Experienced Points: What’s Wrong with Mass Effect 2?

By Shamus Posted Sunday May 15, 2011

Filed under: Column 235 comments


This week’s column is a partial deconstruction of the Mass Effect 2 plot. This should be old hat to most long-time readers here. We’ve been over this material.

If I can paraphrase Mr. Plinkett: The unfortunate thing about Mass Effect 2 is that it will be around. Forever. It will never go away. It can never be un-done.

No matter how good Mass Effect 3 might be, it will always take place in a universe where Shepard died inconsequentially, Kashley was an unreasonable irrational bitch for no reason, the Reapers were comically inept, guns suddenly required magazines, the Council didn’t believe in reapers, the Alliance wouldn’t help you, you worked for Cerberus, and Miranda wasn’t unemployed because her personality was too grating to get work as a waitress or a stripper. Worst of all, Mass Effect 2 didn’t move the overall story forward. A new threat was revealed, and then dealt with, and we wound up right back where we started. It inflicted all of this damage on the Mass Effect 2 setting in order to accomplish nothing.

When I hate on a game, I’m usually told one of a variety of things:

  • Nothing this game could have done would have pleased you.
  • You decided to hate the game ahead of time.
  • You’re prejudiced against this game.
  • You’re just looking for things to complain about.

Basically, anything to suggest that I’m irrational and my complaints have no merit. Of course, none of these make a lot of sense. I liked Portal 2 better than Portal. I liked Starflight 2 better than Starflight. I liked Master of Orion II better than the original. I’m not somehow inherently biased against sequels. I’m not averse to gushing about games when they work for me. Mass Effect 2 didn’t work for me. Sure, the recruitment missions were good, but the story of the Collectors (which is part of the ongoing story with the Reapers) was sophomoric. It failed thematically. It failed logically. It failed at capturing the tone of the first game. It failed to advance the established story. It didn’t even feel like a BioWare game. It felt like a game from Capcom, where you’re supposed to enjoy shooting the bad dudes and not think too much about the how or the why.

Love Mass Effect 2 all you like, but don’t accuse me of harboring some sort of secret agenda. My reviews are an honest response and an extension of the experience I have while playing a game. Your indignation, no matter how intense, will not cause me to suddenly retroactively enjoy this game.

And now we have The Arrival, the DLC for Mass Effect 2. Here is a guy named Seamus (no relation) playing through it:

Link (YouTube)

I know I complained that in Mass Effect 2, nothing happened. Now I wish we could go back to that. I’m so angry at this that I don’t think it would be wise to tackle it until I’ve calmed down. In any case, this is not BioWare.

Back in October of 2007 I said some things about the EA buyout of BioWare. I wasn’t exactly prescient, but it’s an interesting retro-read.


From The Archives:

235 thoughts on “Experienced Points: What’s Wrong with Mass Effect 2?

  1. Phoenix says:

    I agree on Mass Effect, the first was better. And the planetary exploration of secondary missions with that vehicle? Why they removed that? But still it’s Mass Effect, dumbed down. Not so dumbed down as Dragon Age 2 luckily. I wonder how the third will be.

    I was thinking on the same line about what people tells when you don’t like a game. The problem with these matters is that many people don’t give a relative answer to their tastes nor they go on studying the game in detail and in every prospective. They just predend that you’re wrong because they like it. Often they don’t know even exactly why they like it and they can’t explain in a detailed manner.

    I think that the best way to deal with these things is to give a simple answer or a very complete one, not a pretentious one, because tastes are a complex thing, very complex. One has to keep balance.

    1. Mark says:

      First: There is certainly a tendency to mistake “Complaining about the game” for “Not enjoying the game.” Complaining is fun! Criticism bears many of the virtues of art. Enumerating what didn’t work and why is a stimulating exercise that can lend new appreciation of what did work, and new perspectives to deepen related experiences.

      Second: There was certainly a change for the simpler in the mechanics of the game relative to its predecessor, but calling it “dumbed down” belies a rather unbecoming sort of elitism; as an indictment of the audience, rather than the work, it can have deleterious effects on the discourse. can’t we all just get along

      1. NonEuclideanCat says:

        Did you just discover thesaurus.com? You’ve got about $18 worth of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness in there.

        1. krellen says:

          Honestly, his post looked completely normal to me. Don’t blame us for your lack of vocabulary.

          1. NonEuclideanCat says:

            First: Just to make sure, did you bother to go find out what Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness actually refers to? You should, if you find that kind of language “completely normal”.

            Second: Seriously? Where do you live/work/go to school/whatever where saying “as an indictment of the audience, rather than the work, it can have deleterious effects on the discourse” over “the phrase ‘dumbed down’ really only serves to hurt the discussion, since that’s just an insult towards the players, not the game itself” is “completely normal”. Because really, there’s speaking clearly and accurately, and there’s “a predilection by the intelligentsia to engage in the manifestation of prolix exposition through a buzzword disposition form of communication notwithstanding the availability of more comprehensible diminutive alternatives”.

            Finally: I actually did know all those words without using a dictionary. It just looks really, really silly.

            1. krellen says:

              I work at a University.

              1. NonEuclideanCat says:

                Where, I take it, everyone communicates with each other as though they were dictating a dissertation? How many words do you use to ask where everyone wants to go for lunch?

                1. K says:

                  U wanna talk lik dis den? s way easy. tho it ain’t nuffin lik propr convrsashun.

                  Pretty words are awesome!

                  1. NonEuclideanCat says:

                    Because that’s exactly how I’ve been typing in my past three consecutive comments, right?

                    Are you really incapable of telling the difference between “let’s all type like we’re mentally handicapped and/or missing half the keys on our keyboards” and “saying ‘the effects of drosophilia melanogaster proteins on the enzyme activity of polyphenol oxidase from malus pumila’ rather than ‘the effects of fruit flies on the browning of apples’ makes you look like you’re trying really hard to appear smarter than you actually are”? Because, if so, you have my pity.

                    1. K says:

                      No. I’m just baffled that you have the guts to complain about the text being too pretty.

            2. captain price says:

              NonEuclideanCat is concerned with the words and phrases used in the game, and I agree with him. He is not talking about the vocabulary of the players or those who are posting comments here.

          2. NeilD says:

            Seconded. I see nothing wrong or ostentatious with the original post.

            1. Ming says:

              Just chiming in to say “me neither.”

        2. Mark says:

          I love words.

          1. Vuther says:

            Me too. My favourite word is “vanguard”.

            No, really.

    2. Zukhramm says:

      Wait, how is Dragon Age 2 more dumbed down than Mass Effect 2?

      1. Phoenix says:

        I meant not so dum… simplified (elitism begone) as DA->DA2, I wasn’t comparing ME2 with DA2. I’m not sure what is worst, but I prefer ME2.

    3. Avilan says:

      Planetary exploration of secondary missions with that vehicle?They removed it because a vast majority of people hated it. Just live with it.

      1. Phoenix says:

        Lol :) Now people complains that they removed it. You can’t make everyone happy.

        [EDIT] One should complain since they complained from the beginning. It’s the balance of complaining. :P

      2. Velkrin says:

        Then they put in a system in which even more people complained about.

        Given the choice I’d rather use the Mako then have to go through the Probe-a-thon & Birds eye ship again.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        There was no need to remove it,however.Hammerhead was fine,and they shouldve just replaced mako with it.

        1. poiumty says:

          The controls for the Hammerhead were in the game before any DLC was out. My guess is they just didn’t have enough time to add it in.

        2. Even says:

          They could have made the planets a bit less repetitive at the very least should it have been included. In the first game, it was like 95% of the planets are all a jumbled mess of random rocky mountains, valleys and canyons with only a few occasional flat spots. The general lack of coherence to the landforms just made me want to question that why would anyone choose to live or set up a base when it’s in the middle of the most inaccessible terrain imaginable, especially when often there’s barely even space for a ship to land. I got pretty sick of it about half-way through the game trying to often fruitlessly to scour the planets for the collection assignments. The Hammerhead quests were fine as they were since the areas were different enough to keep it interesting, even if the physics were even more ridiculous this time around (Why can’t I hover over lava?).

        3. Avilan says:

          Well for me I actually preferred the Probing. It is about as tedious, but since it lacks the loading times and frustrating controls, it is better, simply by being only almost as horrible.

          Of course nowadays I use the savegame editor to give me 1000000 of all resources and only go to planets to look for anomalies, just like I use a mod in DA:O to avoide the Fade sequence.

          Anyway to make the Mako work for me these things must have been done:

          1. total reconfiguration of the physics for it (no more “bouncing”).
          2. much better controls (no “oops I overcompensated and now I can’t stop driving zig-zag)
          3. shorted distances on the map
          4. less mountains OR clear roads on the map
          5. same amount of XP as if killing by foot
          6. no skill checks for decrypting, so you don’t have to go through the loading times for going back and forth to the Normandy when you have unlocked everything and need a combat-oriented party member for the actual fighting

  2. StranaMente says:

    I was wondering when or if you were going to talk about that here.
    From what I’ve seen in the forum the other common response is:
    “It makes sense, if you think a way in which it may have one”
    “It has sense, but you overlooked this thing that is only said once in one place far before the event you’re talking about”
    “It makes sense if you can come up with some reason to justify what happened”

    All these things are just attempts to justify poor writing.
    When something is written in a good and plausible way, you don’t have to come up with reason to justify what’s happening, because those reasons would already be there; all the details, if they’re so important, wouldn’t be scattered around in a way that makes you miss the big picture; if the writing is tight and right, you won’t even think about doing something else, or think that what you’re doing is absurd.

    Matter of fact, even if you can concoct 100 possible reasons for destroying the reaper at the end of ME2, all those reasons weren’t there in the script, where they belonged.
    You’re left with a binary choice and no explanation.

    1. Bryan says:

      To quote Tolkien:

      What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful ‘sub-creator’. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken: the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended…

      (Emphasis mine.)

      As soon as you start to notice plot holes, it’s an indication that the art has failed (for you anyway). No justification put forth by others is going to change that. Others may invent justifications for themselves — but even then, they’re in the suspension-of-disbelief stage, and the art has still failed.

      When you don’t even think about it, it’s working. If you have to think about it, the author has already lost.

      Edit: Just to be clear. ME2 failed for Shamus. I haven’t played it (or any other Bioware game, actually), but watching it in Spoiler Warning, it probably would have worked for me. Then again, that’s not a great endorsement either, since Doom 3 also worked for me. Shrug. :-)

    2. Tizzy says:

      Let’s face it, a reason why many people may feel defensive about this is that it makes them look dumb: someone else caught the plot holes that they missed, and their reactions are simple rationalizing of their humiliation.

      Misplaced pride, if you ask me: there are plenty of plot holes that I miss, because I consume a lot of stories in my daily existence and I can’t possibly scrutinize all of them at the same level. And plot holes do detract so much from enjoyment, sometimes it’s best to refrain to look too closely.

  3. HeroOfHyla says:

    In my mind, when I think Capcom, I think of Phoenix Wright and Ghost Trick, so I got confused when I saw “like a game from Capcom, where you're supposed to enjoy shooting the bad dudes and not think too much about the how or the why” for a moment.

    1. Mark says:

      Capcom is one of the biggest publishers in the world, with multiple subsidiaries, affiliates, and internal studios. Shamus is more acquainted with their largest internally-developed console offerings, which do indeed tend strongly toward the commoditized disposable entertainment side of the spectrum (it’s what they do best). But one of their more senior directors, Shu Takumi, is the only person around advancing the adventure game genre. I mean no disrespect to Telltale, but the improvements they bring are incremental; Ace Attorney and Ghost Trick represent the cutting edge.

      Then again, the suits don’t exactly put a lot of money into his efforts. You can do excellent business in handheld games but the budgets are more modest.

    2. Shamus says:

      Yeah, when I think of Capcom I think of Resident Evil and Street Fighter. (I’ve never played Phoenix Wright.)

