Xbox 360 – Mass Effect 3 Omega Single Player DLC (2012) Review
Omega is the newest single player DLC to be released for Mass Effect 3 and once again I find myself inundated with the simplest of questions which all center on, “Is it worth it?” Readers will already know how I reviewed Mass Effect 3 as well as the previous Leviathan DLC and though I liked the later I mentioned how it was slightly lamentable that Bioware was playing with fire by leaving the content out as it would have served as a good foreshadowing moment to lend credence to the appearance of the Catalyst at the end of the game. Bioware and every other video game developer out there should really hunker down and understand that making money is all fine and dandy but when a major chunk of exposition that is central to the plot is purposely left out at launch that it potentially can lead to the brouhaha that appeared over the game’s ending. So where does that leave Omega? Simply put, unlike Leviathan, Omega has next to zero hooks to the main plot making this expansion feel very much like a mini standalone game.
That fact is both a major boon and a giant anchor merely because it will quickly polarize fans even more. I won’t beat around the bush here and just get to the meat of the DLC which really boils down to a simple question on whether or not a gamer likes Aria T’Loak as a character as well as the entire Omega station narrative first seen in Mass Effect 2. The reason is obvious since those who are enamored with Aria and her seedy cesspool of villainy will certainly be more inclined to purchase the Omega DLC over someone who really doesn’t care one iota for the subject matter.
Unlike Leviathan which featured a rather refreshing pace that alternated between Sherlock Holmes clue searching and outright action, the Omega DLC is almost totally focused on all-out third person combat. That is not to say that the game’s signature moral decision making and dialogue cut scenes are not to be found but that overall players will be thrust into a near unending series of linear shooting sequences. Thankfully, Bioware Montreal has poured a lot of time and money into making some striking environments that make Omega stand out from the rest of the core game although it has to be said that the colour palette falls almost completely towards the dark moody hues. Virtually everything is some shade of grey and brown while the lighting tends to be bathed in orange giving the station an incredibly decrepit and foreboding feeling.
Intrepid gamers who have spent much time in Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer modes will easily see the influence here as many of the scripted encounters seem reminiscent of those taking place online. This is no surprise as Omega developer Bioware Montreal is primarily responsible for Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer as well. Unfortunately, while the combat is sound there is frankly too much of it and it comes at the expense of gripping plotlines as well as needed character exposition.
This sore point is magnified intensely because Shepard is without any of her regular Mass Effect 3 squad mates as the DLC forces her to inexplicably follow Aria alone on the flimsiest of excuses. A single line where Aria explains to Shepard that she doesn’t really trust the Normandy crew because some do not align to her way of thinking rings false precisely because half of the regular squad by default falls to the renegade side of the morality curve anyways and would have made more accommodating teammates to pair with Aria. Can you imagine what Javik would say if he was dragged along on this mission?
By jettisoning the regular cast it merely shines the spotlight even brighter on Aria and newcomer Nyreen and the DLC does not rise to the occasion. Aria’s character is more or less set in stone as evinced by her appearance in Mass Effect 2. She begins the game as a no-nonsense bad-ass who will do anything to achieve her goals and she ends exactly in the same position. While it is somewhat refreshing to see a character stand by his/her morals even if they are decidedly draconian her character doesn’t naturally grow through the Omega narrative that focuses on her awful one liners and glib comments.
In comparison, the female Turian Nyreen fairs better but not by much. Sure, she has her own backstory and motivation but she is surprisingly sidelined by the DLC so that she doesn’t spend all the running time in Shepard’s party. Huge tracks of the Omega DLC have Shepard traipsing across the space station with just Aria in tow making one wonder just what the heck they are doing without any sort of reliable backup. Not to mention, it makes the primary antagonist, this time being a hulking Russian General named Petrovsky who works for the pro-human group named Cerberus, look utterly moronic as he sends wave after wave of Cerberus grunts at our heroes only to have them all cut down with ease.
It is here that one needs to mention that this DLC is based on the Mass Effect Invasion series of four comic books that explain how and why Petrovsky managed to capture the station while exiling Aria. Although gamers don’t need to read the comic books they would be missing out on a lot of contextual information especially on Petrovsky and the reasoning behind why Cerberus wanted the station in the first place. In a way I can’t help but feel this is a missed opportunity here as those who have read the comic series will have a much clearer understanding of what is transpiring rather than those gamers who have no idea the comics even exist. In a way, the Omega DLC makes some sense being almost all focused on action because the entire backstory was already established in the comic books but this obviously is not the right avenue in which to create an expensive add-on, especially for those who feel totally lost at what is happening on screen.
The DLC does add a few new enemies not seen in the main game but alas there are a few issues that detract from their enjoyment. Part of this stems from my own personal play through because I am essentially using a max level Commander Shepard. Throw in the fact that virtually every weapon in my armory is upgraded to the max level and it resulted in me blowing through the content with nary a sweat. The new adjutant reaper-like creatures that seemed like a new kind of Banshee wilted under my constant barrage of biotic powers and firepower. Perhaps I should play on legendary but make note that those with end game saves (right before Cerberus base attack) are going to find the difficulty level much lower than expected.
Even when played at a decidedly leisurely pace the DLC will take approximate 3-4 hours of time although I would not be surprised if some could finish it considerably faster if they were rushing. Although the trip through Omega is filled with a ton of action set pieces and some remarkably striking visuals I can’t help but feel disappointed that the storyline is not particularly gripping in anyway. A few moral decisions did make me feel uneasy, as they should, but the lack of character interaction of any significance is a real sore point.
There is a moment when playing Omega when Shepard’s group manages to arrive in a kind of military bunker which acts as Aria’s base of operations when the game truly feels as if it will pick up. This is precisely because it acts as a kind of mini-hub where Shepard can talk to various characters and even pick up sub-quests. It gives the impression that Bioware’s initial intent was the make the Omega DLC much bigger by design so that Shepard would use the Bunker as a base of operations only leaving it to slowly take over other sections of the space station. Unfortunately, this does not come to pass and instead it isn’t long before the game decides to shuffle the gamer to another location all the while plowing through more Cerberus cannon fodder.
Omega suffers from some of the same technical issues that have plagued the franchise since day one namely a varying framerate and even worse, characters who often time either inexplicably lose their voice over track while in conversation or even warp all over the scenery to hilarious results. In my playthrough this occurred at precisely the worst moment as Aria was making her grand speech to Omega citizens in order to rally them to her cause. While the content of the speech was sound the entire sequence felt eviscerated merely because the game picked the wrong time to force Aria to miraculously warp and stutter like a film that has missing frames totally diminishing the emotional impact meant to be portrayed. At this point in the franchise I really am at a loss in trying to figure out if this is due to unoptimized programming or some deeper inherent issue with the game engine that Bioware employs since the same technical glitches appear in all their games and expansions. Whatever the reason one would expect that Omega or any recent DLC to be devoid of these problems yet they keep appearing like a bad odor that just won’t go away.
For 1200 Microsoft Points Omega just does not add much to the overall Mass Effect 3 experience and worse, it distracts from the main narrative thrust that has Shepard cobbling together a united resistance to the Reapers. Are we really to believe that Shepard would go off alone to spend an inordinate amount of time retaking a space station while her crew sits twiddling their thumbs on the Normandy? In the end Omega can still be entertaining if one understands that its focus is primarily on action but at this price point many gamers will expect much more bang for their buck.
** out of ****
Install Size: 1.9 GB
Developed by: Bioware Montreal
Release Date: 11/27/12
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