Wot I Think: Mass Effect 3 From Ashes DLC

By Alec Meer on March 6th, 2012 at 9:12 pm.

Jim’s already judged Bioware’s new guns’n'conversation epic, while I am a mere 10 hours into Mass Effect 3. What I have done that he hasn’t is pick up the contentious From Ashes DLC, allegedly developed after work on the main game was completed and included in the £55 Collector’s Edition, or as a £6/$10 addon to the standard edition. I forked out for the latter, and thus have an extra dude in my crew. We’ve already pondered about whether it should have been part of the core game in concept, but now it’s time to look at it what it actually includes.

I’ve avoided all ME3 storyline spoilers outside of the core concept of From Ashes – if you already own it and want to go in totally blind, I would strongly advise against reading the below. And if you are 100% spoiler-averse about ME3 in general, I would also avoid reading the below. I’ve steered clear of any discussion of plot outcomes, but I do talk about the nature of the new character – stuff you’d find out for yourself not long after meeting him, but I do understand that might be too spoilersome for some. If that’s you, you can find a very quick summation of whether I think the DLC is worth acquiring at the very bottom of the post, underneath the (perfectly safe) YouTube video.

Please note I’ve used generic ME3 screenshots throughout this post, rather than ones specific to From Ashes’ new fella, due to spoiler-fear. If you’re mad keen to see what he looks like regardless, here you go.

Like Zaeed in Mass Effect 2 and Shale in Dragon Age, From Ashes adds a new character to your team from, more or less, the start of the game, as opposed to offering extended adventures for those who’ve already beaten ME3. That said, you can add in the DLC and divert into acquiring and become top chums with new boy Javik whenever you like.

To the best I can ascertain (having played a few hours of ME3 before I decided to buy From Ashses) the lack of him won’t leave a glaring hole in the game, outside of one room on your ship the Normandy forever remaining empty, and a suspicious bloke-sized gap on your squad selection screen. So, it’s certainly not an addition that’s mandatory to the main story, but I suspect you will be conscious that something is missing.

The main reason to pick it up, and the reason I picked it up, is because Javik is a Prothean. 50,000 years ago, these crabshell-headed, four-eyed aliens were the dominant species in the galaxy, before being near-wiped about by colossal machine race the Reapers, with the remaining Protheans enslaved, brainwashed and transformed into main ME2 baddies the Collectors. As such, Javik is the last known living member of a once-proud race, and your chance to meet one of the long-lost, highly mythologised architects of so many of Mass Effect’s greatest mysteries. Can he possibly live it up to these great exceptions?

Well, no. Which is not to say that he’s bad character – in fact, I like him a lot, with all his quiet snobbery, his struggle to hide his pain at his entire species having died 50,000 years ago and his bass drum, vaguely West Indian voice (which seemed incongruous at first, but quickly grew on me), and he tends to be part of my main team alongside [censored]. It’s just that his relative ordinariness, in that he’s ultimately another Soldier With A Dark Past to add to ME’s long list of them, rips away much of the mystique that’s built up around the Protheans over the last two games.

There are surprises, there is more to learn, there is comedic and passive-aggressive interplay with other characters, and he does have an agreeably supercilious attitude to humans, Salarians, Asari and the rest of what are, in his quad-eyes, lesser species. He’s a good character. Probably one of the ME series’ best, even. But… it’s a little deflating to discover that the fabled Protheans are in many ways just one more species in a fictional universe that’s already rich with them. Never meet your heroes, they say. I guess the same is true of long lost, god-like architects of the known universe.

I’d always thought of the Protheans in the same way I thought of The Elder Scrolls’ long-vanished Dwemer. In the latter’s case, that’s been held up by the one real encounter with TES’ Dwarves being distinctly messed-up and sinister. Jarvik, while offering plentiful and pithy commentary on how the current ‘cycle’s’ species’ achievements and intelligence lag far behind his, for the most part can be slotted neatly into the same old chat-to-win-over during downtime / use three or four special powers in combat mould as the rest of ME2/3′s companions.

