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Arrival is supposed to be the final piece of content for Mass Effect 2, the one that will bridge the gap between it and the third game in the trilogy, which will be released later this year. And it more or less does so, though not without a couple hiccups along the way.
Like the other content DLC packs for the game, Arrival works by activating a side mission in the main game, which you can tackle whenever you want, either during the story or after you’ve finished it. Unlike the other packs though, Arrival probably makes the most sense to play after you’ve finished the story, if only so the plot sequence ends up making sense and actually establishes a link between this game and the apparent invasion of Earth in the third.
The mission begins when you receive a call from Lance Henriksen’s Admiral Hackett, who tells Shepard that an Alliance operative working under deep cover on the edge of the galaxy named Dr. Kenson had been arrested by Batarians on terrorism charges. She apparently has evidence of an impending Reaver invasion, so Hackett asks Shepard to rescue her and confirm her findings. The DLC unlocks a new system on the far end of the galaxy map, which has little of interest besides the planet Kenson is held captive on, where the mission will begin in earnest.
Arrival is different from the rest of Mass Effect 2 for one significant reason: most of the time, you will be alone. You will be accompanied by Kenson for a small portion of it, but otherwise it’s a solo job, which requires different considerations than the series’ regular gameplay. The story doesn’t actually justify this element very well, but it’s sort of interesting to try it out anyway. Early on there are opportunities to be stealthy and sneak past enemies, which is also unusual for Mass Effect, and they do a decent job of mixing up the action since you’ll be doing a lot of it. You have to infiltrate a prison to rescue Kenson, and then accompany her to her base where you learn more about the Reaver threat looming over the galaxy. Of course things aren’t done after you escape the prison, and circumstances force you into combat back on the base as well, culminating in some pretty tough battles and one last face to face with the bad guys before you’re debriefed.
The DLC doesn’t last particularly long, and can be finished in less than two hours. I personally didn’t mind the brevity, because I just wanted to see what plot details they cooked up in preparing for the third game, although it does make the $7 price tag seem a bit steep. That’s the same as the other content packs, although of course I’m talking about the PS3 version, where all that content was already included. The plot itself also has a few holes in it. There are elements of the story that don’t quite add up, mostly revolving around the requisite twist that occurs at the midpoint, and it seemed like they could have handled things a little more cleanly. The game also does an interesting thing with the series’ signature idea of moral choices, although the execution on that is also a little lacking.
So what you have is a reasonably lengthy side mission that might still be short for what you’re paying, with a script that could have used a few more drafts and a combat gimmick that is new but isn’t particularly fun on its own. Personally I thought it was one of the weaker DLC packs for the game, with Lair of the Shadow Broker being packed with extras and legitimate new encounters, and Kasumi: Stolen Memory having a cool espionage twist, a useful crew member, and an awesome new weapon. But for die hard Mass Effect fans it might actually be the most necessary, establishing as it does the likely opening scenario for the story’s concluding chapter. If you loved the main game you should probably play it, but be aware of the limitations of the content itself.