Mass Effect Retrospective 20: Now Hiring for Unknown Position

By Shamus
on Oct 29, 2015
Filed under:
Mass Effect

214 comments

We’re still playing Mass Effect 2. Still collecting team members. But let’s stop and talk about someone we’re not taking with us:

Liara

I`d go with you, Shepard, but it would take me several days just to get these gloves off.

I`d go with you, Shepard, but it would take me several days just to get these gloves off.

In Mass Effect 1, Liara was a shy, bookish, gentle, polite, socially awkward introvert who specialized in archaeology and geeked out over Prothean ruins. Then we bump into her here in Mass Effect 2 and she’s a tough-talking hard case with her own team of Asari commandos, and she runs some sort of cutthroat information business. That’s not “character growth”. That’s a complete re-write of her personality.

But even if we’re incredibly generous and pretend that this new Liara has simply been transformed by the events of the last two years, this character change feels completely unearned. In the last game she discovered a dire threat to the entire galaxy, killed her own mother, fought in several massive battles, and saved all of known space. It was a big deal and she had a little character growth in the process, but it was nothing compared to this jarring transformation that takes place entirely off-screen.

Worse, this change obliterated one of the most unique personalities in the game. The cast is packed with various flavors of badasses. We’ve got stoic, mercenary, philosophical, military, and berzerker badasses. Liara’s idealism and introversion made her unique. Her Prothean expertise and knowledge of history linked her to the overall plot of breaking a cycle that’s been repeating for longer than anyone knows. Now she’s just another swaggering biotic hardass with a gun.

And now we’re supposed to believe that not only does she have a completely new personality, but she’s changed to a completely unrelated career as an information broker? Somehow she’s even become “one of the best” information brokers on Illium, despite her ignoble backgroundPure-blood Asari are looked down on., lack of experienceBeing socially awkward would actually be a huge disadvantage in a job that involves so much interpersonal wheeling and dealing., lack of starting capitalThere’s a reason “rich like an archaeologist” isn’t a common rap lyric., limited time investmentTwo years is a short time for any career change, and she spent a lot of that time rescuing Shepard for Cerberus., and relative young ageShe’s only 100, on a planet of people who live to be 1,000..

Sure, it’s “possible” for this change to have happened in some fan-imagined side-story, but this is not how you handle characters in fiction. You don’t radically change their personality entirely off-screen, particularly not between works. Especially if it doesn’t even lead to some dramatic flashback, emotional payoff, or something else that serves the needs of the overall story. Especially not in a game that seems to be selling itself so hard on the characters.


Thane

Am I dramatically back-lit enough? Maybe a little to the left?

Am I dramatically back-lit enough? Maybe a little to the left?

Thane is a quiet, circumspect, philosophical assassin. He also highlights just how little sense it makes to run around the galaxy getting people to join a team to accomplish an unknown task. In reality, his recruitment conversation ought to go like this:

Thane: I would be honored to help you fight the collectors, Shepard. Who is my target?

Shepard: Pardon?

Thane: I’m assassin. I assume you need me to assassinate somebody?

Shepard: (Shrugs) Beats me. We have no idea what the collectors are like or how we’re going to stop them.

Thane: So why are you asking me to join you now?

Shepard: I dunno. The quest journal says to go get people to join. I figure it’ll all just work out somehow.

And Shepard is right. It does work out “somehow”. But unless your story is about having faith, or destiny, or fulfilling a prophesy, then this is not a good enough as a framework for player action.

You can have mystery elements in your story. The Consort on the Citadel has a soothsayer vibe about her. The Prothean visions in Mass Effect 1 were pretty fantastical. There was a terrified worker on Eden Prime that had a crazed hobo doomsayer thing going on. But those things weren’t our only source of guidance and motivation. They were things used to give our motivation emotional weight or give the dry technical stuff an air of mystery.

As people are always so eager to remind me, the writer can’t possibly explain and justify every possible action in the story. I agree. But when you have a plot element that intersects with player action, then you need to make sure it can survive them thinking about it. If the player stops to ask, “Why am I doing this and how does it advance my goal?” then there needs to be a good answer, and assuming you’re not doing something subversive and meta with player choice, that answer can’t be the author saying, “Trust me, it’ll make sense later.”

Thane, I know it`s a long shot, but do you have any experience assassinating building-sized terminator robots?

Thane, I know it`s a long shot, but do you have any experience assassinating building-sized terminator robots?

From Shepard’s perspective, it’s possible he might reach the Collector’s realm and find out what he really needs is a hundred engineers. Or a fleet. Or robots that can withstand extreme heat and radiation. Or a bunch of biotics. People even call the other end of the Omega-4 relay the “Collector Homeworld”. What would he have done if there was actually a planet of Collectors on the other end? Conquer it on foot with his 3-person squad? Shrug and apologize to the team and send everyone home?

“Oh geeze. What a waste of time gathering up all you people. Looks like I don’t need your help after all. Sorry! Let Joker know if we can drop you off somewhere.”

You spend a majority of the game rounding up people when you have no idea if their skills will be relevant or useful because you don’t know what the job entails. BioWare mostly got away with this because the characters we’re rounding up are so fun and interesting that we’re happy to have them on board, even if the in-universe explanation for this does not stand up to any level of scrutiny.

This is a game the writers have been playing throughout Mass Effect 2: Bullshit plots that don’t follow reason, but the audience goes along with it because we love the characters. It’s a trick that works right up until the end of the trilogy, when they take the characters away and all we’re left with is the last few threads of this quickly-unravelling world.

Samara

Oh look! Blue-bies!

Oh look! Blue-bies!

Samara is a fine concept for a character. Yes, “Fanatical Space Paladin” is extremely trope-ish, but this is BioWare we’re talking about. Tropes are in their DNA. Star Wars was assembled almost entirely from tropes, and it’s a beloved classic. Building atop tropes is not a sinAlthough some people fault BioWare for returning to a small handful of particular tropes again and again. But that’s another discussion..

Samara’s problem isn’t the character concept, it’s that nobody ever settled on a specific tone for her. Her character is pulled in several different directions as her super-serious demeanor is comically undermined by her towering heels and a neckline that goes down to her belly button.

Here’s a few of her concept sketches from the Mass Effect 2 art book. Click for the full view, it’s way to big to stick in the middle of an article:

Click for full view. DO IT.

Click for full view. DO IT.

I love the second row of drawings. (The ones showing her in profile.) I see those images and I think the artist behind Kurt’s Coil Suit must still be working at BioWare. And that makes me happy. Actually, all of the art books make me happy.

The limits of modern graphics mean that our game worlds are rarely as spectacular as the concept art. The Mass Effect art has much more of a “sci-fi novel cover” feel, which regrettably drifts towards mundane photorealism when realized in the game. This isn’t a Mass Effect problem. Look at the concept art for just about any AAA game and you’ll see the same thing. It’s just where the medium is at right now. I’m not complaining about the visuals of Mass Effect, I’m just saying the concept art is so amazing it makes me wish we could have graphics capable of looking like this.

Anyway, Samara is supposed to be ancient, serious, and matronly. Her delivery is so deadpan serious. But her costume is pushing this character into a comical place that I don’t think the author intended. It’s like having the infamous Bat-nipples on the Christian Bale Batman. The writer and the costume designer weren’t on the same page. Or even in the same book. Or speaking the same language.

There are so many fantastic designs in the sketches above. I can’t believe they went with this one.

My justice code requires me to kill police officers who stand in the way of my killing in the name of justice.

My justice code requires me to kill police officers who stand in the way of my killing in the name of justice.

The Justicar code sounds like a terrible idea even before we get to the part where Samara might have to kill an honest cop in the name of “justice”. And then once they establish that she’s all about a rigid moral code, she agrees to join your crew not because of a moral or legal imperative, but because she’s so “honored” by your invitation to join the team, and without hearing much in the way of the details or goals of your cause. And she does this despite the fact that everyone else in the galaxy can somehow smell you’re with Cerberus, and Cerberus is infamously evil.

But Shamus, she swears to kill you if you do anything wrong. So it makes sense that she would join.

No, that gives her a contingency plan. It doesn’t even begin to explain why she would join you in the first place.

Maybe she’s joining to learn about Cerberus and planning to punish them!

Huh. That’s a really interesting dramatic twist. Too bad nobody thought to put it in the game. No matter how much head-canon we invent, it doesn’t change the fact that a paladin is joining a terrorist organization, and she doesn’t even bother to get a detailed explanation of what you’re going to be doing. (Which Shepard can’t give her, because he doesn’t know either.) Samara might indeed have a hidden reason for joining Cerberus. And if that reason was discussed, revealed, or hinted at in the game, then it would help form the series of motivations and actions that we could call a story.

These characters frequently do things that make no sense or don’t flow naturally from the events of the story. The fact that we can easily patch this hole with an off-the-cuff suggestion only highlights just how easy it would be to fix these problems.

Even setting all of that aside, it’s not really clear why TIM would choose her for the mission. Yes, she’s a badass. But I imagine there are a lot of phenomenal badasses in the galaxy. What additional benefit does a justicar bring to the table? Are we worried we might need someone to arrest the Collectors? Why would TIM expect her to join our team?

Samara is the quintessential Mass Effect 2 character: Someone we’re not sure how they could help with our ultimate goal, with a flimsy excuse for joining us, who probably has a silly costumeSamara, for confusing her neckline with her waistline. Miranda, for wearing boots that would require a team of Cerberus engineers to get on and off. Jacob, because walking around with a dick drawn on your forehead would be less embarrassing than WEARING THE CERBERUS LOGO. Jack, for wearing an impossible belt instead of pasties. Garrus, for buying NEW armor which STILL SOMEHOW HAS A HOLE IN IT?!? but who we like anyway because they’re interesting to talk to.

Morinth

Hey Shepard, we`re squishing your head.

Hey Shepard, we`re squishing your head.

Samara’s loyalty mission is amazing. Samara’s daughter is basically a psionic serial killer, luring her victims to her apartment with drugs and raw sex appeal so she can melt their brains. Morinth is powerful, crafty, and creepy as hell. Samara has been chasing her for ages, and asks Shepard to pose as bait in an attempt to trap her. It’s a suspense thriller where you track down the killer while nearly becoming their prey.

The quest takes place entirely in dialog with no combat whatsoever. It’s really easy for something like that to fall apart, particularly in an action-focused game like this. It’s one thing to ask your voice performers to deliver exposition explaining how the Cerberus lab burned down and killed all the kittens they were experimenting on, but it’s another thing to ask someone to go through a gut-wrenching two-minute character arc. You visit the mother of the latest victim and she has to go from desperate and lost, to angry, to grieving, to letting go in the hope of finding closure. The writer and actors were up for it, and the quest is able to stand on the strength of its writing and acting.

Morinth technically qualifies as a squad member, since you can betray Samara at the last minute and get Morinth as a replacement. I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing this. (And there really is no good in-character reason to chose Morinth.) But the option is there.

This is the mother of Morinth`s latest victim. It`s a bit disappointing that you can`t go back and tell her you caught the killer. She seems like the news would really help her out.

This is the mother of Morinth`s latest victim. It`s a bit disappointing that you can`t go back and tell her you caught the killer. She seems like the news would really help her out.

It’s tempting to sneer at the faults of Mass Effect 2 and complain that our smart, talky RPG was turned into a Big Dumb Shooter, but then something extraordinary like this pops up and shows that someone at BioWare still has their mojo.

Still, Samara’s character design is teetering on the brink of unintentional comedy. All you’d need to do is change her delivery a little to make her into a hilarious satire on the entire paladin archetype.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!14214 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    While liaras turn is a little problematic,at least her attitude towards shepard remains the same.Her friendship and devotion are maybe the best developed ones in the whole series.

    • Twisted_Ellipses says:

      I know under Shamus’ rules he’s not considered DLC, but Bioware has a nasty habit of making DLC important (e.g.Want an explanation for the epilogue of DA:I and to know what your companions got up to? – DLC only). In this case, the Shadow-Broker DLC takes the brunt of the character development. Essentially she’s maintaining a front to keep up the illusion that the previous Shadow-broker is still alive. Do that long enough and you’ll convince yourself…

      • Raygereio says:

        When you first catch up with her, Liara isn’t pretending to be the Shadow Broker.

        There actually is a side-story in the form of a comic series that is supposed to cover how Liara became a badass information broker.
        It however doesn’t do that all: Liara is all ready a billy-badass at the start of it, her decision to hunt avenge someone who she just met and hunt down the Shadow Broker makes no sense and how she became the established information broker we see in ME2 is completely ignored.
        Writing! [/jazzhands]

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I’ll gripe about BioWare putting major plot points into supplemental material, too. And yeah, a certain amount of this is head canon, so I get all the problems.

          However, an archeologist becoming an information broker, especially after her experience on Ilos, doesn’t strike me as that wild. As Indiana Jones says, most archeology takes place in libraries. Information brokers aren’t powerful because they know things no one else could know, but because they know where to get the information. I think the skills would transfer. The Protheans used VIs, so if Liara has spent years learning to sort through archives in a dead language, the Extranet should be trivial.

          • Twisted_Ellipses says:

            This was after all, not far from her mother’s territory. Sure they were estranged, but that wouldn’t mean she couldn’t have picked up on how to behave…

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Thane is really weird.Why would you get an assassin,one that works alone,to work in your military team?Just because someone is good with a rifle doesnt mean they can interchangeably be an assassin,a front trooper and a military commando.

    • guy says:

      To sneak ahead and assassinate enemy commanders before you get there.

      • Thomas says:

        His skills as an assassin are pretty flexible, he’s excellent at sneaking in to places and excellent at killing people often with a lot of guards. It’s not like they just knew he was an assassin. They had his record as a hanhar operative (unlike Garrus but his current actions probably spoke for him)

        I don’t think it was too ludicrous in general. If the collectors had a whole world there was nothing they could do about that anyway. A small number of highly skilled combat able operatives with a diverse array of skills in a stealth ship is about as good as you can manage when leading an unknown operation against a hostile enemy.

        I’m pretty sure the collector ship _did_ have a way more aliens than they can handle. They blew it up quicker than you can mobilise that kind of force

        In the end sovereign also turned out to be exactly as Kildale as was required to be defeated at the last moment. He could have been much weaker than the council fleet or ridiculousy stronger (although I think they imply he was killed by Phantom Menace Bs. I never really understood what they were getting at exactly)

        • Daimbert says:

          Yeah, I don’t have a problem with bringing along characters that are exceptionally skilled in a wide range of fields when you have no idea what you’re going to need in order to solve the problem. Shepard’s big mission is to find out what’s going on and find a way to stop it. If some of those characters’ skills aren’t needed for that mission, well, that’s tough, but you’d feel pretty stupid if you refused to take the assassin and then needed one.