I’m fascinated by him, and by the nuggets of Prothean backstory he occasionally offers in, while the rare moments in which he drops his guarded pomposity and lets slip a beyond-deadpan gag offer some of ME3′s best writing. But I almost wish I’d never met him. Now I have, the Protheans aren’t the unimaginable gods of the past I once saw them as. On the other hand entirely, Javik isn’t too hot at offering as many answers as you might have expected a Prothean to. Reasons for this are given, and there are smaller revelations to be heard, but mostly Javik’s just there to join your fight.

Outside of the climactic and passingly moving cutscene which shows how he got where is he and what happens when he wakes up to a changed universe, his 30 minute-long intro mission isn’t anything particularly spectacular, essentially involving yet another fight against Cerberus goons and the already over-familiar mech suit miniboss. You can access it as soon as the game gets its intro stuff out the way and lets you roam where you please in the Normandy, or at any point after that until climactic stuff kicks in. It’s certainly not a plot-critical event.

The mission does, however offer another chance to what has become the ME universe’s whipping boy, Eden Prime – the human colony visited in ME1′s first mission. Once again, it’s not having a good time. I recognised it to some extent, which also meant I was that much more conscious of how much had changed between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2 (there’s far less to separate 2 and 3, at least in terms of mechanics). This mission was an all-out shooter, whereas my first visit to this poor planet had involved conversation and hacking. I have mixed feelings about that.

So, six quid for a new character and couple of bonus missions – worth it? In terms of what it brings to the action table, no: as a fighter, Javik doesn’t perform any better than or even very differently to the standard companions, and the new missions aren’t anything to write a captain’s log about in and of themselves. (Although he does add an agreeably effective if ammo-hungry death ray assault rifle to your armoury). He doesn’t offer a distinctive addition to your tactics, as did Dragon Age’s similarly-acquired Shale, but that’s at least partly because ME3′s combat has edged that much closer to CoD style relentless gunplay than even ME2 did.

In terms of what it does for ME lore, I do feel it’s more disruptive than it is revelatory, but I can see the appeal for those who positively feed on documenting every last corner of space opera backstories. But as an extra source of what ME does best, smartly-written conversations with nuanced characters nursing hidden hurts and who act as catalyst for you to enact your own morality towards and through, he’s a substantial addition that does feel suitably interconnected with the main game rather than being a pustule awkwardly stuck onto the side. As extra content, From Ashes is more towards integral than throwaway, but that only endorses the concern that it should have been in the game all along.

Tough one. You will most likely want it/him in your story, I think, but worthwhile a companion as he is Javik’s simply not a game-changer – and at that price, he probably should be.

Still, you probably shouldn’t listen to me. After all, I’m the Commander Shepard who, when the galaxy is burning and dependent on me to come save it, decides I’ve got better things to be doing…

Not so much murder on the dancefloor as murder everywhere else in the universe while I’m on the dancefloor. I’m Commander Shepard, and I approve of throwing these shapes.

This line is your 100% spoiler-free Wot I Think if you’ve avoided what’s above: “You will most likely want the intriguing new character in your story, I think, but worthwhile a companion as they are, they fall a long way short of living up to the gosh-wow concept they’re introduced as and they really aren’t a game-changer for either ME3′s plot or its mechanics – and at that price, they probably should be.”

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55 Comments »

  1. Nova says:

    So yes or no for the spoiler-averse?

    • nearly says:

      “Tough one. You will definitely want it/him in your story, I think, but worthwhile a companion as he is Javik’s simply not a game-changer – and at that price, he probably should be.”

      That’s what it boils down to, from my understanding. He’s an interesting character, but for the price, that’s really all he’s bringing. The mission isn’t spectacular, he doesn’t do much of anything no one else does, and there’s not anything else being added.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      Word on the street is an astounding “maybe”.

