Mass Effect 2’s downloadable content ran the gamut from mediocre to exceptional. Zaeed and The Arrival were on the low end, Kasumi and Overlord were a bit better, and Lair of the Shadow Broker is one of the most impressive pieces of post-release content to date. From Ashes, Mass Effect 3’s first extraneous episode is free with the N7 Collector’s Edition but remains $10 for everyone else. The politics behind day one DLC are always rather tricky. Should it have been included in the game? Is it worth your money? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes, albeit not for the right reasons.
The very concept of From Ashes could be considered a massive spoiler. I had completed and reviewed Mass Effect 3 in its entirety when I started it (in chronological terms Mass Effect 3 creates a point of no return save file, so I went from there), but the nature of From Ashes’ context was mind blowing. It adds a new character, and I could not for the life of me figure out why this wouldn’t be included in the main game. I can’t review From Ashes and not talk about it, so consider yourself warned.
You’re dispatched to Eden Prime, the same planet where the original Mass Effect began and Shepard had his first Prothean vision. Cerberus is attacking the colonists over the discovery of some artifact, and you arrive to discover said artifact is actually coffin. Inside the coffin lies a Prothean locked in stasis. Yes, a Prothean – the enigmatic race completely annihilated by Reapers some 50,000 years ago and a constant mystery to all parties involved. In terms of Mass Effect’s fiction that’s almost hilariously unbelievable, a megaton bomb drop significantly higher than even Mass Effect 3’s other surprise party member in the game proper.
What follows is about an forty minutes of content where you run around a nonlinear section of Eden Prime scouting out a couple data points to allow Shepard to properly unlock the coffin without killing the Prothean inside. Cerberus operatives periodically appear to halt your progress, but they’re ultimately composed of the same mid level fodder from the rest of the game with the exception of a single mech for the climactic battle. It’s all very cut and dry.
But not only do you get to unearth a living Prothean, not only does it flashback to the final hours of their doomed race, not only does it answer questions, but it offers to join your party for the entire game. Javik, as he comes to be known, is basically a biotic whom also happens to wield an assault rifle, which ensures he’s rather unique in his field. Regarding abilities he brings Dark Channel, which basically swarms and enemy with a contagious biotic field, and Vengeful Ancient, which boosts his offense. I ran through the second till last mission with him (at level 55) in my party and the dude destroyed everything. He also chimed in with banter where appropriate, making me wonder how much of the rest of game would have benefited from his presence. Having played completely through Mass Effect 3, I would have loved to have had him in my party, for both context and tactical support, for a majority of the game.
Javik’s insight and perspective plugs a much needed hole in the game’s fiction. It goes without saying, but he sheds additional light on the concept of the cycle, where the Protheans went wrong, and some other dark observations that happen to be rather humorous. He even hangs out at the Citadel and dispenses additional information there, making him feel right at home with the other characters.
In additional to Javik, From Ashes also grants an additional costume option for each character and an additional collection mission. Said mission has you collecting intel to save whoever was left on Eden Prime, but given that I was literally at the end of the game I assume I had no real means of scanning planets to complete it. Bummer.