Mass Effect Retrospective 22: Under New Management

By Shamus
on Nov 12, 2015
Filed under:
Mass Effect

Mass Effect 2 is a strange game. As the previous entries made clear, some of the writing is smart, witty, and interesting, and other parts of it are appallingly clumsy, idiotic, and tone-deaf. It’s not that the quality follows a broad gradient, it’s that the quality is incredibly modal. If you’re in a bad scene, then everything is generally bad: Characters can’t maintain a consistent personality or motivation, the player dialog becomes railroading and doesn’t line up with the prompts on the dialog wheel, established rules are discarded carelessly, and important details go unexplained. Then you get to the next scene and suddenly the characters behave sensibly, your dialog wheel is useful, the universe stops contradicting itself, and your actions are given proper context and justification.

It’s like having slices of Michael Bay’s Transformers interspersed with scenes from Gattaca, or Moon. It’s maddening.

We’re going to look over the main plot of Mass Effect 2, but instead of viewing facts in isolation as a first-time player would be forced to do, we’re going to examine them in light of things that are revealed later. We’re also going to examine the plot missions in order, instead of doing them with a half-dozen recruitment and loyalty missions between them.

Also, we’re probably going to re-tread a couple of things I said about the opening of Mass Effect 2 in previous entries, because I really want the through-line of the plot all in one place. Sorry about that. I’ve been editing this as I published it, but I can’t go back and re-arrange stuff that’s already published. (Well, I could, but it would be chaos.) Hopefully this isn’t too annoying or distracting.

Mass Effect 2 Mission Structure

The game shows this summary screen after every mission.

The game shows this summary screen after every mission.

I think this modal quality is a big reason for the constant controversy. If the game just sucked, that would be sad. But this game isn’t just a pile of dumb schlock. It’s a pile of dumb schlock mixed with a pile of awesome stuff. And if we’re simply measuring by time, then the good far outweighs the bad. The core of the Mass Effect 2 plot is only six-ish missions long:

  1. Escape project Lazarus.
  2. Investigate Freedom’s Progress.
  3. Stop the Collector attack on Horizon.
  4. Blunder into the Collector Trap like a dumbass and escape again.
  5. Visit the Dead Reaper.
  6. Fend off the Collector attack on the Normandy. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t count as a “mission” for Shepard, but it’s still an important part of the plot.)
  7. Assault the Collector base and stop their plans.

In contrast, you get 8 recruitment missionsYou don’t recruit Miranda and Jacob. and 10 loyalty missions. The recruitment missions alone outnumber the story missions, and that’s without including DLC characters. When you consider that story missions are really combat-heavy and recruitment and loyalty missions have comparatively more dialog, it becomes clear that the vast amount of storytelling in this game is completely divorced from the main plot.

So I can understand when some people become incredulous at my belabored criticisms. To them, the story was 80% awesome and 20% dumb.

The game sort of demands our suspension of disbelief, and it holds our in-game friends at ransom for it. “You like Garrus, don’t you? And Mordin? And Legion? If you stop believing in this story then you can’t be in this universe with your cool friends. You don’t want that, do you? Just go with it.”

Intro

Joker, I know you`re the best pilot or whatever, but could you STOP FLYING DIRECTLY INTO THE BEAM FOR, LIKE, FIVE SECONDS? At least make them AIM at us.

Joker, I know you`re the best pilot or whatever, but could you STOP FLYING DIRECTLY INTO THE BEAM FOR, LIKE, FIVE SECONDS? At least make them AIM at us.

At the end of Mass Effect 1, the Reapers were revealed to the galaxy in the form of a massive-scale attack, directly on the galactic seat of power. If anyone still had doubts, there was an ancient VI on Iilos that could tell you the whole story. Shepard didn’t just defeat Sovereign, he defeated the doubts that had been preventing the galaxy from taking action. It was part of the player’s victory.

But at the start of the game, the council no longer believes Shepard about the Reapers. Shepard stole the Normandy at the end of Mass Effect 1 to go face Saren, but now that he’s a Big Damn Hero who showed everyone how right he was, he’s lost his initiative and is just going to dutifully fly around hunting for Geth while the great big unknown Reaper clock ticks down the seconds to our collective doom. What was he going to do if the Collectors didn’t attack to kick-start this plot? Fly around out here doing nothing forever?

But the Collectors do show up, and they do kick-start the plot by attacking the Normandy, which is… strange, given what we learn about them later.

Their eventual plan is to sneak around swiping colonists. Here the intro shows them randomly ganking Alliance ships (it’s hinted that they’ve attacked at least three other ships) for no explained reason. Why pick a fight with ships that weren’t in their way and weren’t a threat to their plans?

What is the Collector’s main goal? To abduct humans. How do these attacks further that goal? We see that after the death of Shepard, humanity begins a big push to colonize new territory. We see that Alliance refuses to do anything about the Collectors when they start abducting those colonists. We see Shepard is the only one who will. For this attack to make sense to them, they would need to know all three of those things ahead of time.

From what we see in-game, we can’t even tell if this was a deliberate attempt to kill Shepard, or if the Collectors were just flying around blowing up ships for the lulz and Shepard got in their way.

Pressly is the only named character who dies permanently in this opening. Congratulations, XO Pressly. You`ve been promoted to the rank of `Jenkins`!

Pressly is the only named character who dies permanently in this opening. Congratulations, XO Pressly. You`ve been promoted to the rank of `Jenkins`!

In the short-term: Did the Collectors also somehow know that the Alliance wouldn’t send any ships to investigate the destruction of the Normandy? (During the intro, Shepard seemed to think the Alliance would show up in force any second.) What if attacking such a high-profile target had brought the fleets out to the Terminus systems? The Collectors would have needed to face those fleets or withdraw, and their kidnapping plans would have been jeopardized. What if the attack scared off potential colonists?

Obviously the writer wasn’t thinking about any of this from a character perspective. They just needed to shove the pieces around the game board and so they wrote this scene. The attack miraculously killed Shepard but spared all the other important characters, and then the Collectors flew away without mopping up and without gathering up all those escape pods filled with healthy human specimens with heads full of intelEven though the previous ships apparently had no survivors..

The Alliance didn’t respond. People colonized space anyway. These various sides are enslaved by the needs of the plot and none of them are acting like characters who have goals and agency. At least, nothing the writer cares to articulate to us.

Cerberus Employee Orientation

Come on, just shoot her you putz.

Come on, just shoot her you putz.

Shepard is back from the dead and it’s time for our combat tutorial. You can tell we’re in a Cerberus base because all the machines have gone crazy, everything is on fire, there are massive casualties, and they’re all human. The team was betrayed by one of their own. He blew up half the base and killed all the staff in an attempt to kill one guy in a coma, over whom he had total medical authority. His plan killed everyone except his intended target. And then Miranda murdered him without making any attempt to make sure he was guiltyShe smugly says she’s “never wrong”, but this is a main story mission and the dialog wheel is your enemy, so you can’t ask her for her proof or even to explain her reasoning., find out why he did it, or figure out who he was working forShe claimed he was “too dangerous” to be kept alive for questioning. Which kind of makes me wonder why she spent the rest of the game trying to pick a fight with JACK..

Welcome to Cerberus, where we can’t even betray ourselves properly!

Leaving behind the first of many Cerberus disasters, we fly to another base that is – by some miracle – not on fire. We have a meeting with The Illusive Man where the writers try to dazzle us with their Mary Sue by showing how cool and stylish he is and not by making him smart, interesting, or being connected to the world.

Imagine how much more punch this scene would have if we were meeting an established mysterious figure like the Shadow Broker, instead of one introduced literally in the last sixty seconds.

Think about what we know about the Shadow Broker based on the events of Mass Effect 1: He’s powerful, secretive, and knowledgeable. What did Mass Effect 1 tell us about Cerberus? Almost nothing. Most players probably won’t remember them because unlike Shadow Broker, Cerberus wasn’t part of the main plot of Mass Effect 1. But the little bit the game did show us revealed that they’re evil, stupid, and incompetent. So players will either be indifferent or hostile towards this new character, which is bad because the plot requires us to believe what he’s saying. The Shadow Broker is simply a much better fit for what the writer is trying to do.

I’m not saying that working for the Shadow Broker would have made for a great story. I think trying to put Shepard under new management was a mistake in any case. But if the writer is going to make this mistake then at least they should try to maximize player interest and minimize the damage.

Taking Orders

No, I`m not enslaving you, Shepard. You`re going to do everything I say of your own free will. Because I say so.

No, I`m not enslaving you, Shepard. You`re going to do everything I say of your own free will. Because I say so.

Shepard was pretty autonomous (fake videogame autonomy, but you know what I mean) in the first game. Shepard could forbid the Alliance admiral to board the Normandy, and he could hang up on the council. This game would have been free to give the player even more autonomy and agency. Shepard already had a ship, a mandate, and a team. All he needed was for a character to point him at a mission that would advance his goal.

Instead the writer decided to put Shepard on a leash. And instead of handing the leash to a trusted character, they gave it to someone unknown. But not completely unknown. You must take orders from TIM, and you have to take TIM’s word for things. TIM is actually the character with the agency in this story. TIM picks the team, TIM holds all the intel, TIM chooses the missions, and TIM decides when you’ll carry them out. Not only has the writer upended the entire structure and obliged themselves to introduce lots of new characters and ideas in a short time, but they’ve done it in a way that will maximize player resistance. Note that this is player resistance. Not character resistance.

Sure, there’s character resistance, too, but instead of creating character drama it just widens the chasm between the player and Shepard. When TIM tries to be your friend, you can’t rebuff him by calling out Cerberus on their previous war crimes, or the debacle at Project Lazarus, or any of the other things that have given Cerberus such a horrendous reputation. You can’t argue for idealism to counter his appeals to pragmatism. Instead you can say, “You have to earn the right to talk to me like that.” Resisting Cerberus in dialog just makes Shepard pout like a sullen child. Instead of making TIM smart and forward-thinking, the writer has made Shepard petulant and narrow-minded. Shepard’s arguments are based on his ego, and not on his (our) goal to save the galaxy from the Reapers.

The player wants to fight with TIM, but when they try to do so they end up fighting with their own character. The writer is ignoring the fact that these conversations need to engage and persuade both Shepard and the player. TIM convinces Shepard due to writer fiat, but he never actually says much to persuade the player. If you think working for Cerberus is a bad idea when you meet TIM, then nothing he says is likely to change your perception of things, because the dialog wheel won’t allow you to voice your objections so they can be addressed.

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Footnotes:

[1] You don’t recruit Miranda and Jacob.

[2] Even though the previous ships apparently had no survivors.

[3] She smugly says she’s “never wrong”, but this is a main story mission and the dialog wheel is your enemy, so you can’t ask her for her proof or even to explain her reasoning.

[4] She claimed he was “too dangerous” to be kept alive for questioning. Which kind of makes me wonder why she spent the rest of the game trying to pick a fight with JACK.



A Hundred!A Hundred!2020203263. There are now n+1 comments, where n is a big-ish sort of number.

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why pick a fight with ships that weren’t in their way and weren’t a threat to their plans?

    Because of reasons.Also aliens.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      Maybe because the Normandy was sent to investigate the missing colonies putting them in the path of the collector who might not have been done… uh… collecting on the planet. As to why they didn’t go for the escape pods… well the only reason that I can think of is that they didn’t realise that the pods contained humans and that’s pretty dumb because the game says the collector usually are pretty thorough in their work.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        While I’d argue that the Normandy wasn’t specifically sent out to prevent colony abductions since that happens later, the Collectors leaving could make sense if you hand-wave the idea that they can detect when fleets are about to move in, and decided to bail before they could be spotted.

        Of course, in that case, somehow they showed up just in time for the Collectors to need to leave, but just late enough that Shepard couldn’t be saved.

      • Taellosse says:

        There are no colony ships disappearing at this point. The Normandy is out randomly looking for Geth to shoot at (no, really, that’s their assigned mission from the Council according to the intro text when the game opens).

        And presumably the Collectors have magic space sensors to show them “life signs,” like all other pulp science fiction spaceships. And they’re later established to be really keen to keep their existence as mysterious and uncertain as possible. Leaving dozens of live witnesses is really counter-intuitive to that goal.

  2. Grudgeal says:

    Think about what we know about the Shadow Broker based on the events of Mass Effect 1: He’s powerful, secretive, and knowledgeable.

    And politically neutral, and interested in maintaining the status quo, something the Reapers would most definitively upset. Meanwhile, Cerberus were the ones running around making crazy mooks and experimenting with forbidden technology.

    It’s like this game was pulling a Topsy Turvy on the two of them.

    • MrGuy says:

      But not particularly pro-human.

      One of the few reasons why Cerberus makes sense in this game was to set up an interesting “humans need to stand on our own!” vs. “humans need to work with the other races and the council!” dynamic.

      It’s almost certainly something they planned to explore. The collectors are only attacking humans. TIM obviously talks about needing to advance humanity’s cause. It would actually be a sensible reason to potentially work with Cerberus. There are a lot of hints that they wanted to pit humanity’s interests against working together.

      Then they drop the idea like a bad habit abruptly and with no real payoff. Heck, half the team that TIM sends you to recruit is non-human.

      But if they set out down this path, you can see why a pro-human organization to be the “anti-council” would be a good choice. And that when they realized that storyline wasn’t going anywhere, they were already committed.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Aside from how the pro human attitude doesnt work in this game,its also at odds with the attitudes of both the first and the third game.So while it may be an idea worth exploring,its definitely a bad idea for this series.

        • MrGuy says:

          I don’t know that it’s at odds with the first game – there was a lot of groundwork laid that the council considered humanity to be young upstarts that weren’t terribly well respected. They were grudging at best in making Shepard a Spectre, and likely wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t the ones who found the beacon. The council was constantly talking down to us. We’re also the ones who sacrificed the original council. I could easily have seen a game that explored a problem unique to humanity that the council saw as unimportant/being unwilling to help with.

          IMO it would have been a better prequel to ME1 than sequel, since the reaper threat was set up as bigger than petty differences. But I could imagine a world (where the council is actually smart and pragmatic) where they tell us they’re willing to potentially let humanity be wiped out by the collectors instead of draw focus from the reaper threat. They cut their own throat on this idea in the opening crawl by saying how humans have taken over the council and are now ascendent, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have worked, or fit in-universe. It’s a bad second chapter of a trilogy about the reapers, no question, but if they moved away from the “it’s a trilogy!” idea it might have been interesting.

          And with respect to ME3. Unfortunately, the humans-first idea is central to the plot. “Some kid died! Everyone, sacrifice your homeworlds to defend earth!” It’s a BAD plot. It’s an awful plot in the world ME1 established. But it’s hardly something that’s at odds with a “humans need to look out for themselves” idea.

        • Zekiel says:

          I disagree. One of the big strengths of ME1 was that it allowed to roleplay a human-first Shepard OR a “one big happy family of races” Shepard. I loved that. As Shamus pointed out in a very early post in Mass Effect (years and years ago) being “pro human” is one way to play Shepard as having a definite agenda which is not simply being Paragon or Renegade.

          However I completely agree that it is a great loss that ME2 dropped this entirely and basically railroaded Shepard into a “look after humans because no one else will (even the Alliance, idiotically)” agenda due to plot fiat.

          Then ME3 arrived and it is even worse – although you are trying to unite the galaxy and fight off the Reapers together (with your giant phallic mcguffin) the dialogue Shepard is forced to spout is often about “saving earth” even when other alien worlds are equally under threat. So in ME2 you have a pro-human agenda since that is the plot the game forces you into. But in ME3 you could perfectly legitimately play exactly the same plot with a “everyone is equally important” agenda but you aren’t able to. Boo.

          • Grudgeal says:

            I still remember how ‘Save the Earth’ was the tagline of the advertisement/preview campaign, alongside that British bloke doused in ash fighting zombies in Big Ben (incidentally, notice how in the old days of KotoR, the villains were RP-speaking Brits but nowadays pretty much every ‘mature’ modern shooter has to have a rough-necked lower-class Brit as a good guy to show how dark and edgy things are? Funny how that goes.). It was as though someone had made a 28 Days later game but decided, for some reason, to slap the Mass Effect label on it.

            Seeing those first ads was actually the defining moment where I said to myself, “I’m done with this series now. I’m not going to bother with it any more”.

            • swenson says:

              Ugh, that was so annoying. Really drove home how much they’d missed the point. Yes, Earth was important, but the first two games spent so much time making the player be interested in other species and other planets, and making a big deal out of uniting the galaxy–and then the third game was “lol only Earth matters literally no other homeworld matters”. As in, you literally visit multiple homeworlds being attacked by Reapers and are like “boy this really sucks for you, but you’re going to help us defend Earth, right? Right??”

            • GloatingSwine says:

              Let’s not kid ourselves, the Mass Effect 3 ad was basically “Mass Effect: Now starring Soap from Modern Warfare 2”.

              Because EA was right in the middle of their stalkerish obsession with the CoD franchise and trying to hammer as many of their properties into that mould as possible.

          • krellen says:

            I think it might actually have been me that pointed out that “pro-human” was an option, since that’s how I played my Renegade Shepard.

          • Vect says:

            That reminds me.

            The villain of the Citadel DLC is a former Cerberus agent (got out before they all got reaperized) who wants to kill and replace Shepard with a clone they brainwashed because she thinks they’re a race traitor because they’re trying to save the galaxy at large rather than letting the filthy xenos burn.

      • swenson says:

        “Then they drop the idea like a bad habit abruptly and with no real payoff. Heck, half the team that TIM sends you to recruit is non-human.”

        This is yet another place where it would make so much more sense if the game had Shepard recruit people on her own, as opposed to being handed all the dossiers by TIM. Tali and Garrus, okay, TIM obviously sent you to them to make you feel more comfortable about the whole project. And Mordin/Okeer, you need them to study the Collectors’ work. But if Shepard was the one who made the choice to recruit Thane, say, or Samara, that would solve half the issues with recruiting them in the first place.

        1. It would explain how a Cerberus-run operation has a bunch of aliens, because Cerberus wasn’t the ones who brought the aliens in, it was Shepard.

        2. It would explain why some people’s skills weren’t necessarily perfect for a kill-the-Collectors mission, like Thane being an assassin, because Shepard recruited the people she came across, as opposed to having TIM carefully plan who she was going to recruit ahead of time.

        3. It could build the conflict between Shepard’s team and TIM because Shepard is breaking from Cerberus’ ideals and is choosing to make her own decisions. It could even be used as part of Miranda’s character arc that she sorta goes through, where she sticks with Shepard over TIM in the ending, with her initially protesting Shepard bringing on these aliens, then comes to be OK with them. Or, if your Shepard is speciesist, Miranda could, like, re-affirm Shepard’s decisions to NOT recruit aliens.

        4. If the player really wanted to play an alien-hating jerk, they could have the option to NOT pursue recruiting some characters. (an option you technically have anyway)

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Sort of.

