Mass Effect Retrospective 31: Choices Matter

By Shamus
on Jan 21, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

So you shoot the baby Reaper in the face until it falls down and goes boom. Once it’s gone, you can access the Collector power core or whatever, and you can either set it to explode, or set it to irradiate all life and leave the technology intact. The Illusive Man wants you to leave the installation so his scientists can study it. But Paragon Shepard objects because…

This place is an abomination?

Ending Choice

Shepard, you can`t destroy this installation! Do you have any idea how many scientists we could kill with this thing?

Shepard, you can`t destroy this installation! Do you have any idea how many scientists we could kill with this thing?

This is some messed-up superstitious thinking. He seems to be suggesting that learning about our enemy is inherently evil. Your companions also take this position, too. Even #1 Cerberus apologist Miranda suddenly does an abrupt heel-face turn saying, “I’m not so sure. Seeing it first hand… Using anything from this base seems like a betrayal.” And not because of indoctrination, but because of some completely un-articulated principles.

The last game ended with us beginning a quest for knowledge. That idea was wiped away to fight the Collectors. And now at the very end of the game we finally return to the question of “How do we stop the Reapers from killing us all?” except the narrative frames the acquisition of knowledge as an inherently evil and irresponsible thing. As a fan of sci-fi, I find this idea to be repugnant. The first game gave us a quest for knowledge and the second one is going to follow up with caveman science fiction?

Shepard says, “It liquefied people. Turned them into something horrible. We have to destroy the base.”

Even if you don’t want to look at the device that liquefies people to turn them into a giant robot, it’s entirely possible there are other things around the base that are of use. New zap gunsMaybe the Reapers have invented a gun that doesn’t need ammo!? Better armor? I’ll bet those Reapers have some pretty sweet shield technology. It’s already been established that EDI can magically read their databanks. Is there intelligence worth having? Do we have any ongoing security leaks? Any indoctrinated people in high-ranking positions we should know about? Any other hidden bases out there? Is there a map of what’s behind all those closed relays we’ve been afraid to open? No? We’re going to just blow the whole thing up because knowledge is icky?

Remember that EDI herself is Reaper tech, and she’s invaluable. But for some reason the Reaper tech in this particular location shouldn’t be studied.

Cerberus Sucks

I`m blowing up this base not because it`s a good idea, but because it`s the only way to spite the author and his childish Cerberus-powered bullshit.

I`m blowing up this base not because it`s a good idea, but because it`s the only way to spite the author and his childish Cerberus-powered bullshit.

Now, you can argue that Cerberus will just come in here and get themselves stupidly killed by doing science the Cerberus Way. And I would agree. But that’s not how the game frames this discussion. If you could make Shepard say, “I’m blowing up this base because I don’t want Cerberus getting their hands on it!” then that might line up with how some players see the issue. (Which means they see Cerberus as a more immediate threat than the Reapers, which just shows how badly this game bungled its premise of obliging you to work with Cerberus to stop the Reapers.) But the reasoning given in dialog has nothing to do with this. Instead you’re blowing it up because atrocities occurred here and it would be somehow wrong to look around and learn from that.

The common defense of this line of thinking is that it’s wrong to use research obtained through unethical means. This usually leads into a side-argument about the ethics of using (say) Nazi medial research. While I understand this attempt to bring an interesting philosophical discussion to this videogame, I want to point out that this comparison doesn’t work and isn’t appropriate here. Shepard doesn’t actually articulate a moral or philosophical stand. Moreover, if he wanted to take that stand then he should have done so at the start of the game by refusing to work with Cerberus, who basically have “Unethical Research” in their mission statement.

Furthermore, this is a completely different situation. This base isn’t the work of humans, and they weren’t doing research. These are amoral aliens who vastly outclass us in terms of technological power, and who are planning on killing everyone. If you’re going to argue that it’s immoral to study this place because of the atrocities perpetrated here, then then that leads to the conclusion that any attempt to study the Reapers is inherently immoral, because the Reapers are one giant atrocity. Mass, repeated genocide is what they do. All of their technology is dedicated to this singular evil cause.

“We can’t study the Mass Effect relays, because they were used to genocide thousands of species.”

“We can’t study Reaper weapons, because they’re designed to genocide civilizations.”

“We can’t study Reaper coffeemakers, because those helped keep the Reapers awake and energized during their centuries-long reaping process.”

