Lair of the Shadow Broker

Rejoice. After a dud run that extends way back to the forgettable Bring Down the Sky, Bioware have finally coughed up the goods and delivered a piece of downloadable content for its revered space opera that deserves to share the name. Lair of the Shadow Broker is far from being another weary (and cynical) splurge of shootout galleries rubber-banded together with all the finesse and delicacy of a blind man at laser quest.

Shadow Broker begins, as all the additional quests have, with an email from Cerberus. They’ve come into some interesting data regarding the Shadow Broker, which if you recall, was a topic brought up by old teammate Liara on Illium.

So it’s off to that place and after a brief unification with everyone’s favourite blue alien you’re whisked away to meet her at her cloud-scraping apartment.

Cast against a stormy night, rain slipping down apartment windows, thunder rolling portentously above, there’s no sign of Liara. No time for rekindling the flames of old alien romance then. Instead you stumble, flowers and chocolates in hand, into a crime scene and from there into the main bulk of missions.

Free from the mindless rush to start firing weapons and without a glimpse of the Geth for a significant amount of time, the opening missions instead boast an air of foreboding and offer a chance to showcase some graphical prowess. And the slow build up means when the inevitable mowing down of robots does begin, it feels purposeful, sparing it from the tedium previous episodes of DLC have suffered from.

Scrambling through a crumbling skyscraper or the dingy innards of the Shadow Broker’s ship are moments as riveting as almost any of the fights fought during the main game. A claim aided substantially by the retort between Shepherd and the new cast of characters. Reuniting with Liara is nice enough but there’s a whole well of conversation to indulge in both on the battlefield and off that should be of interest to series fans.

There are the usual twists and turns along the way and some boss battles to break up the more routine combat – as well a brief chase scene spent in a flying car zipping through the Fifth Element-esque sky  roads of Illium – but the level of incidental detail is what makes The Shadow Broker exceed Bioware’s previous output for both Mass Effect titles. The Shadow Broker himself is shrouded in mystery until your confrontation, but there’s plenty to learn about his role in the galaxy as well as what Liara has been up to since your departure. Altogether there’s a layer of interest here absent from all other downloadable content and it’s here because the writers are in charge.

The only downfall is the buy-in price. 800 points might seem a little on the high side for another two hours of Mass Effect 2 but you’d have to be especially jaded to let that get in the way of the quality on show here.

Most importantly though, Lair of the Shadow Broker proves that Bioware is fully capable of expanding the Mass Effect universe with downloadable content in a positive way. Sixth time lucky then.

8/10

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