Mass Effect 3 Leviathan Review
- September 12, 2012
- Posted by: Ryan Keyworth
- Category: Uncategorized
Mass Effect 3 was without a doubt the most controversial game released this year. Even I, a once proud Bio-drone was not thrilled with the final act of the sci-fi trilogy. While I can say that it was a technical marvel, I cannot say that a game that ultimately punishes players for trying to succeed is any good. I personally felt that the story of Mass Effect 3 was nearly nonexistent, none of the characters developed throughout the trilogy (some did… barely), the gameplay did not even remotely resemble the previous two, the visual design of the universe was antithetical to what came before, and the whole conflict between the galaxy and the Reapers felt so auxiliary, despite the fact that it was the most primary element of the entire trilogy. Now, the first official story based DLC has been released. Mass Effect 3: Leviathan is a DLC that explores the origins of the Reapers and adds more to Shepard’s story. A story we all know goes nowhere. I must first confess that I have not played Leviathan. That is why I am calling this article “Thoughts” instead of “Review.” I just cannot fork out $10 for something that likely amounted to nothing. Especially since I can now buy the entire game for $20. Instead, I watched it on YouTube to see if it was worth a purchase.
Leviathan takes Shepard on a journey across the galaxy to discover what this mysterious entity known as Leviathan is. Little is known about this thing. Is it a creature? A ship? A weapon? Who knows? What is known is that whatever this Leviathan thing is, it has the ability to destroy Reapers. Anything that can destroy a Reaper is certainly worth investigating.
Leviathan is a 2-3 hour campaign that has Shepard investigating leads and unraveling a mystery long buried. For the most part, Leviathan is a story that is all talk, with very little action. Thanks to the dumbed down dialog system of ME3, this proves to be an immensely boring ordeal. I may have watched it on YouTube, but I think those who play it will realize there is not much difference in terms of watching the story and playing it. For the most part, players will just be watching Shepard talking with all sorts of npc’s, with even less player input than the main game had. Every now and then, Shepard and company will be embroiled in a gunfight. Essentially, you’re playing a more boring and useless version of Metal Gear Solid 4. While the story does break the mold for the typical ME3 mission structure, the lack of drama, tension, and character development prevents Leviathan from being anything but a simple distraction.
One of the biggest selling points of this DLC was the promise of further expanding upon the Reapers and their origins. Leviathan does indeed explore the origins of the Reapers, but to be honest, it does not have a lot of new information beyond what was stated in the EC. The new information (however little it may be) feels far too relevant to not be included in the game. It will literally change your perspective of the ending of Mass Effect 3. In the end, you are paying $10 more for something that really should have been included in the main game. ME3 feels extremely incomplete without this information. I suppose a similar sediment could be said about the From Ashes add-on as well. Of course the only people who really care about the Reapers and the Protheans, for the most part, are folks who jumped on with the release of the original Mass Effect. It really does feel like Bioware is exploiting their fans, rather than pleasing them.
One thing that really bugged about what I saw was the combat. I was very disappointed to see that for the most part, the combat was very simple and basic. In fact, it reminded more of ME2’s corridor shooter approach rather than the much wider and more open ME3 approach. It just looked like a step back. What made ME3’s combat so wonderful was Bioware’s decision to break the combat up with other intense action bits. For example, the elevator chase on the Citadel, the foot chase of Mars, the battle in the gun battery of the Geth Dreadnought. All of this enhanced the gameplay beyond the typical run and gun play style, creating a more interesting and exciting combat system. Not so here in Leviathan. It’s pretty much just run and shoot. The one time they do throw a wrench in the combat is this odd escort mini-game, which looked dreadfully awful and immensely frustrating.
Another thing that annoyed me down to the very marrow in bones was the overwhelming amount of reused assets. Now, game design is all about reused assets, the trick is hiding the fact that they are recycled. Leviathan does not even try to hide the fact that these environments are all seen elsewhere. Take a look at the mining facility. By simply altering the color pallet of the area, you can clearly see that it is the exact same environment as Mars. In fact, one prominent scene in the DLC takes place in the exact same area as the moment during the Mars mission when Liara asks what Shepard fights for. The exterior of the facility is lifted right from Sanctuary, only removing the walls and adding a space background. It is almost worse than ME3’s ending, and how it sloppily reused the Shadow Broker base environment.
The real big payoff of Leviathan came at the very end. The final moments of this DLC prove to be the only element that is worthwhile. The ending has some of the most magnificent moments and awe inspiring visuals of the whole series. I actually considered buying this DLC for the ending alone. In hindsight though, as fascinating as the ending may be, it will more likely infuriate those who buy it. Upon further inspection, you realize that this ending only serves to justify the game’s ending even further. The implications of the final scene are never developed, and therefore, feel pointless. The final moments of Leviathan actually make a conventional victory more than possible, but alas, the ending remains unchanged. It may be better to skip Leviathan for that reason alone. Bioware may not give a crap about logic and consistency, but that doesn’t mean you don’t.
There are many highlights to Leviathan. The mission is seamlessly integrated into the rest of ME3, making it feel like it was always there. The companions are much more vocal than ever before in previous ME DLCs. There is even some (albeit debatable) romance content. It has a moody score, impressive visuals and a fascinating conclusion that may turn your perspective of the ending upside down. However, the combat is lacking, the story is bland, the dialog system remains unchanged, and even Mark Meer sounds bored just recording lines.
Leviathan does nothing bold or interesting, and when it does, it’s too little too late. It is not a self-contained adventure, but it has no bearing on the plot of ME3 either. Technically, it is leaps and bounds ahead of even Lair of the Shadow Broker. The narrative however, is bland and unsatisfying. Ultimately, Leviathan amounts to a confused, uninspired, joyless and repetitive mess.
Much like Mass Effect 3, what it does right is greatly outnumbered by what it does wrong. This DLC lacks the magic and fun factor of any other ME related DLC that came before it, from Bring Down the Sky all the way to Arrival. To me, the weakest DLC under the ME banner is Leviathan. Well, maybe Pinnacle Station was worse, but that’s about it. Of course, I did not play the add-on so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Perhaps playing the DLC has an effect on one’s perception. Still, after watching what unfolds, I have no intention of buying it. As this is not an official review, no official review score will be stated. It is possible that actually playing the DLC is a better experience than watching it, so take my thoughts as they are. Simply thoughts.