Review of "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC

So the Shadow Broker DLC is here at last. A lot of people have been placing a lot of expectations on it to go beyond the usual Mass Effect DLC which have contained plots that felt a little generic, didn't expand on any of the already established lore and were also over to soon. Well this plot is very specific, does expand on the lore and while it's not what I'd call lengthy, it does at least feel substantial, taking about an hour and a half to rush through on Normal and then there's some "post mission content" which I'm putting to one side for a moment to write this. There are several distinctly different stages to the story, with several new areas, new enemies, new bosses and the most cinematic and exciting cutscenes in all of the franchise. 
 

"Remember the old days when you could just slap Omni gel on everything?"

The dialogue feels snappy and well-written, particularly between Shepard and Liara, but the lack of dialogue between the older party members and Liara seems strange. In fact, there's only one point I can remember that any party member other than you and Liara speak or are referred to. I actually brought Tali and Garrus along to meet Liara and not a word was said despite them supposedly being old friends. This is made up for by the dialogue between Liara and Shepard being so good. It's often funny but for those who "'ship" Liara and Shepard, there's a good amount of nice dialogue here as they discuss how they feel about each other. There are several "interrupt" moments in these more romantic scenes that will no doubt make you feel more involved.
 

Great locations make for great fights

The locations are varied and detailed. The titular "Lair of the Shadow Broker" is stunning to behold, though maybe structurally reminiscent of a couple of places elsewhere in the series. Graphically it actually seems to go beyond ME2, but surely that must be down to artistic direction than anything to do with the engine. Liara brings with her Singularity and Stasis, as well as two other skills already found in vanilla ME2 (well OK, so Singularity is in vanilla ME2 if your Shepard is an Adept...). So, albeit in a relatively small way, even the combat is upgraded (or altered, depending on how much you like those new skills) in the DLC. 
 
Of course, new skills aside, the gameplay feels the same as regular ME2 - and that's really no bad thing considering how refined the core gameplay is - although there are new destructible elements in one area that'll give enemies a nasty shock. It makes a lot more sense than suspiciously placed explosive crates since it feels like a natural and inherent part of the environment.  I feel I must add here that one of the boss fights here, the latter one, is probably the best one in the Mass Effect series.

The story doesn't disappoint

Really, though, the main pull of the DLC is the story and the advancement of Liara's subplot and character development. I can confirm in spoiler-free fashion that she does indeed develop as a character, her slightly awkward "badassery" displayed in vanilla ME2 continues but feels more natural, her subplot is advanced more than satisfactorily and a number of big truths are revealed about major elements of the ME universe. In fact, after completing the DLC mission, you can check up on the Shadow Broker's files, this is currently the stage of the DLC I'm at now so if something amazing happens after this I'll come back and update you. What I can tell you so far is that there are files on all of your party members, giving various notes on them as the Shadow Broker sees them, detailing things they've searched for on the extranet, chatlogs and other interesting titbits. Often they're trivial (yet interesting), like when you find out which of your crew has been using an online dating service, but sometimes they're also incredibly significant and add a lot to the characters.
 

Spoilers

The following spoiler section contains information that may be the sort of things you're wondering about but may be considered spoilerish, though it's nothing like "The Shadow Broker is actually Jacob" or anything like that. 
 
 

To summarise...

It's required viewing for fans of Liara, it does actually answer some of the mysteries of the ME universe and it doesn't feel tacked on like some of the other DLC. Compared to how Dead Rising 2: Case Zero takes at least a few hours, is very replayable and is only 400 MSP, this isn't perhaps the best value for money as far as DLC goes in general. It is, however, the best value for money for any DLC in the ME franchise. It actually feels like a main story mission from the main game rather than some side-quest afterthought, and that's all we could really ask for.
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