- Category: Reviews
- Written by Eric Schwarz
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"From Ashes" is the first downloadable content piece for Mass Effect 3, and even before its release was already the source of some controversy due to its day-one nature and the belief that it was removed from the core game and turned into DLC for promotional reasons. I'm not going to get too much into that discussion - rather, I'm here to give my honest thoughts on "From Ashes" as what's being sold (unless you've got the Collector's Edition, in which case it comes free).
Priced at $10 USD, "From Ashes" does provide a solid contribution to the core gameplay and, more importantly, slots well into the existing storyline. However, like many DLC additions, the actual quantity of content is a little disappointing, and therefore it's hard to recommend except for die-hard players.
"From Ashes" becomes available shortly after the game's introductory sequence, and takes the form of a mission pop-up on the Galaxy Map much like all the others over the course of Mass Effect 3. It seems that, in excavating the Prothean ruins on Eden Prime (the world the beacon from the first game was uncovered on), scientists uncovered a relic of some merit. After staving off Cerberus attacks, it's revealed that the relic is actually a prothean preserved in one of the life pods, similar to those found on Ilos in the first game.
After being revived by the squad, and getting past an initially hostile confrontation, Javik becomes a permanent addition to the Normandy's crew. Whatever preconceptions you may have held about the protheans, Javik is an interesting character - an avatar of Vengeance, his matter-of-fact opinion about matters of governance, morality, and his treatment of "lesser races" is refreshingly cold and calculated, but unlike most "Renegade" characters he has very good reasons for believing the things he does, and is willing to engage as a philosopher as well as a soldier.
Unlike the other DLC characters seen in Mass Effect 2, Javik has full-on dialogue trees and an arc that fleshes out over the course of the main story, just like the other companions in the game. Additionally, he has some interesting interactions between the main crew members both during missions and aboard the Normandy - his belittling of a human soldier's quaint view of warfare is a particular standout. Instead of just another character model and skin, he really does come across as his own character within the story.
My only real problem with Javik is that BioWare more or less took a cop-out when it came to actually making him important to the story. The main game revolves around an ancient prothean super-weapon, so it's a bitter coincidence that Javik is a soldier and not a scientist. He gives a lot of insight into the backstory and lore, as well as some armchair philosophy, but when it comes to the main event he is conspicuously quiet. I get the sense he was intended for a much larger role before being downsized to fit the DLC, considering how most of the other squad members have some value to the storyline other than "Shepard's backup."
A Question of Value
The unfortunate fact about "From Ashes" is that, while Javik is a great character and probably the most interesting new face Mass Effect 3 has to offer, the mission on Eden Prime is fairly short (about 30 minutes long), and you don't get much else beyond his assistance in combat, his story arc, and a new, overpowered Particle Rifle to play with. While "missions" are advertised, the reality is that you only visit Eden Prime once, and the second mission is really just a secondary objective that involves finding intelligence terminals within the same environment.
Moreover, the protheans are basically Mass Effect's biggest mystery - an ancient, technologically advanced superpower of a civilization, destroyed by the Reapers - and paying $10 USD to have their mystery revealed might come across as a little bit unfair to some fans. As such an influential part of the universe's backstory, "From Ashes" isn't essential content, but it is important content for those who are invested in the lore. Additionally, the DLC itself does raise some questions plot-wise and lore-wise that really should have been accounted for, and as such it's not even really a complete answer. Much like Mass Effect 3's main campaign, it only raises more issues the more you try to think about it.
Truth be told, there isn't much more to say about "From Ashes" without going into too much detail about the story elements of both the main game and the DLC. The asking price is just a bit too steep for the amount of new content provided, and to be frank, considering that the "Cerberus Network" promotion for the last game provided several hours of free game content complete with all-new game mechanics, it's hard not to feel that even a lower price point would be asking too much.
I do want to stress that I like Javik as a character, and as much as I dreaded BioWare completely wrecking the mystery behind the protheans, the things revealed are actually fairly interesting and subvert expectations that have been built up over the prior two games. What's here is good-quality stuff, for the most part, but it's undermined by the asking price. Simply put, unless you really have to have every single DLC (in which case you've likely already made up your mind), I can't recommend "From Ashes" as a separate purchase