Mass Effect Retrospective 29: Field Trip

By Shamus
on Jan 7, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

163 comments

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this story. I’ve looked at events from various angles, tried to see the world through the eyes of various characters, and tried to piece together what the author was trying to do. And I’ve found a lot of problems on a lot of different levels. But even after all this effort, it turns out I’ve still managed to miss some really perplexing ones. As reader Gruhunchously pointed out in the previous entry:

You know what my favorite thing about this sequence of events is? That when you get to the derelict Reaper, the IFF you need is conveniently just lying there on a table waiting for you to pick it up.

And that suggests that the team TIM sent to the Reaper extracted it before you got there, which suggests that they already knew what to look for. And since TIM sent them there, and lost contact with them before he sent Shepard to the Collector Ship, it suggests that he ordered them to extract the IFF at some point before then as well.

So TIM put Shepard in extreme peril by sending her into a trap that he knew about in order to confirm the importance of something that he had already had his science team identify and extract from a dead Reaper beforehand. And never told her anything about it until after the mission was over. What a dick.

It really is amazing just how fractally broken the story is. Every problem seems to be made up of a dozen smaller problems, which are made up of smaller problems, which are you get the idea.

Anyway.

Regardless of how Shepard got the IFF or how much sense TIM doesn’t make, it’s time to use this gizmo…

The IFF.

The spooky new technology is causing strange power fluctuations you say? That sounds completely non-dangerous. I`ll just leave the ship and take my 12 person team with me, even though I only need 2 of them.

The spooky new technology is causing strange power fluctuations you say? That sounds completely non-dangerous. I`ll just leave the ship and take my 12 person team with me, even though I only need 2 of them.

Shepard acquires the special IFF from the dead Reaper. This will, in theory, allow his team to maybe pass through the Omega-4 relay. This is just a theory, cooked up by TIM, the most untrustworthy person in the story. Nobody really knows what happens to ships that go through the relay. So Shepard decides to test TIM’s hypothesis by sending a probe through.

Just kidding. The plan is to just send the Normandy along with Shepard and his team of badasses through and hope it all works out on the first try. Because it’s more dramatic if we have our characters behave irresponsibly.

No really, it is. A probe would be boring. Drama is good. You can have your drama. Just lampshade this. Have a little conversation that explains why we’ve brought this guy back from the dead, built another billion-dollar super-ship, and recruited all these badasses, and now we’re going to risk their lives on complete roll of the dice with some untested Reaper tech, on the word of a crazy man, where any failure means death. Explain why the obvious alternatives (like a probe, or ambushing the Collectors when they exit the relay) won’t work.

They act like the risk isn’t going through the relay, but the fight we’ll face on the other side. It’s like they know they’ll make it through just fine. Once again, people seem to be reading the script.

The author could give us a conversation where Shepard expresses just how bad it is to be backed into a position where he has to take this massive risk. It will simultaneously highlight the risk – thus building tension – while also establishing that Shepard is a person who can think ahead. Instead we handle things backwards. The characters ignore the obvious (to us) risk, thereby deflating tension while also making them seem dumb.

One of the problems is that the IFF is basically some kind of Reaper… software? It’s not entirely clear. But EDI says it will take some time to integrate with the Normandy’s systems. This basically means that you should go off and do more loyalty missions and the IFF will come online at some unknown (to the player) point in the future.

This is what? We’re doing what?

Did everyone go to the bathroom? I don`t want to have to stop on our way to... shit. Where are we going again? Why don`t I know? HOW CAN I NOT KNOW?

Did everyone go to the bathroom? I don`t want to have to stop on our way to... shit. Where are we going again? Why don`t I know? HOW CAN I NOT KNOW?

At some point the player will click on the map to go someplace and it will trigger a cutscene. EDI says the IFF is ready for testing, and the ship needs to stay put while that happens. “No problem,” says Shepard, “I’ll just wait until the test is over and resume my mission.”

Just kidding. Shepard concludes he doesn’t need to be around while the crew test dangerous and unpredictable new technology created by cunning doom machines that want to extinguish all sapient life. So he decides to use the shuttle to get where he’s going. And rather than pick his 2 squadmates beforehand, he has every single member of the team – all 10 or 12 of them depending on DLC – suit up and pack themselves into the shuttleCan they even fit? The other cutscenes in the game make it look like the shuttle is a six-seater..

This is just baffling. The player didn’t actually pick a destination on the map. They just clicked on the map and triggered this cutscene. So the player has no idea where Shepard and crew are going or what they’re doing. This game has been really bad about maintaining the link between the player and the player character, but this simply obliterates it. Even if this was a movie where we weren’t expected to have control over the protagonist, it’s still madness to have the entire plot turn on an event where the actions of the protagonists are completely inexplicable to us.

Imagine watching the Death Star assault in Star Wars, except the writers left out the scene where they explained the exhaust-port weakness to the audience. So we’re all just sitting there thinking, “They’re going to shoot up a moon-sized base with fighters? What?” Instead of enjoying the drama we’d spend the entire sequence scratching our heads and trying to figure out what the heroes are thinking. And then when it blows up we’re like, “What? They found a magic hole that blew up the whole station? Did they know that would happen, or was it a lucky guess?”

In an action story, confusion kills drama.

My to-do list: 1) Defeat Reapers 2) Bang hot aliens 3) Abandon my ship and crew for some reason.

My to-do list: 1) Defeat Reapers 2) Bang hot aliens 3) Abandon my ship and crew for some reason.

Part of the confusion is that the map isn’t just how you select your next mission, it’s also your to-do list. Sure, you’ve got a journal, but the most convenient way to see what your tasks are is to open up the map and look for the little pins showing what systems have missions in them. So when the player clicks on the map, they aren’t deciding to do something, they’re trying to look at their to-do list. Hijacking the game at this point is bound to cause confusion, because the game is pretending to react to a decision you never made. If nothing else, the cutscene should have been triggered when you tried to go somewhere, not when you opened the map.

But even that change wouldn’t really fix the numerous immersion-shattering problems with this scene. In the play-through I did for this series, I was actually going to do a little mining because I was a few units short of the palladium needed for my next upgrade. Which means I guess that Shepard was loading up the shuttle with all his badasses to do the probing minigame?

The moment Shepard and the team leave, the Collectors show up to kidnap the entire crew.

#1 The Nightmarish Legend of Deuse Baaj

#1 The Nightmarish Legend of Deuse Baaj

So imagine we’ve got some players sitting around the table playing D&D. Their characters are at their secret campsite just a few miles outside of town and are planning their next move.

CHUCK:
How are we on supplies?

IVY:
Someone needs to go into town and get some potion ingredients.

Suddenly Casey, the DM, perks up…

CASEY:
You’re going into town? Well, while you’re there some bandits raid your camp and take the Nega Sword.

IVY:
What? We didn’t actually say we were going! We didn’t even say WHO was going! And why would we leave the sword behind?

CASEY:
Well, you did. And then bandits robbed you.

This isn’t just a designer’s foul, this is willful incompetence. It’s nakedly obvious what the storyteller is doing. It doesn’t flow naturally at all. It doesn’t feel fair, it doesn’t make sense, and worst of all it kills all the tension by burying it in incredulity and frustration. It’s the writer showing contempt for the very idea that the player needs to have reasons for the actions their character is taking, and it greatly harms what would otherwise be an interesting idea.

Just to be clear: “Casey” above is named after the game master in Chainmail Bikini. And that Casey was a callback to a DM of the Rings joke where the players call the game master Casey Jones, making fun of his tyrannical railroading.

I’m pointing this out because one of the head writers at BioWare is Casey Hudson, and I don’t want anyone to think this is some sort of cryptic dig at that guy.

This is actually just the right point in the story for a setback. And we’re long overdue for the bad guys to get their act together and score a win over the good guys. Conceptually, this event is fine. The problem is that the storytelling is so clumsy it kills the drama.

Don’t Shove. Entice.

This is LITERALLY the PLAYER CHARACTER flying AWAY from the story, and the player themselves doesn`t even know where they`re going, or why.

This is LITERALLY the PLAYER CHARACTER flying AWAY from the story, and the player themselves doesn`t even know where they`re going, or why.

Putting ourselves in the writer’s shoes: It’s our job to get all the pieces into place without shattering immersion. If we need to remove Shepard and all of the squad members from the Normandy, then we can’t just swoop in and begin shoving. The solution is to make the player think it was their idea. Think of a problem where the player would want to do this, and put that problem in front of them. Give the player the chance to realize this is a good idea, and then have the player character suggest it.

Something like:

EDI: The Normandy is disabled because of [technobabble]. We need [MacGuffin] to enact repairs. There should be one in the nearby [location].

Joker: Yeah. This has “OBVIOUS TRAP” written all over it, Commander.

And then the player is thinking, “Oh please don’t make me stupidly fall for another lame trap. If [location] is an OBVIOUS trap, why don’t we just bring a shitload of firepower?”

And then when the player sees they can take the whole team, they will understand what they’re doing, why the team is going, and they probably won’t notice how railroad-y the whole thing is. Then when we spring the trap it will feel like it happened fair and square. For the most part. Okay, it’s probably not possible to make something this arbitrary and contrived and have it work seamlessly, but you can certainly do better than this.

Also, there should have been a real mission on the other end of that shuttle ride. Shepard and friends should have gone through a brief shooting interlude to allow the player to settle into this new situation before the writer cut back to the Normandy to spring the trap.

It’s still really clumsy, but at least the player won’t be sitting there dumbfounded, asking why the entire cast was leaving the story for no reason.

Joker

SURPRISE! Not NEARLY as surprising as Shepard leaving the story 30 seconds ago, but this is still kind of surprise-y.

SURPRISE! Not NEARLY as surprising as Shepard leaving the story 30 seconds ago, but this is still kind of surprise-y.

Once the writer hand-waves the heroes out of the story, the Collectors board the ship and begin stealing everyone. EDI could mount some kind of defense, but there are security systems in place that prevent her from directly controlling the ship. Being an AI, people were worried that she’d go crazy and try to kill all the meatbags. It would figure that the one time Cerberus thinks to use some kind of safety protocol it turns out to be a mistake that gets people killed.

Joker is forced to leave the cockpit and run down to the AI core to take the safety protocols off of EDI so she can fight the Collectors. He does, she blows them out of the airlock, and the Normandy escapes.

Like I said, I like this sequence in concept. This gives us a chance to see the Collectors as most colonists see them: As horrifying, unstoppable abductors. After playing as Shepard for so many hours it’s easy to forget that all humans aren’t fearless armored bioticYou ARE playing a vanguard, aren’t you? It’s pretty fun! badasses. It’s a break from shooting and a short dis-empowerment which can – in theory – enable them to more fully appreciate the empowerment of playing as Shepard. It gives us more of the Joker / EDI banter, which has been uniformly excellent. It finally gives us an emotional connection to what the collectors are doing by having them abduct known characters instead of hypothetical colonists.

Boy, I`ll bet Shepard will have lots of dialog where he expresses angst over needlessly taking his entire squad on his mission to nowhere. Surely he`ll blame himself and be filled with guilt. Or MAYBE he`ll actually forget how most of this was his fault and he`ll never bring it up.

Boy, I`ll bet Shepard will have lots of dialog where he expresses angst over needlessly taking his entire squad on his mission to nowhere. Surely he`ll blame himself and be filled with guilt. Or MAYBE he`ll actually forget how most of this was his fault and he`ll never bring it up.

But it’s hard to view this sequence without thinking about how we got here, and how we got here was through a brute-force contrivance that immediately launches the player out of the story. It’s okay to have the bad guys score a win over the heroes. In fact, it’s almost a required ingredient in a story like this. But this should be accomplished by having the antagonist do something smart, not by forcing the hero to do something stupid, and definitely not by doing something that’s initially baffling, and then later only stupid once you’ve gone over it again.

And just to put a couple more whip marks on this dead horse:

Did the Collectors somehow know that Shepard was going to abandon his ship with his badass buddies? Because this assault wouldn’t have turned out the same way if he hadn’t been so nonsensically stupid. Last time they ran into the Normandy they were trying to blow it up, but now they’re abducting people. Did they even know Shepard was gone before they boarded?

