Mass Effect 3 EP20: Unfair Nitpicking

  By Shamus   Oct 10, 2012   297 comments


Link (YouTube)

So Udina somehow contacted Cerberus to enact a plan that made no sense and could never work, even if Cerberus hadn’t stabbed him in the back, which he totally should have seen coming. Then Cerberus overcomes the Citadel defenses, gains control of the entire complex, and manages to do so in such a way that doesn’t leave any incriminating personnel or supply ships hovering around the place. You have a running battle then a car chase takes you to some other random location, and yet no matter where you go the place is filled with Cerberus mooks.

And then Kai Leng.

A good writer – like in Spec Ops – will make you feel like you were outsmarted, fooled, or out-maneuvered by your adversaries. A terrible writer will have his pet bad guy outsmart you by forcing you to be stupid. He’ll overpower you by taking away your powers and making you incompetent in a cutscene. The writers wanted to make Leng some sort of super-adversary, and their first plan was to bend the world and game mechanics to make him fit. Kai Leng has no personality, no world view, no history, no buildup, no connection to the setting, and no visible reason to oppose Shepard. What are the stakes for him? Why does he care? Why does he hate(?) Shepard so much? None of these things are established, because Kai Leng is an antagonist for the player, not for Shepard.

Yes, I know: “Indoctrinated”, the magical get-out-of-characterization-free card. Kai Leng is indoctrinated to some unspecified degree. Compare this to how Saren was portrayed. He was a complicated guy. I might pick at his plan, and not everything he did made perfect sense, but darned if we didn’t get a sense of who he was, what he wanted to accomplish, and why. Saren’s indoctrination was a tragic failing, a fall by a Turian who had more hubris than ability. Kail Leng’s indoctrination is a half-assed hand-wave offered to rebuff people like me who go around insisting characters need things like personality and motivation.

These are the things that BioWare fans love BioWare for: Characterization and world-building. Failing on these points is like a Mario game getting the platforming wrong.

The worst of all possible worlds is to combine BioWare style mechanics with Capcom style storytelling. At least in those games I’m not required to participate in the reason-destroying cutscenes. I can just go slack-jawed and wait for the stupidity to end so I can go back to the shooting.


A Hundred!A Hundred!2020202017There are more than 296 comments. But less than 298


  1. swenson says:

    There is one redeeming feature about the infuriatingness that Kai Leng is: you get to stab him in the gut later on. That was so very, very satisfying, both for Shepard and for myself.

    • Cody211282 says:

      As much as I hated him and everything he stood for gameplay wise I didn’t enjoy killing him. The problem is it’s not something the player does, it’s yet again another kill in a cinematic(were all of Kai Leng lies), and a kill that felt like the author wanted him dead on his terms, not on the players.

      Basically to me the Kai Leng fight might as well have one long cinematic because the player does absolutely nothing in it and contributes in no way what so ever.

      • Luhrsen says:

        I felt the same. “This is for (insert npc)!” Well it might have been meaningful except that in order to get to that point I had to be stupid multiple times against my will. My whole team plus an npc and still he gets away clean. Then I just sit down and show my back simply for some cutscene awesome because mr npc didn’t matter until that very second. Poor memory on my part? Riiiight.

        • PurePareidolia says:

          Whatever happened to “She’s pointing a gun at us surrounded by Geth, FIRE!” from ME1? That was a great dialogue option, and you get something similar on Therum, but it never shows up anywhere else in the subsequent two games. I wished Shepard had been able to say that so often in ME2/3.

      • ehlijen says:

        I agree with this. Forcing the player to sit through a fairly long for what it is, unskippable cutscene just so you can click or not click an interrupt to kill Leng after he should have been disintegrated/burnt to a cinder/flashfrozen and smashed in the actual battle was more of a final insult to the player as a contributor to the story than a reward for suffering through Leng’s BS.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          If I’d gotten to bludgeon Kai Leng into a red paste with his own Katana. With renegade interrupts left and right. Then killing Kai Leng might have been satisfying.

          What happens in game only adds to the frustration because its in that stupid cut scene. They got a movie in my 3rd-person shooter.

    • lurkey says:

      He does have a redeeming feature – he unifies fans of the series. I mean, some people like endings, some think plot’s not idiotic, but this guy? Everybody hates him.

      I wonder if there’s any other video game character hated as much, and I don’t mean good kind of hate, like you would hate, say, Johnny Irenicus or Conrad Marburg or even good ol’ Saren. There’s this dog that shows up to snigger at you in some duck shooting game, but my knowledge of hateful things about stops here.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Gary ****** ******* Oak?

        Nah – at least he *works* in the setting as a rival. And you can beat him. Often.

      • Lovecrafter says:

        Spearmarshal Kormir from Guild Wars: Nightfall and prince Rurik from the Prophecies campaign of the same game get a lot of hate from the fanbase. Kormir gets hated for being a completely useless protagonist character who isn’t even around for most of the game, yet manages to show up in time for the end and killsteals from the player, being awarded with godhood in the process. Rurik gets hate for behaving like Leeroy Jenkins in a series of infuriating escort missions, but at least he’s never rewarded for it.

        I’m eyeing the rest of my game collection, but I can’t think of anyone else right now.

        • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

          I actually didn’t mind either of those two. Rurik’s behavior both made sense for his character and I never found him that difficult to keep alive (and it did make for a nice change, to be rushing from battle to battle), while Kormir… I never really saw it as killstealing. I saw it more as a sort of sacrifice, since *someone* had to take those deific energies to avoid them destroying things, and it wouldn’t make sense for it to be the player character both in story and from a game mechanic sense.

          Saemon Havarian, from BG II, on the other hand… Man, screw that guy.

            • Lovecrafter says:

              “I am the only sane person in this universe!”

              The phrase muttered by every player character in every game made.

            • Stranger says:

              *sighs* Spoilers ahead. But as everyone else keeps talking about it, might as well . . .

              Honestly, people make Kormir out to be worse than she really was. From what I could tell, her actions set things in motion . . . which were in motion anyway? All she did was quicken the plan to free Abaddon, since Kahyet was already in Istan and poking around places.

              She disappears twice. Once during a battle she was leading (this WAS her position after all) when “suddenly, demons” and she was trying to rally the troops. She got knocked down and pinned while the player character and Dunkoro escaped with a fraction of the assault squad.

              Later, you do have a mission branch you can go onto where you break her out. (Note, this is a fun lil mission by the way.) She is stolen away by Abaddon’s servants due to being “marked” and thus vulnerable. (This reason for the mark and the implications of “you were affected by Abaddon” are made clear later, I recall.)

              When it comes down to the final push she appeals to the five Gods the humans worship and they pretty much say: “Oh no, we let mortals handle their own problems now. This is in your hands.” It’s not immediately clear if they mean the player character or Kormir, but in retrospect it’s clear they mean Kormir. When it comes to defeating Abaddon, it’s pretty much said *someone* has to stand in the position of the Sixth God . . . there can’t be an empty seat. Rather than push the player character into it, they put Kormir into it because she feels it’s her duty to sacrifice herself.

              If you stop and think, of course the writers can’t put the player character there. Any single-player game? Sure, it can be done no problem and roll end credits. An online game? Sure, everyone who beat the campaign is the God of Secrets and there are how many running around?

              Kormir has her moments of being shortsighted, one being her assault on Gandara. But she’s not a horrible character . . . nor is the writing junk. (It’s not awesome, mind you. Seldom will it be that.)

              Rurik . . . I got nothing, Prophecies really didn’t HAVE that good a writing team on the main quest, since PvE was at that point not the focus of the game. The story was weak, and only served to get you from point A to point B, and direct you to point C. The *lore* was good, mind you, but the active story?

              To be honest, it boggles me that everyone picks on Rurik and Kormir, but not Gwen or Togo. Two other NPCs in the other campaigns who are written as sort of the “anchor” for the plot . . . and yes, Gwen gets billing over Ogden and Vekk, because she has a deeper history than them. Still, cases could be made for Togo and Gwen being equally bad with better evidence and nobody does.

              • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

                I think the reason Gwen and Togo get a pass is because Gwen was a rather speculated character ever since Prophecies, while Togo was rather overshadowed by Mhenlo being quite a Ladies Man.

              • Lovecrafter says:

                Note: I’ve just written this whole thing and it occurs to me that my usage of “anchor” might differ from yours (hence you choosing Togo over Mhenlo). Whenever I say “anchor” in this wall of text, I mean the “official main character”, much like Trahearne in Guild Wars 2.

                I get your point regarding Kormir. The main issue here is that she contributes very little to the campaign you get to play as the player: After the initial alpha strike against against Varesh goes awry, she’s out of the picture until you bust her out, after which she disappears again until the endgame. All this time, you’re traveling and fighting alongside Koss, Dunoro, Melonni and others. When she does appear again at the end, she’s a non-action escort who sweeps in and mostly takes over (Dunkoro gets a last bit of screentime in one mission). She then goes on to reveal that she’s the one who sped Abaddon’s return, and then finally gets awarded godhood.
                My character, an immigrant from Ascalon, has at this point heroed her way through Kryta, Cantha and Elona, and killed liches, psychopomps and even a god. If you place those achievements next to Kormir’s it’s almost impossible to not feel shafted in those last cutscenes. As a player, I understand Kormir’s function and why the developers did it this way. As the voice of my character, I can only think about how she got immortality, worshipers and statues while all I got was a lousy weapon skin (of which I already had two equivalents from my previous exploits).

                On Togo: Slight correction: Mhenlo’s the anchor character from the Factions campaign, not Togo. Togo serves more as a mentor. Most of the complaints I’ve seen regarding these two fall in the same vein as Rurik: killable NPC’s who cause an instant “mission failed” should they bite the dust. It didn’t help that Factions’ difficulty level was all over the place, either. Apart from that, all I can remember about them is that they were pretty bland.

                On Gwen: Eye of the North has no single anchor character, rather each story segment has its own anchors: Gwen (and Pyre) in the Ebon Vanguard story, Jora in the Norn segment, Vekk in the Asura section, and Ogden in the few Dwarf parts. If anything, Ogden gets the most screentime overall, since he’s the one trying to bring all the factions together to take out the Destroyers. The reason why complaints about a single EotN character are not as vocal, is that most of them just don’t appear long enough to get on people’s nerves.
                Personally, I found Gwen annoying, but I didn’t mind it much since she hardly has any lines outside her segment and is paired against Pyre (whom I did like) for most of it.

                • Stranger says:

                  I use “anchor” to mean “this character is the NPC protagonist around whom the story is structured”. For Factions, Togo is the anchor, not Mhenlo . . . why? Mhenlo doesn’t help move the plot forward, Togo does. The Emperor is important, and a protagonist, but he is not the anchor because he is not there for MUCH of it and he is a means to a goal for the antagonist (Shiro the Betrayer).

                  Why is Mhenlo not the anchor for Factions? Because he’s nowhere to be seen for Shing Jea and for Factions-native characters he comes out of nowhere apparently. The spotlight isn’t on him, which is probably fortunate. (Note, he’s also bland by choice from what I’ve seen in other places . . . there’s a character there but you don’t get to see as much of it as you would if this was a single player game. If this was such, you’d probably have a chance to dialogue with all the NPC henchmen. For better or worse.)

                  On Gwen – I found her a severely broken spirit mending, but then I also played the follow up bits and pieces where she gets to figure out how to love another person and then get married. So, really, there’s a lot more to her in the POST-script of EOTN. And in the Bonus Missions you can play her escape from being a slave. All told, I liked the treatment of her more when the annoying bits (her temper going off quickly) get blunted and tempered once she meets Keiran.

                  (Who is another interesting character and probably the one I relate to the most since his personality is CLOSE to mine.)

                  On Nightfall, I came in as an Ascalonian as well. It’s probably best to come in from there since there is a greater presence of the torment ‘infection’ in Tyria rather than Cantha. From a game player perspective, I’m kind of glad we agree . . . and notably, she was a non-action escort because they *HAD NOT YET* done what they later did in EOTN (“I assist, and can be targeted and even killed. Are all enemies dead? Okay, NPC ally gets back up, continue escorting!”) . . . so I file that under “technical problems”.