          I have long held the view (though I don’t think the game did a great job of supporting it) that the entire game is really Shepard’s loyalty mission, with the Illusive Man acting as Mephistophiles. Thus, the people chosen for recruitment are people who Shepard will like and work well with, and the hope is that he’ll enjoy working on the ship under a Cerberus flag so well he’ll, by degrees, come over to TIM, who would use him as that “bloody icon.” Kind of like District 13 uses Katniss in the Hunger Games. Or Joan of Arc. Or any of a thousand other figureheads.

          The plan fails, obviously under a paragon ending, less obviously under a renegade ending. The first point of failure is that, by bringing in people to make Shepard feel comfortable, TIM brings in people who will more likely side with Shepard than him if the two ever come to blows. After Shepard gains the loyalty of his team, it’s just a matter of deciding to run off and do his own thing. Even after a Renegade ending, when Admiral Hackett calls for a mission into Batarian Space (which TIM, given his plans to take over the Reapers would oppose), off goes Shepard.

      • Taellosse says:

        Yeah – while I could totally picture the Shadow Broker hiring Shepard to do Stuff, and that ending up as the foundation of ME2’s plot, I can’t picture him spending the trillions of credits necessary to resurrect Shepard. The whole “hero, bloody icon” bit ALMOST (but not quite) makes sense as a justification for Cerberus to do it, but a non-human information broker would have no good reason for it – he undoubtedly already has established relationships with SEVERAL other Spectres (he tries to begin building such a relationship with Shepard in the first game in 2 missions), and would not view Shepard as particularly special – certainly not worth expending the kinds of resources Cerberus does. And killing/resurrecting Shepard is the whole reason all this is done in the first place (someone high up at Bioware had clearly decided they wanted to appeal to a larger audience with this game, and so wanted an in-game excuse to completely redo character creation. A lot of the rest of the nonsense with the main plot, I think, follows from that initial choice, and the new lead writer’s indifference to the work of his predecessor).

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It would make sense if the broker has accumulated a bunch of prothean beacons and needs shepard to translate them.

          • Taellosse says:

            Meh. He could still save big by just funding the treatment of the Zhu’s Hope colonists (it’s established in ME2 that they’ve got lingering problems from being under the Thorian’s control), and getting the Asari there to give him (or another of his agents, more likely) the same key she gave Shepard for saving her from the Thorian.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Yes,but thats with me2 knowledge in retrospect.With just me1,it might very well be that the asari isnt alive.Plus,its easy to handwave why she wouldnt be able to help even if she were.

              • Taellosse says:

                I suppose. I still think ANYONE, even the Shadow Broker, having “a bunch” of beacons would kinda break the setting lore – these things are supposed to be INCREDIBLY rare – we only ever learn of the existence of 3 of them in the entire galaxy – the one from Eden Prime, the one Shepard finds on Virmire that Saren found somewhere, and the one the Asari found on their own homeworld. For any single other entity, even someone like the SB, to have multiple ones would be deeply weird and broken.

  3. boz says:

    > “You like Garrus, don’t you? And Mordin? And Legion?

    Honestly? I don’t like Legion that much anymore, now that they made him a space jesus/pinocchio and changed geth fundamentally. (And I am liking Mordin less but “why” would take too long to explain.)

    • MrGuy says:

      I guess it’s a matter of degrees.

      I don’t particularly care for Grunt as a character. His existence and relationship to other Krogan is strange, poorly explained, and not terribly well developed. He’s considerably less interesting than the character you’re actually flying out to recruit (the idea of a Krogan scientist, particularly a rogue one, is an actually cool idea). Surprisingly, for a Krogan, he’s not a terribly effective companion in combat (he likes charging out into heavy fire like a dumb dumb). His loyalty mission isn’t super interesting and doesn’t do much worldbuilding – we learn more about the Krogan and how they work (even how clans relate to each other) in Mordan’s mission than Grunt’s.

      And that said, I’d still rather play Grunt’s missions than do Horizon.

  4. Rymdsmurfen says:

    “You can tell we’re in a Cerberus base because all the machines have gone crazy, everything is on fire, there are massive casualties, and they’re all human.”

    This series has made thursday my favorite day of the week. :-)

    • MrGuy says:

      Ah, but were they….a rogue cell?

    • tremor3258 says:

      I dunno, I have to argue about it being so obvious – for a Cerberus base, there’s an astonishingly high number of surviving scientists and personnel.

    • Victor McKnight says:

      Hilarious, but I preferred, “Welcome to Cerberus, where we can’t even betray ourselves properly!”

      Its been so long since I played the ME2 intro I forgot what the traitor’s job was at the base. Is he seriously one of Shepard’s doctors? That is just so sad.

      Also, bonus points for Miranda being the worst Intelligence Officer ever. I love the idea of a smart Cerberus intel officer. If only they had put one on the game.

      • Metal C0Mmander says:

        Well maybe the doctor couldn’t kill off Shepard on the operating table exactly because Miranda was making sure he wasn’t getting harmed personally. So instead the doctor had to fuck up the entire station so that he could get to one man. Yes it’s convoluted and yes the game hasn’t said it from what I know but it’s possible.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          No, the game is clear on this point. His plan is to have robots attack, walk into the room where Shepard is recovering, and shoot him/her to death. Then the robots would kill any other Cerberus personnel who they could before being destroyed. This would leave him clean, he could continue working for Cerberus as a double agent for the Shadow Broker.

          It would have worked except Miranda smelled something fishy and emergency woke up Shepard moments before the robots got to his room to kill him/her.

      • MrGuy says:

        Hilarious, but I preferred, “Welcome to Cerberus, where we can’t even betray ourselves properly!”

        The betrayal was done in an incredibly roundabout way when considerably simpler options were available, relied on deception even though it could clearly be traced to the perpetrator, apparently could only have been stopped by Shepard even though there’s no real reason why that’s true, failed spectacularly, and is never spoken of again even though it really feels like it should have been.

        Feels pretty much like a textbook Cerberus betrayal to me. First rate work.

    • evileeyore says:

      At least it wasn’t a hotdog stand. Not even Shepard would have survived…

  5. Zekiel says:

    It is a mark of my appreciation of Shamus’ writing that I am loving this series, even when it is making me seriously doubt my well-established love of ME2 :-)

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      Me too. I’ve tried to defend ME2 against his arguments before because ME2 was a great experience for me.

      But he is absolutely right about this. It should have been the Shadow Broker. It wouldn’t have made a difference to me because I didn’t play the first game till after ME2 but having gone back, the way the first game explains the Shadow Broker was intriguing. If I had played that game first and then been presented with the opportunity to work for him in this game, I would have been stoked. And they could have had Lair of the Shadow Broker as a post mission DLC if they still wanted Liara to take over.

      As for Shamus objection about you getting to recruit vs Shadow Broker, are you saying the story should just decide that Shepard wants these people on his team? Because it seems like if you were going to give the player choice, you’d have to create a lot more potential recruits. I guess he could take a few picks from the Broker, try to recruit his old friends and get the ones who are available, and then use his Spectre status to find a few more on his own.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I lost my ability to edit this comment prematurely. What happened?

      • Shamus says:

        Obviously you can’t actually give the player choice. And I think it would be a horrible waste to have an even larger roster and only let the player recruit 10 out of N of them.

        Really, I see it as a problem with how it’s framed, not with the actions you take in the game. Mass Effect 1 went to a lot of trouble of having people attempt to boss you around, specifically so you could choose to brush them off. Alliance. Council. Udina. Even the reporter sort of falls into this category.

        You could fix this in Mass Effect 2 by (say) having TIM offer you an all human team, and Shepard insisting he wants to hand-pick his team. And then the list of dossiers would come from a trusted character. The player is still rounding up the same 10 people, but now Shepard is superficially involved in the decision making. In a game “all about making choices”, it’s important to maintain this illusion.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          I could see that. Miranda and Jacob still come from Cerberus. If we have to work for Cerberus, then their presence makes sense (I could even see Shepard picking Jacob. They could know each other from Alliance service.). Chakwas and Joker would already be on board because they’re human. Shepard could round up as many of his old friends as he can and when he gets to Wrex, Wrex could say “I’m sorry I can’t come but you might want to deal with Okeer and let me see if I can get some other dossiers from the Shadow Broker.”

        • swenson says:

          I said this above, but I think if Shepard could “discover” a couple of the team on her own, that would go a long way to giving the illusion of choice. You know, like if she’s on Illium to talk to Liara (for some reason) and Liara is like “hey there’s this assassin here on Illium, he might make a good addition to your team”, and it’s you who “chooses” to go track down Thane, as opposed to TIM being the one who tells you about him in the first place.

          You could even have Miranda/TIM making a token “but muh humans” complaint when you bring him on board (Samara could work the same way too).

          It would even solve the problem of why you invite an assassin to a war–because he wasn’t carefully hand-picked by TIM, he was picked up in passing by Shepard.

        • Vect says:

          An addition to that: They could have used the time to introduce Kai Leng to the series proper earlier rather than have him show up as a (supposed) rival in the third installment. Have him be a guy that you are forced to cooperate with in certain missions because TIM either forces him to be on your team because he’s supposedly his best field operative (this is before he gets the cybernetics that turn him into Knockoff Raiden) or sends him as back-up in certain missions. You get proper opportunities to actually interact with him (as opposed to simply yelling insults while shooting at one another) and learn more about his character and how he does things. He could be something of a hardcore Renegade who talks shit about all your alien companions (always refers to Garrus as cuttlebone, Samara as the Space Hooker and whatever slurs exist for the other characters). The player gets to develop a genuine hatred for him as a character rather than as a cheating plot device.

          Of course, that’s just me. I mostly just see Kai Leng as a wasted opportunity rather than simply The Worst Thing Ever (not to say that he isn’t a shitasterpiece of a character).

          • This would have worked very well. In fact, it opens up an interesting possibility. How hard would it be to make ME2 a *mirror-image* of the player’s choices in ME1? Paragon-Shepherd gets Renegade-Cerebus; Renegade-Shepherd gets Paragon-Cerebus. Player gets a list of possible recruits to fill various roles and has to pick human or alien for each one, with the game keeping score and adjusting everyone’s attitudes to the player based on those choices and other plot choices. It would not be hard to keep a list of, say, all the player’s plot choices and paragon/renegade interrupts and refer to them in dialog, using Kai Leng and TIM and others to praise, criticize, or argue with the character in ways that don’t affect the plot much.

            When I first played through ME2 — and note I only did so ONCE, at least so far — I viewed the whole setup not as “Gee, let’s stop the reapers with Cerebus” but “How long do I have to pretend to play along with TIM before I can escape and/or assassinate him?” They *could* have made the whole situation interesting AND relevant to player choices, but their writing and storytelling was just not up to it.

            It would be much more interesting if Cerebus was an adaptive part of the story and a foil for the player’s moral choices rather than some sort of artificial “You were a happy alien multicultural hippy, now you are working for a human supremacist, and both times it wasn’t really up to you at all” contrast.

          • Trix2000 says:

            Did Kai Leng exist when ME2 was made, though? Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought he was made for some external work after ME2 and was slotted into 3 for reasons or something.

            I dunno, but it would definitely go a lot further in making us care about him (justified/built-up hate counts as caring!) if we’d had the opportunity to get to know him prior to the events of ME3. Provided they didn’t screw it up, of course.

            • swenson says:

              He was introduced in the novel Retribution, I believe, which came out (and was set) after ME2.

              • Trix2000 says:

                That’s what I thought – I just wasn’t remembering specifics.

                But it would be a neat explanation for why he was not built up in ME2 like he could have been… if I didn’t already think that they wouldn’t have done it well anyways.

            • Raygereio says:

              Not really.
              He first showed up in Mass Effect: Retribution – a novel written by Drew Karpyshyn (lead writer ME1, co-lead writer ME2). It was released in July 2010.
              ME2’s release date was January 2010. So chances are it was written long after ME2’s story became fixed. At best Karpyshyn might have had the idea of Kai Leng already during ME2’s production.
              It should be noted that the Kai Leng in the novel is first described as a burly, former N7 marine. I guess someone at some point read that his features showed Chinese ancestry and thought “Oh, he’s Asian? Cool, we’ll make him a ninja!”. That said: the novel Leng’s greatest achievement was breaking into Anderson’s apartment, stealing some cereal and peeing in a vase (I’m not kidding). So it’s not like the novel version was much better.

              [Kai Leng] was slotted into 3 for reasons or something.

              The reason was probably that Bioware seems to think players of their games all care about the extended universe surrounding their game. I don’t recal Dragon Age being as bad about this, but ME2 and ME3 make a lot of references to novels & comics and I had the impression Bioware tried to tie all the plots from the extended universe and the videogames together in ME3.

              • Theminimanx says:

                I don’t know remember having any trouble with DA2, but Inquisition had a lot of ties to the novels. And generally it’s handled pretty well. For example, I had no idea Cole was first introduced in one of the novels. But while they do a reasonable job of reintroducing these characters/plot elements, it does sometimes leave me feeling like the game expected me to care a lot more about these characters than I did.

                Forming an alliance with Orlais is a great example of this. It makes sense why you’re there. Orlais is powerful and you want some of that power. So you arrive there and discover that there’s some political intrigue you need to resolve. Makes sense, you need some sort of plot to build a quest around. Then you’re briefly introduced to the contenders for the Orlesian throne, who already had an entire novel dedicated to them. And then you’re immediately thrown headfirst into the conspiracy plot without being given any real time to get to know the players. So in the end I decided to make all three of them co-rulers because I didn’t know anyone well enough to trust them.

        • Speaking of “10 out of N”, this is something that is *really* starting to bug me about the various party-based roleplaying games. You have a really big team in many of these games, and you can only take in a few people on your missions. I can understanding not liking some characters and not wanting to have them in the party, but I can’t understand (unless *explicitly* justified) why you would leave most of your allies sitting around a campfire rather than take them with you into the fight.

          Examples:
          NWN2: 9 party members, party size of… I think max 5? Maybe 6.
          Dragon Age (all 3): Around 10 party members, total of 4 people on missions
          Sword Coast Legends: at least 6 or 7 party members (so far), 4 people on missions
          ME (all 3): 3 people on missions out of another 10 or 12 party members
          Pillars of Eternity: Same problem, don’t remember the numbers…

          If the PC has done something to earn the loyalty of the party members they should be able to come along on missions. If you don’t like them, kick them out of the party. Don’t impose an artificial limit that requires the player to NOT USE the majority of his loyal companions.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            It’s not an artificial limit, it’s a critical gameplay balance issue. Too many companions is too complex to deal with (especially in a real time combat scenario) and requires a ridiculous threat level to match up to the player’s capabilities. Which means missions will be unfair to anyone who for whatever reason have less people available. This is like saying “why can’t Master Chief one hit kill every opponent with melee! He’s meant to be really strong!” Because it wouldn’t be fun or balanced gameplay, that’s why.

            • Shoebox: All of those issues can be dealt with in other ways that do not require an artificial limit, and many of those games managing a large party is sort of the point of the gameplay.

              I get that there are balance issues, but I want a better explanation or workaround than “the user interface has three slots, everyone else stay home.”

              • Wanted to expand but lost edit permission early.

                Shoebox: All of those issues can be dealt with in other ways that do not require an artificial limit, and many of those games managing a large party is sort of the point of the gameplay. And the way most games handle it is *absolutely* an artificial limit. They don’t let you pick more then n characters in the party by restricting the user interface without any attempt at justification.

                I get that there are gameplay balance issues, but I want a better explanation or workaround than “the user interface has three slots, everyone else stay home.” I am convinced there are ways to structure this that avoid the balance issues, and if the devs try those and they don’t work, then at least EXPLAIN it. EG, in ME: “The Normandy has one shuttle and the shuttle has space for three characters in combat armor and one pilot only.” (and offer a large shuttle as an upgrade, maybe). Or, set the party size to 5, offer 10 possible companions, and make companion pairs mutually exclusive. (eg, TIM says we need an engineer, a healer, a soldier, a sneaky type and a shepherd, and there is only a space on the normandy for one of each type. Offer one human and one alien candidate for each slot and let Shepherd pick one of each type.)

                Games *occasionally* do better than this. ME had a few points where you led one team and sent one or two other teams off to do something else. That’s good. DAO had one series of missions where something similar happened. Again, good. But that’s just for a small part of the gameplay.

                I don’t think party size is a necessary game balance limitation. If the devs of a particular game disagree, that’s fine, but for gods sake at least try to justify it *in character*.

                This “pick three for the mission with absolutely no justification” sucks.

                • Spacewreck says:

                  EG, in ME: “The Normandy has one shuttle and the shuttle has space for three characters in combat armor and one pilot only.” (and offer a large shuttle as an upgrade, maybe).

                  My favorite part of the Collector invasion of the Normandy was the set up where the whole team gets on the shuttle and you’ll decide which two accompany you on the mission when you get there. I’ll be there are some amazing stories about what the rest of the team did while hanging out in the van, so to speak.

                  The party size issue is an interesting juggling act. Another variant I liked in KOTOR 2 is a mission where you have multiple parties and get to control each of them at different points. That was facilitated by having the interface set up so you could switch which individual you were directly controlling at any given time in addition to being able to give orders. That might have been a nice option in the ME games as well (being able to change which team member you were playing as on the fly) but I can see where the complications might not have been worth the extra development resources.

                • Taellosse says:

                  I’ve always thought the solution to this was to have the rest of the party operating off-screen, but still in-theater. Just take the trouble to structure the majority of missions such that there are multiple objectives, at multiple insertion points. It’s not like this isn’t possible – as you say, it’s done in particular missions of several games (ME1 does it on Virmire to some extent, though most of your team is still left behind, and of course there’s the final mission of ME2. There’s even a couple places where it happens to at least a limited extent in ME3, though usually with the character-missions with folks from ME2 that aren’t in your team this time), and it makes a whole lot more sense than “there’s a dozen of us highly trained and skilled combat operatives, but 3/4 of us are going to sit on board ship and twiddle our thumbs while the remaining 1/4 go do everything important. Have fun, Shepard+2!” It makes even less sense in RPGs that are fantasy-based, where everyone’s traveling together but only 2-5 actually go into town or the bandit stronghold, or whatever, while everyone else apparently just hangs out around a fire waiting for the others to get back.

                  Though I must say, despite finding this feature of party-based RPGs annoying, at least they’ve mostly stopped giving all the companions XP bars that don’t fill unless they travel with the PC. I remember being so PISSED at FFVII when I suddenly discovered I had to use everyone to finish the game, and most of them were 20-40 levels behind my preferred characters. Took HOURS of grinding to level them up to be remotely usable.

            • Trix2000 says:

              Really, I think it’s a trade-off made to allow a player to have more choice in who they spend the most time with. The trade-off being a bit of suspension of disbelief (why can’t they come too?) for allowing the player to pick and choose who they like to hang out with all the time. Don’t like someone? Don’t bring ’em!

              …But personally, I don’t like that sort of thing much. I feel like one could make a better experience if you either:

              A) Write things such that they DO have roles they play outside of accompanying the player, to at least handwave the issue. Potentially not easy to justify (wouldn’t it make more sense for them all to group up as opposed to splitting off?), but I feel like it would work better if done well.