Also: I find it really odd that the Normandy continues to function after the entire crew has been kidnapped. It sort of makes me wonder why we dragged them around with us. I guess you could say that taking the shackles off of EDI enabled her to run the whole ship autonomously? If there was a hand-wave of this in dialog, I missed it.

But these are minor points, and I probably wouldn’t have noticed them all if the previous section hadn’t been so outrageously baffling, practically begging the player to look closer to figure out what everyone was doing.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Can they even fit? The other cutscenes in the game make it look like the shuttle is a six-seater.

[2] You ARE playing a vanguard, aren’t you? It’s pretty fun!



A Hundred!2020203Many comments. 163, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. Duoae says:

    Oh dear, this is going to be messy! It’s funny to me that one of the best sequences in the game (joker) is immediately after the most jarring event in the entire game. Okay, there are many events in the game that are nonsensical but they all had SOME logic behind them – even if it was stupid TIM moon logic but this?

    Many players, myself included could handwave those other events (or miss them entirely whilst enjoying the game) but Shepard just up and leaving the Normandy for no reason with her whole squad to go nowhere in particular was so egregious that I was immediately thrown out of the story when it happened.

  2. Corpital says:

    It is so bizarre to save a situation by deactivating the safety switch on something devised by Cerberus.
    Also good to know the Collectors can’t count, don’t have a sense of smell or hearing and are mostly blind as to not notice the talking, limping Joker clonking around the ship.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      It’s weird to think of Cerberus as having a safety switch at all. Or even a mollyguard that isn’t a shock hazard.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Cerberus OSHA dictates that you’re only allowed to have a safety switch if it has the potential to get as many people killed as a lack of the safety switch might.

        • Grudgeal says:

          “Fred?”
          “Yeah?”
          “This is the safety switch for the nuclear reactor, right?”
          “Yeah, it’s the emergency shutoff. Puts in the carbon rods and whatnot.”
          “Only, why’s it got ‘release deadly virus’ written on this post-it note stuck to it?”
          “Oh that’s just company policy mate. We added that note just so you’re *aware* of it.”

          • Joe Informatico says:

            Cerberus must be some kind of far-future successor to Aperture Science. Only played straight.

            • Gruhunchously says:

              That joke has been made several times by this point. It’s frighteningly appropriate.

              “This next exercise involves feeding colonists to a Thresher Maw in order to test the effects of feeding colonists to a Thresher Maw. Surviving subjects will be administered the immuno suppressant in order to counteract the immuno booster administrated immediately prior to the aforementioned administration.”

            • NotSteve says:

              I’m assuming the base full of mantis men was cut content.

              • Grudgeal says:

                Still works if we replace ‘mantis’ with ‘reaper’.

                “Those of you who volunteered to be injected with Reaper DNA, I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Bad news is we’re postponing those tests indefinitely. Good news is we’ve got a much better test for you: fighting an army of Reaper men. Pick up a rifle and follow the yellow line. You’ll know when the test starts.”

  3. deiseach says:

    I’ve said it before that I’m a sucker for just rolling with it, but the sight of everyone piling on to the shuttle like naughty school children after one of their number had set off a fire extinguisher at the outing to the museum was a proper immersion breaker. Can someone get Jennifer Hale to say “and we can’t take you ANYWHERE!” over the scene?

    • Christopher says:

      There’s probably room for more voice actor let’s plays in general. I had a really good time with that video of the Spectacular Spider-Man VA reading Spider-Man memes out loud.

    • Hector says:

      Oh, had the game just included some self-aware humor at this point, like showing all the characters tightly packed into the shuttle not saying anything. And then Grunt suddenly yells, “Are we there yet?”

      And from that point, there’s like 15 jokes you can tell and only a hundred internet memes. Which, yeah, we’d all get tired of eventually, but it would have been really funny at the time, and by now we would look back at them with a certain fond nostalgia.

      • Trix2000 says:

        I think this is a lot of what made the Citadel DLC so much fun. The moment where everyone just stands around looking morose while you and a couple squadmates get in the car was PERFECT. Especially with Garrus for me (I’m your boyfriend and you’re leaving me behind? ;_;).

      • Nessus says:

        I dug up some rips of the game mesh, and the shuttle is a 9 seater. There’s three banks of three seats: two on the aft bulkhead separated by a central pylon full of… in-flight meal containers maybe, who knows, and one the starboard side of the fore bulkhead (port side has the cockpit hatch instead of a forth bank of seats).

        The full interior mesh actually has 12 seats (3 rows of 4), but the last seat of each row is cut off by the interior sidewalls. Apparently the devs built the interior as a fully detailed rectangular box, then added the interior side walls as a separate mesh that just clips through the rectangular “set”, cutting off the outer edges.

        If we assume the team is piloting the shuttle themselves this time, instead of having a Normandy flight crew (as is presumably the case on other missions), then you can up that to 11 seats.

        I like to imagine the team fighting like teenagers over who gets to stand for however many hours the trip takes.

        *Kasumi cloaks, cuts in line, grabs a seat, and decloaks while others are distracted, so no one remembers when she got on but assumes she was legitimate first or second.
        *Everyone quietly ignores Grunt and Samara, and just lets them sit wherever they want.
        *Zaeed sits down, takes out his pistol and loudly announces he’ll shoot anyone who suggests he move.
        *Miranda sits down and tries to volunteer Jack to stand, immediately starting a row which Shepard breaks up by assigning (and thus guaranteeing) Jack the furthest seat from Miranda.
        *Mordin attempts to stay quiet, ends up getting a seat because everyone’s too busy watching Miranda and Jack fight.
        *Thane volunteers to stand, but Samara insists he take her seat instead, on account of his condition. Once again, everyone carefully avoids Samara as she picks out a new seat.
        *Tali calls shotgun. Miranda tries to argue her for it, but loses because she’s already got a seat.
        *Garrus says he doesn’t care, as long as he gets a window. Ends up sitting next to Mordin and opposite jack.
        *Jacob repeatedly volunteers to stand, but no one hears him. He ends up standing simply because he’s still standing when all the seats are taken.
        *Everyone just assumes Legion will stand, and Legion doesn’t argue or mind. Ends up sitting anyway because there’s one seat left, Jacob isn’t sitting down, and it’s getting awkward.

        *Shepard is, of course, the bus driver.

  4. Flip says:

    Actually, how do the Collectors even abduct everyone?

    -> Do they have Shuttles?
    -> How do they dock with the Normandy? They don’t blow a hole into it, so, is there just an unspecified docking port open somewhere in the lower decks? Or did Shepard leave the cargo bay open?
    -> Why does nobody seal the doors or turn off the elevator? Did Cerberus build the Normandy so that neither EDI nor the crew can do that?
    -> How does EDI remove the Collectors? They don’t need oxygen (There is no atmosphere on the Collector cruiser, but there is on their base. WTF?!). Does she just unlet the air and suck them out? If so, why do they not reboard?

    • Orillion says:

      EDI makes a short-range FTL jump with the collectors still inside but all of the available doors open. Why this doesn’t shred the non-insulated interior of the ship and render it completely inoperable is beyond me, but she does specify that one quite clearly.

      • Flip says:

        “…with all of the available doors open.”

        So, the cargo bay and the actual entrance near the cockpit? That means nobody in the captain’s quarters, the crew deck or engineering will be affected because there are no doors to the outside in these areas. Unless they all get magically sucked out through the emergency tunnels?

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Vacum doesn’t disable the Normandy probably because as a military ship it is designed so it can withstand depressurization of any of it’s section. After all you don’t want enemy puncturing one hole in Normandy and disabling the entire ship.

        • Dork Angel says:

          Is there not a battle in the cargo hold later once you go through the relay with holes in the wall? I can’t remember if you have to wear a space suit for that bit or not.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      -> EDI-Joker dialog: “I am detecting a virus in the ship’s computers.” “From the IFF? Damnit, why didn’t you scrub it?” Why didn’t they scrub it? It’s like the dialog is going out of the way to rub our noses in our own cutscene stupidity, it acknowledges that there were security measures they could have taken, and just didn’t.
      -> What kind of half-assed abduction is this? They’re notionally here to Collect people, but the very first thing we see is a giant bug that shrugs off the attacks being thrown at it, yet kills its attackers instead of attempting to take them alive.
      -> All of the other crew acknowledge that Joker’s on a mission to fix the ship, which indicates EDI’s been talking to them. Why didn’t she just tell one of them to do it? Why didn’t she tell all of them to do it? Joker is both as far away from the objectives as possible, and the slowest person on the ship. She picked literally the worst person possible for this job. He might have technical knowledge, but surely some of the other crew do, and furthermore she’s still able to talk, so she could just guide Joe Grunt through exactly what to do.
      -> Wait, the big plan the Collectors had was to show up, board the Normandy, and hope it didn’t jump away? Clearly whatever sabotage they implemented was reversible, and yet the first thing they did upon capturing the Normandy, knowing that it might get un-sabotaged, was not to blow it up, or at least fit it with a self-destruct in case of escape.
      -> How is it that EDI spaced the Collectors, but crewmembers were still abducted onto the Collector ship? Were they carrying them out in waves? If so, which of our crew made it out alive and which ate vacuum? The game either doesn’t care enough, or hasn’t thought about it enough, to tell us.
      -> So we’re handing complete control of the ship to an AI, when everything about the Mass Effect setting has told us “AIs are dangerous”. And this just never comes up again. Never mind that it doesn’t have any repercussions, the only time the characters even acknowledge it is when Miranda says “Don’t even get me started on unshackling a damned AI” and indeed, she doesn’t get started. There’s no “Maybe we should pick up some more people so we can go back to operating crewed”, and Shepard’s cutscene dialog railroads him into being happy about this development.
      -> For bonus “Gratuitously disrespecting established facts” points, the Collector attack cutscene has limping, fragile-boned Joker get thrown to the ground so hard he gets knocked unconscious. Then he gets up and is just fine.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        -> Oh and this only becomes relevant when Cerberus turns evil in ME3, but I’ll forget it if I don’t complain now. Here EDI says she still couldn’t kill the crew because despite having full control of the ship, she’s still bound by restrictions in her code. So apparently, when designing an AI, Cerberus was capable of putting in hard restrictions that can override the AI’s wishes, but TIM didn’t think to put in any kind of override, either in EDI or the basic ship hardware, that might let him force the Normandy to return to a Cerberus base.

        Now that I think about it, in ME3 Shepard is really stupid to be flying around fighting Cerberus in a Cerberus ship that could be filled with any number of booby traps and Cerberus overrides. For all Shep knows, TIM could blow up the ship, deactivate it, or override piloting and send it wherever he wants. In TIM’s shoes, those are sure buttons I would have put on the ship.

        • Grudgeal says:

          See, now you’re assuming Cerberus is *competent* again. If there’s anything Cerberus projects have in common it’s a shocking lack of control measures to prevent whatever they’re researching on from breaking free and killing them all. Shepard and the Normandy II are simply the successors to a grand tradition of unsupervised projects blowing up in their faces, and, as you see in ME3, hardly the last ones in that regard either.

        • natureguy85 says:

          Actually, EDI picking Joker makes sense; she is saving him specifically. Were she to have another crew member do what he did, Joker would likely have been spaced too.

          For the Normandy and Cerberus in ME3, I just figure the Alliance removed any such things. Mordin was able to find listening devices on his own.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Alright, a lot here to unpack Ninety-Three…

        1) What does “scrub” it mean in this context? It’s an alien virus from a super computer race of beings! How can you “scrub” the virus out without even knowing what the useful data is? What if they hid it in such a way that EDI couldn’t detect it? Assuming that a million year old race of AI can’t trick your… 3 year old AI seems like a ridiculous objection to me.

        2) It seems they kill people who could resist (ship security) and grab everyone else. They’re in a hurry to get this done before Shepard could think of returning. Presumably step 2 is Harbinger sending Shepard a Space Snapchat with the text “Neener neener neener!”

