There’s a broad streak of humor and winking at the audience in “Citadel,” the final piece of DLC for “Mass Effect 3,” much of it calling attention to the silliness Shepard and his crew’s latest adventure amid the high rises and malls of the ancient space station/waypoint. It’s the kind of humor that explicitly calls out the ridiculousness of the characters’ circumstances which have to do, in part, with an admittedly cleverly-conceived villain who wants to off the Normandy commander and his crew, and while this kind of thing should grate after a while, the main adventure as well as some quality time with the surviving characters in the series effectively hit me in the sweet nostalgia spot for “Mass Effect,” making this (along with “From the Ashes”) an essential piece of the final game in this trilogy.
With the Normandy crew needs some R&R in the middle of the galaxy-spanning battle against the Reapers, Shepard is ordered to dry dock at the Citadel and given ballerish new digs in a swanky high-rise. But before he can settle in to enjoy his new pad, armed mercenaries attack, having hacked all of his communications and drawing Shepard into a series of light stealth solo gun fights with his silenced pistol.
It’s not long before the Normandy crew is drawn into the gunfight, and the enemy is revealed (their identity I won’t spoil here but it works fantastically within seeds set up by “Mass Effect 2″). From there, it’s a lot of quipping and chasing as Shepard and the gang hunt down the would-be killer, into a mysterious, archival vault inside of the Citadel, a location worth its own DLC mission and further exploration.
If “Mass Effect” as a series has been an occasionally self-serious homage to the VHS-era space operas of the 80’s, “Citadel” is a tribute to the quip-heavy buddy comedies of the 90’s (everyone’s got jokes) in this kind of weird, low-stakes conflict against a villain who even the heroes don’t see as having a chance of winning. Sure, by the end of it, you won’t want to hear another joke about the restaurant fish tank, but hanging with the other characters in this way is a kind of welcome respite from the doom and pessimism at the back end of this saga. The corniness/sentiment is kicked up a couple of notches once your battle with the baddie is over and Shepard returns to his/her place to… throw a party. An entire 2 hour or more section of the DLC serves to let you explore, the new chunk of the Citadel and meet your crew members (along with one-time crew members) before throwing a bash at your place. This unexpected turn doesn’t offer a lot in the way of gameplay, but it’s a much more satisfying final encounter with some of these characters than the one provided via the rushed video chats on Earth.
Corniness aside (or maybe because of it), “Citadel” offers a perfect send-off to the “Mass Effect” trilogy in a way that honors the characters and the relationships you’ve spent years establishing with them.
Follow @MTVMultiplayer on Twitter and be sure to “like” us on Facebook for the best geek news about comics, toys, gaming and more! And don’t forget to follow our video gaming and TV writer @TheCharlesWebb.