From Ashes And Leviathan Are Mass Effect’s Most Story Critical DLCs

From Ashes And Leviathan Are Mass Effect’s Most Story Critical DLCs

Back in 2012, when the first Mass Effect trilogy bundle dropped, I struggled with prioritizing which DLC to buy and when to play it. Mass Effect is loaded with plenty of additional content that can be a little hard to parse – some of which had no business being DLC to begin with, but I digress. While some of them are beloved for their own special reasons, like the Citadel DLC, they aren’t really critical to the Mass Effect universe at large. However, a couple of extra storylines add so much depth to understanding the space opera’s rich lore that they can’t be missed – like From Ashes and Leviathan.

Beginning with the earliest moments in the first Mass Effect, you’re introduced to what feels like some ghostly omnipotent alien race, the Protheans. They’re everything and nothing, talked about by just about everyone you meet, yet no one can really tell you who they were or what they looked like. Their biggest fans are scholars and the Hanar, a bizarre species of jellyfish-like creatures. The Protheans were an ancient civilization that vanished more than 50,000 years prior to the events of Mass Effect, and for the longest time, they’re just a legend. You can only study what little remains of them in the way of artifacts, echos left behind by a race wiped out by the Reapers, and that’s really it.

Then Mass Effect 3 changes all of that – introducing you to one of the series’ most important characters in its final hour. The From Ashes DLC brings Javik aboard the Normandy. It’s a short DLC, I think my first run was a blur that breezed by me in well under an hour, but it’s critical. Not only does it finally reveal a non-Collector specimen of the series’ mythical Protheans, but bringing Javik along your journey provides small glimpses of what his life was like for his race. Most of Javik’s moments in Mass Effect 3 are short flashbacks, but they provide an even deeper sense of peril during your showdown with the Reapers. From Ashes itself is a bit boring, but picking up Javik and having him tag along during the last leg of Shepard’s journey make for some of the trilogy’s best moments.

And then there’s Leviathan – the DLC that actually frustrates me a bit for being left out of the main game. Leviathan provides a deep dive into Mass Effect’s other enigmatic creatures, the Reapers. It’s a history lesson in a satisfying story beat that slots easily into any part of Mass Effect 3, and it’s one I initially missed out on as a younger gamer with limited funds at launch. Ultimately, I went back and played and almost felt a bit cheated on my first Mass Effect 3 experience.

Leviathan provides answers to all of my final thoughts towards the end of Shepard’s battle with the Reapers. How did this start? Why do they look like that? What happened to their creators? What motivated their creators? So on, so forth. Plenty of Leviathan’s beats feel like mandatory reading, like you’re missing out on critical backstory for the history’s biggest baddies if you pass it up. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll rein it in there, but Leviathan is a glimpse into what truly motivates the Reaper cycle and how so many of the Milky Way’s civilizations were lost in horrifying series of atrocities.

While I understand the value DLC provides, the added life it gives a game, and the additional dev costs – some of those Mass Effect strategies around bonus content felt a bit slimy back at launch. It’s great to see that now, all these years later, we’re getting a version of Mass Effect with all of those bonus stories included. Some are additional fanfare I enjoyed, but some can’t be skipped. And if you’re looking for a Mass Effect experience that provides the best dive into its rich lore, you have to pick up Javik and solve the mystery of the Leviathan.

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