        3) How Joker fixes the ship is by doing something probably EVERY other crew member would refuse to do: removing EDI’s AI shackles. Even Joker recognizes this as a potentially fatally bad idea and he’s already falling in love with EDI! Anyone else would go “oh yeah, let me just let an AI do whatever it wants, certainly there’s no history of THAT going wrong.”

        4) Perhaps the next step once all the crew was abducted was to wait for Shepard to dock and then trap him in a non-functional ship for capture? There’s a lot of reasons just shooting Normandy II doesn’t really fit with what their plans are at this point and whatever their plan was, they weren’t yet DONE with it. EDI vents active Collectors from the ship when the N-II flees.

        5) Again, the Collectors may have been stealing files, setting a trap for Shepard, setting up a big bomb to kill Shepard when he got back, etc. They were done with stealing crew but not done on the ship just yet.

        6) It comes up all the time? This is a bizarre complaint. Unshackling EDI makes her a full member of the crew. It allows the EDI/Jeff romance to come to be. It lets EDI tell you anything about Cerberus you’d like to know at this point. At the end of the game, she prevents Cerberus from taking back the Normandy II remotely (something they immediately try to do once you refuse Illusive Man). Like with waking up Grunt or Legion, it’s a risky decision that seems to immediately pay off, so the crew doesn’t panic about it until they receive a reason to. Which they never do because it turns out EDI is fully on their side. I do find it strange how your point 3 and this point are in complete opposition to each other. The reason she choose Jeff to do the walkabout is because this IS a big deal.

        7) EDI implies that he’s hurt, but not dangerously because she planned where he’d be standing and how he’d land. Space floors, etc.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          1: Who knows, all the dialog establishes is that there is a thing called scrubbing, it might have helped avert this, and they didn’t do it. As I said, it’s like the dialog is rubbing our nose in the mandatory cutscene stupidity.

          3: Except the crew explicitly mention that they’re buying time for Joker. Also it’s very clear that they’re fighting an unwinnable battle (they even acknowledge that they’re simply buying him time, holding out as long they can), so I’m pretty sure most of the crew would be up for freeing EDI, given the alternative of “Definitely lose to the Collectors”.

          4: Sure, they might not want to blow it up, which is why I mentioned the possibility of fitting it with a self-destruct in case it escaped. They might not have unlimited time, but they had enough time to cart one bomb onto the ship, and it’s established that the Normandy doesn’t even send Shep a distress signal until after the whole affair ends (presumably the virus was stopping them until then).

          5: They may have been. That’s pure speculation filling in the gaps. Furthermore, there’s still the problem that it leaves things completely unclear as to which and how many of the crew ate vacuum, and the story never lets the player inquire after this detail they might want.

          6: No no and no. She doesn’t become a full member of the crew until 3 where she downloads into a robot body, and we have no particular indication that was enabled by her unshackling. It doesn’t allow the EDI/Jeff romance because that began while she was shackled, and the culmination depends on the robot body as mentioned above. As for preventing Cerberus from taking back the Normandy, putting aside the fact that Cerberus still has blocks on her that she can’t override (“don’t murder the crew”), when does that scene happen? I don’t remember it from ME2.

          And apparently it’s a big deal, but not a big enough deal that Shepard makes any attempt to replace the lost crew and reshackle EDI before something goes wrong (at this point, Shep’s argument is “Well EDI didn’t murder us the instant we set foot on the ship, so she must be on our side and nothing will go wrong”).

          7: EDI asks if he’s hurt and he answers that he’s not. The idea that EDI planned where he’d land on magical space floors is entirely speculation on your part.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            1) It seems obvious that a secret, stealth virus might only be possible to delete or stop once you actually know it’s there. Whatever routine anti-virus work EDI normally does did not catch the one from the million year old super AI. Once it screwed the ship over, she knew exactly what it was but couldn’t stop it with the blocks on her programming Cerberus installed. I find this, again, completely believable. It IS rather handy that EDI is able to stop it once she knows it’s there, but that’s the basics of an adventure story. The heroes can eventually defeat the villains, that’s why they’re the heroes.

            3) Yeah, EDI tells them “Joker knows how to fix the ship, protect Joker!” She tells Joker “I know how you can fix the ship, rush to this area!” It’s only once he arrives there that she drops the bomb “You fix this by doing the one thing you should NEVER do with an AI. And you can trust me because I have you over a barrel. Heck, maybe I WILL save the ship… and then immediately kill you by pumping carbon monoxide into this room for lols.” (this would be Joker’s thinking, not anything she would actually say) Most people from this universe (recall the traumatic attack on the Citadel just recently by the Geth) would consider a freed AI EXACTLY AS dangerous as the Collectors. Freeing her would just be creating two life or death threats instead of one. Joker is the only one with enough of a relationship to her to consider trusting her.

            4) Maybe the bomb is vented with the Collectors when EDI does her thing? Who knows, the bomb is invention/speculation so I’m not really worried about explaining what happened there.

            5) The sequence is about the Collectors stealing the crew and what Joker does for EDI. The idea of what ELSE they wanted to do is not necessary, merely interesting. The game IS clear that the crew was captured, not vacuumed, you have simply decided to argue with that answer.

            6) It makes her a full member of the crew in that she no longer HAS to do what she is told to do. She can CHOOSE to follow Shepard’s orders, or not. Once she chooses to, she is exactly the same as the engineers or gunnery crew or what have you. In simple terms, she goes from being a slave of the crew to being part of it. It allows the romance because you can’t romance someone you have complete power over, that’s something else and more horrible. The Ceberus blocks on killing are discussed more thoroughly in 3, she compares them to how most the crew would NEVER choose to just kill all their friends. She suggests that maybe she COULD possibly override it if she worked really hard at the problem, but actually has no interest in doing so. The last point comes up in Shadow Broker and in 3. Basically Cerberus tried to take over the ship and regain control over her, she dumped Jeff’s horrifyingly massive porn folder (no really) onto their server instead.

            Re-shackling EDI isn’t an option as I understood it. It’s not just a button you push yes or no. Once you let her loose, you’d have to be smarter at programming than her to put on a block that she couldn’t just choose to override. Like, she could say “Oh I’m re-shackled now” and be completely lying in ways you couldn’t tell. So the choices are a) assume the worst and abandon/ try to destroy the Normandy, even though she definitely helped Jeff b ) don’t just assume she’ll destroy you, take her offer in good faith for now, the same way Legion, Grunt, Jack, etc were allowed to help despite the potential danger.

            7) Yeah, pure speculation. I feel like there’s more of a comment there about his health, but don’t have the script handy.

            • Nimas says:

              Ugh, ok, have to interject here for just number one at the very least.

              What Ninety-Three is saying is that based on the dialogue, there was some safety/security protocol they could have taken which *might* have stopped the problem before it occurred.

              He’s not saying that there were ways around said protocol (super virus like you mentioned or whatever), but the dialogue in the game indicates that they didn’t even try it.

              Basically, if he’d something like “How the hell did the scrub not catch this?” it’d be fine, but the fact that he says “Why didn’t you scrub it?” is the problem.

              • Trix2000 says:

                I have a feeling that’s more a consequence of word choice, and the idea is that Joker is just frustrated/incredulous that they couldn’t anticipate the problem. It’s an irrational “you/I should have seen that coming!” when, in fact, it may have been impossible to detect in advance.

                Least, that’s my read on it.

                • Dork Angel says:

                  Anyone who works in IT knows that most people who don’t work in IT have a vague idea of how IT works, a small knowledge of some of the terms used and vast expectations of how easily we should be able to fix/detect stuff. Joker obviously doesn’t work in IT…

            • Scourge says:

              1) Scrub the virus? From a 3 Million year old race. That is assuming that :

              A) You can actually read the data. 3 Million years old, hell of advanced, who is to say that the way they store data is compatible with yours? Maybe they are using not binary but tetriary! Or alternatively we are still in the VHS time and they are using >a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holographic_data_storage”>holographic storage .
              Problems with reading the whole data will arise.

              But lets assume that you can read the Data, that would lead us to the next issue:

              B) They are using a system that is compatible with yours. Else you might as well try to run a Windows Installer on a Unix machine or try to read a Word 2000 Document in a Mac’s Word Processor (No idea what that one is called actually).

              And now to the last part,

              C) That the worm is even compatible with whatever System Cerberus is using on that ship (CerbOS 2.3?). Else we got a situation as in B), Windows 3.1 Worm trying to infect Apple IOS 6. Good luck with that.

              • Rob says:

                EDI runs the Normandy’s systems, and she was created using tech salvaged from Sovereign, so those shouldn’t be issues. Though it raises a bigger one: somehow Cerberus avoided all of the booby traps that are embedded in literally every piece of Reaper technology.

                At least their willingness to experiment with Reaper tech becomes slightly more bearable knowing they’ve succeeded once before.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        So we’re handing complete control of the ship to an AI, when everything about the Mass Effect setting has told us “AIs are dangerous”. And this just never comes up again.

        Oh dont be ridiculous.Of course it comes up again.Right in the next game,where we get to end a war between an organic and a synthetic race in a peaceful manner,thus proving the catalyst correct in how dangerous synthetics are and how they will always rebel against the organics.See,it was all preplanned to the tiniest detail and explained with utmost skill.

        • GloatingSwine says:

          Everything about the Mass Effect universe has told us that AIs are dangerous.

          Everything about the Mass Effect universe has shown us that they’re just trying to defend themselves from psychotic organics…

          But then Mass Effect also tells us that Reapers are super invincible doom monsters and then lets us blow them up regular as clockwork.

          • Mike S. says:

            Well, the geth tell us that they were just trying to defend themselves from psychotic quarians. They fail to show us just how that led to the death of every single quarian who didn’t manage to board a spaceship the day of the Morning War.

            (No doubt every single one took up arms against them, down to the preschoolers. Except, of course, for the honorable geth-sympathizers shown, every last one of whom was regrettably killed by their fellows.)

            With all respect to Legion, it’s pretty tough to do a planetary war of complete extinction without that being the explicit intent.

      • Henson says:

        I think it’s implied that, in the time in between ME1 and ME2, Joker’s had his legs artificially reinforced through Cerberus tech. This is why you actually see him walking around on his own in ME2, whereas in ME1 he was always sitting at the cockpit, and wouldn’t be able to make it to the escape pods without Shepard’s help.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      “How do the Collectors get on?” It seems clear the virus in the Reaper IFF turns the ship controls off and allows the Collectors to simply walk in through any hatch (the security on these hatches being disabled by the virus). I would guess the engineering done on the Collectors allows them to survive short jaunts in space, so they likely flew directly from their ship to the Normandy (they parked right next to it).

      Nobody CAN seal the doors, again, because virus. They try to block them and shoot the Collectors as they force their way through, but you can visually see how that fails as you limp Joker around.

      • Flip says:

        1. Where are these imaginary hatches? The game only tells us about 3 ways things and people can leave the ship:
        a) The cargo bay
        b) The actual entrance
        c) The tiny trash-airlock near Zaheed

        The Collectors are too large to go through c) and they obviously don’t come through b). The game never tells us that they blow holes into the Normandy. Therefore, they must come through the cargo bay.

        And even if there were hatches and the virus disabled their security, you have to ask: Why can they be opened from the outside? And where are they?

        2. So the virus has control over the doors, but our AI is shackled to not have control? Judging from the game, the doors simply have motion sensors. When someone goes near them, they open. And indeed, the doors still open when Joker goes near them. If the virus was in control, it would shut Joker out. The game never tells us that the virus controls the doors. Therefore the crew should be able to seal them manually, unless you are suggesting that the doors can’t be sealed at all. That would be really, really stupid.

        From this series, post 27:

        When I pick apart plots like this, some people think I’m throwing down some sort of challenge: “If you can invent some fan-theory or find a codex entry to hand-wave this, then the complaints Shamus makes are invalid!” Some people take the position that everything is fine, as long as there’s some room for us to patch over it in our heads. But these problems can’t be solved with fanfiction. If a scene forces you to invent new information to make it work, then the scene has already failed.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          The computer controls the doors. In 3 Citadel DLC, you are barred entry when spoiler villain takes over the ship. The virus took away the safety controls that prevent the doors from just opening to anybody who shows up. Or maybe the virus specifically says “open for us, the Reaper forces.”

