Knock knock. Who's there? The Reapers! The Reapers wh... oh, crap.
While we're crouched in our corners anxiously waiting and craving for Mass Effect 3 after playing through the consistently excellent Mass Effect 2 and its DLCs, Bioware has attempted to bridge both games with its latest and final DLC offering, The Arrival. Unfortunately, that effort is clumsy.
[image1]Given by Alliance Admiral Hackett (played by sci-fi fan favorite Lance 'Bishop' Henriksen), Shepard's mission this time is relatively simple: rescue a captured human researcher that has evidence of an impending Reaper invasion from the hands of the galaxy's bad boys, the Battarians. The gist of this mission and the main reason for its difficulty is that the Commander has to go at it alone, with no backup whatsoever.
The Arrival plays out on two new environments that are located in a new cluster of planets that are accessed like any normal star system in Mass Effect 2. The first place you'll land in is a rain-drenched prison that shows off Bioware's talent for great atmosphere, moving on to a more sci-fi and more Mass Effect-esque space station. You'll never be bored by the visuals in The Arrival, but its main problem lies in the story.
While the premise of averting a Reaper attack is engrossing, the "wrapper" around the reasons for it are far-fetched and inconsistent. Characters don't offer a lot of explanation and the little that is given seems more like a hastily put-together excuse to shoot up some fools and push some buttons on the way.
That's not to say the action is bad. Oh no, if you're a sucker for Mass Effect 2's combat, you're in for some of the most difficult encounters ever in this DLC. The game isn't shy about throwing mechs your way and due to the fact that you're fighting them alone, without a squad to fall back upon, the smart use of your powers and abilities is crucial.
[image2]Even so, Bioware throws a bone your way in one particular encounter where Shepard is vastly outnumbered. Even if you don't survive it, the game keeps going, which is a cheap way to carry an already short and weak story along.
Regardless of your success in this section, you're thrust into a series of battles that result in an extremely hasty and completely involuntary decision. No matter which path your character takes, it doesn't have as much impact as those down the ethical crossroads in Mass Effect 2. Even after you're done, none of the crew have anything meaningful to say about the decision forced down your throat, giving no sense of closure or importance.
I'm a big fan of Mass Effect and Bioware, but sadly, there's a whole lot of things wrong with The Arrival. Even though the combat is thrilling and the premise somewhat interesting, this DLC's very short and clumsily constructed story in detriment of gameplay makes skipping it an easy decision. You're better off giving Commander Shepard a little time off from active duty.