All Good Things: Why Mass Effect 3: Citadel is My Favorite DLC of All Time

(Disclaimer: This blog originally ran way back in 2013. However, since most of you guys didn’t know me back then, I figure the recent Bloggers Wanted prompt is as good as an excuse to bump it back up. Most of it remains untouched, which is good because I think I was really sincere with this entry.)

Nah, I ain’t bitter because Telltale’s The Walking Dead: 400 Days won Destructoid’s DLC of the Year. And no, I ain’t not sour that it didn’t even make it to the top three choices of the community poll. After all, we each have our own opinion, and we should respect that, so again: no, I am totally holding no grudges that Mass Effect 3’s Citadel isn’t getting the love and recognition I think it deserved (that’s a triple negative by the way… so take that as you will).

No, what I am obsessed about is how little I described why I love this piece of downloadable content… no way is the short comment I posted on that link gonna cut it. That brings us to this blog post, which is not about why I believe Citadel is DLC of the year to you all, but rather, why Citadel is not only DLC of the year to me, but also the best damn DLC I ever had the fortune to played, even if it was a bit pricey at 15 dollars.

However, I must warn you that, in order for me to go on why I love this DLC, I have to spoil not only Mass Effect in general, in both the series and Citadel DLC, but I might also have to spoil an anime called Angel Beats! a bit. If it sounds unrelated, I can see why it may seem that way, but stick with me and I’ll explain it all in detail; I promise it’ll not only come together, but is essential to the blog.

Anyway, I recommend vacating this blog if you don’t want anything spoiled. For those who continuing on, whether you played Mass Effect, seen Angel Beats!, experienced one and don’t intend to experience the other, or simply just don’t give a fuck… well, I’ll get started.

Beautiful Pain

I got into Angel Beats! out of a combination of curiosity and prestige. Not only did the anime have gorgeous visuals, interesting characters, and an emotionally gripping plot, it wass also an original animation written by Jun Maeda. For those of you who don’t know, Jun Maeda is a writer of a company called Key who is involved and credited with critically acclaimed visual novels such as Air, Kanon, and Clannad, which have spawned anime adaptations that are among my list of favorite animes. These animes are famous for their emotional plots, making you feel for the characters and wanting to know their backstories as well as their eventual fates.

This prompted me, out of obligation even, to check out the first episode, and I’m glad I did. It was amazingly good, dreamlike in essence, and honestly my favorite single anime episode out of all I’ve seen ever, bar frickin’ none. Most animes I enjoy are because of how well it builds up a story or twist typical anime tropes, like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but never before did a single episode resonated with me so well. While I didn’t like all the episodes, the anime is still one of my personal favorites. I even imported the first Blu-Ray volume, which costs way too much money (if you’re still with me, I have to mention all this; it will come into play very soon), just to have it on disc in case the anime didn’t localize.

However, as much as it feels like I’m praising it, one dreadfully unforunate criticism of Angel Beats!, which seems to be the general consensus amongst fans, is that the anime is too short: clocking in at 13 episodes, it’s not as short as, say, FLCL, but for an anime that features about a dozen characters, and whose main hook is investing you into them, it’s woefully too inadequet to delve into everyone’s backstories, meaning that some characters have to take a backseat to others. Not only that, near the end of the anime, almost all the characters are gone, and in the final episode only four of the initial dozen or so remain. That didn’t stop the ending from being so bittersweet, as it still brings tears to my eyes when I think of it.

Rain Over Me

I only imported the first volume of Angel Beats because getting them all was mad expensive: I think it was 80 bucks, USD, for a single volume containing two episodes. Yes, two episodes per $80 volume, and this is a half season anime: 12 episodes into six discs equals out to over $900, and don’t even get me started on shipping… so yeah, I only bought the one volume. However much I liked the anime, there was no way I was gonna spend that much, especially if it did get localized into the U.S. and sell for cheaper (in fact, Amazon now lists it for like $30, which has all the episodes for half of what I paid for that one volume). However, one thing stuck out to me: if there was 13 episodes, and the second-to-last volume had episode 11 and 12, would episode 13 be released by itself?

Nope: the final volume of the anime contained episode 13 and a special, 20 or so minute OVA (original video animation, which is typically used to say “special episode” or short movie). Now, anyone’s initial presumption of this new “OVA” is that it’s probably going to be an epilogue of the series, especially since it’s meant to be seen after the tear-jerking conclusion that’s very open to interpretation. So, naturally, fans, like me, assumed that this will answer any questions we may have lingering around.

Yeah, the director of the anime didn’t do that… in fact, it did something I didn’t even expect: the OVA takes place not after the series, but right in the middle of it. That’s like serving the last part of dessert, like the remains of a chocolate-filled waffle cone of a Nestle Drumstick, right after appetizers but before the main course.

And it was genius.

See, as I said earlier, Angel Beats, like other works written by Jun Maeda, focuses on two things: emotion and characters. Around the halfway point of the anime, things start a very serious turn, and it eventually escalades into something borderline depressing; the anime practically ends with the main character ending up all alone. This is where the magic of the oddly placed OVA works its wonder: by taking place before all the serious stuff goes down, and during a time that most characters are still around (characters drop from the series as it continues forward), the OVA is emotional in a completely different way: it wasn’t meant to make us cry because it was so dark and depressing… it was meant to make us cry because it gave us the chance to see the characters that we became invested in so full of life one final time, in glorious celebration. Sound… familiar?

