We can’t hide the fact that the Reapers are coming, and Mass Effect 3 will be a hard hit for the human race. Let’s talk briefly about Arrival, which is the final DLC for Mass Effect 2.
The Final Chapter
Admiral Hackett orders Shepard to rescue Dr. Kenson (an Alliance deep cover agent) from the Batarians. Shepard discovers that Kenson has been freed from her captors and that the doctor plans to use a meteor to block the Reaper’s progress.
Skeptical about Kenson’s plans Shepard follows Kenson back to her project base to find out that Kenson and her team have been indoctrinated with a Reaper artifact. Shepard is the vile ass we all know him too, and he fights against Kenson and her team. The DLC ends with the destruction of the Alpha relay and an unsettling holographic confrontation between Shepard Harbinger and Kenson.
The Falsely Paved Road to Mass Effect 3
Let’s take a moment to rewind before we jump into the meat of everything else.
Bioware stated that Lair of the Shadow Broker would be the first DLC piece to expand the Mass Effect universe, just before the Mass Effect 3 finale.
Lots were terrific and, despite some minor flaws, is my favorite Bioware DLC (across all franchises). I don’t know if you were expecting 3-4 more DLCs. The onset of Arrival is the last chapter/DLC of Mass Effect 2. This raises the question of whether Bioware may have lied a bit about their plans to bridge between ME2A and ME3.
Going Solo Doesn’t Impress Me.
Arrival aims to be different from its ME2 DLC compatriots by featuring Shepard alone as a combatant. Hackett insists Shepard work alone because of the sensitive nature of this assignment. It’s not a big deal considering Shepard excels in any class at any time. We were given a dose solo-Shep at the end of Project Overlord DLC.
It won’t take more than an hour for players to complete the DLC, which is quite disappointing. Arrival isn’t groundbreaking in any way. It does not offer anything new in terms of gameplay, interaction or situational challenges, enemy variation, mob distribution, or gameplay. Arrival was based on reviews that I had read before playing it.
The entire DLC felt more like an OPTIONAL N7 Assignment that players could pick up while they probe-drop around the galaxy. Is it worth the effort to package such missions and price them as DLC? I don’t believe so.
The Positives of Arrival for What They’re Worth
Materialistically, Arrival is nothing new. Shepard is given a mission, and Shepard takes it to the face. Shepard then flies off victorious (sorta). Arrival, however, will be credited for inducing a mood of panic, urgency, and claustrophobia that so accurately characterizes the imminent arrival of the Reapers.
A few things come to mind when it comes to level design. Arrival’s content is often set in very close quarters or appears to be open spaces that are dimly lit and cluttered by props. Arrival’s level design has a maze-like feel that, as I said, invokes a feeling of claustrophobia.
Combine that feeling of claustrophobia with the subtle time limit (i.e., You can get a quick dose of adrenaline by adding claustrophobia to the task. Shepard can live another day if you succeed. If you can’t make it past the concise time limit, or if you just fail to do so, you’ll be treated to a short video showing the Reaper’s unbridled fury.
While I was not affected by the time limit (the game allows you to finish the final strings of encounters in a lot more time than it gives), there were moments during the DLC’s finale when I thought, Oh, Shepard, Shepard might just be dead again. This is notably the part where Kenson unleashes that hand grenade. This is due to the overall atmosphere that level and content design create. Although the synergy may not be perfect, it does send a strong message.
A little humor aside, anyone who doubted Shepard’s ability to be a badass should read Arrival. It was funny to see Kenson constantly browbeat her sycophants into confronting Shepard. Only for them to cower in fear over PA systems, citing Shepard’s incredible prowess and resilience, I couldn’t help but laugh. This definitely gave me a little boost in my ego.
Arrival’s lack of connection to the story, characters, and other elements is what bothers me the most. No matter when players decide to finish the DLC, it is essential to consider the enormity of Shepard’s actions. Shepard, along with 300,000 Batarians, had an influential hand in the destruction of a mass relay, an entire system, and a whole lot more. It would be reasonable to assume that anyone, anyone at all, would know something about it.
It all seems to point in the same direction from where I am standing: cutting production costs. Pity.
Arrival is Over
I won’t lie: Arrival was quite disappointing.
It has a fair amount of action, even though it is not epic in scale, and it also features a pleasant atmosphere. There’s also some amusing dialogue. And for what it’s really worth, it’s a reasonably enjoyable, straightforward dungeon crawl that’s supported by a decent story.
There isn’t much interaction or choice, which makes it a very dull experience for RPG content. The DLC, despite being ME2’s last chapter and all the hype surrounding it, doesn’t feel that special. It’s a short solo mission. I’ll reiterate my point: Arrival struck me simply as a brief piece of Mass Effect lore packaged in a DLC that could be purchased.
Many gamers, as well as Mass Effect fans, will agree that Bioware’s track record in DLCs is not very impressive. Lair of Shadow Broker is the only DLC that I believe has been worth its price and quality across all Bioware franchises. I can say that Arrival was a disaster for me.
The Reapers are Still Coming
The Reapers will arrive on Earth in the holiday season of 2011 with all the power and might of a fleet of sentient dreadnought-class battleships (it’ll hurt). Mass Effect 3 is one of my favorite games for 2011. But, after Bioware’s disappointing showings with Dragon Age 2 and Arrival DLC, I feel a little queasy about what lies ahead.