It’s been months since Commander Shepard’s story came to a close, but now Bioware is offering up another slice of interstellar action with Leviathan; a downloadable add-on that hopes to coax players back into Shep’s capable boots in a tale set before the full game’s controversial climax. Mass Effect 2’s Lair of the Shadow Broker proved to everyone that episodic releases can make an impact as long as the quality is high, and now all eyes are on Leviathan to mimic its predecessor’s success.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PlayStation 3, Windows PC
Genre: Role-Playing, Action-Adventure
Release: 28th August 2012
Leviathan begins simply enough, activating once Shepard has browsed over his or her private messages. What follows is a set of missions which attempt to veer slightly from the standard ME formula in a similar way that Kasumi’s Stolen Memory and Shadow Broker did a few years ago. This time, you’ll be looking to unravel the mystery surrounding The Leviathan of Dis, though what serves as a mere starting point gradually develops into something much more entrenched in the galaxy’s lore than first thought. The resulting crescendo of an ending sheds new light on the origins of the Reapers and answers some of the questions raised by the game’s final conversation.
The road to this ending isn’t an especially quick one thankfully, as Leviathan takes around two and a half hours when taken at a decent pace, perhaps closer to three if you’re looking to soak everything in. The download will take you to three new locations as well as a new (albeit small) area of the Citadel. It’s in this room that you’ll be turning detective, scouring the area for that tell-tale circle indicating when an item can be activated. The game has a set order in mind, so there are times when Shepard begins looking through a PDA or video log that isn’t meant to be discovered before a different item, making him/her look a little stupid in the process. It’s still a switch-up to the usual run-and-gun formula however, making the download feel unique and more experimental than the standard quest lines. One especially foreboding underwater sequence is both atmospheric and graphically splendid, even if it is disappointingly brief.
Running and gunning still plays a major part in Leviathan, as Reapers remain the immediate threat to the galaxy. Cannibals, Marauders, Banshees and even Harvesters play their part in slowing you down, though you’ll notice a few instances where it’s not just a case of shooting, but rather escorting a repair bot or restoring power mid-battle. Bioware has clearly tried to shake things up as much as possible without diverting from what made the series great. The download features enough fresh dialogue from squad mates that it feels less like an extension and more like a part of the original package.
Not so great are the new characters that are central to Leviathan’s storyline. Yet again, it’s a case of unremarkable humans being tormented, or indeed driven by their daddy issues. Don’t expect to care too much for these new and fleeting faces, as they serve as little more than a means to push the story forward. It’s a good thing then that Leviathan is about uncovering an ancient mystery rather than exploring a temporary character’s emotions, and it’s this tantalising carrot and stick that will keep you pressing ever onwards.
Mass Effect 3 came to a definitive close with the release of the Extended Cut, but that doesn’t mean that Bioware is out of tricks or that we’ve necessarily seen the last of Commander Shepard. Fans of the series can rest assured that this DLC is of good quality, technically sound (going on our playthrough at least) and boasts enough content to be worth the asking price. If you have yet to experience Mass Effect 3’s ending, then Leviathan may well serve as the new big reveal, further cementing the history and purpose of the Reapers within the universe. It might not quite be on par with Lair of the Shadow Broker, but Leviathan comes in a close second and towers over previous downloads which added less content for the price. Fans will want to take the plunge with Shepard once again, and in all honesty, how could a few more hours of Mass Effect ever be a bad thing?
8.5 – Great. An enjoyable experience, fans and newcomers of the genre will be entertained. Any noticeable flaws are largely outweighed by the positives.