So everyone knows how bad the ending of Mass Effect 3 was, but I honestly believe that Arrival, as a whole, is far worse. This is because it contains every single problem the ending had, multiplied tenfold by its length and terrible production values.
Let’s start with one of the complaints about the ending - A complete abandonment of series themes and characters.
Shepard is made to do this mission alone - likely due to production values - and does absolutely every important action in the DLC without the aid of anyone else. This goes against the core series theme of bringing people together to face a common threat, and puts Shepard in the spotlight as Space Jesus - much like what happens at the end of Mass Effect 3. You are disconnected from the characters and plotlines that make this series meaningful in exchange for ‘being the ultimate badass.’ Without any investment in the DLC thanks to a lack of character or intrigue (the plot is obvious from the start) it turns into a long, dull slog through pointless expository conversation trees and terrible combat in badly-designed arenas (at least the ME3 ending spared us the combat).
Also much like the ending to ME3, Shepard is forced to act like an idiot with no player choice involved.
Shepard makes no precautions about Object Rho and walks straight into the most obvious fucking trap in the world, because the plot demands that she does. Like in ME3’s ending, your actions affect virtually nothing (even if you fight off five waves of enemies you are still inexplicably knocked out by the object). In a similar fashion to the ‘color-changing’ problem ME3’s ending had, no choice in this DLC has anything more than a superficial impact.
It doesn’t matter if you shoot Kenson or not. There’s no way to convince her not to set off the bomb (BECAUSE SHE’S INDOCTRINATED AND SHEPARD SOMEHOW DIDN’T SEE THIS), and if you shoot her, this happens:
It doesn’t matter if you try to warn the civilians or not - the most you’ll get is a slightly altered line of dialog.
Finally, like the ending of ME3’s disregard of the ‘dark energy’ plot and the lack of influence your choices throughout the game had on the ending (barring ‘war asset’ ridiculousness), this DLC effectively negates almost everything that happened in Mass Effect 2.
It proves that Mass Relays can be destroyed, which would’ve almost certainly been a more reliable method than the ridiculous suicide mission plan. It shows that the Collectors were never really a threat (if they’d continued to operate for the next six months would anything have REALLY changed?) because the Reapers were already coming. None of your choices in the game effect what happens in Arrival.
All Arrival really does is make a half-assed bridge between 2 and 3, whereas in a properly planned series it would’ve been the main point of the second game - delaying the Reapers long enough to gather the galaxy together instead of running around getting ‘loyalty’ and then half-assing the whole ‘building alliances’ thing DURING THE MIDDLE OF A GALACTIC EXTINCTION EVENT in the third game. If the second game had focused on getting the galaxy together and then events similar to Arrival acted as the climax of your efforts (with a galaxy united and prepared to help you stop it) the third game could’ve focused more on actually fighting the Reapers and finding a way to stop them instead of weaving around their toes trying to get everyone to take back Earth for you (and abandon their own worlds just for us SPESHUL HUMANS) while we dig a Prothean superweapon out of thin air and do the whole ‘figure out how to stop the Reapers’ thing in the very last hours of the game at Thessia/Sanctuary/the Cerberus base.
Instead, because Mass Effect 2 spent almost its entire time dicking around the galaxy and fighting a stupid proxy war, the final conflict against the real enemy is rushed, nonsensical, and relies on a third force constantly delaying any efforts for no discernible reason (Cerberus is the Worst) and fighting among the races of the galaxy to forge alliances. The Reapers are not given their due gravity and time in the spotlight, they do not feel like an overwhelming force (since the other races are just fine with dicking each other around the whole game, it seems, and never actually seem that oppressed by the Reapers’ presence), and the resolution to their conflict involves a Space God Kid instead of something that really seems to represent the power of a united galaxy.
All of the rushing and attempts to enforce the real threat fail just as badly in Arrival as in the ending. This conversation might as well have been with the Space God Kid for all its ridiculous, unnatural, bad dialog and pointlessness.
Arrival sucks, and it sucks even more because it shines a light on what went wrong in this series.
Absolutely. All 100% true. Arrival was the first piece of the puzzle that the writers needed in order to write the shitty fucking story that was Mass Effect 3. I honestly never noticed this because I haven’t replayed Mass Effect 2 since I finished the last one… I can’t bring myself to go back and play either of the two previous games again, not after knowing how awful the games’ ultimate conclusion was. Fuck it.