Prepare yourself for the arrival of Mass Effect 3’s Extended Cut on June 26th

Will this be the DLC that makes or breaks BioWare's reputation?

It’s almost hard to believe the widespread disgruntlement over Mass Effect 3’s ending was only about three months ago. Ever since BioWare promised a free Extended Cut DLC, to provide “closure” and “additional context” to the conclusion of Commander Shepard’s journey”, fans have patiently busied themselves with ME3’s enjoyable multiplayer, other games and quiet speculation amongst themselves. Having proved their point through confectionery cascades and heartfelt testimonials, and lacking a firm release date to mark in their calendars, they’ve been content to simply let BioWare get on with it.

Which they did. In fact they got on with it so much the Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut DLC is now ready and will be out on Tuesday. Tuesday 26 July 2012 to be exactly precise. That’s right, next week! Three whole days from the time this goes up you’ll be able to download all 1.9gb of it for 360, PS3 and PC completely free…if you live in North America that is. For Europeans it’ll only be available for the 360 and PC versions on that date with the PS3 version coming over a week later on July 4th. According to BioWare community manager Jessica Merizan this is due to certification timelines beyond BioWare’s control, so European PS3 owners will just have to dodge spoilers like bullets while resisting the urge to just look up the new endings on YouTube.

Yep, I meant to type endings (plural) there. “Various” ones according to Merizan again, although the ending we originally got was supposed to be several “various” ones too and we all know how that turned out don’t we? Merizan has also confirmed there will be no additional combat in the DLC so fans hoping for a traditional epic boss fight against Harbinger will be disappointed, although that doesn’t mean we won’t have come into some sort of conflict with the vocal yellow-eyed sod. Not every conflict needs to involve an exchange of high-velocity rounds. An FAQ about the Extended Cut on explains that although the Extended Cut “does not fundamentally change the endings”, it does promise to expand on their meanings and reveal “greater detail on the impact of player decisions”. It also promises a “variety of possibilities” requiring “multiple playthroughs with a variety of different decisions”, which is only what fans were told to expect the first time around.

Instead they got…well.  “In some cases people feared the worst,” says executive producer Casey Hudson, in a ten minute interview released alongside the announcement. “That no matter what decisions you make the entire galaxy is destroyed and everyone starves to death, which of course wasn’t our intention…and it wasn’t the intended message about how the Mass Effect universe would end.” Casey also confirms the DLC will feature an epilogue sequence “providing a lot of the closure players are looking for”. For optimal enjoyment players are advised to load a save game from before a certain attack on a certain major installation belonging to a certain notorious organisation. If you’ve completed Mass Effect 3 once already you’ll know what I’m talking about.

In the words of FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder, “I want to believe”. For some fans this news will re-open old wounds they’ve spent the past few months glueing shut. Others will insist a few expository cutscenes and an epilogue are not enough if the original ending’s implied message is still intact. Many will feel no doubt feel some amount of dread in the run up to Tuesday. BioWare can’t please everybody and they’d be mad to try, but if they can satisfy the majority of Mass Effect fans they’ll have redeemed themselves somewhat. To say a shit-ton of fan goodwill is riding on this would be an understatement and heavens help us all if BioWare somehow make the ending worse.

We won’t know anything for certain until the Extended Cut lands on Tuesday, so until then I shall remain open-minded and cautiously optimistic. If you’re a Mass Effect fan and value your sanity then you should do the same.

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