          Why can the hatches be opened from the outside? Uh basic spaceship safety design? If you get vented from the ship, it’d be really nice to be able to climb back aboard immediately if you weren’t dead.

          And Shamus’ rule was never that impressive to me. He brings in outside logic to try to force the scene to NOT make sense and then closes that loophole for anyone saying the original version makes sense. Sorry, that’s a logical no fly zone.

          • Flip says:

            The virus took away the safety controls that prevent the doors from just opening to anybody who shows up.

            Then why do the doors open for Joker?

            If you get vented from the ship, it’d be really nice to be able to climb back aboard immediately if you weren’t dead.

            And then you climb back into a vacuum. You’re dead either way.

            Shamus’ rule makes a lot of sense. A story cannot be analyzed if you allow your imagination to add to it. Of course, this goes both ways and if Shamus’ does it, his point is no longer credible.

            But yeah, just keep making stuff up.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              We’re discussing exterior doors here, it’s confusing the issue to talk about interior doors. But yeah, if the door lets anyone through now (including people it shouldn’t), then Joker would be able to open it obviously.

              “And then you climb back into a vacuum. You’re dead either way.”

              No seriously, have you ever seen a space movie? I don’t even get what you’re on about. Let’s say you’re on a spaceship, wearing your space suit (because if you’re not, you’re dead automatically when this next part happens). The ship takes a hit or has a problem and you are sent out of the ship. You’re alive and not flung miles away (or perhaps you have a booster like in Gravity for getting close again). Having the exterior door open from the outside allows you to go to that door, open it, and then seal the ship back up again if that’s possible. You aren’t killed by the vacuum in the ship because you would ALREADY be dead by being thrown out of it if that was the case. Having the doors only open from the inside? Welp, hope there’s someone in a position to help, otherwise you get to die in space, inches from a door that you can’t open because the designers had, like you, apparently never seen Gravity or Apollo 13 or 2001 or any Star Trek movie or etc.

              • Flip says:

                Just fyi, none of the space suits in the ME-universe have boosters. But if you got vented out, you would definitly need those to counter the speed you’ve build up, then maneuver to the door. So that reason for outside openings doesn’t make sense.

                And I would also like to point out, that there is only one door [a)], the cargo bay, that the Collectors could come through. The Zaheed-air lock is too small and the cockpit door remains closed. So you are telling me that there is a way to open the cargo bay (!) from the outside, even though that is never stated in the game and that’s not how water based ships or even space shuttles work in real life?

                Boy, it must feel nice to apply the logic from other works of fiction to ME. It just absolves you from thinking.

                • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Your statement that “no suits” have boosters is incorrect. In 3, all Cerberus suits have jetpacks. In multiplayer, various player characters have jet pack or jet pack like abilities. Further, various biotic abilities are shown to be able to transport people (push, pull, Charge, whatever Samara is doing in her introduction during 2), those are shown to function in zero G at various times as well. So… nah.

                  I don’t get why this is so hard for you. They have a virus in the ship’s computer. So… the virus opened the door and prevented the security scanner from keeping them out (say, by shutting the door again). Meanwhile, obviously doors like the cockpit ones open from both sides, as shown throughout the series.

                  The tone is old, drop it. Just present your argument or don’t.

                • guy says:

                  None of the player characters’ armored suits have boosters. Suits intended for space repair operations presumably would have boosters but probably be less well-suited to being shot at.

          • Shamus says:

            “He brings in outside logic to try to force the scene to NOT make sense and then closes that loophole for anyone saying the original version makes sense. Sorry, that’s a logical no fly zone.”

            Really? So you’re saying this game makes sense I’m just raving about nothing?

            The rule isn’t there to “impress” you. Whatever that means. It’s not even a rule. Again, you’re treating this like a game of gotcha. That’s infantile. I’m saying why the scene didn’t work for me. (And lots of other people.) You can disagree as much as you like, but “I made up a theory that explains this” will NEVER cause a scene to retroactively have the intended emotional connection for someone else.

            “Sorry, that’s a logical no fly zone.”

            That’s fine. Being a Mass Effect 2 apologist, you should be REALLY comfortable with illogical things by now.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              I’m not saying you’re raving about nothing. There’s definitely a lot of flaws. However, your rule about how “the minute you try to explain the story from the outside, it’s already too late” is frankly just an unimpressive way to try to make your argument sound more air tight. Because you’ve brought a wealth of experience in writing, motivation, etc to explain the flaws that you noticed in the game. “Character X would never do Y for reason Z.” But then when someone goes “Well what about (brings in outside experience to explain).” YOU spring the gotcha on THEM. “Nice fanfiction, we’re just talking about the GAME here, thanks.” Your thinking was not 100% game materials. Not even close.

              For example, your major complaint at the start of 2 is that the way they chose to continue the story flies in the face of your expected continuation. In essence, you’re complaining that the official story doesn’t comply to your head canon! Even if your version IS better, surely you see how those two things (my head canon is better than the real story) and (stop using head canon to justify bad storytelling!) are logical opposites.

              Speaking of contradiction, you call games of gotcha infantile and then end on a gotcha joke. It’s your blog, but come on dude.

              I enjoyed the game and I’m not scared you’ll ruin it for me. You can’t go back in time and steal my enjoyment, that’s just silly. In fact, I’m quite enjoying your deconstruction of it too, that’s why I’ve read every part of it and comment on many parts. In the same way I don’t take your deconstruction as a villainous attack on my favored game, I hope you’ll not take disagreeing comments as signs that I am here to defeat you and “save the game” from you.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                For example, your major complaint at the start of 2 is that the way they chose to continue the story flies in the face of your expected continuation. In essence, you’re complaining that the official story doesn’t comply to your head canon! Even if your version IS better, surely you see how those two things (my head canon is better than the real story) and (stop using head canon to justify bad storytelling!) are logical opposites.

                Not true.The examples of what was expected were just that,examples of how it COULD have been better,not how it SHOULD have been done.The problems brought up in the beginning were all internal problems(why kill shepard only to bring her back,why is shepard suddenly “a hero,a bloody icon” when that was not her role in the first game,why is cerberus suddenly so big and important,why do we trust miranda when we first see her,etc,etc,etc).

              • MichaelGC says:

                I see what you’re saying, but there’s quite a big logical difference between:

                (a) it would make more sense that x, but we know x didn’t happen because the game shows us y; and

                (b) x happens and doesn’t appear to make sense, but it can be made to make sense if we imagine y.

                In the second case the game essentially leaves open the possibility of it making sense, if our imaginations are up to it. However, in the first kind of case the game hasn’t left open that possibility.

                So, I think you’re mainly talking about b-type cases, but then criticising Shamus for his stance on a-type cases, when there isn’t a direct equivalence. You’re certainly right that the head canons are firing in both instances, but the key difference is whether – for a particular question – the game has left open the possibilities, or if it has actually gone ahead and supplied an answer.

                • Joshua says:

                  “(b) x happens and doesn’t appear to make sense, but it can be made to make sense if we imagine y.

                  In the second case the game essentially leaves open the possibility of it making sense, if our imaginations are up to it. However, in the first kind of case the game hasn’t left open that possibility.”

                  I’m a bit nit-pickier than that. There are things that don’t make sense in a movie that *can* be explained, but I’d still consider it a plothole because it’s something so glaring that should have been explained and wasn’t. Honestly, you can make up an explanation for just about any plot hole if you want to. Q. “How could they get from Kansas to China and back within the span of 6 hours? A. Superman flew in and carried them, even though this is a period drama”.

                  If I state that such and such didn’t make sense to me, contriving an answer how it *could* have been done usually won’t work.

                  Obviously this is very subjective, and what works for me as an excuse wouldn’t necessarily work for someone else, and vice versa.

                  For example, it’s been brought up as a plothole that Bruce Willis should have realized some of the ways people were acting weirdly in The Sixth Sense. To me, it’s not a plot hole at all because it’s easy to imagine that he’s got a distorted perception of reality that puts blinders on most things, like he’s living in a dream world. Other people might consider it a plot hole because the movie never actually states this explanation (but implies it with ghosts usually not knowing they’re dead).

                  Now I *would* consider it a plot hole that the kid interacts with him in the way he does considering he’s so terrified of every other ghost he comes across. Bruce Willis doesn’t see himself with the gun shot wound until the end because he’s got those blinders on, but the kid sure should have seen him like that.

            • Flip says:

              Eh, let’s not bother. It reminds me of this.

              I think this “conversation” just further emphasizes that to have a reasonable discussion, people need to agree on basic principles. If they don’t, walk away.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            He brings in outside logic to try to force the scene to NOT make sense

            Where?All of the inconsistencies brought up in me2 are the ones that break internal logic.The ones that break only external logic(how can you go faster than c,for example),are ignored here just as well as in the original.

        • Mike S. says:

          I don’t think the Normandy having more than three hatches is fanfiction any more than the crew (other than Miranda) presumably having someplace to sleep. (And roughly a third of them doing so at any time, give or take, since ships run 24/7.) It seems pretty necessary that the Normandy be more than the areas we can access as players: ship’s ordnance needs to be stored somewhere, that fridge in the galley isn’t large enough to hold all the food the crew eats on extended flights, etc.

          That doesn’t mean that they can unveil the previously unmentioned teleporter, or the Kryptonian crewman who lives in an unrevealed deck above the Captain’s cabin. But spaceships having a bunch of access ports is an unremarkable, more or less expected detail. Since the Collector boarding isn’t structured as a locked-room mystery, what specific hole in the ship they boarded via (and whether it was made by them or simply commandeered) doesn’t really seem like an important detail.

  5. Joshua says:

    I’d really like to see you do a review like this of the plot of the new Star Wars TFA. Fun movie, but oh so *many* plot holes.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Although Star Wars movies have always played fast and loose to a degree.
      It’s not overly interested in the nitty-gritty of things, whereas Mass Effect is (or was).
      Still not perfect, but it’s very much more a style where things just happen and they actually have a force of destiny written in as an actual component of the universe, so it just rolls with it.

    • Primogenitor says:

      A 100k + word review series of Star Wars movies? Yes please (though I doubt Shamus fingers would survive it).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You know,that would be an excellent contrast with this series.”Here are all of the illogical things in the new star wars movie,and this is why none of them make them movie any worse”.

  6. Orillion says:

    Shepard’s a biotic whether he takes a class in it or not. After all, even an infiltrator can pick up a power like Reave or Dominate.

  7. MichaelGC says:

    So is it, like, “GRUN-chus-lee?” Perhaps with a slight … tremor on the first syllable (Gr’un-) but not to the point of making it two separate syllables (Grew-hun-)? Just curious!

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Grew-huhn-chuhs-lee is how I usually say it. As a name, it’s actually the phonetic result of a skip in a CD audiobook recording of 2001: A Space Odyssey I used to listen to. The skip was somewhere between the words ‘grew’ and something that ended in ‘n-chous-ly’ (consciously perhaps?). I liked the way it sounded, and figured that no one else would have heard a sound quite like it, so I took it as a username. And it was tangentially related to a classic sci-fi work, so it seemed appropriate for this site.

      On a related note- AH! SENPAI NOTICED ME!

  8. Darren says:

    If there’s one thing about the many, many complaints about the film Prometheus (which I actually quite like) it’s that there is a significant number of people who will not accept a Drama First approach, lampshaded or no. It doesn’t matter that the film points out that the guy taking off his helmet is unwise, it doesn’t matter that the guy who touches the penis snake is high as balls (or that the other guy in the scene clearly thinks it’s a bad idea), it doesn’t matter about anything; they apparently want their sci-fi to be about competent, realistic professionals going about their job in the safest, and thus most boring, way.

    There are times when I sympathize with the writers of this game, because for as much as they fumbled easy stuff I think there are a few “can’t win” situations, and this is one of them.

