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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.

So is the extra pair of eyes really evolutionarily beneficial?

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.

10 Comments

  1. GJ said on March 18, 2008:

    I don’t know much about Mass Effect, maybe you know Tony– but does it seem that there is a hardware restriction that is keeping them from allowing you to play episodic content with a “beaten the game” save?

    Or was it just a short sighted “oopsy” for a first run (perhaps they meant to ship sooner, before everyone beat the game)? If they make fantastic content that’s unplayable by people who have beaten the game… and release it months after the game is out so that 80% of owners haven’t already beaten it… sounds like a rather unrealistic business plan, like selling hamburgers to vegans.

  2. TrueTallus said on March 18, 2008:

    Crap. I thought I knew how this thing worked, but now I’m confused all over again. So are you saying it’s possible to play through the extra mission so long as I have a save with the map open to me, Tony? Can I just take my stalwart commander Shepard from the brink of his adventures in Ilos (not to mention Ashley Williams) and try my hand at wasting Batarian scumbags? If that’s the case, I wouldn’t really feel that bad, all it would mean is that I won’t finish the game ‘for real’ until the sequel comes out (or DLC is officially exhausted).

    Also, what do I have to do to get the mission going? Is there a specific person I have to talk to in some god forsaken back alley of the citadel, or will I get the usual voiceover from admiral whats-his-name telling me about a new mission alliance command has cooked up?

  3. Tony said on March 19, 2008:

    This is the way it works: If you can get to the Galaxy Map you can get to the mission. It just shows up as a mission objective when you travel to the new system. It’s just like the other side missions (you can access them whenever you want – as long as you have a ship and can get to the Galaxy Map) and it launches when you land on the new asteroid. The only times you’d be unable to access the content are in the beginning (until you get the ship) and towards the last two missions (when you pass beyond the Vail and don’t have access to jumpgates).

    As far as why they did it: I’ve heard rumors that this pack was originally content that was supposed to be in the retail release. Time constraints problem or marketing department trickery? You decide. It would explain why you can’t get to it from the main menu, as you can’t launch into any mission from anything but the Galaxy Map. It would also explain why the story doesn’t have much weight with the main plot. The other side missions only served to flesh out the universe the writers created, this one’s only a lot more polished.

  4. Shota said on March 19, 2008:

    I am so excited about this. I don’t go on xbox live often enough so thanks for the heads up tony. Any news on the sequel yet?

  5. Tony said on March 19, 2008:

    I know it was conceived as a trilogy (or more) of games, at least three of which were for current game consoles. So that’s got to be another two games in four years or less. Just recently, a BioWare spokesperson said that you’d be able to carry over your character from ME1 (powers, items and all) and that it would have a drastic effect on the beginning of the next game. Can’t wait for that!

  6. TrueTallus said on March 19, 2008:

    Sweet! I hope character relationships will carry through, as they did in BGII’s expansion. If there was one thing that really bugged me about mass effect (beyond trying to drive up mountains that came straight out of Magic Carpet) it was that, with the exception of Tali, I never felt like I got enough time to talk with my squad mates to the point where I could really understand where they where coming from. Ash certainly seems to have a charming relationship with the people in her family, and Kaiden might have done something other than be an L2 (maybe that’s covered in his romantic sideplot) but it frustrated me no end that beyond my token quarian no one was willing to talk about who they where or how they were feeling for more than a sentence or two. When Williams makes a remark about how a snowstorm is like winter back home, I want to be able to ask her what she means, though I guess it’s something of a compliment to Bioware that I’d be interested enough in her character to want to know in the first place.

  7. Tony said on March 20, 2008:

    I thought Wrex had some good backstory, especially the mission when you have to help him recapture his family’s sacred armor. Other than that, Garrus was probably the character I was most impressed with. I’ve played through the game twice using both styles (paragon and renegade) and his character changes with you the most. He’s apparently very impressionable and will change his life plans based on your suggestions late in the game. It made me think of KOTOR.

  8. TrueTallus said on March 20, 2008:

    Yeah, Wrex did have some great backstory, but I really felt gypped when it came to his side quest. Perhaps it was because I was never able to make him give the finishing blow to the main pirate overlord guy (though not from lack of trying), but I never got much more than a funny but torturously undeveloped “huh, hard to believe we went to all this trouble for this rusted pile of crap” response.

    Garris’ request was even worse. About one sentence of “Don’t believe him, he’s the guy!”, then idiot scientist trying to single-handedly fight his way through a spectre squad followed by a mild inquiry about why we let the guy live in the first place if he was only going to die 5 seconds later. The worst part was telling Garris the reason for doing things the way I did and then having him apathetically respond with something like “I’ll have to think about that” and having that be the end of it. Talking to him later never expounded on what happened- no questioning the way I do things, or ruminating on how he feels now that the biggest fiend he ever let get away is gone for good, just the same old stammering speech about how he learned a lot during his time under my command.

    I definitely agree that the characters in Mass Effect are excellently developed (and I’m really curious now to keep going with the sociopath Shepard file I started and see how Garris ends up), but I’m frustrated by how many times it feels like the details of that development slip by, never to be explored again. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by past Bioware games where everybody is willing to spill their guts at the drop of a hat about the most personal details in their lives, and I’m just coming to grips with the fact that in a realistic universe there’s a good chance that a squad of grizzled soilders aren’t going to be external processors. At least I can always go to Tali to have a good chat about the latest in drive core technology or why she’s in a funk that day.

    Also, I forgot to mention it before, but thanks a bunch for the followup info! That’s ten dollars more for Microsoft and Bioware, here’s hoping they keep the downloadable content coming.

  9. TrueTallus said on April 13, 2008:

    Finally just played through the content pack 20 minutes ago. As you said, Tony, a fun time, well worth the $5 admission, and thankfully I had a save at the right point. It was great to see all the things they threw in there: interesting new (and possibly reoccurring) characters, unique level objects and enemies, specific new gear, more than just a throwaway line or two of dialogue, a little levity with the radio station – even a new codec entry.

    It also seemed like a tantalizing glimpse into how well developed standard planetary landings could have been in the original game, if BioWare would have had the time to fill things out. Perhaps with most of the technical heavy lifting already done in the first game, the docs and company will be able to focus their efforts on making every encounter in Mass Effect 2 as memorable as BDtS. Even if that’s somewhat unrealistic, I’m still pretty excited at the prospect of future content downloads after such a successful first attempt.

  10. pat said on April 14, 2009:

    dont worry TT, i’m well behind you. i just finished this a couple days ago. i agree with most of what was said, namely that BDtS is slightly deeper than most of the side quests that came on the disc, but that speaks more to a lack of depth in the generic sidequests, than any real depth to this one. i do agree that i hope we hear more from the batarians and their freedom fighters/terrorists in the future.

    i know a new DLC was announced, but a year between them seems like a lot, esp if the new one is similar to the first. the downside of playing this recently is that it reminded me how much i enjoyed the game and how impatient i am for the next one (which is still at least a year away, a third on current gen consoles could be called into question on this schedule).

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