Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC
North American Release Date: August 28th, 2012
European Release Date: August 29th, 2012
Trophies: 1 || 3
While BioWare has been supporting the multiplayer component fairly steadily, Mass Effect 3's first singleplayer installment of DLC hasn't arrived until now. Leviathan aims to provide a few more answers to some of the series' lingering questions while providing another little adventure for Shepard to go on.
Gameplay in Leviathan is more of the standard ME3 fare. No new elements or changes to the current formula in terms of style. It's the same third-person cover-based combat from the main game, although that's obviously not a bad thing.
The only real items of note here are a few detective-esque sections where Shepard's searching around for some clues. It calls to mind the sequence in Liara's apartment from Lair of the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 2, but just like then, it's really just a matter of walking around and interacting with things - no real abstract thinking required; everything can be 'solved' by brute force and attrition. As a new style of gameplay it fails, but as a way to break up the pacing a bit, it works just fine.
As a singleplayer add-on to a story-based game, this is obviously where Leviathan makes it or breaks it. The pack opens, as so many of them do, with an email from Admiral Hackett. He directs you to speak with a scientist on the Citadel who's heading up a special research group: Task Force Aurora. Their mandate is to investigate all the old myths, legends, and rumors about the Reapers in the hopes of finding something to use against them.
Unfortunately, that's probably one of the most exciting parts of the pack. From there you've got three missions ahead of you with a couple interesting characters and story bits, but ultimately too slow-paced for proper enjoyment. The story doesn't move very quickly at all until the very end which, without spoiling anything, feels altogether too rushed and hastily delivered. Shepard and co. make some rather revelatory discoveries in pursuit of a so-called 'Reaper killer', and yet it seems like hardly anyone is fazed by it. Certainly no one seems concerned after Shepard makes possibly one of the biggest discoveries about the mythos of the entire series.
Ultimately the story just feels like a bit of a letdown. The plot itself is more or less fine (provided you've reconciled yourself with the nature of the vanilla game's ending and/or the Extended Cut), but the pacing is all wrong and ends up not leaving much of an impression despite how large it is. It's very slow and drawn out in the build up, and then sort of fizzles out all too quickly. Some of the complaints about the rushed nature of the main game's ending seem to echo here as well, although to be fair, something as large as the concepts of this DLC pack probably could (and should) have gotten their own game to begin with. In hindsight, the idea that BioWare could compress something like this into the three to five hours that Leviathan provides is almost absurd.
Still, it ends up being enjoyable enough, even if the aftertaste is pretty odd. More squad dialogue and interactions are always a good thing, as well as a few hints and tie-ins to current romances which are always welcome from an immersion standpoint. And because of the magnitude of this pack's contents, it's definitely a necessary part of the mythos that most fans won't want to resist.
Mass Effect 3 was an excellent game technically and BioWare hasn't done much to really change that in this pack. The graphics are sound technically with what might even be an improvement to the water physics and textures. There are a few facial animations that look somewhat weak and a few odd voice-acting choices, but mostly things are smooth.
However there have been reports of gameplay bugs and glitches which will break the mission and make one unable to continue. I was lucky enough to avoid any of these, but without a patch some players find themselves unable to move forward in their playthroughs short of loading a previous save and skipping the DLC entirely. Until a patch arises, there are going to be some very angry folks. It's unknown why and how frequently this bug arises, but it's not one that can be ignored. Tread with caution and frequent saves.
Leviathan's trophies are a fairly straightforward, if somewhat unimaginative, bunch. No collectibles or difficulty-based ones to be found here. Three are simply story-based for completing each of the add-on's missions, and one missable trophy whose exact requirements are still a little foggy but is still easily attainable.
It would have been nice to get an Insanity trophy in there, especially with some of the later fights, but sometimes it's nice to just take a break and relax. Maybe the rumored Omega pack will provide a little more challenge, but Leviathan's trophies shouldn't give anyone a headache.
Overall, Leviathan is a decent enough pack that suffers mostly from a lack of length and pacing issues. It moves too slow for the most part but this could have easily been remedied with more information-gathering and involvement with other characters. Instead you find yourself with long stretches pursing only a single goal, and then the whole thing closes much too quickly. Similar to the original ending of the vanilla game, players will find themselves confronting pretty revelatory facts with far-reaching implications all the in the span of about five minutes. Throw in another two or three minutes of debriefing with Admiral Hackett, and then the whole thing is thrown under the rug.
Admittedly this is DLC and further incorporation into the rest of the narrative would be costly, something like this almost demands it and certainly suffers from being so bizarrely constrained. There really doesn't feel like there's any reaction to what is essentially one of the largest discoveries in the Mass Effect universe, and it leaves a funny feeling with you for a while as a result.
Still, it's not without its merits and the story certainly feels essential enough to the universe. While not exactly dirt cheap, it isn't terribly expensive either and so I'd say most people should give it a try. Those who still have a few bones to pick with BioWare or EA might want to steer clear, as should those who have only the slightest interest in the universe, but everyone else will find something to like somewhere in there with all the mysteries of the deep.
It's a handful of Mass Effect 3 missions. It's what you'd expect, and that's not a bad thing, even if nothing new is ventured.
Good story with big questions and answers that suffers from questionable pacing.
One major bug and some lackluster facial expressions hold this one back from being as good as the vanilla game, but aside from that bug it's pretty and sounds swell.
Overall: 8/10 Good