          It’s actually more realistic that most RPGs where you discover that you need someone and then take on a large, time-consuming quest to get them so that you can continue. Here, you recruit characters ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry that you’ll need a particular skillset and have no one available and no time to go get one. And even up until the suicide mission, you had no idea what you’d need to complete it.

          • Trix2000 says:

            That’s one thing that’s actually bugged me a lot about many of the old RPGs I’ve played – they often have very tenuous reasons for people to join and stay with the party, IF they explain it at all. I realized this about the time I started making my own… and the thought came to mind “Hey, why WOULD these people join up with you? And why do they stay?”

            It’s thankfully less common these days, but it does still seem a little odd when you get party members who join for a specific event and then just sort-of hang around forever…

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              To be fair this can be something of a problem in P&P RPGs as well. Sure, some groups enjoy the interparty dynamics, especially in case of sandbox gameplay, but other, especially in case of heavily story focused campaigns, can gloss over how the party was formed and why these people stay together.

    • Mormegil says:

      I don’t understand his recruitment mission. Mordin? He’s got a job to do and won’t leave until you help him do it. Tali? Same. Thane – he’s an assassin. A gun for hire. So hire him. Same as Zaeed. Just put a message on his facebook feed saying that you have some bugs you want him to kill and there’s no moral ambiguity involved (ignoring the inherent moral issues already present in being a killer for hire working for a terrorist organisation).

      • Mike S. says:

        Is Thane for hire? I thought he was an agent for the hanar primarily, aside from avenging his wife, and then murdering people he thought needed killing (like Nassana) after he found out he was dying.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Not that this improves the situation, any, but the specific issue in Thane’s recruitment issue is that he’s planning to die in it, so Shepard has to get into the tower and meet him before he deliberately gets himself killed. It’s part of the reason Thane doesn’t care what Shepard wants him to do. One way to die is as good as the next. It’s only when he actually has a couple days to think about his death that he realizes he wants to make amends with Kolyat.

    • Decius says:

      “Okay, I’ve got a list of targets.”
      “That’s a census report.”

  3. Rutskarn says:

    Am I the only one who finds it really bizarre how the text talks about her being a “mystic warrior,” and then it shows a bunch of concept art of her in hilarious pinup poses?

    I mean, it’s just concept art, but if you’re trying to visualize a character who’s a serious freelance cop without any real sexual personality traits, why wouldn’t you draw something that looked a little more like that?

    I guess I don’t see Garrus having a bunch of paintings like that of him.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You arent alone.

    • djw says:

      The entire concept behind the Asari bugs me. Shouldn’t they appear as males to heterosexual females (and homosexual men)? It would make so much more sense if they followed the general biological outline sketch in “The Left Hand of Darkness”.

      • Raygereio says:

        That one background conversation in ME2 between 3 drunken guys about the Asari is just a joke. Bioware making fun of some stuff from their forums. It’s not actual lore.
        At the table next to it you can find a conversation ridiculing the talimancer-crowd.

        • djw says:

          You may indeed be correct about that. I think that is even worse though, because it implies that all species find human women (and Asari who look like human women) attractive.

          WHY!

          It’s just stupid.

          If the Asari were pulling this off with some mind control that would make it easier to believe.

          • guy says:

            I think the implication was that humans are attracted to them because they look like scaly human females, Turians are attracted to them because they look like slender Turian females, and Salarians are attracted to them because they look like heavyset Salarian females. All of those being especially true while drunk.

          • venatus says:

            if you actually listen to the conversation the guys point out different features one of them points out the tentacles on the head.

            ultimately it’s meant has a joke, and possible a bit of lamp-shading since there is no plausible explanation. but if you want to take it 100% seriously. then the best explanation is not some sort of mind control that the drunk guys come up with. it’s that different species have different traits that they focus on and consider attractive. and they asari somehow possess approximations of many of these traits, whether it’s head tentacles or hour an hourglass body shape.

            • Mike S. says:

              Exactly. The asari concept is basically a joke played straight-faced: starting with the blue alien space babes dancing in the background (a la Twi’leks and Orions and countless other examples), one of whom wants the hero to explore this thing called love with them, and then adding the twist of making them the elder statespeople and highest tech species and generally Space Elves. Everything else is an extension of the basic premise and, I think, reasonably high-quality handwaving to “explain” how it works.

              I like the idea and its implementation a lot, even though Liara herself doesn’t do all that much for me. And I think the fact that it’s generally treated entirely without irony is one of the things that makes it work. (E.g., Aethyta talking about how of course young women inevitably go off to become table dancers or mercenaries for a while as if that were the most natural thing in the world.) Ditto the endless parade of background asari married to every species up to and including elcor and hanar.

              But the game does know that it’s handwaving. And occasionally (as in the bar conversation, or the ME3 bit where Liara and Aethyta argue about whether she’s part krogan) it lampshades the fact.

              • djw says:

                Eh, its hard for me to credit the entire suite of writing about the Asari as a joke played straight. I’ll grant that some of the writers know that the entire idea is stupid, and have managed to lampshade that in a few random conversations, but the game in general seems far too committed to the idea of a mono-gendered species that can mate with anything.

                If they were really playing the joke straight there would be more Asari with animals for fathers.

                • Mike S. says:

                  I wouldn’t think that follows. As I read it (and of course this is all speculative), the line of thinking is “Green (or blue) space babes who are interested in human space heroes are silly on about a dozen possible levels. We know it, the players know it. Now how can we justify it?” Which is an old SF game.

                  The ability to mate with anyone is (again, I speculate) a derived property, because if they mate outside their species then why would it only be humans? (And showing an an asari and an elcor in a lovers’ quarrel is never not funny.)

                  But I don’t think that everything about the species is supposed to be a joke: the characters are clearly supposed to be taken seriously, for example. (And while the fall of Thessia has its detractors here due to the involvement of Kai Leng, it’s obviously intended to be a devastating moment of loss.) It’s just the core concept that’s openly drawing on one of the sillier genre conventions.

                  Compare, say, Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s a space raccoon with a huge gun. You can’t even say that description with a straight face. But the character never acts like he’s supposed to be a joke, and that’s part of what makes him awesome. (Contrast with, say, Jar-Jar Binks.)

                  • wswordsmen says:

                    It would be a bigger loss if they don’t retcon the beacon from a communication device (which is why it had a message about the reapers on it) to a computer with lots of advanced tech and the idea that the Asari have had access to one for a long time but didn’t notice “hey they seemed pretty obsessed over these machine things that wiped out their species” and not done anything about it.

                    And that is only the tip of the plot hole iceburg. It had the catalyst on it but not information on the Crucible itself (even the existence). It wouldn’t share the information until it was nearly complete, but that would mean the reapers already invaded and the information could be compromised. But don’t worry it can detect indoctrination but no one has known about it until now.

                    Emo Git might have been the most annoying thing about it, but he is far from the worst. I didn’t mine him too much because I was too busy fuming over them destroying the whole premise of the series.

                    People give ME3 too much credit for everything before the ending. They were screwing it up a lot before then, people just didn’t notice.

                    • Pyrrhic Gades says:

                      None of what you mentioned is a plothole.

                      The Prothean beacon was a completely different thing to what was found on Thesa. The Beacon was meant to be used by Protheans only (which is why you needed the cypher), while what was on Thesia was specifically there to uplift the Asari. It’s

                      The Asari were hording all of their advanced tech granted by the VI which was implied to be either a government secret so old that no one alive recalled there was a secret to begin with.

                      Also the fact that some Asari were being stupid, selfish and shortsighted arseholes is not a plot hole. The game actually AKNOWLEDGES that fact since after you find out about all this shit on Thessia Shepherd gets to call what a bunch of dickwards the Asari were.

                    • guy says:

                      The Beacon was always an information storage device; that’s what you were recovering it for in the first place, because it might have valuable information on it. There might have been lots of valuable technical information on the one you blew up, or it might only have been loaded with the warning message. I’m pretty sure the Asari never fully decoded their Beacon, since they wouldn’t have had the Cipher. Clearly they managed to get it to do something, but they couldn’t use it the way it was originally designed to be used. Them failing to activate the VI or find a warning about the Reapers honestly makes much more sense than missing it in the perfectly readable Mars archives.

                      Mind, that makes much less sense with what Javik says, since you’d expect the Protheans to want to leave a message that could be read. In the original conception where they were the only spacefaring race in their cycle, it’s logical that they could just slip up and not configure their stuff to be usable by other sentient species because they don’t have experience communicating with them, but if they’re a multi-species empire they should know better.

                      Oh, also Vigil could apparently detect Indoctrination in the original.

                  • djw says:

                    There may have been more depth there than I was giving them credit for. I’ll think on this, but it is difficult to give benefit of the doubt to the people that brought us Cerberus.

                • guy says:

                  To me, it kind of feels like when they had their big brainstorming session, they had “Must have at least one fanservice species” on the list of strict requirements. I mean, I could imagine an alternate-universe Mass Effect where the target audience is women, the Asari keep their overall traits but are redesigned to look a bit more alien, they either wear the same sort of outfit as the human females or some weird alien thing, and the Turians are the fanservice, with a more humanoid male design and staffing strip clubs and where Garrus is apparently allergic to shirts. Then we’d be talking about how the Asari are neat and debating whether the Turians are just shameless fanservice or an interesting subversion.

                  I ultimately think that boiling the fanservice question down to a binary is a mistake in most cases. If there’s an attractive character in a skimpy outfit, that’s usually intended as fanservice; even if it’s perfectly valid in-universe, the creator at some point decided to make it valid. There’s a very limited selection of instances where the story actually demands a skimpy outfit or nothing*. There are certainly plenty of available justifications, but the outfit probably came before the justification. But on the other hand, if you had a female mecha pilot in an entirely bland and non-fanservicey outfit with a great dramatic character arc and strong characterization, she wouldn’t stop being an interesting character if the setting instead required pilots to wear a form-fitting suit.

                  In the specific case of the Asari, I think they’ve got some legitimately interesting things going. First, their all-female thing makes most of their appearances be as strippers, but on the galactic scale they are the Nice Mom on the Council. Shamus has actually previously discussed how their interspecies romance thing informs their actions as a society. They’ve got biotic commandos, fleet commanders, ruthless buisnesswomen, diplomats, shy archeologists, and fanatical paladins. Gameplay-wise, they round out the biotic end of the triangle for enemy types. Samara’s loyalty quest is quite good. That doesn’t mean their outfits aren’t silly or that they weren’t designed for sex appeal, but by the same token their appearance doesn’t invalidate everything else about them.

                  *If a character emerges from a cloning tank, if they had to ditch some of their outfit because of a close call with something corrosive or burning, or otherwise had it destroyed as a logical consequence of something that would be in the story if the target audience isn’t interested in seeing the character underdressed, or if it’s to show that the character is sufficently out of touch that they don’t care or some other significant bit of characterization** are some common ones. There are others, but basically it’s probably done for fanservice unless you’d expect it to happen to a man in a macho action film.

                  **Jack does fall under this, though I think they overdid it.

        • Couscous says:

          I always found this annoying because Shepard can be a homosexual man or a heterosexual woman.

          Granted, a lot of the annoyance was probably more from the Bioware fans acting like it was a legitimate explanation.

          • guy says:

            It’s not merely obviously silly, it’s actually strongly contradicted by previous events. If you’ve been romancing Kaiden and Liara in ME1, they will proceed to demonstrate possibly the most mature handling of a love triangle I have ever seen by getting together with Shepard to have a civil conversation about it. In the process, Kaiden will remark that he hadn’t known FemShep preferred women, Liara will point out that she’s technically a mono-gendered alien, and Kaiden will point out that she neverthless looks like a human female. There is no indication at any point that they ever look male to anyone, or even that they’re attractive to everyone regardless of preference, which could potentially result from being blessed by Slaanesh and Tzeentch at the same time to look different to different people without everyone figuring this out within like five days of first contact. Liara wears human armor and no one is even slightly confused that it fits. There are many more men than women who express interest in Asari.

            The Asari simply look the way they do and are attractive to people who are interested in them. By writer fiat, their appearance reads as attractive female to at least most species, and lesbians and straight males of other species are interested in them. If they were meant to actually have illusion capabilities, the Codex would have a line that says something like, “The true appearance of the Asari is unknown; the uniquely strong integration of Element Zero into their physiology causes any viewer to percieve them as strongly resembling a conventionally attractive female member* of their society, while electronic sensors give inconsistent results. This effect extends to other Asari, and is believed to have evolved as a mating display. Their overall body structure is similar to that of humans.”

            The only thing that even suggests the illusion explanation is several steps into an environmental conversation at a bachelor party. That wasn’t even meant to be taken seriously. There is no sign in every single other scene where it would have an impact.

            *The Asari are explicitly considered all-female in social terms, not genderless.

            • Mike S. says:

              The Kaidan-Liara confrontation scene is a little frustrating because a) it can be triggered if you think you’re making friendly conversation with one or both of them, and b) they (or at least Kaidan) go straight from “choose one of us, now!” to “I don’t know if I really think this is a good idea” after it’s over.

              (Marching into my office to demand I express romantic interest really seems like a signal that future expressions of romantic interest will be reciprocated. Instead it goes back to will they/won’t they.)

            • RCN says:

              To be fair, what we find attractive in other humans is a construct of our brains. People who can’t recognize faces, for instance, can’t tell if someone is ugly or beautiful, despite seeing all the same bits everyone else sees and having exactly the same hormones. For them, a face is just an amalgamation of parts that they have to remember exactly the size and position of each one to have a chance of recognizing a person. I’ve seem it described as “like seeing a pile of disparate lego pieces in the ground, and then being required to remember the exact color, size and position of every single piece in order to recognize that it is, in fact, a pile of lego pieces”.

              So I can totally buy how the Asari could naturally trick the minds of several different species into looking attractive to all of them. Hell, I have more problem accepting that all these species have the same facial expressions and social cues as humans, when that’s not even the case among close mammals (tip, generally when an ape or chimp “smiles”, he is not smiling at all unless he’s been around humans long enough to understand what it means to us, otherwise it is a very serious threat where he is showing you that he’s got a huge set of sharp teeth). Heck, the Turians are relatively alien to our anatomy, and they were designed that way, and yet they are very popular among gamer girls (Mumbles can attest to that). And the Krogans have their niche as well, even though they look like bloated frogs, we can easily identify traits in their design to find something attractive about it. Hell, I’ve heard of women who got the hots for the Elcor or the Hanar, and the only species that was made specifically to look like hunks are Thane’s species (I always forget the name).

      • Mersadeon says:

        I don’t think they ever meant that Asari always look 100% like what you find attractive, like some weird Harry Potter Boggart of Desire, I think it was more supposed to mean that whatever trait you might find attractive is the one that sticks out to you more than normal.