With You, Friends

This is why Mass Effect 3: Citadel resonated so much to me: just like the special OVA episode of Angel Beats, Citadel tales place before the final events of the game, but is still recommended that you play it afterwards because it doesn’t serve as the epilogue to the series (which many of us would have wanted with the… severely mixed opinions about Mass Effect 3’s ending), but rather, the “farewell” to the series I’ve come to enjoy and the characters I know and love. Although, chronologically, it’s not the end of the game, Citadel is the last thing you’re supposed to play, and thank goodness. I always love to end things with a bang.

Despite both series having some serious plotlines go down a dark path — like when the main characters of Angel Beats! getting shot with bullets from the student council, to Mass Effect’s issues with the Genophage — these special episodes, Citadel and episode “14” of Angel Beats!, are a light-hearted romp, absurd in tone and plot. The Angel Beats! episode is about a group of kids trying to create chaos by “acting out” in class with “high tension”, or less suffer their leader’s wrath by being forced to starve for a week, while the Citadel DLC is about chasing down a clone of the legandary Commander Shepard who’s trying to kill you and take your glory. Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC is not only the funniest part of the series, but it’s a chance for developers to really poke fun at the community and themselves.

Lots of fandom, from memes being used to self-references of gameplay mechanics, are used in abundance in Citadel. When your clone claims to be a better Shepard than you and you respond “Conrad Verner is a better Shepard than you!”, you can tell the developers had fun writing this.

When your clone traps you in an airlock and walks away saying your signature, conversation ending line (“I should go”), the look on your version of Shepard’s is priceless, and the resulting jokes from your teammates are great.

“Why didn’t you tell me it sound weird of me to say that?” Shepard asks.

“I thought that was something all humans say when they leave the room.” Wrex shrugs.

When someone says “too bad you can’t bring everyone on a mission with you” and Spehard says “why not?” and invites the whole Mass Effect 3 Squad along, it was such a tongue-in-cheek moment that I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Hell Yeah, Fucking Right!

Although, in actuality, you don’t get to roll with them side-by-side, each separating to cover different entrances and routes, but at least you can see them as you make your way through the level. But seeing isn’t as cool as listening: the banter between these groups of people are frickin’ hilarious. The team divides into two groups, Team Hammerhead and Team Mako, named after the controversial vehicles of the series, which creates a budding rivalry: get ready to hear them bragging about their accuracy and head count while criticizing others for theirs. The developers even pokes fun at their gameplay mechanic once more: when you are asked to only take two Squadmates with you in the final fight, you select them like you normally would… but before you deploy, the rest of your squad looks at you with pleading eyes.

“What?” Shepard raises a brow.

“It’s just… I kinda wanted to go,” James replies.

Sorry, buddy, but Wrex is taking his old spot back.

Wait, wait, wait, hold up… did I just say motherfuckin’ Wrex!? Yes, Wrex, my favorite Krogan in the series, is back not as some important cameo role, but as a temporary Squadmate! When I first played through the series, the only two characters I used in the first game were Garrus and Wrex, and while I substituted him for Grunt in Mass Effect 2, and James Vega (who I kind of liked, but ain’t no Krogan) in the sequel, it felt so good to me to finally get the original group back together. Speaking of getting the group back together, this DLC not only reunites me with my Mass Effect 1 homie, but it also allowed me to get better acquainted with my Mass Effect 2 Squadmates. I tell you, even the scenes where we’re just chilling together, like playing arcade games with Jacob or watching a romance movie with Tali, brought along sentimental feelings.

But there’s no better way of getting reacquainted than throwing a frickin’ party (as Grunt can attest)! Arguably the best part of the DLC, all of your Squadmates throughout the game, besides Legion (which is unfair considering that I feel he always get shafted in the series), are back, in one way or another, for one last hurrah to get drunk, get crazy, and get stupid. You’ll see them do push-up competitions, converse ways to booby trap Shepard’s apartment, watch Grunt deny outside partygoers entry (this one being my second favorite moment involving Grunt, the first being the video of him falling out of a window), and even see characters trying to hook up with others; you might even get a one night stand yourself (though not with yourself, which would’ve been cool since this DLC is about a clone… damn, talk about a missed opportunity)! The morning after is also wonderfully funny because seeing the results of an awesome party with people with hangovers crashing on the couch and washing themselves in the shower is a nice touch.

Night of Your Life

But the best touch of them all is everyone gathering together for a group photo at the end. It brings tears to my eyes to see us all huddle up one last time, knowing that this might be the last time we see any of them. With the series moving out of the Shepard trilogy, there’s a good chance that newcomers will take over as Squadmates, and older character are presumably only lucky to appear as cameo, if even. That may be a shame, but it might be for the better: we may have invested in these characters, but that doesn’t mean we can’t invest in others, and care about them. Still, I won’t forget these people, and that still image of us huddling around the camera will burn brightly in my mind until then.

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