Released for download March 10th on Microsoft's Live service, BioWare's first add-on expansion for the superb sci-fi adventure Mass Effect is now available.

Titled "Bring Down the Sky," the plot of this mission involves a captured mining facility on an asteroid. A group of never-before-seen aliens called Batarians have taken the resident scientists hostage, and intend to collide the asteroid into a nearby planet with the aim of annihilating millions of innocents.

There are few people who are bigger fans of Mass Effect than I am, and I was practically giggling as I waited for the content to finish loading onto my hard drive. The thought of waiting for a true sequel is torture, so anything getting me back into the Mass Effect universe is welcome. However, I was somewhat disappointed at what my money actually got.

Priced at 400 Microsoft points ($5.00) this pack is essentially a single, self-contained sidequest comparable to the wealth of optional missions that are already included with the original game. No longer or more complex than the dozens of others that I've already been through, by the time I had earned the new 50-point Achievement for its completion, my playtime was somewhere around the one-hour mark.

$5.00 for an hour? I enjoyed the mission and new Mass Effect content is good content as far as I'm concerned, but there's absolutely nothing differentiating it from what the original game offered in spades. I certainly didn't expect BioWare to come up with completely new material by any means, but such a brief, straightforward and otherwise unexceptional mission would feel like a better value if there were at least two more like it included in the purchase price. Rating: 5 out of 10 — for quantity, not quality.

Technical note: the new content can only be accessed from the star map inside the Normandy spaceship. If the last save available (like mine) is inside the endgame area leading up to the final confrontation, players will have to start a new game and advance the story until the ship becomes available.

Brad Gallaway
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