        • Bropocalypse says:

          I dunno, I always liked that explanation, but then again I think Slaaneshi Daemonettes are a cool concept too.

          • guy says:

            I’m not personally opposed to the concept; it just wasn’t in the game. There’s actually a scene in one of the Caiphas Cain books that illustrates how that would work out, when a Slaaneshi sorceress makes everyone percieve her as the woman they’re interested in. Cain sees one woman, one of the troopers calls her by another name, Cain is vaguely aware something is off, but the mental effect blocks him from connecting the dots.

            Dragon Age Inquisition does a similar thing with fear demons; the conversations and codex entries indicate that everyone sees them as what they’re afraid of, and apparently the Inquisitor is canonically afraid of spiders.

    • Xeorm says:

      I think it’s going off the problem between what the artist is thinking, and what the writers were thinking. Mystic-warrior, to me, implies that sort of pagan witch like character. Think of Morrigan from Dragon Age as a similar character. The trope does often have them being eerily seductive, sensual characters, and it seems normal for Bioware to go full-trope on the design. Really, that’s the impression I get from the concept art, especially the one on the right. Sensual, yet clearly acting superior.

      Of course, it only runs into a problem when you look at what the writers were thinking, where they go for paladin instead of what the artists were thinking. So you get this mish-mash between how she’s written, and how she’s shown.

      • Christopher says:

        If Mystic Warrior is Bioware code for “arrogant lady mage with huge cleavage”, it goes for not only Morrigan and Samara, but Vivienne as well.

        I don’t get the complaints in the comments so much, besides the major one Shamus talked about of it not fitting her personality at all, which is spot on. She’s basically crazy Cassandra, who looks a lot more fitting with full-on platemail. I think Xeorm is on to something with the odd mix of the mage archetype and their paladin archetype. I like her design, though. Samara’s suit is a little silly as far as combat armor goes, and it completely fails to be hot because Bioware’s 3D models are always ugly(this is why the hottest girl is Tali), but it’s also a really memorable, striking, and recognizable outfit. Same for Miranda, same for Jack. They’re designs that look good at any level of detail, more so than many of their other designs, even. I could never draw Jacob’s outfit and have that be recognizable as him, nor separate any krogan’s outfit from one another. I wish Bioware did more visual novel or Persona style portraits behind text boxes just so their artists could actually showcase the artwork in the game. Screenshots of that Jacob phone game look amazing. Dragon Age Inquisition did very well by including a ton of illustrations on “cards” for loading screens and codecs.

        This recent talk about Miranda, Jack and now Samara reminded me that there was a Diecast a good long while ago where I asked if the Diecast had ever enjoyed any fanservice, and I think I should have expanded that question to “have the Diecast ever liked the design of a female Bioware character that wasn’t completely covered up?” Considering the response to the first question, I feel like the only one who might have one would be Mumbles.

    • Joey245 says:

      What really makes me laugh/weep/rage/etc. is the last sentence in the concept art blurb:

      “It was ultimately decided that it was acceptable to have some skin showing due to her armor’s near-invisible kinetic-barrier technology, which was her primary method of defense.”

      The implication being that “oh, the armor’s not actually protective? Okay, let’s make the outfit as sexy as possible.”

      Not to mention that, according to the codex, the armor everyone wears distributes medi-gel packets whenever it senses an injury, which explains why regenerating health is now a thing. Clearly, if Samara gets a bullet wound on her chest, she’s basically doomed.

    • It bothers me too, and I can’t help thinking that the artist was given an extra instruction along the lines of “All Asari are automatically sexy, no matter what.”

      • Sartharina says:

        (S)He didn’t need an instruction. (S)He probably came up with it on their own.

        That said… I am not getting ‘Sexy” out of that outfit at all.

      • Ronixis says:

        Or the artist thought that without prompting, due to various less direct influences.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Sexy is in part a reflection of healthy, and the Asari live to be 1000. Also, as an all female species I’d think their forms would be more consistent. After all, all the DNA is coming from the mom, just a little resequenced.

        • Couscous says:

          That thing always set off the fanwanker in me because it is nonsensical to me in a way that is completely needless. Are the Asari to inane to realize why not exchanging genetic material is a really bad idea? Are their Asari biologist who are really embarrassed by their culture? Am I just overthinking what is basically some codex stuff even the developers didn’t even seem to care much about given how often they ignored it, including in the first game (see the space combat as described in the codex and as shown in the game).

          • guy says:

            I personally go with it being that the DNA is only mostly from the mom and the process snags a bit from the father, or at least makes changes in some way based on the father. Apparently Ardat Yakshi are sterile and only happen with Asari-to-Asari parings (part of why those are stigmatized) so it’s not cloning.

            Anyways, their biology works the way it works, however that is, and there’s little to be done about it.

          • Sartharina says:

            Yeah… I’m pretty sure they also wonder if humans feel inane about not being able to sort through the genetic material they get when reproducing, and wonder if humans are embarrassed that they need to stick part of themselves in someone else.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      I guess I don’t see Garrus having a bunch of paintings like that of him.

      Though I think we know someone that might like him to have some of those paintings…

    • Spammy says:

      Her outfit also doesn’t work because she has no reason to look sexy. For one, she’s already past the promiscuous fanservice girl phase of Asari life. For two, she knows by now that she can’t have kids because every kid she has is an Ardent Rakshi. And yeah, her personality does not make her seem like she’s trying to flaunt her sex appeal like you can argue Miranda wants to.

      Samara is most of what I want to bring up when I say that I hate the Asari for being lazily and unimaginatively designed and I hate Bioware for making them.

      • Sartharina says:

        It doesn’t look “Sexy” – at least not in the hormonal teenager sense of the word. Heels aren’t some amorphous ‘sex appeal’ thing – they convey posture, poise, and power (And yes, I will insult the self-absorbed egos of idiot men who disagree because they’re ignorant). The same thing goes with the plunging neckline drawing attention to her breasts – not as toys, but as trophies (And not trophies for a lover to earn, but trophies for her of the children she’s born)

        Samara’s character isn’t about being some indifferent and cold arbiter of justice, even though that’s her job. Instead, she’s about being a mother, and her entire character design reinforces that.

        • Perhaps to you, they do. I look at a fellow woman in heels and think “why the fuck does anyone risk crippling themselves with those things?” I don’t think power or poise, I think pain and not being able to run and what wearing heels for 35 years did to my mom (knees are completely shot, hips aren’t much better) and her friends (I’ve met at least one whose toes are permanently crossed as a result of heel wear for many years). Also, I think sex appeal, especially with high heels.

          Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, sometimes it’s a penis, and sometimes it’s a symbol of my grandfather. Things have different meanings to different people. If heels say posture, poise, and power to you, then cool, wear ’em with pride. But they don’t mean that to me, and that doesn’t mean I’m wrong, both meanings are equally valid (though I suspect the heels=sexy thing is more common, I have no evidence for this).

  4. Nick Pitino says:

    Oh, Morinth, Morinth, Morinth…

    If I remember correctly in the process of hunting her down you find the audio logs of the daughter who fell for her and ended up as her latest victim. It’s the downward spiral of, “Hey I met someone really cool and interesting!” to “Wow I think we’re hitting it off!” and so on so forth and you know how badly it’s going to end.

    It struck me as one of the saddest things in the entire game.

    • Joey245 says:

      Agreed. I was a senior in high school when I first played that part, probably about the same age as the girl Morinth preyed on. That entire loyalty mission just broke my heart.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I’m just saying the concept art is so amazing it makes me wish we could have graphics capable of looking like this.

    We have.We had it for decades.Its called 2d drawings.But people prefer full 3d rendered stuff,despite them looking much worse,because really excellent 3d artists are rare and underutilized.

    • Raygereio says:

      The 3d artists aren’t the problem. Anyone with artistic talent and some skill at modeling & texturing can make a pretty picture given enough time.

      It’s when that picture has to move, look pretty under various lighting conditions and has to run on commercially available hardware, that it gets tricky.

      • Falterfire says:

        It’s not even the moving. It’s the moving in an unpredictable way.

        There’s a reason prerendered cutscenes always look so ludicrously amazing compared to gameplay (Okay, there are several reasons, but this is one of them). It’s a lot easier to make a character look good when you control exact what they do and when.

        It’s a lot harder when they have to be able to quickly change what they’re doing at any given time.

        • guy says:

          Also, generally when things are pre-rendered, the rendering process runs on a high-end platform and takes multiple seconds per frame.

          Rendering a single scene in a high-end CGI movie takes a server farm and several days.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I disagree,because Ive seen plenty of studios move from 2d to 3d only to have their 3d stuff look worse years after the move,even when static.This is especially true for buildings.Baldurs gate 2 still looks more impressive than biowares 3d stuff.

        • Raygereio says:

          A still frame from a videogame is not the same as pre-rendered CGI. In the latter, the artist can have total control over the eventual product. While in the former the artist can get screwed in many ways that are outside his or her control.

          Since you named buildings, let’s focus on that for a moment. Games are designed to run on certain hardware specs. That means for example that we have a memory budget: There’s only X amount of memory available for textures. Buildings tend to be background, while the players focus their attention on their character’s model and that of the enemies. So buildings are considered less important and are allotted less memory. What’s that 3d artist? You spend sweat, blood and tears creating a beautifully textured building? Whelp. Sucks to be you. That multiple MB texture file with all that pretty detail, has to be shrunk down to a few, blurry KBs.
          Another way the 3d artists can get screwed, is via the incompetence from another department. For example in ME2 & ME3 the lighting model is screwy in a lot of places and casts odd shadows. Hey, there Mirandaoh god, what happened to your face! And speaking of Miranda, the main problem with her face isn’t the model itself. It’s the animation that isn’t rigged up properly and makes especially her jaw movement look wrong.
          2d games with pre-rendered backgrounds don’t have problems like that. Basically: Making a genuinely good looking 3d game is a lot harder then making a pretty 2d game and there are a lot more factors at play then the actual artists.

          • Spammy says:

            Wow that picture of Miranda makes her look like The Guardian from Ultima.

          • SlothfulCobra says:

            The lighting in ME3 is just garbage. There are a couple of neat, dramatic looking scenes, but most of the time, everything is just too dark and you can barely see half of people’s faces.

            • Gruhunchously says:

              Something just grinds my gears about how Mass Effect 3 looks. Technically it has the highest visual fidelity in the series, but something about it all just looks wrong. Like how Udina and Bailey suddenly have different hair for no reason, or how Joker and Atheyta look completely different than they used to. And everyone looks really weird when they’re talking, like their faces are made out of play-dough. And the textures used for everyone’s hands look ugly as well.

              Add to that, numerous animation glitches, missing textures, over-use of color filters, and incompetently staged lighting, and the whole thing just has thing tingly uncanny valley feeling about it. Feels like the only thing that they put any effort into was screw Kai Leng’s hair.

  6. Joey245 says:

    “This is a game the writers have been playing throughout Mass Effect 2: Bullshit plots that don’t follow reason, but the audience goes along with it because we love the characters. It’s a trick that works right up until the end of the trilogy, when they take the characters away and all we’re left with is the last few threads of this quickly-unravelling world.”

    YES. THIS. A thousand times THIS.

    The best parts of Mass Effect 3 was coming back to the Normandy to see that the characters were moving around and interacting. Like James cooking eggs in the Normandy’s mess hall at one point, or Tali sitting in the bar getting completely hammered. Or Garrus being asked questions about his exploits as Archangel, or Chakwas and the Engineering Chief bonding in the crew quarters. Those were the moments that kept me playing Mass Effect 3, not the epic set piece battles or the cover-based shooting, but the characters.

    And when they took the characters away from you in the ending, it just made it all the more transparent that nobody at BioWare understood what made the franchise great anymore.

    No wonder everyone loved Citadel (myself included).

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The only reason to get morinth in your part is to get your hands on dominate,so you can play hacking with organics as well.

    • djw says:

      Fortunately, you can get that ability in ME3 without supporting a serial killer who preys on shy school girls.

    • Raygereio says:

      There’s also this amazing scene:

      Morinth is shitty character. But I can’t help but appreciate that scene. It just comes out of nowhere.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        That was hilarious.

        And I’m pretty sure that it’s the one and only time in Mass Effect 2 that the Cipher is referenced. That means at least one of the writers remembered it existed and they decided to bring it up for…this.

        That’s even more hilarious. And sad.

      • swenson says:

        I wish we had more of that stuff. Mass Effect tends to be rather hand-holdy–it’s hard to make wrong decisions that lead to direct detrimental effects on you, aside from occasionally getting a squadmate killed.

        But this… well, hey, if you’re dumb enough to believe her after everything you’ve been told, it’s your own fault for what you get.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And thus we learn that shepard isnt as awesome as everyone builds them up to be.

    • wswordsmen says:

      And you reload your old save immediately after and kill the ***** anyway. I can’t remember if you had to do something special, but you could get dominate and not bring the psycho sex-killer with you.

      • Taellosse says:

        Well, yes and no. You have to do it once to unlock Dominate, but since squad-granted powers are unlocked for all saves once you get them once, you can save before the selection conversation, pick Morinth, unlock the power, then reload to beforehand, and still have it (for both that Shepard and all others on that system).

  8. Matt says:

    It honestly hadn’t really struck me until reading this how little the player does know about their ‘suicide’ mission. Given that supposedly no ship has ever returned, no one has ANY idea what’s out there. It seems desperately foolish and inept to imagine that a single starship and a crew of ‘ultimate badass’ commandos could in any way meet the challenge on the other side.

  9. vakko says:

    Han Solo dies in TFA.

  10. Mersadeon says:

    You know, I can buy a lot of bullshit when it comes to the costumes. Most at least have a flimsy bit of reasoning behind them. Jack’s a fucked up psycho in some ways, so she’s nearly naked, whatever. Garrus doesn’t replace his armor because he’s badass and it’s cool, so whatever. Miranda is banking on her sex-appeal as a weapon and has confidence issues or whatever. Sure. Jacob doesn’t wear the logo outside, I think? I dunno.

    But Samara? What possible reason does this straight, dead-pan matronly goody-two-shoes hardcore Paladin have to run around like that? She can’t even give the fig-leaf of justification that all others have. She isn’t the type to use the sight of boobs to distract or lure someone. She never talks about how she runs around with this hilarious “armor”.

    And the reason “well she can show skin cause she’s biotic and doesn’t need armor” isn’t a justification at all – it makes it POSSIBLE for a character to show skin, but it doesn’t give that character a REASON for it. Argh.

    • Phill says:

      I find it a completely reasonable argument. My job doesn’t involve getting shot at at all, so I have no reason to wear any armour. And consequently I go to work stark naked every day. Doesn’t everyone?

      • Sartharina says:

        You probably would if you lived in a culture where everyone did.

        I chalk it up to Asari fashion sense.