    Also: I really like the idea of the game subtly suggesting that TIM knows exactly what’s going on and just doesn’t tell Shepherd. Too bad that seems to be an accident in many cases.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Whether or not the writers could have won with this scene, I think the huge number of fixable problems pointed out indicates that at the very least, they could have lost less.

      • Mike S. says:

        I kind of doubt it. Really airtight plotting is, I suspect, close to impossible given large-scale collaboration. It more or less requires one or at most two people with a strong sense of organization and an obsessive attention to detail.

        (And even then… It’s hard to find someone who fits that description more than Tolkien, and LotR is probably pretty close to the theoretical limit of what’s achievable. But even that’s not hard to poke holes in.)

        ME2 obviously isn’t close to pushing those limits, and certainly could have been done better. But better enough to avoid that loss of willing suspension of disbelief from a vocal segment of the player base that turns plot holes from “okay, sure, but you have to go with it” to “adds insult to injury”? Probably not without being a different game entirely.

        • galacticplumber says:

          You say that last sentence like it’s unreasonable. The story of mass effect 2 was nonsense from literally the start of the game and only gets worse from there with the only bright spots being side content. If I wanted to make a decent story from that my first step would’ve been to take a flamethrower to the original script and then build a new one from scratch. Maybe, MAYBE, incorporating one or two of the less hackjob elements if I saw potential in any of them.

          • Mike S. says:

            I get that, and it’s not an uncommon opinion in these parts. But if that’s the case, then the writers couldn’t have “lost less” (as Ninety-Three put it) by plotting a scene like this more tightly.

            If the thesis is that Mass Effect 2 was a good idea with poor (or at least suboptimal) execution, then that might conceivably help (though I kind of doubt it for the reasons stated). If ME2 is deemed a complete blind alley, then a better plot underpinning for the dramatic scene isn’t going to win any points.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Not true.I mean,all of us that dump on me2 for how shit its story is,still praise its execution for stuff that it did right.Mainly,the scenes you get with mordin,garrus and tali.And some of those(mordins recruitment)are tied to the main story,yet are made good despite that.

              • Mike S. says:

                And those elements aren’t praised because their plots are particularly taut (Garrus’s recruitment mission hinges on the astronomical coincidence of arriving on Omega just when he’s being besieged, for example, and– if Shepard was Paragon– depends on completely reversing his ME1 character development so that it can be recapitulated), but because liking the characters and dialog makes players more generous about making allowances.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  There are no allowances for mordin in his recruitment mission,since this is the first time we see him.And if he was acting like an idiot then,or if shepard was acting like an idiot when she first met him,people wouldnt overlook that just because of some favoritism or whatever.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    Mordin is awesome. Mordin’s recruitment mission hinges on the kill-all-but-humans plague seeded by the Collectors for, as Shamus has pointed out, reasons that never become remotely coherent. Mordin comes up with a cure in Star Trek time, which can be delivered to a half-dozen species without regard for dosage, individual sensitivities, or patient monitoring by blasting it into the air system. And by sheer coincidence, right after he’s created it he gets a visit from a heavily armed team who can get it past the vorcha who’ve taken over the air plant. (What reward makes them willing to fight to the death for the Collector plague? How will the Collectors “make them strong”? Nobody knows or cares, doubtless including whoever wrote their dialog.)

                    For his next trick, Mordin comes up with the protection against the Collectors’ immobilization bugs, the details of which Shamus critiqued recently enough that it probably doesn’t need reiterating.

                    And no one ever mutters sarcastically about “humans are special” when it turns out that of all the culture of all the species in all the galaxy, Mordin’s got a thing for human light opera or the occasional Biblical metaphor.

                    Because Mordin is awesome, players are willing to extend the charity of willing suspension of disbelief to cover over the weaknesses of his story. If Mordin had been a nondescript or annoying character, the various plot shortcuts used to support his arc would likely be raised as evidence of the lack of attention to detail that produced him. But he isn’t, so they aren’t.

    • Grudgeal says:

      What I wanted from Prometheus was for the film to be less ham-fisted about the whole shebang being an allergory for a test of (explicitly americo-Christian) faith by having the agents of doubt and rationalism (the guy who took his helmet off and the actual scientists) acting like idiots and die oh-so-karmic deaths while the lady who wears a Crucifix around her neck and thinks blue space men made humanity “because that’s what she chooses to believe” is the one to get validated and make it to the end.

      Just as what I wanted from Mass Effect 2 was for the game to continue the tone of the original and be less Dirty Dozen IN SPACE who has every voice of reason drowned out in order to concieve of a scenario where you have to desperately throw yourself into the jaws of death NOW NOW NOW in order to “save your crew” because they apparently can’t think of a better motivator or because they can’t allow you to stick around and continue to explore the actually halfway-decent parts of this game (i.e. the parts not involving Cerberus or the main storyline) once you’ve progressed deeply enough down the story. It felt a bit like the narrator from the Stanley Parable was running things that that point.

      • 4ier says:

        “All of his crew was gone. What could it mean? Shepard decided to fly through the Omega-4 Relay. Perhaps he had simply missed a memo.”
        “This was NOT the correct way to the Omega-4 Relay, and Shepard knew it perfectly well. Perhaps he wanted to stop by the Citadel first, just to admire it.”

    • Matt Downie says:

      When I started watching Prometheus, not having seen any trailers, I got the impression this was intellectual science fiction, exploring humanity’s place in the cosmos, following some clever space archaeologists as they pieced together an alien mystery.

      Later in the film, I got the impression it was supposed to be a schlocky horror film, following Cabin In The Woods rules; everyone suddenly making irrational decisions to split up and get lost, the least sexually active woman being the only survivor, that sort of thing.

      I wanted to watch the first film, the one I imagined for the first fifteen minutes.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yup,so many people dislike prometheus because they cant accept drama first approach.And many of them like star wars because they prefer details first and simply cannot accept space magic thats not scientifically explained.

      Or to put it seriously:Drama first does not mean that people have to be idiots.You can have drama first with smart characters.

      • Matt K says:

        And if you can’t do that, at least have the decency of presenting them as stupid from the get go. There can be a decent story in a person getting in over their heads, not as much for respected professionals to do stuff which they would have known is stupid (unless of course you’re going for some sort of psychological horror which ends with the person doing something stupid).

      • natureguy85 says:

        You’ll probably never read this, months out as it is, but I am confused. Star Wars isn’t “details first”. The Force isn’t scientifically explained at it was a disaster when Lucas tried in Episode 1. I think Shamus mentions this in one of the posts about it. Did I misunderstand you?

    • Matt K says:

      Really it’s all in how it presents itself. If Prometheus was about a rowdy crew of space pirates getting in over their heads, it would be less of an issue. But presenting the movie as a bunch of people who know better and then end up for reasons doing stupid stuff anyway, despite the fact they should know better creates a narrative issue.

      I’m sure people would have had less of an issue if the movie was presenting itself as these professionals who are slowly driven mad and then do stupid things or instead the the example I give above. Really the whole point here and, from what I gather, what Shamus is getting at is when the narrative starts to contradict itself, especially for things that matter for the plot (especially when it a major plot point) breaks the narrative flow and starts ruining the story.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Really it’s all in how it presents itself. If Prometheus was about a rowdy crew of space pirates getting in over their heads, it would be less of an issue.

        Yeah. Or maybe a bunch of blue collar workers, you know, like Space Miners. People who wouldn’t be expected to be experts on the alien horrors they inadvertently stumble onto… Oh, wait.

        • Gruhunchously says:

          Exactly. The crew of the original Alien make just as many dumb or at least questionable decisions (bringing Kane on board when he really ought to have been quarantined, chasing the alien into the vent shafts, splitting up to go look for the cat, ect.) but it’s easier to swallow because it’s established early that they’re all work-a-day space truckers who are in over their heads, and that they’re being deliberately undermined by their own company. The same behavior from supposedly trained scientific personnel in an environment they should be used to isn’t as easy to justify (though it can be done, to a degree, if you’re willing).

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            bringing Kane on board when he really ought to have been quarantined

            Not to mention that this still sparked a big argument between the crew members because some of them still were smart enough to think despite their feelings.So what these two movies are saying is that mining ships have more smarts than science vessels.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Didn’t the Android on the crew allow him (Kane) in because of its secret orders? I seem to recall that being the case.

            The vent idea was solid if Dallas hadn’t stopped in such an open area that the Alien could attack from multiple angles, including from above or below. The way Aliens die in the sequel shows that they’re not invincible.

            And splitting up to look for Jonesy made sense when the alien was the size of a groundhog. They didn’t realize it could grow like a time lapse photo because… how could they?

            • lurkey says:

              Didn’t the Android on the crew allow him (Kane) in because of its secret orders? I seem to recall that being the case.

              Pretty much. Ripley refuses to let them in, Ash overrides her. And I think Dallas knew about the secret order too.
              Alien’s logic is pretty sound for a Hollywood sci-fi film.

    • INH5 says:

      I think the problems with Prometheus are:

      1) The movie starts by presenting itself as a Details First story, talking about how they’re investigating this planet because they found some star maps on Earth left by ancient aliens, their mission cost a whole bunch of money and was presumably crewed by the best people they could find, they have to set down on this part of the planet because [reasons] and carefully investigate the ruins using these tools because [reasons]. Then it proceeds to break these expectations by having a bunch of contrived things happen for no reason other than drama. A proper Drama First set up would be something like a bunch of Space Truckers stumbling onto this planet because their cargo ship’s FTL broke down, and when they go out and investigate they find something much bigger than they had ever expected. Sort of like the set up for the first Alien movie, in other words.

      2) The most important part of drama is establishing characters, and the movie mostly fails to do that. Run all the characters through the Plinkett test (describe a character to someone who’s never seen the movie without mentioning their job or what they look like), and only David would unambiguously pass. This wouldn’t be much of a problem in a Details First story (of the characters in 2001 A Space Odyssey, only HAL 9000 would have any chance of passing that test), but it absolutely kills Drama First stories. This is especially true when even the well-defined characters do things that don’t match with their stated motivations, like David infecting crew members with the black oil.

      3) The conclusion doesn’t work as the ending of a Drama First story. The movie ends with everyone except Shaw and David dead, with Shaw determined to head out into space to “find answers,” and with a cryptic last minute shot of some kind of alien bursting out of the Engineer’s chest. That would be fine for a mystery focused Details First story, but it fails as drama because we aren’t given a reason to care about Shaw’s quest to find answers or any of the weird alien goo stuff. And anyone looking for a Details First story will by this point already have had all of their interest killed by the inane character actions and plot developments that happened earlier in the story.

      So I think the problems with Prometheus boil down to not being sure what kind of story they wanted to tell with the movie, which is probably a result of too many cooks in the kitchen considering the movie’s production history. As it stands, they could have either kept the setup and changed the plot so that the actions of the characters made more sense, or they could have kept the broad strokes of the plot but changed the setup and conclusion to be more appropriate to a Drama First story. Like I said, have the characters be a bunch of Space Truckers getting in over their heads, and have the ending be the last surviving Space Trucker beheading the Engineer to take revenge on the monster that killed all of his/her friends, then taking a look around and asking, “how am I going to get home now?”

  9. Lame Duck says:

    To me, this section, more than any other, looks like the result of running out of time/budget rather than (or possibly just in addition to) incompetent writing. The method of getting Shepard and co. out of the way is so ham-fisted and awful that I really have a hard time believing that anyone could look at it and think it was OK; it really seems like something more ambitious should have gone there but was cut and there was no time to patch the gap properly, so we ended up with this mess.

    • BenD says:

      Exactly how I felt. I was totally ready to play a mission that justified having the whole team, even though I hadn’t been given any option or intended to do so. It seemed at least like that would be the next stop along the extremely inflexible, very obvious rails. And when it didn’t occur it felt like terribly obvious budgeting (of money, time, or both) failure.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      But shouldnt the story missions be done first?Shouldnt budget cuts be seen in less important stuff?Like how firewalker dlc wasnt shipped with the vanilla game.

