Leviathan provides an interesting new chapter to the ME3 story, and it's clear that a good deal of thought and care went into both the narrative and encounter design, but it doesn't match ME2's best efforts, most notably Overlord or Lair of the Shadow Broker. The DLC provides some beautiful new areas to explore, answers questions and fills in some of the rich lore of the ME universe, and challenges the player with slight innovations during some stand-out action scenes. Still, with a misstep in revealing information too early and no truly difficult decisions to make, it's a little short and a little plodding for the price tag.
+ Strong writing and voice acting, and some interesting, challenging twists on combat scenarios
+ Suitably creepy and mysterious, and well-paced overall with several ups and downs
+ New weapons, a new power, and decent payoff towards the main plot
- Coming this late after ME3's release considerably lessens the impact of the events in Leviathan—I wish I could have played it on release
- Slower-paced "detective" work is fine at first, but once the player has exhausted the eye-candy and grown used to the mystery, sections can drag on
- Probably a little pricey for the value, especially when compared to past DLC
Commander Shepard's exploits, male or female, have sold millions of copies of their games in our universe, safe-guarded billions of aliens in theirs, and have made headlines in both by including the ability to punch out reporters mid-sentence and explore cross-species, same-sex, and even old-fashioned hetero loving with accompanying make-out scenes. The intellectual property has been much-loved and simultaneously reviled, most recently by the outcry over ME3's original endings. One consistently bright point among many, however, has been the DLC, with previous efforts providing action and drama that will persist, at least in this reviewer's mind, for years to come. The latest DLC offering from EA BioWare, Leviathan, has Commander Shepard scouring the universe for a reported Reaper-killer. Does Leviathan stack up well against older DLC?
Well, not really. Leviathan settles somewhere in the middle.
There is nothing terribly wrong with Leviathan. In fact, it's filled with much of what we love about BioWare games, and even works hard to improve areas that could otherwise have fallen flat. For example, you won't find any new enemies in Leviathan, but you also won't find any quiet rooms or long corridors filled with chest-high walls. What you will find are rare franchise opportunities to ambush your enemies, relatively open spaces filled with debris, ladders, and different elevations, and surprisingly engaging combat set-pieces where you escort holographic drones or charge energy cells that drain steadily while you skirmish with husks and brutes. The encounter design is solid and varied, and as a result is suitably challenging even for a long-time biotic.
Leviathan also looks and sounds very nice. The attention to detail is superb from the very beginning with tasty little details like a lab filled with curiosities, equipment, and a conspiracy theorist's spiderweb of photos and scrawled post-it notes all working to sell the mysterious, X-Files-esque theme of the unknown. And trust me, you will want to believe in Leviathan as you uncover its secrets. Later on, a miles-long vista of rolling waves and derelict space ships will make you want to stop and stare, not to mention the very pretty underwater section that follows. The music and sound effects continue to be excellent throughout and they work together to create a very convincing and creepy audible universe.
But what happens in Leviathan is what really matters, and it's here that the DLC stumbles, if only a little. I already mentioned the exploration of the lab, where you filter clues to Leviathan's location and discover many interesting tidbits about the universe and its connection to this beast. It's a little slow-paced, but it sets the appropriate tone for the beginning of the adventure. Later on there is a section of exploration that lacks most of the intrigue of that first lab scene. Here, you may need to backtrack thanks to locked doors and missed keys, and you will cringe knowingly as Shepard and your squadmates fail to recognize what are clearly indoctrinated civilians. Still, overall, these slower-paced scenes are broken up very well by action, with a murder, a chase scene, and (of course) several decent combat sections keeping the tension and player engagement high.
My only real issue with Leviathan is in the storytelling, where you learn its secrets too well. The question that haunts you and Shepard from the opening scene is "what is Leviathan?" and the designers chose to answer that question before the big reveal, which steals far too much of the power of that final scene. Many other important questions are then subsequently answered for you, but these simply fill in the gaps that this new story has introduced, and I don't believe there will be any far-reaching gameplay implications for this story beyond what I mention here (though an exploration of this coming after the conclusion of ME3 would be most welcome).
To sum up, your approximately $10 buys you a decent experience for three-to-four hours, a handful of new weapons and attachments, a new biotic power, a few hundred points more towards your war with the Reapers, and a couple of entries in the in-game codex. As a hard-core franchise fan I am somewhat satisfied with the overall value, but my feeling coming away from Leviathan is that it is good but not great. Leviathan is a strong buy for those well-invested in the IP, but diminished overall by so many months after ME3's release and a world with Overlord and Lair of the Shadow Broker still fresh in our minds.