              B) Don’t give players options (or at least, very few). It sounds a bit bad, but honestly I feel like it makes for a more enriching experience if the player is exposed to people they might not like as much, so they can get a better perspective on them (as opposed to ignoring they exist). It also opens things up for better/easier character interaction, since less variance means the writer knows who is going to be around… and doesn’t have to hamstring things to account for all the possibilities. Obviously, a lot of this hinges on the writers being able to make interesting characters (which they should be doing anyways, and may well be easier with fewer to make).

              It’s why I’ve started to prefer games that have a set party, because it feels more natural. Player choice can be good, but here I feel like it actually requires too much of the designers to be a feasible option in most cases.

              • Trix, the problem with a set party is that you can get stuck with people you don’t like and have no reason to hang out with, and if the devs guess wrong (think a paladin-type character and a chaotic evil necromancer npc) it can really grate if they have no reason to work together. So the option to kick someone you really don’t like out of the party is good. But then kick them OUT OF THE PARTY (or don’t recruit them at all) rather than leaving all your friends on the Normandy and/or around the campfire instead of bringing them with.

                • Replying to myself just to expand on this a little more. This doesn’t QUITE work for ME because ME has a fixed party size, but there are other games where party size is not fixed even if it is limited (eg, NWN2, where the limit was 4 and then 5 or 5 and then 6…).

                  I’d like to see a game with a party mechanic like that where the party character death was a big deal even when it’s not scripted. Give the player their 10 party members and if any of them die, they are permanently dead. You get a really interesting dynamic that way. As your characters get stronger and face tougher challenges, you also lose power from the party if they are killed. And if you have a character you really like, bringing them along becomes a real question: what if they die?

                  ME2 sort of played with this towards the end, but it was all scripted, which ironically reduced the impact.

                  • Trix2000 says:

                    But see, that’s a problem caused by how the characters are written, and not one I think cannot be overcome. There’s no reason a player can’t have people they dislike in their party – they just need good reasons for keeping them around regardless.

                    And I think a lot of the problem comes more down to the fact that many games leave out a lot of justification for party members tagging along, or at least are very nebulous about it. Like, in ME2 the ‘justification’ is that the Collector mission you’re on will be dangerous and you need the best you can get… except there really isn’t a reason you NEED to bring any specific individual that you end up recruiting. I doubt they’re the ONLY ones in the galaxy who could have what it takes (and if they do, then the writers really need to convince the PLAYER of that somehow so they’ll want to take them anyways, likable or no).

                    What I really like to see are when party members have a very distinct reason to be there… the ENTIRE time. Too often it feels like people join just to BE your party members, rather than because they have their own reasons for sticking around. And why CAN’T we just refuse or kick them out if we’re convinced they aren’t worth bringing?

                    I don’t blame writers for taking this sort of shortcut when it comes to player parties (writing is hard, okay), but to me it just seems like it’s cutting off a lot of potential character-building and immersion.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Forcing a set party for “suspension of disbelief” reasons is kind of like saying “I don’t like the color of this wall… do I really even NEED a wall to my house?” Letting the player choose a party of characters they like for whatever reason (gameplay, VA, story, romance, whatever) is SO much more important than whether it would be reasonable to take a large group. By a factor of 1000.

                I do appreciate systems like Final Fantasy X where the whole party is clearly a unit and they fight in smaller groups for practical purposes, but that’s not reasonable for many game types. Any more than 4 people fighting together in a shooter quickly gets tough. This is why the Destiny raids so often demand your Raid team of 6 split into groups of 3 or several groups of 2. Gameplay is just better that way (your individual performance is important but you also have support).

        • Taellosse says:

          I’ve always felt it’s even more foundational than that, and a product of the fact that there was far too little planning of the overall structure of this supposed trilogy at the outset than there should have been.

          A suicide mission with a massive team of companions, where you decide who to send on particular tasks, where some or all of them might be permanently killed to advance the plot is the PERFECT structure for a final mission at the end of a series, where you get to bring together all the people you’ve met across the rest of the series into a final push for all the marbles. It is NOT what you should be doing in the middle chapter of a series, for both narrative and logistical reasons – narratively because to make the stakes of a “suicide mission” high enough while simultaneously retaining the throughline of the overall series, you’ve got to introduce and then eliminate a completely new threat in the middle of a larger story, which, as you’ve been exploring, is clumsy and awkward even when it’s done well, and it is not done well here. Logistically because it introduces needless complexity in how you can handle the final installment of the series – if any or all of your team from ME2 can be dead in the 3rd game, then you need to either create alternate characters to fill all their roles later on, or ensure that none of them are important enough to the plot to matter – which is what they were forced to do for ME3, and all because they were so sloppy with ME2. You spend all of ME2 on these characters – who are the sole worthy focus of the game since the main plot is so offensively stupid – and then almost all of them are necessarily sidelined in the subsequent game because nothing can be allowed to require their presence. The only exceptions are the two from the first game: Tali and Garrus, and they, too, can be dead and therefore absent in ME3 – Bioware just gambled (or, really, they probably had aggregate data telling them they could get away with this) that few players would allow Tali or Garrus to die.

          It would have been far better to have a plot structure in ME2 that forced you to build new relationships with a mostly new team, but that didn’t build up to a final mission like the one we got (in broad strokes – in specific it’s even worse). Then in ME3 you’d be bringing together the teams from 1 and 2 for the final push, for the highest stakes (yeah, sure, the galaxy might be lost, but ALL YOUR BUDDIES COULD DIE TOO), and the writers wouldn’t have to be so worried about future consequences if any given companion doesn’t make it out alive.

      • Mike S. says:

        I’ve proposed this before: Shepard’s employer should have been the geth.

        We already have the idea in the game that the geth who allied with Sovereign are a rogue minority. But the majority geth sure as heck can’t do any investigations in organic space now. If they’re the ones with concerns about the Collectors (say they’re being hit too, or are otherwise in danger from Reaper-aligned forces), they need an agent. And Shepard is the organic they’ve had the most to do with. (Now that Saren and Benezia are dead, anyway.)

        It’s also plausible that they have tech that no one else does for turning a terminally injured (or fine, “dead”) Shepard into a functional cyborg. That they can use their amazing technological proficiency to create a Normandy-plus from all the scans they made of the original ship in the last game. You’re still in the position of working for a force you spent the last game killing and that has to convince you that they’re not entirely evil (slot Legion in for Miranda here).

        It also gives them a chance to push the whole “AI: can we live with it? If not, can we shoot it” theme that turned out to be more central than it looked. They’re alien enough that their actual goals may or may not feel compatible with Shepard’s. (Especially if EDI is still the lunar AI, rescued from her enslavement and near-murder and patched together with geth tech.)

        (Cerberus can then be slotted in for the geth, with a base that relates to, I don’t know, Jacob’s loyalty mission and a chance to either blow it up or get their creepy tech expertise on side.)

        • Taellosse says:

          All of that sounds good except for the foundational problem that the two Geth factions were having nothing to do with each other before ME1 even opens. Sure, we don’t learn that until Legion tells us late in ME2, but given the nature of their disagreement (Heretics=work for the Reapers, majority=go it alone), it’d require some major revisions to that backstory to make any of what you propose possible – rather than disagreeing about whether to work for Sovereign or not when they were first approached, Legion’s faction would have had to break away after the fact. Admittedly, that’s not a deal breaker – it makes more sense than Shepard going to work for Cerberus, anyway – but it’d make such a relationships deeply problematic for a paragon Shepard, in at least as many ways as the structure we got (arguably more, since fighting the Geth was a central element of the first game, while stopping Cerberus experiments gone awry was just an occasional side thing).

    • Spacewreck says:

      Eh, you can enjoy something and still examine it critically. I agree with a lot of the weaknesses pointed out in the series so far and still enjoy the game quite a bit (having just completed my fifth or sixth playthrough on ME2). Shamus himself has noted that the bad parts stick out more because there’s a lot of good to contrast it with.

      • djw says:

        YES!

        Just because a plot is stupid doesn’t mean that the game is all bad. For instance, am 100% in agreement with Shamus about the horrible plot door in Neverwinter Nights 2, but for some reason I still really like that game.

        In the case of ME2 even the really bad parts have a decently fun shooting component, if you happen to be in to that sort of thing.

        A game can survive stupid plot if it has good gameplay, and it can survive bad gameplay if the plot is amazing (I’m looking at you, Planescape: Torment) but it cannot really survive bad plot and bad gameplay, unless it somehow manages to activate a Pavlovian response before you get your defenses up.

        • Spacewreck says:

          It says a lot about the overall impact of the ME trilogy that many people still enthusiastically jump into a discussion of a game that came out almost 6 years ago. I’ve seen other forums where the recent teaser tailer for ME: Andromeda triggered a lot of renewed talk about the old games as well.

        • RE NWN2 plot door: Yes. And the thing is, every single gate guard in Neverwinter will spend the rest of his life telling his grandchildren: “I met the hero of the Shadow War when the swamp moss was still growing on his pretty little elf. That’s right, with my own voice I denied him entry to the Blacklake district because he didn’t have a pass. And that convinced him to go off on all these adventures and gain enough experience to win the Shadow War! My friend, Bob, the guy keeping watch at the sewer grate, I know he’d take a bribe now and then. But not I! And if that hero had gone to the other gate and offered a few silver, the hero would have been a 6th level wimp and lost the war.”

          The plot door is sort of annoying, but the stuff you have to go off and do to get around it was both fun and necessary, so you don’t mind as much.

      • swenson says:

        The only reason I have enough material for the multiple several-hour-long rants I’ve made about Mass Effect is because I love the series so much. If I didn’t adore the games to death, I wouldn’t have spent anywhere near as much time analyzing them! The only reason I know so many insignificant details about the games is because of the hundreds of hours I’ve spent playing and replaying them.

        It’s very hard for me to pin down a specific videogame that’s my favorite or that’s the most fun, but the Mass Effect series has to be high on the list. Yes, there’s so very many things I can complain about in the games. But there’s just so much great stuff there that I love them nonetheless.

        I think a big part of it isn’t the plot, and isn’t the gameplay (although 2 and 3 have pretty fun gameplay)–it’s the world itself. Mass Effect gives you a brand new world that’s fairly unique, in the broad scope of things, and lets you run around and explore all the different corners of it. Along the way, it does a pretty decent job of hinting at there being a very big galaxy beyond you, with all sorts of politics and business and crime and whatever going on that you only get glimpses of. That’s what drew me in, anyway.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      See, though, to me, this is love. Someone that doesn’t love the game can push through it to the end, accepting everything at face value moment by moment, and take their triumph from how fast they “beat the game”. But taking the time to sit down and work through every major wrinkle and think about how it could have been done so much better and how joyous and amazing that game would be, that’s serious appreciation. That’s devotion.

      • Corsair says:

        This is love, when someone drags you from the wreckage when you have given in, ready to just lie there and die. This is love. When someone, no matter what the cost, shows you there is hope, a choice, that you can put down your gun. This is love. Love hurts.

  6. RedSun says:

    “Their eventual plan is to sneak around swiping colonists. Here here the intro shows them randomly ganking Alliance ships (it’s hinted that they’ve attacked at least three other ships) for no explained reason. Why pick a fight with ships that weren’t in their way and weren’t a threat to their plans?

    What is the Collector’s main goal? To abduct humans. How do these attacks further that goal? We see that after the death of Shepard, humanity begins a big push to colonize new territory. We see that Alliance refuses to do anything about the Collectors when they start abducting those colonists. We see Shepard is the only one who will. For this attack to make sense to them, they would need to know all three of those things ahead of time.”

    Hey. So when these posts were announced, I said I wasn’t going to read them, but procrastination has made a liar of me this day, so…here goes. I’m going to laser in on in this paragraph, because it illustrates some of my problems with this article and if I don’t’ my comment will dwarf the subject matter.

    My biggest gripe with this kind of complaining is that it comes from the perspective that certain aspects of the story are inherently nonsensical/illogical. What’s reasonable or makes sense is largely subjective, which is fine for criticism, but calling certain elements out as being illogical can create the illusion of objectivity where there isn’t one. Moreoever, it’s kind of arbitrary. Elements that aren’t explained are left open to interpretation. Basic suspension of disbelief fixes the problem. Or to put it a bit more plainly: “Rather than making assumptions that don’t fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?”

    And I wouldn’t make a thing out of this if it weren’t for three problems I have: One, you’re making claims about the logic of story that don’t seem to be justified. Why do you assume the collectors shot down ships at random, when it’s barely mentioned and we know almost nothing about the collectors(and aren’t supposed to)? Why are you assuming that they weren’t in the way? Why do you assume everything that happened after the fact was a carefully orchestrated response seeded by the collectors? Nothing about the way they’re characterized in the game struck me as manipulative or even possessing a base understanding of humanity.
    Second, you’re complaining about things that are very easily explained away by anyone with a shred of investment in the story. “Why are the collectors ganking alliance ships?” Off the top of my head:
    -To see if they could.
    -To collect firsthand information on how Alliance vessels fight.
    -Hubris/pettiness.
    -Revenge for Sovereign.
    -To disincentive patrolling in certain areas.
    -Figure out how best to take down Shepard.
    -See if ship technology has improved due to Sovereign’s defeat.
    -Mistakes on their part.
    But let’s say, for whatever reason, a player can’t come up with a reason they’re doing that. That’s plausible, but there’s another assumption being made: the story is lessened by this not being explained. This is something that needed to be explained for the story to reach it’s full potential. It’s absence shows that the writer wasn’t writing from the right perspective. The player is going to be pulled out of the narrative because this wasn’t explained.
    And I think that’s a really wrongheaded way of thinking. Stories aren’t supposed to be windows into another world, where every aspect makes perfect unambiguous sense when peered over in incredibly exhaustive detail. And I know people are going to respond to this with “while I like my stories to make sense”, but they do! Stories are like sales pitches: they need to make as much sense as it takes to get you to buy it.

    Or to put it another way: if at some point later in the game, you found a datapad explicitly explaining why they shot down those ships, why they tried to kill you, and why they couldn’t kill the rest of the crew, would the drama of the game really be that well served? Would the opening scene seem more powerful, more elegant, more effecting? Can you think of any scenes that would be by that information? Would the average person care? Would it be worth the resources? I really don’t think so.

    Reading over this, late as I am to the party, I’m almost certain someone’s already made these points regarding the series as a whole, and I should mention I don’t think the entire things a wash. There’s good criticisms to be made, but stuff like what I quoted isn’t really criticism, and I don’t think it lends anyone a better understanding of the text.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You really shouldnt jump in the middle of this,because all of the things you brought up were covered by Shamoose himself earlier.Waaay earlier in fact,back wen he covered mass effect 1,and why illogical things in that game work,while the ones in this game dont.

      Also:

      Why do you assume the collectors shot down ships at random, when it’s barely mentioned and we know almost nothing about the collectors(and aren’t supposed to)?

      He doesnt.He says shows how that most likely wasnt their plan,because of how much forethought it would require,and how its a contrived set of events when the two arent connected.

    • Shamus says:

      “And I think that’s a really wrongheaded way of thinking.”

      Right back at you.

      “Stories aren’t supposed to be windows into another world, where every aspect makes perfect unambiguous sense when peered over in incredibly exhaustive detail. ”

      You’re acting like I’m picking on the minor motivations of some side character. This is our main adversary in this particular story, in the opening scene. It’s the very first action in the story and it’s supposed to set the stage.

      The point isn’t “This is bad logic, therefore this game is bad”. There are lots of things that fail at logic that nobody notices, or they do notice but let it slide anyway.

      The point is that this shows how the story is being designed in a very brute-force manner, without regards to characters, motivations, or worldbuilding. My praise last week was for the awesome mission where you sort out the problem with the Geth. That wouldn’t have been nearly as rewarding or as interesting if the Geth storyline had been presented in the same desultory fashion as this Collector story.

      Yes, you can write your own reasons for why the Collectors do something, but the point is that the author didn’t. We’ll talk more about the problems with the Collectors in a few weeks, but this bit sort of highlights the overall problem with their design.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      At the beginning of the story, we don’t necessarily need to know. This is a mysterious new enemy, the ambiguity is fine. The player can speculate.

      But we never get the answer. The more we learn about the Collectors, the less sense this kind of an attack makes. The planet they’re near (that the ship ends up crashing on) is apparently otherwise empty. Unless they’re here specifically for Shepard, it doesn’t make any sense for them to even be in this part of space. The odds that their destination takes them through this solar system are remote at best. And again, why blow up the ship and harvest none of the crew? When they attack the second Normandy they do that very thing. Surely their ship could accommodate the human crew of the first Normandy.

      So this initial attack is not only not explained but becomes less plausible the further in we go, thus demanding an explanation.

      Its also part of a bad pattern of behavior on Bioware’s part. They tease at a mystery and never deliver a satisfying answer. And when they do, its not something the player could have possibly anticipated because the info wasn’t there or what little there was was misleading hearsay that becomes no more true when you learn the truth.

      • Mike S. says:

        There are absolutely plot logic issues with ME2. As someone who likes both it and the first game, I’m less convinced that that’s more true for ME2 than it is for its predecessor.

        Since we’re looking at the opening mission as an example, take Eden Prime. It introduces the villain and the mystery of his motivations. But let’s look at Eden Prime in light of what we eventually know:

        Saren’s end goal is to get to the Council chamber and open the Citadel relay. We can stipulate that this requires doing enough suspicious things, even for an above-the-law Council Spectre, that he can’t just walk in and push the button. So he needs military control of the Presidium Tower for long enough to do the thing.

        So, why didn’t he:

        1) Report to the Council, “Hey, I, your most trusted operative, have found the most kickass ‘Prothean’ dreadnought of all time. I’m bringing it in for inspection. Naturally it’s not filled with a jillion armed geth platforms, and I give you my personal Spectre assurance that it’s safe to dock inside the ward arms. Ask that Emily Wong to cover the arrival for the news services– it’ll be historic.”

        2) We see that Noveria is better at detecting and excluding illegal weapons than the Citadel. Shepard couldn’t walk through security without setting it off, and only kept his guns due to his Spectre status. On the Citadel, you’re ambushed multiple times by criminals with military grade hardware, and a lowlife club owner has two turrets in his office.

        Benezia, with her corporate privileges, was able to bring deactivated geth through Noveria security in her luggage without a peep. Spectre Saren and the respected Matriarch Benezia should have no trouble importing a few shipping containers of “machine parts”. (No, customs may not inspect them– Spectre business. File a complaint with the Council if you want– I’m heading up to see them anyway.)

        Instead, they chose the… strategy… of finding a lost and forgotten relay into the Citadel, which requires tracking down three separate pieces of knowledge that have all been lost for fifty thousand years.

        The opening gambit of which is: a) wait for humans to dig up the one ancient Prothean artifact that just happened to offer the precise information Saren happened to need, when he needed it; b) have Saren, top Council Spectre, go in personally, without the slightest attempt to disguise himself in case there are cameras with transmitters (which there were, though they somehow didn’t catch him); c) blow up the entire colony to hide the evidence.

