnered from its recent beta test. One of the key takeaways is that all three monsters, and all four classes, are working as intended – their performance in game matches Turtle Rock’s designs. If […]

  • Super Mario Amiibo can be pre-ordered on Nintendo UK, Mario and Peach sold out

    The latest set of Amiibo in the Super Mario series is now available for pre-purchase through the Nintendo UK Store. Each of the following sports a red base and will run you £10.99: Bowser, Luigi, Mario, Peach, Toad and Yoshi. It looks like Peach and Mario are both sold out, though. All six can be […]

  • The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 free to download now

    League of Legends has excellent music, and now you can have it too. The Music of League of Legends Vol. 1 collects 15 tracks from the MOBA’s history, and is available for free. You can grab the music from iTunes, Google Play or via direct download. Tere’s an example track below to get you in […]

  • Super Bowl 49 update arrives on Madden NFL Mobile

    With Super Bowl 49 occurring this coming Sunday, February 1, EA Sports has updated Madden NFL Mobile with new feature enhancements and Super Bowl-themed Live Events. Updates include: League vs League Tournaments Obstacle Course Super Bowl Bonus Players Tom Brady and Richard Sherman Super Bowl Legends Super Bowl Moments Upgraded Auction House The Super Bowl […]

  • See Super Smash Bros.’ unused custom moves

    Super Smash Bros. was originally intended to have 16 custom moves per character. The final version of Super Smash Bros. only features 12 custom moves per fighter, but Nintendo left animations for some of the cut moves in place. A Youtuber called RED has dug these cut mvoes out of the brawler’s code, and displayed […]

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt contains 16 hours of sex scene mo-cap data

    Sex is nothing new to the The Witcher games, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is no exception. In fact, it contains 16 hours of sex scene motion capture data. Giggity. There’s a reason for the bedroom dalliances though, as Geralt is a flesh and blood human, or a modified human at any rate, with […]

  • Here’s the launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered

    A launch trailer for Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered has been released after an Amazon listing was revealed for it over the weekend. Key upgrades include: High-definition Graphics — All of the in-game textures have been meticulously recreated in HD for mobile and desktop. Widescreen Support – A true widescreen (not cropped) view strengthens the game’s […]

  • The open beta for Battlefield Hardline will be dated tomorrow

    The exact dates as well as more information on the Battlefield Hardline open beta will be shared tomorrow. This is according to the latest blog post from developer Visceral Games. “We’ll share the exact dates and info on the Battlefield Hardline open beta tomorrow,” wrote Visceral boss Steve Papoutsis. “Stay tuned, thanks again, and keep […]

  • Upcoming Hearthstone patch to apply balance change to Undertaker

    An upcoming Hearthstone patch will apply a balance change to the Undertaker card, Blizzard has announced. After the release of Goblins vs Gnomes, Blizzard said it kept an “eye on the state of game balance” as more matches were played using the additional cards. Released with The Curse of Naxxramas, Undertaker is considered an overly […]

  • February Games with Gold offers up Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

    The free games on offer in February via Xbox Live Games with Gold have been announced. Xbox Live Gold members on Xbox One can download #IDARB during February. Xbox 360 users can grab Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from February 1-15, when it will be replaced by Sniper Elite V2 from February 16 -28. […]

  • Kinguin blames unidentified Russian for deactivated Far Cry 4 keys

    Third-party game key seller Kinguin is issuing refunds to those who found their games deactivated through Ubisoft’s Uplay service. Customers which purchased keys for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, The Crew and Watch Dogs are affected. Kinguin said 4,600 customer tickets were submitted over the last 72 hours and 35 out of 3,400 of […]