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  2. Premium User Badge

    Phinor says:

    Mild spoiler warning ahead. Then again, no one who wants to completely avoid any and all ME3 spoilers should be reading these comments in the first place..


    I almost feel like Bioware is downplaying the importance of this character. In theory, he should be among the most important people in the whole galaxy but maybe because they decided to make him DLC, he’s not (at least I can’t think of any single person more important, except maybe for Shepard because she’s the hero/player character). Or maybe they never had a good plan in the first place but just kind of stumbled upon this solution? Who knows.

    I’d say this is 100% mandatory for the lore people out there but gameplay-wise he doesn’t really do much. Seeing how little they did with the character, I wish this DLC didn’t exist at all.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      It comes across as rather ill-considered… take a race that is key to basically a mass of backstory, but make it so the rest of the game’s plot “works” without it, but make it so it’s worth buying/inticing, but not so people feel ripped off if they just buy the base game. This is probably heightened more by being day zero DLC.

      It’s something that’s just being pulled in too many directions to take a solid stance on just what it is supposed to be.

      A generic “new alien” guy post-release DLC just seems like it would’ve been a lot easier to handle, and less restricted by pre-existing “plot”.

    • ThTa says:

      From what I understand, he’s actually not all that important to “lore” people.
      They already got what they wanted, and there’s plenty more revalations about the Protheans in ME3, even without him.

      He’s just a very nicely written character that happens to tie in with that lore, focusing more on their society and culture than on their influence as a civilization. It’s observing history from a more personal perspective; similar to how we only call periods a “[golden/dark] age” or “renaissance” after the fact, where the people in those periods would simply perceive it as life as-is. We can’t reasonably expect this guy to somehow have bearing on the entire lore.

    • Don Andy says:

      That’s kind of the point of his character though, isn’t it? Everybody would expect the last surviving Prothean to be some kind of all-knowing god of technology, but he’s really just some soldier who was lucky enough to get into the only stasis-pod that made it. Yes, he’s from civilization that has been dead for 50k years now and yes their civilization was the most advanced organic civilization in their cycle and maybe the most advanced of all cycles but HE is just an ordinary soldier from that civilization.

      It’s kind of like in the next cycle (assuming defeating the Reapers fails) people would find out about humanity and the shit Shepard used to pull off and then they suddenly find a stasis pod with a living human. Everybody would expect it to be a human half-god like Shepard, but instead it’s just Vega in there.

  3. Premium User Badge

    LegendaryTeeth says:

    Skipping the body of the article and any comments here to avoid spoilers. Would it be possible to get a quick assessment on whether something like that is worthwhile in the blurb at the top? All I really want to know is if it’s a “Don’t bother”, “Definitely bother”, or “Maybe bother” sort of thing.

  4. Vinraith says:

    Do the extra missions add to your war-readiness score or whatever its called? My expectation is that some DLC, at least, will probably give you alternate means of earning this stuff so you can (oh-so-generously) buy your way around the tedium/MP choice.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That’s what I’d like to know, too. A 30 minute intro mission was mentioned, and I guess there’ll be a “loyalty” mission as well? If the DLC is an hour of additional SP playtime, does that equate to an hour spent in MP? An hour less of planet scanning?

      And how ridiculous is it, that we even have to ask a question like this?

    • LionsPhil says:

      At £6 for an hour’s entertainment, are they trying to make PC gaming as expensive as going to the cinema*?

      (* I suspect I’m showing how long it’s been since I bothered with the big screen.)

    • Zenicetus says:

      Well, technically it’s more than an hour’s additional entertainment, because you have the option to use the new crewman (crew-thing?) in all the game missions as part of your team. Whether you’d actually do that or not, would determine that extra value.

      I used Kasumi for a fair bit of my second playthrough in ME2, and finally ditched her just because she was overpowered, and didn’t ever say much. But for the time I used her in the team, it extended the value of the DLC beyond just the recruitment mission.