        (Though in the event, the evidence used against him is not the eyewitness, nor any cameras that might have recorded him since his attempt to nuke the colony failed, but the memory banks of a random geth on a random planet found by a random quarian.)

        This only sort of makes sense even if the end goal is to find the Conduit. If the actual end goal is to invade the Citadel with geth to get access to the relay control, the whole find-the-Conduit plan is extremely roundabout, and in retrospect depends on astronomical coincidences. (Humans– not working to advance Saren’s or Sovereign’s goals– found the beacon and the Thorian on different planets at nearly the same time, while others managed to track down the first live rachni in over a millennium.)

        And the Eden Prime phase is unnecessarily, gratuitously violent for Saren’s ultimate need or general style (he doesn’t nuke Feros after getting the Cipher, for example), for the sole purpose of both drawing Shepard’s attention and giving him the wherewithal to chase Saren.

        I love and respect well-crafted plotting, and conversely can play find-the-plot-hole with the best of them. But the series always had a certain “just go with it” nature. Like most adventure stories do.

        • guy says:

          As we’ve repeatedly pointed out in the comments, there is never any evidence that Saren knows what the Conduit is or how it prevented the activation of the Citadel prior to his attack on Eden Prime.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Also no evidence that he is 100% with sovereigns plan,and in fact does some things that are against sovereign.So he very well could be,consciously or not,warning everyone about the threat.

            • Mike S. says:

              It’s not impossible that Saren’s choice of a really elaborate, three-sides-around the barn plan to get to the Citadel (including the big public attack, failure to destroy Eden Prime, and leaving a geth with his monologuing to be found by a quarian) were all part of an elaborate cry for help from the part of him fighting indoctrination. But that’s exactly the sort of charitable, “Well, here’s how it might still work” reading that we’re generally only willing to entertain for stories we already like overall.

              • tremor3258 says:

                That’s a good point – ME1’s main story (Versus side stories) is engaged enough we’re willing to accommodate it – which is what causes half the problems for ME2’s tonal shift. Everyone from ME1 liked its tone. ‘Wait, Cerberus, the guys in the Origin? The mad scientists I’ve been fighting with nary a qualm for half a dozen side quests?”

                The real question I’ve always had to ME1’s ending is: Did Saren override the mass relay network somehow before closing the wards? The Council fleet was covering the relays to the Citadel, which is one reason the defense fleet was in trouble – so how did the Geth and Sovereign move to attack, since the only approach to the Citadel is via mass relay, thanks to its nebula?

                And extra side note: man, the Citadel is the best poisoned gift ever.

                • guy says:

                  Saren overrode the Mass Relay network, or at least the ones that connect to the Citadel, at some point in the battle, trapping the Alliance fleet outside. The precise details of the attack aren’t clear; either the Geth bypassed the Citadel pickets somehow (which I’d be willing to ascribe to Sovereign knowing something the Citadel Fleet doesn’t) or the attack was timed tightly enough for Saren to shut down the relays and communications through them just in time to keep the guard force on the path they used from sending a message and reopened just that relay to let the attack force through.

    • Flip says:

      Whew, there’s a lot to disagree with here.

      -To see if they could.
      -To collect firsthand information on how Alliance vessels fight.
      -Hubris/pettiness.
      -Revenge for Sovereign.
      -To disincentive patrolling in certain areas.
      -Figure out how best to take down Shepard.
      -See if ship technology has improved due to Sovereign’s defeat.
      -Mistakes on their part.

      What you are doing is inventing reasons for why the Collectors destroyed the Normandy. They could be true. But there is nothing to support them. Just go one step further and ask yourself:
      Why do the Collectors want to see if they can destroy the Normandy? -> No reason given.
      Why do they want to know how to fight Alliance vessels? -> There is no benefit in doing so. After all, the Alliance isn’t even protecting the colonies.
      (and on and on)

      When you try to answer these “Why?”s, you are going to see that you will descent more and more into speculation. Into explainations that might or might not be true. That are more or less probable. But you will not be able to back them up with facts from the game. They are nothing more that your own fan-fiction.

      But the real point where we disagree is on whether this should have been explained in-game or not. In same cases, it’s better to leave things to the audience’s imagination (i.e. Tali’s face in ME1 and 2). Here I would argue that the death of Shepard and the destruction of the Normandy are so important to the plot and even the trilogy’s overarching story that they must be explained in-game. In full detail even. If important points like this are left unexplained, you could just leave everything unexplained and let the fans fill in the blanks.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Well, too be fair, they don’t know that the Alliance is going to continue to do nothing. They have to expect that there’s going to be a response eventually. It still doesn’t make a ton of sense to attack ships that might provoke that response early.

      • Syal says:

        And if you’re leaving it unexplained, you should at least draw attention to the fact that you’re leaving it unexplained by having the characters try and fail to reason it out a few times.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Basic suspension of disbelief is the artist’s job, not the audience’s. The world as presented should make sense, with any looniness coming out of the budget the particular genre and style affords(CSI aren’t going to be investigating a plot involving giant robots but it’s Patlabor’s bread and butter). If the ideas as presented make no sense, it’s the one to couple dozen writers who should find/create the reasonable explanation and give it to the audience that hopefully outnumber them, just as a matter of efficiency. A AAA game with a budget of millions shouldn’t be leaving explanations for nonsense out, at least not accidentally, and this isn’t a deliberately cryptic game.

    • Spacewreck says:

      Or to put it another way: if at some point later in the game, you found a datapad explicitly explaining why they shot down those ships, why they tried to kill you, and why they couldn’t kill the rest of the crew, would the drama of the game really be that well served?

      For me the issue wasn’t just that it was not explained, but that it runs counter to everything else in the game that the Collectors are trying to do.

      Throughout the game we’re told and shown that the Collectors are interested in harvesting humans in general and Shepard specifically. In the Collector ship mission it’s confirmed that the same ship has been hunting Shepard for two years. If you include the Arrival DLC, once Shepard is defeated by the Indoctrinated forces he’s kept alive for study for the same general reason.

      Despite that, the Collectors’ opening move in the game runs counter to that. They simply blow up the Normandy, which is going to make harvesting anyone on board difficult to say the least, but don’t make any attempt to capture any escape pods or the one person that they’re most dedicated to getting a hold of.

      I do think it lessens the story when your introduction of your primary antagonists is in opposition to what they’re trying to do but no explanation of the discrepancy is ever provided.

      This could have been easily fixed by moving the missions around. If you made Horizon the first mission, with the Normandy landing at some colony to explore nearby Prothean ruins only to be caught on the ground when the Collectors attack, you can still get a lot of the plot beats you’re looking for. The Normandy is destroyed before it can take off, we see part of a Collector attack on a colony to get some idea what they’re about, and Shepard could activate the GARDIAN lasers to ultimately repel the Collectors but be critically injured in the process requiring rebuilding by Cerberus without the ridiculous “body got burned to charred tissue by re-entry but is still salvageable” bit.

      • ehlijen says:

        I’d think it likely that the collector interest in Shepard wouldn’t have been roused until they heard of her resurrection, which is another case of lol TIM what are you doing? Operational security much? Why does Harbinger know shepard’s alive but Wrex and Kaishley don’t?

        • guy says:

          Apparently the Shadow Broker decided to side with the Reapers for… some reason… and told the Collectors and hired Wilson to sabotage the project. Naturally, information of such importance to the plot may only be conveyed in DLC.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            The Shadow Broker took a job from the Collectors because they weren’t known to be Reapers. The reason they have the name “Collectors” is because they come from the Omega 4 relay and offer an open contract for some weird thing. Whoever gives that to them gets rewarded with powerful tech or material riches. They had a (pre-Mass Effect 2) reputation of being dangerous and mysterious, but as a group you could deal with, if you so desired.

        • Spacewreck says:

          It’s not explained in much detail in the game unless you have the Shadow Broker DLC (or read the comic book mini-series detailing the story), but the Collectors were interested in Shepard before Cerberus’s involvement. Liara had to reclaim Shepard’s body from the Shadow Broker, who had been hired to retrieve it by the Collectors because of their interest in Shepard in particular.

          Afterward she turned it over the Cerberus because they told her they could revive Shepard.

  7. Sartharina says:

    I think the reason no other ships had survivors was because they didn’t have Joker at the helm – Without the best pilot in the fleet, the other ships didn’t have time for survivors to get to the escape pods.

    Frankly… I think it was a trap: They destroyed enough Alliance ships so the Alliance would have Hacket send Shepard to investigate (Like he did to everything), and then the Reapers would be able to destroy Shepard. As it was, the Reapers were using the Collectors to harvest humans because they were… exercising reasonable caution with humans (Or outright scared shitless) – After all, they killed Sovereign, and were interested in a no-casualty harvesting session.

    The one thing I wish the game had done is NOT backtrack immediately on the Reaper threat. They could have had the Reaper threat still be considered serious at the very beginning of the game (With Shepard hunting for traces of the Reapers in the Terminus systems using his cool Stealth Ship), with the Reaper threat only forgotten in the time between Shepard’s death and resurrection (2 years was probably too short. 5 would have been better). I think that would have fixed one of the biggest wallbangers.

    As far as Cerberus… I wish they had gone on to point out what they were doing in the first game. Akuze could have resulted in countermeasures against Thresher Maw venom. The army-building misadventures were an attempt to give humans powerful cannon-fodder against the (then unknown-by-nature, but scarred onto the galaxy) Reaper Threat looming over the timeline. And there were a few unforseeable disasters that resulted from trying to study what turned out to be Reaper Indoctrination Tech… but even proper scientists would have fared the same.

    And Shepard is just as petulant with the council. I think he has issues trying to deal with authority figures he doesn’t know.

    I do like your snark about how you know it’s a Cerberus base. If they ever remake and improve the game, there totally needs to be a similar line.

    • Henson says:

      The Reapers are using the Collectors because, with the death of Sovereign, they are the Reaper’s primary force in the galaxy. Their only other choice, really, is leftover indoctrinated, and they get less useful the more indoctrinated they are. Or to wait until Mass Effect 3.

  8. The real mistake is that Miranda isn’t wearing a bunny suit. You’d be having then your all powerful archwizard who some people call… Tim and the Bunny of Doom. In the end you kill them with a Holy Grenade blessed by the Spanish Inquisition and you’ve got the perfect Mass Effect 2 as EA wanted it to be.

  9. guy says:

    Note on the colonies: it’s fairly significant to the plot that the colonies are human, but they aren’t Alliance. The Council had at some point decided that the Terminus Systems get to be independent and doesn’t authorize member governments to establish colonies there. While the Alliance could decide to settle there, the Council’s official response to any trouble those colonies would encounter would be “sucks to be you, maybe you shouldn’t have settled there in the first place.” So all the colonies the Collectors are attacking were actually established by people who wanted to get away from the Alliance and are independent governments, hence why the Alliance didn’t respond to the first disappearance by sending an entire fleet to hunt for the perpetrators.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes,but what Shamoose talks about it that it is rather contrived that these convenient human colonies started popping up at this point so that the collectors could collect them.But what if the colonies never started?Or if the alliance gave them their blessing?The whole “plan” the collectors had wouldve fallen apart.

      • guy says:

        I’m pretty sure they significantly predate Sovereign’s attack.

        • Grudgeal says:

          I thought a lot of the backstory of ME1 was over Batarian-Human conflicts over humanity permitting unrestricted colonization of what the Batarians saw as “their” colony worlds, leading to the Batarians withdrawing from the galactic community.

          Heck, at least three of Shepard’s backstories intimately involve the Human-Batarian conflicts over colonization of the Terminus, and the Human-Turian “war” was also coloured greatly by the whole thing being fought on human colonial ground (these being in Citadel space and therefore officially alliance).

          • guy says:

            The conflict with the Batarians was over colonization elsewhere. The Council authorized human colonization in territory the Batarians wanted, which is why the Batarians withdrew from the Citadel. That was in the Skyllian Verge rather than the Terminus Systems. Admittedly I’m not entirely sure if the Council officially designated the area for human settlement or if that area was also outside of approved settlement areas and the Batarians were angry that the Council told them to sort it out themselves.

          • Henson says:

            This whole conversation typifies one of my big problems throughout this series, or at least the first two games: I never know where I am. Is this the Attican Traverse? Are we in the Terminus Systems now? What the heck is the Skyllian Verge, anyway? The game doesn’t seem to make this clear, I have to infer it from several codex entries and ancillary material. Give me a map, for Pete’s sake!

            • Trix2000 says:

              ME3 technically has the galaxy readiness map which helps on this, but keeping it in mind all the time… doesn’t work so well I think.

              But I don’t think it’s usually too much of an issue because most of the time it isn’t relevant to proceedings (with some exceptions with the whole Terminus System issue), so remembering which one you’re in isn’t often a factor.

              • guy says:

                I’m pretty sure all those names do show up at some point in the process of navigating around the galaxy, though I can’t remember exactly where. I think maybe it’s when you actually go to a Mass Relay in one of those regions.

                There definitely isn’t any point where you can look at a map with the Skyllian Verge and Attican Traverse labeled simultaneously, though.

                • Mike S. says:

                  I actually like keeping it abstract, because those regions should be pretty schematic and complex since they’re defined by the relay network. (Someplace 20,000 light years away with a direct relay connection is more local than someplace a hundred light years away that you have to get to via standard FTL.)

                  Things are made still more complex that the relays are divided into primary, which are one-to-one long range connections, and secondary, which can go to any relay within a set distance.)

                  Regional maps should look more like subway maps, with hubs and spokes for the relay connections (that don’t necessarily correspond to their proximity in space), plus some indication of what’s in near-flight distance. No wonder they need a hologram on the bridge to make sense of it all.

  10. BenD says:

    The intro of this game is such a mess that I am only now, thanks to this study, learning why the Lazarus base (which I think I thought was a ship) was on fire and in shambles (because a doctor couldn’t find any overdoses of painkillers in his supplies). I thought the base was under attack by an outside force (no idea what… maybe some folks who saw the Cerberus logo and reacted naturally) WHILE Doc Betrayal was going on, and I assumed I didn’t understand because I was too busy being horrified at the changes to the combat system.

    • Henson says:

      Yeah, I assume you’re supposed to accept that Miranda’s right when she places the blame on Wilson. And in playing through, I have no reason to; I’ve only just met her, she has no real evidence, and she shoots him without any hesitation.

      I wonder if there’s a way we could have it so that the Collectors are behind the attack, acting through a proxy.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The Shadow Broker is behind it, which is why it’s a nice bookend after the Suicide Mission to go to HIS base and kill HIM. That’s what he gets for messing with the Commander!

  11. OldOak says:

    Glad to see the last two articles turned the tide a bit from the heavy bashing tone you had when started ME2.
    Agreed with TIM’s dialogue options, but as a compensation you have a nice sounding voice behind the character. Ditto with EDI and some other characters you have to deal with.
    I guess this is another disorienting contrast in the game — the buffs of the scenario, but still quite a nice ambiance to roll in.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And if we’re simply measuring by time, then the good far outweighs the bad.

    You make it sound like all the character oriented missions are golden compared to the utter crap of the main missions.Its not so however.While the main missions are utter crap almost all of the time,the character missions arent golden from start to finish.If I were to be generous,Id say that the game is 30% utter crap,30% pure gold and 40% average.

    • Shamus says:

      Oh man. I’m not going NEAR that debate. I catch enough flak for dumping on this very popular videogame. If I start in saying “Beloved squade-mate Bob is actually a dumb waste of a character!” then I’ll basically have to go into hiding.

      In fact, I’m sort of pulling a BioWare. They’re hiding their lame plot behind beloved characters, and I’m hiding all the mean things I say about ME2 behind the shield of “But the characters are awesome!” So yeah. All of the characters are always awesome.

      Except for Jacob, obviously. Nobody likes Jacob.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        Except for Miranda, obviously. Nobody likes Miranda.

        Fixed it.

        I think these blockquotes would look better if the margin-left was more balanced with the margin-top and bottom.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          Sorry, I meant padding. Not margin.

        • Daimbert says:

          I like Miranda.

          I am apathetic towards Jacob.

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            Yeah. I was being silly. (or trying).

            That said, I like Jacob. Miranda, I’ve got back and forth between hating her and almost sympathizing and settled on generally cringing.

            • Gruhunchously says:

              I feel like Miranda was an okay character with potential to be a much better one. There are moments out of her loyalty mission that I like, namely the stuff about her being a socially isolated control freak with inadequacy issues, but you never get much more of that out of her, even if you do her romance.

              That is, of course, you can get past the game constantly shilling her as the tough sexy Mary Sue who is always right even though she works for the resident dumbasses of the universe. And the butt shots.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                My problem with miranda is that she constantly boasts about her being so perfect,yet her actions contradict that in so many ways,

                • evileeyore says:

                  That’s what makes her so realistic to me. I’ve known an awful lot of people that act exactly like that.

                  It was somewhat satisfying every time she got shot right in her smugly stupid face…

                • Daimbert says:

                  That’s part of her appeal, because she acts like she’s perfect, but she isn’t perfect … and, deep down inside, she KNOWS she’s not perfect, which is why she always tries to act like she is.

                  I do think that if you take her and Jack along on most of the missions, you’ll think better of her because Jack likes to snipe at her, which then alleviates some of the “Miranda’s so awesome!” points in the game.

          • Trix2000 says:

            Them’s fightin’ words!

            …Oh wait, I actually don’t care that much either way about Miranda. Carry on.

      • swenson says:

        Y’know, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to talk to Jacob in my current replay of ME2, and he’s… well, he’s still very boring, but he’s actually not that bad if you talk to him. It’s just really hard (for a female Shepard especially) to get to the point of talking to him. He has some fairly interesting things to say about the Alliance and… politics in general, I guess.

        But he still does exactly zero of interest throughout the game. He basically just stands around waiting for you to bring someone new on board so he can do their employee orientation and make a comment about how he doesn’t trust them. Miranda at least gets to contribute to the plot on occasion.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          I always said that Jacob felt like the tutorial teammate who they forgot to kill off at the end of the tutorial. It’s so strange that he’s the only character who would end up so very bland, even the unpopular Miranda at least has a personality.

          Given that ME2 made a bunch of decisions for really strange reasons (kill off Shep in the first 5 minutes to justify a class change!), I wonder if Jacob wasn’t just “Well we need to give the player another warm body so that they’ll always have two squadmates on the opening missions”.

          • Metal C0Mmander says:

            Well even if it’s kinda boring you still got to know the guy before he took a bullet so if he ever ends up dead later you might at least be able to feel something.

          • Mike S. says:

            They may also have been relying too heavily on “You may remember me from my starring role in the iOS tie-in game”, which was hampered somewhat by the fact that very little of the ME2 player base ever played the iOS tie-in game. (There’s even a sidequest to help some other character from the game, Ish, whose significance I never remember between readings of the wiki entry.)

          • djw says:

            Hahhaha, he’s Trask!

        • Raygereio says:

          But [Jacob] still does exactly zero of interest throughout the game.