                  From a story perspective, well, hard to say my character would or would not feel the same way. I didn’t get as much of a feel for them over Guild Wars 1’s campaigns as I do during Guild Wars 2. But the general way I played him was more shaped by how I behaved on guild outings. A ranger who was a trail guide and scout, and one who wasn’t after glory or accolades but to get things done by any means possible and with any tools at his disposal. So . . . I guess we had different character reactions? That’s okay, it’s good.

                  Regarding Trahearne? Well I haven’t finished my personal storyline yet but as another human ranger (descended from my GW1 character . . . somehow?) he shows up as a known ally to my mentor, and then takes over the dirty task of holding an unstable alliance together. I *do not* envy him this as if everything fails, it’ll be on his shoulders and not on mine.

                  . . . see, in the sequel it’s Destiny’s Edge I want to get their act together and grow up long enough to get to work saving the world. (And before someone responds, they’re supposed to be flawed characters with things to love/hate about them. For Logan, who I know the best from the time spent with him, the problem is his inability to decide between which oaths to honor. “The problem with oaths in the form ‘death before dishonor’ is that the world then becomes either the dead or the forsworn.”)

                  I’m not really wanting to hijack Shamus’ blog here. I could write long long discourses and discussions on this and how I see the story and characters.

                  (And I want to say, you’re not wrong or mistaken. I just feel these points are pushed to exaggeration all too much, and see it differently. I can see where you have your points, and accept them, without agreeing 100%.)

      • Joshua says:

        Sara Oakheart from LOTRO.

        • Even says:

          Well, at least she stops being a griefing escort NPC after a while and doesn’t steal the whole show in the end. I thought the last parts of her story with the final revelations and redemption were quite decent, especially with MMO standards.

      • Destrustor says:

        Reaver from Fable 2?
        I have a feeling Shamus would agree on this one.
        That guy was the king of douches.

      • Corpital says:

        How about Joanne Lynette, the first citizen of Vault City in Fallout2? Her character seemed to be designed for the sole purpose of hating everything you think, do and say (and every pill you took today).

        She is one of the very few characters I ever really hated and I couldn’t even kill her, because that would have just confirmed her opinion about me.

        • Grudgeal says:

          Seconded. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s played Fallout 2 and doesn’t have a negative attitude towards her.

          Of course, if Lynette really gets on your nerves you *do* have the option of killing her whenever, or for the less violent bypass her entirely thanks to McLure, wave this in her face (politely, of course), and then sell Vault City secrets to Bishop and leave the whole place to be annexed by the NCR.

        • ehlijen says:

          That last part actually sounds rather interestingly written, assuming you meant her opinon of you, the player character?

          • Corpital says:

            She…does not have a high opinion of people from the wastelands. She thinks everybody from there is more or less a savage, too stupid and/or lazy to build something as awesome as Vault City, where the national pastime is filing. Solving problems with violence is what she expects you to do and only her overwhelming superiority complex stops her from running away screaming after insulting the healily armed person over and over.
            If you do anything beside kissing her butt, she will throw you out of the city and you might get banned nevertheless if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Or, as Grudgeal said, you go to McLure and then laugh at her.

            • lurkey says:

              I’d say Lynette falls into that “good” hating category. She’s not a failed cool antagonist, sort of Henry Fonda to your Charles Bronson like they obviously aimed and superfabulouspectacularly failed with Kai Leng – she’s successful annoying, obstructive, self-important tiny bureaucrat. She was made to be hated and hoo boy does she succeed at that. :-)

              Simon Haevarian of BG2 seems to be closer case, though. Supposedly charming rogue, in reality obnoxious unkillable prick who by the order of holy railroad fools you twice and gets away with it. Yeah. :| However, lack of katana and ponytail still makes him cooler.

  2. Artur CalDazar says:

    I don’t think I can make it through this season.

  3. anaphysik says:

    “The worst of all possible worlds is to combine BioWare style mechanics with Capcom style storytelling.”

    That linky is not fair. Yesterday I happened to look at the Comics page here and decided to re-dig-up the strip used in the banner image for Stolen Pixels. And in doing so basically went through the entire archive of them on the Escapist. Which was a lot of fun, but *still!*
    Back in my day, we had to click through enormous archives to find the strip we wanted! *shakes cane in manner of old man* Both Previous and Next, and both ways were mined with cookies and redirects and ads and sharks and deadly laser beams and oh what was I talking about again…?

  4. Spammy says:

    Wait, what?

    Wait, what?

    Wait, what?

    When did they get Thermo-Optic camouflage in the ME universe?

    Why did Bioware suddenly add in uncool OMG NINJAS ARE TOTALLY AWESOME not-Spies?

    Why did the Asari and not the Turian go to stop Udina?

    Why did Kai Leng have a katana?

    Why did stabbing the tippy top of the car break it?

    • PurePareidolia says:

      I know Infiltrators have had thermoptic camo since at least ME2. Not sure about before that.

      I got nothing for the rest of those questions

    • Cody211282 says:

      Basically bioware went “Ninjas are cool right, well lets sove them in the game to the kids will love it! Quick techno-bable a reason for this guy using a sword in a universe were it makes no sense.”

    • Otters34 says:

      Because the asari are hotter, DUH.
      More seriously, they all should have charged him, the asari should have tossed him in the air, SOMETHING other than just standing while this guy tries to screw them all over.

      • guy says:

        Well, I’d assume it has to do with every Asari Matriarch being a powerful biotic, except that she doesn’t blast him off the platform when he draws the gun.

    • ehlijen says:

      Kasumi had some wierd ‘I call it claok, but really it’s a telelport’ ability in ME2.

      As for why the Asari? So the mean man could shove the poor woman and trigger all sorts of ‘he’s a bastard’ responses in the player. The only reason it was the Asari is because even these writers couldn’t figure out how to get the one(!) child in the game to be there.

    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

      Well, as far as stabbing the car, I think he stabbed it in the engine. Which actually seems perfectly reasonable to me.

      Unlike everything else in this episode.

      • ehlijen says:

        Until you realise that engines are fairly hard things to stab. And even if the sword and Leng are strong enough to do that, it would have made far more sense to stab the driver through the windscreen or to just shoot the car from your comfy seat in your own car.

        • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

          I’m willing to accept the sword/Leng, due to some kind of technobabble on it being not “just” a sword (monomolecular blade or something, I’m willing to make up a handwave unless they explicitly say it’s a normal steel sword) and all of Leng’s cybernetics.

          And as far as other actions making more sense… yeah, I’ve got nothing. It’s not the best tactical decision, but I’m willing to accept the mechanics of executing it as valid.

          • I think what’s at play is (warning: TV Tropes link) Katanas Are Just Better.

            Someone needs to put ME3 in the Video Games folder, there.

          • Ateius says:

            I’m not willing to accept the sword at all. We don’t use swords in combat situations now, I’m certainly not going to believe it’s suddenly viable again after another 300 years of competing firearms and armour development.

            It says very, very sad things about the deterioration of Bioware when their only idea (or at least, the one that got implemented) for a powerful rival was “Let’s make him a SPACE NINJA! With a KATANA because those can cut through ANYTHING!! THOUSAND FOLD SPACE HANZO STEEL!!!”

            And then he stabs a hovercar in the engine block, destroying the engine rather than his idiotic space sword.

            Oooooh, that’s good hatin’.

            • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

              We do see bayonets and knives in combat now, though. And given that Vanguards can teleport instantly into melee range, and there’s such things as cloaking devices and shields/barriers that can allow you to survive long enough to get there… I can accept it.

              Partially because I loved the melee button as a Vanguard, and if I could have picked up a Phantom’s sword and just used that for the entire game instead of my elbow, I totally would have.

              • Ateius says:

                We don’t use bayonets and knives as primary weapons, though. They’re last resort desperate hand-to-hand fighting measures that rarely see use because all the other ordnance is so advanced and powerful. They are in no way equivalent to carrying around a space-katana.

                The very existence of shields and, more importantly, personal body armour that can stop not only small-arms fire but a limited degree of heavy weaponry – the same properties that would allow a sword-user a slim chance of reaching a gunner alive – speaks against the utility of a bladed weapon. This is stuff designed to stop high-velocity impacts imparting considerable kinetic energy. What is your piddly little sword going to do against armour like that? Scratch the paint? At least the “omniblade” thing they put in for Shepard is literally made of energy. Kai Leng’s sword isn’t.

                • Thomas says:

                  Well apart from anything, your piddly sword isn’t going to trigger their armour, because they rely on it triggering at high velocity impacts in order to let the user do stuff like walk and use doors

                  • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

                    Ah, yes. The “Dune Excuse”.

                    Honestly though, even current body armour against bullets doesn’t help against mêlée weapons.

                    But, and this is what bugs me here, it would be far more practical to carry a knife. Or does he expect to end up fencing? Then also carry a gun. That gauntlet thing is just stupid.

                    About the sword itself: According to the wiki it’s apparently a ninja-to, which is even dumber than the katana.

                    • Thomas says:

                      Yeah it’s just stupid, I don’t even know why I was going down this line =D I was just about to martial up some arguments about Phantoms and then I realised I was trying to justify frickin’ Kai Leng’s appearance. It’s just bad

                    • Jeff says:

                      The funny thing about the Phantoms is that they’re greater threats with their ranged weapons than their swords.

                      Sure, their swords have instant-kill attacks, but they have to run up to you to do it, during which you’re basically killing them at range. Their ranged attacks though are so dang strong that they can kill a non-Shepard in 2-3 shots. Disarming them (and their swords can in fact be broken) is actually a very bad idea.

                  • Ateius says:

                    You can handwave the shields that way, but the armour itself is a physical object. Shepard is wearing it. Look. It’s got ceramic plates and armour and stuff all over it. It’s why you don’t instantly die when your barriers are down. So I repeat: Personal armour designed to stand up to high-velocity kinetic impact. Ridiculous space sword does what?

                    Also, as to modern armour vs. knives: The light ballistic vests worn by police officers won’t do much to stop a really determined stab, no, but military-grade body armour can be quite effective depending on the materials used. Which isn’t a good comparison anyway, because unlike modern soldiers and police officers Shepard is prancing around in a hardened armoured shell more equivalent in design to full plate armour (which, incidentally, was notoriously stab-proof), just made with future-materials and having glowy bits.

        • Given that the cars are flying vehicles that lack seat belts, I’d say easily-stabbed engines are par for the course.

          • Mike S. says:

            While I don’t think it’s justified in-game, seat restraints seem to be well within the plausible capabilities of the dessert topping/floor wax that is the mass effect field.

            • From the Clerks animated series:

              Randal: “Ahh, the movie’s full of holes anyway. Like the lightsabers. They’re lasers, but when you turn ‘em on, they only go yay high. How do they know when to stop?”
              Dante: “Uhhh….the Force?”
              Randal: “That’s your answer for everything.”

  5. Guildenstern says:

    While I’m typically the guy to jump in and say “this all would have been better if Karpyshyn was still on board”, I’ve also read Karpyshyn’s books in the ME universe, in which Kai Leng is introduced. He’s really not any better there. His only personality is “hates things, but mostly aliens”. Kai Leng has been, from the start, a boring roadblock in the guise of a space-ninja.

    Which reminds me how much I hate the fact that Mass Effect introduced space-ninjas. This isn’t Star Wars: swords do not belong here, at least not in anything resembling a combat environment.

    • Klay F. says:

      I’m not sure about this, but from what I’ve heard, Leng’s greatest act of villainy in the books is stealing Anderson cereal.

      If that is true, then it tells you all you need to know.

    • Trithne says:

      Swords do have a place of sorts in a space setting, provided that space setting features boarding actions and doesn’t feature interior hulls made of unobtanium that allow for reckless use of firearms during said boarding actions.

