Sunday, May 06, 2012

Mass Effect 3: From the Ashes (Xbox 360) Review

Note:  This review contains minor SPOILERS.

Released on launch day, the first DLC for Mass Effect 3 adds a new Squad Mate, weapon, mission, and alternate outfits for all Squadmates to the game. Similar in concept but of a greater scope and better integration than Zaeed was for Mass Effect 2, "From the Ashes" allows players to recruit the last Prothean to their cause.

Shortly after leaving Earth, players will gain notification of a Cerberus attack on Eden Prime, the same world the original game started on.  Now years later, the colonists of Eden Prime have begun to rebuild and further excavations of the Prothean ruins have commenced.

Learning of a valuable Prothean find, Cerberus heads to Eden Prime to collect it for themselves, leaving Commander Shepard and crew to stop them.

Eden Prime is laid out like most other side missions in the game, and is simply a bunch of prefabricated buildings centered around the dig site.  The mission itself isn't anything spectacular (though it isn't bad either, it's just more of the same really), it's the result of this mission that is.  Javik, the last Prothean emerges from stasis and after a brief confrontation joins Shepard's crew to help stop the Reapers.

There seems to be a trend these days with long extinct alien races who leave behind technology for us to learn from not being so long extinct after all, and instead of being benevolent they actually turn out to be great big jerks.  Such is the case with Javik, who's pretty grumpy and hostile and doesn't really make friends with your Squadmates, but he does feature a nice set of combat and biotic powers (including a unique ability entitled "Dark Channel) and his Particle Rifle packs a great punch.

Throughout the course of Shepard's journey Javik will have many interesting comments to say like any other Squadmate, either in general or to specific crew members, and the conversations you get to have with him are far more dynamic, featuring better production values, than what was used for Zaeed.  There's no question that Javik added to the overall experience but since he's optional DLC, the real question is does he impact it enough to warrant the cost of admission.

My answer is no.

The majority of what Javik provides is back story information, and while it's great to hear I wouldn't call it essential, and at an asking price of 800 Microsoft Points ($11.60) , EA is asking for a lot for something you can easily read online.  While I would recommend experiencing this content during at least one Mass Effect 3 playthrough (and make sure you take Javik to Thessia!), I can't recommend it at this cost, especially when you have several other good combat and biotic characters to draw upon.

For those of you who purchased the Mass Effect 3: Collector's Edition, "From the Ashes" is included and you can simply redeem the code in your case and experience the new character and earn the two additional Achievements almost right away.

For those with the standard edition of the game, wait for the inevitable sale.  While better than what Zaeed, and even the premium DLC Kasumi had to offer, the cost for "From the Ashes" has gone up accordingly negating it's initial value.  Mass Effect 3 is a rich and deep experience, and there's more than enough there to satisfy without him.

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