          Yeah, that’s Jacob’s problem in a nutshell. I always had the idea that Bioware tried to have Jacob fill a role similar to Kaiden’s: An solid, inoffensive everyman. Even if you hate all other characters, you’re likely to be neutral towards Kaiden (ME1 that is).
          Sure Kaiden had nothing going, but he still had a past and some insight into the current situation to keep you interested. Jacob has just plain nothing.

          At least we’ll always have that one magic moment.

          • tremor3258 says:

            Kaiden had the advantage of the backstory being doled out as you got to know him – Jacob is one of the first loyalty missions triggered… so he’s going to be saying that for a long time or be quiet.

      • Sartharina says:

        I like Jacob! He was my favorite character… especially with that uniform. My character always ended up wearing Cerberus-colored armor, because I wanted to be color-coordinated with my ship. Which means I had to use Jacob and DLC-dressed Miranda for a lot of my missions.

  13. Slothfulcobra says:

    Technically, you do get the free decision to recruit anybody who winds up on your ship regardless of whether the illusive man:s opinion. Legion and Grunt are Shepard’s decision. TIM would rather send them to his scientists where presumably they’d end up killing all the researchers, because that’s how Cerberus do.

    Also, there’s only 7 recruitment missions. Legion’s a freebee from the dead reaper.

    • Metal C0Mmander says:

      I’m pretty sure that you have to do at least the first 4 recruitment missions before you can keep going with the main story.

      • swenson says:

        Yep. Jack, Mordin, and Garrus are unavoidable.

        You need a minimum of eight squad members to trigger the Collector Ship. Kasumi and Zaeed count; Grunt only counts if he’s been woken up.

        For the Suicide Mission (well, the Collector Ship, which leads to the Reaper IFF, which leads to the Suicide Mission), you have a minimum of Jacob, Miranda, Jack, Mordin, Garrus, and any three other squaddies. If you have Kasumi and Zaeed and wake up Grunt, that means it’s actually possible to complete the game without recruiting ANYONE post-Horizon.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      If you send Grunt to Cerberus, nothing comes of it. If you send Legion to Cerberus, they succeed in reprogramming him as an assassin and you have to fight him in a mission on ME3. He’s just a renamed enemy (they do the same thing with Jack and Morinth based on certain choices you can make), but it’s still rather cool.

  14. Daimbert says:

    In contrast, you get 8 recruitment missions[1] and 10 loyalty missions. The recruitment missions alone outnumber the story missions, and that’s without including DLC characters. When you consider that story missions are really combat-heavy and recruitment and loyalty missions have comparatively more dialog, it becomes clear that the vast amount of storytelling in this game is completely divorced from the main plot.

    So I can understand when some people become incredulous at my belabored criticisms. To them, the story was 80% awesome and 20% dumb.

    My thoughts on ME2 are that it’s effectively all about the characters and the plot is just there to give you an excuse to go meet them. So ME1 is mostly plot, ME2 is mostly character interactions with the team, and ME3 tried to bring that all together. And failed.

    ME2 is interesting enough because the characters are, and so if you can mostly ignore the mostly non-existent plot you’ll enjoy it. For me, the mishandling of galaxy exploration and the changes to the combat really hurt my impression of it.

    • swenson says:

      What’s so bad about exploration in ME2? As far as landing on planets go, I actually MUCH prefer it to ME1, because the places you went were so much more interesting and memorable. Planet scanning is awful, of course.

      And it’s definitely better than ME3, where you barely even get to land on planets at all. :/

      • Daimbert says:

        I wrote a whole blog post on just how Bioware keeps screwing up exploring the galaxy at my blog, but essentially they removed landing on planets from ME1 — which made the exploration at least a little interesting — and replaced it with firing probes at a planet in a massively boring scanning mission. Then they made it so that you had to spend fuel to go there, and both fuel and probes cost you money. Since generally I could get through only a couple of planets before running out of probes, I often had to travel back to the relay/depot a number of times to finish a sector. Which was boring in and of itself. And then if I was low on money I had to worry about how much I was spending on fuel and probes so that I might not have enough to get the upgrades I needed. But I also had to worry that if I didn’t explore the systems fully then I wouldn’t have enough resources to get the upgrades I needed.

        So, long story short, it was dull, boring, a resource drain … and necessary if you wanted to save everyone.

        ME3 made it better by removing the limit on probes. Then it killed it with the unpredictable and limiting Reaper activity mechanism. And it was also necessary if you wanted to get better endings, because it helped you get War Assets. And activity reset when you completed a mission, tying the exploration to a fixed resource that you could run out of. Which meant that the ideal exploration strategy was explore everyone until it was a max activity, run a mission, and do it over again. Except I kept forgetting where I had scanned, and rescanning the same spot triggers Reaper activity, which then … well, you get the point, I’m sure.

        In ME1, I explored every planet (I don’t think I got everything, but I went to all of the planets). In ME2, I used a walkthrough to figure out when I had the upgrades I needed, and stopped exploring at that point. In ME3, I used a FAQ to ensure that I found everything. Of the three, ME1’s exploration was so superior that it isn’t even funny, and that’s even considering the fact that I was not good with the MAKO and didn’t enjoy it that much.

        • Raygereio says:

          Of the three games, only ME1 had something resembling an exploration mechanic (in that you went to a place and explored it).
          ME2’s probing and ME3’s scanning were resource gathering mechanics. With a sprinkling of fetch quest and accessing side-missions.
          The exploration aspect of random planets from ME1 was cut (likely because it utter garbage, made no sense from a story perspective and Bioware had no idea how to fix both issues) and ME2 saw the addition of another mechanic. One didn’t replace the other.

          • I was very fond of the exploration system in ME1. Sure, the vehicle you drive around and hop in and out of was sort of silly and felt like a …. medium-game (versus minigame) slotted into the main game, but that was actually OK, because it felt realistic and it gave you a very nice transition between spaceship and ground environment small enough to walk around in. And it provided an excellent way to “stumble on” interesting encounters and bits of plot if you wanted to without forcing them on the player. Particularly the little bits where you encounter rachni or space worms or creepers…

            I was seriously peeved when they cut that whole aspect from ME2 and ME3. Not because it was vitally important to the plot but because it made the whole game feel a lot larger and sprinkled in little bits of extra stuff in the process.

          • Daimbert says:

            All of those mechanisms filled the same role in each of the games: go to the planets that are in the galaxy but aren’t plot-relevant and pick up resources and side quests. When I say galaxy exploration, that’s what I mean: exploring the galaxy by going to and visiting the planets, whether you actually land on them or not.

            Anyway, since all of the mechanisms perform the same function, they can be compared. And for all of its flaws, ME1’s is far superior, for all of the reasons I’ve given. As I said, I visited all of the planets in ME1, and didn’t do that in ME2 or ME3. So exploring the galaxy as in visiting all of the planets — even if just to orbit them — was screwed up badly in the last two games after having a promising if flawed start in the first one. And that’s pretty much my point.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        What’s so bad about exploration in ME2?

        The fact that you arent exploring,you are going through a bunch of corridors.Bland though most of the planets in me1 were,at least you were exploring them.You got the sense of the size of the planets,and of the universe as a whole,instead of just a bunch of small rooms you teleport between.

    • Chris says:

      The plot isn’t so much non-existent as it is a cul-de-sac. The plot is terrible, but the bigger problem is that most of the plot serves no narrative purpose in the greater trilogy. The series spends the entire second game basically spinning its wheels. Shepard’s death and resurrection is absurdly unimportant. The idea that it justifies the changes to character stats is actually the least-bad explanation. I suspect it has an element of lazy, ham-handed savior symbolism to it (along with the name Shepard – seriously writers, stop doing that). As I recall, the marketing heavily played up Shepard’s death, so maybe they were going for some silly Abramsesque mystery box marketing. Better writers could have made some interesting parallels between cyberzombie Shepard and the husks or something like that, but instead Shepard 2.0 is a non-event.

      The big reveal that the Reapers run on soylent green ended up being similarly pointless. The Reapers are built from harvested races in their image, yet in ME3 all the Reapers we see are just variations on Sovereign’s Robocthulhu look (which I completely adore [seriously, cephalopods are the very best], but it totally erases ME2’s most significant plot development). Like Shepard’s one-loading-screen death, baby terminator has absolutely no impact on the overarching plot of the trilogy.

      The only thing ME2 does for the overall story is introduce Off-Brand Cancer Man as a secondary villain, expand the husk enemy type to other species (since the Collectors are essentially Prothean husks), and give us a mixed bag of new crewmates. I am in no way opposed to smaller scale stories that don’t advance a “Only You Can Save The Universe” plot. In fact, I hope Andromeda goes with a smaller scope. ME has a big, interesting universe that could have all sorts of compelling stories that don’t require singlehandedly saving all sentient life. However, the midpoint of a universe-saving trilogy is not the place for that.

      • Daimbert says:

        I agree, and this was kinda my point: the plot doesn’t introduce advance the ME story, doesn’t introduce anything we needed, and is barely even a narrative when you come right down to it. It’s an excuse to gather up all the companions. I say that’s true both IN ME2 and especially, as you noted, in the context of the whole series. Its contribution to the series as a whole is, in fact, the characters, and nothing more.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Something you may have missed. The Reaper Cuttlefish shell is standard (based on their original creators) but then the inside might look like something else. Like the human Terminator shell as a core. Is that reductive and weird (you have to look like something to absorb it’s characteristics?)? Sure. But I give weird sci-fi stuff a pass if the story intention is clear (they don’t just KILL species during the cycle, they give birth to a NEW REAPER each time).

        • INH5 says:

          That’s a common fan theory, but it is never actually stated in the story itself. From various Behind the Scenes statements, it’s clear that the original intent was “each Reaper looks like the species it was created from,” but due to resource constraints this got scaled down to “okay, each Reaper has the basic cuttlefish body plan, but there are small changes to things like hull shape and number/size of tentacles” when they made the ME2 ending cutscene, and then to “forget it, every capital ship Reaper except Harbinger looks exactly like Sovereign” when they made ME3.

        • Chris says:

          Even assuming that is the case and not headcanon, it still doesn’t feel like it serves the story to have that big reveal and do nothing with it. Or worse, it goofballs it up by saying that the cuttlefish shells are basically just big starships piloted by a robot, rather than being the actual bodies of the machine intelligences themselves.

          I also just utterly despise the entire concept of the Reapers being created from people slurry on every level. Leaving aside the pure nonsense elements like being able to acquire the traits and knowledge of a species by shoving its members into a Cuisinart, it totally undercuts the alienness of the Reapers and dives headfirst into boring old “organics are special” territory.

          I’m of the opinion that there would have been nothing wrong with hiding the Reapers’ actual motivation from the characters. Do you explain yourself to ants before you dump borax on their hive? An eons-old, hyper-advanced culture of machine intelligences would be completely inscrutable to far younger, simpler, organic species. I think some tantalizing partial glimpses and several contradictory in-universe hypotheses would have been far preferable to the explanation we got.

          • Spacewreck says:

            I think the reveal undercuts it on another level as well. Each reaper is thus supposed to be the repository of an entire race in order to preserve it (though the latter part isn’t made clear until ME3, I think). In that case, shouldn’t the reapers be kept as far away from the fighting as possible? Every time the reapers send their own into combat and it dies, they’re destroying the very thing they’re trying to protect.

            Wouldn’t it make more sense to send in proxy drones and control them by remote ala Harbinger and the Collectors? You could even make that part of the ultimate resolution, by having Shepard and his colleagues either find a way to block that proxy control or find out where the reaper puppet masters are hiding and thus force the Reapers into negotiating a cessation of hostilities or risk having to enter battle themselves and thereby endanger that which they’re trying to save.

            BTW, has anyone read the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds? It features a similar plot line with AIs working to exterminate intelligent organic species for reasons somewhat similar to the original Dark Energy idea. A summary can be found here for anyone interested.

            • wswordsmen says:

              That could only work if they thought of that from the beginning, which is clearly not the case.

              Also gratuitous insult to the people who did ME3’s ending.

            • Sartharina says:

              The Reapers didn’t expect Sovereign to be destroyed. They have to weigh “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” with “We need to keep ourselves safe” – Collectors and other indoctrinated/repurposed proxies don’t have the power needed to properly harvest enough living specimens. With the death of Sovereign, the Reapers realized they were in danger if they tried to come directly. With the failure of the Collectors, they realized they had to come directly. Yes, they’d lose a few of their old saved games… but if they didn’t, they’d lose ALL of their future saved games.

              I liked that it was revealed the Reapers were harvesting humans to make new Reapers as a “Save point” for the galaxy – it reinforces that they live up to their name. They’re a bunch of Space Farmers. Sort of. Their reaping cycle is the length of time it took the Reapers to say “Ehh, we’re getting bored of watching THIS group of Sapients piddle about the galaxy. Time to save the game, archive it, and start a new one. Imagine if, when you were playing a game like Civilization, you could only make a single save game, there’s no turn limit, and once you start a new game, you cannot restart and make a new one. Eventually, you’ll get bored. The reapers don’t want to be bored.

              • Arthflaidd says:

                Honestly, the Reapers are never particularly brazen in their attacks, Sovreign spends a century or more planning his Citadel attack, and the SOP for the Reapers is a surprise attack and the complete destruction of any infrastructure. Even then though, you’d think attrition would get the best of them, some nobodies killed at least one Reaper, and that’s, what a several million year investment? Plus we never hear about a Prothean Reaper, so assuming there are dud cycles with nothing worth saving, I mean, they don’t see to work.

                I don’t think the game comparison works though. Honestly the idea Reapers ‘save’ anything of what they harvest is absurd, they eat every living thing, make a big robot and…? Piddle about in dark space? We see nothing of them having a culture, or some simulation of the information they observed internally; which is fine when they are inscrutable machine Other Gods, less so when they are Slurry-filled repositories we’re supposed to buy as being something useful. I also don’t think they watch anything in the galaxy outside the gatekeeper, otherwise you think they’d notice those Protheans they missed mucking with their house.

                The series is awful with that though, the first game was very aware of the scale of space; it’s why the Reapers needed the relay and one of their own to open it, where they were there was no way to communicate or travel in any reasonable time (or at all probably) with/to the galaxy and vice versa. I think Vigil even says they are blind and powerless to affect anything in the normal galaxy. Then two comes. And Harbinger has some impressively long-range wifi to remote into Collector General. And then the Reapers just walk into the galaxy, and not in 89 billion years, but in, like 3?

      • Mike S. says:

        I don’t think “Shepard” is ham-handed. It fits a running theme, with explorer Jon Grissom and Gagarin Station and Tereshkova system and various other references to early astronauts and cosmonauts. Sure it’s also using the literal meaning for symbolism, but not obtrusively so.

        • Chris says:

          I hadn’t considered the Alan Shepard reference, and the name does carry over from ME1 so it makes sense. ME2 is just so much lazier narratively that I simply assume the worst. Also, I’m still a little angry about Lost.

  15. Neko says:

    What was he going to do if the Collector’s didn’t attack to kick-start this plot?

    Accidentally an apostrophe there.

  16. INH5 says:

    But at the start of the game, the council no longer believes Shepard about the Reapers. Shepard stole the Normandy at the end of Mass Effect 1 to go face Saren, but now that he’s a Big Damn Hero who showed everyone how right he was, he’s lost his initiative and is just going to dutifully fly around hunting for Geth while the great big unknown Reaper clock ticks down the seconds to our collective doom. What was he going to do if the Collector’s didn’t attack to kick-start this plot? Fly around out here doing nothing forever?

    This is actually a really great point. At the end of ME1, Shepard is convinced that the Reapers are coming to invade the galaxy. Let’s leave aside all the reasons why it makes no sense for Shepard to believe this, and pretend for the sake of argument that there was actually a legitimate reason for Shepard to think that the Reapers are coming. In that situation, what is Shepard going to do? Where is he going to go? Shepard has absolutely no leads, and no way to get any leads.

    The answer the story comes up with is “Um… *mumbles something about the Council sending Shepard to fight Geth* The Normandy is under attack!” The goal seems to be to throw so many action scenes and explosions and Shocking Twists at the player that they are distracted from the fact that the story is broken on a fundamental level.

    This is a problem that the series never recovers from. While ME1’s story has its share of contrivances, from the last minute of ME1 onward the plot is pretty much entirely driven by writer fiat. In ME2, the plot happens because the Collectors suddenly attack Shepard for never clearly explained reasons.* The plot of Arrival happens because the Alliance just happens to discover an important Reaper artifact that alerts them of the imminent Reaper invasion, which exists for no clear reason. The plot of ME3 happens because Liara just happens to suddenly discover the Crucible plans. There’s no story here, it’s just a series of things that happen because the script says they do.

    * The closest we get is when we learn that Harbinger has a grudge against Shepard. But that’s never explained either.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      and no way to get any leads.

      Thats not true.Shepard understand prothean now,so going through beacons would be a way to go.I mean a bunch were discovered earlier,so why not send shepard to investigate those?Then there is liara,a prothean expert,who can send us to a bunch of prothean ruins and possible prothean ruin places.Then there is the shadow broker who shepard can approach for information.Then there is the sovereign derelict* which should definitely provide us with some information.We could also explore the citadel and the newly uploaded stuff it got from sovereign.And then there is ilos,full of prothean tech and maybe still functioning vi(its unclear if vigil had the power to function after you left).As the final straw,we have tali and she can help us interrogate the geth about what they know of sovereign and sarren.

      So there were plenty of ways to continue directly from me1 without inventing anything new.

      *A bit of a tangent:Has anyone been indoctrinated by the sovereign derelict?I dont seem to remember that it caused any problems,yet that other dead reaper caused a bunch.

      • Mike S. says:

        There’s a piece of Sovereign in EDI and another in the office in the ME3 Leviathan DLC, plus we’re told there are bits that need cleaning up in the Wards, and as far as we can tell it causes no one any issues. Conversely, the Reaper artifact at Project Rho in Arrival indoctrinates everyone.

        Maybe during the Battle of the Citadel, the Normandy got a lucky shot right through Sovereign’s indoctrinator, and blew it up.

        • Spacewreck says:

          Tin Foil Hat Time: There’s still enough pieces of functioning Sovereign scattered throughout the Citadel to form a weak Indoctrination field. It’s not enough to fully convert sentients, but it is enough that with long-term exposure (such as council members who’ve been living on the Citadel near the point Sovereign was docked for the last two years) people have an extremely difficult time accepting the idea that the Reapers are a threat.

          • Mike S. says:

            It would certainly help explain Udina’s actions in ME3.

            (Though as I’ve written, I actually think that’s pretty believable once we stipulate Cerberus having the unbelievable firepower established in the game.)

    • Mike S. says:

      As mentioned above, the plot of ME1 just happens because of the near simultaneous discovery of a unique Prothean beacon, a giant plant-thing that happens to have absorbed key Prothean information, and the first live rachni since the war ended, in three different places. And moves forward because because Tali just happens to find a geth that just happened to be in the room when Saren was twirling his mustache, and that memory just happened to survive the geth’s destruction.