      Also,another argument against this being a budget cut:These are the same people who looked at the obviously idiotic ending of me3 and said that one was ok.

  10. T.A. says:

    The Collectors boarding could actually work rather well even when Shepard stays on the ship. Maybe have a sequence, in which activating the IFF completetly bricks the ship even worse than it does it actually does in the game. This allows the Collectors to safely open the airlocks and the cargo bay, thus boarding Normandy from two directions. This obviously means, that Shepard has to split her team to protect themselves, and the crew, from being collected by the Collectors.
    Naturally, the size of your team affects how well you do against the Collectors and how well they do against you.
    Unfortunatetly, implementing the section with Joker as a gameplay element is difficult and I can’t see any “natural” way to implement it. The dialogue between Joker and EDI can still be there, though changing the scene this way does undermine what it tried to originally achieve. Of course, this could be alleviated by not making the Collectors be such pushovers, although having the pushovers score a victory over the player in a way that feels natural can be a quite effective motivator.

  11. shpelley says:

    Honestly, it would have been way better if the sequence of events went something more like:

    TL;DR: Set up the Collectors as a substantial threat at Horizon, then sucker the characters into thinking the same thing is happening later on to get them all off the ship, THEN do the crew abduction to have it make sense.

    Long Version: Scrap the “collector ship being seemingly abandoned and then ambushing the player like idiots” section. We will address the “Omega-4 Relay Research” bit after. Instead, we are going to add a few elements to one of the big set-piece battles: Horizon.

    One thing we can do is hint at and eventually explain how they choose the worlds they hit: they were tipped off by some colonists who were Indoctrinated. If you look in some of the houses, you’ll find logs and such showing their decline. Hidden somewhere in each of the houses is a Beacon of some sort. Obviously meant for the Collectors to home in on. Using indoctrinated colonists as a way to identify easy targets (ones with low Alliance presence) neatly explains why they haven’t gotten caught and makes the bad guys seem far more competent. It also reminds you that Indoctrination Is A Thing (TM) and ups the paranoia a little.

    When it comes to the ambush, make it over the top. Maybe make it require a Deus Ex Machina-type event to survive, or the team has to flee. You aren’t mowing everyone down, you are just trying to get back to your shuttle and get the hell out. Make it obvious to the player that they SHOULD have lost. “We need more intel, we can’t fight them head on” should be the takeaway in the cutscene/debriefing following the mission.

    At this point, you add a non-combat, world-building mission somewhere appropriate. Maybe there is a seedy contact back on Omega who knows some people looking into the Relay. Re-use locations, write some interesting dialog and if you are worried about starving the player of shooty-times, put a small fire-fight with the researchers body guards or something as an option.

    Later on in the story, the team gets receives a familiar transmission. A colony is sending a distress signal and when you get there, scans show very few people there. When you select this mission, there is a little cutscene where your characters are basically like “Oh, not this time. This time we are ALL going.” When they get there, it really IS just abandoned. You get to walk around the creepy, silent, abandoned town until you realize there is actually no one here. You eventually find a (obvious Reaper-tech) beacon that is auto-broadcasting the message. No Collectors are present. The colonists here were abducted a while ago it looks like.

    You realize you’ve been hoodwinked, then it skips to the ship and the “abduct the crew” scenario plays out.

    This seems like it’d be a far more palatable experience.

    • Ateius says:

      I’d have loved that setup far more than what we got. Throw in some extra elements of meeting the colonists (“talk to the peasants” as Shamus mentioned earlier in this series) and that could be a great Mass Effect game!

      It would be even better if you didn’t fight the Collectors most of the game, with the actual abductions being done by, say, Batarians (remember them? The established “asshole slavers” minor species?) upgunned with Collector-tech weapons and freezy-flies, and you don’t fight an actual Collector until the endgame.

  12. Zekiel says:

    Good grief this section annoyed the hell out of me too. Even as a card-carrying Mass Effect 2 fanboy.

    And as much as I like Joker, and rather enjoyed the vulnerability of this sequence playing as him, it is just really, really odd that this is the only gameplay segment in the entire *trilogy* in which you’re not playing as your own damn character. If you want to switch perspective in your game from time-to-time, fine. To do it ONCE in an entire trilogy, for a not-that-important gameplay section is just really offputting.

    • Ringwraith says:

      The actual playable segment is about the only good thing about this stretch, being thrust into a helpless situation is such a juxtaposition, it makes things tense.
      Ya know, as long as you aren’t thinking about how the setup was utterly stupid.

    • Henson says:

      Switching perspectives is exactly what ME3 needed right at the very end. A bunch of vignette gameplay segments from different races’ perspectives on the grand final assault: an Alliance marine manning a turret; a Turian sniper holding back advancing waves; a Krogan patrol charging forward to establish a position. And many of them don’t end in victory, only in buying time for Shepard. It would have communicated the idea of everyone banding together against the Reapers in one last, desperate struggle to survive.

    • Dork Angel says:

      The Joker section wasn’t just about letting you control a non powered character. It was like a moving cut scene that let you see the crew being killed or abducted. As you slowly hobble around you see crew fighting for their lives and being dragged away screaming by the Collectors in the background. It also gave you a glimpse of what it must have been like for the colonists who had been taken previously. I found that pretty powerful stuff.

  13. Zak McKracken says:

    well … at least someone has been paying attention on the developer side and putting sense into ME :
    The third picture shows the two planets (systems?) Schwarzschild and Chandrasekhar, named after astrophysicists, both of them.

    Chandrasekhar found the mass limit above which a white dwarf would collapse into a black hole (thus mathematically proving the possibility of black holes), and Schwarzschild derived the radius of the event horizon for a non-rotating black hole.

    See, Shamus, you just don’t see the genius behind the ME franchise, that’s your problem. You’re focussing entirely on the wrong things :)

    • Ninety-Three says:

      They’re systems, not planets. And that just brings up more questions. Planets might not be named until someone visits them, but stars are visible through telescopes, they get names way in advance. If they’re named for human astrophysicists, that says they must have been named after humans got up on the galactic scene, which is, what, within the last century? The Asari have been hanging out here for milennia, why are there still unnamed star systems?

      • guy says:

        There’s a LOT of stars. They probably only have catalog numbers until someone starts actually caring about them.

        • Mike S. says:

          Very true. And even if you deliberately set out to do it, does any culture have a hundred billion-odd meaningful names to give them?

          (“We ran out of even obscure mythological figures after the first few thousand. Then we did literature and pop culture. Then we named one after everyone mentioned in recorded history, and everyone in the current census. (‘Mike S.’ is a red dwarf in a globular cluster!) Over the last few years, we’ve been asking people to send in their D&D characters’ names, but…”)

          • Hector says:

            …but that just brought us back to mythological names and literature again.

            • Mike S. says:

              “Well, we did manage to get a few. Now please fasten your harnesses during final approach to the connecting mass relay; we should reach Fi-Tor III in a few hours. Passengers continuing on to Wyzzard VII please remain in place until the crew can perform a seat count.”

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            There’s also the side translation detail – you call it whatever you want, *I* call it whatever I want.

            Also, what Daemian is saying below.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Wouldn’t it make sense that some of those systems would have been spotted by humans through telescopes before they made contact with anyone else in the Galaxy? In that case they may well have given them names before realizing that someone else got there first.

          Or they just could not pronounce the name given by the Asari and made up their own. Kind of like some people call Köln “Cologne” or Sibiu “Hermannstadt”? Or every other Irish town? Or Kangaroos?

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well to be fair,you are on a human ship using a human chart.Nothing says that human charts have to use universally accepted names.I mean,if you look at maps in different languages from just the last century,youll notice quite a few of them having different names for the same regions.

        Also,we have discovered a bunch of planets outside our solar system already.In the last decade or so our scanning abilities have vastly improved.So in a few centuries,we might even map out our part of the galaxy pretty accurately.

        • Matt K says:

          Although you’d think everyone in Council space would use a unified naming convention, if only to make it easier to discuss with other races. Like “we need help, we’re in the Rosen system” and the Asari are like “where’s that?”. Especially for reasons like that where, not quite depicted, space travel is dangerous especially since it’s so big so you’d need a good way to at least call for help (and seeing as how all of the council races speak the same language).

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The universal translators everyone seems to posses automatically translate local names into galactic basic.

            • Mike S. says:

              “You will answer these inquiries. Are you Luthor the Earthling technician?”

              “I prefer the term Terran, actually. Earthling always sounded kind of sappy to me.”

              “Non sequitur. Are Earthlings not Earthlings?”

              […] “I believe the subject does not realize he is hearing the intentional translator over his head. When any of us refers to your racial ancestry it is translated in you perception into whatever word you expect to hear.”

              “You mean I hear you saying Earthling but if I wanted to I could hear you say Terran?”

              “Non sequitur,” the bug-thing said again.

              “I know, I know. They sound like the same word to you.” Luthor was very pleased. He’d learned something new. “What’s my race now, bug-eyes?”

              “As I referred to you before, you are a Terran. I am a bug-head. The creature who just addressed you is a vulture-face. We will ask all further questions.”

              Luthor wondered if any of his interrogators could fathom the reason for his wide grin, or if they knew what a grin was. Here he was, twenty-six light-years from home, locked in some crazy room in his birthday suit listening to his jailers insult themselves. He hadn’t enjoyed being locked up this much in years.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            You mean like all UN member states use the same names for all places? And of course they’d have the same units of measure because wouldn’t it be silly if two nations had cooperating space exploration programs and used different units of measure? That’d be just asking for trouble! They’d stop doing that very soon after the first probe got lost because somebody fatally misinterpreted the distance above the planet during some orbital manoeuvres…

  14. Galad says:

    Eh. The IFF at the derelict reaper not being securely stowed or something is more a small writer’s disregard, with admittedly large conseuqnces, which not many people would notice. Not that big a hole in the swiss cheese of plot we have here.

  15. Mortuorum says:

    Actually, I think it’s perfectly fair to take a shot at Casey Hudson. He wasn’t just one of the writers, he was the Project Director for the entire Mass Effect trilogy. The guy whose name appears at the top of the credits. He should have taken a look at the script, realized it was nonsense and – at the very least – sent it back for a rewrite.

  16. swenson says:

    “I guess you could say that taking the shackles off of EDI enabled her to run the whole ship autonomously? If there was a hand-wave of this in dialog, I missed it.”

    Yeah, there’s a line that does indeed handwave this. Presumably, the one sane guy at Cerberus was like “given the galaxy’s track record with AIs, we should probably make it so the AI can be overridden and doesn’t have 100% control over, say, opening all the airlocks when in the middle of space.”

    Also, I’m willing to accept that the IFF was monitoring the Normandy’s systems and that’s why the Collectors were like “wait, Shepard left the ship with all her squaddies? LET’S ATTACK”, even if it’s never outright stated. What I have a much harder time understanding is why the Collectors want them in the first place. To turn into Reaper baby goo, I know–but there’s, what, 20, 30 people total on that ship? Compared with the hundreds at a time they’ve been picking up on colonies?

    • Mike S. says:

      I’d say it’s more likely that the Collectors specifically wanted to capture Shepard, since Harbinger’s now focused on the Commander, and anyway blowing up the ship to end Shepard’s efforts failed the last time. Shepard and the squad being gone was an unlucky coincidence from their perspective.

      Dragon Age Inquisition makes it clear in a few places that while you only have a handful of usable companions, they’re all traveling with you. (And will often react to what happened even if they weren’t on the active team.) I took that as a response to this issue in ME2– we were supposed to assume that everyone was usually piling into the shuttle, but they realized after the complaints that they’d never actually said or shown that.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        But we see pretty light Collector forces on the ship. If Shep and all twelve squaddies had been on the ship, the Collectors would have gotten their asses kicked, which suggests they were planning for Shep’s absence.

        • Mike S. says:

          We see at least one Praetorian– it doesn’t take that many of those to be a credible threat to Shepard’s squad.