        • Mike S. says:

          Yeah, it’s certainly possible to handwave it with “aliens have different ideas of modesty”. (Even on Earth, there are cultures in which a woman wandering around with her face or her hair uncovered is brazen, and others in which shirtlessness is no more provocative than walking around with bare ankles is in ours.)

          But that would be an easier argument if there were dozens of different weird sartorial choices of which this was just one unremarkable variation, rather than every female companion other than Tali having a blatant fanservice costume of one sort or another. (Tali’s outfit is pretty tight and formfitting for an environment suit, but at least feels more substantial and defensible than the others’.)

          Like the parallel issues with, e.g., superhero costumes, it’s a lot easier to defend or handwave any given one than it is to justify them all running in one predictable direction.

          • Mersadeon says:

            I always dislike the “alien fashion” excuse because it’s so selective – it’s obvious that Mass Effect races where designed at least somewhat anthropocentric, and their fashions and feelings of modesty mostly follow human expectations. You don’t see a normal Asari NPC running around buck-naked.

            • Couscous says:

              You also don’t really see it to much of an extent with the male members of the various species except for Thane. I guess the vorcha aren’t wearing much but they don’t really have fashion. For example, the Turians don’t consider it just normal to walk around mostly in the buff.

              • Mike S. says:

                With the ME1 concept of the quarians (where they only used the suits when dealing with outsiders, rather than wearing them all the time even in the fleet), it would have actually made some sense for them to not have modesty taboos. They live in close quarters in climate controlled environments with no room or resources for wasteful display or privacy. So people would wear protective gear as needed, but bothering about covering up beyond that isn’t something anyone thinks about.

                (And it doesn’t come up outside the flotilla, since they’re wearing all-covering environment suits there and still don’t have to actually think about what might be appropriate or modest or shocking.)

                More generally, if an SF property wanted to actually illustrate “they have different or absent nudity taboos”, one thing it would to do is show more and more varied examples, rather than just attractive women. If it’s only them who don’t understand clothes, or want to demonstrate their toughness through lack of armor, or figure that as long as the ears and hands are properly covered (unlike that Shepard strumpet walking around with both out where anyone can see!) they’re okay, then we can be pretty sure what the underlying motivation is.

                (Credit to Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition: the person with the most prominent neckline-down -to-the-navel is Varric.)

              • SlothfulCobra says:

                Most of the alien species don’t show any skin outside of their exposed head; they’re always wearing gloves of some kind along with full sleeves, long pants, and shoes with toes (I’m still not certain whether the spikes on Turian and Quarian legs are just decorative or actually part of their physiology). It’s really weird, considering how much skin the Asari show, and how the humans are normally allowed to go around without gloves or even in t-shirts if they want.

                The only alien species that show skin are the Asari, the naked Hanar, Javik, with his fingerless gloves, and Thane, with his low-cut shirt with a boob window and wacky gloves. Although, considering how the Collectors, the Keepers, and all of the husks go around mostly naked, the Reapers are clearly nudists.

                • Chekhovs_gunman says:

                  Forgotten the Elcor already? Sorrowfully: That’s okay, everyone does.

                  • Mersadeon says:

                    I always thought it was a wasted opportunity to not have an Elcor stripper in the club in ME1 – I mean, you wouldn’t even need animations. It would be hilarious enough if he just stood there. Swaying softly from side to side.

                    “Alluring: Do you enjoy the thickness of my legs?”

    • guy says:

      Yeah, it’s really out of character for Samara. I mean, if I were given her character description and told to design outfits, I wouldn’t have her showing cleavage even if the outfit list included “swimsuit for beach trip”. Her clothing should radiate austere professionalism at all times. Even if the mandate included fanservice, I’d implement that with her having some valid external reason to wear the outfit.

      I guess that I could actually see her wearing the outfit she does if it’s a powerful biotic booster that she can’t get in a size that fits her chest.

  11. Attercap says:

    Prior to ME3 I did a stupid-evil Shep play-through and went with Morinth over Samara to see what the pay-off would be in the next game. Like many decisions made in multiple plays of ME2, I felt I invested far too much time for the severe lack or “your decisions matter” or simple “blink and you’ll miss it” moments in ME3.

  12. Jokerman says:

    “you can betray Samara at the last minute and get Morinth as a replacement. I’ve never heard of anyone actually doing this.”

    Does doing so on 2nd playthrough count?

    She is pretty undeveloped as a companion compared to Samara, even a lot of her in mission lines are just Samara’s lines (using the same voice, as she mimics Samara to hide… or something.)

    • Zekiel says:

      I actually did on on my 1st playthrough, which was a renegade one. I discovered somehow that she was recruitable, and actually used a cheat to raise Shepard’s renegade points high enough to pass the skill check to recruit Morinth. (I put it back down afterwards.) I figured I definitely wouldn’t recruit her on my 2nd paragon playthrough, and I wanted to see all the companions.

      In-universe though, there is no reason whatsoever to recruit her – even if you hate Samara, it should be borderline suicidal.

      I was always sad that recruiting Morinth didn’t really make any difference to just keeping Samara. You’d think that it would lead to you losing a crew member or two to being killed by her, but nothing like that happens.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The reasoning behind getting Morinth is that she may have achieved some kind of Super Saiyan level of Biotic strength from psychically eating all those people. The fact that Samara isn’t able to beat her without help FROM a surprise attack while being MUCH more experienced supports this theory. So if you’re going full, reckless Renegade, you figure she’ll tag along for this mission (because it’s exciting, insane, and risky, her favorite stuff) and then… you’ll have to figure out how to handle the aftermath.

        It’s not a great decision (my Renegade didn’t do it) but it’s neat to have for a certain kind of character type.

        • guy says:

          I think they’re supposed to be roughly comparable in power, so there’s no reason to pick one over the other from a capability standpoint. I figured the idea was that a Renegade might be worried about Samara’s personal loyalty due to ideological conflict, and you only get the option if Shepard is able to fight off Morinth’s influence and therefore doesn’t have to worry about brain eating.

          Obviously it’s a blatantly terrible decision if you and Samara get along.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            A certain type of Renegade may be (correctly!) worried that Samara will see or hear about something Shep did and decide to try to murder him/her right in the Commander’s Quarters one night. The opportunity to pick up Morinth poses no ethical concerns (she’ll probably die anyway, and if not, maybe we’ll turn her in or kill her ourselves after the mission depending on how it goes) for this type of character and offers protection from Samara, while leaving no gaps in the team skill set.

            Of course, even this type of character would have to consider the possibility that she would start her whole spiel up on a crewmate and kill them before the mission concludes. So it’s still a risky, risky play.

  13. tremor3258 says:

    In Thane’s defense – he’s very sneaky and good at scoping out a place, and has a lot of experience dealing with multiple races.

    Makes him a bit of a pinch hitter for a variety of situations, in theory.

    Also, he’s dying, so hopefully whatever the Collectors are looking for they may ignore (he is recruitable after Horizon, so this may be a point why TIm sent the dossier then).

    Actually, all three post-Horizon dossiers are giant, independently capable badasses whose issues are in some ways less severe than the first set unfinished business rather than deep psychological.

    Maybe TIM’s eliminating potential threats on the suicide mission.

    • Jokerman says:

      He hardly belongs in a cover shooter though.

      • Keeshhound says:

        Might have been interesting if your non-active squadmates added passive effects to a mission. It’d change the gameplay pretty substantially, but it’d also excuse one of the more blatant contrivances coming up, too.

        • tremor3258 says:

          That’s a good idea. Let them come over the radio for extra background chatter about upcoming events, or things they’re handling

        • Taellosse says:

          That’s actually a fantastic idea. Maybe even have them in a sort of reserve, like in some of the Assassin’s Creed games, where you can call in lesser assassins to help take on enemies for a single fight, then they take a while to become available again – your other squadmates are out in the field too, and can be called in as emergency backup when needed. So long as they’re not actively present on screen, they provide some sort of passive benefit appropriate to their character. Calling them in cancels the passive bonus until they’ve “recharged” to add a layer of tactical consideration to their use.

          It could add some interesting variety to the gameplay, and makes a whole lot more sense than all but two of your buddies hanging out on the ship all the time while you’re engaging in huge battles.

    • RCN says:

      One of the best glimpses into Thane’s life is his Shadow Broker dossier, where he non-challantly describes the two best ways to murder the game’s main species.

      While interesting on the anatomical details it has on the aliens, it gets interesting when he gets to the Krogans, where he describes a series of acrobatic and seemingly not-at-all reliable maneuvers to take one down for good. When he gets to the second way of assassinating a Krogan, he just writes: “Use a bomb”. He’s obviously been frustrated by the subject in his career.

      • Taellosse says:

        Yeah, I really enjoyed that. It serves as both a great bit of background color for Thane personally, and also helps highlight how terrifyingly hard to kill krogan are supposed to be, with their redundant organs, high pain threshold, incredible endurance, strength, long lives, and love for violence (though the fact that you encounter and relatively easily kill so many krogan across the series somewhat contradicts that notion).

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Krogans are amongst the toughest enemies to kill,especially on insanity,so its not really that easy.There is a reason they come alone,like scions.

          • Taellosse says:

            Sure, they’re tough compared to typical mercs (whether human, Turian, Asari, or Salarian), or even most of the bipedal Geth (though not Primes or Juggernaughts), but they’re nowhere near as hard to defeat as they’re described by the dialog or Codex entries.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Mass Effect 1 insanity had them get increased strength, resistance to most moves (not Lift thank god), and a second health bar once you’d ALREADY KILLED THEM. This was annoying and awful, so ME2 and 3 more reasonably made them basically charge and kill you if you don’t pay attention, while also having a big health bar and armor.

              • Mike S. says:

                A quote from a long-ago review that’s stuck with me: “I understood the genophage a lot better after fighting krogan on Insanity.”

                Though my recollection is that if you used polonium rounds (or maybe some other ammo types?) they wouldn’t pop back up after being killed. It’s been a while, though, so I may be misremembering.

              • Taellosse says:

                Ah, I’d forgotten about that, never having played on Insanity myself. Good point.

              • Spacewreck says:

                I gotta admit I actually liked the krogan spontaneous resurrections from ME 1as a game mechanic to represent their redundant organs. I’ve been replaying the trilogy and didn’t realize it had been removed from ME2 — I’ve been wasting shots on krogan corpses in the later games out of sheer habit from ME1.

  14. Christopher says:

    I think I allied with Morinth and killed Samara. That way, it was easier to get rid of both the crazy cop-killer and the crazy serial killer(in the suicide mission).

  15. StashAugustine says:

    Samara’s outfit is kinda weird given that I felt ME2 actually did a decent job expanding on the Asari in general. Like in ME1 you can count off the Asari that aren’t evil and/or sex workers and it comes out to Liara, the councilor, and one receptionist on the Citadel. I felt … whatever this planet is called again added a lot more depth to the species.

    Also Thane owns.

    • guy says:

      Don’t forget the Destiny Ascension commander. There’s actually a couple more background characters; one rookie C-sec officer talking to a Turian veteran and some assorted people standing around.

    • krellen says:

      If Thane owns so much, how come he’s not fit for any of the roles in the suicide mission?

      • Zombie says:

        I defense of Thane, if I was putting together a group for a suicide mission, I would want one guy who is a master at infiltration, plus may or may not have a death wish.

        Thane’s whole deal for being recruited is that he’s very good at sneaking in to places and killing people. With his disease killing him very slowly, he really doesn’t care if he lives or dies anyway.

        The whole thing about the suicide mission is about redundancy anyway. You have 3 biotics (Jack, Samara, and Miranda), 2 engineers (Tali and Legion(optional)), up to 3 infiltration specialists (Legion (optional), Thane and Kasumi (DLC)), 1 scientist (Mordin) and up to 4 just general soldiers (Garris, Grunt (optional), Jacob and Zaeed(DLC)). And during the suicide mission, Mordin is just as useless as Thane really. He’s a scientist who makes the anti-seeker swarm thing and then could just jump off the ship if he wanted. Thane is at least good in a combat capacity.

        • guy says:

          Mordin does make all of your upgrades in the entire game, though it’s true that he might as well have camped on the ship with Joker.

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          Basically Thane is there to die heroically in a way that you don’t feel that bad about because he’s got a terminal illness anyways and is ready to die. That’s why he almost fits for every position on the suicide mission, but he will tragically die in the process for each of them. It’s also why he’s on the shortlist for people who can die in the cutscene lead in for the suicide mission.

  16. Xilizhra says:

    Here’s what I don’t get with Liara: during a two-year time gap, wouldn’t it make more sense, not less, for her to have undergone character changes during that time? I mean, the more change that’s happened offscreen, it seems to me, the less pointless the time gap feels. Also, she presumably possesses either a significant chunk or the entirety of Benezia’s estate; I doubt she’d have a starting capital problem. Noteworthy too is that the personality shift business receives a huge payoff in Lair of the Shadow Broker.

    Additionally, Thane’s skillset is ideal for killing Collectors, due to his biotics and shredder ammo. As for Samara’s costume design, that required a bit more thought, but what one of my friends on the BSN a long time ago came up with is that breast-based imagery covers a broader range than in human society; perhaps it’s the equivalent of those breastplates with extremely chiseled chest muscles on them. As for why Samara joined up… well, hunting down the Collectors who’ve committed numerous atrocities, which is the recruiting pitch for nearly everyone on the team.

    Finally, Garrus doesn’t buy a new suit of armor, he repaints the old one for the loyalty outfit. He does, however, get new armor in ME3.

    • swenson says:

      There are many, many biotics in the Terminus Systems. The question isn’t “can Thane’s skillset help us”, but rather “why Thane specifically, as opposed to the thousands (millions?) of other skilled biotics in the Terminus Systems”. It’s not about game mechanics.

      We understand why Tali–because Shepard and her are friends.

      We understand why Mordin–because we need his scientific/technical knowledge to create countermeasures to the Collector’s stasis field bug thingies.

      We understand why Grunt–an accident while in the process of actually trying to recruit Okeer, who could help Mordin create countermeasures as well as had recent contact with the Collectors.

      But why Thane?

    • Christopher says:

      It can make sense for someone to change in two years, but like Shamus said, this is not how you handle characters in fiction. Huge changes in characters between timeskips is frustrating and jarring, especially when you don’t get to explore that in the main game itself. other characters from ME1 are completely the same despite the timeskip, too. I might have been pissed at Garrus for ignoring my paragon lessons about revenge, but he, Joker and Tali did not have any major personality shifts while I was gone.

      I wouldn’t have minded if I liked Liara’s new personality better, but honestly I think they are equally boring. She was not the part of lair of the Shadow Broker that made that DLC cool.

      • Keeshhound says:

        To expand on this a little, if you’re going to make a character undergo an enormous character divergence (as Liara functionally did,) there’s not much reason to not just drop a new character into the story to serve that purpose.