      Perhaps Team Ninja would have been a better pick.

      1. I was about to say that gives a very different implication to capcom, but then I remembered Miranda. Carry on.

      2. K says:

        Play Phoenix Wright. Now. It’s one of the best series since the Golden Age.

  4. Mark says:

    So tell us what you really think.

    (I kid, of course.)

    One thing I’ve noticed of Bioware’s writing – granted, my experience with them excludes the Baldur’s Gate series – is that the quality of the characterization, world-building, and side quests never really translated into comparable quality for the main storyline. At best they were straightforward affairs constructed of clichés (not that there’s anything wrong with that), mere excuses to go about your merry way being a certain kind of hero in a certain kind of setting and gathering an ensemble. My viewpoint of late is that Bioware grand-narratives were never particularly strong, but Mass Effect 2 is the only one that obviously can’t support itself.

    Perhaps this has to do with its status as a sequel. It’s easy (or, at least, easier) to tell a satisfactory story when you can change the details of the world to be more suitable for it, but if you’ve already got a world that was built for an existing story, you’ve got to work that much harder to follow up on it.

    And another thing: Recently, Bioware has drastically increased the scope of its operations. It’s very difficult to integrate new blood into a team of writers, even if you do have an established house style and strict editorial control. The symptoms of that difficulty might include a big picture with rougher edges.

    1. I’m with him on this. I found ME2’s plot no less inconsequential than ME1’s. Let’s face facts, this a game franchise whose main story is about a space marine defeating an alien invasion. Point being I found both plots to be secondary to the stories of the individual characters and the world building.

      Also the second Lord of the Rings book ended with the characters in the exact same positions they were at the beginning of the book…just sayin.

      1. Sekundaari says:

        I… don’t think it did. Frodo & co. found their way into Mordor, the rest were heading for Minas Tirith or preparing to go there.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Plot and story are not the same thing.A simple plot of “aliens invade” can be made into a great story(half life).

        First mass effect told the story in a good way,even went so far as to portrait the villain(saren)as actually a hero lost to the cause(he knew hed be indoctrinated,so instead he chose to use himself to warn the rest of the galaxy while seemingly doing what sovereign wants).Its a well told main story.Sure,it has its own problems,but overall its a good one.

        Two towers did actually lots of things:It dealt with one of the villains(saruman)introduced in the first book.It also set frodo and sam with gollum,and established that he is leading them to a trap.It also put them very close to their goal.It also made the set for the big battle.So it did push the story forward.

        1. Sekundaari says:

          Nitpick: In the movies, The Two Towers ended with Gollum leading them towards the trap. In the book, the trap was sprung in The Two Towers and the part ended after Frodo was captured.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Ah,right,right.Well that just means the story was moved even farther.

          2. Alexander The 1st says:


            Yes, I remember that. I was reading The Two Towers back just before the movie was released (I was doing a book review for Humanities 8 at the time) – the movie was going to release before the deadline.

            I still decided to read as far as possible – I forgot where I left off, it was probably around the place before Shelob’s Lair, where Tolkien spent +5 pages just describing the history of the place, then watched the movie.

            I was a bit smart at the time though, and read the end pages of the book before I completed my review. Imagine my surprise when the final words detailed Sam’s despair as Frodo was captured. Yeah…Jackson, that would’ve been a GREATER cliffhanger then the “Oh, I’m going to set them into a trap!”

            Actually, most of the third movie (And the game even more so, starting from just before the end of the second movie) was really just catching up to that.

      3. Ragnar says:

        If the both games were independent games, then it might be a bit closer (although I still think the plot of ME2 is worse), but since ME2 is a sequel it not only contains the plot holes of the contained story, but also the plot holes carried over from ME1 *and* plot holes introduced for all places where the two games has intersecting story-lines.

    2. Avilan says:

      I think there is a misconception of what the main story in ME2 IS.
      The main story of ME2 is the recruitment- and loyalty missions. Seriously; this is your main quest: to optimize your team.

      The secondary story, to stop the collectors, is a worse story than the main story of ME1 yes. But not by very far. ME1 is an extremely generic fantasy story set in space. Nothing wrong with that, I love the game (though ME2 is better in all aspects except the story) but I was not impressed with the story. At all.

      1. krellen says:

        What was wrong with the team Shepard already had? It couldn’t have been much – you end up recruiting half of the old team anyway.

        1. Avilan says:

          I liked the original team, but I see NO problem with new characters.
          After all you did the exact same thing in BGII…

    3. Tizzy says:

      The Baldur’s Gate series was on par with what you describe, Mark. The setup was steeped in Forgotten Realms lore, which may have helped give it more weight to the players who were already familiar with it. The suspense was very well done: players in that game are very reactive to outside events and uncover the mystery piece by piece. But in the end, the antagonists motivations are rather simplistic, and parts of the main story line feel rather tacked-on set-pieces (Hey! Let’s send the party to the Underdark and turn them into drows.)

      That being said… this did NOT hurt the game in any way. It remains to this day one of the most awesome RPGs ever, plus arguably the first D&D game which was an actual implementation of the D&D rules rather than loosely inspired by them, if you care about such things (and they said it couldn’t be done!).

      1. krellen says:

        I’m pretty sure the Gold Box games were all actual implementations of the D&D rules. They were just first edition rules, so you might not recognise them.

        1. Tizzy says:

          I might very well be mistaken on this point because I never played the gold box games. I’m just quoting what I heard at the time. Maybe it would be more accurate to say it was the first attempt to implement the rules comprehensively: as far as the protagonist goes, you can create any character that could be created on paper, more or less. I simply cannot imagine that computers in 1990 would have been up to the task.

          (As for the first edition rules, these are the only ones I ever used on paper, so I doubt it could be the issue.)

          1. krellen says:

            You had complete control over the entire roster of your party in the gold box games. Anything that was core rules (and not an optional rule, like bards) was possible, including the incredibly broken dual-class (not multi-class) ranger/mage.

  5. Zukhramm says:

    What I hate most of all are the reactions along the lines of “You shouldn’t think too hard”, “All stories have some problems” or “It’s not that important”. For some reason there is an acceptance for stupid in video games that’s not there as much with for example movies. I’m not saying movies are always that great but that it feels like games are judged by a lower standard. And anyone who does not like this, and says so is considered just baselessly hating games, just out to whine and complain. I just don’t understand it.

    And Arrival, where should I start? There’s the most obvious of course, if the Reapers can just show up like this, what was the point of Mass Effect 2? What was their plan there?

    Other than that, if there’s one single way in and out of a solar system without which you would be stranded with no way out my first thought is that you watch it, very very closely, at all times. If something big is approaching it, you should know, with well enough time to evacuate as soon as you see it.

    1. Max says:

      When criticizing writing in games, the common response I see is, “I just want to have fun, and the story doesn’t matter.” The problem is I do want well written games. There are plenty of games out there with poor writing that when one of the few developers that actually bothers to make well written games decides its no longer important, that’s a big deal. They can pretty much play any game they want for fun game play, but I have very few games to play that have good writing in them.

      1. Lalaland says:

        I agree wholeheartedly. What I find particularly galling is the implication that good writing is NOT fun. I find that the exact opposite is often the case with poor writing ruining my sense of immersion and thus fun.

        1. Avilan says:

          Oh good writing is amazing. However not on it’s own.

          Not for me anyway. I much prefer a game with mediocre story and amazing gameplay than a game with amazing story and mediocre gameplay. The ultimate, of course, is a game with both amazing story and amazing gameplay, but I have yet to see such a game.

          The reason for this of course is that if I want a good story above all else I read a book, or at least watch a movie. If I don’t get good gameplay together with my story, there is no need to turn the computer on.

    2. Mark says:

      If a game has lousy writing, worse acting, hideous visuals, and a plot with more holes than a sponge, you can still get enjoyment out of it, because underneath all of those flaws it still has (maybe) a mechanically interesting game. If a movie has lousy writing, worse acting, hideous visuals, and a plot with more holes than a sponge, then the only way to get any kind of enjoyment out of it is to, well, turn it into a game.

      A game has more elements than a movie; therefore, more of those elements have to be bad before the unit as a whole becomes bad.

      1. StranaMente says:

        And I think that this is the reason why The Witcher 1 is so underrated. The story actually is pretty good (in my opinion has deeper choices than Dragon age: Origins, and I loved that game), but the gameplay is horrific. And you can’t ever split them, so the bad of the gameplay corrupts the good of the story.
        Too bad…

        1. swimon says:

          ^^ I haven’t played that far yet but so far my experience of the Witcher is pretty much the opposite. The game mechanics are decent enough but the story is horrendous.

          As an example very early on some sorceress gets knocked out and you have to make her medicine (this serves as a tutorial for the alchemy) and while she’s unconscious she’s tended to by another witcher who treated her a bit badly before. It’s a nice bit of character development where we see him feeling guilty over how he treated a woman who almost died for them. Except we don’t see this at all we get told this is what he’s doing and that this is his motivation by another NPC. Actually if you walk over to this guilt struck devastated NPC he doesn’t even mention her and he doesn’t really stand near her at all.

          It’s a bad idea to follow it dogmatically but “show don’t tell” is a good rule of thumb. Observing that one rule could have made this interesting character development instead it’s just boring trivia about some witcher that I instantly forgot the name of.

      2. Zukhramm says:

        I guess that depends on how you see the quality of a game, if it’s some kind of average then yes, more parts means that each part matters less, but if it’s more of a bridge type thing where if one part is bad all of it is then that’s no longer the case. Of course it depends on the games and on why the player is playing it.

        With Mass Effect 2 I keep hearing how it’s the best story ever told, the greatest not only RPG but game of all time, and when the mechanics backing it up are not interesting ones (maybe others think they are, I just don’t) the plot is what I judge it by.

        1. Mark says:

          Game writing is very hard to compare with writing in other media, because in no other medium do you become the main character to such a degree. Your attachment to the player character can become so deep, and your ownership of their conflict so strong, that not only can you be less aware of how simplistic and ridiculous any given event is, that same event can innately provoke a stronger emotional response. Skillfully applied interactivity lets you make a tastier dish, if you will, with lower-quality ingredients.

          I suppose the closest equivalent would be theater from the perspective of the actors. This deserves more words but I don’t think I’m currently able to provide them.

          1. krellen says:

            That’s actually one of the biggest reasons ME2 disappointed me. I was very much invested in my Shepard in ME1, and ME2 was just so mind-boggling that I could not reconcile this new Shepard (that works with Cerberus because she “has no choice”) with the one I’d become invested in originally.

            1. Avilan says:

              I just started playing ME2 again (thanks to these posts) and I must say, again, that I disagree. Yes the recuritment to Cerberus is hamfisted. But it’s not horrible, and the rest of the game is amazing. I definitely feel that it’s the same Shepard I played in ME1 (still punching morons in the face, still saving innocents. ReneGon FTW!!)

              1. krellen says:

                My Shepard would never punch any morons. She was born in the Alliance and a Sole Survivor, and her maternal instincts were such that she wants to save as many damn people as possible, even from their own stupidity. She’s pretty much pure Paragon, and pure Paragon has no place whatsoever in Mass Effect 2.

                1. Avilan says:


                  Please explain? I have distinct memories of playing several pure paragons.

                  1. krellen says:

                    I don’t think I could explain it in a way you’d understand. Suffice to say that “Pure Paragon” means something more than “nothing but Paragon points/options”.

                    1. Avilan says:

                      I know, actual role-playing a character. But it is possible we have different definitions of Paragon; I go by the definition ME1 uses.

                    2. krellen says:

                      A “Pure Paragon”, as I define it, would have stayed on that space station right at the beginning to save people. There would have been a third option after Miranda says “this is the only shuttle off, and it’s leaving”, and that option would have been “fine, go then.”