Aside: The cinematography in this scene is just awful. It`s under-lit and there`s no sense of geography. Characters often have their heads cropped out of the shot. Here it looks like Jacob has his back to the camera. If my Shepard was wearing the default black armor, then this screenshot would just be his head floating in a big black void. And of course the cinematographer never sets up  any contrast for all this ORANGE we`ve been staring at for the last hour. It`s just another thing to subconsciously confuse or annoy the player at what should be the climax of the story.

Aside: The cinematography in this scene is just awful. It`s under-lit and there`s no sense of geography. Characters often have their heads cropped out of the shot. Here it looks like Jacob has his back to the camera. If my Shepard was wearing the default black armor, then this screenshot would just be his head floating in a big black void. And of course the cinematographer never sets up any contrast for all this ORANGE we`ve been staring at for the last hour. It`s just another thing to subconsciously confuse or annoy the player at what should be the climax of the story.

Maybe you could make this a springboard for some gritty philosophical Socratic Questioning about the nature of evil and the presumed necessity of using the methodology of evil to defeat evil. But the game can’t go there because Shepard doesn’t actually take a coherent stance or position for us to judge. He says things that sound moral-ish, but you can’t explore his thinking. The writer is just throwing random genre tropes together and expecting that coherency will magically emerge from the resulting soup of clichés.

In any case, this ending choice undercuts the thinking of the entire game. If we’re willing to work with Cerberus to save a few colonies, then certainly we should be willing to work with them to get what we need to save the whole galaxy. This is supposed to the big important choice of the entire game, and it’s stupid, nonsensical, it undercuts the rest of the story, and runs directly counter to the themes of the genre and the first game in particular.

I’m not saying it’s dumb to blow up the Collector base, or that keeping the base is the only smart move. Now that the choice is in the game, by all means: Blow that sucker up. By this point the player is likely meta-gaming the decision by trying to intuit what they think the writer was trying to say about what BioWare was planning to do in the third game. You could justify almost any course of action here, based on which parts of the text you’ve allowed into your own personal head-canon. Depending on what you assume about Cerberus or indoctrination, blowing up the base might make total sense.

No, I’m saying this choice itself is completely inappropriate for this story, this game, and even this genre. It’s wrong in the same way that Shadow of Mordor was fundamentally at odds with the themes of Lord of the Rings.

And why is this a choice between “give technology to Cerberus” and “blow up technology”? Isn’t it supposedly really hard to get in here? Is the author suggesting that Cerberus has the force of arms to take this station away from Shepard if Shepard doesn’t want to share? This forms a hilarious rock-paper-scissors: The Collectors are stronger than Cerberus, who are stronger than Shepard, who is stronger than the Collectors.

Remember that we’re trying to prove the Reapers exist. (Again.) The presence of this base just might rouse the galaxy to action.

Like I’ve been saying all along: The Mass Effect series didn’t suddenly go wrong at the very end. You can see the same mistakes of the Mass Effect 3 ending repeated here: You get an incoherent choice that arises by arbitrarily limiting player options. It mimics the conventions of big end-game moral choices without actually saying anything (or allowing the player to say anything) about morality or the values of the people involved. It’s abrupt, awkward, and forced, and is more concerned with making sure the game ends with an explosion than making sure it ends coherently. The only difference is that at the end of Mass Effect 2, there was still the hope that the final game might somehow untangle all these problems and make it all work.

Farewell Miranda. If it makes you feel any better, it turns out we were just a rogue cell.

Farewell Miranda. If it makes you feel any better, it turns out we were just a rogue cell.

On top of it all, Miranda’s turn feels completely unearned. She’s been willing to make excuses for everything Cerberus has done. And now she’s willing to betray the organization because she draws the line at studying the technology of the machine gods who are trying to kill us? What is her morality even based on?

This might be a nice payoff if she’d spent the entire game gradually becoming more disillusioned with her employer and questioning her loyalty. That would actually make a fantastic character arc. But she’s never budged. Even when confronted with the horror of the research station where Cerberus tortured children to make a better biotic, she was adamant that those guys were only a rogue cell and that Cerberus had nothing to apologize for. She never had a crisis of faith moment. She’s never confided to Shepard that she’s having doubts. And then we get to this choice and all of a sudden she goes full paragonAs Kirk Lazarus says, “Never go full paragon.” when the fate of the galaxy is on the line.