        That’s not to say that they couldn’t make Liara’s change work, or at least have enough fun with it to justify it, but no one ever really comments on her abrupt character change. Shepherd makes an offhand comment about it, but that’s really all the attention it gets.

        Which is a shame, because she would have been a much more fun and interesting character if the moment after she shut off the call with her customer she just kind of collapsed and complained about how stressful it was to pretend to be a super badass in public. Or if Garrus and Tali had extra lines when you first meet her commenting on her rather extreme change in profession.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          All of this stuff is in the Shadow Broker DLC. Should it have been included in the “core game”? I dunno, but it feels short sighted to complain that they did exactly the thing you wanted just not in the format you wanted, so it still sucks.

      • Taellosse says:

        I actually thought Garrus’ becoming Archangel was an interesting melding of his own tendencies along with the lessons Paragon Shepard taught him – he used his skills and sense of right to mete out justice in a place that HAD no law save the whims of powerful criminals. He’s not a vigilante on Omega because there’s no legal system to work outside – just a guy with a moral code and a gun.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      Mumbles had a really interesting point on how Liara was just an idealistic nerd girl working all by her lonesome on a subject that was really interesting to her, but nobody else cares about, and ME2 was the result of her having to deal with other people in the world and having to become a lot more cynical.

      It especially couldn’t help how the most important facts she learned about the Protheans were publicly denied by the Council, and so now everything she could ever publish about all that she’s learned would just make her a laughing stock to the academic community. Shepard ruined her career.

      • Christopher says:

        Liara not fitting in with the guy nerd club is just headcanon that says less about the game and more about the person. I’m pretty sure Mumbles said as much within a minute of the same statement. Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but nothing like that comes up in the game when you romance her at least. She’s just written like a different person after recovering Shepard’s body.

        I definitely think that recognizing yourself or people you know in characters can help make them better, but personally I have never watched nerdy girl friends become Hardened like Alistair. Liara read to me like “There are new writers here, and they prefer badasses and murderers”. Tali seems to fill her role more in ME2, when I think about it. I don’t remember if she was studying the geth or the damaging sunlight specifically though.

        • Poncho says:

          Tali was considered a “Geth Expert” in ME1, but everyone kind of just assumed that it was because she was a quarian. In ME2, we find out that Tali and her father were actually studying the geth more extensively than any other quarians, so it’s a cool bit of backstory that gets exposed the further we get in the series. As for the sun thing, I think it was because the writers were still kind of going with Karpyshyn’s idea of making the mass effect / biotics part of dark energy spatial expansion thing, but they ended up scrapping it, so those story lines feel like loose threads.

          As for Liara’s change in character, I thought it was especially jarring, too, because she makes “two years!” sound like such a big deal. I can understand moving on and maybe dabbling with a new career or hobby, but Liara arguably changes more than any other companion despite the fact that she has the worst reason to do so: she can live to 1,000 years old! Asari frame of time passage has to be completely different than humans. Other asari hand-wave decades of their lives, like “oh yea, did that stripper thing for a century, wouldn’t recommend it.” And yet Liara thinks 2 years is sufficient to reinventing herself.

          I loved the shadow broker DLC but Liara has some of the poorest reasons for a character change of that magnitude. Instead of being a “respected information broker” it would make more sense if she was still just hunting prothean artifacts when shadow broker agents tried to kill her–so she kind of has to drop that and figure out why the shadow broker wants to kill her, then Shepard shows up back from the dead just in time to put a stop to it. Liara’s inexperience as an information broker is easy to lampshade.

  17. swenson says:

    In my current replay of ME2, I actually just got to Samara… and I forgot how BAD her outfit is. In fact, it was so bad, I had to stop playing and figure out how to install texture mods to replace it with something less ridiculous. (I used The Respectable Attire Mod, if anyone’s interested. You can pick which textures to replace–I only did Samara, as she’s the one that particularly bugs me. It basically fills in the chest area with black, so it looks a bit like she’s wearing a skintight black T-shirt under her armor.)

    It’s just so distracting. Her cleavage is even more distracting than Benezia’s, which I’m pretty sure you could fit a dreadnought down. I just keep staring at it trying to figure out how on earth her clothes work. Superglue?

    • guy says:

      I think the red parts are rigid, so it clamps around her abdomen and the top is supported by that.

      Honestly, that’s probably not what they were going for, but my eyes just kind of refuse to accept it as anything except the heavy armor material with a glossy paint job.

    • djw says:

      Her clothes are held on by her biotics. If she is ever rendered unconscious she loses the shirt.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      To be fair, Thane has the same sort of low-cut top that would show just as much cleavage if he had cleavage to show. Granted, his is for medical reasons, but still.

  18. Futurehero says:

    I always thought Samara’s voice was wasted on her character design and backstory. If anything, SHE would’ve been a much more interesting as the living Prothean, rather than Javik.
    Also, why do all the top 3 drawings in that concept art make her look so evil? She reminds me more of Aria than some sort of paladin.

    PS: holy hell someone still remembers MDK!

  19. MrGuy says:

    Morinth technically qualifies as a squad member, since you can betray Samara at the last minute and get Morinth as a replacement.

    Wait, you can….But I thought…..But that makes no…..no, seriously, can you really…..are you positive that….really? That’s a thing you can do? Like, for real? In the game?

    If you’re trolling me into playing ME2 again just so I can can see this for myself, well played, you magnificent bastard.

    • guy says:

      It’s rather difficult; you have to pass all the conversation checks for it to even be an option.

      • Raygereio says:

        @guy:
        Nope. There’s just one paragon/renegade dialogue check right at the end of the mission.
        That said: I suppose the difficult part is having enough paragade points. It’s one the higher checks in the game if I recall right.

        @MrGuy
        Check the dialogue in the article’s second to last picture.

        • guy says:

          There are several. Granted, if you can pass the very last one you can also pass the rest. And I guess I’ve never actually checked if deliberately missing one locks you out of the rest, and haven’t personally ever had enough points to pass the last check.

          • Raygereio says:

            Sorry, I didn’t make that clear. Only passing the last paragade check – the one where you “resist” Morint, is required to get the option to choose Morinth.

  20. OldOak says:

    Haha – “walking around with a dick […] on your forehead” made my day! (won’t go into details, but — hehe — “Trust me, it’ll make sense later.”)
    God bless you, Sir!

  21. SlothfulCobra says:

    Personally, the thing that bugged me most about Liara’s new career is that the idea of an “information broker” seems wrong to me. Information isn’t a commodity like corn or oil. You can’t take it away from one group and giving it to another. Information can also easily be wrong or inaccurate, and you could easily make up something plausible but unverifiable to sell for a quick buck.

    Add to that, the fact that information inherently is going to spread around on its own without the assistance of a third party, and all anyone who wants to know needs to do is just do a little looking, unless the information is willfully kept secret, and the thing about secrets is that they are kept guarded, and the implication of a broker selling secrets would be that their business card might as well say “I DO CRIME FOR A LIVING, ARREST ME.” There is a lot of stuff companies do nowadays with collecting statistics and information about individuals be sold around, but that stuff is done in bulk, and that’s not what information brokers in Mass Effect are depicted doing.

    I never really thought about it in the first game, but that’s because the shadow broker is depicted as being this vast sort of secret conspiracy with agents everywhere that would conceivably have the manpower to gather secrets and find buyers in bulk, as well as do a lot of investing. Liara’s just by her lonesome, again.

    • Mike S. says:

      “Information broker” is an actual profession people engage in now. Obviously the Mass Effect version is turned up to eleven and given a somewhat criminal gloss (the real-world version is more about research skills, persistence, and subscriptions to expensive databases), but the illegal elements could be deniable as long as the broker isn’t caught. (Or has something on the potential accusers.)

      As a hot blue alien with telekinetic powers who’s spent time saving the galaxy, after studying disappeared precursors whose tech continues to work reliably after fifty thousand years without maintenance, being an information broker is the part of Liara’s biography that requires the least suspension of disbelief.

  22. RCN says:

    Revisiting the topic of the Paragade system (because I’m a glutton for punishment that will never let that lay down), I think I finally discovered what, quintessentially, made me irk it in ME 2 onwards.

    The thing is, the Renegade options shouldn’t FEEL good. They’re the pragmatic choice. You’re doing something that should be gut-wrenching because other options are lacking. Doing the RIGHT THING feels good, but making the RIGHT CALL in a bad situation is a heavy burden on the conscience.

    And yet, every single time, they somehow decided that going Renegade means doing the “awesome”choice. The Renegade interrupts are in the center of this, but throughout the game, being Renegade is being “Badass” while the options from Paragon are hilariously neutered or purposefully unsatisfying, while generally accomplishing as much as the Renegade choices without compromising.

    Making impossible choices, in the philosophical veins of “sacrificing the few for the good of the many”, or “meeting with violence someone manipulative who wants to parley” shouldn’t be about feeling GOOD. Cathartic, maybe, but the fact is that you it should take a toll on you. And no, getting some glowing scars is not what I meant.

    By the way, did I mention how the game’s explanation of the Paragade system being reflected in your scars are ridiculously dumb?

  23. Zaxares says:

    On Liara: I also found her change from ME1 to ME2 extremely jarring. It’s one thing for her to have become a sort of civilian PI who’s hunting down clues and means and ways to recover Shepard’s body, but a full-on information broker? It just doesn’t make sense, and I’m speaking here from the experience of being a fellow shy, bookish introvert.

    Personally, I’d rather have the ME writers have her team up with either Garrus or Wrex (or both! Tali can come too!) and open up that PI business which looks into solving extralegal cases that Citadel lawyers won’t touch, while using it as cover for their real goal of investigating Cerberus and why they took Shepard’s body.

    On the Collector homeworld: That’s the exact same thought I had, Shamus! Throughout the entire game they’re talking about “going to the Collector homeworld”, and I’m thinking, “You are seriously sending one man and a small team, on a single stealth frigate, to attack what could potentially be an entire WORLD of Collectors, with an entire armada? And you expect him to WIN??” Now, to be fair, this has totally been done before in fantasy and sci-fi fiction. One classic example I always remember is from the Lone Wolf CYOA series, where the titular hero infiltrates the homeland of his arch enemies, the Darklords, sneaks into their fortress, slays their leader and then blows up the place with a powerful magical artifact. BUT! Lone Wolf already knew where he was going, what he had to do, and how he was going to do it. Shepard knows NONE of those things. What would he do if going through the Omega-4 relay meant he appeared right in the middle of a fleet of Collector ships? No IFF is going to save you from the Collector pilots just going, “Hey, you’re not one of us!” And blowing you to pieces with their super-powered laser cannons.

    On Samara: I agree that her costume is absolute silliness, but man, do I love her character. Also, the Code she follows and the reason why she may have to kill an honest cop actually makes sense when you consider what Justicars are all about. To use D&D terms, they are actually strictly Lawful Neutral, adhering to an absolute ideal of justice that is supposed to be beyond the touch of things like mitigating factors and plea bargains and all the compromises people have to make in life so we can live in peace with each other. Justicars are not about that. If a crime is done, it MUST be punished. She is much more closely related to characters like Stannis Baratheon and Rorschach than to someone like Batman.

    But what’s amazing about Samara is how someone who is clearly a thinking, reasonable and moral woman is able to live and function while adhering to the absolute impracticality of the Code in a modern world. And despite everything, she really does come across as the wise mentor more than any other character in the series. I will always remember this one line she says to you at the end of ME2.

    “For what it’s worth, I believe you did the right thing in destroying the Collector Base, Shepard. The Illusive Man thinks that he has the wisdom to utilize it… But he does not.”

    Also, I saved Morinth on one playthrough just to unlock her bonus power and see what she’s like. To their credit, the Bioware writers do a great job of her continuing her charade and keeping in character after she joins you, but man, the payoff for doing that in ME3 is soooo lame.

    • Zekiel says:

      I appreciate the aternate perspective on Samara! For me she was pretty much the only character in ME2 that I straight-out hated. I just couldn’t get over the idiocy of her code requiring her to kill an honest police officer; and then for her to throw in her lot with Shepard on a suicide mission which apparently is more important than the decades-long quest to bring her daugher to justice ???? What on earth was that about?

      Her ridiculous attire was just the icing on the cake.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        So her code required her to kill a police officer, unless you solve the issue yourself. But she doesn’t WANT to do this. She basically swears her service to you for resolving this issue and because she decides your cause is just (defeating Collectors who kidnap innocents). The trail on Morinth has gone cold at that moment, so she doesn’t have a lead. Could she die on the mission? Yes, but another part of the code is not worrying about things like that. Once she finds out about Morinth, her code prevents her from just up and leaving the ship, since she swore an oath to help you complete this mission. However, if you just ignore the Morinth thing, you logically lose her loyalty completely. She does things because her code tells her to, it doesn’t mean she always loves the results of that.

        • Poncho says:

          Precisely. I had no problems with her paladin-in-space nature, and thought it was an interesting purview into the asari culture, why they have nation-state Republics that all get along for thousands of years, and their supposed dominance in the galaxy without a strong focus on the military.

          I got the impression that Samara was perfectly accepting what the Code was forcing her to do, but she was not used to disagreeing with it. She lived mostly in asari space, dealing with asari, and only had rare moments where she was forced to make decisions that didn’t align with her personal beliefs. She recalls one such situation with Shepard, about Nihlus getting the better of her, and how she ended up with a sense of respect for Nihlus despite honor-bound to kill him. Those rare highlights make her interesting, and of course she is faced with another such situation in regards to Shepard’s mission + Morinth’s freedom.

  24. Mumbles says:

    “In Mass Effect 1, Liara was a shy, bookish, gentle, polite, socially awkward introvert who specialized in archaeology and geeked out over Prothean ruins. Then we bump into her here in Mass Effect 2 and she’s a tough-talking hard case with her own team of Asari commandos, and she runs some sort of cutthroat information business. That’s not “character growth”. That’s a complete re-write of her personality.”

    Shamu, we will always disagree about this and being nice to robots. Look, this might surprise you but when I was a kid I was shy, bookish, really sweet and had a hard time talking to people. NOW LOOK AT ME. I relate to Liara more than most video game characters because I think some women have to adapt to situations and that drastically changes their personalities. In the fantasy sci-fi world of Mass Effect, it makes sense that it would change the way it did. And I’m glad it did because ppl just assume I came out of the womb suplexing ppl. Not. How. It. Happened.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Although the latter is a funny mental image, precisely because it’s ridiculous.
      I’d take some convincing to believe someone actually was like that though.
      I certainly don’t do the whole talking to people thing well.

    • James says:

      I think the issue is we didn’t see it. We didn’t help develop it, we never got to experience it and it just kinda happened off-screen. Had this been something we were a part of or can see. Maybe even a DLC showing how this happened as a result of loosing Shepherd and the events that followed. I think most people would feel differently about the change than.

