Mass Effect EP8: Oh Crap, a Popup

By Shamus
on Oct 5, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I know I’ve been kind to dear old Mass Effect this second time around, but this thing with the Mako magically appearing in the garage is bonkers. I can’t believe nobody took the time to justify or lampshade this. In fact, it kind of reminds me of Ye Olde Plot Door Rant, where there’s a pointlessly obstructionist NPC who controls access to a painfully contrived locked door. You have to do this long, roundabout quest to get the door open, and when it’s over you discover that the door lock only ever applied to you.

This could have been done better.

Also, when the VI pops up and says, “It looks like you’re trying to restore the facility”, it really makes me think of Clippy The Office Assistant. I never noticed it before, but now I can’t escape the notion that this must have been intentional.

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From the Archives:

  1. IFS says:

    The thing with the mako in the garage never really bugged me, but yeah a mention of having sent it to the garage for maintenance or something would have been nice.

    Also I’m not sure if anyone posted about this previously but you can skip past the whole corporate espionage thing by just accepting a smuggling job from a hanar and then turning the hanar over to Anoleis, which takes about 5 minutes tops to get you the access card.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      You can do that, or you can give Lorik’s evidence back and get his pass, help Parasini and get her pass, tell Anoleis about Parasini and steal his pass when they kill each other…

      Multiple solutions to a problem? In the Mass Effect series? Who knew! (I kid).

      • IFS says:

        I was just pointing out that solution because it is the fastest way to get through the quest, mostly as a counterpoint to Shamus comparing this quest to the plot door in NWN2.

        I wonder where all those alternate solutions went after me1? we ended up with at most two choices for any problem in 2 and 3, did cerberus remove shepards ability to make complex choices when they rebuilt him/her?

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Yeah, as plot doors went, this one didn’t bother me. There were multiple solutions (admittedly: Use more gun wasn’t one of them), the handwave was at least mostly plausible (Anoleis doesn’t like you, and may in fact be covering for Saren having been paid off), and anyway it doesn’t pad out the mission that long.

        • Aldowyn says:

          There’s 3 different ways (I think? That sounds right) to get through the door, and none of them take that long. As opposed to being half of the first act in quite a long game in NWN2.

        • Alex says:

          “…did cerberus remove shepards ability to make complex choices when they rebuilt him/her?”

          You’re not the only one who thought about that. Surgically removing Shepard’s ability to see through Cerberus bull would explain a few things about the second game.

          • anaphysik says:

            Exetera: ~”Did Auto-Level put all your points into ‘Believing Cerberus’ again?”

          • mdqp says:

            Would you believe I thought Miranda was lying when she said they didn’t implant a chip to control Shepard? It would have at least explained why Shepard acted the way he/she did…

            • Mike S. says:

              My (first) Shepard went to Anderson on the Citadel as soon as she had control of the Normandy. It’s not her fault nobody seemed inclined to either reinstate her or detain her as a suspected sleeper agent. (And either way stick those giant magnets on the new Normandy till they’d finished going over it with a microscanner.)

              • StashAugustine says:

                ME2 could have been a hundred times better with one conversation with Anderson or Hackett where he asks you to pass on any Cerberus data you get.

                • anaphysik says:

                  There is in fact a sidequest wherein you can pass along data to the Alliance instead of Cerberus. Of course, the sidequest makes it quite clear that said data will have no value within the obvious timespan of the games <_<

                  • Luhrsen says:

                    Actually I fully expected it to have an effect in the third game.

                    • anaphysik says:

                      Well, I *wanted* it to have an effect, just like I wanted whether or not you give a copy of the data from the Cerberus missions in ME1 to the Shadow Broker or not (per the late Kahoku’s apparent deal) (that decision, btw, isn’t even recorded in your save file! >[ I don’t know if that was a bug or just stupidity).

                      But Anderson does say “This intel will take years to decode” and even EDI says “It will take me a year or more to completely decrypt this information” (whether that’s meant to be her decoding it at full capacity or in her spare cycles, I don’t know).

                      You are right that it *should* have had some effect, though. I guess I was more cynical in what they’d do with it, especially after the Shadow Broker situation that I mentioned.

                      Really, though, something like that should have played a large role in ME2 (rather than being another (mostly) narratively-irrelevant sidequest), leading towards a Cerberus-allied path, Alliance-allied path, or just doing your own thing as a rogue cell.

  2. asterismW says:

    “Also, when the VI pops up and says, ‘It looks like you’re trying to restore the facility’, it really makes me think of Clippy The Office Assistant. I never noticed it before, but now I can’t escape the notion that this must have been intentional.”