      • ehlijen says:

        Doesn’t have to be boarding actions. If you routinely face enemies that throw themselves at you in hand to hand combat even on open plains (husks (ME2+) and thorian creepers), then having a decent melee weapon for when you’re out of bullets is handy. But do the bullet thing first.

        • aldowyn says:

          That’s the idea behind the omniblade, basically. They could always make them, they just weren’t that useful until the reapers (and the husks) came.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not just against the husks.If barriers work like the ones from dune,then a slow moving blade should be able to penetrate them.So if you have a blade sharp enough to go through armor,it would be a much more deadly thing than a bullet in mass effect universe.

        • krellen says:

          You know, it was a pretty important point in ME1 that guns had evolved beyond the need for bullets. The blocks used for the “shavings” that the ME1 guns shot could last for days of continuous fire.

          • ehlijen says:

            But that never geled with the idea that the ammo could be modified. Poisonous? Sure, you could probably do that. But how do you make a polymer block that explosive rounds can be shaved off from?

            • krellen says:

              Potassium blocks. They explode because they touched water.

              • ehlijen says:

                If they’re big enough to cause an explosion that knocks a Krogan over, they’re not small enough to carry a sufficient amount for a day’s worth of shooting.

                • Adam F says:

                  Antimatter potassium

                • krellen says:

                  Fine. Move a step down the periodic table. How about Francium? That’ll blow up a city.

                  • Paul Spooner says:

                    The half-life is too short, but maybe you could have a block of long-lived heavy elements. I suggest Thorium. Then, right before you fire, use the mass-effect to induce alpha decay… you can do that right? Nuclear transmutation in a pistol? Sure, this is space opera.

                    Or gritty cover-based shooter. I guess it can be that instead.

                    • topazwolf says:

                      Half life doesn’t factor into explosively powerful chemical reactions of the Alkali metals (they have a tendency to explode when in contact with water).

                      Though I fear it is not quite as deadly as some videos would have you believe. (A Cesium explosion might be enough to to break glass or harm skin, but it won’t blow up a bathtub) Francium is incredibly rare (the amount in the Earth’s crust is measured in tens of grams) and hard to keep from being instantly oxidized, so I have little idea what a chunk of it might do when in contact with water.

                      It may be better to try to use some form of plastic explosive (though not a great idea since it may well explode under suboptimal field conditions while still in the gun) to create a suitable boom. Though honestly, bullets don’t really need to be explosive to do their job.

            • Ateius says:

              Pretty sure the idea was that equipping the relevant weapon mod (fire, ice, etc) was just adding in another component that would do SCIENCE to each polymer shaving in order to achieve the desired effect.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            Yeah, but then the Geth turned out to prove that treating your heat sinks like ammo was a good idea. Apparently.

            • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

              Wasn’t the logic there that the heatsinks were more effective (but had to be replaced), and so the guns could be more potent? Which would explain why enemies do less damage than Shepard does but never run out of ammo. But not why they drop heat sinks.

              • Even says:

                They used to drop them in ME2. The logic was that it would allow people to shoot more efficiently by having less downtime when they don’t need to wait for the gun to cool off. In practice the cooldown period was just replaced with lengthy reload animations which at least gameplay wise made the whole change pointless, unless they really just wanted an excuse to have an ammo count. There’s also the fact that you could pretty much overcome to whole cooling mechanic in ME1 by the endgame when you had the best mods and weapons. When you can keep firing an assault rifle for a good 15-20 seconds before reaching the critical heat levels the whole justification for the heatsink system falls apart.

                • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

                  Well, maybe the justification was that the assault rifle might be able to fire for less time, but it can fire bullets that penetrate better, or something like that.

                  • Even says:

                    http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Thermal_Clips#Small_Arms_2

                    “It was long thought that personal weapons had plateaued in performance, but the geth proved all theories wrong. Mathematically reviewing their combat logs, the geth found that in an age of kinetic barriers, most firefights were won by the side who could put the most rounds down-range the fastest. But combatants were forced to deliberately shoot slower to manage waste heat, or pause as their weapons vented.

                    To eliminate this inefficiency, the geth adopted detachable heat sinks known as thermal clips. While organic arms manufacturers were initially doubtful this would produce a net gain, a well-trained soldier can eject and swap thermal clips in under a second. Faced with superior enemy firepower, organic armies soon followed the geth’s lead, and today’s battlefields are littered with these thermal clips.”

                    That’s the whole justification in a nutshell. Just a stupid retcon for no obvious benefit to anyone. It must be more efficient because the Codex says so, fuck all evidence to the contrary. Story and gameplay segregation is one thing, but they never really offer anything where this would observably prove true.

                    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

                      It would have been nice if they had one “antique” gun you could find that still used the ME1 system… make it have unlimited ammo, but do *terrible* damage, just to show off that the change really was worth it.

                    • Wedge says:

                      Really? “Under a second?” Did nobody bother to tell Sheppard this? Because s/he sure as hell takes more than “under a” fucking “second” to reload.

                      It also *still* doesn’t make sense why these “heatsinks” act EXACTLY LIKE CLIPS. Shouldn’t the heatsink cool down between fights by itself, without being swapped out? Why do I have to constantly “pick up” heatsinks? Couldn’t I just have 1-2 backups, pull the one I’m using, put it in a holster to cool off, and put a cool one in, constantly cycling through the same heatsinks so I don’t run out?

                    • Mike S. says:

                      The best opportunity to show that off would have been Jacob’s loyalty mission. You’re looking for his dad on a planet that’s been isolated for a decade, so of course any weapons there should be the old type. (And there should be no heat sinks for you to scrounge except the ones you and your squad eject.)

                      A perfect opportunity to make Shepard’s existing guns cut through the local dangers like heavy weapons (until you run out of heat sinks), while the addled crewmen plink at you with weapons that never run out, but don’t even crease your shields.

                      If there must be more challenging combat, throw in some klixen, or have a final area that (because of Science!) shorts out your shields a la Haestrom.

                    • Luhrsen says:

                      @Ofermod

                      Actually there IS an antique gun you can pick up in ME3. It’s supposed to be prothean but works like the ME1 assault rifles.

                    • Klay F. says:

                      Yeah, this justification is the stupidest thing ever. With the Marksman ability for you pistol, you could effectively fire forever with an increased rate of fire without having to worry about overheating. I was matching the rate of fire of an assault rifle with my pistol in the later levels.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      But then, why turn it into an ammo system? You could still make the weapons have a cooldown, but instead make it so that using a Thermal Clip would reduce the heat on your weapon to 0.

                      Problem solved. You get your ammo and lore is maintained. Plus, people who are effective fighters won’t need ammo as much as people who spray and pray and an element of resource management is added.

                    • anaphysik says:

                      It is now my theory that the geth introduced thermal clips purely to troll organics into adopting such a horrible idea. You don’t see *them* running out of ammo any time, now do you?

                    • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

                      @Wedge Pretty much what I’ve been saying since the Spoiler Warning ME2 season. It would do the same thing mechanically as the magazine-system anyway, it would just remove the stupid heat sink collection part of gameplay.

                      @newdarkcloud That is an interesting idea. It still wouldn’t make much sense that the heat sinks can’t cool down when they’re not in the weapon, but at least there’s an interesting gameplay effect so it has some out-of-game justification.

                      @anaphysik Alas, if only the writers had the sense of humour and self-consciousness to pull that off.

            • El Quia says:

              Yeah, nevermind that the biggest advantage of the ME1 way of dealing with ammo means that soldiers do not need to carry lots and lots of clips of ammo on them, and still have to be conservative with shooting lest they ran out of it. So yeah, let’s forget this stupid logistic advantage just so we can FIRE FASTER (but not really).

              I sooooo hated the heat sink things in ME2… they were just a stupid contrivance to make the game more like a shooter. Because that’s what everyone loves about shooters: scavenging ammo. ¬¬

      • Ateius says:

        If the outer hull of your interstellar spaceship is so thin that small-arms fire can pierce it, you have far larger issues than boarding actions to worry about.

        • Alex says:

          It doesn’t need to be the outer hull. Shooting through inner walls is still bad, because you don’t necessarily want to be shooting whoever or whatever’s standing on the other side.

          • Ateius says:

            If the bulkheads around your sensitive/crucial starship equipment are thin enough that small-arms fire can pierce them … etc, etc.

            • guy says:

              … You have a spaceship that can actually get out of a gravity well.

              It takes a rather large quantity of metal to stop a modern military round, and that means mass. Spaceships have trouble with mass.

              • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

                In the case of the Mass Effect universe this wouldn’t really be a problem due the mass driver’s space magic, which can change the effective mass of things. Assuming I still remember that stuff correctly, since the last time I read up on that was when playing ME1 and that was before the Spoiler Warning season for it.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Yeah. I read the books. The books made he hate Kai Leng EVEN MORE!!!

      Of course, I said it before, and I’ll say it again, FUCK KAI LENG!!! The cast already went into the reasons though.

      On the flip side, Dishonored is out.

  6. Ohhhh man. It’s been a little while since I laughed THIS HARD during a Spoiler Warning episode.

    Yes. SCREW KAI-LENG, THAT HATEFUL BUGGER MARY SUE FINAL-FANTASY REJECT EMO VILLAIN! Thanks for listing all the reasons (including new ones I didn’t see) I hate him.

  7. Otters34 says:

    What is it with Mass Effect antagonists and their impenetrable shields that Shepard plinks at in cutscenes? They’re really annoying.

    Anyway, Kai Leng is staggeringly bad in just about every aspect, as you guys have gone over, the story that he is the prime mover of is ill-written, and the shots where Cmdr. Shepard holds up various guns as pistols is comedy gold.

    One thing I disagree with you guys on: he looks more like a Metal Gear Solid cyborg than a Final Fantasy villain to me.

    • Klay F. says:

      I think people say he looks like someone from Final Fantasy because he managed to sneak his way into Final Fantasy VII and nick Sephiroth’s coat. At least, thats what his stupid skirt reminds me of.

      • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

        I think it’s also that “Final Fantasy Villain” has become kind of the standard derogatory term for ridiculous-looking villains.

      • Destrustor says:

        I think he looks more like a really bad cosplay of Adam Jensen. Like he tried to emulate the look and the “feel” but went way over the top.
        Or maybe Bioware just looked at Jensen and went “I want a cyborg-ninja in my game too!” and “Let’s make him super-badass so he can top the awesome of Adam” and “Up yours, Eidos!”
        And everyone else shook their head in embarassment, but it was too awkward to tell them they’d had a terrible idea.

    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

      That’s… wow. That’s a good point. He would actually work rather well in a Metal Gear game. Except that he’d need to have a complex, needlessly tragic backstory and talk about it constantly.

      • Keeshhound says:

        Which would still be better characterization than he got here. Besides, they didn’t all talk about their back story constantly; The Fury had only a few lines, and one would fit Kai Leng perfectly!

        I CAME BACK FROM SPACE!

        • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

          Question of the day: Would Kai Leng, in fact, be LESS ridiculous if replaced by The Pain?

          I would argue that a man covered in bees would not be more out of place in the ME universe than Kai Leng.

          • gyfrmabrd says:

            @Ofermod: “I would argue that a man covered in bees would not be more out of place in the ME universe than Kai Leng.”

            Like the fantastic idea that is the collectors?

      • Otters34 says:

        In fact, I think one of the evil cyborg’s in the trailers for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance(for all those who don’t know, that really is what it’s called) looks a lot like Kai Leng, though with different-colored armor and no mask.

        I would love to be given some idea how someone becomes a crazy pseudo-ninja douchebag like that. Pretty sure that doesn’t happen naturally.

        • lasslisa says:

          Pretty sure I knew a guy in high school who had that as his desired career path.

          He couldn’t find anyone to job shadow so he went in to law instead, though.

    • SleepingDragon says:

      The plinking part is doubly annoying if your Shepard happens to be a biotic. By firing a pistol I’m probably doing the least effective thing combatwise I could. It was seriously irritating during the midair wrestling in Lair of the Shadow Broker but with Kai Leng it was just infuriating.

  8. PurePareidolia says:

    KAI LEEEENG!!!