      I don’t know what Sovereign’s plan was if those particular spots on Eden Prime or Feros went undug an extra decade or ten. Or if those planets hadn’t been colonized at exactly the right time. (Or what the overall plan was before they figured out what the Conduit actually was.)

      • guy says:

        Hunt Prothean artifacts until they found out what the Conduit was. Heroes don’t have a monopoly on that plan.

        • Mike S. says:

          The heroes were doing it because Saren blew up a human colony and tried to kill them personally, and they discovered that this was part of a plan to “find the Conduit”. That this proved to entail further attacks on human colonies, and was in aid of something about “the return of the Reapers”, whatever they were, seems like sufficient motivation to pursue.

          Assuming he didn’t know what it was (which it seems he didn’t), why was Saren looking for the Conduit? What made him think it would help with the the actual end-goal of “get control of the Council Chamber long enough to open the Citadel Relay”?

          • guy says:

            Because the Conduit is the thing that kept the Citadel Relay from opening in the first place. Without knowing it is a Mass Relay, holding the Citadel tower could very well mean being halfway across the galaxy from where he needs to be to let the Citadel Relay open

            • Mike S. says:

              Did Saren (or Sovereign) learn that before reaching Ilos?

              • guy says:

                Apparently they knew there was something called the Conduit (possibly from the Virmire Beacon, which most definitely doesn’t describe what it is) and that finding it would aid them in the return of the Reapers. Sovereign most definitely knew that the initial plan had been foiled somehow, which could logically be ascribed to mystery proper nouns in Prothean messages about the Reapers.

                • Mike S. says:

                  Am I misreading the sequence? Surely Saren’s getting coherent information out of any of the beacons has to postdate his getting the Cipher at Feros. It seems as if he was hunting the Conduit before that.

                  (At least I assume he hit Feros after Eden Prime, and he certainly hit Eden Prime in search of the Conduit.)

                  • wswordsmen says:

                    Shepard got something out of the vision without the cipher, so why couldn’t Saren? You are calaiming a minor whole (how did Saren understand enough to know the conduit existed w/o the cipher) into “the villians entire plan depended on silly coincidences”. It could easily be explained as Saren found the beacon because he was indoctrinated already so he went through looking for a reason the Citadel relay didn’t work and found the conduit. Everything else is just opportunism.

                    • Mike S. says:

                      Shepard didn’t get anything coherent till he got the Cipher. Certainly not words or identifiable objects.

                      But my point isn’t to damn ME1. I love the game, and replay it often. (And certainly not for the combat mechanics. :-) ) I also love ME2, and even ME3 minus the last ten minutes. And because I love them, I’m willing to take their stories for what they are, and ignore or create handwaves for their manifold unlikelihoods.

                      (For the end of ME3, I just completely rewrote it in my head, because there are limits.)

                      Do Saren’s plan and Shepard’s pursuit of them depend on truly boggling levels of coincidence? Sure. But Dickens made a career out of that sort of thing. And Casablanca depends on an unbelievable plot device. (Letters of transit that the Nazis have to obey, even when borne by an escaped prisoner of the Reich? Pull the other one.) And Citizen Kane hinges on Kane’s last word… which we see him speak in an empty room. There’s really very little art that works for people who can’t meet it halfway.

                      On the other hand, if something doesn’t work for someone, it doesn’t. And once that goodwill is gone, the same sorts of contrivances that were tolerable in another work become more sand in the gears.

                      Obviously, there’s also better and worse plotting. (While there are a certainly nits to pick with Tolkien– as the author of “DM of the Rings” certainly knows as well as I do– there’s no question that Tolkien was a far more careful craftsman than, say George Lucas.)

                      But in the particular case of the Mass Effect games, I’m less convinced that they’re on vastly different levels on that score. Not because ME2 is free of contrivances, poorly explained and motivated opponents, or forced choices, but because ME1 isn’t.

                    • guy says:

                      Shepard did get something out of the Beacon on Eden Prime, and it wasn’t even used properly. Saren discovered there was a thing called the Conduit somehow, and the Virmire Beacon is his only known source of Prothean information that isn’t available to the Council, who apparently haven’t heard of the Conduit. Either he did manage to get a bit more information out of that one than Shepard managed without the Cipher, or he has some other recovered information stashed somewhere. It’s also possible that he technologically scanned it like the Asari scanned theirs (and come to think of it, Benezia did know about that one) and got something that wouldn’t be interpreted properly if he just activated it, though presumably less than if he’d had the Cipher.

                      I guess technically it’s never definitively established that he didn’t go to Feros before Eden Prime, but I can’t see why he’d send Geth there unless they were accompanying him on his visit, and the attack hadn’t been reported before the Eden Prime attack, so if he did get the Cipher first he would have needed to leave for Eden Prime basically immediately afterwards.

                  • Sartharina says:

                    He went to Feros before Eden Prime, then sent the Geth to destroy Feros AFTER Eden Prime.

  17. In ME1, I always thought the Shadow Broker was a super AI. That made the most sense to me. I was so disappointed when it turned out that Shadow Broker dlc was a gritty reboot of a Bowser airship.

    • INH5 says:

      According to Chris L’Etoile, this apparently was the plan when he left Bioware. For some reason, it got changed along the way. My guess would be that the change happened in order to allow Liara to take over the Shadow Broker role.

      • Benjamin Hilton says:

        In all fairness though, I actually appreciated that the Shadow broker wasn’t an A.I. because that’s been done over, and over….and over……..and over……

    • Spacewreck says:

      “It’sa me, Shepard!”

      (I still like the Shadow Broker DLC, but your description ain’t wrong.)

  18. Christopher says:

    Remember how the Lone Survivor background is explained in ME1 as being the result of your team being ambushed by Thresher Maws that were placed there by Cerebrus intentionally to eat your team so they could see how to fight Thresher Maws better?

    No? Yeah apparently they didn’t either.

  19. Xilizhra says:

    The extent of Cerberus incompetence is seriously exaggerated. They screwed up once in ME1, with the rachni; everything else was just a military hit on them by Shepard. In ME2… the Shadow Broker owned Wilson and sabotaged everything, so that left three Cerberus projects that went wrong of their own volition. Teltin was, at least to some extent, rogue, so that left just the derelict Reaper scouting and Project Overlord that failed of their own accord with high body counts. And the former basically did everything necessary anyway.

    It’s fairly clear that the Collectors were trying to assassinate Shepard specifically, and they were hunting for her body after her death specifically to ensure this. Also, the Alliance did come around to retrieve everyone, but they weren’t able to find either the Normandy crash site or Shepard’s body. The Alliance would not have sent a fleet into the Terminus, due to the much-hammered-home point in ME1 that doing so might start a war. Finally, it’s completely incorrect that the Alliance started a major colonial drive after Shepard’s death that was vital to the Collector plot; for one thing, the colonies were independent of the Alliance (as can be seen by the fact that they’re in the Terminus to begin with), and for another, both Freedom’s Progress and Horizon were founded before Shepard’s death (the other two we hear about, Ferris Fields and New Canton, don’t have stated founding dates).

    I will agree, however, that it would have been better to work with the Shadow Broker (though I disagree regarding the point about new management, as I find the Alliance boring as fuck).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They screwed up once in ME1, with the rachni;

      And with the thorian.And with the ai.

      the colonies were independent of the Alliance

      Only officially,as the whole kashley thing points out.

      • Xilizhra says:

        The Thorian creeper incident where they got loose and killed everyone was at the base of ExoGeni, not Cerberus; Cerberus’ creepers were under control. And the only renegade AI in ME1 was built by some random criminal to cheat at quasar; the renegade VI that had become an AI by accident, meanwhile, was an Alliance one.

        And officially makes a difference, especially since, as previously mentioned, they were founded before Shepard’s death.

        • Raygereio says:

          So Ceberus repeatedly sending Alliance marines to their death against Thresher Maws and torturing one of the survivors was a grand success story?

          Okay, outside influences caused some of their operations to go bad. But it’s kinda telling that every single Cerberus operation we’ve seen in the games has gone bad and bit them in the ass.
          Honestly, I can’t think of a Cerberus operation in the games that went okay and had no negative repercussions for Cerberus.
          And before anyone mentions reviving Shepard: Everyone on the team save for Miranda and Jacod died and the revived Shep turned on Cerberus.

          • Sartharina says:

            Akuze was a major success, especially with the Sole Survivor background – it gave humans the most badass Threshermaw-killing soldier ever (It would have been awesome if that got a nod in ME2. It’s really a shame it didn’t). They might have even developed anti-Threshermaw countermeasures from the data.

            I’m pretty sure ExoGeni is a Cerberus front. But the Creeper experiment only went wrong when Shepard killed the Thorian – something they could not have forseen. Everything indicated they were docile and helpful.

            • guy says:

              Them being docile and helpful until the Thorian was killed is actually a worse sign than them being uncontrollable and murderous at all times; it means the Thorian still controlled them and was having them pretend to follow orders.

              • Sartharina says:

                But they had no way to know that. Though I guess you could blame the Council for getting the world Reapered because they didn’t know the Citadel’s Keepers were actually monitors for the Reapers getting ready to harvest the galaxy.

    • Spacewreck says:

      I think a lot of the frustration with Cerberus is not just that they’re incompetent, it’s that they’re actively evil. Then ME2 forces you to work with them but never lets you meaningfully address this with them.

      In addition to the Rachni, not only did they sic the thresher maw on Shepard’s men on Akuze, they kept some of the survivors for medical experimentation and they’re still doing the same damn thing to more Alliance troops years later in ME1. They screw up with the rachni experiments and then murder Admiral Kahoku to cover up their misdeeds.

      ME2 introduces us to even more thrilling examples, such as the facility on Peragia, which was assisted by the deliberate release of element zero to create biotic babies which were then kidnapped and experimented on.

      And as I noted in the comments for the previous article, EDI at one point flat-out states that the Illusive Man keeps the number of Cerberus cells small so he can keep a close eye on what they’re doing at all times. If he’s going to those lengths either he seriously sucks at his job with all of these cells going rogue anyway or he’s okay with what they’re doing which makes him a horrific human being.

      Or third option, that TIM’s Indoctrination has already taken hold and he is subtly working toward the Reaper’s interests in some regards, such as having numerous Cerberus operations working with Reaper artifacts without taking any precautions against Indoctrination (most notably Arrival and the Reaper IFF missions) even though they know it’s a potential problem.

      That mitigates the incompetence issue but still leaves the “You never get to talk them about it” problem which is, as I said, I think is at the heart of the dissatisfaction with Cerberus. There are serious concerns with having them as an ally, but as Shamus summed up any objections you get to make in-game are written to sound like petulant whining.

      • Xilizhra says:

        Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was infuriated about having to work with Cerberus in ME2, and had all the same complaints. But… after ME3, the incredible dullness of the Alliance made me miss Cerberus, and now I enjoy ME2 rather more.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Arrival isn’t a Cerberus facility (you’re sent on the mission by Admiral Hackett for the ONLY time in ME2). And the Reaper IFF is an interesting case because it’s specifically a DEAD Reaper. It’s quite a shock to both Cerberus and the player that even the corpse of a Reaper can indoctrinate people.

        • Spacewreck says:

          Arrival isn’t a Cerberus facility (you’re sent on the mission by Admiral Hackett for the ONLY time in ME2).

          My bad, I conflated that with the revelation in that DLC that Hackett had cooperated with Cerberus to an extent.

          And the Reaper IFF is an interesting case because it’s specifically a DEAD Reaper. It’s quite a shock to both Cerberus and the player that even the corpse of a Reaper can indoctrinate people.

          I did like that callback to the more mysterious/Lovecraftian pastiche nature that the Reapers were sometimes given. “Even a dead god can dream…” etc.

          • Lachlan the Mad says:

            “But it’s only a dead reaper!” is not a good excuse for not using anti-indoctrination measures. Suppose that you wanted to study some incredibly aggressive and venomous snake, and you found a dead one. You would want to check whether or not the venom was still active before you examined the mouth; if some idiot pokes their finger on a fang and dies, you don’t use “we assumed it wouldn’t be venomous any more” as an excuse. Cerebus should have checked whether or not the indoctrination systems were up and running before they poked the Reaper in the face.

            • Chris says:

              I’m willing to cut the game a little slack for this. Your analogy would hold better if you knew a snake was venomous but had barely the vaguest notion of what venom was, let alone how it worked or was delivered. This is uncharted territory. Sure, they should have taken some precautions, but this is Cerberus we’re talking about. Their mooks aren’t exactly considered a precious resource.

              • guy says:

                On the other hand, this isn’t the first time a research team stumbled into some Reaper tech, got indoctrinated, and turned into Husks. It speaks extremely poorly of their competence that they didn’t even make reports with enough regularity for anyone to become aware of their declining sanity.

            • Sartharina says:

              WHAT Anti-indoctrination measures?

              • guy says:

                The most basic one is to simply limit exposure. Either rotate staff frequently, probably every couple days at most, or conduct the study with drones from thousands of miles away. Some drugs might also help counteract it, but avoiding exposure means not needing to know any details about the method of action. From Saren’s experiments on Virmire we know that it’s a radial effect that doesn’t require observing the Reaper directly and that in turn implies it does not operate over a visual light camera feed.

                • swenson says:

                  Wasn’t Rana Thanoptis trying to figure out a way to avoid being indoctrinated? It’s plausible to me that there could be ways to prevent or lessen the effects of indoctrination, just nobody knows enough about it/has survived long enough to study it.

                  • guy says:

                    Yep, that was one of the things Saren had his research facility working on. No actual success at blocking it, but it is our biggest source of information on how it works; it’s where the information about Indoctrination having a tradeoff between competence and loyalty comes from, and the captive Salarian tells us about how it seems from the victim’s end.

                    It’s understandable that Cerberus hasn’t found any ways of reversing or shielding against it, but Shepard should have reported the information and Cerberus’s bizarrely effective intelligence corps can apparently get any information from anywhere, so they should have been able to figure out ways of working around it.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              What is an anti-indoctrination measure though? How is indoctrination spread? Is it something you could do a blood test for? What about like a Voight-Kampff test? If the Indoctrination is coming from the power source, will shutting off the power source end the effect, or does it linger? They literally didn’t know any of this stuff and worse, indoctrination itself told them they were fine so far, no need to raise concerns just yet. The player is lucky to be able to arrive after and learn all the info they created by being turned. So in a sense, their research mission on Reapers was very informative and important, just disastrous to them personally.

    • Shamus says:

      Cerberus scewups:

      * The thresher maw “incident”.
      * The Rachni in Mass Effect 1.
      * Project Lazarus.
      * The dead reaper, where all their scientists died or went insane.
      * The child-murdering circus that created Jack.

      This is what’s so frustrating about this. Yes, the writer TELLS us that Cerberus is powerful, cunning, and has human interests at heart, but every single thing they SHOW us reveals that Cerberus is a madhouse of human-murdering stupidity. It’s like the writer didn’t realize how dissonant this was.

      • OldOak says:

        … but not so bad screw up, though:
        * rogue VI on Luna + reaper remains recovered from the Citadel -> EDI
        (although from their perspective later, quite a big one – seven zettabytes, _most_ of it Jeff’s)

      • Spacewreck says:

        Not to nitpick, but that should be “thresher maw ‘incidents‘” as the Admiral Kahoku mission string in ME1 was initiated by Cerberus doing the same thing on Edolus that they did on Akuze.

        OTOH, I’m not sure those count as screwups since they accomplished exactly what Cerberus hoped for, i.e. giving them a chance to take notes as a bunch of Alliance troops (and the colonists on Akuze) got eaten by a thresher maw. So maybe this should get moved to the “depraved indifference” category instead. :-)

      • Xilizhra says:

        The thresher maw attack on Akuze was a complete success; Cerberus’ goal was to gain intel about them, and that goal was accomplished. And Lazarus didn’t screw up, Cerberus just decided to attack Shepard in ME3, so that was more deliberately throwing something away (and it can’t really be used to criticize ME2). Finally, the Teltin facility involved intel being hidden from Cerberus.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        * There’s also one of the DLCs where they were experimenting with Geth and VIs and an autistic man and by the time you get there, everybody is already dead.

        * The entire Firewalker DLC with the Hammerhead is following the trail of another failed Cerberus project, and all you get to show from it is a mysterious, pulsating orb.

        *Everything in ME3, but that’s a story for another day.

        • swenson says:

          Huh, somehow I’d completely forgotten Overlord was a Cerberus project.

          Are there any actually successful Cerberus projects in the games, aside from rebuilding Shepard?

          EDIT: I guess they didn’t fail too badly at creating EDI.

          • Mike S. says:

            Depends on how you evaluate their goals. Most Cerberus experiments are functional at the base level– their failure involves their going out of control and killing a whole bunch of Cerberus personnel. (Case in point: Jack.) For that, EDI and Shepard both decidedly qualify.

            (Having made that point for years myself– not uniquely, of course– I was tickled when the idea was explicitly laid out during the Citadel DLC.)

            • tremor3258 says:

              Maybe Cerberus is too hyper-focused in competency? They keep creating all these ‘kill lots of people’ projects and well, they succeed. (Arrival, for instance, DID successfully take control of a bunch of geth platforms. To the point they couldn’t disrupt the control, no less).

              You know, great R&D, lousy, lousy HR.

          • INH5 says:

            Eva Core mostly succeeded, and only failed to fully complete her mission because of the external factor of James Vega.

            Arguably, Sanctuary succeeded without any major screw-ups. It produced a whole bunch of troops for Cerberus and assisted the development of a potential weapon against Reaper forces. Yes, some husks were loose when Shepard paid a visit, but that was when the base was being attacked by the Reapers. I find it hard to blame Cerberus for not being able to keep everything 100% during a Reaper invasion.

          • boota says:

            well… actually, EDI can be regarded as a failure as she ends up betraying cerberus along with the rest of the crew.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Cerberus report card. Please note that killing other people can’t be considered a failure if they don’t mind doing it. Getting the guys running the project killed is a mark against it, but if they succeeded at making what they wanted to, that’s only a partial failure (a total failure would be killing everyone and achieving nothing).

        -Thresher maw: Total success. They targeted Alliance guys because they were okay with killing them. If the Alliance guys happened to win the battle (they did thanks to Shepard), then that’s good data too. Getting all the data (whatever it was) and not being discovered? Pretty good for a shadow group who wants to do this kind of thing.
        -Rachni. Yes, they underestimated this group and were killed for their poor procedure. I feel comfortable calling this a total failure.
        -Project Lazarus. Er no, this was a total success. They revived a human with his/her original personality intact after that person was vented into space. It was SO successful that the Shadow Broker inserted an agent to kill everyone involved and steal the data for his own operations (and to take payment from the Collectors). Miranda prevented much of the data deletion and saved Shepard’s life, while killing the enemy agent. Later on, Shepard will turn out to be a huge problem for Cerberus, but that’s down to decisions made later, unrelated to Lazarus.
        -Yeah, they messed up, but then EVERYONE learned a ton more about Indoctrination and Reaper biology… which was actually the purpose of doing the research in the first place! So… call it a C-
        -They CREATED Jack, one of the canon most powerful biotics out there. I honestly forget how she escaped in the end. Was there a pirate attack or something? Their methodology is proved sound, if totally and completely evil, in ME3 where if you don’t come to Jack’s rescue, they capture her and make her one of their assassins. So they had the power to create AND control her, they just messed up in the middle point as far as holding on to her.