    According to the Wikipedia article you linked, it was.

  3. LazerFX says:

    I just looked at it as a standard spec “tank”, so this place had one – it’s not the Mako off the ship, it’s just the one that happens to be there. There was a similar one at the other end of the garage, and I’m pretty sure one of the random planets had a burned out one on it.

    • Eathanu says:

      Same here. In fact, I had that thought so deeply ingrained that I hadn’t even noticed that it was in fact another Mako until I watched this episode the first time. If I recall correctly, there’s mention of providing transport for Shepard from Parasini as well, which would doubly explain driving the tank there.

    • Chargone says:


      it would hardly be the only bit of ‘military’ tech in use by random ‘civilians’ in the game, after all.

      • Mike S. says:

        And these aren’t very civilian civilians– they’re maintaining the peace (more or less) among a bunch of hostile corporations unrestrained by a state, and responsible for their own defense against all those ubiquitous pirates and mercenaries. (Not to mention whatever might come out of the labs– doesn’t Anoleis say that SOP for a location going out of control is basically nuking the site from orbit?)

        Tanks as such are sort of an odd choice. But the Mako seems to function as an APC a lot of the time, and that does make some sense.

  4. swenson says:

    I actually always assumed it was a different Mako. Surely Shepard’s not the only one who owns one?

    Mock Effect did the Clippit joke too, by the way. It’s him instead of Avina on the Citadel as well as on Noveria, and he refuses to speak to you unless all your Microsoft products are up to date. (Mock Effect being a parody script of Mass Effect. It’s very, very mean. And very, very hilarious, even if you like the game.)

    • swenson says:

      Oh, for the record, Tower of Hanoi is dead easy once you get the knack, which is why it’s used so frequently–it’s a strange enough puzzle to look like it’s legitimately difficult to the uninitiated, yet not so hard they can’t actually solve it. I’m pretty sure I could solve any size of one, if you give me a little time to remember the trick.

      Or I can just pull out the Tower of Hanoi-solving program I wrote for one of my programming classes and use that instead. :)

      • Mike S. says:

        Though if you were presented with the original (and probably apocryphal) form of the puzzle (64 golden discs, supposedly in a temple to Brahma), the value of “a little time” might have to be stretched a bit. :-)

        (Just as well, since the world’s supposed to end once that one is solved.)

      • Retsam says:

        Yeah, my favorite algorithm for the towers of hanoi is just to constantly keep going in the same direction, wrapping around, picking up a piece whenever possible (with the caveat of skipping over the largest piece, rather than picking it up), and dropping whenever possible. This is even the optimal solution.

        (The only trick is if you need to put it on a specific other post, you need to know whether to go left to right or right to left)

      • ehlijen says:

        That’s part of the problem. Once you figure out the trick, which can be done fairly quickly, you still have lot’s of busywork to do before the game let’s you progress. And heaven forbid you already know the answer and just want to fast forward through it but the interface is clumsy and the game insist of animating each step; that’s where the KOTOR version failed horribly.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    At least here you are doing just a 4 piece tower of hanoi and not a 10 piece one like in doctor who.

  6. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I have been wondering if this would have been a more effective level or less effective level if there hadn’t been any apparent enemies until after you turned the computer back on.

    Just bodies, KOTOR II style.

    • IFS says:

      I think that plus removing the name of the rachni from their health bar until after you learn what they are would have made the level much more effective. Although the radar thing could get annoying if you rely on it to find your way around, alternately the radar should fill up with red dots for the rachni running in the pipes, so you never know if you’re going to be attacked by enemies you know are there but can’t see.

      • StashAugustine says:

        We have a… negative situation here, sir.

      • anaphysik says:

        “rachni from their health bar”

        This is a place where playing on Casual *greatly* enhanced the story. I freaked out like a little baby and killed the rachni so fast that I never had a chance to see their health-bar-name-tags. So the later reveal that those were actual living rachni was quite the shock to me. (We get a picture of the rachni in the codex, but it’s from an angle and the rachni here move fast and stuff, so I didn’t put that together at the time. Also, I knew before playing the game that there was a Rachni Queen you had the choice to save or kill, but my initial thought was that she was the final boss or something. Boy was I wrong! So even expecting rachni in some form, I didn’t expect them here.)

      • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

        The original Alien vs. Predator game had something like that. When you played the marine in the story mode, at least in the beginning, the movement detector reacted to everything that moved.

        It was pretty effective, so it’s a pity they didn’t do what you suggested.

