Mass Effect is one of the best games I’ve played in recent years. The intricate character development, the beauty of the various worlds, the epic music, the quality voice work … fantastic. I’ve already played through the game twice and I can’t wait for the sequel (which was just made official). So naturally I leapt at the chance to get some filler content with the first DLC pack “Bring Down the Sky”: a 400 point ($5) roughly ninety minute add-on with an additional fifty achievement points thrown in.
Before I get to talking about what I thought went wrong with the pack, I just want to say that I loved playing it as much as the rest of the game. If you were a fan of the original it’s exactly the quality you’d expect from BioWare, but this side quest is given the same cinematic treatment that only the main plot missions had the first time. Not to mention that for $5 you get an hour and a half of entertainment that’s far better than most current movies (I’m looking at you Witless Protection).
You finally get to meet the Batarians, a violent slaver race you heard so much about in the main game, and you find some really nice gear on their bodies after you blow them all away. They make an interesting nemesis race for humans and I hope they show up in future DLC packs. There’s also a chance at the end of the mission to get one of four unique items (five if you play as a bullying, unremorseful bastard — like I did). Add to that the fifty extra gamer points and you have a pretty sweet package.
Now on to the griping. There’s really only one, but it’s a big one: you can’t just jump to the extra content if you’ve already beaten the game. You have to start a new game (although you can use your beefed up character from the first go round) and play all the way through the Eden Prime mission and the entire first Citadel chapter until you get your own ship can head out to the new mission. I’ve now played that part of the game three times and it’s probably the most boring, clocking in at around two hours even if you move along only doing the required mission objectives.
It’s a little ridiculous and it’s been an understandable hurdle that’s keeping a lot of my friends from trying it out. BioWare really dropped the ball here. There’s no reason why there can’t be a main menu selection to jump right in to the episodic content using your current character data. It’s not like the plot of the expansion weighs heavily on the rest of the game. The worst part is, if I save the game right at the point where you’re open to explore the add-on packs anything I do afterwards (XP points, unique items) would be nullified if I wanted to play another add-on pack right away. In theory I would be able to jump right in to the new content when future packs are released, but other than the gamer points you get from the mission everything would be for naught. Not cool.
If you haven’t beaten the game yet (and aren’t on one of the last two missions — which close the galactic map to you) then you’d be able to head straight for the new content as you load up, but seeing as it’s now well after the game’s release there’s probably not too many people who are both clamoring for new content and haven’t finished the game. You might want to wait until you’re ready to start a new game to grab the pack. Who knows, maybe they’ll make this pack free when the second one is released. But in my opinion it’s $5 well spent. Space Operas get me every time.