                      And then the game would have continued along a non-ridiculous, non-Cerberus line. Or Miranda would have given in because she actually couldn’t leave without Shepard and was bluffing her ass off.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You still can enjoy a movie even if its bad.Troll 2 is a hilarious movie,precisely because it is so unbelievably bad.

        1. krellen says:

          The “so bad it’s good” movies almost invariably are at least a little self-aware of their suckitude, and will hang a lampshade or two on it.

          I’m a huge fan of these sorts of movies (I rank Flash Gordon as one of my top films of all time); the problem isn’t so much that we want things to be good rather than bad, but rather that we want things to be appropriate; if something is taking itself seriously, we take it seriously, and thus we expect quality. When something is trying to just be a fun romp, however, we cut it a lot more slack.

          Mass Effect is not supposed to be a fun romp. It doesn’t have any trappings of a fun romp. It doesn’t have any elements of a fun romp. It’s a serious game, to be enjoyed seriously. It’s trying to be Citizen Kane, not Plan 9 from Outer Space, so when it starts looking like Plan 9, we notice it a lot more, and criticise it appropriately.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            Ah, I was hoping Mass Effect 2 was meant to be Galaxy Quest: The Game.

        2. Even says:

          Then again there are some movies which set a whole new level of bad that surpasses even Vogon poetry. They’re directed by Uwe Boll.

          I still regret the day when out of some stupid curiousity I tried to watch Far Cry.

  6. Jjkaybomb says:

    I dont know how to phrase this without bedroom window gazing, armchair philosophy, so I’m just going to say it how I sees it.

    Sometimes people make rage/hate arguments without understanding what they’re saying, based on second or third hand knowledge. Sometimes people make rage/hate arguments while actually having knowledge. But, being the internet, sometimes its hard to tell the difference between the two. Rage/hate is rage/hate, therefore bad and clearly wrong and needs to be set straight.

    Unless the rage/hate person is trying to be funny. Then he is internet GOD.

  7. RariowunIrskand says:

    I actually prefer Mass Effect 2 to the first. Yet I can perfectly see the stupidness of its plot. The only actual reasons I enjoyed it were:
    1. Better combat. Say what you want about RPG’s, gameplay counts.
    2. The Acquisition/Loyalty missions. Especially Mordin’s and Legion’s Loyalty. Deep, interesting, fun to do.
    3. More characters, and in greater depth. 10 (12 with DLC) in ME2, 6 in ME1.
    4. Mordin singing.

    However, I do agree: since the original Mass Effect, BioWare has gotten farther away from being BioWare, and closer to being EA. This is especially noticeable in the development times of their games, with DA2 (Worst BioWare game so far, I’d say) taking barely one year to make, and ME3 being scheduled for release this christmas.

    I’d say they’re still far above average with ME, but I expect them to completely blend over and fall into complete EA dullness around the beggining of 2013.
    Also, you mentioned this in SpoilerWarning I believe, but I’m hoping that the reason writing has gotten worse is that 90% of their staff is working on TOR, and that it’ll essentially be like 10 Baldur’s Gate’s 2’s in one game. And then they can actually erase ME2 from cannon and announce it was created by a rogue cell. And make it proper.

    1. Phoenix says:

      I agree certain things were better than the first.

    2. overpowered ginger says:

      I semi-agree with you. While I do think that ME2 is better than the first, it’s because it had more high points (to me) than the first one. Somehow, there were positives and negatives of each changed aspect. the general combat was more bland, with the additions of regening health and “not ammo”, but the powers were actually useful and interesting. there were more and better characters (mordin, legion, tali, zaeed), but some were just forgettable or not lived to their full potential (miranda, jacob, grunt). to me, mass effect 1 was a good game that didn’t really push the envelope, or have any goty-worthy accomplishments. While Mass effect 2 had more than its share of bad writing and genericness, that still doesn’t negate the absolutely phenomenal crew members, and even for some of the bad ones, they were still set up right, if not well played out.

    3. Ben says:

      For all my bagging on ME2 I agree it was a more enjoyable game to play. The worlds felt more alive with the little side conversations (loved the turian and the quarian in the bar on illium), the combat was a lot better (even though I still would like to see more niches in the combat system) and the characters were better all around.

      All of that makes the main story incoherence even more frustrating, the game is so good that when it falls down plotwise (main quest and a couple of the loyalty missions) it sticks out like a sore thumb.

  8. Smejki says:

    No surprise since Bioware’s philosophy of gamedesign is this:

    1. Avilan says:

      Hey, this is true for ME2: I press a button, something awesome happens.
      And no, I am not joking.

      1. some random dood says:

        That’s strange – when I press a button in ME2 some awesomely awful dialog that says nothing like what I want to say comes out… Does that count in the awesome column?

        1. Avilan says:

          I never had that problem. Of course I like the dialogue. It is on par with every. other. rpg I have played except PS:T.

  9. Avilan says:

    I am sorry Shamus, but once again you are letting your personal grudge against EA cloud your senses.

    “This is not Bioware is not a valid complaint. “I don’t approve of what Bioware is doing” is.

    As for Bioware’s writing… with the possible exception of Baldur’s Gate II their writing is about average, with the main story usually the weakest part.
    That is nothing new, though, that goes for the vast majority of RPGs.

    1. Jjkaybomb says:

      But… they both say the same thing. “This is not Bioware” is more dramatic and powerful than “I dont approve of Bioware’s current direction.”

      1. Mark says:

        The latter is more honest (assuming that it is true) because it admits its own subjectivity.

        1. Jjkaybomb says:

          But his entire post admits to his own subjectivity, how he formulates his personal opinions. Does every last phrase have to reiterate that idea?

          Well, sometimes people have to. But I like the stronger phrasing used here.

    2. Shamus says:

      “Basically, anything to suggest that I'm irrational and my complaints have no merit.”

      That there? I wrote that bit with you in mind.

      I didn’t sit through ME2 thinking, “Man, I can’t stand EA.” I sat there gnawing on the plot and trying to hammer it into shape in my mind.

      It’s entirely possible this isn’t EA interfering. Perhaps the influx of EA money has caused BioWare to over-reach and spead their writing staff too thin.

      You don’t seem to see any difference between the BioWare games, but for me there is a massive shift in tone and style between:

      1) KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect


      2) Mass Effect 2 / The Arrival.

      (The first Dragon Age is between those. Still working my way through DA 2.)

      EDIT: Edited for clarity.

      1. SomeUnregPunk says:

        I’m surprised that you didn’t include:

        “It’s a videogame. Good story is isn’t the reason why people play a videogame.”

        or some variation of it.

        1. Deadpool says:

          I beg to differ. You think, for example, Pokemon would be such a huge sensation if it was just a series of math problems with no narrative to tie it together?

          1. bit says:

            Yeah, but they removed a lot of the math in ME2.

          2. Stranger says:

            Have you SEEN the online-only competitive scene? Them people are addicted to crunching numbers to get those few extra points. Math problems? Try calculus, and juggling close to a half dozen variables; and a few of those variables are not immediately transparent to the user and require code-diving to draw out.

            (Or exhaustive research sampling, which is what was done primarily I understand.)

            As for the narrative and story for Pokemon . . . I find the latest game actually was better than the earlier outing (Black/White versus HeartGold/SoulSilver). I can spot plot holes but they felt relatively minor and some things were handled better. Not to say it was a gold standard, but it gets a B for effort in my book. I haven’t triggered all the content yet, so there may be further development in the “postgame”.

            Wow it’s weird I’m fanboying for the series . . . I really enjoy playing Pokemon games, despite the snags which exist in the game’s story or design (I could go on for a while, but this is not my blog on which to soapbox endlessly).

            But if you want a game with little-to-no story which I play a lot of, look no further than Tetris :)

            1. Senji says:

              Sounds like you described Diablo 2 over there. Still love the hell out of it.

          3. Jjkaybomb says:

            I feel the narritive is better told in every other medium besides the video games. The plot is solid and simple gold, and definitely able to carry all the games, comics, shows, ect. The games’ narritive is just a barebones excuse to point you which gym you’re going to next. Given the target audience (aka, everyone)this is not a bad thing for the games.

      2. overpowered ginger says:

        hmm. i actually think that kotor and me1 are very similar, because they are basically “find pieces of a map/info about where the big bad end-of-the-world machine is”, and jade empire is “help out people while looking for your master and save the world after he kicks your ass”. admittedly, i’ve only gotten up to the end level in kotor, and the final fight in jade empire, because they are both unfairly hard. to me, me2 was basically “be tim’s expendable bitch for the good of the galaxy, and meet cool and boring people along the way. parts of it felt truly bioware-ish (mordin, tali, and legion’s loyalty missions, and to a lesser extent Jacob’s), while the rest felt like bioware only wrote the basic script or idea, or couldn’t properly fit essential parts into me1.
        also, I haven’t played any other bioware game. (im a busy guy, don’t judge me)

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Well sure,you can sum up any story in such a manner.Hamlet is just a story about a guy wanting to punish his fathers killer.But story is not just its bare plot,its also in the way its been told.

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          I think that was kind of Shamus’s point: We’re comparing the games in group one to the games in group two to see whether there’s a tone/style difference with regard to story that does not serve to support the narrative.

      3. Raygereio says:

        Still working my way through DA 2.

        Stop. Now.

        If you’re already angry about Arrival (which in my mind – much like the main ME2 game – was something to point and laugh at), then you’re likely to curl up into a wheeping pile of misery and moments thereafter explode in thermonuclear rage once you sit back during DA2’s credits and realise what you just played.

        1. Irridium says:

          In DA2’s defense, the parts before Act 3 were actually pretty fun. Despite the copy/pasted dungeons and magically appearing enemies.

          In short, its like your standard Obsidian game. Great beginning and middle, shitty end.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Really? For me the problems with the writing started right at the end of the prologue.

            And as the resident Obsidion-fanboy I take offence to that jab.[/not serious]

            1. krellen says:

              Yeah, everyone knows I’m the Obsidian fanboy around here!

      4. Raygereio says:

        Just missed my edit window when this thought arose in my head, so excuse the double post.

        Perhaps the influx of EA money has caused BioWare to over-reach and spead their writing staff too thin.

        I’m still of a mind to blame the KotOR MMO for ME2 and DA2. As far as I’m aware of; pretty much all of BioWare’s non-sucky writers are working on that.

        1. Shamus says:

          Josh and I were talking about this earlier today, and he pointed out that it’s entirely possible that the MMO’s excesses are BioWare’s fault. They saw the chance to make the game they’ve always wanted. As big and as broad and as ambitious as their dreams. It’s the George Lucas problem: He was brilliant when held in check by peers and financial limits, but he fell apart when given the money and freedom to do as he pleased.

          Maybe not, of course. But it’s an interesting way of looking at things.

          1. X2-Eliah says:

            Yeah. Most of the previews I’ve read seem to indicate that TOR is going to be basically a plot-driven rpg wit other ppl innit.. Thing is, again it doesn’t really do anything to advance the concept of an rpg – same old mechanics, same gameplay overall..
            Contrast that to guild wars 2.

            Just ask Josh, he can explain this better than I ever could.

            1. Shamus says:

              During that same conversation, Josh said exactly this.

              *shakes fist*

            2. krellen says:

              Why does every new game have to have new mechanics? What I seriously want out of games, very often, is the exact same gameplay I’ve enjoyed before, but with new stories, characters and locales in which to engage in it.

              1. I wouldn’t say they have to, but in Bioware games I’m usually getting tired of the repetitive combat before the first act is even over. Gawd help me if they made a second game that was EXACTLY THE SAME.

                And with MMO’s in particular, you have HUGE market saturation and new MMO’s need to offer something different in order to pull people in. Granted, the Star Wars franchise might be enough, but for me, Star Wars has no real drawing power. I enjoyed KotOR DESPITE the fact that it was set in the Star Wars universe, not BECAUSE of it.