        • Shamus says:

          Right, but you understand that having the player constantly visiting all these places where everyone is dead, insane, indoctrinated, or tortured sends a certain message to the player. Now you’re suggesting that if we make certain assumptions about how Cerberus operates, we can view these things as not incompetence. But those assumptions aren’t woven into the story or the characters, and it doesn’t change the fact that what we’re SHOWN really LOOKS incompetent. The writer is SHOWING us failure, and you’re defending it by saying it’s possible to imagine or infer benefits that we never see and never come up in conversation. It’s like an Iron Man movie where Iron Man crashes and his suit blows up six times:

          “Man, Iron Man is incompetent!”

          “No he’s not! Building a flying suit is really hard! He’s done better than anyone else, ever!”

          This doesn’t change the fact that we see him crash all the time. The writer is SHOWING us failure, and if that isn’t dealt with in the story – if the characters don’t talk about it and say how hard it is – then the author is making an incompetent Iron Man.

          There’s no lampshading conversation in Mass Effect 2 where this is dealt with. Nobody ever talks about the awesome discoveries or useful things Cerberus has supposedly done. This leads back to the problem where the writer won’t let Shepard ask Cerberus about their [apparent] failures. You’re making the case to me that those projects aren’t failures, but TIM needs to make that case to SHEPARD.

          And of course the defense of, “They’re not slightly incompetent and slightly evil, they’re actually mostly competent and TOTALLY EVIL” just shows how ill-fitting Cerberus is. As presented, they’re either too stupid to work for, or too evil to work for.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            But… the Iron Man movie DOES show us Iron Man crashing over and over. And we DO think he’s smart because he improves upon that. And Cerberus goes from a sidequest villain, to an optional mission villain, to basically the main villain of the game. In the first game, we find out Cerberus is up to secret, no good things. In the second game, we find more of their secret projects, some went poorly, some went well. In any case, they’re clearly a force in this universe. In the third game, we open with a battle against a Cerberus cyborg who nearly kills an established party member in hand to hand combat. Then we fight Cerberus troops who are a pretty skilled bunch. Then the game railroads some losses against the cream of the Cerberus crop, Kai Leng (yes it’s annoying and I, like many players, am annoyed to shit by it BUT it’s clear what they meant by these sections). So I think they did a decent job of growing the threat of Cerberus from game to game to the grand finale.

            Going back to touch on things you said more specifically, you DO get to interrogate Cerberus failures. You personally might be unimpressed with the dialogue or response, but it doesn’t go unremarked upon. The loyalty check Miranda vs Jack is 100% about this issue actually. In Overlord DLC, your Shepard can remark specifically about a possibly failed, possibly successful Cerberus operation. Your choice at the end of 2 is probably based entirely on how you feel about Cerberus and how they’ve been doing so far and that’s framed as the big, end of game decision.

            Is Cerberus stupid? Well, for very specific definitions of stupid maybe. They’re geniuses who accomplish basically ALL of the major tech breakthroughs in the series (Shep resurrection, EDI realization, Normandy 2, EDI’s combat chassis, some of the great weapons in the series, the Phantom enemy unit, Overlord meld of biotics and tech, Jack’s biotic power, etc) who ALSO sometimes are overwhelmed by lack of precautions or forward thinking. For an out of universe comparison, they’re AIM from the Marvel Universe. Arguably just as smart/smarter than the Reed Richards/Tony Starks of the world, but held back by low moral fiber or loyalty to the organization.

            • Spacewreck says:

              Going back to touch on things you said more specifically, you DO get to interrogate Cerberus failures. You personally might be unimpressed with the dialogue or response, but it doesn’t go unremarked upon. The loyalty check Miranda vs Jack is 100% about this issue actually.

              I did appreciate that in certain dialogue choices with Miranda in private she would agree that what happened to Jack was wrong even if she wouldn’t admit it to Jack in public. I even think it makes a sad sort of sense.

              Though it’s not the same thing by a large stretch, I do think there are some parallels between Jack being twisted by Cerberus to fit their purpose and Miranda being molded by her father to do the same. Though Miranda engineered her own escape, she still needed Cerberus to help her stay free and to assist with her sister’s freedom. In a way, Cerberus saved her from the same thing that they inflicted on Jack and the way she reacts to Jack can be interpreted as being in part a result of that cognitive dissonance.

              And yes, I fully realize the above is just my reading and not in any way directly supported by ME2 AFAICT.

            • SL128 says:

              We see Iron Man messing up, but that’s not all we see of him.

          • Spacewreck says:

            There’s no lampshading conversation in Mass Effect 2 where this is dealt with. Nobody ever talks about the awesome discoveries or useful things Cerberus has supposedly done.

            This is unfortunate not just because it makes it harder for a lot of players to accept Cerberus as an useful ally, but also because there’s some great story potential with the possible interactions too.

            For example, with the thresher maw experiments on Akuze and Edolus we can argue that they were proximately successful in that the immediate goal of subjecting Alliance troops to thresher maw attacks in order to gather data was achieved. But we never see any further result beyond that so we’re left with Cerberus using troops as thresher fodder for no apparent good end.

            However, what if Shepard had been able to ask TIM about that directly and was told that Cerberus was able to apply what it learned to save several colonies? You could go even further and have TIM rattle some of the lost troops’ names just as Shepard does with the lost Alliance ships when being interviewed later on the Citadel. Throw in a few extra TIM lines such as “I sacrificed 50 to save 50,000 and I’d do it again,” or “Before you lecture me about the evils of Cerberus letting people die for a greater good, let’s talk about what you did on Virmire, or with the Citadel Council,” and you got yourself a stew.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              How cool would it have been if Illusive Man silenced the complaints about the Thresher Maw deal by forwarding weapon plans to your ship. Plans that created an anti-Maw weapon that would basically put any fight against the things on easy mode. Now there’s only one to fight in 2, but it sure would shade that whole situation considerably if he handed over something like that and said that they were going to leak the plans to Alliance Command next.

  20. Xander77 says:

    “it becomes clear that the vast amount of storytelling in this game is completely divorced from the main plot.”

    I always thought this common analysis of the ME2 story-beat emphasis had… a few issues. Paraphrased, it reads “most of the game deals with X, but I believe the ‘main plot’ is Y due to… reasons… and therefore the game’s storytelling is flawed as it doesn’t emphasize Y nearly enough”.

    The flaws in that reasoning seem fairly self-evident.

    • Chris says:

      That’s a very self-serving paraphrase. Picking out the main plot isn’t an arbitrary ass-pull. Plot, narrative, and story are not interchangeable terms. Given that ME2 is the second game in a connected trilogy, it’s extremely easy to identify what is plot and what is subplot. The big problem is that when looking at the trilogy as a whole ME2 is almost entirely subplot. Even Shamus’s read of the main plot thread (which is pretty accurate to how I remember the game) only holds if you just focus on ME2. If you zoom out to the entire trilogy, those story beats do almost nothing to advance the overall plot.

      The crew recruitment and loyalty missions may be good story, but they are not plot.

    • Spacewreck says:

      Paraphrased, it reads “most of the game deals with X, but I believe the ‘main plot’ is Y due to… reasons… and therefore the game’s storytelling is flawed as it doesn’t emphasize Y nearly enough”.

      It’s not vague “reasons”. The whole reason you’re undertaking the recruitment/loyalty missions that take up the bulk of the game time is because of the Collector main plot. It’s the framework that connects everything.

      If you want to take ME2 in isolation, you might be able to argue that the Collector storyline is just the MacGuffin for gathering the team so who cares if it’s done well as long as it provides a nail to hang your hat on*. But in the context of the trilogy it’s part of the single overarching plot that defines the story, and screwing up the thread that holds the tapestry together is a problem.

      *The idea that a lot of people did take this interpretation whether the writers intended it or not, and thus didn’t give the plot flaws of ME2 much thought, has been discussed repeatedly throughout this series in both the articles and the comments.

      • guy says:

        Even if it were a standalone game, the Collector plot is still the centerpiece. It gates advancement through the recruitment and loyalty missions, and it’s the only story link between the different recruitment missions.

    • Xander77 says:

      The main story themes of ME2 (beyond daddy issues) involve using your teammates as segues to explore the dark side of the Mass Effect setting. While previously we mostly had a Star Trek future with the occasional renegade on a deserted asteroid to serve as ,the enemy of the week Mako target practice, we now further emphasize the sin and punishment of each race.

      We delve into the genophage and how deeply it fucked up the Krogans, the Asari manipulation and (the ever so subtle slavery allegory) paternalistic ownership attitude towards the other citadel races, the Geth-Quarian conflict as something more than another evil AI story – all the shit we’ll have to fix in ME3 to bring peace back to the galaxy. Because (spoiler alert) – ME3 was never going to be about destroying the Reapers by punching them in the face with super protagonist powers.

  21. Joey245 says:

    I really, really love this series, Shamus. A lot more than I thought it would. Like many here, I have fond memories of Mass Effect 2, and played it so many times that I finally got sick of playing it (after almost a dozen total playthroughs). And like many, I’m starting to realize that those memories are almost always tied to the characters, like Garrus, Tali, Mordin, Kasumi, and Legion. (Legion is still my all-time favorite Mass Effect character, second only to Gillian Grayson, a super-powerful biotic teenage girl with autism who only appeared in the tie-in novels and got killed off by Kai Leng with a toothbrush. Not even kidding.)

    And now that I’ve grown up (somewhat) and realized that nothing is perfect, I find that I’m agreeing with a lot of the points you made so far. I’m even imagining how this game’s plot could work to fit in line with the tone of Mass Effect 1, while still allowing the use of the same levels and elements of the Mass Effect 2 we got. The story could still work – improved, even – without having Shepard die, come back, and end up working for Cerberus.

    Say, for instance, that the game opens with a brief walkabout on the Normandy, off on a mission. Shepard’s in command, Joker’s piloting, and for the most part, the crew is the same as it was at the end of the last game. Through dialogue and exploration, we could organically learn that after the last game the Alliance made a push for colonization after gaining the goodwill (or control) of the Council, that the geth incursions are on the wane, that Tali went back to the Migrant Fleet, that Garrus rejoined C-Sec, and that Wrex (if he’s still alive) went to Tuchanka to try and improve the krogan homeworld. Liara would still stick around, since she’s the leading expert on the Protheans, as well as Kashley, who’d be Shepard’s second-in-command. As they’re on a routine mission, they get a distress call from a colony called Freedom’s Progress – but instead of a usual “help me help me aaaaa” message, it’s instead an incomprehensible haze of noise. Shepard, who’s got the Cipher inside her head, recognizes a message in the static, which immediately sets off her curiosity since the Cipher was Prothean in origin, and anything relating to the Protheans probably also leads to the Reapers. So they set off to Freedom’s Progress, Shepard takes Kashley and Liara as the starting squad, they gear up for the mission, they hit the ground with guns raised…and there’s nothing.

    No movement. No sound. No signs of a struggle. There’s a sense that people lived here…but it’s completely deserted, abandoned for seemingly no reason. The entire first part of the mission would be free of combat, as Shepard, Kashley, and Liara wonder what the heck happened.

    Then partway through the mission, Shepard and friends stumble upon the scouting party of quarians on a mission, and Tali’s there with them. The scene continues as it does in-game, but instead of the main source of tension being Cerberus, the main source of tension from the quarians comes from the distrust of humans. This could work as an implication that, yeah humans might be really important now, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to like them – especially the quarians, and maybe the other non-Council races who are still sore over humanity getting privileges that other races have waited centuries for. The quarians are there to find one of their own, Shepard and friends are there to find out what’s going on, they potentially team up and get to the root of the problem.

    After they find the quarian (who’s clearly traumatized), they see the footage he patched together from the security feed. The feed reveals massive, towering, lanky figures with tentacles coming from their maws and with insect-like wings, whose every step is accompanied by a swarm of dangerous-looking insects. With the Cipher, Shepard understands a few of the bizarre communications they make, before getting to the big wham line like the one Sovereign had last game, from Harbinger:

    “This is a message for the species that killed Sovereign, for the arrogant sentient race that believes it can alter the forces of the cosmos and prides itself on its ‘victory’ against Sovereign. You have not won. You have not triumphed. Your display of might and power has conveyed a message opposite of the one you intended. You have been chosen. You have been targeted. Only the strongest of the species are selected for the Process, and you have proven your strength. By opposing us, you have sealed your fate, and you have doomed yourself to annihilation. Heed this message, for it is the Harbinger of your destruction: you will be Collected. You will be Reaped.

    Naturally, this freaks everyone out, and raises a whole bunch of questions. As the quarians head back to the Flotilla (along with Tali, setting up the mission on Haestrom later), the Normandy heads back to the Citadel, to meet with the Council. After a debriefing with Anderson, Shepard learns that this isn’t the first human colony that’s been completely deserted, and that the Council races have never seen or heard of a species like the one that attacked Freedom’s Progress. So with a million questions and no real answers, Shepard has to turn to a less-than-honest informant with some concrete facts on this new mystery: the Shadow Broker.

    The Shadow Broker would basically serve the same purpose as the Illusive Man; give exposition about the Collectors (not that they’re actually called that – no one knows what they are, so Joker springs the name ‘Collectors’ as a joke and no one objects) and give Shepard leads and dossiers for the team. Only he won’t be a smug, cigarette-smoking, bourbon-sipping, casually-having-a-conversation-while-the-most-expensive-and-ham-handedly-symbolic-screensaver-plays-in-the-backdrop asshole. Indeed, he’s called the Shadow Broker for a reason: all contact is just a voice with no face, building up the mystery even more.

    The rest of the game is all about gathering characters, making choices, and finding the answers behind the Collectors. Basically the same as the ME2 we got, but with a few changes to the key plot and stuff. Kashley would basically fill the role of Miranda/Jacob, doing the same thing Miranda did in the game except less obnoxious. Garrus would still be recruited on Omega under the name of Archangel – except that Shepard would actively seek out Garrus, instead of run into him on accident. Okeer and Mordin would still be on the list, and be recruited as normal – Mordin needs help curing a plague, and Okeer bites the dust and we get Grunt instead. And you could still have a character like Jack and a mission like the Blue Suns prison ship – just written a little better. And Samara, Thane, and Tali could be recruited almost exactly the same way – and all the loyalty missions would still work, and Liara and Kashley wouldn’t need loyalty missions because they’re already there with you.

    Horizon would have more weight because this is the first time we see the Collectors – which, up until now, we’ve only heard of what they can do and never actually SEEN one. When the Collectors ride off with half the colony, the after-mission angst could come from Shepard beating himself/herself up for “failing”, instead of the drama coming from Kashley bitching about working for Cerberus and being dead. The Collector Ship and the Derelict Reaper could still work as missions – the Shadow Broker just has no idea that the ship is a trap, and he’s not actively trying to screw over Shepard. Then they go through the Omega-4 Relay, fight the collectors, and come out heroes.

    It’s not a perfect pitch, I’ll admit; the whole “Reapers-leaving-a-message-for-whoever-killed-Sovereign” thing feels a tad bit contrived, and might be a little too Saturday-Morning-Evil for fans of Mass Effect to swallow. And I’m still not sure how exactly EDI would fit into this new setup, as I’m pretty sure the Alliance won’t be happy with Shepard installing an actual AI on the most advanced warship in the fleet. But it’s more detail-oriented like the first game, instead of drama-oriented like the second one. It gets rid of all the stupid crap like Shepard’s death, the Collectors blowing up the Normandy for no reason, and the Illusive Man alternating between coddling Shepard and actively screwing the best hope for humanity over. It does away with the whole “working with Cerberus” thing, meaning that the players aren’t actively fighting the dialogue wheel anymore. It also sets up the big reveal of “COLLECTORS ARE PROTHEANS OMG YOU GUYS” in a bit more of a plausible way, by using the elements from the past game (the Cipher, the massive statues on Ilos, etc…) to both foreshadow the reveal as well as do a better job of explaining it. And most importantly, I feel like it takes all the completely left-field ideas the series threw in about how humans are special, and spin it in a way that makes the Reapers targeting humans actually make sense.

    Plus, it doesn’t have Miranda in it. So that’s a bonus.

    Anyways, sorry for leaving what’s basically fanfiction on your site, Shamus. Love this series, can’t wait to hear more from you!

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      That’s the thing that really gets me about this game’s plot. IT’S SO EASY to write something better than what comes in the box. All the issues Shamus brings up would be trivial to make line up with even a week of attention spent on it and a day of dialog recording, even reusing “sets” and existing models. But they DIDN’T. And all the rushing in to say “Maybe this happened or maybe the Collectors are actually doing this other thing” just underscores the point: The game’s creators didn’t do it.

  22. RCN says:

    Of course they wouldn’t care to use the smarter option of using the Shadow Broker. Because the writers who wrote the main plot of ME2 never even touched ME1, they have no idea who the Shadow Broker is. Also, they made the game for new players, not the people who actually bought and played Mass Effect 1.

    This game would have been immensely more satisfying if you could hang-up on TIM, though. Then again, if you could hang up on him, you could abandon him altogether, and they couldn’t afford to leave the player not basking in the awesomeness of their Mary Sue. That’s why in ME3 they decided to include a Mary Suerer to aggravate things further still.

    • INH5 says:

      1) 5 of the 6 writers who worked on ME1 worked on ME2. That includes both of ME2’s lead writers.

      2) They clearly did remember the Shadow Broker, because Liara’s backstory in ME2 heavily involved the Broker even before the LotSB DLC.

      • RCN says:

        Liara’s part in this game is minor.

        And the fact that these writers actually worked in ME1 only makes this worse. Either the guy who left did most of the heavy work, or these guys were actively trying to undo the first game out of spite.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Or they never had as good a handle on the story as they thought they did (either because of their own lacking or because the development structure hamstrung them from it).

          • Mike S. says:

            It’s pretty clear that what they didn’t have was a plan for a trilogy, or at least one that survived contact with the enemy. ME1 is a self-contained story that ends. (And INH5 has pointed out that the sudden certainty that the Reapers are coming and we have to be ready comes completely out of left field.)

            There really wasn’t any groundwork laid for a longer Reaper story, and while there were plenty of sequel hooks (the Krogan Problem, Quarians vs. Geth, Earth Takes the Galactic Stage, AI: Threat or Menace?, What’s the Deal with the Shadow Broker?, etc.) they mostly were better suited for a connected series than a runup to a Massive Climax! in act 3.

            And I wish they’d done that instead. Retrofitting things into the trilogy structure was somewhat clumsy, but I suspect that was unavoidable once they’d made that decision. But what can you do?