And then to rub salt in the wound, in Mass Effect 3 it turns out this decision doesn’t matter anyway. Even if you blow up the base, Cerberus still gets their hands on the baby Reaper and the Reaper tech. So even if you can push through this mess with your sense of immersion intact, it will turn out you did it all for nothing. They could have just rolled the credits as soon as you killed the Reaper, because this whole scene didn’t matter.

Best Three out of Five!

(Frantic chittering noises and flailing stubby appendages.)

(Frantic chittering noises and flailing stubby appendages.)

The writer isn’t done neutering the Reapers quite yet. Shepard blows up the collector base and we cut to an internal view so we can hear Harbinger talking to… himself, I guess?

Harbinger releases control of the head Collector as it scurries around its exploding base. As the base crumbles and burns we hear Harbinger say, “We will find another way.” This suggests that, much like the writers, the Reapers have no plan. This machine god can’t do more than pout and say basically, “This isn’t over! I’ll figure something out!” I suppose we should be grateful he’s just talking to himself and not shouting all of this at Shepard.

Then we cut to the abyss of dark space. A million Reapers wake from slumber. And now we’re right back where we started at the end of Mass Effect 1: The Reapers might be coming, we don’t know when they will strike, we don’t know how they’ll reach us, and we don’t know how to stop them. We have a team that might be all dead and a base that might have been blown up.

Wow. It sure is a long hike to reach the galaxy from here. I can`t WAIT to hear how the writer has the villains overcome this obstacle.

Wow. It sure is a long hike to reach the galaxy from here. I can`t WAIT to hear how the writer has the villains overcome this obstacle.

People sayAnd to be fair, I’ve said it myself. that Mass Effect 2 “doesn’t go anywhere”. But the reality is actually worse than that. The plot doesn’t just stand still, it goes backwards. It doesn’t just fail to set things up for part 3, it dismantles the things that drove the story in part 1.

The first game left us with:

  1. A ship. (The Normandy-1)
  2. A crew (The original squad.)
  3. Leadership. (The Council, and to a lesser extent The Alliance, if the writer found that angle useful.)
  4. A mandate. (Go and learn about the Reapers and the previous cycles so we can save our civilization and perhaps break the cycle forever.)

At the close of Mass Effect 2:

  1. A ship. (The Normandy-2. I guess. If Cerberus doesn’t have a way to repossess it.)
  2. A crew? Maybe? Although they could be mostly dead.
  3. Leadership? Who? You may or may not explicitly quit Cerberus at the end. Are we going to go back to the Council? The Alliance? Nobody believes in the Reapers now, and even the events of this ending don’t seem to change that.
  4. What’s our mandate? Shepard makes a big speech to TIM about finding some way to beat the Reapers without using their technology, but it’s not at all clear what he plans to do. He wasn’t looking for answers at the start of this game. Is he going to start now? Does he even have a plan?

The audience has no idea what either party is planning, or how immediate the threat is. Both sides need to “find a way” to achieve their goals. Nobody in this world knows what they’re doing. The Council and Alliance aren’t doing anything. Shepard doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. The Reapers are trying to “find another way”. And Cerberus is either our only hope or cartoonishly evil, depending on which scenes of the game you choose to believe. The story is now directionless. Not only did the Mass Effect 2 writer fail to give themselves anything to work with in Mass Effect 3, they also destroyed the groundwork established by Mass Effect 1.

This isn’t just a plot that goes “nowhere”. In Mass Effect 1, Shepard said he was going to walk to Mordor. Then in Mass Effect 2 he sawed his own legs off and ate his map. Then just before the closing credits he announces he still needs to get to Mordor.

I wish Mass Effect 2 was a plot that went nowhere. That would have been a dramatic improvement.

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Footnotes:

[1] Maybe the Reapers have invented a gun that doesn’t need ammo!

[2] As Kirk Lazarus says, “Never go full paragon.”

[3] And to be fair, I’ve said it myself.


