‘Mass Effect’ DLC Requires A Spaceship, A Couple Of Hours Of Player Progress

If you’re like me, you’re going to have to do a little bit of work to enjoy the newly announced downloadable content for “Mass Effect” when it comes out.

The “Bring Down The Sky” pack announced on Wednesday and slated for release on March 10 offers 90 minutes worth of bonus interplanetary exploration and combat. But if you saved the game where I did, you’ll have to spend a couple of hours reach a point of the game from which you can access it.

Even before I heard the announcement I was confused about how I would be able to enjoy the game’s promised downloadable content. I’ve cleared the game, and as others who also have can note, the “Mass Effect” galaxy is closed off to the player at least an hour before the game ends. “Mass Effect” isn’t like a “Grand Theft Auto,” or “Crackdown,” which leave their game environments open and available to the player even after their main narrative is concluded.

Instead, completing “Mass Effect” cycles the player back to the beginning of the game’s timeline, allowing them to replay the story with a powered-up copy of their character. But that character, at the outset of the story, can’t explore outer space and go to new downloadable worlds.

Yesterday at the DICE summit in Las Vegas, BioWare co-founder Ray Muzyka confirmed to me that I would have to get my Commander Shepherd back in control of the Normandy spaceship — in other words, past the game’s opening Eden Prime and Citadel sequences — in order to access the new DLC.

Muzyka said that the new missions will populate themselves into the game’s galactic map, which players can access to explore the universe only once they’ve played a couple of hours into the game.

So woe to me who does not have the game saved at a moment in which the game’s galactic map is available. I knew I should have been keeping extra save files handy, in case I needed to do more exploring. Instead, those of us who are back at the beginning — and those of you who are at the end — have some playing to do to set themselves up for the new content.

It makes sense now that I think about it. Is this what all “Mass Effect” players were expecting? Could “BioWare” have handled access to the new material differently? Or would any other technique have ruined the game’s structure and dramatic impact?