                I was thinking of giving TOR a try, but 1.) I already have an MMO, which I quite enjoy, and 2.) I haven’t seen anything about TOR that really got me to say, ooh, I want to try that out. The trailer videos, in particular, had some of the most horribly wooden animations I’ve seen in years, and did not trigger any kind of “ooh neat” from me. Whereas even after I’ve been playing DDO for a year and a half, I still frequently have moments where I think, hey, that was awesome!

                1. krellen says:

                  In terms of market share, “ooo, Star Wars” is likely to be draw enough that new mechanics are not needed. It might not appeal to you personally, but that’s okay, because there’s lots of other games out there. As a bonus, you already have one you love.

              2. MadHiro says:

                This. Very much.

                If only Steve Jackson had succeeded in his 1988 attempt at making GURPS the only legal gaming system in the world; we could all stop worrying about silly mechanics, and get to work making the important stuff; story and character.

      5. Avilan says:

        I don’t think you are irrational. I think you are holding a grudge against EA. Big difference. I might also be totally wrong.

        Anyway, as stated somewhere else, I missed both KOTOR games and Jade Empire due to being unemployed at the time (no money).

        Our opinion of ME1 differs, as you know. I find it a mediocre RPG with a great setting and fantastic characters. The story is acceptable, the gameplay is bad (especially combat, and the MAKO) and it does suffer from the old RPG curse: “Stuck with a Rogue”* (engineer in this case). I like Tali, but I prefer the Wrex / Liara combo. And I don’t have decryption!

        ME2 is to me two steps in the right direction and one step backwards: Story is worse, but not by far (the step backwards). Gameplay is great (would be amazing without the probing), characters are just as good as in ME1 and there are more of them and I can finally pick my team on the basis of “who do I enjoy the most” instead of “who can open that lock?”

        *That basically all Bioware games since the dawn of time has placed upon us.

        1. I must be in the minority, because I actually really liked driving the Mako around in Mass Effect. Oh, I didn’t like that pretty much all the maps were the same randomish mountains colored differently. But I thought the bouncy tank was fun to drive, particularly when I’d launch it off a mountaintop and ride the jets down. If they’d had your crewmates scream at you for your insane driving habits, it would have made it the best part of the game to me, particularly if there had been a running gag about how Shepard was some kind of speed demon/adrenaline junkie/woman driver and managed to make even the most strong-stomached party members lose their lunch.

          1. krellen says:

            That would’ve been awesome. I could see Garrus being a backseat driver: “How about you let me drive next time?” and Tali just screaming like the little girl she is.

            I also loved tooling around in the Mako, though my main reason was because I just loved looking at the scenery the set designers made for the planets.

            1. some random dood says:

              Hehe yes! I can see Garrus going “Let me calibrate those jets for you” [clank, crash, smash]. [Wipes hands together]. “There – NOW try jumping like a jack rabbit down the next mountain.”

              1. Alexander The 1st says:

                Oh, Josh says, a challenge. XD.

  10. kikito says:

    They can always add a time machine at the begining of episode III that makes you travel back to the end of episode I and allows you to ignore episode II completely.

    That’s the magic of science fiction. :D

    1. Mark says:

      There is a strategy that players might employ to help them enjoy Mass Effect 3 better: combine their memories of first two games into a sort of hybrid single game, where the events of the first game transpired with the cast of the second. Everybody wins!

      The reader’s canon supersedes official canon.

      1. Phoenix says:

        Maybe even better to forget the past and live the present :D

      2. Alexander The 1st says:

        No, not everbody wins – you’re expecting me to enjoy having Miranda in ME1 – wait…Virmire.

        Never mind then. Carry on. Everybody wins.

        1. krellen says:

          I can set up Miranda the bomb? Do want!

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            Would get a mod for that. Replaces Kaiden with Miranda’s skin.

            1. krellen says:

              It’s hard to get mods for the 360.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                360?And I thought you were an old school gamer.You sold out man!

                1. krellen says:

                  If I didn’t have a 360, I never would have been able to play Portal and Half-Life 2, because I still haven’t sold-out to Steam.

        2. GTRichey says:

          Even with Kaiden’s blatant attempt at sabotage on Noveria, Miranda would still win the prize once you got to Virmire… I very much like that idea. I’d still go with a mixed cast from both games though because some in ME were better than others in ME2… I’m thinking Mordin, Tali, Kaiden or Ashley (not both… one could die early on, replacing Jenkins, depending on whether you’re femshep), Garrus, Liara, Wrex for sure (and Miranda purely for someone to kill on Virmire even though this removes the difficulty of the choice) and maybe Legion and Thane (but adding one of both of these makes the list a little too long IMO). I guess I’m still mostly in favour of the ME1 cast over ME2s except for where they overlap… the idea of Grunt was nice but Wrex was a more fleshed out character and Liara was insanely better than Samorinth (not ME2 Liara as much, but still beats Samorinth) Legion was cool but the game was designed so you don’t really get any time with him and Thane wasn’t really fleshed out much, Jacob… just wasn’t that interesting.

  11. Soylent Dave says:

    Bioware have always constructed their stories out of clichés (as a few other people have pointed out).

    This makes their characters more memorable – because characters built on stereotypes are always memorable (all the more so if they subvert them occasionally, and Bioware do that). It does make it more obvious when they re-use the same character for several games (e.g. Carth Onasi / Kaidan / Alistair …)

    This is, incidentally, why the loyalty missions are so notably better than the rest of the game – they’re an exploration of each individual character archetype / stereotype, which is relatively easy to do, due to being separate from the overall plot arc.

    When it comes to story, though – cliché can only take you so far. Which is – I think – the main reason why Bioware have started to grow stale. It’s hard to get immersed in a game when you know – know – what is about to happen; not because the writing is brilliant and you can predict how the characters are going to react, but because you already know this story.

    (the most striking example I can think of is the human origin story from Dragon Age; within the first few seconds you meet your father and his best friend ‘Duke Evil’ who are both about to march off to war, but Duke Evil’s army is a bit late so won’t be arriving until tomorrow, after all your guards have already left. Guess what happens next!)

    This also makes your character’s decisions less meaningful – in a clichéd story, your decisions have to be dramatic to change things; which means your choices become either meaningless (because changing a cliché a little bit is difficult), or extreme & ridiculous (changing to a different cliché, or subverting the current one).

    Bioware writing always was a house of cards; building a story out of clichés, featuring clichéd characters is only ever going to take you so far.

    (see also : Star Wars (which at least embraces what it’s doing))

    1. overpowered ginger says:

      I think that bioware takes cliches, and then adds a layer of depth to them and makes them both familiar, but also interesting. take kaiden, who ended up at a terrible biotic school, but couldn’t bring himself to blame his teacher because he realized that aliens are both “jerks and saints”, and took his horrible past and used it to propel himself ahead of some of his fellow man. or mordin, the jaded, crazy doctor/murder who always does the most efficient thing. he gets to a point where he is confronted with the possibility that his role in the genophage might not have been the best option in the long run, and watching him come to terms with how to make it right really provides insight into a really tired and conflicted salarian. even though they dropped the ball on miranda, they set up a perfect person who couldn’t be perfect, and then turned her into a bond girl.

      1. I suspect, but do not know, that a lot of their writing problems are caused by “writing for set-pieces”. What happens is this:

        You have this big ol’ storyboard that covers the big basic plot points of the game, probably argued and wrangled over endlessly during several meetings. You figure out what needs to be done for each of those set pieces, you assign different writers and writing teams to work on them. They go to work, and things start to take shape.

        Only now, you have a problem: you have to hook all of this stuff up in some sensible manner. It really feels like Bioware’s writers have been focusing a lot more on the set pieces than on how they hook together and form a cohesive whole. But the *plot* is the development, the action, from one plot point to another. So they’re actually focusing on the *least important part* of the plot.

        This worked reasonably well in Dragon Age: Origins because the sections were not hooked up AT ALL, except loosely by the idea of “I needs me an army. Guess I gotta do whatever dumbass stuff is going on at each of these various locations in order to gets me an army.” There was no need to write any real hooking-up sections to pull you from one sequence to another, so they could focus entirely on the set-pieces. Mass Effect was much the same way.

        If you look at Bioware’s games up to this point, they’ve ALL been written in the same style. What held Baldur’s Gate together? There’s some kind of an iron shortage thing, and a Sarevok dude? For me, Baldur’s Gate kind of fell apart plot-wise when I actually got to the city, especially during all that business with the doppelgangers. I spent most of that section wandering around blindly poking at things until I stumbled into the end battle, but I wasn’t ever really sure what was going on. The first part of the game when you’re exploring and finding things on your own works much better. Likewise BG2, although Irenicus did 99% of the heavy lifting of holding that story together. You could convincingly believe that Irenicus might get involved in ANYTHING, so they could pretty much shuttle you around ANYWHERE and it’d hold up. Logic was not involved, just the Scary Crazy Dude.

        Kotor? Held together by a Find the Macguffin motivation. Jade Empire? Find Master Li. But now we have Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 which are constructed in such a way that the various plot set pieces DO need to be held together by some sort of coherent and logical plot framework. And boom, it’s a mess.

        Basically, they’ve stepped out of their formula a bit with these latest games and I think they’re struggling a bit. They may learn how to setup their teams properly to deal with a different story formula. Or they may crash and burn. We’ll see.

        In any case, I’m not going to be playing ME3, because I’m not playing ME2. I was never really that into Mass Effect from the get-go. Dragon Age I’m still enjoying, so I’ll be sticking with that series.

        1. Eddie says:

          This is a convincing theory. Even Mass Effect 1 suffers from it; Saren drives the whole plot but once you discover his underlying goal his actions make no sense. He’s looking for the Conduit to get onto the Citadel because he’s been declared rogue because he attacked Eden Prime in his search for the Conduit. What? It’s not as offensive as Mass Effect 2’s problems though because it only becomes apparant at the end of the game and the problems are with events that happen at the beginning of the game. Also, ME1 only really has that one plot hole, as big as it may be, whereas ME2’s plot has that one bit that isn’t a plot hole.

          1. Ben says:

            I think you’ve misread Saren, he is looking for the conduit to help the Reapers in hopes they will spare part of humanity, his goal was moving forward before Eden Prime and continued despite his loss of Spectre status.

            1. Irridium says:

              Saren’s not trying to preserve part of humanity. Not directly anyway, but he’s trying to save an amount of sapient life. Humanity may be among those who could have been saved though. Although none of this would have happened, since Sovereign would have just betrayed him.


              1. daveNYC says:

                I think Saren’s motives are actually just byproducts of the indoctrination process that he went through. A longer drawn out process leaves a more useful tool, but it also would leave more of the original personality in place, so his master plan might just be another way of the indoctrination keeping hold of him.

                1. Avilan says:

                  Well we’ll soon see how an indoctrinated TiM does… so far he is smarter than Saren.

                  1. Irridium says:

                    Well if his plan is to help the Reapers, he already cocked up by reviving you.

                    If he is indoctrinated, that is.

                    1. Avilan says:

                      That is one of the main theories about Cerberus in ME3: His eyes are reaper tech, as you know.

            2. guy says:

              Except, he could totally have stalled via saying “Spectre” onboard the citadel for long enough for the Reapers to arrive without ever bothering with the conduit. It’s not like it seems to take very long, after all.

          2. You can see this if you read David Gaider’s two Dragon Age books to date: he can’t write transitions worth crap. He doesn’t even seem INTERESTED in writing them, particularly in the Stolen Throne. I mean, this is nominally a book about a rebellion, yet all the parts of actually building the rebellion are basically glossed over in brief “X did a bunch of work getting people to follow him” and then pages and pages and pages of dwelling on the soap opera of the four main characters.

