Why Mass Effect’s Citadel is One of the Best Hub Worlds Ever Made
In an attempt to curb the feeling of desperation to play Mass Effect: Andromeda after what has felt like eons, I booted up the original Mass Effect so the wait wasn’t quite as agonizing. As a lover of the achievement and trophy systems, the Mass Effect series is my only exception when it comes to returning to an already completed title. Those games never lose their charm, no matter how many times I come back to them. And after picking them up once again, I quickly rediscovered one very special reason why -- the Citadel.
The Citadel of Mass Effect is the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Not literally, but politically. The humongous space station is where all races come together to create the galactic community that we see throughout the series. In its most basic form, it acts as the first game’s main hub world, and it is arguably one of the best hub worlds to ever grace a game.
Upon entering the Citadel for the first time, you soon realize that this visit won’t be a quick one.
Questing aside, walking around the Presidium and the Wards can take up a couple of hours just on its own. But when you start to engage in conversations with different people and complete various tasks, the Citadel becomes much more than a glorified shopping mall and safe haven.
The reason that the Citadel is such an enticing hub world is that it possesses a soul.
The empty and lifeless hubs we see so regularly in other games may have you stay for a few minutes at time. But when I was finally ready to get back to the Normandy, 4-5 hours had passed. BioWare had to create something that oozed mystery and that sci-fi feeling, and triumphed in that regard.
Every detail that went into creating the Citadel meld into one brilliantly designed area. The music is an excellent example. While essentially a small part of the gaming experience, fits perfectly with the specific area in which it plays. The lofty and sophisticated tune of the Presidium is juxtaposed with the brooding and mysterious ambience of the Wards. This always sticks with you as you travel through these areas.
When a game hub world becomes less of a hub and more of a realistic snippet of humanity years and years down the line, it’s something truly special.
The game always gives you a reason to come back to the Citadel as well.
Whether that’s through side quests, the main story, or simply to have a break from Saren and the Geth, there’s always something to call you back to this hub world. This is difficult to accomplish for any area in a game -- making it like it’s alive and moving on as each in-game day passes. But the Citadel manages to achieve that.
As you approach the end of your time in Mass Effect, the Citadel feels like it has seen its fair share of events, just like Shepard has throughout the game. So it isn’t simply stuck in an unchangeable loop, but an evolving world that reflects the journey you've taken. It’s somewhere that you feel invested in -- not just a means to an end.
It's big enough to let your imagination take over.
The Citadel feels alive, it sets a truly astonishing sci-fi mood, and it has a ridiculously large amount of lore to hold it together. And not to mention that it's huge. The area harbors millions of citizens and weighs billions of tons.
While we never see the full extent of the Citadel as an explorable area, specific views from the Presidium and Wards give you the chance to look out at the vast expanse of the station and get a glimpse into the sheer scope of it. A little bit of imagination may be needed, but it doesn’t take much to be amazed by the tales that are being told across those outstretched metallic arms. So even though that part of the ancient station can never be explored in full, we are given just enough to let our minds run wild with excitement.
As a hub, the Citadel does its job. As an explorable space that creates a sense of intrigue and genuine desire to soak in absolutely everything, it does it brilliantly. Whereas other hubs eventually outstay their welcome once you’ve completed your various objectives, the Citadel entices you to stay just that little bit longer. Out of every world, city, town, camp and location of any size I’ve been to in my time as a gamer, the Citadel is the one that I will remember most of all.