    • malkav11 says:

      Belatedly, yes, there’s some minor contribution(s) to the War Effort. I think it’s roughly 100 points, which isn’t huge but…mmm, might save you two planet scans?

  5. Bhazor says:

    Key party members that have no bearing on the plot? A Bioware staple.

    • mouton says:

      Thank God there are so many games with great characters that do it differently.

    • Apolloin says:

      Most games are doing well if they can make the PROTAGONIST feel central to the plot. Or if they display evidence of a plot in the first place.

  6. Auru says:

    One thing that sets him apart from Zaeed from ME2 is that Javik will chime in on conversations taking place later in the game alot more often then Zaeed ever did, I always felt that apart from his missions and the finale Zaeed pretty much kept to himself, i’m a good 15 hours into ME3 and it actually surprised me how often Javik had something to add to the talking going on

    just my 2p

    oh and he has a cool accent :)

    • StarkeRealm says:

      Honestly, depending on who you have with you, Zaeed can be pretty chatty. Since basically any chat node in ME can be filled by either party member, and they have preset priorities for each bark node. He also has some unique dialog scattered around the game.

    • Mehbah says:

      As if you needed proof that the character was just cut out from the game for a cash grab. Well, not that you needed more, considering he was in the leaked script, which I believe is at least six months old.

      This whole thing is despicable and Bioware aren’t catching anywhere near enough flak for this. A character like this is so important to the ME universe that it would be like finding a living dinosaur that speaks English. This is going to sell millions, and Bioware knows it. That’s why they turned it into DLC; they know that any ME fan won’t be able to resist.

      Bioware has been using inexcusable business practices and have been treating their fans, both old and new, like absolute trash. That none of this gets reported by essentially any video game journalists proves just how terribly biased they are. RPS has reported a tiny bit of it, but still in a forgiving manner considering Bioware have pretty much said “we’re terribly incompetent and the game is a low-quality console port, with features removed because of it”. Then there’s the matter of ME3 getting fantastic scores despite the many, many problems with it. Any highly hyped game these days is pretty much guaranteed to get at least an 8 from the popular reviewers. If that isn’t proof of hype guaranteeing good ratings or even the buying of ratings, I don’t know what is.

      To make matters worse, idiots from reddit and /v/ have been spamming crap about Hepler and homosexuality, even though she didn’t work on ME3. Thus, Bioware gets to play the victim card, which other morons eat right up.

      EA and Bioware are just as bad as Activision, if not even worse. If only people would admit it.

    • Khatzen says:

      I’m an ME fan yet I’m not buying ME3 until its on sale, if at all. I’m definitely not buying the DLC. I don’t like this business practise of increasing the initial cost of the game from the usual by taking a part of the game out and selling it as “Day one DLC”.

    • unimural says:

      Those scurvy pirates are saying the From Ash DLC is included on the disc. Doesn’t this mean that it has gone through the console certification process they cited as one of the reasons why it’s not included?

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The pirates are lying. From Ashes is an extra 500-700 MB, depending on system. It’s definitely not on disc.

      Though there are a few random voice clips like with Shadow Broker. That’s probably what they’re talking about. Some of his voicework, but no mission or model.

    • wild_quinine says:

      It’s likely the pirates have a complete rip from Origin, including the DLC, but that they simply weren’t able to unlock the DLC component immediately. So it may well be on *their* disc, but not on *the* disc.

  7. Wut The Melon says:

    So, from what I gather, since it’s at the same price as LotSB, a ‘meh’, which probably means a no for most people… I just can’t NOT compare DLC content/price to game content/price, and the DLC almost never is worth buying when you look at it that way. I liked LotSB, though.

    • ThTa says:

      LotSB really was their tour de force as far as DLC goes, considering it was actually written in part by their lead character writer and had a lot more people working on it; and it had notably more voice acting. It’s probably one of the few DLC packs that’s virtually undeniably worth its price. It’s a shame they can’t seem to live up to that with this, but it’s not entirely unexpected or uncalled for, either.