    I freaking hate this guy more than the ending. When I first met him I stopped playing the game for like an hour just to rant about him to anyone who would listen. The ending didn’t even compare to how much I hate this guy. I mean, it’s bad, but I can at least ignore it – this guy’s the primary reason for most of the plot happenings over the course of the rest of the game.

  9. LazerBlade says:

    The question of why Cerberus is now attacking the citadel brings up a very important failing of this game(that gets worse at the end) that doesn’t seem to get mentioned much. This game brings up a ton of questions like it’s leading up to some kind of epic reveal: “Why is Cerberus doing what they are doing?” “Why bring the Citadel to earth?” “Why abduct people from London? What big thing is going on there anyway?” and then it does absolutely nothing with them. This could be a failed attempt at good lampshading, but it looks so much like they are just emulating a greater work. It’s like they are doing things for their own sake, not because it helps the game as a whole.

    And by the way, moving the citadel to earth and starting to abduct people and do something that makes shepherd say “Are they building a reaper in here?” makes perfect sense according to the ending that the writer for the previous games wrote. It makes me wonder how late it must have been that they decided to cram some of this in.

    • Thomas says:

      I thought they brought the citadel to earth because earth was their most fortified position and they could defend it better there?

      • LazerBlade says:

        That is a possible explanation, but in my two playthroughs I never noticed it given by the game. And then, you know, nowhere else in the hours and hours of time that I’ve spent watching and reading the ME lore present in the games have I ever seen that previously indicated. There is also no explanation for why earth is the reaper’s most defensible position.

        The game says that the reapers positioned the citadel over London and started beaming human matter up there. That does not seem like a choice made because the planet in question created an ideal defense scenario. According to the original ending the reapers needed to build a giant reaper from the entire human race in order to save the universe from dark matter. Humans, and only humans, were genetically diverse enough. That not only makes the first few minutes before the ending make more sense, but makes the entire borking second game make more sense.

        • Thomas says:

          Its still an absolutely stupid ending though. I’m glad they went for this one than that, because at least an inevitable conflict between synthetics and machines makes some sense in this world if not the ME universe, whereas the idea of using the ‘genetic diversity’ of special humans to make computers or giant spaceships is just about the most mindnumbing thing I’ve ever heard. Especially the human computer angle, it’s like saying your going to blend all blueprints for how to factory produce all the wristwatches of the world together and get a supercomputer out of it. And for it to be a good supercomputer you need to include a wide variety of really awful watches and really good watches otherwise it won’t be so good.

          Anyway here’s the cutscene where they explain why they moved the Citadel
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1dE9CEnCWc&feature=channel&list=UL
          ‘Now the Reapers will take control of it’
          ‘They already have. The Catalyst to Reaper controlled space’
          ‘Moved? To where?’
          ‘To the system you refer to as sol…The Reapers will now consolidate forces and protect the Catalyst at all costs.’

          So yeah, Earth was the first major system they attacked the one they have most control over and from where there forces spread out from (remember Bactarian space is next to earth, and all defences there were crushed at the beginning). They were working hard to make a human Reaper (which they do with every civilisation to ‘preserve’ them) and had invested a lot of troops and ships to the planets surface. It was the easiest place to defend, as opposed to say Thessia which they’d only just conquered, or the Bactarian planets where they had probably a low troop presence by now

          • LazerBlade says:

            Ah, the idea that the Reapers had the biggest current presence at earth never occurred to me. I guess the timing was just right so that they were done with the Batarians(and, BTW, did not harvest them yet) and had their forces already concentrated at earth. So the ending can be a lot less awful if we put our heads together and come up with reasons that it could have made sense. That is actually kind of the job of the writer though.

            I have seen that cutscene twice. It just says that they are going to earth and pooling themselves to defend it. It does not say anything about why they chose earth.

            And yes, neither ending makes scientific sense in the least. The entire universe was held together by space magic from the start though. ;)

            • Thomas says:

              It doesn’t say why earth in particular, but explains why they moved the crucible, Reaper controlled space, so it was a purely defensive thing as opposed to sucking up humans (in this version at least)

              I have to admit, the Batarians got absolutely shafted in ME3. It’s like no-one cares about the story on their worlds, we know they get made into Cannibals (that’s right right?) but as you said, it seems like the Reapers didn’t even bother processing them

          • some random dood says:

            That… that took fandom to new levels. Congratulations on even making an attempt to make sense of any of that! (Have to admit though it provides a nice contrast having someone attempt to support any of ME3 with all the rest of the hating going on. Can’t say I agree as the ME universe pretty much fell apart at ME2 for me, but good to see some support and a contrasting opinion.)

            • Thomas says:

              I’m a little worried it’s purely because I’m contrary (although in this particular case, this is just what I’d assumed happened on first playthrough, I was surprised watching that cutscene that it wasn’t more explicit. I guess I automatically filled in a blank)

              Anyway I’ve still got a lot of dislike for the game but it’s all on boring to discuss things like the art (gives me shivers whenever I think about it) and some of the emotional pacing

              • newdarkcloud says:

                But it once again raises the question of why didn’t the Reapers know where the Catalyst is since it directs and controls them.

                • Thomas says:

                  That cutscene makes it quite clear that the Reapers had no idea that the Citadel was the Catalyst, so the extended cut and it stupid plot holes can go screw itself and I will be happy with my imagined hybrid canon

                  • newdarkcloud says:

                    You can’t erase the Extended Cut anymore than I can erase the kid, the either version of the ending, Cerberus, Kai Leng, or the Crucible.

                    AS MUCH AS I REALLY WANT TO!!!!!

                    • Thomas says:

                      Guess what, you totally can. I can just play the game and… not have the extended cut happen. In fact it’s even better, I can install it and then have the pleasure of immediately uninstalling it when I want to take out some rage.

                      And because the original ending doesn’t contradict the Extended Cut, I can even have the cool things about the EC happen in my head without actually needing the EC. Lovin’ Life =D

  10. JPH says:

    Bioware has LARGE AMOUNTS OF ASSES.

  11. Carnadan says:

    I get the impression that Cerberus follows the Rutskarn school of assassination: Get hired to kill a small group of people, murder everyone in the building instead.

  12. swimon says:

    Kai Leng is easily the lowpoint of the series for me. Basically I think the whole idea of the character is wrong. He is supposed to be “cool” and a villain the player hates, which are both ideas I loathe.

    First making a character “cool” is so completely empty. It’s starting at the wrong end. Instead of making a complex character who becomes cool because he was well written and designed while having certain elements the player finds cool it’s an attempt to design and write the character to have said elements without really making him a character. It never works.

    Secondly making the players hate the villain is just a bad idea. As Rutskarn put it, making the player hate a character is easy (MUHAHAHA! I just erased your save state!). But a villain that we only hate is a very shallow villain. I get that if we hate the villain then stopping him motivates us but if that’s the only thing the villain does then it’s a shitty villain. Sovereign is probably the villain closest to being just hateable from ME1, there is nothing sympathetic or redeemable (seemingly) about sovereign. The difference between Sovereign and Kai Leng is that Sovereign is also scary, enigmatic and alien. He’s a symbol of our impotence and irrelevance the fact that we don’t understand him is a big point of the character, thematically the whole game is about humanity finding our place in the galaxy and Sovereign is our fear that we don’t have one. Kai Leng is just some shithead. All he is is a rival we’re supposed to hate and I don’t see what that adds to the narrative. Are we supposed to be motivated by him being a douche? Sure the galaxy might be at stake but I can’t find the motivation to do anything about it, now where is an evil version of Locke from FF6 when I need him.

    Just Yuck! My hatred for this character is beyond words, beyond what he deserves even. Somehow the game got a hold of my subconscious and poked right in the center of a mass of inarticulate hatred. So good job I guess? That was what they were going for right? Well good for them it made the game great for me too. I just love hating things!

    (I actually went back and played the original last week it still holds up. I would’ve expected the terrible sequels to have damaged it but to me it’s as good as always. I guess that’s the upside of them changing the tone so completely, it doesn’t feel like mass effect so it doesn’t feel like mass effect was ruined)

    • Mormegil says:

      Plus you should be able to just shoot Kai Leng (if the writers let you). Just walk up to him and pull the trigger. You can’t do that to Sovereign. And it makes sense why you can’t do that to Sovereign – it’s an alien robot the size of a dreadnought. No explanation is given as to why I can’t shoot Kai Leng. Particularly since he has magic powers that seem to activate in some battles that are absent in others. He makes no sense narratively or mechanically.

      • swimon says:

        Well you should be able to shoot him sure but I’m guessing he has shields so how effective would it really be? That’s actually something the later (I don’t remember it happening in ME1) games have problems with.

        Sometimes guns are as lethal as they are outside the game and sometimes they’re pretty harmless, bouncing off the shields. I don’t really have a problem with the fact that you can’t just shoot him (although I do think Shepard could try harder) but then if you can’t shoot him why can you shoot Udina. I mean Udina seems pretty stupid but you’d think some bodyguard would’ve told a council member to wear a shield just in case (ME2 clearly establishes that you can fit a shield generator in your pants or in a leather band over your boobs).

        That said I don’t think that’s what’s bad about Kai Leng. If he had worked as a character then that would just have been something mildly silly, hardly anything really damaging. It just becomes really visible now because of how awful the character is. You just want to kill him and get it over with.

        • Mormegil says:

          Agreed. Obvious mechanical inconsistencies (why does Kai Leng have a super shield the first time you fight him but not the last?) are a lot easier to ignore when you like the plot arc and dialogue around that character.

        • anaphysik says:

          “or in a leather band over your boobs”
          Well, technically Jack has barriers instead of shields.

        • Jeff says:

          None of his abilities help against a constant stream of Warp detonated by Push, which was how I killed him when I was finally allowed to.

          The fact that my AdeptShep plinked at his shield instead of exploding him all over the place RIGHT THROUGH SHIELDS, like I’d been doing all game, is very aggravating.

    • lasslisa says:

      Well, and if the PLAYER hates the villain they can ‘kill him’ forever by rage-quitting the game. Hatred for the villain from the player, translates easy into hatred for the villain’s designers.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I want to beat the villains. Kai Leng is annoying, stupid, and someone I feel nothing short of condescension for.

      Beating him isn’t fun. It’s not even cathartic.

  13. anaphysik says:

    Josh, you bastard! How could you not pardon Gabby and Ken?! You were sitting on that page for nearly a minute!

  14. Orophor says:

    Josh, you should have pardoned Ken and Gabby so they can get back to work in engineering. You were so close, hovering on the spectre console. *sigh*

    *edit* Ninja’ed by anaphysik

  15. Vect says:

    I still sorta believed that at the least they could have spent some time expositing a bit of Kai Leng. Since Anderson’s the one who’s dealt with him in the books, he could at least take time from doing whatever it is he’s doing and either call Shepard up/send her a message about the guy and some basic info of him.

    Leng himself comes off more as a serious annoyance rather than a serious threat in the game. He’s frustrating as hell, but not exactly the “Nemesis” of Shepard.

    • ehlijen says:

      Anderson does actually tell Shepard about Leng in the next major telephone convo. It’s mostly more ‘omg he’s so leet and dangerous’ gushing.

      • Thomas says:

        Plus in your messages Anderson does exactly what Vect suggests, he gives you a file on Kai Leng with his case history, backstory, previous missions, turning point, how he came to work with Cerberus etc.

        This part of the game is the absolute worst for using the codex incorrectly. They put their reasoning for Udina and Cerberus’ coup in a frickin’ codex entry. It makes me think they were building the level before they’d come up with a justification and decided to make the codex entry the justification (Bailey references it in his dialogue with you at the end) so they could insert it cheaply when they came up with one

    • aldowyn says:

      If he hadn’t had just been Villain Sue he might have been a decent counter to Shepard, but… everything with him in was just so hamfisted, it didn’t work at all.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The thing is, even in the books he has no motives. He was an N7 discharged without honor for killing a krogan in a bar fight. Then, he was recruited by Cerberus to be Kai Leng, space racist. There is no depth or intrigue to him. He’s just there to be a douche. He was a douche in Retribution and a bigger douche in ME3.