      • Ringwraith says:

        ‘But it’s in a comic!’
        This seems to be a recurring problem actually…

        It’s why Lair of the Shadow Broker works so well, although it would’ve been better properly integrated instead of tacked on afterwards.

      • Phantos says:

        Pretty much.

        This is why Garrus’ shift in tone doesn’t feel so abrupt and out-of-character. He’s not the polar opposite of what he was in the first game, and we spend enough time with him for it to sink in, so it doesn’t feel like the writer is just being totally reckless.

        It hurts Liara’s case that she’s not recruitable in the 2nd game. Unless you happen to have the DLC, she’s there for such a trivial amount of time with her that her transformation feels slapdash and hackneyed. A character can evolve into something else, but evolution takes more time than BioWare was able or willing to provide there.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        Yeah, it’s weird that in what is supposed to be a game that focuses on the characters, one of the most important, life-changing events for one of the most prominent characters happens off screen, and you’re just supposed to roll with it.

    • Will says:

      Personally, I think Liara’s character change could have been justified. I wouldn’t have liked it, because ME1 Liara is one of a tiny handful of characters in the series I actually like, but it could have been coherent and reasonable. In fact, it received no justification at all in-game. She’s just a completely different character with the same name and no explanation.

      Even the out-of-game comic that tries to justify it does a bad job of it, but it doesn’t count here regardless because it’s out-of-game.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      While I agree with you about liaras transformation being possible,I still have to point out that using a human as an example for an asari doesnt work.2 years for you is a lot,because your life expectancy is below 100 years.For liara,its not,because her life expectancy is over 1000 years.

      • Taellosse says:

        I’m not entirely sure that would necessarily hold water. Sure, expecting to live for a millennium is going to color one’s outlook, but it isn’t going to completely prevent circumstances from affecting a person. Especially not someone who has previously led a relatively sheltered existence as an academic and then suddenly been thrust into a world of galactic politics and war. I never had a problem with Liara’s shift in behavior – only that the game does such a poor job of explaining it or justifying it. LotSB goes a long way towards fixing that (though it being nominally optional DLC is problematic), and some of the rest is handled in ME3, but in ME2 proper it seems to come out of left field and is never explained (as are most of the things that come out of left field in ME2 – the game’s efforts at retaining continuity with the previous game are execrable).

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Completely prevent?No.Severely lower the chances of it?Most definitely.I mean if you live for 100 years only to get your primary education and your first taste of a job,you will take things slooooooow.

          • Taellosse says:

            When the choice is up to you, and you feel no particular urgency due to external factors, sure. But the Asari don’t live in a world peopled only by other Asari – and Liara in the time between the two games in particular does not. If one does not respond to new circumstances as they arise, one is left behind by them.

            I’m not saying there aren’t problems in the shift in Liara’s behavior from one game to the next – I’ll readily agree that not enough attention is paid to justifying the change. I’m just saying it’s not an unbelievable change for her to have gone through, even in a period of time that is such a trivial length to one of her expected lifespan. Her life until she encounters Shepard was a pretty sheltered and peaceful one, for the most part (though she does imply she’s not a total stranger to violence when you first pick her up on Therum) – from the moment she gets caught up in the fight against Saren onwards, her life is turned completely inside-out and upside down. Frankly I’d be surprised if it didn’t bring about some dramatic changes to her behavior – of all the members of the original ME squad, she was by far the least well suited, temperamentally, to the life the Normandy crew was leading. She’d almost have to adapt to it, if she didn’t leave it behind at the first opportunity (which she does not). And, given what does happen at the opening of ME2 (moronic though it may be), pushing her to become dramatically more ruthless is not the most unbelievable thing, I think. Long life expectancy or not, she’s been through the wringer multiple times in quick succession – that’s going to have a profound effect on her.

    • natureguy85 says:

      And if someone met you as a kid and then met you today for the first time since then, they would likewise be shocked by the change. So it is with Liara. We are barely told anything and are shown nothing about the time between ME1 and ME2 for her to understand this character shift.

  25. Naota says:

    The recruitment missions in general are one of those places where the goals of different writers conflict.

    There’s no logical reason that Shepard should have to traipse about the galaxy personally recruiting his star team one at a time, but it makes the process feel dynamic, personal, and interesting to watch when each character is introduced to us through a focused story arc. These are all conceits of dramatic storytelling.

    Sensibly – logically – Shepard should be able to recruit his team of professionals to do a job through an information network, who would come to him, and he could divide the recruiting among the capable people he does have on hand. However, the whole thing would be too easy and too dry – the team would be introduced all at once, and it would be difficult to convey much about them at first without putting the rest of the plot on hold. You would likely have to fall back on quick and dirty exposition for the details you did share. These are all conceits of details-oriented storytelling.

    But honestly? There’s no reason we should have to settle for either one. Any writer worth their salt understands that from whatever direction they’re coming, no matter which they like more, at minimum the details should survive basic scrutiny and the drama should carry the audience’s interest.

    If you need Shepard personally interacting with his future team one at a time, then you need to put in the effort to think up a reason why what he’s doing makes sense – one that a reader could approach logically and come to the same conclusion. This reason should not be out of the way, stowed in a codex entry commented on by a writer in an interview. It’s a fundamental part of a story: why what the protagonist is doing makes sense. It needs to be clear, understandable, and non-ambiguous when all the facts are laid out on the table.

    Not doing this isn’t just a matter of the writers leaning more towards drama than details – it’s fudging a crucial element of the work. It’s like an artist who loves colours and has his theory down pat, but rushes through the concept stage and doesn’t even bother to think about the composition of his painting before he starts. The end result isn’t likely to be a “colours-oriented painting” – just a crappy one (albeit with some nice colours).

  26. Zekiel says:

    “[Thane] also highlights just how little sense it makes to run around the galaxy getting people to join a team to accomplish an unknown task.”

    A guy called smudboy did a whole series of indepth analysis videos on Youtube about Mass Effect, and one of them was about how you could fix the plot (while keeping the basics of being about stopping the collectors abducting people – not fitting it properly into the overall meta-plot of the trilogy). As I recall, his suggestion is that the plot should primarily be about finding out what waits on the other side of the Omega relay (e.g. by sending probes through, or finding people who’ve actually been and come back), so that you can then prepare intelligently – rather than recruiting a team of specialists who may or may not be any use. That would have given the writers the opportunity to actually justify the need to recruit all the team members.

  27. Vermander says:

    She’s not my favorite character or anything, but I always felt like Liara was intended to be the “cannon” love interest for Shepherd and also serves as sort of a secondary protagonist. If someone were to make a Mass Effect movie based on the games they’d be more or less obligated to include her.

    To me the other “main” characters are Garrus, Wrex and maybe Tali, the rest of them are kind of optional.

    • Christopher says:

      She’s the only one in 1 with both additional scenes of her and Shepard(The mind melting therapy thing), strong ties to the main mystery(protheans) and a relationship to one of the villains(her mother), so I got the same impression. Wrex, Tali and Garrus aren’t anywhere near that, but are still the main representatives for each of their species. Add Mordin for the salarians to that.

  28. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    So it’s silly to recruit Thane because being an assassin isn’t the same thing as being a soldier? I mean… sure, but what if you happened to NEED a stealthy, sneaky guy skilled in both making long distance shots and equally proficient in close combat with more powerful opponents? Not knowing the particulars of the suicide mission isn’t a flaw in the story, it’s THE REASON THEY EXPLICITLY LABEL IT A SUICIDE MISSION. Because it might literally be impossible to accomplish, without an army of some kind. This is why Shepard assembles a grab bag of powerful biotics, brilliant techies, meathead soldiers, and specialists in other disciplines, just in case. You know… exactly what you’d do to accomplish a concrete objective (defeat the Collectors at their source) with unclear mission parameters.

    Regarding Liara, I would think the thought there was another way to show how things had deteriorated in Shepard’s absence. One of the costs of Shepard’s death was Liara’s happy go lucky outlook, basically. This makes more in-game sense if you were dating her at the time you got vented into space.

    • Shamus says:

      “THE REASON THEY EXPLICITLY LABEL IT A SUICIDE MISSION.”

      Uh. THE WRITER labels it a suicide mission. Nobody – not even TIM – has any clue what the mission entails. Shepard didn’t know what he was going to find on Iilos. Was that a suicide mission?

      If you’re just rounding up ALL OF THE POSSIBILITIES, then where are the engineers, the biochemists, the demolitions team, drone pilots, fighter pilots, mechanics, etc etc?

      The fact that it turns out the suicide mission is actually something appropriate for the squad you’ve gathered up is a miracle. (Or, ahem, a massive contrivance.) In a sane world, you’d do some recon, figure out what you need, and then gather those resources.

      And like I point out in the article: Even if Shepard is okay with this, it should really sound strange to Thane. “Who do you want me to kill? You don’t know? Well how many? You don’t know that either? What will their defenses be like? What sort of environment? You don’t even know that? Look, here’s my card. Call me once you know what you’re doing.” Thane doesn’t even ask. Nobody does. Everybody gathers on the ship and just waits until information is introduced that retroactively makes it sensible for them to be on the ship.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        I don’t think you’ve got a leg to stand on regarding the branding of the Suicide mission, honestly. If the game, the marketing, the dialogue (WE PROBABLY WILL NOT BE COMING BACK FROM THIS GUYS), the quest log, the briefings, etc all say it’s a one way ticket unless you do great… how is that unclear? The parameters of the mission are “reconnaissance in force”. Go through the Omega Relay (which no one has survived before). See what’s over there. If it’s something you can kill, then kill it. If that is impossible, find a way to jump out and we’ll figure out how to kill it. So part 1 is gain the ability to go through the relay, part 2 is make sure the ship can theoretically survive the trip + mission on the other side, part 3 is make sure you could reasonably kill something like say, the crew of a capital ship or space station in ground combat. Part 4 would be find a way to exfiltrate if the scenario is like your hypothetical (there’s a Collector fleet filled with 100 ships, there’s a Collector planet with 1 million Collectors, etc). The purpose of doing the mission this way is that getting THROUGH the relay is a massive hurdle and it might not be possible to get back. If it IS possible, a stealth ship + combat ready team would likely be required (to run a blockade or terminate a fixed defensive emplacement for example).

        Engineers are on the ship already. You could argue that Tali, Legion, and Mordin qualify as some kind of engineers in any case.

        Demo Team, any soldier can fit this role. During the Tali recruitment mission, the team sets up a controlled detonation.

        Drone pilots => EDI

        Fighter pilots => Ideally the Normandy + Joker + EDI fit this role. They get into a dogfight that they win soon after exiting the Omega relay (they win better if you bought the right upgrades).

        To avoid just being a nitpicker, I DO get what you’re saying about the game structure. It sounds like you’re describing Sly Cooper 2-4, where the first couple of missions in each area are recon, then you gather supplies and prepare elements, then the last missions are executing the heist/trap/what have you. That structure has good and bad points too. The main bad point being how it tends to draw out minor elements that are less interesting and is also largely predictable.

        Amusingly, in the recon based model, Thane would be the MOST appropriate teammate to hire, followed by Kasumi. Your complaint against him specifically makes less sense when you think about it…

        • Shamus says:

          “If the game, the marketing, the dialogue (WE PROBABLY WILL NOT BE COMING BACK FROM THIS GUYS), the quest log, the briefings, etc all say it’s a one way ticket unless you do great… how is that unclear?”

          Are you ACTUALLY suggesting that Shepard knows this is a suicide mission because he saw the Mass Effect 2 marketing? My entire argument is how this doesn’t make sense from within the gameworld, and you’re arguing using out-of-world info. You claim I don’t have a leg to stand on, but I don’t think you even understand the basic premise of the debate.

          Your stuff about making the game like sly cooper continues to miss the point. I have no idea where you’re going with this.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            No, I’m suggesting he knows it’s a suicide mission because Illusive Man tells him that they may not be coming back. And all the dialogue he then says to the team reinforces that idea. When you have a scene with your love interest, it’s in the context of “I’m not sure we can survive what we have to do.” And the quest log (which is sort of half in game, half out) I think it MAY (don’t quote me on this, I don’t have the game handy) actually straight up CALL it a suicide mission.

            The comparison to Sly Cooper is because you stated that by all rights, this should be a recon mission which then leads to recruiting a team for specific purposes that you realized you would need. This is the exact game flow of Sly Cooper 2-4.

            • Shamus says:

              “And all the dialogue he then says to the team reinforces that idea. ”

              Now you’re arguing in circles. TIM believes that this is a suicide mission because TIM says so? What does TIM know that Shepard doesn’t? Nobody knows anything.

              And I couldn’t help but notice that you ignored the central thrust of my argument, which is that even if Shepard and TIM are okay with this, Thane ought to find this recruitment pitch really strange.

              Also, I never said this should be a recon mission. I only said that the characters don’t know enough to justify the decisions they’re making.

              • guy says:

                Yeah, there never is any in-setting reason to call it a suicide mission. It’s certainly a high-risk mission, since everyone who went through the relay previously has died, but there’s no particular indication that the entire team will die if they succeed; it’s not like the plan is to blow up the relay and strand the Normandy in the center of the galaxy with a billion angry Collectors. That’s a suicide mission.

                • RCN says:

                  What I always found most suspect in Mass Effect 2 is precisely how NO-ONE knows anything beyond the Omega Relay.

                  It is like there’s literally no-one with any inkling of creativity in the entirety of citadel space. Citadel law is extremely paranoid about opening relays because you never know what you’ll find on the other side, however there’s this one relay that’s open, people know SOMETHING comes and goes from it, and yet either NO-ONE ever bothered to find out if it needed to be addressed or NO-ONE ever gave a fair attempt at trying, which are both equally preposterous notions that only exist to give the relay a quasi-mystical Bermuda Triangle vibe.

                  From what we gather from the moment that the Normandy reaches the other side, the only thing really keeping anyone from coming back alive are the Collectors weapons. But considering they’re not powerful enough to instantly obliterate the Normandy, why wasn’t a Dreadnought ever sent through? Ok, the Dreadnoughts are really rare and only a handful exist in the whole galaxy, but if a mysterious Relay that dangerous (as far as anyone knows it could be another Rachni-like threat, which it kinda was) doesn’t warrant a Dreadnought, then what the hell does?

                  But let’s contrive and say for one reason or another (maybe decades-long scheduling problems with the Dreadnoughts) you can’t send a dreadnaught in. Fine, then send a drone swarm, make them make a sweep and come back. If none come back, send another with less strict parameters, make them disperse at arrival and then every single one tries to come back one way or another, even if it takes regular Mass Effect travel to get back if they can’t through the relay.

                  Considering the way the Citadel Governments reacted to the Rachni threat, that is, with extreme recklessness and paranoia, it make zero sense for this one open relay to stay so wrapped in mystery.

