Worth the wait? Mass Effect 3 - Extended Cut DLC

I have given a lot of coverage to Mass Effect 3 at this site so far, including a review where I gave the game high marks despite the controversial ending.  While I did not mind the ending, it was quickly made clear that a lot of other fans felt that it was a complete disservice.  I never fell in-line with that thinking, but I did feel like the ending was lacking in impact from your decisions and it felt a bit undercooked.  Shortly after the public backlash over the ending to Mass Effect 3, Bioware promised an Extended Cut DLC that would not fundamentally change the ending, but add context to what was already out there.  So how did it fare?  Warning - spoilers ahead!


Overall, I thought the extended cut was more good than bad.  Fans of the Indoctrination Theory (which I never subscribed to) will no doubt come away frustrated because this pretty much shoots that down.  I have also read that it is easier to get the 'good endings' without the need to build up your Galactic Readiness through the multiplayer. 

The three basic ending options are still there: Control the Reapers, Destroy Synthetics or Synthesize Organics and Synthetics.  A fourth option was added as well where you can shoot the ghostlike child and refuse to do any of the above.  A lot of people wanted an option to 'just shoot the annoying little brat' - and it seems Bioware listened, but planted tongue in cheek a bit because this is the 'worst' ending.  In it you lose to the reapers and they wipe out most of civilization, though there is a nice nod to Liara's video journal that was brought up earlier in the game.  For a brief moment it felt like shooting the child might bring about another fight, but that moment was fleeting and the ending soon played out.  I have already read a lot of people who are mad about this option because they felt like it should be the 'true' ending and dislike that it leads to the Reapers winning the war, but I have no problem with it - it makes complete sense.

For those who felt like there were a bunch of plot holes in the prior endings, I think most of those have been cleared up for them as well.  Why was Joker just flying around space in the Normandy?  What happens when they crash on the planet?  What becomes of your comrades?  Did Anderson actually survive?  I have seen all of those questions and they are answered by this extended ending.

In the original ending it felt like the developers themselves were leaning toward the green/anesthetization ending, and that is still true here, but I think the control ending actually came out of this with the best overall improvement.  There is a cheap slideshow feel to a part of the ending where barely animated layers of images with differing voice narrations play out, but considering this update was already 1.9 GBs and that this is something Bioware has done in other games (like at the end of Dragon Age where stills are used to help construct the ending), I have no problem with this design choice either.  There is new video content added.

One complaint from the original endings is that very little of the content was 'new' - you got the same ending with some different colored splashes taking place based on your choice.  There is a bit more variety in these endings, but a lot of the assets do get reused from one choice to another.  Another interesting but potential hiccup is to get the full effect of how your choices are affecting the storyline, you actually have to load up a save from before right near the end.  Probably about 3-4 hours prior to.  I did this once and definitely noticed some nice additional content, and then watched the rest of the endings on YouTube for time's sake.  Still, if you do not happen to have saves conveniently located near that spot, that could be a problem.

I have seen quite a few mixed reactions to the DLC, and the general feeling I get from peoples' posts is that it is better, and while they may not love the endings, they are happier with them than before - but that it is too little too late and that this is the sort of effort Bioware should have put forth in the first place.  As to my feelings?  I think the endings are solid (and the control one again, may have become my favorite), but I did not hate the endings originally.  I was however disappointed in the corners that were cut initially and this does feel like the endings we should have gotten the first time around.

I have to give some credit to the Bioware team though.  Clearly they listened to their fans, even if they did not always agree with them, and I think that is fine.  Hopefully there are some lessons learned here that can be applied to their next big title (Dragon Age 3 perhaps?  The Mass Effect universe also has plenty of room for new tales).  In general EA and Bioware have taken a lot of heat for the Mass Effect 3 endings and are frequently accused of just trying to 'cash in', but this DLC is completely free.  Bioware has also been running bonus 'Operation Weekends' - initially every weekend and now every other while providing two free DLC packages that provided some extra maps and character for the different classes.  I still enjoy the multiplayer component of the game and it is nice to see it getting supported.


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