          3. some random dood says:

            Yeah, that part didn’t quite work in ME1. How it *would* make sense is if (possible spoilers) the reapers wanted to find out how the Protheans messed up their plans. Therefore the reapers didn’t know what the conduit was, and so had to find out. That it was simply a backdoor to the citadel, which Saren could walk through with impunity before giving the game away about working for the reapers, would have been a nice ironic twist. So Saren would end up using the Protheans’ backdoor, because in the process of finding what the Conduit was, he could no longer use the front door ;-) That’s how I paper-over that particular plot-point. (Yes, yes, I know ME1 isn’t perfect, but still a lot better than ME2 for me!)

          4. Daemian Lucifer says:

            How bout this:Sovereign needed someone to disable citadels defenses,and saren offered to help,thinking he could undermine the reapers from within.But then he found out about the indoctrination,so he decided to instead call as much attention to himself as possible instead.

            This is why I think saren is a bigger hero than shepard.

  12. Amstrad says:

    Thankfully there’s all ways a way to worm your way out of the poor writing or decisions of previous games/movies/books/comics, the infamous retcon!

    My favorite example of this is used by the anime Macross, one series in which they retcon an entire movie as an in-universe retelling of actual events but done ‘Hollywood’ style in that there’s a great deal of historical inaccuracy and things are stylized for impact.

    1. Kel'Thuzad says:

      Well, they already retconned the ammo, so I’m sure there will be more in ME3.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        One of my greatest fears of ME3 is the “get out of plot free card: prophecy”. Specifically that they will suddenly spring some sort of Reaper prophecy to explain why Harbinger is so personally crazy about Shepard.

  13. Anjin says:

    I really liked Mass Effect 2. But you know what? My sense of self worth is not tied to whether or not you liked the game too. I hope that people will grow out of it, but then look at sports fan. Or politicians for that matter.

  14. Eddie says:

    The thing I really don’t understand about ME2 is why Bioware chose to use Cerberus for the role of Shepard’s backers. They could have had the entire organisation be exactly the same but not be Cerberus and it would have made the entire story better with almost no changes. If you were working for Awesomeus instead then the player wouldn’t immediately not want to work with them and wouldn’t be prone to immediatly believe anyone who said they were bad guys. It wouldn’t make all of the problems with the Cerberus story go away but it would be a start and it would be the easiest thing to change.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Cerberus could have worked if they had actually planned ahead for ME2. Which is rather obvious they didn’t. Yes, I know they said that it always was going to be a trilogy. But saying something and actually doing something are two different things.

      ME2’s problems started with ME1 because of this. You want Shep to work with Cerberus? Okay, fine. Then don’t portray that same organisation in the first game as:
      1: Stupid
      2: Evil
      3: Pants-on-head-retarded

      Things would have been better if Cerberus was an organisation that was in the background in ME1, was actually doing pro-human things and taking an interest in fighting the reapers – as opposed to feeding people to Thresher Maws in the name of SCIENCE!.

      1. Veloxyll says:

        What’s worse is Cerberus are STILL THIS in ME2 – see the Reaper mission.

        1. They actually joke about it via the intercom in Overlord while you’re in the geth ship. It’s not like they’re unaware Cerberus is incompetent.

    2. RariowunIrskand says:

      I think the problem here is that if you HAVE to go make Shepard work with any organisation, it has to be an existent one. They have to have gigantic resources, and this would make them somewhat famous. I can just imagine Shamus ranting about “Why wasn’t Awesomeus even mentioned in ME1?”.
      Of course, the other option is have Shepard work with one organisation he was working with in ME1… You know, the Spectres? The awesome organisation of McCool? This would also avert one of the major plot-holes for me in ME2: “Ah, the Reapers. We have dismissed that claim”. Come on Council, a Reaper BLEW (HALF THE HUMAN FLEET/ THE PREVIOUS COUNCIL)UP!

      1. No it doesn’t have to be existant – They invented an entire species for ME2, I think one organization would be fine. It’d make sense for a secret Alliance black ops pro-human group to be unexplained in ME1.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Er, thing is, that WAS Cerberus at one point. That’s how they fed those marines to a Thresher Maw from Kahoku’s team. They planted the Alliance beacon.

          I personally would’ve wanted to work with the STG or the League of One.

          Actually, yes. League of One. Evil. Unknown. Referenced. Hidden. Presumed dead. Got betrayed by the Salarian government. Not stupid.

          THAT would’ve made ME2 be so much better.

    3. Ben says:

      They didn’t even have to make one up, they’d already talked about another humanity first organization in ME1, Terra Firma. Just cast them like Sinn Féin, a political organization with links to a paramilitary/terrorist group and you can poof half of the plot wholes in ME2 away. It wouldn’t even be hard, you could almost do a find and replace job on the script to get there,

      1. krellen says:

        Terra Firma would’ve been perfect. They even had pre-existing interest in Shepard as a symbol, when their representative asks for your endorsement on the Citadel. Furthermore, the lame lore they wrote to make Cerberus awesome tied Cerberus and Terra Firma together, so Cerberus could have been written off as the “rogue elements” of Terra Firma, still run by TIM.

        1. Bret says:

          Terra Firma would be even worse.

          They’re a minor political party. It’d be like (with no insult intended by the comparison, just size considerations) the tea party movement resurrecting cyborg Lincoln.

          Cerberus at least had money and a lot of supersoldier research in the bag. Terra Firma had… nothing.

          And I agree the ME2 main plot was utterly stupid, but with the side missions being some of the best stuff Bioware has ever done…

          Well, it all comes out in the wash.

          1. krellen says:

            The funding Cerberus has in ME2? A very large portion of it comes from Terra Firma, and the corporations that support Terra Firma.

            Terra Firma is “minor” in representation, not buying power (it’s only a few decades old, having been founded after Shanxi; it’s actually a very close mirror to the creation of the US Republican party).

  15. swimon says:

    I liked ME2 despite the moronic main quest thanks to the characters and their loyalty quests. That said one of the biggest failures of ME2 IMO is that it accomplishes nothing the game ends where it starts. My last desperate defense of the game was that it was about getting the team that can take out the reapers, the collectors being pretty much an afterthought. But now I hear that they’re going to reduce the squad size for ME3 (read it on the escapist but I couldn’t find the link when I looked) so I guess that argument is invalid now.

  16. silver says:

    Why do I always hear about good companies being bought out by publishers who ruin their products? Why are they for sale in the first place? I understand publicly traded companies can be vulnerable to involuntary takeover, but they’re also allowed to own enough of their own stock to prevent that. When I read about EA ruining Bioware I keep thinking “well, if you offered me $10 million to drop-kick my cat into the wall, guess what? I’m not taking it. No amount of money and power makes me feel good about hurting the innocent.” Similarly, no amount of money would make me feel good about destroying the products of my dreams.

    1. Raygereio says:

      For one you’re working under the assumption that the people working at BioWare also think of their recent games are awfull. Which might not be the case. It’s not like someone from EA walked up the BioWare writers and went: “I want Sheppard to work for Cerberus in ME2”. They came up with that on their own.

      Secondly. “Hurting the innocent?” What? Wrong anology there. I’m fairly certain that no cats were harmed when EA coughed up well over 600 million to buy BioWare and Pandemic.

      1. Rayen says:

        I saw no line saying “no animals were harmed in the agreement of this business deal”. therefore it is quite possible many many cats were harmed.

      2. silver says:

        I meant that destroying my own dreams has the same sense of “not for any price” that other things do. I don’t believe any innocents were actually hurt here, I just meant to emphasize how much I would consider never selling out. On the other hand, you’re right – maybe Bioware is blissfully unaware of what ME2’s “plot” did for the franchise.

        1. Raygereio says:

          I would consider never selling out

          You say that know. But we’ll talk again once someone came along and offerend hundreds of millions for your company. ^_O

          1. some random dood says:

            The Old Republic.
            I wonder if they realised that they were in over their heads when it came to finances, and had to get into bed with someone to be able to have the cash flow needed to make that one? Maybe someone who can handle company accounts type information would know whether BioWare were too exposed unless they had a buyer?

            1. Did they start working on The Old Republic before or after the EA buyout?

              1. some random dood says:

                Good question. Based on http://uk.gamespot.com/news/6180866/qanda-bioware-on-the-ea-buyout, I’d say that they had TOR in development at the time of the buyout. From that interview, it sounds like they realised how much they had bitten off, and needed more financing.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “It didn't even feel like a BioWare game.”

    Thats not really true.Neverwinter nights was basically like mass effect 2 in a fantasy world,many years ago.It was stupid and boring,but with very interesting henchmen,and its staying power is mainly due to aurora toolset.

    1. acronix says:

      That is assuming he thinks Neverwinter Nights felt like a Bioware game!

      1. The original campaign in NwN was mediocre, but I thought the two big expansions were great. I got a lot of mileage out of that game.

        1. krellen says:

          I think I got at least as much out of the many custom campaigns and scenarios folks made as out of what came from BioWare directly.

          1. I only ever found a couple of custom campaigns that I felt were worth the time, and even those were riddled with poor writing, typos, and awkward errors. I mostly enjoyed fooling around with trying out different character builds and so forth.

  18. Christopher M says:

    As a minor thought, I believe blowing up the relay would fail due to the concept that these are essentially giant cannons, as opposed to linked “warp gates.” Destroying the one on “our end” wouldn’t stop anyone (although it would stop the Collectors’ mission, they didn’t know that beforehand), and destroying the one on their end would be a literal suicide mission.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nope.The relays are connected,and you need both in order for them to function.It says so in the codex:


    2. I find it somewhat amusing that it appears the Reapers are on some kind of deadline, like the idea of it taking hundreds of years “at ftl speeds” for them to get to the next available mass relay is a *problem* for them. They’ve been sitting around on their butts for 50,000 years, at LEAST. Given that the only people who seem to have any kind of memory in the game are, apparently, humans, all the Reapers need to do is wait a few hundred years and everyone in the galaxy will have forgotten all about them. THEN they can launch their assault without all this stupid resistance.

      THAT would have been a great taunt. “Aww, look at the liddle organic trying to fight back. You do *know* we can just wait until your descendants descendants have died of old age.”

      The whole Reaper thing was pretty weak from the get-go, and it just keeps getting dumber the more they develop it. They really needed to put in some kind of major twist about what the Reapers are and what their real motivations are in order to avoid this kind of thing, but they didn’t. The Reapers have remained apparently consistent while the story falls apart around them.

      1. Wtrmute says:

        Well, technically, they could tarry too long and then face a galaxy with weapons rated strong enough to kill them dead, so there’s that. Considering the surmised exponential rate of technological improvement, they may actually have a tight window on this genocide thing.

        1. macil says:

          I like how a lot of Sci-Fi tends to ignore medical or biotech advancement in favor of pew-pew and boom-boom. All areas of science tend to advance along side each other.

          What is even more ironic in ME2 is Shepard’s reconstruction–which had to have some basis in “modern” medicine at the time–even a fraction of those techniques would be adding hundreds of years to human lifespans. Life expectancy in ME2 should be ridiculously high. Yet none of this is reflected in the lore. :P

          And cloning/brain-transplants would be trivial, allowing for a faux-immortality–barring legal legislation against it (but then you would have a black market for it.)

          1. All areas of science do not advance in lockstep. It depends a great deal on many other factors such as the relative profitability of investment in those different areas. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been a huge increase in the “relative profitability” of military R&D along with colonization. And keep in mind that Earth in the ME-verse has turned into a (basically) semi-socialist global government with various government monopolies being handed out to shady organizations. (Such as the one that ran the program Kaiden was a part of). It is a lot like the Soviet Union, which had a great deal of military advancement at the expense of pretty much every other area. Many of the colonies seem to be little more than ill-thought-out vanity projects that do little other than piss off humanity’s various neighbors.

            It is quite likely that without the discovery of Eezo technology on Mars followed by the Pluto Mass Relay and the subsequent war with the Turians (and shortly afterward an alliance with the Council and a massive influx of more-advanced alien technology), the humans would have completely imploded economically.

        2. This doesn’t mesh well with the Reapers’ conceit that organics are completely pathetic, however. Granted, it may just be a conceit, which would make them even more bumbling and pathetic than they are already.