          Sure, in the event, Shepard’s squad proves able to win against the entire Collector base. And Shepard and two squadmates were able to shoot their way through the entire geth+krogan invasion force on the Citadel (against which the security force for the galactic capital proved wholly helpless) back in ME1. But pretending that the enemy is ever a plausible threat to Shepard in a Mass Effect game, a boarding party that includes Praetorians and Scions can probably be treated as one.

          (The Praetorian comes out of the elevator. I sort of like to imagine it pressing the button– with biotics, I guess– and then having to listen to a tinkly rendition of the Mass Effect theme between floors before continuing the attack.)

          • Gruhunchously says:

            There’s actually at least two Praetorians. One comes out of the elevator and another can be seen floating around the drive core from the window in Mordin’s lab. Shepard’s squad never actually fight more than one at a time; it seems feasible that a group of them could be a very credible threat. Which is why only one ever appears during the Collector Ship ambush and none whatsoever show up in the ‘climactic’ Collector Base assault.

  17. Ringwraith says:

    EDI does mention she can run the whole ship by herself for the most part once unshackled, but manual input is still often favoured for operating many things, like piloting, for unpredictability purposes.

  18. SlothfulCobra says:

    The thing is, piling all your squadmates into the shuttle isn’t Shepard’s idea. It’s Miranda’s. Are you not angry at her yet for her other failings? Well you should be now! And then, the first thing that she does when she gets back is scold Joker for solving the problem that she caused. I understand her apprehensiveness, in between Cerberus’s record with experiments and the fact that EDI was developed from that moon AI that flipped out and started killing everyone, but come on.

    Also, that one moment where you bring all 8-12 squadmates with you (you can technically choose not to recruit Grunt or Legion) highlights one of the key plotholes in ME2. Why does Shepard only ever bring 2 people along with him at any time? The core of the whole game is building your team up, but you’re never allowed to utilize the whole team at once, why doesn’t Shepard just call it a day after two members? Why bother with more recruitment after Omega? If it’s not the shuttle that’s making a bottleneck for you, then what is? Even in the suicide mission, you only really get a chance to use one extra person for each phase as opposed to using everybody at once.

    • Merlin says:

      Also, that one moment where you bring all 8-12 squadmates with you (you can technically choose not to recruit Grunt or Legion) highlights one of the key plotholes in ME2. Why does Shepard only ever bring 2 people along with him at any time?

      That’s not a plothole with ME2, that’s a glaring design flaw with the game model that Bioware uses for all of their games. If anything, ME2 makes use of the whole team better than their other work (that I’ve played, at least) by way of the suicide mission’s structure using most/all of your companions.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Doesn’t DA1 have a moment (I think it’s only one fight) near the end where it just hands you the entire team at once, and tells you to direct ten people in a fight? It was neat, fun, and it made me wonder why we couldn’t have had more of that.

        • Merlin says:

          It lets your whole team loose for the first part of the finale, though I think most of them were full-blown AI controlled. Either way, it’s just for the fight at the gate of the city.

          After that, you trek through the city as a normal party, with the ability to call in dwarf/elf/mage NPCs to help out. That ability disappears during the (entirely too long) crawl through an old barracks, then reappears for the final boss. I found the helpers mostly pointless, but it was something of a nod towards you as an actual commander.

          • Mike S. says:

            In my most recent playthrough, I wound up down to just Loghain, who (at least as I had him equipped) was virtually useless for doing direct damage to the Archdemon.

            So he used the siege engines on the Archdemon. And when the darkspawn tried to swarm him, he ran through the summoned dwarf army to give them someone else to attack.

            At one point, there were only three survivors from the dwarf army– useless in themselves, but standing in the way of summoning another force. My Dwarf Warden would probably not have been happy about Loghain standing next to them for the specific purpose of drawing the Archdemon’s fire onto them. But then he was in no position to object.

            Unfortunately, he was also in no position to unjam the siege engines when they went. So next Loghain summoned the Elves. Very few survived, but their slender bows managed to wear down the Archdemon.

            Or rather, Loghain did, using elves as his weapon.

            (Then the Dwarf managed to rouse himself enough to give it the coup de grace, and got all the credit. Typical.)

            But I loved that resolution for the fact that not only did it justify the decision to recruit Loghain, but he won in a way that was both absolutely in character and primarily as a commander, rather than as a fighter. One of my favorite emergent events in my gaming history.

        • guy says:

          My bet? Because you recruit more characters over time at an unpredictable rate and there’s a big difference between a fight suitable for three characters and a fight suitable for seven.

        • shpelley says:

          1) It’d be very hard to manage Difficulty with (10-12) active participants, especially since in a lot of games like this, some of the characters might be optional and/or are loseable.

          2) Pacing. Having to manually control 10 units is okay for huge set-piece battles in certain genres/games, or in slower genres (thinking Disgaea specifically) where it makes more sense. In an Action RPG, managing all these characters/squads would really effect the pacing of the game. If they wanted to make a more tactical, large-squad based game that would be fine, but they didn’t.

          3) Technical difficulties. It’s hard enough managing the AI of 2 squad-mates. let alone the interactions that 10-12 could have at a time. Also, every time you go to shoot a dude there’d be a very good chance he’d be getting shot/moved around with biotics/killed before you could interact with it.

          4) Money. Then you have to take into account that this increases the number of units by 7-9 active participants in EVERY SCENE. You’d need to add script, dialog, voice acting, interactive elements, scripted events and all these would have to deal with a potentially varied number of actors.

          —————————————-

          Honestly, a neat approach to make it feel less “forced” would be to have more “big missions” where you set up squads to do different things for the mission. One team goes hacking, the others go sabotaging, protecting civilians, etc. Maybe make it so that it levels various stats (hacking, shielding, sabotage, intel gathering, whatever) which then would tie into the End Game Suicide Mission.

          This way it would feel like everyone is participating in the fight properly more often. At the very least it would force the writers to think “but what is everyone else doing while this is going on?”

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Theres an easy way to go around it:
            Have your squad be just shepard and 2 squad members,and they are focused on the main mission.Meanwhile,add just a single line about “sending the rest to scrounge for resources”.Therefore,you dont need to hack or do any of the pointless lockpicking,while having your squad actually do useful shit instead of lounging around normandy.

            You can even take it further if you put a little effort into it,by giving you a few random bonuses you can get for your main mission based on what youve assigned your other squad mates to do.Or even have each mission grant you up to 3 levels of 3 passive bonuses as long as you assign some people to doing some side objectives.This way you get quite an incentive to fill out all 12 party members as quickly as possible,so that you would get all of the boosts.

            • ? says:

              It would also a)introduce to some extent suicide mission mechanics and b) neatly explain why you are gathering this team in the first place – you are not planning from the start to go on “suicide mission”, it’s just a way to improve your investigation of colony abductions. Their usefulness in final mission (or lack of it, Thane…) is just lucky coincidence from the plot perspective.

            • Joshua says:

              Something like what our group does when playing D&D and people can’t show. Their character is *there*, but doing something else in the background. Your characters are fighting a group of eight orcs? Your companion is taking on another two more just a few feet away. So, the character is there, gets XP, and knows what’s going on for next session. If there’s something specific to that character, the DM says “Hank the Druid talks to the badger and finds out X”.

              Sure, you could probably find holes if you wanted to nit-pick, but that would be a pointless asshat move that would only earn you glares from the DM and other players.

              So, your other 7-9 companions are right there with you fighting whatever ME2 throws at you, but the narrator (game) is not telling you about what they’re doing.

        • Mike S. says:

          At one point during the final assault, you’re switched back to the gate, which you have to defend with the characters you left behind. Which can be a pretty rude awakening if you took all the heavy hitters (and all the characters you’re most comfortable using in a fight) off to face the Archdemon.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        It’s not really a gameplay problem. I understand full well as a player why I can only make use of two squaddies at a time; it’s just that the narrative keeps telling the player how great it is to build up your team, but the gameplay doesn’t support that at all.

        It’s that watchacallit, lugo…ludominorative distonance.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This whole sequence is even worse if you are a completionist munchkin like I am.If you do all of the sidequests before you tackle on the main quest,then shepard and co go into the shuttle to….do nothing.You literally have to jump to an empty planet and come back.So why was this triggered by you going into the map instead of giving you a mandatory mission where your whole team is required?For example:
    “The omega relay has a shield around it,and it is located on this planet.In order to turn it off,we need to shut down these 3 shield generators simultaneously.We need to send every soldier we have to the surface.”

    This would also explain why the collector ship was there at all.

  20. Spammy says:

    If there is one thing that I like Mass Effect 2 for though, it’s that the Normandy SR2 actually felt like a home to care about. I’m aware that the SR1 is a military ship and having toured WWII surface ships and submarines I’m aware that space is at a premium, but the SR1 just felt too small. I sort of understood where people slept and where the food came from but still, it didn’t seem like it was a home in the same way that the Enterprise was. It just seemed more like the car I took from place to place rather than where I lived.

    I’ll accept that the SR2 is less realistic in terms of how big it is and having the bunks and the kitchen and so on, but it felt more like a home and more like a place I cared about. Even after the loading screens broke it up into not-really-connected feeling zones.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      And in me3 it goes even further by having your people go around the ship and do stuff.Normandy is basically the only place where they only improved stuff.

      Well,except for exiting through the airlock.That was most definitely better in me1.

    • ? says:

      I don’t know if it’s even that unrealistic to conclude that original Normandy was too claustrophobic for the sort of work Shepard used it for and increasing the size of the new model. SR1 was proof of concept first and part of the larger fleet second, not designed to be personal taxi of a Spectre. It’s entirely possible that original intent of in universe designer was for crew to feel at home on a carrier or dreadnought it was escorting, and not to travel the galaxy in it cut off from rest of the Alliance navy.

  21. Henson says:

    One thing that really bugged me about this sequence, which you didn’t mention, was that the cutscene where your squad boards the shuttle only shows Jacob, Miranda, and Mordin. And earlier, during the meeting where EDI determines that the collector base is located in the center of the galaxy, the only squad mates present are…Jacob, Miranda, and Mordin.

    Now I get it, the developers don’t know which squad members you will have recruited at what times, so they default to the required three to make things easier for them. But this only emphasizes to me how little my squad actually matters. They’re not invited to meetings, they don’t get any screentime beyond their personal stories, they don’t do anything substantial until the suicide mission. I’m not building a team, I’m filling in check boxes on my to-do list.

    • Deager says:

      I totally get what you’re saying. I can tell you from modding the game that it’s very convoluted how assets and stuff get streamed in and placed in various files. Often the game must play it safe in a lot of scenes to cut down on baggage so the game can run well on various systems. Of course, there can be other reasons why certain things do or do not happen but memory issues and streaming states are a big factor. Also, they probably figure not too many of us are going to go this neurotic on the game but hey, we’re fans!!!!

      Side note: Shamus, I did like the joke about if 10 or 12 people can actually fit into the shuttle. I happened to read that codex entry recently and it’s 12 soldiers but they’ll be cramped, and then two to pilot it. We just needed Shepard to yell, “Get off me!” or something.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Who DOES pilot the shuttle in ME2 anyway?

        • Attercap says:

          Rupert Gardner: Janitor, Cook, and Shuttle Pilot. How did he survive the Collector attack? He hid in the shuttle… and he stays there unless all the crew is rescued.

          Seriously, though, I think it’s implied the shuttle in ME2 is on auto-pilot and only gets a pilot in ME3 because it’s now got stealth fields and, uh, reasons.

          • Gaius Maximus says:

            I thought it was an autopilot at first too, but in the cutscene at the end of Jack’s loyalty mission, after she hits the button to set off the nuke, Shepard bangs the cockpit wall and the shuttle speeds up. That’s either a real pilot or a very well-programmed autopilot.

  22. Dilandau3000 says:

    The other thing about having the Collectors abducting your crew is that it wouldn’t have been necessary to do at all if any time had been spent making you care about the colonists. It’s almost as if someone suddenly realized that “crap, there’s no one on the Collector Base for Shepard to rescue that the player would care about” (or even recognize; did you remember who Lilith was on your first play through? I sure didn’t)! So they decided to abduct the crew because, hey, at least the player will probably remember who Kelly is.