  8. hypercrisis says:

    Maybe theyre an unspectacular Prothean because they’re just a regular chump. Theyre the last one not the best one, right?

  9. JFS says:

    “What I Think”? The world must really be coming to an end, for all the harbingers of doom are here!

  10. Messiah Complex says:

    Reading this just made the “buy or skip” decision more difficult for me. Thankfully, the main game is still downloading.

    • ThTa says:

      The verdict is “you can do without it, but it’s enjoyable nontheless”, and that’s something that counts for all entertainment, it just depends on how you value 6 quid against around one hour of organized mission gameplay and a whole bunch of dialogue/quips. (I can certainly think of worse things to spend it on – but that’s a poor rationalization. In the end, I don’t really care, since I got the CE anyway.)

  11. Werthead says:

    From a story-telling POV it is quite amusing to have a Prothean turn out to just be another dude. It undercuts expectations and makes a point about legends never conforming to reality. It’d actually be even funnier if Shepard, awestruck at his arrival, started asking him questions about the Reapers and the Relays and all this other stuff and the guy just said, “Seriously, I was a janitor. Why are you asking me about this stuff?” i.e. he was MASS EFFECT’s answer to Dave Lister :-)

    From a cost/value perspective, however, it does seem rather disappointing.

  12. Greg Wild says:

    I actually had totally the opposite feeling towards him being just-another-alien. I’ve always found the romantic attachment the rest of the galaxy has towards the Protheans a little too… well in fact, Romantic. As someone with a degree in Classics, it’s fascinating how we look back to past civilizations with misty eyed awe based on what little remains, which is predominantly the output of the upper-classes. But if we were to wind up back there ourselves, we’d only be opening our eyes to the essentially problematic world it actually was.

    So in that regard, I really find Mr. Prothean a nice character. He tops off the story of the Prothean tragedy brilliantly. Also his death-ray is superb. And the ammo regens, so is in fact the most ammo-efficient gun in the game.

    And he really, really should have been in the fucking game without paying extra.

    • eclipse mattaru says:

      I’ve always found the romantic attachment the rest of the galaxy has towards the Protheans a little too… well in fact, Romantic.

      This.

      In fact, when you think about it, in the end Protheans were more of a bunch of jackasses goofing with some old stuff they found laying around, stuff that ended up being a trap. And then they were turned into some sort of collective-minded walking cockroaches.

    • Apolloin says:

      You said exactly what I was trying to say, so I’ll just post here in support.

      On the other hand, I preordered the Collector’s (Ha!) Edition and got him for free. I totally wasn’t aware that he was DLC until this very conversation.

      I found the Jamaican accent to be a little bit dislocating but once I started thinking of it as HIS accent and not a Jamaican accent that jarring feeling went away completely. As for the demystifying of the Protheans – well Vigil and Sovreign really did all the heavy lifitng on that concept in the first game when they revealed that the Protheans found Mass Effect technology, the Relay network, the Citadel and the Destiny Ascension laying around and that they had no more right to consider themselves an Elder Race than the Asari do.

    • Greg Wild says:

      Agreed on the point about Vigil/Sovereign. Javik slotted in just right into the established background exposition we’d already had.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS

      I find it brilliant that you say that because the game actually includes that very remark. If you have the DLC and have taken Javik, there’s more to it than just chatting with him. Liara, being a Prothean archeologist, is fascinated with him and has multiple notes on him on the terminal she gives you in her lair. One of them mentions how she feels like they might have imagined the Protheans to be more than they actually were, romanticized them too much.