      It’s grating to see Karpyshyn write about how effortlessly Kai Leng can do a thousand push ups in 3 times gravity. That almost made me burn the book.

      • Thomas says:

        See that’s the one thing I like about his character(it fits into his TIM arc so I’m not counting that). It would have required them to be way way way more intelligent in it’s use than they could ever be but I found the idea that what makes Kai Leng suck despite his incredible combat abilities (we’re talking hypothetical game rater tn actual game here) is that the guy’s a complete douche. You have to position Kai Leng less as a rival and more as the sucky Shepard-Doll of the illusive man, who tries hard but utterly fails to match up to Shepard in anyway, but I like that image it creates in my head that what really matters between the two is that the one has lack of motivation and character no matter how hard he tries he’ll never come close to good enough.

        Can you see that? The words I’m using aren’t quite matching up to what I mean. I find the idea quite hard to vocalise

        • newdarkcloud says:

          I understand what you’re saying. However, they didn’t use that well at all. That had potential and could have worked, but then Bioware screwed it up far too badly. If you want Kai Leng to be ineffective due to his douchy nature, then make him ineffective. Don’t FETISHIZE him.

          This rival nonsense was completely dumb.

        • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

          You mean that Kai Leng would’ve been an interesting character if you removed the Villain Sue and then his remaining fault, no real motivation or characterisation, would’ve been a recognised fault in-story as well?

          That would’ve been interesting. Very hard to pull off well, but interesting.

  16. burningdragoon says:

    Semi-tangent:

    While I was at the Escapist Expo, I sat in on the Dragon Age anime movie thing they were showing. Dawn of the Seeker I think it’s called. It was… okay. Not completely terrible for most of it, but overall not that good. Until the end lead up anyway.

    There’s this part where a large group of templars are doing a thing and a a group of mages throw a surprise attack. They create a large flash, jump down from… somewhere and immediately start whipping up some killer spells, er… I mean, run into melee range and just whack away with their staves. No spells, just melee, and they win. Then a short time later, the mages have a Bad Guy in their custody and he starts running away and they just stand there watching. I literally shouted “You’re mages, just shoot him!” in the theater.

    Not being allowed to just shoot someone in a game cutscene generally doesn’t bug me too much, but that was just so bad.

  17. Deadyawn says:

    “Failing on these points is like a Mario game getting the platforming wrong.”

    Or, perhaps, like getting platforming wrong in a sonic game?

    Seriously though, Kai Leng was the absolute wrong kind of infuriating. Making him unstoppable through the use of cutscenes does nothing to impress us, especially when he’s such a pushover outside of them. Plus, random invulnerability powers seem like they’re something Shepard should get his/her hands becuase that sounds usefull.

    And really, Kai had the potential to be good if he’d had an established character and they rectified the aformentioned cutscene immunity. The idea of a rival like Saren had merit. The execution did not. Hell, all it would’ve taken was for him to be an impossibly poweful/tough adversary in a fight where you’re supposed to lose and bam, he is now less of a complete shithead seeing as how you lost fair and sqaure within gameplay.

    I notice that Bioware actually has a rather a long history of favoring their antagonists within cutscenes at least as far back as darth malak in Kotor where he runs away while fighting you (the game says you’re no match for him but the hitpoint tallies would like to contest that point) and even Saren in the fight on virmire where he escapes thanks to cutscene shenanigans.

    So as it turns out this is a problem we’ve been having for years with Bioware rather than something new like just about everything else wrong with this game (although I will admit this is a lot worse than either of the previous examples).

    • aldowyn says:

      Even the last fight it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s all his friggin’ mooks… I have issues with that fight.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Indeed. In any of Kai Leng’s boss fights he was a pushover. When he began to fight me in Thessia, I though “Bioware loves this character, so he’ll be a challange.” He himself is a total PUSHOVER!

        The problems were two-fold:
        a.) He cheats and smashes the ground to REGEN his shields like a reverse-Nova.
        b.) The gunship at the end. That he needs cutscene powers and a gunship to beat me signals that he’s a pathetic mook, not a rival.

        • Deadyawn says:

          Yup, but I’m sure we’ll get to that soon enough. Then we can all rage out at the bullshit together.

          • Thomas says:

            The fact that he’s so easy is maybe the worst of it. I don’t know why they didn’t have Kai Leng strong enough to actually beat you in the fight and then when he beats you, transition. Would that have irritated people more? I guess if you blow all your omnigel on the fight you’ll be more inclined to looking at it as the developer giving him cheating powers.

            Also you’d need to include an option where if you do by some miracle actually beat him the game gives you a little bonus, a interrupt of punching Kai Leng, a ton of credits, some war assets and then the cutscene has a Reaper destory the temple and Kai Leng lands luckily and runs off with the VI.

            I guess that would be pretty expensive to do. It would split the base nicely, because suddenly the hardcore players would be bigging up Kai Leng because they managed to beat him ‘Oh you think Kai Leng is cheap? I beat him first time. Without touching the controller’

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      If I remember correctly with the Saren fight on Virmire, however:

      When his HP fell to at least half, the cutscene interrupted.

      Where Kai Leng is annoying is with you being able to drop his shields to half,then *BAM!* Instant Helicopter gunfire cover…then he recovers. And you do it again…dropping his shields to half…lather, rinse, repeat.

      And yet again in the final fight…Just Kai Leng requires to get all his taunts out. I can’t force him out of the fight by just being that awesome.

      It’s no longer my power fantasy, it’s Kai Leng’s.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Saren gets a pass for 3 reasons.

        1.) Saren is interesting, and the conversation with Saren is interesting.
        2.) Saren’s ability to beat Shepard on the tower is consistent with the rest of the fight. He throws a Warp at Shepard, who has to dive out of the way and Saren uses the distraction to his advantage. Saren is smart.
        3.) Shepard get’s to cutscene-power-to-the-max him when Saren is distracted by Normandy flying overhead, and he punches Saren in the face. Shepard is smart. Prior to the dumbing down he got from Cerberus’s reconstruction work.

        • Gruhunchously says:

          Shepard pre-Cerberus; defeats Saren/convinces him to shoot himself, then instructs her squad members to “check to make sure he’s dead”.

          Shepard post-Cerberus; defeats Kai Leng, then leaves him lying on the floor while she and her squad members all turn their backs to him. They allow him to stand up and shuffle very slowly towards them, and despite his obvious panting and grunting, they do nothing.

    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

      My memory of the first Kai Leng fight? Him doing cartwheels repeatedly while I shot him in the face.

      The second one, at least there were all those mooks to distract me, but that first one… if he wasn’t invulnerable, he was doing cartwheels. Not exactly the most badass fighting style.

  18. Adam Rhodes says:

    The thing about Kai Leng is, he could have been a perfect rival for Shepard. Both were graduates of the N7 program, which only the best of the best are even considered for. Kai Leng has cybernetic enhancements rivaling, if not eclipsing, Shepard’s (that’s why he has that mask-thing (sort of like Jensen?)). Plus, Kai Leng once killed a Krogan with a knife. Keep in mind that Krogans have redundant everythings. But rather than displaying his skill (maybe actually let us fight the damn guy) Shepard just tards out for a few minutes.

    • Carnadan says:

      Killed a Krogan with a knife you say? That’s nothing! Shepard once killed multiple Krogan with her elbow.

    • Thomas says:

      I actually like that Kai Leng is a sucky rival to Shepard. BIG clarification, in that he lacks charisma and is basically a psychotic loser. It ties in well to his relationship with Kai Leng (I did like TIM facepalming at the end of this) and it makes the relation less about the rivalry, but also more about the fact Shepards greatest qualities aren’t that she can shoot stuff pretty well. It’s her leadership qualities and her driving character that placed her where she is, whereas Kai Leng was a whiney douche who had the combat skills but could never be anything but a pale shadow of Shepard because he didn’t have strength of character.

      But Kai Leng sucks for so many wrong reasons it’s impossible to pick up the reasons they meant him to suck amongst it. When you’ve got his laughable appearance, his cutscene immortality, the way he drives forward particuarly stupid bits of plots, his ridiculous combat mechanics and taunts… the nuance of his lack of charisma has been driven completely into the dust and obliterated by his much more glaring unintended flaws

  19. Alex F says:

    If the ending hadn’t created such a big fuss, Kai Leng would have. I played the game for the first time in August, after everything had kinda died down, and he took me completely by surprise. I tried really hard to like the game, but the fight with him on Thessia did me in. It killed all goodwill I had to have that stupid boss fight, which didn’t fit the mechanics of the game at all, then when I ‘won’, have him use his cutscene SUPER BADNESS AWESOMENESS MEGA EXTREME COOL powers and take the VI. Bringing up that strip made me think, and it really does seem like every scene with Kai Leng in it was outsourced to the Resident Evil 5 team.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And people say how everything but the ending in this game is great.*sigh*

    And really,first the crucible,then kai leng.Wasnt the point of the previous game to establish these things?Why are crucial elements of the plot being introduced in the final chapter?That is bad writing.

    Also,why wasnt kai leng the protagonist of mass effect 2?That way we would have an established character,his powers wouldve been explained,shepard would have no need to work for cerberus,then not work for cerberus,and kaidan(and the ashley bitch)would have no need for these stupid “But how can I trust you” speeches.True,cerberus attacking the citadel would still be idiotic,but one step at a time.And seeing how kai leng is just as much of an empty brick as shepard is in these games,you wouldnt even have to change anything in me2 for this to work.Heck,you could even get extra layers for the hate between the two(“You slept with liara?But I slept with liara!RAAGEE!”).

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      Er…Tali and Garrus much?

      In fact, the Femshep Garrus romance is kind of killed by ME2 with Kai Leng…

      On the other hand, it *seems* to work for everything else, as far as I can tell.

      • ehlijen says:

        Tali and Garrus were only in ME2 because shepard was. If ME2 had featured Kai Leng as the protagonist to show another view point, there’d have been no need to include any crewmates from ME1 as actual companies.

  21. Vect says:

    Kai Leng’s main problem is that he’s trying to be MGS4 Raiden in a setting inappropriate for that. It’s passable in Metal Gear, where there’s a lot of people with inexplicable powers (100+ year old sniper who’s also photogenic) in the midst of a pseudo-realistic military setting and game mechanics worked in as silly gags/explanations (Bandana/firing mechanism shaped like the infinity symbol gives you unlimited ammo). It’s how that setting’s always rolled.

    It’s a lot less excusable in Mass Effect. Like, it’d be more appropriate if his skillset was more like Thane: Good at sneaking around and knifing people. His big problem is still inducing Plot Stupidity on Shepard. Also, there should at least have been a chance where the player actually got to talk to him either as pre-battle banter (with a “Fuck this *Shoot* option always ready) or through comms so that you actually got to know him.

  22. krellen says:

    Josh, I have two pieces of advice:

    1) Shut up and play the game during fights.
    2) Don’t try to fist fight giant mecha.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      But I like hearing Josh talk.And seeing him die in different ways is funny.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Yah. A spectacular or hilarious death is better than a smooth easy victory any day. It’s one of the few reasons I’m all behind the whole “ragdoll physics” thing: better odds of comedy.

        • some random dood says:

          I’m usually amazed by how often Josh is talking, playing the game with a sliver of the health bar still existing, and still (mostly) winning! I think others have pointed out that Josh’s strategy isn’t always the best, but the casual way he still strings the moves together to come out on top is impressive. (I think either he or Shamus also pointed out that the playstyle is deliberate – all-out offence to provide the most entertainment – including the often hilarious demises.)

          • meyerkev says:

            I really wish they had kept “Elmo Mode” from ME2, where losing health would cause the big red blood bars to go in from the side of the screen, cutting off your view, even after the shields came back. That would be hilarious here.

            You can watch hilarious videos of ‘The Insane Blind Vanguard who charges Geth Primes on Insanity’ (not an actual name) all over Youtube.

