March 29th marked the release of Mass Effect 2’s final piece of DLC, a mission that BioWare stated would create a “bridge” between the second installment of the series and Mass Effect 3. After gradually coming down off my Lair of the Shadow Broker high, I was hungry for more. BioWare had just delivered a piece of digital excellence, resetting the bar for what we should expect from DLC. Yet Arrival worried me with its significantly smaller price tag and file size.
I thought that, surely, a bridge could not be built from such a small foundation.
I was not wrong.
I’ll spare you the spoilers- you’ll see them coming from a mile away anyhow. Things kick off like any other mission for Shep. Someone’s got a problem and yo it needs solving, but they’re far too busy to dirt their own hands. So Shepard drops whatever he or she’s doing to high-tail it over to the galaxy’s back door and rescue Dr. Amanda Kenson as a favor to Admiral Hackett, a name finally granted a face in ME2. This DLC is more like fan service- an excuse for BioWare to finally give Lance Henrikson’s godly voice a digital body. Just like old times. Except for the part where you play the whole damn thing alone.
A good portion of my Mass Effect obsession was born of the party combat. I worked my ass off to assemble the best and brightest of the galaxy’s convicts, crazies, and crab people, so I think I’ve earned the right to use them whenever I damn well please. Those of you without biotic abilities or crowd control tech may find yourselves wrestling with an urge to rage quit. The level design is nothing to boast about and there’s nothing really new that could hold a candle to Liara’s sky car chase scene from Shadow Broker. You’ll instead be forced to tough it out in a scenario nearly identical to the final level of Halo Reach. Reach made it work for me, but Arrival? Not so much.
BioWare delivers the killing blow at the very end, committing an offense that even I thought they wouldn’t dare attempt. Mass Effect has been an experience built around pivotal in-game choices. They might not necessarily alter the final outcome drastically, but the journey changes. The Collector base could blow, or continue to exist as an object of untapped power. How could Arrival be any different?
Here we are, presented with a moral dilemma- then BioWare chooses for us.
Regardless of your Paragon or Renegade score, you will make this choice. You’ll feel little to no remorse/pleasure due to a complete void of interest in the subject matter, but it will happen.
If BioWare actually intended for us to care about the sacrifice, then they did an abysmal job garnering sympathy.
Admiral Hackett will commend, then warn you of the consequences you’ll face come judgment day. Fade to black. End scene.
This was no bridge. Lair of the Shadow Broker didn’t offer a choice either, but it didn’t need to. It was too busy telling a story fans wanted to hear. It was creating a new chapter, paving the way for a new galactic order.
Shadow Broker was ten times the bridge that Arrival was, shifting the paradigm and building off the Liara story arc that fans wanted to see. It offered up generous amounts of story and content in the end, giving each recruited character another dimension.
Yet at the end of Arrival, not much changes story-wise between the beginning and end of the mission. It might have helped if the mission itself was more enjoyable to play through, but it just wasn’t.
BioWare had the opportunity to do something extraordinary- they could have given players the most profound choice of all, one that would have drastically altered the sequel. Instead, they buried it. Yes, this is their story and yes, they have every right to deny me the things I want. But when you have something wonderful, powerful, loved by millions, you want it to stay wonderful. You may even want it to be better- you know it has the potential.
BioWare, you had that chance to do something bold. You could have taken that risk and changed everything. Yet you didn’t. I forgive you, and I’ll be first in line at the midnight launch of Mass Effect 3, but I will always expect more. I know you’re capable. As for Arrival, though…
I am disappoint.
Here’s The Rundown:
+Didn’t fix what wasn’t broken
+More achievements for you
-One of the least enjoyable missions
This bit of DLC was developed by BioWare and published by EA. It was released on March 29th, 2011 across all necessary platforms for about $7 or something. After Steph bought it herself, it was played to completion on fangirl difficulty. She was disappoint.