          If the Reapers were *actually* intelligent, they would simply have maintained remote control over the Mass Effect Relay system, with the ability to turn off Relays at will and isolate systems. No matter how advanced the civilization, having transportation suddenly and finally cut off would cripple them militarily and economically. Then the Reapers could move in at their leisure.

          1. Alexander The 1st says:

            That was the Citadel’s purpose, outside of being a giant relay.

            1. I don’t recall that ever being spelled out.

              1. krellen says:

                It was (briefly) mentioned by Vigil that the Reapers seizing the Citadel gave them complete control over the Mass Relay system, as well as the Prothean census data.

      2. Avilan says:

        The deadline is connected to the Dark Energy Sun Killer thing. The Reapers are NOT responsible for this, but their “reaping” somehow STOPS this but they must do it before it’s too late.

  19. Ermel says:

    Shamus writes, “I'm so angry at this that I don't think it would be wise to tackle it until I've calmed down.”

    I don’t think so. Let it out! A good solid rant is fun to read when written well. That’s part of why I as a non-gamer read your stuff, anyway: you rant so well. :-)

    Yours, Ermel.

    1. Alexander The 1st says:

      Alternatively, break your word limit!

      1. Veloxyll says:

        I don’t see why this needs to be an either or decision.

    2. some random dood says:

      Rant please :-)
      Random stream of invective can be fun sometimes – unless all you are capable of writing is “Arrrrggghh!”. Multiple times. Only changing the font size. Occasionally. Maybe then it might be preferable to let the power of speech comes back before writing.

  20. Christoffer says:

    Having just watched all of arival I feel that ME2 and ME just got a whole lot worse. All in the short span of 30-40 min. The Reaper larva was bad. This is even worse! Soooo much stupidity it almost physically hurts.

    Also for anyone who want to see a really really detailed critic of ME2 check out this guy. Not agreeing with him completly but he does have a LOT of good points:

  21. Aelyn says:

    I really don’t know why I read your blog. I was quite happy with ME2 until you made me think about it. :)

    In all seriousness, I was able to enjoy ME2 despite the plot holes. I came away from DA2 really disappointed. Without giving anything away, in DA:O I felt like I was saving the world if I did it right. In DA2, halfway through the game I thought if I really played my cards right I might could get elected mayor of a city. The second half I felt my choices were largely irrelevant. It’s not like DA3 won’t have a version of events that is canon.

    I agree completely, Shamus, that these last two installments have been some of Bioware’s worst writing ever.

    1. I’m the opposite: I’m sick of this “saving the world” junk. And, seriously, at *best* in Origins, you were just preventing the destruction of the REST of Ferelden. There were HUNDREDS of other Wardens in other countries who were much better-equipped to fight an Archdemon than you were. Heck, the only reason you had to do it AT ALL was because a large number of people in Ferelden were MORONS with REALLY SCREWED UP PRIORITIES. Cleaning up someone else’s mess does not appeal to me.

      DA2, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Yeah, I didn’t have a lot of control over events, but so what? Who ever does? Other people have free will. It can be a bitch, but there you go. But I did have a fair bit of control over how my character reacted to those events (except in a few places, which was kind of dippy) and what my character chose to take away.

      Honors and accolades are fleeting things, dependent upon the random faulty judgment of other people. What ultimately matters is what kind of person you make yourself into.

      1. some random dood says:

        Interesting take – I’d like your opinion on Act 3 in DA2 if you could spare the time, please. From many other commenters that is the part that broke the story for them. How do you feel about it? [Basically looking for another opinion – so far I don’t think I’ll get the game, but another point of view might change that – when it comes down in price!]

        1. I don’t know if I could give you a useful opinion on Act 3 without giving you major spoilers. I know that a lot of people think that things in Act 3 just “went crazy” or “didn’t make sense”, but I didn’t really see this (and nobody ever gives REASONS for why they think X, Y, and Z didn’t make sense).

          I think the main problem was that Act 3 had a radically different TONE from the preceding acts and it was difficult to piece together how it arose from the earlier events in the game. The seeds of it were there, but they preceded directly from events in Act 1, and all the development in Act 2 might as well not have happened. In Act 3 Hawke ceases making a useful contribution to events, also. Although this trend gets started in Act 2–you’re only driving events in Act 1, when you’re a nobody–when you actually begin to get involved in the upper level politicking you start to lose input until you’re basically just chasing after crazy people at the end, trying to keep things from deteriorating even further.

          I found it an interesting rest from the often-typical game formula, where they start you off leading you by the nose as some sort of useless peon-person, and at the end you’re this all-powerful god who can solve anything with one wave of your magic wand. In DA2, at the beginning, you’re nobody, no one really cares much what you do. Later on, you have some nominal fame and it acts like a choke-chain.

          1. Johan says:

            Speaking personally I absolutely HATED act 3, but for a myriad of reasons, and not really to do with tone:

            1. I got tired of the tiresome combat by the time I hit the Deep Roads. It seems like they tried really hard to improve the weakest part of DA:O (the combat), and then were so proud they had to shove it in everywhere, mostly I could have just done with less. No amount of combat in this game is such that if it is done once, it can’t be done 3 or 4 more times. I still haven’t quite finished the game because it is just too PADDED. Right at the very end you get to meet face to face with your antagonist of choice and I was really hoping we would all duke it out right then and there, but no, they just say “I’m calling in my reinforcements, prepare yourself for the epic boss fight of ultimate destiny.” No, goodbye, I need to do something more interesting like study my Arabic. مع السلامة

            2. As you said, it felt to me like you ceased to have a meaningful contribution to the story, and that’s really where I lost interest. An option came up at the very end right before the final level to not pick a side, and I was REALLY hoping that would lead to a non-standard game over, because I was tired of being forced through the events that I largely felt left out of. Instead I was told “no, that isn’t an option, now pick.”

            3. The plot sort of ceased to make sense to me at some points in the 3rd act. In the very first scene I sided with one side, then afterwards I am sent somewhere to do something, and am attacked by the people I am supposedly supporting. After a few different missions like this I find their leader: “why do you keep attacking us!” he says, “don’t you agree with what we’re doing!” YES I DO BUT YOU KEEP ATTACKING ME. If there was an option to talk this out I would have taken it, but people are attacking me and then claiming it’s my fault!

            4. Characters. Overall the companions just seem to have a lot less to say, they won’t tell you much of their backstory like they would in previous Bioware titles, and most of the “talk to X” missions feel like little more than them saying “yeah, I’m still here for you, call me when you need me” without any sort of characterization occurring. By act 3 I had exhausted all conversations and it felt like almost nothing had been said. There were a few good ones here and their, but mostly it felt empty. The strongest point in any Bioware title, and it fell flat for me.

            1. some random dood says:

              Thanks for both your replies. I think I will get this to see fro myself what both sides say (but only after it becomes budget price ;-)

      2. Aelyn says:

        Honors and accolades are fleeting things, dependent upon the random faulty judgment of other people. What ultimately matters is what kind of person you make yourself into.

        Go play the Sims. Sounds like it’s right up your alley.

  22. Cybron says:

    I’d love to see your take on the Arrival DLC. I know I can spot plenty of idiocy just watching the LP you posted, and I’d love to see what a professional nitpicker likes yourself would have to say.

  23. Nick says:

    Looking forward to the inevitable rant on the subject – I watched through the linked series and I can spot glaring plot holes. And I haven’t even played ME2 (though I have read through Shamus’ articles on the subject) [spoilers below if you care]

    It broke the rules to enforce player capture, after which you could have shot the clearly possessed doctor several times. Why was the council or at least someone not informed of this research a long time ago? Why does only Shepard go to accomplish this mission – yes, the original mission was stealth but clearly the Normandy was nearby so why not grab some backup once on the ship.

    Although one may as well question as to why we only ever take two people around at once whilst the rest twiddle their thumbs – you would have thought that talking all your armoured badasses into extremely hostile situations would work out better…

    Anyway, now I’m rambling. Keep up the good work

    1. ehlijen says:

      A better question is why not take the STEALTH ship on the STEALTH mission where you are joined by thane and Kazumi, both of which are STEALTH characters?

      Ok I admit, I wanted to bring grunt and zaed just to be contrary…

  24. psivamp says:

    Some guy on the Escapist made his first post to rant about how you ‘completely ignored the plot of ME2’ in your criticism. Then half the responses were descriptions of how much you’ve written about ME2 here and that the original poster was mistaken.

  25. kanodin says:

    Just watched the arrival dlc, calling it now Shepard will blow up a relay to kill the reapers, probably in a big choice between homeworlds or the Citadel.

  26. X2-Eliah says:

    I’m sorry Shamus, but clearly you decided to hate the DLC even before watching the vid, since you disliked the main game so much. Ergo, nothing done in the DLC would have pleased you. Face it, dude – you’re just prejudiced against it because of the ‘DLC’ and ‘Bioware’ tags affiliated with it, and actively seeking out things to complain about. So essentially, you’re hardly even rational, and your complaints can’t have any merit.

    Okay, I kid, I kid >:]

    Now, on to the serious part of the post – Myeeeeah, I played through the Arrival, and frankly was pretty disappointed on the whole. For one, it made absolutely 0 sense when you did it before the final mission(s). Certain people have been screaming at me ‘Lol u nub why u didnt wait after teh ends?’ about that, and here’s why:

    a) The game gave the option for that. If the narrative/design is so weak it can’t hold up when started the wrong way, Then don’t friggin allow me to start the wrong way!;

    2) Nothing in-universe indicates that it is supposedly another ‘ultimate’ mission. Everyone else in game still refers that ‘you should clean up all loose ends before the suicide mission’. Arrival, on the other hand, is a note about a scientist doing some reaper research and going missing. It’s even give to you on an URGENT basis by the admiral himself! So why should one leave the ordeal for ‘after the final mission of the game’? It doesn’t make much sense even with meta-knowledge…;

    But still. You can do Arrival in mid-game or so, and its even more horrible and nonsensical than if you do it after the suicide mission. Even discounting that, the DLC story/plot is thoroughly stupid, hamfisted and illogical, and pretty obviously an ‘oh shit, we don’t have a good starting point for ME3’ card made by the devs.

    Also.. I’ve been thinking for a while that Bioware doesn’t have (many) main story writers – they seem to focus on character writers a lot more (some of the writer interviews on Bioware’s forums on DA2 seem to support that), hence why things are often disjointed and the main story is never all that remarkable.. But on the other hand – who would write up a character like the scientist lady of Arrival anyway?

    1. Axle says:

      For me it seems that the weak main story is actually a good platform for DLCs. In this way you can add/remove characters/quests without affecting the main story too much (or at all).

      If you look at ME2 you can see that you can easily remove most of the characters and the story will not change a bit.

      In DA2 I think they took a step forward by not making a main story at all (which actually works fine until the final part of act 3).

      1. Cody211282 says:

        DA2 felt like 3 large DLCs smashed together to make a game that they could add more DLC on to, and the kicker is after all the bitching people did about how they didn’t want anymore weapon and appearance packs for DLC the first thing Bioware has out(not counting day one aka”on the disk” DLC) is a damn weapon/appearance pack, and 3 of them to boot. It’s almost like they don’t give a crap about the main game anymore and just want to sell it to you piece by piece via DLC and still charge you $60 for the “full” game you get on launch day.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason for the 18 month dev time was because they thought “ah hell we can just add DLC and finish it later”.

      2. There’s a main story in DA2, but they made a hash of connecting it together, that’s for sure. They (kinda) tied acts 1 and 3 together but Act 2 is just kind of floating in limbo. (And act 2 is my favorite.)

  27. Don'tKnowMyName says:

    You think that eagle thing is the best example of things that could have been different in LotR? There’s an even better alternative ending to it.