    • Destrustor says:

      Hey it ended up working.
      What more do you want?

    • Jeff says:

      A Vanguard actually does very well punching mecha to death, with the appropriate build.

  23. Bryan says:

    …So on a mostly totally different topic, I’ve been playing Deus Ex (the original — also, drink!), obtained from GoG whenever it was on sale over whatever weekend it was (those sales are running together).

    Having never played it back when it was new (not sure why not, but most likely because I had no idea it existed :-( ), I am completely loving the soundtrack. The gameplay is pretty good too so far, but the soundtrack is way better. Up on par with Unreal’s soundtrack — and looking at wikipedia, suddenly I realize why. :-)

    (No, not whatever crazy soundtrack got streamed to Josh when Shamus tried to stream DX back at the start of the DX:HR season. Though I still find that particular bug funny. Almost looked like something was flipping bytes around in the video, and perhaps also in the audio.)

    Anyway, ME3…

  24. karthik says:

    Kai Leng is the worst antagonist ever, in any game I have played.

    Just thinking about this idiot sours my mood and raises my blood pressure. I’m not kidding, I actually get a headache and light vertigo.

    If only Bioware’s writing/plotting was uniformly bad or decent, it wouldn’t bother me so much. But this schizophrenic mess, I can’t handle it. It’s like they wanted to hit ever terrible video game cliche with this game. What the hell was Bioware thinking here?

    Is anyone else thoroughly disappointed by the debate over the ending when the problems with the series run SO MUCH deeper? Bioware’s writing issues are almost fractal, inconsistencies and asspulls within idiocies and deus ex machinas.

    • zob says:

      It was the scale. ME3 was horrendous in some, well most aspects. But most of it’s faults were contained in ME3. Ending retroactively gut punched ME1.

      • karthik says:

        I dunno, the tonal change in ME2, where rule-of-cool took over everything and the lore and internal consistency were jettisoned forcefully from an airlock marked the real disappointment to me. ME3 just seemed to take this new tone to its logical conclusion, and having been conditioned to have things thrown at me from nowhere (The shroud, Kai Leng, THE CRUCIBLE), Star Child was just another disjointed story element I figured some writer dreamed up thinking he was being oh so clever.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Is anyone else thoroughly disappointed by the debate over the ending when the problems with the series run SO MUCH deeper? ”

      Present.I was pretty infuriated by me2 already,and gave up on the series,but me3 still managed to piss me off,just by watching it,and looong before the ending was in sights.And yet people keep saying how everything else was perfect,and this game deserves 9/10.And that wouldnt bother me so much,but some of these people gave 9/10 to spec ops,and that…No wonder Im a misanthrope.

  25. Clint Olson says:

    > The writers wanted to make some Leng sort of super-adversary, and their fist plan was to bend the world and game mechanics to make him fit.

    “Fist plan” should probably be “first plan”.

  26. Raygereio says:

    Whelp, Kai Leng has already been ranted about. But what’s one more rant I say.

    This…thing right here is the worst thing Bioware has produced. Bioware being the lazy, hack writers that they are do love their telling over showing, but even this game’s attempts to tell you how badass Leng is supposed to be falls flat on its ass: In my playthrough Leng was beaten into submission by a terminally ill man barely able to breath, immediately after sad ill man winded himself by sprinting a significant distance.
    Literally all Leng does is alternate between acting smug and running away and yet still the game expects us to see as some sort of terrifying archvillain because he has magic plotpowers enabling him to turn Shep&crew into bumbling idiots during cutscenes. It is just ridiculous.

    Railroading in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. Being railroaded into stupidity is bad. The thing that get’s me the most is that Shep has no other option then to treat Leng like the serious threat that he isn’t. I would not be so frigging annoyed at this thing’s existence if we had the dialogue option to treat Leng like a joke.

    For those who don’t know. Kai Leng is actually a character introduced in the craptastic novels. While the whole silly cyber-ninja getup is something ME3 thought up, he was always a terrible character. His major claims to villainhood was stealing poor Anderson’s cereal and peeing in a vase.

    Also, I’ve brought this up before but seeing as we’ve had some more examples of it in this episode and it annoys the hell out of me:
    How in the sweet bloody hell does Bioware constantly screw up the weapon models and animations in cutscenes? Not just in ME3 but throught all ME games.
    I just don’t get it, it’s such an obvious oversight. It’s like they never bothered to properly fill in placeholders.

    • Wedge says:

      Wow, putting the content aside, that is some “awful” prose. And this is coming from someone who reads Star Wars EU books for *fun*.

      • Stranger says:

        By “Star Wars EU” you aren’t including Timothy Zahn in there, right? I always thought his stuff was among the top 25% of the books from the pile of stuff pumped out rapidly by dozens of authors. Some of them were not that good with the prose but at least were entertaining (Rogue Squadron novels). Some were . . . “WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?!” (Kevin J. Anderson).

        However, Zahn? I think he sat down with what limited material he had to work with when he wrote his first trilogy and came up with a consistent framework for why the plot would work, and supported it. He’s pretty good at that sort of thing, actually, if you read some of his other works. It’s only later after more EU canon and True Canon gets added that his books look weaker.

        . . . come to think of it, the whole Udina character reminds me a lot of Fey’la in construction. But not handled well.

  27. Rodyle says:

    The whole Kai Leng situation reminds me of the type of DM that, when an ambush is about to go south or some plot-important NPC is about to get hosed, tell the players they cannot do that because of some hitherto unheard of power. It feels like an ass-pull at first, but when you start thinking about it, what they’re actually doing is stifling creativity and punishing players for actually being clever.

  28. Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

    It’s remarkably convenient that Shepard jumped on the Council elevator right before they reached the floor where their escape car was waiting.

  29. Lame Duck says:

    I suppose at this point I should just accept that the story and gameplay have little to no relation to each other in this game, but “You’re bleeding. And I don’t think medi-gel is going to cover it.” What? Medi-gel hasn’t had any problem fixing literally every injury imaginable during gameplay.

  30. СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

    So Mess Effect 3 is more or less the polar opposite of Borderlands 2?

    • some random dood says:

      I think the game is actually called MAss Eff.. Oh. Carry on.

    • Mintskittle says:

      That’s it!!! I just figured out how Cerberus is able to do all these things they shouldn’t be able to. Cerberus paid a visit to Hyperion and picked up some New-U stations and digi-struct machines. That way, all the Cerberus soldiers you gun down just respawn, and the digi-struct machines just make gear out of thin air. Also, the New-U stations also act as teleporters, so troops can be wherever a station was set up.

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh,one thing that was drowned in this whole “fuck kai leng” business:
    How the hell does one have an elevator chase?Who the hell makes elevators that move at variable speeds?But then again,the citadel was built by reapers,and they are insane,so maybe thats the explanation.

    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

      Well, if you have express elevators vs local, then it might make a little more sense.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Actually that would just be stupid on another level:The council,the top people in this society,are evacuating via the regular elevator,while the assassins are using the express ones.

        But thankfully,that stupidity cannot work,because we see the elevators change speeds throughout this chase.

        • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

          Maybe there wasn’t an express elevator that stopped at the council’s floor or the floor where their escape car was, so they *had* to take the local?

          (Although it does make you wonder why the Council doesn’t have their own secret escape route).

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            “(Although it does make you wonder why the Council doesn’t have their own secret escape route).”

            But then you remember that they actually thought that sovereign was just a geth ship,and then you wonder no more.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Maybe Cerberus JUST SO HAPPENED to have a portable Mass Effect field generator on hand for the express purpose of speeding up elevators.

          Why not? They are capable of preparing for every other non-Shepard problem.

  32. Mike S. says:

    I’m no fan of Kai Leng as a character. But isn’t the whole “I’ll stand here in the open being intermittently invulnerable while you fight my minions, then monologue at you in a cutscene” thing the same tactic Benezia used in the first game? I seem to remember getting killed a number of times because I thought it made sense to try to take her down first. :-)

    In Lair of the Shadow Broker in ME2, it was split between the two main bosses: Tela Vasir had the good grace to at least go offscreen (somewhere?) when it was time to fight minions instead, while the Shadow Broker had the intermittent invulnerability (which could be pierced only by QTEs) but not the minions.

    (Arguably the good guys take advantage of the same tactic in the Long Walk section of the Suicide Mission, with the biotic bubble generator as the invulnerable one and Shepard+2 as their minions.)

    That all makes me wonder if it’s Kai Leng’s… less than compelling character and storyline that makes it harder to cut his admittedly annoying combat mechanics the same sort of slack. Gameplay vs. story, after all, has been a problem since at least the moment that no amount of damage on target could stop Saren at Virmire.

    (Not to mention the general uselessness of your stealth warship, e.g, to stop a terrorist from getting away in a spaceship in Bring Down the Sky.)

    • Thomas says:

      I think it’s probably less the combat mechanics (although they do suck) but the cutscene that joins them. It’s pretty much the oldest and most infamously bad videogame trope and when the combat mechanics actually work really well to reinforce the idiocy of that trope…

    • mdqp says:

      As far as I remember, you can kill her first, but you need to kill all the enemies before the cutscene starts, if I am not mistaken…

    • Wedge says:

      That was also one of the most annoying fights in the game, so…yeah. For that matter, Benezia isn’t all that much more interesting than Kai Leng. Seriously, does she have any characterization other than “I’m indoctrinated!” and “I’m Liara’s mom!”?

      • IFS says:

        Yes, she and some of her followers tried to steer saren onto a better path, but they didn’t realize that sovereign was in control of Saren not the other way around so they ended up indoctrinated and forced into doing exactly what they had tried to prevent. The only reason she doesn’t seem to have much character is because she recieves very little focus, especially compared to Saren, although she does highlight the tragic and horrible implications of indoctrination.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Benezia is an interesting one because her character is mostly off screen -but hear about her a lot. If you do Noveria last, she’s actually a fascinating villain. We hear about her early life and how she went away from Liara. Shaela tells about the tragic fall. The townspeople of Port Hanshan tell us about the domineering Asari, and then we finally meet the mad scientist.

        Just in time to realize she’s been brainwashed and is trying to claw her way out from the inside.

  33. guy says:

    Yeah, the tricky part is making the player hate the villain without them feeling like the villain has cheating plot powers. Especially you need to avoid cutscene stupidity powers. You fail if the player feels like the villain won because the writer said they would win.

    It’s probably tougher in video games than in any other sort of media. Because the player has some agency in video games, causing the player character to make a mistake will potentially offend them in a way that a movie character making a mistake would not. And if a villain manages to legitimately outmaneuver them, then the players may end up respecting the villain and being all, “this guy is evil, but he’s also incredibly awesome. I like this guy!” like Kane.

    But anyway, yeah, Kai Leng. He:
    1- comes completely out of nowhere, having made a very brief, non-speaking appearence in an earlier cutscene.
    2- causes Shepard to just stand there pointing her gun at him as hard as she can, when in gameplay I’d have smacked charge and pounded on the trigger the moment I saw someone pointing a gun at the councilor
    3- Kills someone we like (unless you failed to save the council and neither Thane nor Kirrhae show up)
    4- Somehow gets away despite Shepard having Charge
    5- Commits the cardinal sin of out-awesoming Shepard in a cutscene, because Shepard is supposed to be the most awesome person in the setting and should not lose an awesome contest to Emo Anime Jensen
    6- When we finally do get a bossfight with him, it’s not particularly interesting or difficult, and he’s not even the most difficult part of his own bossfight.
    7- Has my FemShep’s ponytail, which looks stupid on a guy. Yes I am petty.

    Three also ties into a bit of a setting consistancy complaint I have. ME medical tech is simply too awesome for me to accept someone who is still capable of speech and movement bleeding out while Shepard and her medigel stocks are right there.

    Six might almost be the worst. I could forgive much if he had a really awesome bossfight like the rogue spectre in the Lair of the Shadow Broker. But no, it’s moronic, easy, annoying, and of course in the first one he fiats victory in a cutscene (even though Shepard should have nailed him with a charge and negated it).

