Opinion: Mass Effect 3 ‘From Ashes’ DLC – To Buy, Or Not To Buy?
My pre-ordered copy of Mass Effect 3 will land next week, and to say I’m excited would be something of an understatement.
However, that immense feeling of excitement is also tempered by a sense of ugly frustration: if I wish to enjoy the luxury of an extraordinarily intriguing new character – whose presence could be of extreme importance to the series’ lore and backstory – I must stump up an additional $10 (or £6.30 in my native currency) for the privilege.
For those who haven’t already heard (those wanting to avoid spoilers should look away now) the day-one ‘From Ashes’ DLC offers a special mission, alternative appearances for all major characters and, most importantly, a Prothean squadmate to add to your team of Galaxy-defending heroes. That’s right, a Prothean. The guys who discovered the Citadel, were all but wiped-out by the ruthless Reapers, and whose paltry remnants were thought to have endured only as twisted, civilian-kidnapping puppets known as the Collectors.
For fans, this development is nothing short of earth-shattering. It could potentially cast new light on the games’ entire foundations, and throw up all kinds of wonderful questions (How did this Prothean survive? What knowledge and insight can he offer Shepard in his fight against the Reapers? etc.). I’m sure BioWare and EA are all too-aware of how tantalizing this DLC is, and I’m sure that’s exactly why they have made it available as a separate purchase from launch day.
Now, BioWare have stressed that ‘From Ashes’ was not ‘cut content’ callously edited out of the main game to be sold on as an extra, but I’m not sure that this revelation actually makes much difference. You see, I was not averse to shelling-out for terrific Mass Effect 2 DLC like Lair Of The Shadowbroker – which also added a great deal to the series’ canon – because, coming several months after the game’s release, it actually helped prolong my enjoyment of the title and, crucially, felt like a welcome expansion to the story and gameplay at a time when I was craving more content.
The problem with day-one DLC such as ‘From Ashes’ however, is that you’re dangling it in front of fans who have just purchased the game brand-new and saying: ‘Yeah, I know you’ve already paid £40 or $60 for the main experience – but if you want this other great stuff you’ll have to pay even more’. Instead of being a welcome addition to the saga a bit further down the line, it ends up being more like a kick in the teeth to consumers, and almost cruel at a time when money is tight for so many people. Rightly or wrongly, it feels very much like the companies are attempting to squeeze die-hard fans for every last bit of cash that they have.
Just over two years ago, the situation was quite different. I received Mass Effect 2′s Zaeed DLC – which also offered a new character and mission – as a nice little bonus along with my shiny new pre-ordered copy. And this actually made so much sense. I’ve no problem with companies offering incentives for people to buy new rather than used, and it seems to me a fair compromise between hard-headed business sense and respect for your fanbase.
Times have seemingly changed though. Now the ‘From Ashes’ DLC comes packaged only as part of the special N7 Collector’s Edition of the game, and this is priced at almost twice as much as the standard retail version. The message to fans seems clear: stump up more cash, or miss out.
The upshot is that this whole situation has left me with something of a dilemma; a mental tussle between my desire for the Prothean character, and my reluctance to financially support a move that I am wholeheartedly opposed to.
I’m incredibly torn. On the one hand, I’m well aware that if ‘From Ashes’ sells well at launch it will only confirm the effectiveness of these day-one DLC tactics, and encourage EA and other companies to continue using them in future. As I do not want to contribute to the effective standardization of day-one DLC, and would rue that day that companies effectively offer up ‘half a game’ at launch, I am seriously considering a boycott.
On the other hand, as a committed fan of the series from the very beginning, I desperately want to find out more about this Prothean character for myself, and fill in some of the yawning gaps in the games’ phenomenal lore – which is one of the foremost reasons I fell in love with the series in the first place. When it comes down to it, I’m not sure I’ll have the willpower to actually deny myself this additional injection of story, even if it means shelling out a few more quid and reluctantly endorsing a strategy I don’t want to continue.
Will principle win out over giddy fandom? Who can tell. In any event, I’m sure this is a dilemma many other Mass Effect enthusiasts will be facing, and I’d be interested to hear from fellow fans as to whether they will be purchasing the DLC, or not.
Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts on ‘From Ashes’? And will you be buying the DLC? Feel free to leave your comments below…