  23. Jonathan says:

    In the mission summary screen, why is TIM a 1-legged man? He’s completely missing one leg; there’s not even a shadow on the ground to show where it’s crossed over the other leg.

    Bad photoshop!

    • Spacewreck says:

      I think the angle of illumination is such that the shadow of the second leg might not be visible. Still, even after multiple playthroughs of ME2 I occasionally have moments where I see that silhouette at a mission’s end and it takes me a second to recall what’s going on with TIM’s legs in that picture.

      And then I think, “Maybe he has both legs crossed over…” and a horrific mental image ensues.

  24. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    As has been previously discussed, story unraveling is a subjective business, and different stories fell apart for different people at different times. Mass Effect did not fall apart for me during ME2, so I do not concur with this reading. It is not that it is per se wrong, and ME3 retroactively makes a lot of it worse, but I don’t think the game necessarily breaks the willing suspension of disbelief.

    The Collectors, as revealed later in the story, are last remaining reaper indoctrinated force in the galaxy after the death of Sovereign, but they are mysterious and no one yet knows they are indoctrinated rather than just secluded. With Sovereign’s death, the Collectors begin the process of creating a new reaper, which makes sense. A replacement for Sovereign would allow the reapers to indoctrinate new forces. This requires a single species to birth the reaper (Sovereign could have been interpreted saying as much: “each of us is a nation unto itself”). It makes sense both because of the galactic politics of the era, and also as revenge for Sovereign, to take it out of the humans.

    The Council, meanwhile, still considers Sovereign -ancient enemy or no -to be part of a larger geth invasion, so sending Shepard to suppress geth is not an unreasonable thing for them to do, and not an unreasonable thing for Shepard to agree to. I don’t even think Shepard thinks the reapers are completely unrelated to the geth until after meeting Legion.

    Due to the danger, the Council is unwilling to sanction colonies in the Traverse or the Terminus, but human settlers are willing to jump those claims anyway. Both of these places are extremely dangerous, and the colonies we see are still frontier settlements. Bad as it is to say, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to believe that dozens of colonies are lost every year to pirates, raiders, disease, or a thousand other things. The Collectors are not noticed because there are a thousand things that can kill colonies beyond the frontier, as TIM points out -you have to know what you are looking for to pick the Collectors out from the background noise.

    Thus, it makes sense to send Shepard into these territories (he’s a Spectre) to investigate their best leads on the reapers (geth). And this means it is easy for him to run into the collectors, who know if there is anyone who might try to foil their plans, it is Shepard, so killing him early on makes sense for them. They don’t fear the fleets -they can avoid them by retreating through the relay. They fear Shepard, who is crazy enough to pursue them.

    I will concur with most of the griping about Cerberus. However, as I mentioned above, the game as loyalty mission for Shepard does require Cerberus, rather than the Shadow Broker, to act as devil, precisely because the Shadow Broker is neutral. And, starting the game thinking of TIM as the devil trying to tempt Shepard makes much of his behavior perfectly understandable. Keep Shepard in the dark, send him on missions he is normally inclined to accept but that have hidden tricks to them, and gradually try to get him to compromise himself so he can be brought over to Cerberus. It is a soft version of Indoctrination -not using EM fields and space magic, but psychology and manipulation. The problem is that TIM isn’t actually that good at it (Cerberus screws up a lot) and so it doesn’t work. In this read, Cerberus remains the villain throughout, and most of these problems just reflect the villainy that Cerberus is trying, and not fully succeeding, to hide.

    This reading, though, becomes entirely untenable in ME3.

    • Mike S. says:

      Good point re the geth. Prior to Legion, is there any reason not to at least strongly suspect that the original geth uprising wasn’t engineered by Sovereign to acquire shock troops, and treat them as minions of the machine god? (After all, it’s implied that Sovereign was responsible for maddening the rachni with that sour yellow note– the geth emergence looks similarly instrumental.)

      Treating geth suppression as continuing cleanup from the war makes a fair amount of sense given what the Citadel knows. If anyone’s going to be the Reapers’ agents going forward, they’re the primary candidates.

      • INH5 says:

        Good point re the geth. Prior to Legion, is there any reason not to at least strongly suspect that the original geth uprising wasn’t engineered by Sovereign to acquire shock troops, and treat them as minions of the machine god? (After all, it’s implied that Sovereign was responsible for maddening the rachni with that sour yellow note– the geth emergence looks similarly instrumental.)

        Well, there is the fact that the Quarian Migrant Fleet must have plenty of historical records of the original Geth uprising. Sovereign isn’t a stealth ship, so you’d think that if it had gone into the Rannoch system, then the Quarians would have noticed, it would have ended up in their history archives, and Tali or another Quarian would have mentioned it at some point. It isn’t impossible that Sovereign covertly intervened in that situation, but there’s no real evidence that it happened.

        The Rachni War is a different story, because the only intelligent species around to witness the Rachni originally going to war were the Rachni themselves, and until the events of ME1 no one could ask the Rachni why they did it because they all got squished by the Krogan.

      • Sartharina says:

        Yeah – It was very clear even in ME1 that the Geth Uprising was 100% caused by the Quarians trying to release Gardner In The Dark on them without any mitigating factors to make it anything less than an attempt at complete extermination.

        The one thing I didn’t like about the change to the Geth, though, was the way they went from autonomous bodies that happened to get smarter in proximity, to that weird hivemind thing.

  25. Duoae says:

    I don’t (and didn’t) remember the Shadow Broker from playing ME1 at all. Looking at the wiki it seems that both Tali and Wrex’s involvement in that storyline was predicated on their interactions with the Broker but it was obviously such a minor plot point that I discarded it soon after I Iearnt it.

    So the whole deal with the Shadow Broker and Liara’s change in ME2 was completely out of left field for me when I was playing the game.

    To be honest, I was pretty forgiving of the main plot of ME2 just for the reasons Shamus outlines: the majority of the missions were good. However, even without changing the stupid plot, simply improving the conversations with TIM and Miranda would have gone a long way towards making the plot palatable – if not actually good!

    The lack of player ability to fight against and question the stupidness of TIM and Miranda and a corresponding convincing counter argument or arm-twisting blackmail really left me hating every interaction with both characters from a story perspective.

  26. Zaxares says:

    Yeah, as cool as the ME2 opening sequence is, it’s always bothered me how it plays out. Why didn’t the Collectors scoop up all of the escape pods and harvest everybody? Why didn’t they pick up Shepard’s body after he/she got spaced? I mean, I headcanoned it as the Alliance showing up JUST as the Normandy gets blown to pieces and the Collectors have to flee, but then that runs into the same problem Shamus mentioned. Why don’t they investigate why the Collectors attacked the Normandy? Why doesn’t anybody look further into this?

    It’s also annoying how nobody ever explains who hired Wilson to betray Cerberus (which, technically speaking, doesn’t that mean they’re on the Alliance’s side?)

    • Irbis says:

      “Why don’t they investigate why the Collectors attacked the Normandy? Why doesn’t anybody look further into this?”

      That’s actually really simple. It’s only a big deal to you because it happens to the PC. In both ME1 and ME2, there are a lot of mentions of pirates and rogue groups attacking citadel space. Hell, one of Shepard’s origins has him lead attack on one such raiding group. They probably put as much effort into it as into all other attacks, that is, probably not much seeing Alliance fleet was recalled to the core worlds in case Geth launch another attack. This is also why the colonies are less defended now – civilians in rich and important worlds demanding protection first. What is better defended by USA, Wake Atoll or Washington, DC?

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        No,its a big deal because normandy is a unique ship.A priceless one.It also had the saviors of the galaxy(and maybe the council as well)on board.It is a huge deal.Like having a b2 spirit carrying Winston Churchill suddenly crashing in the middle of atlantic in the 1950s,and no one even attempting to investigate why or how.

    • Sartharina says:

      I wish we had gotten an Extended Cut for the intro to ME2 – It shows the Collectors finish off the Normandy… just as a Cerberus fleet beams in, scaring the Collectors off and allowing them to collect the pods, and (Since they want to stay on Shepard’s good side), getting the survivors back to Alliance space.

  27. Irbis says:

    “But at the start of the game, the council no longer believes Shepard about the Reapers.”

    To be fair, what is more likely – that Geth, established major power, built vast battleship, or that there is a race of million year old massive AI-ships no one has ever saw, who can manipulate people by magic mind tricks, far outpacing everyone else, and yet, despite all this, apparently go down to a frigate class ship attacking them. Oh, and we know this because of garbled message 50.000 years old, something that could have been just Protean Sci-Fi movie, interpreted by equally old alien tree that mind manipulates people by causing hallucinations and random attacks of pain. By the way, tree is now dead so we can’t ask it and battleship was crawling with Geth, which kind of refutes all points made above but hey, it’s Mr Bloody Ico– just a random soldier making these claims, so we should totally believe them, right?

    Funny that, when you sum it in this way, especially in the light of previous objections that Shepard is no chosen one and just competent soldier, somehow it sounds even dumber than the plot ME2 got. Then you could write even more scathing critique as to how Council believes every word when Occam Razor would offer far simpler explanation that doesn’t require making pile of extraordinary assumptions, each one more fantastic than the last, and each without proof (besides Sovereign’s wreck assuming anyone even has the skills to understand what they see, much less extracting anything useful off it). ME2 addresses both points, by having Turians only managed to copy small defence gun as the rest was beyond their grasp, and showing (not telling) that Shepard is only ‘icon’ to Cerberus, and not really to anyone else. Yup, that’s just one character opinion, not some major viewpoint shift.

    In this light, it’s understandable why Council has Shepard hunt Geth – they are the only party that can be assigned any blame, and civilian populations of each council race would be crying for some response. Goals and agency, right? Geth are also the only lead anyone has, well, at least until Collectors show up. This would also explain why Cerberus might have been so useful to Shepard – no red tape, agreement on real threat, advanced technology. Yes, maybe it wasn’t communicated in best way, but what is the alternative? The only one I saw in this series of articles was offered in part 15, “quest for knowledge and discovery”. But… That’s exactly what Shepard is doing in this game, gathers team and goes after the only dangling thread he has, someone who apparently works for Reapers. What else he could do? Grab a shovel and start digging in Protean ruins, hoping to find more messages despite most of known ruins long been scoured clean?

    As for TIM holding leash, I disagree. ME2 is far more non-linear, offering more choice, and if we blame the game for TIM offering cues, the exact same thing happened in ME1, where council also offered timed cues after finishing a planet. If anything, you had far less freedom, being passive responder to Saren’s moves. Everything you did was dictated by him, even climax was on his, not your terms. In ME2, you decide when and where things happen, with only one even being thrown at you, Collectors attack on Normandy, but even this happens in response to your actions, not because writer decided you now get to watch villain making yet another move that makes no sense and doesn’t really further his goals.

    PS. Pity we won’t be seeing reviews on Kasumi and Zaeed, I really liked spy-theme and outrageous veteran tale take on both, and would like to see them examined. Oh well.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its not a vast battleship,its an impossible one.Also,we have its wreck,and what parts it has are completely different(and superior)to those of the geth.What they are similar to,are these ancient artifacts we constantly use,namely the citadel and mass relays.Also,vigil still exists.

      But yeah,lets ignore all that and assume its the geth based on nothing at all.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Reapers are not similar to ruins or the relays. Further, we don’t KNOW what the relays are like inside because it is FIRM GALACTIC LAW that you’re not allowed to pop open a relay and look under the hood (for fear of breaking it or blowing it up). Further, Council races don’t know Geth capabilities or design ideas because the Geth control a harshly patrolled area of space that they allow no visitors to, and they do not leave that area (until ME1). The Quarians were not asked for more information about the Geth because they are mostly a hated, disrespected species not taken seriously by Council races.

        It is not at all an unreasonable assumption that the Geth in the large battleship that drops Geth everywhere might be a Geth ship. It would be more unreasonable NOT to assume that actually. Like if somebody claimed that because the Normandy was a unique ship, it must be the Leprechaun people’s design, not the humans or Turians.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Except if you compare normandy to any other human ship,even on first glance,you will see the similarities.Not so with sovereign and geth.

          As for the relays,there is a new relay inside the citadel at the end of me1,doubtful that one is going to stay intact since it was made later.

          As for the quarians,not asking them about the geth after the end of me1 would be a feat of monumental idiocy(so I guess this council didnt bother with it),especially if you fear they are still a threat.But even failing that,there is a ton of geth debris lying everywhere around and on the citadel for study.

        • guy says:

          Sovereign clearly comes from a distinct design aesthetic from the Geth ships. Furthermore, he was considerably more technologically advanced than any other Geth warship encountered at any point. Even more blatantly, any radioactive dating system would either find that Sovereign was millions of years old or out of dating range, while any Geth ship inherently must be younger than the Geth, and a prototype should be so new it’s within margin of error of zero.

          There’s the intermediate option of Sovereign being an ancient warship from a destroyed civilization that the Geth or Saren salvaged, but the idea that it’s a homegrown Geth warship is completely unsupportable.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Saren actually discovers Sovereign under that assumption, that it is an incredible warship of perhaps Prothean design that he can take over. The Council having the same opinion as their Spectre would make sense.

          • Irbis says:

            > Sovereign clearly comes from a distinct design aesthetic from the Geth ships.

            Look at this:

            http://vignette4.wikia.nocookie.net/masseffect/images/8/8e/Sovereign's_armada.png/revision/latest?cb=20140623164105

            How can you claim this when outside aesthetic and flight mode are extremely similar to Geth ships? There is literally more differences between Normandy and human dreadnoughts than between Geth and Sovereign. The Art of Mass Effect even claims both races were made based on insectoid features to tie them both syntethic species together, you don’t get more officially confirmed than that.

            > Even more blatantly, any radioactive dating system would either find that Sovereign was millions of years old or out of dating range

            Radioactive dating systems only work when you have rough idea of original composition. Unknown material, no dating. And that assumes Sovereign’s self repair systems (that allowed it to function all these millions of years) weren’t so good the surface in fact read as new like such Geth ship would…

      • Irbis says:

        > Its not a vast battleship, its an impossible one.

        Impossible how? Any proof please? In the end, it went down to torpedo strike from frigate. Yes, it had some impressive capabilities, but so does Destiny Ascension, also one off super battleship.

        > Also,we have its wreck,and what parts it has are completely different(and superior)to those of the geth.

        And you know that how exactly? Last time I checked, no one heard of Geth for three centuries. Just what can a race of AIs develop in three centuries? Care to think about it for a second? For perspective, three centuries ago hairspring winding clock was newest and most advanced invention, and a modern hand watch you can buy for 5$ would be seen as impossibly advanced, unnaturally precise device worth millions. Hand mechanical clock, never mind a smartphone or tablet.

        > What they are similar to,are these ancient artifacts we constantly use,namely the citadel and mass relays.

        Any basis for that statement? Since, you know, both were dummied down to make them easily understandable to lead young races along the desired technology path, not impossibly advanced devices. Never mind study of mass relay and citadel was banned, so even if there were any similarities finding them was illegal in first place.

        > Also, vigil still exists.

        You mean the garbled mess that only Shepard should understand? And besides, that was addressed in ME2, Vigil finally broke after that one last effort, so not, it doesn’t really.

        > But yeah,lets ignore all that and assume its the geth based on nothing at all.

        So, if say terrorist group attacked New York today from ship of unknown construction, would you assume it was clandestinely made and armed in enemy power’s shipyard, or that was sunken Atlantean ship they raised from the bottom of the sea?

        • Shamus says:

          Everyone can understand Vigil. He says so at the start of the conversation, and your companions respond to the things he’s saying.

          You CAN make a version of Mass Effect 2 where the Council doesn’t believe in the Reapers, but Mass Effect 1 clearly left us with the impression that the Big Mystery villain had been revealed. It was basically the arc between Shepard and the Council. So if you want to do something different here in Mass Effect 2 you need to spend some time on it.

          This argument you’re having with Daemian Lucifer? This argument should have taken place between Shepard and the Council. Each bit of proof could be brought up by the player and countered by the other person, and in doing so you’d get awesome stuff like “character development” and “worldbuilding”. Instead the writer changes the implicitly understood state of things and then refuses to allow the player to explore the discrepancy.

          The Turian Councilor’s dismissive line is so unpopular not because he’s wrong, but because he’s wrong and the game won’t let us see his point of view.

          The writer keeps changing stuff and then refusing to address it. They should either not change so damn much in the first half hour of screen time, or they should invest the time and dialog to sell us on what they’re doing.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Impossible how? Any proof please?

          First the fact that it is twice as large(or maybe more)than any other dreadnought in the known galaxy.And its a known fact that dreadnoughts cant be larger because of the immense power required to power their mass effect cores.Second the fact that it can land on a planet,something no other dreadnought(which are way smaller)cannot do because of the strain on their construction.Thirdly,the fact that it can maneuver like a small ship inside the atmosphere.Fourthly,the weapons it has that no other ship in the galaxy has.

          In the end, it went down to torpedo strike from frigate.

          And you are just going to ignore all the other countless salvos from dreadnoughts from three fleets?Because its only the last shooter that gets the xp?

          Yes, it had some impressive capabilities, but so does Destiny Ascension, also one off super battleship.

          Ah yes,a dreadnought from the oldest and probably most advanced race in the known galaxy.Which is twice as small s sovereign,doesnt have beam weapons,cannot enter a planets atmosphere,let alone land on a planet,and has shields that go down after bombardment from just a part of one fleet.

          And you know that how exactly?

          We fought the geth.Quarins have fought them for much longer.They never once used beam weapons,their shields go down to regular fire.Plus,we have a bunch of their debris on and around the citadel to compare and contrast.

          Any basis for that statement?

          The sheer amount of energy required to power such enormous mass effect cores and the indestructibility of both.Also,much more immediately seen,the way sovereign grabs the citadel pylon and starts interacting with it.

          Shamoose already covered vigil,so moving on.

          So, if say terrorist group attacked New York today from ship of unknown construction, would you assume it was clandestinely made and armed in enemy power’s shipyard, or that was sunken Atlantean ship they raised from the bottom of the sea?

          With one key difference:We dont have artifacts here on earth from an unknown civilization that came before us,artifacts that have moved our technology centuries,millennia even,into the future.Not to mention that if terrorists living in caves were suddenly to drop a nuke somewhere,it would be far more plausible that they stole/bought the nuke from someone than that they made it themselves.

  28. Jakale says:

    You’ve got a double “here” while you’re talking about the intro.

    “Here here the intro shows them”

  29. natureguy85 says:

    You describe the difference in our level of freedom between the two games well. My shortened version is this:

    Mass Effect: You have an overall goal. You can do whatever you want to achieve that goal. Here are some places that sound like good, solid leads that you should probably check out. Shepard goes to those spots because they are the best leads for his mission.

    Mass Effect 2: You have an overall goal that has nothing to do with the goal from the last game or before Shepard died. Here are some spots you should go to because TIM says so. Shepard goes to those spots because TIM says to.

    In the first game, going to those missions seems to be the smart thing to do. I don’t know why I do any mission other than Mordin or Tali. The first because of the countermeasure and the second because she’s a trusted friend.

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