    And the Asari councilor being useless ticked me off too. Literally every Asari has biotic powers because Protheans. Now, maybe she’s not a Matriarch because a youngish councilor was picked for some reason, but she must be at least like three hundred. As a politician, she’s almost certainly no match for a commando, but pointing a pistol at her just produces no sense of threat because she’s got to have a kinetic barrier. My response, literally the first time I saw that, was, “Pointing a pistol at the Asari Councilor? Do you seriously expect that to accomplish *anything*?”

    Oh, yeah, Udina’s “plan”? He wanted to take the council fleet and just attack Earth with it. Which the other councilors didn’t want to do because it was idiotic. That could not have possibly worked.

    • Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

      You forgot that after he beats you in the cutscene after the fight, he sends you an email taunting you about how much of a loser you are. That was one of the things that made me hate him the most, and not in a good, “Jon Irenicus” kind of hating the villain.

  34. burningdragoon says:

    There’s one good thing about Kai Leng. If you’re mean to Miranda (or just don’t let her use your resources without telling what for, w/e) he ends up killing her during her mission.

  35. Thomas says:

    I really like Josh’ version of how this should of gone. Although I think there needed to be some sort of reasonable scale destruction, or another event where that occurred, because the Citadel being such a safe place and the game hub was really awful for the tone and feel of desperation and Reaper invasion. I think they got it right that it was this point in the game where the Citadel needed to be shook up and civilains needed to die and the rest of them had to recover and see daylight, but it needed to not be completely stupid

    EDIT (Also this is not a problem that would have been solved by the Reapers going for the citadel first, because then we’d have had a different hub world and we’d have had the same problem there. I guess it might have been more feasible to invade maybe though)

    • Mike S. says:

      I’m not sure the Citadel needed to be directly threatened. I think they were doing a really good job with the accumulation of refugees and the impact of mounting losses elsewhere.

      At some point, they could have started adding supply problems: the stores close (or demand ration credentials that only a Spectre can bypass). The water level on the Presidium drops as they scramble to meet demand. (They might dry up entirely, but ISTR that the pools are actually part of the recycling system.) Violence doesn’t come in the form of a serious threat to the Citadel (yet), but food riots (come up with a solution, Charm/Intimidate, or shoot frightened, displaced people), and/or indoctrinated agents among the refugees. (Which ties back into the way the Reapers are supposed to work.) The Citadel could start accumulating visual signs of being the worse for wear without the coup attempt. (Maybe there’s even mass violence against the Keepers, with unknown consequences, once, say, Jahleed and Chorban’s research suggests their connection to the Reapers to the public.)

      If they feel like taking a cue from history, they could do worse than read Steven Runciman’s book on the Fall of Constantinople. Like the Citadel, this was someplace that had spent a ridiculous amount of time invulnerable to direct assault, and had gone from the most powerful polity around to being barely able to communicate with its remaining possessions. And it was faced with the inexorable advance of an enemy that finally might have the power to overcome its defenses. Runciman does a great job of conjuring the combined sense of disbelief and inevitability as the city’s doom approaches that could have been mined for ideas for ME3.

      • Thomas says:

        I guess I can see that, but I always disliked the Citadel, it’s hard enough to get a sense of invasion as it was without having a place that felt so unthreatened as the Citadel. I ended up preferring it a lot more when there was some smoking ruins around the place (although it made for some funny dialogue and scenes of characters gazing peacefully at wrecked hovercars[what are they even called?])

        I can see the vibe you’re going for, but I just felt it was too much like I could dip my toe into the horror of war and then jump out if it was too cold. Refugees and a busy hospital didn’t sell the devestation to me (the refugee area wasn’t bad actually if I have to be honest, but you spend a lot of your citadel time by the Spectre office and the Presidium which gave no sign of war devestation)

        • Luhrsen says:

          I think the riots idea would have covered this.

          • Thomas says:

            Yeah you’re right, the riots and the violence against the Keepers are actually really nice ideas. I think Mike pretty much sorted that one out for Bioware =D

            • Thomas says:

              Actually I’m going to edit that. I didn’t read Mike S’s post properly the first time round and it was an awesome post full of good ideas and I didn’t give it the attention it deserves until you reminded me. And it deserves more respect than me covering myself with a supposed afterthought because that would have given the story crazy more depth than it has now and would teach Bioware to not hang things on sudden plot points and twists, but that excitment and engagement can come out of things that build up slowly and become more intricate and complicated as the game goes on

  36. IFS says:

    So has anyone here tried the new retaliation multiplayer dlc? It actually made a lot of improvements to the multiplayer, theres a new faction to fight (collectors), a new geth and a new cerberus unit, some of the maps have changed (in reactor you can close the reactor to vent it, which traps and kills anyone inside, and on firebase white they’ve added new hallways/stairs to allow players and enemies more ways to move about the map).

    Also they added jetpack turians and volus. Yes they added volus to the multiplayer, an adept and an engineer to be specific. Their inclusion is utterly ridiculous/hilarious but they actually play differently than the other races, they’re too short to take cover, they don’t have a melee, instead they turn invisible (light melee) or project a bubble shield (heavy melee).
    Also jetpack turians are awesome.

  37. Ateius says:

    Ah, the cutscene pistol. It’s just a labour-saving move by Bioware that’s been in the series since the first game. Rather than rigging the animations for every cutscene four times (once for each weapon type) all the cutscenes in ME1 showed Shepard with the pistol, since it was the only gun every class could use (well, put skillpoints in) and so no-one could complain about their biotic waving around a sniper rifle.

    What’s interesting is that I distinctly recall my gun of choice actually being reflected in some (but not all) of the ME2 cutscenes – I think the ones that triggered directly out of a combat situation, but it’s been a while. So they became willing to spare the expense, but could only detect the ‘right’ gun if the player was actively using it, perhaps?

    But now we’re into ME3, where you can actually choose what weapons you’re carrying around, and back to how they did it in the first game. What was initially something you could let slide as a concession to development costs becomes outright laughable as Shepard whips out a pistol she wasn’t even carrying specifically for a cutscene, after which time it disappears again.

    • El Quia says:

      I really remember the ME1 cutscenes differently… as in, everyone using an assault rifle. I can’t even begin to describe the times that I had to change both my and my companions orders as soon as the cutscene finishes.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well to be fair,it was only recently that max payne 3 cracked how to have your character hold the same weapon you were using in a cutscene,and even it doesnt do it perfectly.Its the hardest thing a game can do actually.

        • Irridium says:

          Actually it was cracked in 2004. Halo 2 showed the Master Chief/Arbiter in cutscenes holding the weapon you were using right before it.

        • Jeff says:

          No no, they figured it out, they just forget half the time.

          Half the time it’s the same pistol as the one I’m actually using, half the time it’s not. After my pistol-carrying AdeptShep kept pulling out an Avenger, I switched to match (because my immersion!). The squad-mates also tended to have a 50% chance of using their equipped assault rifle instead of the Avenger, which is just stupid. Also they sometimes pulled Avengers out when they can’t actually equip those, so the whole “default weapon everybody can use” falls out the window on that too.

    • Wedge says:

      ME2 was just as bad in this regard: several times in ME2 Sheppard pulled out an assault rifle even if she wasn’t carrying one. In fact, even if you DID have an assault rifle, the cutscene would show the *default assault rifle* model even if you were carrying a different rifle.

  38. Wraith says:

    On Capcom’s storytelling, I’ve been watching Let’s Plays of the new Resident Evil game. The storytelling still hasn’t improved (most of the time throughout I was like “What?” “Why?” “How?” and “WHAT? WHY? *gibbering*”). Also the closure for the characters was almost non-existent. There are still some really stupid “WHY ARE YOU NOT SHOOTING” moments for each character, but in general it’s miles better than RE5 was in that regard. HOWEVER, IMO the writing and voice acting has got a lot better, at least compared to earlier installments. There were some lines that by rights should have been Narmtastic (and would have been in any of the previous games) but weren’t because the VA delivery was decent or good (Personally, I think Chris Redfield’s VA did a great job this time). This isn’t saying the Narm isn’t there.

    The most blatant of which is when a character straight-up asks one of the villains (who has framed two other main characters for his crimes) if he is responsible for terrorism, and he FREAKING ADMITS IT WHEN THERE IS NO REASON FOR HIM TO DO SO. Another big thing of Narm for me (your mileage may vary) was that in general (though mostly in Leon’s campaign) there always seemed to be a convenient, out-of-control/idiot driver semi or fuel truck to crash into the protagonist’s vehicle/general area and explode.

    Still, there was some good stuff in there, visually and in the writing, that I did like. For one, Chris Redfield actually gets some character development. The end of Chris’s campaign, when Piers (whose arm has been ripped off) injects himself with C-Virus to save Chris (who is immobilized and being crushed by the boss) could have fallen through, but I felt it worked pretty well, as it was something we haven’t really seen before in the series (an ally injecting themselves with the virus) and it fit in with Chris’s campaign and general character arc (everyone on his team dying and Chris being disillusioned and shell-shocked by it). There is a visual reference to the Umbrella logo at the end of Leon’s campaign; it’s blatant and a little contrived, but I thought it was clever regardless.

    But for there being a few good parts, there’s still miles of bad storytelling (though I admit I have not watched the Jake Mueller campaign yet). The two primary offenders in this regard are the fact that the protagonists’ actions DO NOT drive the overarching plot that is going on, and that the protagonists (and by extension, the player) do not discover ANYTHING important about the overarching plot over the course of the game. Leon and Helena’s campaign is: Escape from Reskinned Raccoon City, then clear their names for being framed for the Reskinned Raccoon City incident by killing the bad guy. Chris and Piers’s campaign is: Kill the zombies, flashback, then chase down Clone!Ada on a personal vendetta from flashback, then save Jake and Sherry/destroy evil lab. From all appearances (like I said, haven’t watched it yet), Jake and Sherry’s campaign is: Run away, run away some more, escape from being captured. There’s also a fourth campaign, Ada’s, which I also haven’t watched. Maybe that one actually explains shit. Having Clone!Ada is pointless, she could be some random new character that’s not a clone of an existing character and nothing would change. Lastly, the overarching plot, the motivations of the villains, everything that matters, is apparently revealed in the GAME FILES, which are collected from shooting OPTIONAL COLLECTIBLES, and can only be accessed OUT OF GAME. Wut.

    • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

      I read “WHAT? WHY? *gibbering*” and I could think of was this:

      “You watch the video. It’s a Let’s Play of a Resident Evil game. Roll 1d10 for SAN loss.”

  39. Thomas says:

    I don’t know where to stick this, but I want to add that I assumed that Kai Leng was pretty much the only person the Cerberus side who wasn’t indoctrinated. I figured he was enough of a dick that he’d just do all this ridiculous stupid stuff because someone allowed him to do it. It just never crossed my mind that you’d need to indoctrinate KL to get him to act like a douche

    • newdarkcloud says:

      You probably don’t. But why bother even trying to give him a motive. Just slap some indoctrination and space racism on there. That’s all you need.

      • Thomas says:

        I don’t even really have space racism in my head. I’ve gone and split this convo against two posts by not reading ahead here but when I played the game I didn’t have a motivation hole with him. I felt I understood why, I just can’t quite explain the reason

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Really!? I honestly find that quite surprising. I guess a motive isn’t strictly necessary, but it would be a good idea to see what kind of beliefs guide his thinking. Nobody just becomes a douchebag. It’s a learned behavior.

          • Thomas says:

            I guess I could think about this for a long time and not completely understand why I felt satisfied in that direction. I mean I wasn’t in some other land to everyone else (except frickin’ Wales!)when experiencing him. I was wondering why people were complaining about the ending when you have something this bad in your game and how all you guys were going to rip it to pieces.