                  • Gruhunchously says:

                    Actually, the reason no one has ever survived the relay trip was because the drift inherent in relay transportation, usually harmless in empty space, ended up sending them into a debris field or some other hazard the moment they emerged from the other side. That why the Normandy needed the IFF to safely go across; it altered the relay’s parameters to deposit certain ships into a safe area. So that, at least, is explained.

                    • RCN says:

                      Still doesn’t explain why the Citadel doesn’t seem to have the slightest of interest doing something about it. I mean, no-one thought it might be debris? Why not send in a powerful bomb to detonate on the other side and try to clear things up.

                      My point is, if anyone in the entirety of the Citadel Governments, which are composed of literally a hundreds of billions of people (if not a few trillions), ever actually TRIED to find out what was in the other side of the relay, someone would have found a way to do it.

                      So much so in fact that Shepard and his crew seem to do so almost without trying. The Normandy’s stealth wasn’t even a factor, and that was the only advantage it actually had over larger tonnages of ships.

                    • guy says:

                      The vast majority of the time, when someone jumped through the Omega-4 relay, they ended up inside the event horizon of a black hole; that becomes increasingly likely as the mass of the ship increases. A small percentage of the time, they emerged in a minimally survivable region and were blown up by automated defenses, forming the debris field. At some point, people decided to give up on shoving valuable warships into a black hole.

                      The Reaper IFF configures the relay so that it makes the arrival much more precise, so that the Normandy and the Collector ship reliably emerge in the safe zone between the black holes.

                    • INH5 says:

                      The Omega 4 relay is within the Terminus systems, so the Citadel Governments can’t do anything about it. The Terminus systems are supposedly ruled by a disparate bunch of warlords with constantly shifting territorial borders. Even the Omega space station is pretty close to anarchy, and Aria is only the most powerful warlord there. Considering the circumstances, it actually makes sense that no large government has ever devoted a lot of resources into trying to get through the Omega 4 relay, because anyone who could stake a claim in the Omega system would pretty much always have more important things to worry about.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Oh, why does TIM believe it to be a suicide mission? I guess I misunderstood. “I need somebody to go to a place no one has ever been and stem the source of the strongest enemy humanity has seen since the Geth. It’s impossible to gather intel on the mission site without actually committing to a trip that it might be impossible to return from. Anyone who goes on this mission stands a very strong chance of dying at any given moment of the mission. Going through the relay, finding out what’s on the other side, and trying to defeat whatever is there, all pose literally incalculable risks (we don’t have the data). It will be…. a suicide mission.” That’s why. I didn’t think the risk of the mission was actually in question since we both agree there’s tons of stuff they simply can’t know about it. If you mean that it’s unwise, I would disagree since going there is the only way to find out what IS possible to do.

                Thane is okay with it because he’s heard of Shepard and would LOVE a noble and heroic death. If you happen to know where he could get one. Because of the painful lung disease thing he’s got. I’m trying to think of which character would be the least willing to join, if they found the pitch strange. Maybe Samara? But in her case, you do her a solid, so she swears you a very solemn oath to pay you back, basically. Even if she found the description of the task vague, she’s game by the constraints of the oath she took. Jack seems less interested in the mission than in the chance to get at Cerberus resources while on board. Mordin accepts the scientific challenge of counterattacking the immediate Collector threat (paralyze bugs) and stays on out of curiosity.

                Everyone else falls under the umbrella of “paid to accomplish the mission, parameters are unimportant to them” or “personal friend of Shepard, will do it just because s/he asked.” I find in most media, people OFTEN get pulled into missions with somewhat vague definitions that they have to figure out later. “We need to beat Saren… but I’m not sure how yet,” would be the pitch in ME1 for example. Not sure how “we need to beat the Collectors… but we don’t know how yet,” is worse.

                • Shamus says:

                  “I need somebody to go to a place no one has ever been and stem the source of the strongest enemy humanity has seen since the Geth. It’s impossible to gather intel on the mission site without actually committing to a trip that it might be impossible to return from. Anyone who goes on this mission stands a very strong chance of dying at any given moment of the mission. Going through the relay, finding out what’s on the other side, and trying to defeat whatever is there, all pose literally incalculable risks (we don’t have the data). It will be…. a suicide mission.”

                  And if that conversation was actually in the game, then Shepard would have something to work with. Instead TIM casually says, “keep building your team”, like he’s hired you to run a Tim Hortons.

                  And if Shepard impressed on Thane the nobility (tell him what the Collectors are doing), danger, and covering-all-bases mystery of the mission, then Thane would have something to work with.

                  These things are not in the game. Which is the problem I have. I’m not saying it’s a “plot hole”. I’m saying it’s a complete failure to characterize, build tension, establish stakes, and clarify character action.

                  Instead the author slaps the label SUICIDE MISSION on it and expects you to fill in the blanks. Which you did. But I maintain that putting some more dialog in there would have made all of this work so much better.

                  • Spacewreck says:

                    They did have that conversation immediately after the Horizon mission. TIM explicitly reminds Shepard that there’s no guarantee they’ll return from the Omega-4 Relay, so Shepard and the team should tie up any personal loose ends to make sure they’re focused entirely on the mission.

                    As far as the recruits not asking for more information, I’d assumed that their general knowledge of the Collectors and their various inclinations toward altruism were enough for them to provisionally agree with more detailed discussion taking place off-screen so as not to burden the player with hearing the same things they already know repeated again. I can see how that felt incomplete to others, though it didn’t bother me personally.

                    Plus you do get to question most of them some more about their feelings on Cerberus and the mission on-board the ship. Maybe that should have happened when they were recruited, but placing on the ship instead may have been a compromise that allowed people who were interested in the characters a chance to pursue that further while the players who weren’t could simply not bother with those conversations.

                    Likewise, I assumed that gathering the grab-bag-o’-skills team was precisely because Cerberus didn’t have a clue what the Normandy was going to find on the other side, but I agree that could have been better explicated. It may have gone unremarked simply because the trope of gathering the “dirty dozen” is common enough that the writers didn’t consider providing a proper nail to hang that hat on.

            • Spacewreck says:

              AFAICT, it’s described as a suicide mission simply because no one except the Collectors has successfully traversed the Omega-4 Relay and returned. In fact, the one thing they do know is that no one’s ever come back from the far side of that relay and that fact is public knowledge and mentioned early on in the game. Given that, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the team to assume they might not be coming back and plan accordingly.

              It’s not laid out explicitly in the game, but the plan seemed to be to assemble a good commando team since they had no idea of they were going to be able to send through more than one ship. Cerberus couldn’t assume they be able to get a large force through the relay, so they chose a stealth ship and gathered a bunch of people with covert operation skills and experience in independent operations that could hopefully slip in undetected and sabotage the Collectors (If it turned out the information they got would be enough to allow multiple ships through, then the Normandy would still have been good for a recon team).

              Within those parameters, getting people with as wide a base of knowledge as possible makes sense precisely because you’re not sure what you’ll encounter. IOW, I interpreted it not so much as deciding they needed certain skill sets as much as grabbing whatever they could think of because they didn’t know what they’d need. And as it turns out most of them weren’t particularly important. As long as you did the necessary ship upgrades and made sure everyone had their shit together (i.e. the Loyalty missions), there’s only three points in the suicide mission where selecting the team member with the right specific skill or ability makes a difference as far as completing the mission without casualties. Other than Tali for shield upgrade and the vent system, you’ve got every team member you need to successfully complete the suicide mission without losses in the first batch of dossiers.

              As far as Thane specifically, this isn’t supported directly by the game but since his dossier was only added after the encounter on Horizon, in which Harbinger reveals his involvement, it’s possible that TIM thought an assassin might be useful for removing an individual who serves as an important command-and-control element for the Collectors. Even if he wasn’t needed to specifically assassinate someone, he’s very experienced at penetrating secure places and doing damage and it’s not unreasonable to think that might easily come in handy.

              The general recruitment pitch to Thane was a chance to possibly save some innocents using whatever skills he could bring to the table — he was looking for a chance at redemption and from his reaction to Shepard’s pitch he was already familiar with the Collectors in general.

              It’s also worth noting that the ship had an entire crew that might have served the other functions mentioned as well (engineers, mechanics, etc.). Which does make it a little silly that Shepard couldn’t prevail on Cerberus or other allies to re-crew the ship before going through the relay. New personnel might not have been as effective as the original crew due to a lack of familiarity, but it still would have made more sense than leaving all of those positions completely unmanned when going through the relay.

          • That was literally one of five different examples he used. The other four were referencing in-game/in-universe content. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong, but the fact that you respond as if they were never even mentioned is seriously…suspect…

            • Shamus says:

              I call him out on it because I suspected that it was at the heart of the disagreement: The difference between in-character and out-of-character knowledge. I keep pointing out that the characters should be demanding more information, and he keeps pointing out why it makes sense to HIM. I didn’t respond to the other four because they aren’t germane to the point I’m making.

              I – and a lot of other people – found this stuff to be incredibly jarring. And it wasn’t because I “wasn’t paying attention”. In fact, these problems get worse for me on repeated play-throughs. Some people obviously don’t care at all. Finding out the reason for the discrepancy is interesting and can tell us a lot about why we played these games and what we expected of them.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                So let’s say Thane’s handlers set him up for a normal mission. Thane might demand very specific information on some topics (why does this person deserve to die, for example) and almost none on others (what kind of defenses does he have, because figuring that out might be a large part of Thane’s actual job). I think the Collectors mission is similar. He finds out what the team knows about the Collectors themselves and WHY they should be defeated and tactics that have successfully defeated them before, but doesn’t demand a bunch of (unknowable) details about the schematics of a base (or whatever it turns out to be) no one has ever been to before.

              • “I didn’t respond to the other four because they aren’t germane to the point I’m making. ”

                “My entire argument is how this doesn’t make sense from within the gameworld, and you’re arguing using out-of-world info.”

                “If the game, the marketing, the dialogue (WE PROBABLY WILL NOT BE COMING BACK FROM THIS GUYS), the quest log, the briefings, etc all say it’s a one way ticket unless you do great… how is that unclear?”

                *confused shrug*

                • Shamus says:

                  You could always try reading what I wrote. If that’s confusing to you, then I really do wonder why you continue to read my site. Several times in the past couple of weeks you’ve assumed bad faith on my part. You clearly don’t value my opinion and don’t care to try and see things from my perspective.

                  Why are you here?

                  • “You could always try reading what I wrote.”

                    I’m not sure what you mean by that. Are you saying you DIDN’T tell Shoebox you’re entire argument was how it didn’t make sense from within the gameworld…after he specifically pointed out elements exclusive to the gameworld…and then you DIDN’T tell me that you ignored those elements because they weren’t germane towards your argument…even though your previous statement clearly confirms they were?

                    Because if that’s the case, I’m reaaaally curious what my computer’s clipboard has against you.

                    I come to your site because I enjoy the content. Agreement with your opinion is not a prerequisite to doing so. I honestly cannot understand…well, how that’s hard to understand. Though to be fair, I haven’t actually haven’t been disagreeing with you so much as pointing out some pretty egregious contradictions and other general weaknesses in your arguments. I always hope you can at least meet me halfway and we can get an actual dialogue going, so I suppose you can say I’m still here outta naive optimism?

                    • Shamus says:

                      I keep pointing out that this doesn’t make sense from THANE’S point of view, he keeps responding with information that SHEPARD and TIM has, and you (Neil) have appointed yourself as a referee on his behalf, increasing the number of misunderstandings I have to deal with. (This is a simplification of one of the many arguments we have running in parallel, because summing them ALL up would just add to the madness.)

                      In the past two days I’ve spent a few hours responding to you two. I keep looking for different ways to explain this, and for my trouble I get your confrontational tone and haranguing. Instead of coming in with the tone of “Shamus, I can’t reconcile these two things you said” you come at me with “pretty egregious contradictions”. You’re assuming I’m wrong, not that you’re misunderstanding. You’re trying to get me to admit fault, not looking for clarification.

                      Two hours is a lot of time, which I could spend making content for everyone else to enjoy. My argument was right there in the original post: Thane should find this strange. Now, maybe you don’t think that’s important. Maybe you would rather the game skips all the dialog where Shepard brings Thane up to speed on the stakes and helps Thane understand why he might want to be on this mission. Maybe you sort of assumed that conversation took place off-camera.

                      Right now my choice is:
                      1) Spend basically an unlimited hours haggling with people who seem incapable of understanding the core of my argument. (If it was dozens of people, I’d worry I failed at my explanation. But everyone else seemed to grasp it right away.)
                      2) Have Neil accuse me of deception or incompetence every time I post one of these, and let the comment stand without response.

                      I have been as generous as I can with my time, and as patient as I can manage. You either get it or you don’t. I don’t care at this point. If you think I’m wrong about everything, then just stop reading. Don’t come in here and tell me how wrong I am, because I am not willing to spend any more hours trying to placate you.

                    • Spacewreck says:

                      I agree with your general assessment of Mass Effect 2, especially the weak main plot, but this particular part of the argument doesn’t seem to match up with what’s in the game. Part of that might be due to the different dialogue options – some of what you’re saying is missing is present, but it might only come up under certain dialogue choices (I don’t know for sure as I haven’t run through all the options in each case). That might explain why you and Neil are seeing different things.

                      “Going through the relay, finding out what’s on the other side, and trying to defeat whatever is there, all pose literally incalculable risks (we don’t have the data). It will be…. a suicide mission.”

                      And if that conversation was actually in the game, then Shepard would have something to work with. Instead TIM casually says, “keep building your team”, like he’s hired you to run a Tim Hortons.

                      The suicide mission dialogue is peppered throughout that game, based on the it being common knowledge that no one has ever returned from going through the Omega-4 Relay. It’s mentioned when TIM first talks to Shepard, it’s mentioned again by TIM after the Horizon mission when he emphasizes to Shepard that there’s no guarantee they’ll make it back and that the team should resolve any remaining personal issues before going through (it’s the in-game trigger for the loyalty missions)*, and several of the recruits note it right away. Thane himself notes that no one’s come back from that relay as soon as Shepard mentions that they’re trying to go through it, among others.

                      The idea that this is a suicide mission is repeated almost ad nauseum through the game because it’s the one thing they know for sure – that no one other than the Collectors has ever successfully traversed the Omega-4 Relay. As they did with Thane among other, it’s even made it clear through various dialogue choices that even people who had no idea about the mission until Shepard spoke to them knew about the danger of trying to use that relay.

                      *This also underlines the TIM’s not being casual about it. He actually takes time to suggest that the team get their affairs in order given what he’s asking of them.

                      The TL,DR version is that the game takes numerous opportunities to demonstrate it’s general knowledge that going through the Omega-4 Relay looks like suicide, so it’s easy to see why any mission going through it would be considered possibly suicidal.