    What’s also weird is that after this, we suddenly have a ticking clock. In the first game, our primary mission was actually called “Race against time,” but it was somehow still okay to visit 20 planets before doing anything. Now, without the game giving you any indication that that’s the case, doing more mission means losing crew. I was just lucky on my first play through that I’d already done everything so I had no choice but to go through the Omega 4 relay.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The extra weird part is that even you get to the kidnapped crew on the Collector base, the game gives no particular indication that the crew’s death/survival was caused by your handling of the clock. I only learned how the clock worked because I got confused as to why I wasn’t awarded the “everyone lives” suicide mission achievement, I assumed the crew was just doomed.

      • Decus says:

        I think it runs on a kind of weird system beyond even that–the crew doesn’t all die instantly, but instead all of the named members die on a priority scale for every mission you do after the “go through it now!” mission pops up. So you can end up with, say, Chakwa alive and Kelly turned to goo.

        That and the nature of the suicide mission itself are kind of cool or at least would be if the game didn’t force the install on you after you recover the IFF. Legion? Grunt? You have to manually go up to them and say “okay, activate!” because they could be dangerous. Reaper Technology? Oh, they already started installing it without asking you, the player. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, no.

  23. Supahewok says:

    And now, after 7 or 8 years, I finally understand that Casey Jones joke. Heh, that was pretty funny. I always thought that the joke was in the whole phrase being a reference, not the name, but I could never find the media that the “quote” was referring to.

    Ah, nothing better than finally having an old joke explained.

    What? Mass Effect? What about Mass Effect?

  24. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Hang on, hang on, hang on. Person who hasn’t played the Mass Effect games yet wanting to have something clarified:

    After you capture the Reaper IFF, the entire party flies off in the shuttle for literally no reason, and the Collectors attack the Normandy immediately afterwards?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Yup.

      It’s not directly after you capture the IFF. When you capture it you’re implied to be doing some science on it. The flying off for no reason happens directly after you install the scienced-up IFF.

      In scant defense of the plot, the Reapers don’t just happen to show up, once you install the IFF it cripples the Normandy and causes it to start broadcasting a “Hey Reapers, come get us” signal.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Of course not,that would be stupid.The reason is that otherwise the normandy would be defended and its non-military crew wouldnt be all scooped up by the collectors.

  25. Muelnet says:

    They definitely hand wave the bit about an unshackled EDI running the whole ship but only if you keep flying around and talking to joker after your crew is abducted. The first time I played I went straight after the crew when they were abducted and they were all fine so I assumed on my next play through you could just leave them. I really wanted to get to know legion better so as soon as the IFF mission opened up I took it so I could spend more time hanging out with him. When you do that the game doesn’t wait for you to finish loyalty missions and what not before pulling the above mentioned bit. If you do enough missions talking with Joker brings up dialogue not too dissimilar from what shamus guessed.

    • krellen says:

      You can do one mission before going through the relay, because you cannot do Legion’s loyalty mission before installing the IFF. So you do everything else, get the IFF (and recruit Legion), then do Legion’s loyalty mission after the crew is abducted, go through the relay, and still rescue the crew. Do anything else and the crew dies.

  26. Mersadeon says:

    As distracted as I was by the fact that everyone competent just left the scene to do [mysterious thing the player can’t know], I did love the dialogue in this section between EDI and Joker. It has probably my favourite exchange in the entire game:

    Joker: You just want me crawling through the ducts again.
    EDI: I enjoy the sight of humans on their knees. (long pause) That is a joke.

    It had me legitimately laughing because the story had been clumsy enough that it was absolutely plausible that they’d go with a “EDI goes bad” angle and hint at it this way – until the punch line comes and resolves that tension.

    Just a shame they had to give her a body (of course a conventionally attractive female body) and make her a lot more boring. Didn’t they do exactly that in a sci-fi series?

    It’s like giving Cortana a body, it sort of defeats the point of having that character. Hell, it’s even worse, because while Cortana has been shown to have a visually human avatar, EDI was all about being “weird and alien” because she had no real sense of what it was like to not be a gigantic warship’s brain.

    • Mersadeon says:

      Oh and if I’m already citing dialogue, this is particularly awful:

      Joker: Commander, I’m sorry about the crew and… you know what? I’m not sorry. What the hell were you doing leaving us where Collectors can work us over? Because I should… I should just go. Next port, just get me out of here.
      EDI: You don’t mean that, Jeff.
      Joker: I… no, but it… it felt good. I’m sorry, Commander. Okay, I’m ready, I’m good. I’m ready to save the day.

      Thanks, writers. Blame the player character -and by extension, the player- for something they had no hand in, don’t understand and was completely unnecessary.

      • Mike S. says:

        Given the history of AI in that universe and EDI’s specific origins, the fact that EDI can’t go bad is really odd. At the very least, a Shepard who consistently makes clear their disdain for and suspicion of synthetic intelligence should chance provoking EDI into thinking that maybe the geth had a point.

        Since the game isn’t going to let your warship go off on its own and leave you stranded mid-game, presumably then you have to lobotomize her a la HAL 9000 (maybe reducing your cyberwarfare capability during the Suicide Mission and losing a companion that way). Or else you learn in an ending cutscene that she took off unexpectedly heading towards the Perseus Veil. (Necessitating an identical Normandy SR-3 with a monotone VI for ME3.) But if not well-treated, EDI is kind of the gun on the mantelpiece that doesn’t go off.

        • Grampy_bone says:

          Well, I liked how they started off in Mass Effect 1 by saying all AI was dangerous and would always become evil and try to destroy all sentient life. Then in Mass Effect 2 they subvert that premise with EDI and show that AI is capable of cooperation with humans. Then in Mass Effect 3 they show that beliefs about AI were totally wrong with how the Geth were really just trying to defend themselves against genocide like all sentient life. You can even establish a unification between the Geth and Quarians.

          ….Right up until the ending where the game reverts all the way back to the Mass Effect 1 “AI is always evil” concept and tell you AI and humans will never live in peace, even though you spent the last two games proving that they could.

          • Mike S. says:

            Killing every quarian on the planet in the original conflict goes rather beyond defending themselves.

            ME3 set up cooperation as the good ending (and then pulled the rug out at the end without letting you argue). But Legion’s presentation of the early days of the geth left as many things unsaid as a Soviet propaganda film. And his insistence that you let him have the Reaper upgrades he told you unequivocally that the non-Heretics didn’t want any part of in the last game (or else he’ll try to kill you!) doesn’t inspire confidence. Even if it turns out that it’s Just Fine to let them do the cybernetic equivalent of indoctrination.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Speaking of EDI’s specific origins, where does everyone get the idea that EDI was descended from the moon AI? I thought I read all the codex entries and such pretty thoroughly, but apparently I totally missed that detail.

  27. Steve C says:

    Wow. I listened to the old Spoiler Warning from 5 years ago and Mumbles had a very different voice. Take a listen.

    It also includes great lines (paraphrased) like:
    * Spoiler warning already has four people. If there were five, that’s too many. One of us would have to leave. And,
    * Spoiler Warning does not work if Shamus takes a week off.
    * (part 2) KOTOR isn’t possible to do as a SW. Too technically difficult. Shamus would annoy everyone with nitpicks to the point it isn’t fun to watch.

  28. Poncho says:

    EDI: “There are some anomalous power fluctuations throughout the ship.”

    Shepard: “Is this an issue? How do we fix this? We need the Normandy at peak before we can even think about Omega-4”

    EDI: “There is an item sold on the Citadel that might remedy this. I have uploaded its description on your Omni-Tool.”

    Shepard: “Great. I think the ground team could use some R&R. We’ll take the shuttle to the Citadel and be back with the part. Everyone else? Make sure the Normandy has everything it needs before we hit this Relay.”

  29. Tektotherriggen says:

    I can think of an even easier fix for leaving the ship on a shuttle:
    EDI: “We’re going to test the IFF”
    Shephard: “Wait a moment, how do we know it’s not booby-trapped, and won’t blow up the entire ship?”
    EDI: “I’ve checked”
    Shephard: “You *sure*?”
    EDI: “…”
    Shephard: “OK, all non-essential crew are taking shelter on the nearest planet. Head to the shuttles.”

    They then get ambushed at the planet, and while they’re fighting off the attackers, they fail to monitor comms from the Normandy. This justifies why they don’t immediately run back to help.

    • George Monet says:

      That still makes no sense. If they are that worried, why wouldn’t they dock the Normandy at a station or land the ship on a planet? Why don’t they first test the IFF on an isolated server?

  30. George Monet says:

    The very conceit of this section of this game was just insulting and there is no way to alleviate this. Making the player lose via cutscene when they would never have lost otherwise is never acceptable and that’s basically what this section is. So this section never should have happened, especially since it doesn’t need to happen. The player’s goals don’t change as a result, their methods don’t change. The only thing that occurs during sections like this is rubbing the player’s nose in their powerlessness compared to the writer, powerlessness which they wouldn’t have if the writer was in the room with them.

    This section doesn’t even make any sense. It is completely impossible for anyone to have found the dead Reaper, it is completely impossible for that dead Reaper to still have working nanotech, to still have a working eezo core and power. The eezo core is not preventing the Reaper from falling into the brown dwarf because the eezo core can only reduce the mass of the ship, it can’t reduce the pull of gravity, and it is the pull of gravity that is pulling the ship into the brown dwarf. The eezo core is just reducing the mass of the ship, not providing thrust. But you simply cannot use a canyon several million years old to locate an object many light years away because that canyon would have been increased in depth and shape over millions of years and it is impossible to determine just how it changed and to determine its original shape. So even if you could do all the calculations to determine where the planet was millions of years ago, where all the stars were millions of years ago, you still don’t know the trajectory of the shell.

    How exactly did the Collectors even catch the Normandy? Since they didn’t fire any shots at the ship there was no way they could have slowed the Normandy down and the Normandy being a smaller ship would likely be faster and more maneuverable. Catching up to an object in space is extremely difficult, and would likely be impossible if the other ship doesn’t want you to dock with it. So there is no way the Collectors could have ever boarded the Normandy because they never could have caught up to it and docked with it.

    Furthermore, the Collectors must have read the script in order to be able to meet up with the Normandy before Shephard and company returned even though it takes hours to traversethe vast distances outside of the mass effect relays and Shephard would have only been a half hour away from the Normandy at most. There is simply no way that the Collectors would receive a signal they weren’t expecting, get the ship ready to leave, plot a course, and then travel to the disabled Normandy before Shephard returned. And it actually took EDI very little time between downloading the virus and scrubbing the virus from the Normandy’s systems. There certainly wasn’t enough time for the Collectors to show up after receiving a signal they weren’t expecting.

    In fact, how did the Collectors even receive that signal? Since this isn’t Star Trek where communications are sent through subspace, communications can only travel at lightspeed, which means it would have taken several hours for the signal from the Reaper IFF to even reach the Collectors as it would have to travel from the Normandy through space at light speed in order to reach a mass effect relay where it would then be rerouted through the relay network, if it even could reach them. And how exactly is it that a dead Reaper several million years old has an IFF that is designed to upload a virus into any ship that tries to incorporate it into the hardware of the ship and then send a signal to a Collector base which probably didn’t exist at the time that the Reaper was still alive?

    None of this section made any sense and it would still be unacceptable even if it did.

    Finally, out of all the able bodied people on the ship, why did EDI pick Joker instead of any member of the crew who could make the trip to the AI core without having all their bones break and render them incapable of making it to the AI core? Why not just have someone who is already in that section of the ship flip the switch? How did Joker not get captured by the Collectors? Didn’t they use the same bugs to paralyze the crew that they use on every human colony?

  31. George Monet says:

    No military crew is going to install potentially dangerous equipment on a ship in the middle of space. They are going to dock at a space station or land on a planet in case there is a problem during the installation. This forced sequence just pissed me off in every way because every single part of this sequence was wrong and forced by an idiotic writer with no concept of how to write a logical well developed story. Instead this author loves relying on deus ex machina.

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