Mass Effect 3: Omega DLC for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
This is the DLC that fans were clamouring for after Mass Effect 3 wrapped up. The sight of the mighty Aria T’Loak lounging around in the Purgatory club in the Citadel felt wrong, and pretty much everyone worked out the BioWare were working their way up to an expansion in which we can help her reclaim Omega from Cerberus. The ethics of this sort of practise aside, Omega sadly fails to live up to the weight of expectation, largely due to fundamental misunderstanding on BioWare’s part as to what it was the fans liked so much about the Omega space station.
Omega is looking somewhat worse for wear this time around. Never the nicest place in the galaxy, we now see it only as another battlefield, a war torn series of corridors and explosions. This is the biggest issue of this DLC. I loved Omega as a hub, a great counterbalance to the utopian beauty of the Citadel. In Omega we had a ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy’, a nasty place but an interesting one, filled with unsavoury, entertaining characters. That’s all gone. For most of the DLC we might as well not be on Omega; there’s often little to distinguish Omega from many of the other dozens of tight corridors Shepard and his/her crew have fought themselves down during the Mass Effect trilogy. BioWare took the easy approach to this DLC, which was also entirely the wrong one. A short, action packed mission to retake Omega from Cerberus and hand it back to Aria to begin should have been followed with the reopening of Omega as a hub as in Mass Effect 2, a place brimming with new side quests and characters to meet. Instead, when we’re done we can’t even return to Omega, much less explore it. Let’s compare this to what Gearbox do for Borderlands 2; for a cheaper price you receive a whole new world to explore. How about Bethesda for Skyrim? Dragonborn gave us a whole island for only a little bit more money. Charging as much as BioWare did for this DLC is inexcusable; I like to defend BioWare, as I believe that a huge amount of the recent fan backlash is highly childish and entitled, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so.
Omega does not allow Shepard to bring his/her crew along with them, instead assigning them with Aria and a new character, Nyreen, the first female Turian in the series and, it is implied, a former lover to Aria. Shepard, Aria and Nyreen build up a resistance against Cerberus to oust them, and their leader Oleg Petrovsky and return Omega to Aria.
Despite my disappointment over the treatment of Omega in this DLC, I must confess that the narrative is up to the high standard set by BioWare. Aria is a fantastic character, with fabulously murky motivations; although seemingly motivated purely by self gain and the pursuit of power, there’s always a hint of something else underneath it all, someone for whom the extreme liberty of Omega isn’t merely a business opportunity, but an ideological position. Aria is balanced well against Nyreen, our first Turian female, and the interplay between them is a delight. Yes, to an extent it does boil down to Nyreen: Paragon and Aria: Renegade, but this never feels overdone, with the characters evolving into more than simply angels and devils arguing on Shepard’s shoulder. Sure, the actual plot isn’t up to much, and Petrovsky is a rather cliché and dull villain, but I enjoyed Aria and Nyreen so much that I didn’t really mind. The same could have been said for bringing Shepard’s old crew with him/her; it may have been nice, but they’re not needed, and I for one was very happy to finally have the awesome Aria as a squadmate. There are some really tense decisions to make towards the end, that really captured the central Paragon/Renegade dynamic which almost defines the Mass Effect series.
The basic shooting mechanics of Mass Effect 3 are as solid as ever, and we have a few new enemies and abilities at our disposal, the most fun of which are some new biotic powers. Still, you really won’t be doing anything but shooting in this DLC, and in this sense Omega falls behind the earlier Leviathan DLC. Leviathan gave the player stuff to do that wasn’t simply fighting waves and waves of enemies, but Omega lacks that. Sure, it’s all very fun, but entirely uninspired. All this DLC does is reinforce my belief that the future of the Mass Effect series lies away from the third person shooter path they have embarked down, and thankfully the rumbling from inside BioWare seem to imply that this may be the case in future instalments.
As was often the case with Mass Effect 3, Omega is a triumph of style over substance. There’s no denying that this DLC looks great, particularly in the cutscenes and during dialogue. These are generally the most enjoyable part of the experience; that’s not necessarily a criticism, I think that’s always been the case with the Mass Effect series, but it felt even more pronounced here. Nevertheless, the production values are very high, and I suspect that it is through these that the high price point is justified. It’s just a shame that BioWare couldn’t have extended the same effort to the actual content of this DLC that they did to its visual and audio design.
Omega is a disappointing addition to a game which failed to live up to its own expectations. Omega captures the flaws of Mass Effect 3 in microcosm; if included as part of the main game this wouldn’t have been nearly as bothersome, but sold separately at this high price it’s difficult to justify. Whilst I understand that this all sounds negative, Omega is most certainly fun and tells a great story tied into one of the best characters in the Mass Effect universe. If this pops up in a half price sale, then it is absolutely worth playing, but until then the content is not worth the price of entry.