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From the Archives:

  1. Andrew says:

    I’m wondering what was established regarding the Reaper IFF – is it hardware or software? Was Cerberus able to make copies of it before Shepard attacked the Collector base? I think doing anything productive with the Collector base would require more than just the Normandy crew, but if Shepard has the only Reaper IFF the option that’s been brought up before of giving the base to the Alliance or the Council would be plausible (and then Cerberus could steal the research and whichever ship has the IFF on it now when they take over the Omega system – a frustrating return to the status quo, but plausible)

    EDIT: Another thing – in the paragon ending Shepard blows up the base and leaves Cerberus, then in ME3 Cerberus inexplicably gets all the stuff Shepard supposedly blew up. How does the renegade ending justify Shepard being back with the alliance in ME3?

    • Raygereio says:

      I’m wondering what was established regarding the Reaper IFF – is it hardware or software?

      Pretty much nothing, beyond it being some physical thing you pick up. As far as the writers were concerned, it was just a MacGuffin with magic powers.

      How does the renegade ending justify Shepard being back with the alliance in ME3?

      The Arrival DLC.
      If you haven’t played it, here’s a short recap:
      Remember that in ME1 the Citadel was revealed to be a huge mass relay linking to the Reapers’ slumber party? It was supposed to bring the Reapers to our galaxy automatically, but the Protheans sabotaged it. Without that relay the Reapers only option would be to use sub-ftl speeds to go our galaxy. Which would give us plenty of time to find a way to deal with them.
      Well, it turns out the Reapers have a back up plan: The “alpha relay”. It’s located in Batarian space and looks like a regular relay. But has a much larger range. And the Reapers are going to use this relay to pop into our galaxy.
      Shep sabotages this plan by smashing an asteroid into the alpha relay. The resulting explosion destroys the entire solar system, including a Batarian colony.
      The Batarians are somewhat annoyed at Shep for having killed roughly 300.000 people at that colony. And in order to prevent an Alliance-Batarian war, Shep goes to Earth to turn herself in and face charges.
      And then ME3 starts.

      In case you’re wonder just how exactly the Reaper invasion could happen in ME3 if we just smashed their back up plan and (given the distance between the Reaper fleet & our galaxy portrayed at the end of ME2) it should take aeons until they get here. The answer is … Err… Shut up, we need to wrap up the story in ME3.

      • wswordsmen says:

        The reapers wouldn’t go at sub-FTL, they can go ~24LY/Earth day w/o a mass relay (a calculation that takes info from ME1 and ME3 so take with a gallon of salt). Slower, but still faster than light (by about 2000x if my math is right)

        • Raygereio says:

          I completely forgot the Mass Effect setting had FTL-travel outside the mass relays.

          • Zekiel says:

            Yep. It’s why Normandy gets to do the Star Trek going-to-warp visual effect occasionally. And it solves the issue of how space travel doesn’t take ages even with the mass relays since travelling between a mass relay in the nearest planet at sublight speeds would take forever.

            However it introduces the problem that inbuilt FTL drives really ought to give the galactic races a wonderful weapon against the Reapers when they arrive – just accelerate a starship/asteroid/potato to FTL speeds and aim it at the nearest Reaper and *boom*. The Codex handwaves this by saying that FTL drives automatically shut down when they detect something in their path but it strains my suspension of disbelief that no-one in the entire galaxy can work out how to bypass those safeties.

            • guy says:

              Honestly I always assumed that the physics of the drive rendered that ineffective. FTL ships are basically massless.

              • djw says:

                A potato travelling at 0.999c is still going to have a crap ton of kinetic energy. Fire it at the reaper at FTL and it drop it a smidge below c right before contact.

                Also, its worth mentioning that a massless object still has energy. The full version of Einsteins famous equation is:

                E^2 = m^2 c^4 + p^2 c^2

                where p is momentum (and momentum does not require an object to have mass, p=mv is just a low speed approximation).

                After all, laser guns fire massless projectiles (photons) and still manage to hurt (in fiction that includes laser guns, at least)

                • Mike S. says:

                  The mass effect consists of rubber physics with the exact properties necessary to enable the game. Which presumably includes the Reapers not giving organics the technology to defeat them back in the first cycle. FTL already violates enough physics as we know it that “because [reasons], ftl projectiles don’t work as weapons” can be handwaved. I’d like to see the handwave because I like that sort of thing (e.g., “going ftl introduces an imaginary mass term which, when squared, introduces a negative number into the energy equation”) but I’m willing to assume it exists.

                  (It’s more plausible than “all the other species the Reapers killed missed this obvious weapon, which we can now use to defeat them.”)