            I think probably the thing here is, right from the start I looked at Kai Leng through the Illusive Man. It was all about being TIM’s manic Shepard doll(I kinda hope that my TIM gush rant implanted that doll comment in Shamus’ mind =D), so I was looking at him from another person’s motivation. To me Kai Leng was a spoilt child, who’d had too much power when he was young and enjoyed using it too much and as he’d grown up and got put to the head of all these missions he never learned to be controlled or have his place or that he couldn’t be this awesome plaything. So he never learnt responsibility for his actions because whenever he did a mission it was all about himself. If he was with someone else and they died, it just shows how pathetic and less awesome than Kai Leng they were.

            And then the Alliance kicked him out for that and he was in a default state where he just didn’t want to stop what he was doing and would sign up for the first person who would offer him that role. What else could he have done? He could’ve been a merc but that wouldn’t have enough status for Kai Leng and he couldn’t be an independent merc because he doesn’t have the temperament or organisational capability, what he wanted was a place where he could be cool, given things to do but still think of himself as the best of the best.

            Hmmm. I guess reading the books disadvantages you because I imagine they probably gave him a lot of different characterisation. But I’m a little surprised about how assured I feel about all that and how much it turns out I felt I knew about him. With the other Bioware charaters it’s easy enough, because Bioware were great character writers you know, but Kai Leng wasn’t written well I think. Maybe Bioware’s good characters set up confidence in my head that led me to subconsciously assume that everything was meant and all the characters were absolutely pinned down. I’m surprised, I feel like I could tell you how Kai Leng would eat his breakfast. He’s such a poser too, he’d never sit down and watch TV because that’s like admitting an outside source can provide something for him. But he wouldn’t commit to an effective training regime either because that takes too much mental discipline. He’d spend most of his time doing some really flashy training that was pretty ineffective but looked good and seemed impressive. He would definitely spend a lot of time cutting moving inanimate objects with his sword for instance (Kai Leng – Fruit Ninja =D )

            • newdarkcloud says:

              Honestly, the books only set him up to be even more of a bland douchebag.

              Oh, look. I can do 1000 push ups, sit ups, and pull ups in 3 times gravity.
              Oh, look. I can hilariously fail at covering my tracks on the world’s simplest abduction job.
              Oh, look. I got beaten by someone in the process of turning into a husk.
              Oh, look. I got beat up and chained by Anderson and his girlfriend.
              Oh, look. I got shot in the legs by Anderson and almost killed an (innocent) human biotic child.

              This is from the book I didn’t read:
              Oh, look. I can sneak into Anderson’s apartment and eat his cereal.
              Oh, look. I can piss in a vase.

              Oh, look. I’m completely fucking incompetent and incapable of doing my job. Even TIM in the third book expresses dissatisfaction of Leng and his performance.
              Really, he’s not badass at all. In fact, he’s laughably stupid. They talk about his “hunter instinct” but he never does anything with it other than watch other people and menacing glare at them from a distance. He isn’t even COMPARABLE to Shepard or Anderson in terms of anything: Combat prowess, intelligence, tactics, leadership, anything.

              • Thomas says:

                I have to admit, I’m quite glad I haven’t read the books.

                Also I don’t mind Kai Leng being inferior in intelligence, tactics or leadership, my picture of him pretty much relies on him being sort of too stupid to have the critical thinking to even consider self-reflection sort of thing. He needs good combat prowess to work though. Worse than Shepard because Shepard is practical whereas Kai Leng is too focused on flash and can’t get into a mindset where you do exactly what needs to be done, but good enough in physical ability that he’s able to coast through N7 training etc and make these people use him (at least for a little while) in spite of his lack of positive mental attributes.

                I think the idea with him that I have is he looks like Shepard if you squint but actually the reasons are completely different and totally inferior. Like TIM deluded himself in to believing that KL’s inability to see anything but from his own perspective and so aloofness and lone-wolf attitude for Shepard’s deterimination to do the right thing even if Shep has to go against the grain of everyone else. And KL’s talent showboating looks like Shepard’s ability to apply the exact force necessary to solve a problem, in a half-light, but when it comes down to it Shepard and Anderson’s combat ability is a completely different and more serious and scary thing.

                I’ve been thinking though, and my KL picture is definitely not what the game has written, whereas I believe my image of TIM ties well into what the writers actually intended, all this stuff about Anderson bigging him up as rival or a thorn in his side, it’s all nonsense, Anderson would recognise him as the piece of nothing that KL is and whilst he might be a nuisance that’s killed people and hindered operations, he would never be a real rival or threat to security, he’d never be good enough to be Anderson’s nemesis. He would be like what Cerberus are actually like in-game. An incompetent non-entity who still manages to show up and create hassle. A slightly evil Team Rocket

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  Which is why Kai Leng is almost universally reviled. No matter what lens you look at him from, he’s detrimental to the plot, progression, and overall story of Mass Effect 3.

                  The Shepard look-alike concept would have been interesting had they made him more that way and, y’know, wrote this game better.

                  • Thomas says:

                    It’s written into the game on TIM’s side which is what’s even weirder. Like in this cutscene he pretty much facepalms and shuts KL down. But from the KL side the game insists on telling you he’s completely awesome even thought he’s clearly not

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      Exactly. Every single person in the galaxy, even TIM, thinks that Kai Leng is a complete moron. TIM says in the books, I think, that he briefly considered getting rid of him if it weren’t for his ruthlessness and loyalty to Cerberus.

                      If you’re so incompetent you manage to piss TIM off while obediently following his orders, then you’re really stupid.

                      Shepard thinks he’s dumb. Anderson thinks he’s dumb. TIM thinks he’s dumb, but loyal and ruthless. It’s like the writers themselves didn’t understand the picture they painted.

                    • Thomas says:

                      Yeah this must be some weird production thing from working on a big project. It makes sense the TIM would keep him around and send him on these missions, because he’s going through Shepard withdrawal and projecting. But that only works as a storyline if it’s clear the stories aware that KLs ability was lacking. Surely the same person who decided the TIM stuff can’t have been writing the KL stuff. Or maybe two people left a meeting and the guy whose job it was to design KL’s cutscenes got completely the wrong end of the stick. Maybe he was a bit hungover that day or something.

                      Hey maybe that explains why the mechanics of KL’s boss fights make him look like such a wimp. Because the guy who designed the mechanics understood the KL sucks thing.

                      I still can’t believe that anyone would let the scene where Kai Leng takes out the hovercar into the game though, no matter how much they were confused about KL’s purpose. Even the working at cross-purposes thing doesn’t explain why the bad KL stuff fails so hard at making him a badass even when it’s clearly trying

  40. Jakale says:

    Anyone else find it amusing that they were basically giving Udina a Senator-to-Emperor Palpatine scheme there? Take out your rivals, allow yourself to be put in danger to alleviate suspicion, get saved by protagonist, make a speech to the gathered races, become dictator.

    Also, in the very first shot of Kai Leng, I didn’t realize his gender and his hair looked similar enough to our Shepard’s that I thought it was going to be an evil look-alike framing us and making our job that much harder.

  41. Ofermod (Formerly Keredis) says:

    I just thought of something: What takes Kai Leng so long to get to the elevator, that he reaches it only seconds before you do? His flying car doesn’t crash and force him to fight through a swarm of mooks. Is he just chilling behind that door watching Shepard fight and eating popcorn or something, so he can dramatically walk to the elevator at the last second? And why doesn’t Shepard just start mowing down everyone standing in the elevator instead of running towards it?

  42. Phantos says:

    Did the game ever explicitly state WHY Udina betrayed them? I can understand if he acted out of desperation or fear, maybe COMBINED with the idea of indoctrination. But I don’t think they even hand-waived it. I might be wrong.

    Do game developers just have this tick they can’t get rid of, where somebody HAS to betray the hero in their video game? As if the game won’t be fun or interesting unless that oddly specific thing happens, even if it doesn’t make sense?

    It’s almost as overused and desperate a twist as “The Girl Dies“.

    • Thomas says:

      This is all the game has to say about it
      http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Codex/The_Reaper_War#The_Cerberus_Coup
      It’s not particularly satisfactory, I would accept it as a valid reason, but when they decide to dump info that essential into a codex entry instead of making it part of the game something serious has gone wrong.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      The thing that irritates me the most about it is that they completely invalidated my choice of Councillor so that they could faff about for a hour or to and do nothing to drive the overarching plot forward, then introduce me to KAI LENG STUPID PIECE OF SHIT!!!

      This whole sequence could’ve easily been cut and the game would be better for it. Nothing was gained. Nobody profited. It did nothing. Kai Leng was already introduced by this point. There was no need for this.

    • Jeff says:

      It’s supposedly slightly foreshadowed in the initial conversations with Udina where (iirc) he implied he’d do anything to save Earth, and expressed dissatisfaction at the Council’s inaction.

  43. carrigon says:

    Ah Kai Leng, how I learned to hate you. I remember thinking in the battle where he kneels in the open and is invulnerable “Can’t wait to see what Spoiler Warning does with this fun little bit of business”. It’s a bad sign when a fan of the series is looking forward to someone blasting parts of it.

  44. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    So…

    You know what this means?

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II actually made more sense than Mass Effect, because they at least add the ACS module to explain how Russia got to the US without being detected, and provides No Russian to explain why the raid is being carried out.

    It remains a not-making-much-sense act on the part of the madman running Russia until MW3, but it makes more sense than Udina here does.

  45. Bertilak de Hautdesert says:

    This is a silly point, perhaps, given everything else wrong with Kai Leng (Fuck Kai Leng) enumerated above, but I couldn’t help but notice upon rewatching the first cutscene in which the misbegotten emo git appears that from the second action he takes he proves himself incompetent. He can land on the upper beam just fine, but then he has the salarian councilor in perfect Assassin’s Creed range to dive-stab (or just land on) him/her and fails. Like a doofus, he just jumps down to the floor, and is spared the ignominy of having to chase down his target only by the target’s cutscene-stupidity. Surely if Ezio Auditore can pull it off then Mary Sue GM-cheese-powered emo git Kai Leng (Fuck Kai Leng) should be able to use gravity to his advantage.

    Make the glass in the executor’s office bullet-proof (and biotic-resistant &c, which would actually make sense for the head of security at the center of galactic power) and let Kai Leng (FKL) divebomb the councilor properly, and suddenly he’s an ill-dressed but effective killer and possibly even intriguing recurring villain rather than an ill-dressed, arrogant boob who either gets schooled by an infirm drell, fails to recognize a cloaking ability he himself has and misses his target, or only manages to off an unarmed salarian after a minute of pointless (for an assassin meaning to silence a target) conversation.

    Personally, I think everything to do with Cerberus (Fuck Cerberus, too) after the original game is unconscionably stupid. Nothing done with Cerberus (FC) could not have been done better with some other group. Even inventing a new group would be superior to attributing anything positive or competent to Cerberus (FC). In some respects, Kai Leng (FKL) is simply a natural extension of this stupidity. In most respects, he is simply too much an abomination of bad art design, null characterization, and poor decision-making to spring naturally from anything.

  46. Paul Spooner says:

    When you mentioned “nightwing” I was briefly confused, and “I am the terror the flaps in the night” flitted through my mind. Then I was sad that your rant on the steady erosion of player agency was interrupted by a cut-scene introducing an ambassador of the same.

    I suspect the whole “taking over the council” plot line was inspired too much by SW:ep1 and Capture the flag, and too little by Machiavelli. A pity.

    Also, maybe they aren’t eye-holes over his eyebrows… maybe they are eyebrow-holes. You know, for his incredibly massive glowing magic eyebrows, and the source of all his powers. Makes as much sense as any of the rest of this stuff.

    • anaphysik says:

      “What about ‘eyebrows’?!”

      Amarao’s actually a really interesting part of FLCL. It’s easy to see him as superficially presented (that is, as the Butt Monkey, to add even more TvTropes pain), but pay closer attention and there’s a lot more going on with him.

  47. Scow2 says:

    Why do you keep complaining about Bailey recovering after taking a single bullet to the gut (Which was probably armored)? I don’t see any blood, so it’s possible the wound he sustained was merely a bruise (And he MIGHT be willpowering through a cracked rib, but might not even be that serious) through his body armor.

    After how many have been pumped into Shepard and Co, I’d exp

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