After taking down the Shadow Broker proved to be such an unexpected treat, our hopes were high for Arrival - a three mission arc which sees everyone's favourite space Commander breaking out an alliance spy from a Batarian prison.
In the honoured tradition of episodic sci-fi however, things end up a little more complicated than first anticipated - a chain of events bringing the DLC to a climax that feels strangely... inconsequential.
Whilst the missions add another 2 hours of combat-heavy action, it's clear that they've had to cut some corners: Bioware undoubtedly have their hands full mapping out consequences from the first two games, and at this stage don't have room for any more additions. Arrival's subject matter is weighty stuff, and it feels like they've bitten off more than they can chew.
Clearly quite restricted from playing around with the main story too much, Arrival attempts to hide its pre-determined nature with a small number of dubiously relevant choices.
The mild deception feels cheeky, but it's Arrival's 'big decision' that really grates: Choice is taken out of the equation, with Shepherd simply going ahead and pushing a seriously big red button without even pretending to involve you in the decision.
For all its gravity, Arrival's conclusion feels pretty irrelevant: It certainly might look the part during negotiations, but when it comes to signing contracts it quickly becomes clear you're talking to the receptionist rather than the CEO.
Whilst the set-pieces don't disappoint, for fairly spurious reasons most likely driven by voice actor availability, Arrival doesn't allow you to take your crew along for the journey - a choice that sees you quickly realising just how lonely space can be without the odd quip from your buddies. It's a subtle difference, but there's something deeply strange about seeing Shepherd wandering around talking to himself.
For a game so heavily reliant on the impact of choice and consequence, it's disappointing to realise you've got less sway on important decisions than the average Liberal Democrat. Clumsily side-stepping Mass Effect 2's key themes of companionship and consequence, Arrival feels a bit too much like an unwanted departure.
A disappointing interim chapter
- Nice premise with decent set-pieces
- Should get you fired up for Mass Effect 3
- Poorly masks its linear nature
- It's all over in less than two hours
- This is a solo mission, Shepherd