    I don’t think this is just a problem with Mass Effect 2, BioWare’s plot writing has almost always felt pretty weak. I don’t think I could make any points that haven’t been made before in that regard. What I’m worried about isn’t the quality, but with the way it’s hailed as they greatest writing there is, which I find confusing more than anything. I think it’s a case where reputation will affect perception more than the actual product, with people thinking that the word “BioWare” on the box will make the game be a certain way no matter how it actually turns out. It’s not something to be questioned or determined through experience, it simply is. When I saw people saying DA2 has an “epic” story, it really caused me to think that a BioWare writer could just sneeze on a piece of paper and the result of that would still be considered an engaging story and RPG of the year. That reputation is a big reason why we see idiotic defenses like “there’s a fanon explanation so it’s all fine.” There’s other examples of this kind of thing too. New Vegas isn’t actually much buggier than Fallout 3 was in its initial release, yet it’s still described as being almost unplayable because Obsidian made it. While I won’t say that Obsidian puts out the best-coded games there is, had another company made the exact same game, people wouldn’t make such a big deal about its bugginess. Had BioWare made it, anyone who gave it less than a 9.5 would be accused of being biased somehow. There’s other examples too.

    That’s my take on it, anyway.

  28. AngryPanda says:

    I get the impression that every time poor Shamus rants about something these days he worries about the backlash and nitpickers first. Don’t listen to Douchy McNitpick, the Internet will never agree with you. So rant away, give in to your anger, the dark side will make you strong. The Panda needs your rage!

    Uhm sorry. *wipes away drool*

    1. I don’t think Shamus worries about his detractors any more than anyone else who at least attempts to have REASONS for their ideas. He does what good essay-writers do: think of and address potential criticisms. If you don’t even think about why people might think you’re wrong, you won’t have a balanced viewpoint on ANYTHING.

  29. Veloxyll says:

    That was SO BAD

    SO BAD. It also shows why cutscenes and gameplay need to be put together again. Half the sequence could’ve been solved with a single bullet!

    Also – inconsistent Shepard is inconsistent. “I need to see your data before I even think of letting you blow up the relay.”

    Though the enemies suffer this too. Let’s bring Shepard, who has foiled Harbinger’s plans before (assuming you’re playing after the suicide mission) onto our ramming asteroid and then show him the Reaper indoctrinator then try to kill him while still on the asteroid. Rather than, you know, getting on board the fleet of shuttles and trying to kill him there with a whole “We have two days, we’re going to try to evacuate the system then blow it just before the Reapers arrive”. With the added benefit of Shepard being TRAPPED in a shuttle a safe distance from the doomasteroid. Which you can blow up using a reactor overload ANYHOW.

    1. I don’t understand why the scientists built the doomasteroid in the FIRST place. I mean, assume it takes some time for the reaper domination to complete. Okay. So . . . they would have gotten partway finished before Harbinger had enough control to stop them. So why did they FINISH their doomsday device and have it ALL READY TO GO? And if it was just that one scientist chick taken over, why were all those other dudes trying to kill you?

      When it got to the point where Dr. Kenson was talking about showing you the proof and telling you where you needed to go, I was thinking “you’re totally going to walk in the room and get trapped, then she’s going to give you some kind of mwahahahahaha! villain speech about how gullible you are.”

      To me, it would have been about a thousand times better if it had turned out that the REAPERS actually WANTED this mass relay destroyed–they were planning on using the explosion to power some kind of important reaction or something–and when they realized Shepard was coming due to their initial incomplete control over Dr. Kenson, they hastily concocted this plan whereby Shepard would be the one to actually blow up the relay (and get blamed for it) thus a.) accomplishing the Reaper’s goals AND b.) discrediting Shepard, while also c.) totally spreading a pack of disinformation to the defense forces who would think that the Reapers had been successfully headed off again, too-ra-li-too-ra-la.

      Edit: Or, they could have come up with the plan to yell for Shepard after the Baaterians grabbed Dr. Kenson and the Reapers realized their plan was about to go down in flames. That would have been great, also.

      Wouldn’t that have been awesome in a horribly awful way? Wouldn’t that have totally raised the Reaper’s villain stock-in-trade to blow up that whole system and kill hundreds of thousands of people, only to get a taunting message afterward from Harbinger saying “ha ha, you just totally did what we wanted you to do and NOW NOBODY WILL BELIEVE YOU YOU MASS-MUDERING SHITE!! HOPE YOU’RE PROUD OF YOURSELF!!!”

      It would even lay the grounds for the Baatarians to be really, seriously pissed off at Shepard later on. “Our squad was about to stop a Reaper plot and get the goods out of that scientist when you barged in, shot the place up, and actually went and fulfilled the Reaper’s goals for them?! YOU IDIOT!!!”

      But nooooooooo.

      1. krellen says:

        I’m still trying to understand why they had to script Shepard dying again. Shepard may be Space Jesus, but even Jesus only came back once.

        1. Did Shepard actually die? Or just get knocked out?

          I don’t get why they bothered trying to sedate Shepard. Just shoot him in the head a couple of times and dump him out an airlock.

          1. krellen says:

            Well, every other time Shepard gets shot to hell the game implies that you died, so I consider the scripted death-by-enemies that I saw in the videos Shamus linked to be the same thing.

            1. Irridium says:

              Nah, your just knocked out then. You then wake up later, in a room watched over by one medicine lady. You then hack a sentry-bot, kill her, and free yourself.

              Then you do a few more things. But I don’t feel like talking about it. Its better for my psyche.

            2. GTRichey says:

              The playthrough I watched Shepard didn’t die, but meaningless bar for Object Rho filled up and you were suddenly knocked out (I guess). The consequence of death shouldn’t have been altered here.

      2. Matt K says:

        I’m trying to figure out why Sheppard is so hated. I mean no witnesses so why not just say “Oh that Doctor lady went crazy and tried to crash an asteroid into a relay. I tried to stop her but couldn’t.” Hell, if they actually let you warn the Baterians then you could have come across a hero (more or less, I’m sure some people will believe you crashed that meteor your self).

        Then again that whole dlc didn’t make a damn bit of sense.

      3. Veloxyll says:

        That’s all it needed. Just a little bit of consistency in behaviours is all I ask. “Characeter x is doing this because they want to achieve goal y.”

  30. webrunner says:

    ME2 had problems. Not the least of which that the anti-organic alien super race secretly had a completely organic with organic ships and organic weapons army that they just decided not to use before.

    But.. I never had a problem with the “Shepard dies” part. It served a lot of story purposes:
    1. It allowed them to create a time skip and explain how Shepard was gone from it. They needed to get him away from his team for a year.
    2. It provided a “respec and redesign” explanation
    3. It put you in Cerberus’s hands right at the beginning.

    The reason there’s no real affect on Shepard is that that’s part of the point – Shepard gets blown up and wakes up a year later and everything’s different. She wakes up disoriented and in the hands of an enemy she now has a shared goal with, and full of mechanical parts. I thought, at least this part, was handled pretty well.

    1. RariowunIrskand says:

      Wait, you have an opinion other than that which Shamus has? And you actually argue it well? I…MUST…OBJECT!!!

      Whilst Shepard’s death as a device for plot (Timeskip, respec and redesign) works farely well, there are millions of better alternatives out there. Say, for instance, Shepard has spent two years tracking the Geth (Like what he’s supposed to be doing during the opening cutscene). In the process, he’s survived many battles, which have forced him to retrain himself (or train himself further, if you choose the same class from ME1). At one point he gets shot by a rocket in the face, which forces him to get a future face transplant (Which due to technology makes him undistinguishable from someone without a face transplant).

      This obviously doesn’t leave Shepard in Cerberus’s control, but since I think joining Cerberus is the worst plot point in ME2 (Apart from Giant Space Terminator), I’m not even going to try and put that in.

      I think the problem with Shepard’s death is that it’s unnecesarily dramatic. Shepard dies? No problem, he’s back up again. Sure it’s 2 years later, but that doesn’t matter. The Normandy gets blown up? No problem, you get a new one in about twenty minutes. Joker, Chakwas and the Normandy crew are gone and you’ll probably never find them again? No problem, they all signed up with a terrorist organization and are assigned to your crew by the purest coincidence.

    2. kanodin says:

      Shepard dying served a lot of story purposes for Bioware I agree, I just don’t think that makes it good writing. Good writing is not mercenary, it is not figuring out how to get your characters to the big setpieces you have built, and it is not then ignoring the implications of what you wrote for the rest of the story. Shepard’s death is a crutch used by bad writers that is discarded as soon as they are no longer hobbled by the baggage of ME1.

      The many flaws of Arrival seem to spring from this source as well, a sense that everything in it was done entirely to justify changes for the final game pervades it.

      I understand that games require unique ways of being written, but this constant perceived need to hit the reset button between games is doing great harm to the stories. Would putting you at level 1 in a sequel for no reason really do more damage than the knots writers are going through to depower characters?

    3. Irridium says:

      I hate to nitpick- ah who am I kidding? I love to nitpick. Shepard was out for 2 years.

  31. Dovius says:

    I fully agree with your opinions on Mass Effect.
    And I still like it.
    Hey, can’t stop myself from liking decent Action-RPG’s, especially since my mind works in such a way that the only way I find serious gaps in the game’s logic or story when someone else makes a mention of a gap, at which point my entire view of it crumbles in one huge moment of Fridge Horror/Logic.

  32. Dev Null says:

    “I liked Master of Orion II better than the original.”

    Ah, but did you like MoO III even better? Thats right, admit it; you’re just a hater.

    Oh wait; MoO III sucked. Nevermind.

    1. ehlijen says:

      I actually liked all three :P (two the most though).

      I was fun. II made it funner with better technology. III gave us exactly what it said on the tin; it’s just that no one really enjoys what interstellar ruleship really means as a job, ie numbers and paperwork.

      1. MadHiro says:

        The tin was fairly misleading. Especially if you followed its development at all.

        Imperial Focus Points. Oh, the Elephant.

        You will be missed.

  33. Littlefinger says:

    So, apparently the ME trilogy was

    the only trilogy in games. There have been games where there were three, but in terms of planning it out from the beginning, with a story that was meant to span three games, and actually finishing all three games ““ I don't know if that's ever been done before.” Which- well, I don't think I can prove him wrong.

    So there you have it. Bioware planned it out from the start. They really suck balls at planning then.

    Or are, you know, giving us the -unfortunate- usual marketing BS. Take your poison.

    also, from Bioware’s Olympic Romance Writing Team, this season will feature not only lukewarm heterosexual ‘romance’ but exiting, also lukewarm male on male action. How Maleshep’s going to explain this to Liara and Tali is going to be awesomely awkward.

    1. Axle says:

      He faced the inter-galactic counsel (or whatever they call it)!
      He faced a reaper!
      He even faced the dreadful collectors!!

      But can he face his own sexuality?

      Find out in the next chapter of MASS EFFECT!!
      (finding out may require a DLC purchase)

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I’ll be honest. I will most likely go for the gay romance no matter how hamfisted the thing will be simply because for me it’s still “omg! finally a gay option in games!” thing… the novelty may take a while to wear off after 20+ years of eyerolling and playing straight characters.

      That being said in my case Shepard will be explaining it to Liara and Jack… this… is gonna be awkward…

      Wait, scratch that, I’ll see who they try to force upon me. If it’s some dumbass I’ll be staying true to Jack.

      1. Matt K says:

        It’ll be a newly resurrected Kaiden so you’ll understand why I went with Lliara in the first game.

        1. Veloxyll says:

          Incorrect. The male romance will actually be TIM.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            I hate you both. Though it would make staying faithful to Jack that much easier.

            Ooh, I know. Harbinger! That explains this whole Shepard related obsession. Also they can just reuse some of the old voice files, put the “Does this hurt you?” taunt into a whole new perspective, and money saved…

            Seriously though, from the list I’ve seen this “James Vega” guy would be my main suspect… isn’t he somehow related to the books? I haven’t read those but I remember it being said that they might introduce a character that is somehow related to the books (a son of a protagonist from one or something?).