  13. elnalter says:

    Why would they let the last prothean go on some dangerous mission. Wouldn’t the council want to keep him stashed away for study? bioware kinda sucks at sci fi

    • Werthead says:

      I’m not sure how much say the Council would have in the matter. If Shepard meets him on Eden Prime, he agrees to sign up, and Shepard is then tootling around with him, what relevance are the Council’s desires anyway? Maybe there could have been a subquest if you go back to the Citadel and they try to take him off for study, but it seems unlikely that this would be anyone’s priority given the full-scale Reaper invasion that’s going on.

  14. Author X says:

    It’s been a while, but I was under the impression that the Reapers did all the god-like architecting that the known species attribute to the Protheans? And that the Protheans were just the dominant species from the last galactic culling, and their true claim to fame was sabotaging the Citadel’s relay signal to give the next set of species a fighting chance?

    If so, yes they are pretty great and the galactic races owe them their very existence, but it should be expected that the individual Protheans are, well, comparable to the species that succeeded them. In fact, it implies that the Protheans were about as advanced as the current galactic civilization – both right at the point where the Reapers move in.

    Sorry, Meer, but that disillusionment and disappointment you feel is the realization that everything they told you the Protheans had accomplished before the end of the first Mass Effect was a lie.

    • Edradour says:

      I thought/think thats true i dont remember it in detail but over the course of ME1 it was made pretty clear that the protheans just as every species in the “current” universe found all the really important technology ( the mass effect itself/the jumpgates ) flying around in space left there by the reapers.

      It wasnt made clear but it is very possible that the whole reason why they advanced further in technology and spread over a bigger part of the galaxy than any other known race ( known because it was said that its also possible that there were millions of “cycles” before the protheans and all evidence of the races that lived then are just completly lost ) was that they havent had as much competition by other races ( be it that there simply werent that many species in that cycle to begin with or that the other races didnt advance as fast because they havent had reaper technology in their own planetary system )

      Given that i never thought of them as something special, but just the only remaining evidence from the last cycle while everything else from the cycles before was completly erased

    • briktal says:

      They didn’t build the Citadel or the relays, but they were ahead of where the current races are. Maybe they had a faster start. This cycle started around ~48,000 BC. What if the cycle had started in 44000 BC so the Reapers end up returning in 6180 instead of 2180.

  15. DigitalSignalX says:

    So all those statues of aliens sitting on thrones on Ilos were not Protheans. I’m disappointed.

  16. Dol says:

    Metacritic : 2.6 / 10 User reviews. 523 negatives out of 690 ratings

    http://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/mass-effect-3/user-reviews

    • malkav11 says:

      Internet denizens have certainly never carpet bombed user reviews anywhere before over perceived consumer injustice. And all of those negative reviews certainly come from people who own and have finished the From Ashes DLC. Right?

    • Apolloin says:

      I remember when this sort of guerrilla review stuff was only used on idiots who claimed Mass Effect was basically an Alien Lesbian simulator with full-frontal nudity when they hadn’t even seen the game running before.

      This is why we don’t trust Metacritic scores anymore.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      There’s only one legitimate review on metacritic. The others appear to be complaints about the leaked endings (posted well before game release,) homophobia driven and/or about the DLC situation.

  17. patonxb says:

    Then if you see this http://bgo.tw/zphoj

  18. Suva says:

    I’ll wait for the GotY version or at least until the price point of the main game + the DLC is same price or lower as the game right now. Cause after reading this article and comments it definitely feels like buying incomplete game.

    I can’t believe we let this happen in the first place.. :(

    • KillahMate says:

      Remember that we still don’t have a Mass Effect 2 GotY Edition. So you might want to reconsider that.

    • malkav11 says:

      Also the price of the DLC has never gone down, even in a temporary sale. -That- is the part that I don’t like about DLC, or at least how some companies handle it.

    • stx says:

      The Mass Effect 2 DLC was discounted on XBL at least once last year, maybe also on PSN.

  19. CorruptBadger says:

    Its a rip off, if you want to take the risk of getting your origin account banned because you don’t want to pay for this cut content, follow this video