I Replayed Mass Effect’s Citadel DLC When I Felt My Loneliest During Lockdown

We’re now two months into 2021, and I’m struggling with the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I’m not alone in that misery. I’m lucky since I live with family, a wonderful partner, and pets—but that doesn’t stop the creeping loneliness of missing my friends. No game, book, or movie really captures the same warmth of having a room full of my closest girlfriends over. Lately, I find myself only indulging in the light-hearted. So last month, when we entered the New Year, and I couldn’t go sit with friends to watch fireworks with a cheap bottle of wine, it hit me—I could at least party again with Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC. So, I reinstalled Mass Effect 3, modded the hell out of it, made a crappy cocktail, and reunited with Garrus.

It’s a little sad, sure, but Mass Effect was a pretty formidable series for me. I can tell you about significant life events and when they happened for me based on which Mass Effect was out at the time and how I was engaging with the fandom. Replaying at least the second or third game has become a yearly ritual for me, with the exception of last year when the pandemic began. Even though the Legendary Edition is right around the corner, I needed that night out—I needed to revisit the Citadel DLC.

Shepard’s adventure into the absurd throws the game’s rules and sensibilities out the airlock. It’s an amalgamation of every “what if” scenario I tried to speak into existence as a fangirling kid, the type of ridiculous fun I expect to only get from fan works. And when you’re nearly a year into a historic outbreak of a dangerous virus that leaves you without your usual group of friends, the Citadel DLC is an incredible New Year’s party. This year, my date was Garrus and my drunk friends Edi, Traynor, and Tali talked about interspecies erogenous zones until the wee hours of the morning.

If I could only recommend one piece of DLC to series newcomers, I would forgo all of the important lore from the rest of Mass Effect’s downloadable content and urge folks to play the Citadel DLC right now. When the story began and my Shepard’s night out got interrupted by a cartoonish display from strange mercenaries, I knew I made the right choice for a depressing holiday. A few minutes into the fray and Garrus Vakarian shows up, makes a quip about the commander’s sexy ensemble before Shepard gives him a dirty look—and suddenly I’m feeling a little less horrible about being stuck in my bedroom with a ten-dollar bottle of wine.

The clock was ticking closer to January 1, but my sorrow at least felt further away when Wrex came stampeding to save my Turian boyfriend and me. The entire cast slowly began to trickle in—my party was arriving. It wasn’t long before Joker rallied the rest of the crew, and my Shepard was finally battling her clone. Some of the best parts of the Citadel DLC are in this campy adventure that opens it, but the real reason I play it is for the party right after.

I always make sure everyone that can survives until the end of Mass Effect 3, so my Shepard’s guest list for last New Year’s Eve was stacked. The drunken rambles of Tali, the paranoid boobytrapping from Garrus and Zaeed, Grunt playing bouncer, all of it, this is what I desperately needed when everything felt like hell. Mass Effect isn’t as simple as just another soldier’s tale. Its cast is a loveable ensemble of doofs—all flawed, awkward, emotional, and strangely human (even the aliens). That shines the most when you finally reach the party. The Citadel DLC’s often meandering dialogue is some of its best, and while I couldn’t drunkenly ramble with my best friend on the couch all night, I could watch Tali do it.

That night, Jack and Miranda argued with so much sexual tension I got mad we couldn’t ship them together, Fire Emblem style. Kasumi joked about recording them, then continued using her cloaking skills to pester the rest of the crew with surprises all night. At one point, Javik was sitting at the apartment bar asking the human guests if he could touch them, so after Jack told him to go touch himself, he quipped, “That does not happen until the end of the party.” And I’m still screaming about it. Javik, please.

Almost every playthrough, I romance Garrus, so he was like comfort food for me during my Citadel New Year festivities. I cornered that Turian every chance I had for new dialogue and was reminded of that Bioware magic I love so much. When my Shepard decided to join the cast dancing in the kitchen to show her severe lack of moves, Garrus tried to come to her defense and couldn’t keep a straight face. If you had to save the world through dance, Shepard would no longer be the hero.

Things started to wrap up, but not before I found Grunt curled up on my bathroom floor with the shower running, piss drunk. There’s a lot of out-of-context nonsense you get as he goes in and out of consciousness—the poor Krogan murmured, “I’m sad hanar can’t wear sweaters,” at one point and then whispered, “What are clowns hiding?” All drunk thoughts we’ve had. My night ended with some Garrus cuddles, and then the clean-up from the party before began once the morning hit. There’s a bonus from spending my night with Mass Effect; no cleaning up bottles come January 1.

Shepard’s ridiculous James Bond-esque adventure is almost eight years old, but I still can’t point to anything quite like it. It’s goofy in the best ways possible, sending all of the parts of my brain that enjoy reading fanfiction and crying over fanart whirring into a frenzied excitement. Saying your goodbyes to the crew at the end is always painful since you know what lurks ahead after the fight, but that bittersweet goodbye doubled as the good cry I needed from the year prior. The Citadel DLC was the sort of experience I craved when I felt lonely, a sense of friendship I felt I lacked when this year’s traditions fell apart. I don’t really ever talk about games for myself as a form of escapism, but I think the closest I’ve ever gotten to that feeling was my New Year’s Eve party with Mass Effect’s cast.

Next: Cyberpunk 2077’s Inconsequential Lifepaths Are The Solution For The Next Mass Effect’s Biggest Problem

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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.

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