The release date of the ‘Omega’ DLC has come and gone. Omega has been taken back, Aria is firmly seated on her throne once more, and Cerberus has lost a substantial foothold in that sector of the galaxy. So why am I so damned undecided on how I feel? [Spoiler Warning]
This DLC was majorly built up and with good reason. In Mass Effect 2, the dingy, gang-filled city of Omega was one of the major hubs—it was where you recruited two (or three depending if you downloaded Zaeed) of your squadmates for chrissakes—that never lost its importance through the progression of the game. Nestled scarily close to the Omega-4 Relay, Omega was the last bastion of familiarity before plunging Shepard and their crew into Reaper-controlled territory and, due to the fact that Shepard obtained information on how to pass through said territory while being virtually undetectable while under the Illusive Man’s watch, it’s safe to say that Cerberus having a base of operations there is not exactly fortuitous for the rest of the universe.
Not only that, but Shepard got to team up with two kick-ass ladies, one of which is completely new. On one hand we have her majesty herself, Aria T’Loak. At this point, the audience knows Aria is ruthless, she rules Omega with an iron fist, and that she knows everything about what happens on Omega. As she so eloquently states in their first meeting, “there’s one rule on Omega: don’t fuck with Aria.” After being forced to abandon her post, being depleted of most of her resources, and being allowed to escape with her life by the mercy of Cerberus commander, Oleg Petrovsky—a deed that she would take as more of an insult than anything—there’s only one way she could feel, and that’s pissed. However, despite all that the audience saw of T’Loak, we had never actually seen her in battle-mode. At long last, and under the best circumstances that could be presented, the players finally got to see why Aria was so feared, just how she could keep dozens of gangs under her palm.
As Aria is brutal, there’s the other, less explored side of Omega in Nyreen Kandros, the second squadmate and leader of the Talons, one of Omega’s many gangs. In direct contrast to Aria, Nyreen puts the glory of Omega on the bottom of her priorities and instead aims to protect all of its overlooked citizens (yeah, normal, non-gang affiliated people still live there).
What’s great about this contrast is that neither of them is inherently right: you could save a bunch of people and be pushed back further in your resistance or you can offer up those citizens as casualties of war and get an upper hand. This conflict puts the player in a perfect frame of mind for this kind of story: it’s like a quest happening during a war that actually feels like it’s happening during a war, something that the rest of Mass Effect 3 failed to do. So, if all these elements are just primed for greatness, why did this DLC fall so short of the mark and fail to elicit any strong feelings from me? I think it all falls down to one thing: storytelling.
Where this story suffered the most was in its pacing: Bioware was simply trying to fit too much into one story. In introducing so many new aspects at once they ultimately didn’t give themselves enough time to explore what they had created and thus there was no connection that could be formed between the events and the player. The audience is already invested in the story of Aria and her Omega because we had time to understand where Aria was coming from and the same could have been true for Nyreen if every part of her conflict wasn’t embedded in something so worthless.
Again, I’ll compare this to the previous DLC of Kasumi Goto. With both of these ladies, we are thrown into their conflict without much background, but the difference is that Kasumi’s story is explored and her conflict is more relatable and understandable. The writing team picked one thing that Kasumi would encapsulate, and was able to expand on that to great success. Nyreen has a good conflict in that in looking up to Aria she almost lost herself. In breaking away from the woman she loved and respected, Nyreen was finally able to come into her own and forge her own path. If it just remained at this, Nyreen’s eternal conflict with still loving, but wanting to be separate from, Aria, it could have been so strong, so compelling. It would have made me care about her. But, instead we are given a new conflict in that she’s scared of the new enemy that Cerberus has scienced up in their labs.
The Adjutants—creatures that can infect other life-forms to become more Adjutants—are without a doubt scary, but coming from the background that she does it does so much harm to Nyreen’s character that she cannot overcome her fear. As a military woman, she would have the capacity to push her fears aside and get the job done. As someone who is seemingly so devoted to her cause, and having seen these creatures for months on end, I find it hard to believe that she would still take pause before shooting one in the face. This kind of conflict is just so basic that it means nothing, ultimately. Even in the end Nyreen sacrifices herself for the citizens of Omega by blowing herself up with a bunch of Adjutants. To me, this didn’t show character growth: we already know she would do whatever it took to protect the people of Omega. It seemed like a needless death used only to cause drama and in the end, I didn’t care. I wasn’t given a reason to care because Nyreen was only a straw Paragon, nothing more than an ideal.
Also, whereas I believe that the Adjutants were a great addition to the enemy roster—challenging and a wonderful support to the ambiance of the game—the other new enemy they tried to squeeze in really is an exemplar of overextending. To me, the Rampart mechs just seem like they said, “well, how about this time we give the robot armor instead of shields?” They were completely unnecessary.
Aria was the best part of this DLC, which is good considering it’s about her struggle. I loved seeing her interact with her crew and getting under her skin to explore her character more thoroughly. Seeing her evolve with the choices Shepard made was really a treat too. I can say I was honestly surprised when she didn’t murder Commander Petrovsky at the end of my paragon playthrough and the fact that my Shepard was able to weasel some mercy into her felt very satisfying.
Despite the strong characterization of Aria and returning to explore the unknown parts of such a well-visited area, I hate to say that the one thing I’m going to take from this DLC is that I was asked to find Aria’s couch. Everything was primed to be compelling, but something just didn’t click into place. At the fifteen dollar price-tag, if you’re not planning on getting all the DLC for ME3, I would say skip this one and watch an LP on YouTube.