            Also on a serious note. What if I already had this thing covered in the Shadow Broker DLC? Me and Liara talked about it, she agreed that we’ve grown too far apart and that me and Jack had a good thing going. Will she suddenly grow amnesiac about this or will 3 check for triggers from DLCs as well?

  34. The Bard says:

    In fairness, a lot of posters on the Escapist also questioned Shamus’s mastery of the facts and his ability to be open minded when analyzing the game. I am one of those people.

    I have no problems with him spewing hate on Mass Effect 2, as it does nothing to change my opinion of it. But don’t call it a deconstruction when you’re not doing anything but hating on it. Plinkett actually looks at things from several different angles and really examines WHY it doesn’t make sense. He convinces you with his words.

    For all the amusement Shamus’s brings with this subject, all he’s doing is complaining about the things that don’t work for him. While that’s perfectly fine, “Shepard dies in the beginning and that’s a dumb way to start a story” isn’t a riveting piece of analysis. It’s a valid opinion, but don’t pretend you’re deconstructing the plot by listing your pet peeves.

    Also, I have to laugh at the “Read what I wrote when EA bought Bioware!” bit. I mean, c’mon, dude. If a person runs into a panther-infested jungle and you say “I predict they will be eaten by a panther!”, that does not make you prescient. It might earn you the title of Captain Obvious, though. ;)

    1. Shamus says:

      I am not “hating” Mass Effect 2. I am calling into question valid concerns. If I hated the game I wouldn’t care. If anything, I’m doing this out of love for the franchise as a whole.

      “I mean, c'mon, dude. If a person runs into a panther-infested jungle and you say “I predict they will be eaten by a panther!”, that does not make you prescient. It might earn you the title of Captain Obvious, though”

      Uhh… I SAID it wasn’t prescient? It was right there beside the link. In English, even.

      1. Max says:

        Yo Shamus, I mentioned this post on my blog. Its sort of tangential to the main point I was making, but its sort of related. Maybe check it out, if you aren’t too busy.

      2. The Bard says:

        Whether you want to call it questioning, hating, or pining for the good ol’ days, you can take your pick.  That’s not the part i have a problem with. My only sticking point is that you refer to it as deconstructive analysis when it isn’t.  You’re not analyzing things and honestly questioning them before deciding they don’t work.   You just say “they do this, and it’s stupid.”. You don’t even ponder a way in which they could work.  

        Am I being as nitpicky here as you are?  Absolutely.  But just because you are writing your criticisms of a game you otherwise loved into a laundry list, that does not make it analysis.

        As for the prescience, your exact quote was you “weren’t exactly prescient”. In hindsight I freely admit my frustration at your continued declaration that complaining = analysis led me to a different conclusion than the one I come to now.  I took it that you were saying you weren’t 100% prescient, but that some level of foresight was involved.

        Now you see what happens when we take things and make an assumption about them without FULL ANALYSIS?!?!  If only I pondered the other ways you could have meant that, I wouldn’t look so stupid right now.  

        Curse us and crush us!!!!!!

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          If only Shamus devoted a few months to write thousands of words about the subject,and play it on camera while commenting on various things.But instead he just calls the game stupid without any thought.

          Ok,joking aside,Shamus wrote tons and tons of things about the game,plus said even more things during the lets play of the game with the spoiler warning crew,and you berate him for not repeating all that on a different site?Just because you summarize your views with one sentence doesnt make your point any less valid.

          1. The Bard says:

            I will freely admit I only watched the first two episodes of Shamus’s ME2 playthrough. I couldn’t handle going past that. My memory of it was not objective or constructive, but I’ll grant you maybe it became that when I wasn’t watching.

            How much or how frequently he’s mentioned liking or disliking things isn’t my point. I’m simply saying that regardless of how much detail he puts into what it is he dislikes about ME2, he’s not really analyzing, but detailing his disdain. It’s not objective or trying to interpret from a neutral viewpoint. It’s very much in the “Rargh! This sucks!” line.

            Again, I have NO problem with that. I’m not one of those people that cares if Shamus likes ME2 or not. I don’t need to justify my love by getting his sign-in.

            I simply think it’s silly to say you’re analyzing or deconstructing something when that’s not really the case.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Because he did it before the episode here.He still repeated it in the mordin episode and the trap episode,and somewhat in other episodes.Yes most of it was just complaining,but the major plot holes,like the trap,were discussed with great detail.

              1. The Bard says:

                I’ll have to take your word for it, but I apologize if I’m a little skeptical. It isn’t often he critiques something he feels passionately about without the nerd rage goggles on.

                But hey, I couldn’t handle more than two episodes of the ME2 series, so I’m in no position to talk authoritatively here. It’s nothing personal against Shamus, but I don’t have the patience to watch somebody else play and complain about a game that I’ve already played, and if it’s a game I haven’t played, I want to watch without the commentary.

                So I can only comment on what I’ve read, which has been mostly destructive criticism with a smidgen of “it would suck less if…” sprinkled here and there.

                At the end of the day… it doesn’t really matter. I’m sure there are only a handful of OCD english majors like me who care about the proper nomenclature of Shamus’s criticism. =D

                1. MadHiro says:

                  What is the virtue of an objective response? Or constructive response, for that matter? ” Dear Bioware; make villains that are more intelligent than my beagle. The first step in this is defining their goals, and constructing a coherent method of achieving them. <3 Hiro."

                  Hey, I'm pointing them in the right direction. And yet, no point to it. In the current economic model it is as simple as money talks, quality matters only insomuch as it can be shackled to create more money for less and faster.

                  What matters is the truth.

  35. Dantian says:

    All of your complaints about Mass Effect 2 are valid… but I still enjoyed the hell out of it. It wasn’t a very deep experience, but I hadn’t set my expectations too high. I got it for free with Dragon Age 2, because Dragon Age 2 is so bad it can’t sell itself, and they have to package another game with it to push numbers up or the suits at EA will hit them with big sticks.

    That said, what -DOES- bother me is that you went way out of your way to bash Mass Effect 2, but haven’t said anything bad about Dragon Age 2. What gives? Dragon Age 2 suffers from every problem Mass Effect 2 had, and then about half a dozen more. Did The Escapist send you a memo informing you that you wouldn’t be saying anything nasty about Dragon Age 2, because they gave it a 100% and you might make them look like idiots?

    (No, I don’t think they actually did that.)

    Edit: Oh. Read above that you haven’t finished the game yet. Derp.

  36. JoCommando says:

    A bit off topic, but did anyone else get side tracked by the doctor’s voice?

    Whenever Little-Miss-I’m-a-Thrall was badgering from the P.A. system, I kept hearing the adviser from Evil Genius. Any second I was expecting to hear “Mission Accomplished. Check the Objectives screen for new mission objectives.”

    Welcome to my secret underground volcano asteroid lair, indeed.

  37. Etra488 says:

    I started writing down all problems with ME2. I got to 16 pages, front and back, of hand written notes. So I started typing them.

    I’m on page 17 and am not even halfway through my notes. As I type, I expand my ideas.

    Should I even bother finishing the project? I swear to god I’m not nit-picking, I’m asking real questions about the direction of the narrative and the worth of all these dangling elements that don’t serve a tangible purpose.

    1. The Bard says:

      If you’re attempting to be objective, I am all for it. I would LOVE to see it, and I absolutely mean that. A good discussion is absolutely worth having.

      I really don’t mean to knock Shamus, but if your comments are in his style, I think it would be less helpful, at least for me. Being told when you should think something is stupid isn’t as helpful or constructive in my mind as an as-objective-as-humans-are-capable-of discussion, especially if it can have the additional spin of how they could make the story work better in the future.

  38. Blackbird71 says:

    Shamus, I have yet to pick up any of the Mass Effect games, but your experience with them seems to parallel mine with the Harry Potter series: it may have started out well, but got worse as time went on, and no matter how many people insist on telling me how great it is, all I can see are gaping plot holes that make no sense and a quality of writing that leaves much to be desired and makes it feel like the final product was rushed out the door.

  39. Zanfib says:

    The following link is to an outline of an alternate universe ME2. It is what we might have gotten if bioware had put their best writers on the job.


  40. Making note of the following:

    1) It’s brain-dead obvious killing Shepard was for game design, not plot relevance.

    2) I’m figuring Kashley isn’t Kashley or yes, they have some serious plot-hole ‘splaining to do.

    3) The Council didn’t believe in reapers in the first game either and the Alliance has had to shove it’s resources into the Citadel.

    4) Yeah, I have NO idea why Bioware decided to call this completely different organization Cerberus.

    5) Miranda…was a bitch of the highest caliber and I wanted so much to smack that man-jaw right off her face.

  41. Adam says:

    Ok i read alot of these comments…not all but enough…and this is my view.

    Things I liked about ME2…
    1. The Shooting…to me much better system…just felt much more fluid.
    2. The suicide mission…Even though its pretty easy not to fail at…having a game where you “could” actually die at the end…is pretty decent.
    3. Tali…enough said.
    4. Jack….love the whole…bad beep…but scared little girl thing.
    5. Dying at the start….its just a very unique way to start a game..lol

    Things I hated about ME2….
    1. The characters…Jacob(especially)…Zaeed…In ME1 i hated Kaedan….couldnt let him die fast enough…..in 2…its Jacob. Jacob is nothing but Kaedan with a different look…both biotics…both soldiers…both are suppose to be your female LI…and i hate em! And playing a female I hate how my Shephard always seem to act all flirty with him even when I dont want her to. I hate his story…he’s boring…i just couldnt stand him and was begging for another Virmire to kill him. Zaeed…couldnt care less…just a hired merc…that you cant really interact with…like Kasume…but atleast the whole ninja thief thing is somewhat interesting. Miranda….great looking but kind of bland…but I can deal with her…
    2. Garrus….Now don’t get me wrong…i love garrus…but being a paragon in me1…he always tells you how your changing how he looks at things and how its not all about just getting the bad guy and blah blah blah…in 2…he’s even more like that then he was in one…felt like I had to teach him all over again.
    3. Probing…The mako was a bit…messed up…but it still worked…you atleast went somewhere and did something. Your not just staring at a ball with a crosshair on it waiting for a peak. They could have easily revamped it…gave you some cool unique locations to go to and it would have been great. Probing…in a so called fast paced game…was horribly tedious and felt more like work then fun. Unfortunately thats the first thing I heard about ME3…probing will be back…ugh.
    4. Armor….What happened to armor?? In ME1 everyone wore armor…it has kinetic barriers and shields…whatever…that was part of the armor…IN ME2…its like…armor…bah who needs that when I have a string that fits much better! They even say during the Thane loyalty quest…that your legal briefs dont have barriers…but yet Jacks string bra does?? Thought we were fighting a war…not americas next top model?!?
    5. Most of all…the lack of real inventory. Yes ME1 had a bit much in that department…could it have been cut down…yes…could they have had an option to have your squad auto equip the best stuff you have available…like the auto level up…yes…but not get rid of it all together!

    Oh and of course the guns…how is going from a weapon that will fire no matter what…that self discharges heat…to a weapon that could run out in the middle of a fight…that you need cartridges/bullets for…an improvement…or advancement. idk about you…but Id fire that scientist/engineer if he tried to sell me that load of bs.

    All in all…I felt like i was replaying part one…with better graphics and less depth. Did the same thing…gather people…do special side quests for em…and fight the big bad guy/group. Having to make people…yet again…believe the reapers were coming…

    Im just waiting for three…Shephard will be in front of the council saying…”the reapers are coming!” …council will say…”bah thats just a myth”…Shephard: opens window “Is that a myth ?” council: “ummm…yep…thats just saren projecting a halogram from the grave to make you believe his lies!”

    Anyway…ill shut up now…I do love both games…they are definitely in my top 5…but some things just give me that…”What were they thinking?”…feeling

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