        • Alphadrop says:

          I once spent five minutes shooting a broken ceiling tube with a pulse rifle because it set of the scanner.
          Those were the days. Now I know I’ll be safe until the cut scene tells me a scary thing is nearby, it’s name and what it does on the weekends.

  7. newdarkcloud says:

    Shamus, now that we’ve gotten this far into both ME1 and ME3, maybe it is about tie you updated the Spoiler Warning page.

    The Mass Effect 3 section only has the first episode.
    The Mass Effect 1 section doesn’t point to the reposts.
    You’ve yet to put the rest of the Half-Life 2 episodes and the Modern Warfare 3 episodes.

    Just an FYI.

  8. Off Topic: This should amuse most folks here

    Gotta love some of Conan’s remarks, especially the chair “issue” he has.

    • Torsten says:

      That was great. Once in a while it is good to see how somebody smart but not familiar with games sees them.

      There were also a lot of good examples on how to screw up realism in games. Realistic setting is really less about how it looks and much more about how the world reacts to player actions.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wonder what he would say about spec ops.

      Or maybe something not that heavy,like I am alive.

      Damn,my taste in games is weird.

  9. Sumanai (Asimech) says:

    Was that a James Bond chord after solving the Towers of Hanoi puzzle? Granted, I haven’t seen any of them in ages, but that’s what it sounded like.

    I’ve whined before about this, but I hate the Circle Frogger’s time limit. A stupid artificial way of making it “challenging” when in fact it emphasises luck. And all it would’ve taken to mitigate it would’ve been to remove the time limit and add in a life system.

    If I ever get around to playing Mass Effect 1 again I’ll probably avoid all the Hacking I can just to avoid that minigame. Not that the Electronics one is better, but it’s often mandatory.

    • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

      The “hub room” thing with the “open a door in order to open a door so you can open the door you actually need” brings in my mind Hexen more than Myst. Combat, press a button / put a thing in a thing that then works like a button, combat, hub, new door, combat, press/put a thing, combat, hub etc.

      Also, it’s not a “train”. It’s a vertically challenged omnidirectional elevator with a limited horizontal movement.

    • StashAugustine says:

      That hacking minigame is just about my least favorite of all time. Way to short a time limit for what you needed to do.

      • Viktor says:

        Better than the console version, which was a QTE of apparently random length. I was so pissed at that the entire time I played, especially since I’m good enough at them that I never lost even the longest.

        • Brother Pain says:

          Unfortunately it wasn’t random, instead it depended on your level (and possibly difficulty) so at the beginning of the game you had manageble QTEs with 3 presses, later every lock/computer/door was 7 or even more presses.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      See, I miss the minigames. It made me feel like I was actually hacking the computers -even if it was just a glorified QTE. Now it just feels like a scavenger hunt (oh! Look! Computer, go click it and see what happens!)

  10. Mike S. says:

    BTW, is Mira the only named VI in the series that doesn’t have “vi” in its name? (Avina, Vigil, Victory…)

  11. MrGuy says:

    Is it just me, or is the level design of the first area after you reboot the mainframe (the one with all the vertical columns) errily reminiscent of the shootout in the submarine missile bay in The Hunt For Red October?

    And if you can’t recall that movie of that scene, well, get offa my lawn.

  12. Kdansky says:

    I’ve said it when it came out: Mass Effect 1 isn’t actually all that good. It has stale gameplay (shooting is not really good, driving is horrible), a plot full of holes, and very few interesting and sensible characters. Saren and Sovereign are the winners, with the rest of the cast between generic (most of the team) and idiotic (the Council). In the end, the villain is great, the universe is acceptable, and everything else only passes the very low standards set by AAA games and action movies. I have always firmly put it into “mediocre” category. The sequels were worse.

    I never understood why people were raving about it being so awesome. To me, Dragon Age 2 was less polished, but still superior.

  13. Sean H. says:

    The Novaria exterior environment is labeled “Level 1 Hazard”, which causes slow damage if you wander around outside the Mako. One of the (many) cool things lost when armor was abstracted out of subsequent ME games was the hazardous environment protection aspect of some armors. It was easy to miss, because environmental protection isn’t reflected in the stats for the armor, but it’s mentioned in the text description for each suit that has it. Armor with environmental protection usually had inferior combat protection, which presented an interesting choice when exploring hazardous planets – “do I want to ignore the DOT of the environment and take my chances if I get jumped?” That choice became a lot more relevant when I learned that fighting on foot gives 3X the xp of fighting in the Mako.

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