                      And if Shepard impressed on Thane the nobility (tell him what the Collectors are doing), danger, and covering-all-bases mystery of the mission, then Thane would have something to work with.

                      This may depend on which dialogue suggestions you make, but the Paragon option for explaining the mission to Thane lays out exactly what’s happening – that the Collectors are kidnapping colonists and that Shepard is trying to stop them. Earlier in that same conversation Thane had already expressed his regret for the loss of innocent lives in trying to kill Dassana and his desire to atone for those collateral losses. When Shepard lays out his mission, Thane immediately responds that he doesn’t care about the danger (which, as noted above, he knows about without Shepard having to explain it), but about the innocents. He then thanks Shepard for the chance to opportunity to make the universe a brighter place before he dies.

                      I understand that the reasons why TIM suggested recruiting Thane specifically could have been spelled out better, but Thane’s personal motivation for accepting the mission in whatever capacity he could serve is pretty openly laid out right at the start.

                      It may be that these things weren’t clearly laid out under other dialogue choices, which would be a problem in the writing, but in at least some run-throughs most of the information you’re saying is missing is in there.

                    • Shamus says:

                      I think this is part of it. Certainly there are different dialog paths. Moreover, the idea that “the suicide mission dialogue is peppered throughout that game” is probably another contributing factor. There’s no one moment where they frame the stakes, the risks, and their goals. I’ve played through this game three and a half times now, plus watched it on Spoiler Warning, plus re-watched my own footage while doing this write-up. Despite that, I’m sure I’m still missing half of the dialog in the game because of the branching.

                      Looking back at Mass Effect 1, you get the big “Shepard gives a big speech to the troops before leaving the Citadel.” I always assumed it was supposed to be an emotional moment, but now I suspect it had mechanical importance as well. It’s a single, impossible-to-miss moment where the main character expresses their goals, the stakes, the challenges, just in case any of those details got lost in the debates with Udina or the Council. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t really have a moment like this. Instead it’s broken into many conversations, a majority of which with a character we fundamentally don’t trust.

                      In Mass Effect 2 a lot of this stuff is just taken for granted in dialog, often long after the relevant decisions have been made. (For you. By TIM.) And of course all of these problems feed back in to the TIM conversations. You have to take the word of a character you fundamentally don’t trust, and you get very little in the way of exploratory dialog. It’s possible that simply having a “second opinion” style analysis from a more trusted source would have helped a great deal.

                    • Spacewreck says:

                      Looking back at Mass Effect 1, you get the big “Shepard gives a big speech to the troops before leaving the Citadel.” I always assumed it was supposed to be an emotional moment, but now I suspect it had mechanical importance as well.

                      That’s a good point. The biggest difference there may be that by that point in ME1 you’ve got the entire team (minus Liara) assembled already and you’ve picked them up as you were moving through the foundational sections of the main storyline. That’s not an option in ME2 since Shepard would pretty much be giving the speech to an empty auditorium, so to speak. The team members are largely absent and the regular crew members are probably already in the know.

                      That being said, one possibility to include such a moment might have been Shepard getting on the radio and making a blanket request for help from any interested party. The mission’s itself is not supposed to be a secret – TIM indicates the whole reason he’s doing this is because he can’t get anyone to listen and you spend the whole game running into people who already know about Shepard working with Cerberus. Shepard doing a Big Damn Hero speech to the galaxy at large (including a Paragon option to say, yeah, Cerberus sucks but I gotta use what I got at hand”) and then picking up a selected list of the responding volunteers could have wrapped a lot of the recruitment issues you’re raising into a neater bow.

                      I know we’re not considering the DLC for purposes of this, but it should be noted that this is what happened for Zaeed and Kasumi. They’re both hirelings who don’t have recruitment missions. Instead Cerberus contacted them about the mission, they agreed to take the job, and you’re just picking them up. You know they’ve already been briefed on the situation and why they’re signing up, namely a big paycheck.

                      I’ve played through this game three and a half times now, plus watched it on Spoiler Warning, plus re-watched my own footage while doing this write-up. Despite that, I’m sure I’m still missing half of the dialog in the game because of the branching.

                      I’m most of the way through yet another playthrough of ME2 where I’m selecting a lot more Renegade options than I did previously and yeah, some of the dialogue differences can be pretty significant. I suspect that’s a huge contributor to the difference in perceptions between “Yeah, they covered that fairly well” versus “No, they didn’t really address that at all.”

                      To take another example, while I’ve found certain dialogue options make a clearer case for Thane’s decision, I still haven’t found any dialogue options that make Samara’s recruitment sound any less horseshit. The closest I can think of out of the points you mentions is that Shepard does ask her what she thinks about Cerberus during one of the ship conversations. Samara just dismisses it by saying people think she’s an extremist too so she’s reserving judgment on Cerberus.

                      Samara does make comments on Omega and Tuchanka that she’s thinking about coming back and dispensing justice after she’s done with the mission. That made me wish there was an option when you asked her about Cerberus to say, “No, they’re complete assholes, here’s copious evidence from their own fucking files. Feel free to litter the streets with their bodies once we sort out the Collectors.”

                      You have to take the word of a character you fundamentally don’t trust, and you get very little in the way of exploratory dialog. It’s possible that simply having a “second opinion” style analysis from a more trusted source would have helped a great deal.

                      You can get some of that (though even then most of it is not directly germane to the Collector mission) with Anderson on the Citadel, but unless you zip there immediately after Freedom’s Progress it does come much later than it should have. Given that Admiral Hackett’s working with Cerberus (which was established in the Arrival DLC – I don’t think it came up in the main game), there could have been a conference between him and Shepard at the start to provide that second opinion.

                      I do wish there was more opportunity in the dialogue to challenge/push back at TIM without sounding petulant. The biggest example that springs to mind was the Collector Ship mission. It’s an obvious trap but TIM withholds that info and you’re not allowed to have that conversation until the not-so-surprising reveal afterward. It would have been great to have the chance to say at the start that you’re aware it’s a trap even if TIM’s trying not to say so, but you’re willing to stick your head in the lion’s mouth in hopes of getting a better look at its teeth. Admittedly it would be hard to have that as a dialogue option and still have the possibility of keeping it as a surprise for later in the mission.

                      Ooh, actually you could insert things like that as a special dialogue option in a New Game +. It would have been cool in replays with a character to have moments where you could say different things since there’s no longer an impetus to avoid surprising the player with revelations they’d already know about at that point.

              • Sartharina says:

                Did you miss the point where nobody has ever survived going through the Omega-4 Relay, and the plan involves going through the Omega-4 Relay? It’s a suicide mission.

                You are the recon team – but you cannot fail. The plan could have been “Go through, see whats on the other side, survive long enough to find a way back, then send a whole damn fleet through once we know how to navigate safely.”

                I think had the suicide mission’s result ended up being any other outcome, the team would have been flexible enough to adapt to the situation and you’d call it out as equally contrived.

                • Shamus says:

                  Did you miss the part where I said that none of that justification appears in any of the conversations?

                  It’s a character-based game where none of the characters have any personal stake in the main plot, and none of them ask any reasonable questions about what’s going on.

                  “I think had the suicide mission’s result ended up being any other outcome, the team would have been flexible enough to adapt to the situation and you’d call it out as equally contrived.”

                  Which makes me wonder why you bother reading my site.

                  Look, I think Mass Effect 2 is lazy, sophomoric bullshit, and I’m going to spend weeks explaining why. You don’t have to agree, but if you’re going to reflexively tell me I’m wrong for not liking it, then you might as well stop reading. Your irritation is not going to somehow make me like the game.

    • natureguy85 says:

      All of what you wrote presumes they will have the opportunity to use a ground team, which means landing or boarding something. They have no reason to think this is the case. They just decide to go through and hope they are ready for whatever when they could just wait around the relay for the Collector Cruiser. They have no reason to think the jump itself is safe, let alone whatever they may encounter on the other side. Yet they put all their eggs in one basket and send over the guy and ship they emptied their coffers to bring back to life.

      Imagine you find a hole in the ground and can’t see the bottom. Mass Effect 2 is jumping into that hold and hoping you don’t die while carrying lots of equipment that may or may not help you climb back out.

  29. Mike S. says:

    There was a terrified worker on Eden Prime that had a crazed hobo doomsayer thing going on.

    He sort of shows up (in writing) in ME2, albeit only in DLC. (Probably the worst DLC I played in the series– the Firewalker Pack– but at least it was free.) You’re tracing the steps of a pair of scientists investigating a Prothean artifact, based on the notes of a Doctor Cayce. Cayce’s first name is Manuel, and his affect and strong feelings about Eden Prime imply that he’s the Manuel from the beginning of the first game.

    (Apparently confirmed in a cut recording, though of course since it was cut that’s not canon per se.)

    The other scientist, Robert O’Loy, has a wife named Helen, which is a random reference to a classic golden age story. (One that Joker might be able to relate to.)

    Alas, the central point of the DLC is to fly around in the flash-paper deathtrap known as the Hammerhead, which seems to have been designed to get people to appreciate the Mako’s virtues. The fact that you can neither exit the craft nor save or pause within it just intensifies the frustration of trying to do jumping puzzles with it.

    (It seems to be a little more durable when you have to use it in the Overlord DLC, but I’d still rather have had my trusty APC.)

    • guy says:

      It managed to handle terrain worse than the Mako despite the fact that it literally flies. I don’t know how it managed that.

      • Spacewreck says:

        I thought the Mako was okay, quite possibly because my video game driving skills are so shit in general that I didn’t notice any specific problems with that particular vehicle’s handling, ha-ha. But lord did the Hammerhead suck ass. In addition to all the other problems already noted, it being a glass cannon meant that every fight was a tedious exercise in pop-up attacks.

      • Taellosse says:

        I would be very interested to see a breakdown of people that loved/hated the Mako’s driving plotted against whether they played Mass Effect on PC or console first. I played it on the 360 initially, and only in the last couple years played it on PC (actually planning to beat the game on PC finally – about to head to Virmire soon). To me, the Mako was sometimes a little annoying to drive, but mostly it was the terrain itself that would get to me – the uncharted worlds are so often absurdly jagged and difficult to navigate. But now, playing on PC, I get the rage so much better – handling that thing with the WASD keys is an exercise in misery and irritation that never really gets better, even when you start to get the hang of navigating the thing. It’s one of the few areas of the game that is significantly worse on PC than console in this game.

        • Spacewreck says:

          I played it on both, but even on the PC I used an Xbox controller (which took a bit of a workaround IIRC). I can imagine how annoying it would have been with the WASD keys, especially since I used a lot of diagonal movement to get around steep terrain.

          • Taellosse says:

            I experimented with some of the workarounds to use a controller, but found them to be too much of a hassle. Driving the Mako is really the only part of the game that is significantly worse on keyboard/mouse than a controller, once you get used to the change (there are a few other tradeoffs, but they work out to a net zero to me, or in the PC’s favor, such as managing the inventory and store screens).

        • guy says:

          I’ve only ever played it on the PC.

  30. muelnet says:

    We’ve got stoic, mercenary, philosophical, military, and berzerker badasses.

    While the sentence structure says these are multiple badasses, all I can think when I read it is how easily all of that could just be talking about Wrex.

  31. Xander77 says:

    I thought you’d have more to say about the stupid “MEANINGFUL CHOICES” involved with Morinth. Just because you don’t HAVE to recruit her, doesn’t mean the option isn’t incredibly stupid. We may not know what purpose a Paladin or an Assassin will have on our mission, but what possible use would an unrepentant serial killer have?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      She is a hot blue alien chick.What more do you want?

    • Spacewreck says:

      I think it’d be a suicidally stupid idea too, but to play Devil’s Advocate…

      Samara has pledged to serve for the current mission even if the actions involved violate her moral code, but she’s also let you know that once it’s over she might kill you and your associates anyway if she thinks you’ve done wrong (which given Cerberus’s past makes it extremely risky to recruit Samara in the first place, but that’s already been covered). Morinth’s equally powerful and doesn’t come with the same moral code. She lives to kill and you’re giving her the chance to do a lot of that with no repercussions.

      If you’re ruthless and arrogant enough, you might see Morinth as being less risky in the short term – no pesky strict moral code to get in the way — and if you can’t control her, you can always put her down. One of the possible Renegade outcomes with Morinth in subsequent conversations is being cocky enough to fall for her line that unlike the others you’re uniquely special enough to do the freaky magic-sex dance with her and survive. This of course leads to your dead ass becoming the new throw carpet in the starboard observation lounge, but it emphasizes the idea that overconfidence in his/her ability to handle Morinth’s action is what would play into Shepard choosing her instead of Samara.

      And what the hell, you’ve already got one kill-crazy biotic on the team and you’ve kept her in check. Better to have another devil you know than some would-be white knight with a bad case of implacable conscience when you gotta use whatever means get you to the end.

  32. natureguy85 says:

    Liara’s character jump was annoying. I liked how she was. I could have rolled with it if I’d gotten to see it take place over time or if I was around during the events that caused it. This is the same exact problem with Anders in DA2. Big time skips tend to be bad.

    I like Samara’s character, but you’re right that I can’t really look at her without rolling my eyes, especially when we already have Miranda.

    In fairness, Thane might be the one person who doesn’t care because his dialogue about his recruitment mission suggests that he is actually a death seeker and wants to go out doing something important.

  33. Valik Surana says:

    Samara’s outfit is… a strange choice.

    I mean, we see a lot asari fighters over the course of the trilogy. And, from what I remember, ALL OF THEM – the commandos in ME1 and ME3, Liara, the Spectre in LotSB, all the Eclipse mercs including an officer who actually wears *heavy* armor – wear full body protection, except Samara and Benezia.

    But Benezia probably didn’t intend to engage in personal combat, so that just leaves Samara. And she wears something that just leaves her center of mass exposed. She must have really high faith in her barriers.

    …I especially like that one variant that looks like a fetish outfit and is just mostly see-through. WTF? Yeah, it looks nice, but… WTF?

  34. Bronn says:

    I always play as Femshep because I’m in love with Jennifer Hale’s voice acting, and I couldn’t make it through ME1 listening to male Shepard read his lines. As Femshep, Thane comes across as the biggest collection of clichés imaginable.

    Look at Thane as a romantic interest and see how he’s pulled straight out of some trashy romance novel. He’s an assassin with a heart of gold who literally prays over the bodies of his victims. He wears a chest-revealing outfit (yeah, yeah, justified by information tertiary to the plot but whatever). He was blindly going through life until he met the love of his life-while on a mission, no less. Then the love of his life died and he became a tortured soul. Now he’s suffering from a terminal disease while trying to place meaning back into his life now that he’s met Shepard. Thanks to his new love interest, he reconciles with his son while trying to perform some minimal good to make up for his life.

    I mean, holy crap.

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