With the launch of Bioware’s most recent single-player DLC for their sci-fi epic Mass Effect 3, players are once again invited to experience yet another chapter in Commander Shepard’s journey. Preceded by From Ashes, Extended Cut and Leviathan, Omega is the latest single-player DLC released for the Mass Effect 3 campaign.
With Omega, fans of Mass Effect 3 will finally have the opportunity to help Asari crime lord Aria T’Loak retake the titular asteroid-city from its Cerberus occupiers in order to conclude a story arc which began in the mini-series Invasion released by Dark Horse Comics prior to Mass Effect 3.
Unlike the previous Leviathan DLC which introduced brand new revelations and context central to the lore of the Mass Effect universe, Omega qualifies more as a stand-alone adventure which seeks to fill in the blanks when it comes to one of the missing chapters of the Mass Effect 3 experience. The Omega DLC is entirely optional to the completion of Mass Effect 3 and has no notable effect on the ultimate outcome of the game. And just like From Ashes and Leviathan, players are free to access the Omega content at any point during the primary campaign provided that they fulfill their requirements with Aria ahead of time and start the DLC before the climax of the game gets locked in with the Priority: Cerberus Headquarters mission.
In Omega, Commander Shepard is invited to join a daring mercenary raid led by Aria T’Loak on her former base of operations which has come under the control of Cerberus general Oleg Petrovsky since the events of Mass Effect 2. Players are given the opportunity to fight alongside Aria in a multistage assault adorned with the usual cinematic bells and whistles fans have come to expect from the Mass Effect series.
One of the primary attractions of the Mass Effect series has always been its rich characterization. While Commander Shepard has always served as the face of the franchise, Omega is clearly Aria’s chance to shine. Fans who have come to love the self-proclaimed Queen of Omega since her initial appearance in Mass Effect 2 will rejoice to see her receive some much needed screen time here. Competently voiced by Carrie-Anne Moss of The Matrix fame, Aria’s development into a fully-fleshed character in her own right is arguably one of Omega’s biggest contributions to the Mass Effect 3 experience.
Rounding out Shepard’s squad is newcomer Nyreen Kandros, a mysterious member of the local underground resistance fighting against the Cerberus occupation. The first female Turian to ever appear in the franchise, Nyreen is an intriguing figure with an uneasy connection to both Aria and Omega. She and Aria represent two sides of the same coin and players are given ample opportunity to play the two ladies off of one another. This entertaining and volatile trio is easily the highlight of the story.
Every battle has two sides and every adventure needs a villain. A brilliant military strategist and tactician, General Oleg Petrovsky proves himself to be a capable adversary for Shepard’s motley crew. Fans of the Invasion series have come to respect the cunning and efficiency with which Petrovsky managed to relieve Omega of Aria’s control. The general’s influence is felt at every turn as our heroes tackle his considerable defenses. Unfortunately, as the DLC focuses primarily on Shepard and his or her allies, Petrovsky’s screen time has been relegated to a small handful of short but effective scenes. As the primary antagonist of the story, Petrovksy lacks the attention to detail needed to become a fully-realized character, serving merely as the device with which to move the plot along instead.
As the title suggests, Omega itself is the star of this particular DLC. The massive asteroid mining station is the perfect staging ground for a campaign between Aria’s mercenaries and a Cerberus occupation force numbering in the thousands. Bioware Montreal has gone to great lengths to ensure that the battle for Omega is given ample time to unfold. Long time fans of the series will relish in the sight of familiar locales from Mass Effect 2 as well as the opportunity to explore other sections of the station along the way.
The combat in Omega does not deviate much from the tried-and-true formula used in the majority of Mass Effect 3. Aside from two new enemy types, players are mostly expected to clear entire areas of waves of Cerberus troops until they reach the next story point. Aria and Nyreen are powerful and satisfying complements to Shepard, but the combat in Omega rarely distinguishes itself from your run-of-the-mill Mass Effect 3 gameplay.
A make-shift command center doubles as both Aria’s base of operations as well as a temporary quest hub for Shepard. Unfortunately, the side quests in Omega suffer from the same lack of polish as they do in the main game itself. Shepard is asked to go on a handful of fetch quests which are minor distractions at best with no visible outcome on the narrative. They are entirely optional and can easily be skipped for the sake of maintaining pacing, but the lack of truly meaningful side quests means that Omega falters whenever the focus shifts away from its central themes.
Last but not least, there are a handful of visual and audio glitches present throughout the DLC. The Mass Effect series is no stranger to graphical hitches and Omega is no exception. There are times when the in-game engine fails to properly render animations, resulting in odd character movements during certain cutscenes. They are infrequent enough to not be game-breaking, but the presence of said glitches can often take the player out of the sense of immersion that is crucial to the storytelling process. Hopefully, patches can be made available in time to address these issues.
At the end of the day, Omega breaks little ground and plays it safe when it comes to delivering another piece of the Mass Effect 3 experience. The combat and gameplay mechanics are immediately familiar to those who have already played the game to its conclusion and bring little to the table when it comes to unique set pieces. With a price tag of $15, Omega is just a few bucks away from many feature-length games available this holiday season. Each fan of the series must make up their own minds about whether or not Aria’s vengeance against Petrovsky is one story they need to experience for themselves. Those who do choose to come along on Bioware’s latest adventure will find it to be a competently executed, action-packed chapter that feels like it was part of Commander Shepard’s journey all along.