The character of Liara T’soni in the original Mass Effect wasn’t an overall fan favorite. Aside from being a source of controversy and leading some phenomenally ignorant people to call the game “a sex simulator”, Liara’s tendency to be both loquacious and seemingly naive could get on people’s nerves, while others (like myself) found her desire to help and fascination with the Protheans to be endearing. And then, she turned up in the sequel, holding down a desk on Illium where she worked as an information trader and someone you really, really didn’t want to mess with. Just ask her secretary. The graphic novel Redemption expands on the role she played in the events following the opening of the second game, and the big question on the minds of most players was just how badass Liara had become, to say nothing of the resolution of the possible romance a player may have pursued or even abandoned over the course of Mass Effect 2. Those answers are questioned in Lair of the Shadow Broker.
The DLC begins when you deliver some information to Liara, courtesy of the Illusive Man. Following up on it, Liara is attacked at home. You and your squad show up in the aftermath, meeting the lead investigator and beginning to piece together what happened. By the time you find Liara again, it becomes clear that the Shadow Broker has classified the asari scientist as a threat and is moving to eliminate her. With the information she’s gained, however, Liara can beat him to the punch, a task for which she needs your help.
Just like old times.
This DLC is much, much larger than anything produced for the game to date, expanding on the location of Illium and adding new upgrades and achievements. You also get Liara as a temporary member of your team, and she’s a fantastic addition. While we did have adepts on the team in the form of Samara and Subject Zero, Liara brings the fantastic crowd-control combination of Singularity and Stasis to the field. She’s the only character besides Shepard (as an Adept) to have access to the miniature black hole, and you can add Stasis to your arsenal permanently if you make the right choices.
BioWare’s always shown decent character writing chops in their work, and this DLC is no exception. In fact, it’s pretty exemplary of everything that makes the Mass Effect games so playable. Not only do we get interesting events and character development from both the first game and the graphic novel, we get a great change of pace, similar to that in Kasumi’s Stolen Memory, in the form of a car chase.
The environment of Illium’s soaring towers is reminiscent of Blade Runner, and the chase takes place between and even through those towers. Environmental concerns, other vehicles and little surprises crop up to get in your way. And the entire time, Shepard and Liara are in the car bickering like an old married couple. It’s fast-paced action that has you rolling with laughter while you’re dodging other sky-cars. It’s one of the highlights of the DLC.
Between the unique setting of the eponymous Lair, the great dialog and the expansion of Liara’s character, this DLC has plenty to offer and is well worth the price. Even after the mission ends, you get plenty of use out of its content, from interesting video surveillance of some characters to dossiers of your team and some of the people who’ve crossed your path, for good or ill. Finally, it begins setting up the story for Mass Effect 3 even moreso than any of the sequel’s in-game content. I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it, and I actually look forward to doing so again. If that’s not praise, I don’t know what is.