The Mass Effect 3 Controversies

For those of you who are unaware Mass Effect 3, the conclusion to Bioware’s three part space epic, will be coming out this Tuesday. As such, I think this is a good time to cover the large amount of controversy that has sprung up around the game just weeks before its release. While there are many of you out there probably saying to yourselves, “Jeez, this again? I’ve already heard enough about this on <insert website you visit often>.” I can only say that while I agree with you, I’m in the camp of those who approve of what Bioware has been doing. I therefore find myself in a position where I’m in the minority and feel that all you people out there that dislike what Bioware has done need to either put up or shut up.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about let’s start from the top. Recently Bioware released that their game would be including bi sexual characters and day 1 DLC. Two features of their new game that have, quite simply, caused more then its fair share of outrage on the internet. Forum goers and gaming websites have exploded with debate over both of the issues, and more then one media output has taken a side of these issues (only further lighting the fires of anger in gamers across the internet.) While most of the hate and vitrol is aimed at the announcement of the day 1 DLC, there has been a decent amount of hate aimed at the announcement of bi sex characters as well.

Bi Sexual Romance Options:

The blue skinned Liara. Ain't she a cutie?

The outrage over bi sexual characters is somewhat understandable of course, as this is something that never really came up prior to this third installment in the series. Before that the main character of the game, Commander Shepard, was a strictly “straight” character. I use air quotes there because in the first game a female Cmdr. Shepard could hook up with a blue alien female named Liara. Of course since Liara’s race of aliens (the Asari) are ALL female, and don’t technically take genetic material from their mates to reproduce (meaning they can reproduce with any person of any gender or any race) calling the relationship a ‘lesbian’ relationship wouldn’t be quite right. As there is no human analogue for it. Regardless though, the fact of the matter is that throughout Cmdr. Shepard’s extensive tour of saving the galaxy he/she has never been officially “open” to relationships with other characters of his/her own gender.

So the concern many fans have is that the conclusion of these options to Shepard’s sex life might ruin the “Cmdr. Shepard” they’ve come to know and love. Which is a valid concern, only, it’s also not. I mean by the same token there are players out there who’s Cmdr. Shepards have been secretly longing for a homosexual relationship for a long while now, but have never been able to act on it. The brilliance of Cmdr. Shepard is that each player has their own version of him/her in their mind. It’s a very personal character, with every person’s Shepard being different then someone else’s. Even my Shepard, Zoey, who has been “officially” a straight character this whole time by only hooking up with Liara, is in my mind a lesbian. If she wasn’t before meeting Liara, then she is now. And I look forward to seeing what kind of options await her in Mass Effect 3 as she has to deal with the potential loss of all life in the universe and the new-found stress that she may need to “release”.

As you can see, within the context of some of out own personal concepts of Shepard, the inclusion of bi sexual characters for him/her to romance makes perfect sense. But the inclusion of them does run the risk of potentially ruining other people’s ideas of their Cmdr. Shepard. After all if your male Shepard has been buddies with, say, the male character Kaiden for a long while now, and you suddenly find out that he secretly wants you. It’s understandable that such a revelation might seem forced or out of the blue. And yeah, you run the risk of breaking people’s immersion by doing stuff like that. But like before, the same goes for the way it’s been handled in the game already. I mean, my Cmdr. Shepard had no interest in any of the male characters, yet since she’s a heroic and compassionate person they are almost always throwing themselves at her. I found myself accidentely “coming onto” them on more then one occasion by simply being kind to them. At time’s like those even the “straight” romance options seem forced and can break one’s immersion. So really, in the end, I don’t think either version of the system is perfect. So the way I see it, adding more options can’t hurt. As it at least increases the chances of it being awesome.

Day 1 DLC:

For those who don’t know, “Day 1 DLC” means that on the day of release a game already has content available online for purchase that adds to the game in question. Games in the past have done this in different ways, including bundling a game with a free “online pass” that grants you access to that content. This rewards those who buy the game new by essentially giving them the “whole” game through DLC. If you don’t have internet access then you’re SOL, but since most gamers do this isn’t as big of an issue. Other games have come bundled with “DLC” that is, in reality, little more then an access code to unlock content already on the disc of the game in question. This is a heavily frowned upon thing to do, of course, as it means that the company is literally charging you for content that you already have in your hands. Kind of like if you bought a book but couldn’t read a few chapters unless you paid extra. These wouldn’t be extra chapters mind you, but chapters already in said book that were simply un-view-able until you forked out more cash. As you can imagine, no one likes that.

But then you have situations like Mass Effect 3 where content is being provided day one and costs money to purchase, but is also made available for free to those who purchased the game a certain way. In this case, those who purchased the Collector’s Edition of the game (which costs about 20 bucks more and included other physical and virtual item bonuses) also receive the Day 1 DLC for free. Of course since the Collector’s Edition of Mass Effect 3 was marketed as having “a bonus character and mission” (the content being provided by this day 1 DLC), this isn’t a surprise to those of us who bought it. What Bioware simply did was allow everyone else the ability to access that content for an additional 10 bucks.

What you get with the ME3 Collector's Edition. Notice the "downloadable mission and character".

As someone who bought the Collector’s Edition with the intent of getting an extra character and mission, you can understand my frustration as legions of gamers out there are now claiming that they have just as much a right to the content as anybody else, or that they shouldn’t have to pay for content that should just be included with the game from day 1. Notions that are ridiculous and completely unfair to paying customers like me. I purchased the Collector’s Edition of the game so I would have access to the additional content. If said content was then made available for free to everyone else I’d be more then a little angry. Who wouldn’t be?

“But Jason,” you might say, “They give you all kind of other stuff with the Collector’s Edition, why not just make the DLC free to everyone? You’d still get more then us!” Well how about no. I bought the addition content and you didn’t. By all rights Bioware doesn’t have to offer the DLC to anyone but those of us who bought the Collector’s Edition. Be glad they are offering it to you at all. “But Jason, all the Collector’s Editions in my area are sold out! How am I supposed to buy one now?” You aren’t. You should have bought one sooner. The whole point of a Collector’s Edition is to reward those of us that will pay them more and preorder it ahead of time to show our commitment to the product. If you wait, you miss out. And, frankly, how hard is it put down 10 dollars at your local Gamestop to reserve a copy? If that’s too much to ask of you then I don’t know what you’re whining about. Clearly you can’t afford the Collector’s Edition in the first place.

I guess my point is that Bioware goes out of its way to reward those of us who bought the Collector’s Edition, and even provide extra Collector’s Edition content for everyone else when they really don’t have too. Yet all anyone seems to want to do is complain about it like self-entitled little brats. “But Jason, the character in the DLC is important to the story! I’m missing out on important stuff if I don’t get it! They are just trying to get my money!” Oh? You’ve played Mass Effect 3 and know for a fact that the character is integral to the story? No? That’s what I thought…

Come Tuesday maybe you’ll have something to complain about. But until then? You have nothing to whine about until Mass Effect 3 hits stores and we’ve all had a chance to play through it with all our different Shepards in all their assorted and varied glory. Speaking of which, I should have a review of my first play through up soon. I’ll do my best to complete the game before Sunday, but even if I don’t there will be a review on the way and I’ll be sure to address how these issues did or didn’t affect the game. I’m betting on the latter.

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