                  • Alexander The 1st says:

                    My understanding is that the Mass Effect Relays and FTL travel based on them are imprecise – all sort of floating point rounding errors that make it effectively impossible to know *exactly* where you are when you jump out of the FTL Relay jump or regular FTL jump – the only way they make it work is with the Reaper IFF, hence being able to make it into the Omega Relay at all.

                    If they duplicated the Reaper IFF, they *might* be able to use that to FTL ramming speed into the Reapers.

                    • guy says:

                      I got the impression that the standard FTL was pretty precise, while the Mass Relay precision had been deliberately sabotaged to give the Reapers a tactical advantage because of the way the scaling of errors significantly constrains fleet assault tactics.

                    • tremor3258 says:

                      I remember a Codex entry that the relay was ‘relatively’ imprecise – not enough to matter in open space, but a problem in the area around the galactic center, and it can amount to *millions* of kilometers – apparently a big problem in relay-based assaults – your fleet can either all potentially end up way off base – or sent through and end up scattered all over the operational area.

                      FTL travel is too slow and too short-ranged on its own to make it to the core in any length of time apparently based on the other available relays (and there’s a question in the first part of the game where the Omega relay is pointed)

                • Loonyyy says:

                  Small corrections:

                  It’s not E^2, it’s E.

                  And Einstien’s equation is not an equation for kinetic energy, which is what we’re talking about when we’re talking projectiles, which is given by T=.5mv^2, which for light speed is half of what you’ll get from Einstein’s equation. It’s also the same energy as the momentum.

                  For a photon, what you need to do is work out two things, the momentum, which is given by the wavelength (Planck), and the momentum after the collision (The wavelength will have changed, usually lowered), which will give you the change in energy of the target.

                  • djw says:

                    T=(0.5)mv^2 is the low speed approximation for kinetic energy. We teach it in intro physics courses because most relevant speeds are “low” compared to the speed of light.

                    Also, my equation was not wrong. Read about it here.

                    When the momentum is zero you get the famous version of Einsteins equation E=mc^2.

            • Nevermind says:

              FTL drives automatically shut down when they detect something in their path

              So what? The FTL drives have shut down and the ship is now travelling at almost-light-speed, that’s more than enough to do *boom*
              In fact, drives shutting down is an AWESOME property for doing *boom*s, because you don’t even need to aim! The drives shut down AUTOMAGICALLY when the ship’s on collision course.

              • Mike S. says:

                The ship wasn’t going at relativistic speeds before you turned on the FTL drive. Will it be going at those speeds when you turn it off? (Does Newton’s First Law apply to mass effect-induced FTL? How do we know?)

                • Nevermind says:

                  Yeah, you can obviously use Space Magic Physics (or mass effect in this case) to explain anything the setting needs. And it does need “no FTL/relativistic projectiles”. I’m just saying “FTL drives turn off” is not such explanation (-8

                  • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                    Thats my understanding of how warp drive works. At least if it uses the Alcubierre model. When you shut it down, it should come to a complete stop because it isn’t actually the ship thats moving.

                    But then I don’t know how the mass effect is supposed to allow FTL. At best I would think a mass canceling effect would simply counteract the mass gain of approaching the speed of light for a little while so we can get closer to light speed, but unless it can make a ship massless or have a negative mass, I don’t see how FTL is supposed to work.

                    • silver Harloe says:

                      There’s no such thing as a “stop” in physics.
                      There can be a relative stop. Like if I’m approaching you at 0.5c and decelerate until I’m no longer approaching you.
                      But if I’m approaching you at 9c inside a warp bubble, and the bubble suddenly disappears, there’s no reason to assume I’ll come to a stop relative to you – physics doesn’t know I was intending to get to you. The only answer I can wrap my head around is that my relative velocity to you will be the same as it was before I activated the drive (assuming you haven’t accelerated).

                      Similarly, there’s no such thing as “traveling at relativistic speeds” unless you say in relation to what. I can travel at relativistic speeds relative to Earth, but not to myself. I’m always traveling at 0 relative to myself. I can travel at relativistic speeds relative to my galaxy, which will probably mean relative to most things in the galaxy, but doesn’t necessarily mean everything in the galaxy.

                    • djw says:

                      This entire conversation is why I classify Mass Effect as fantasy, rather than Science Fiction.

                      If you have to hand wave bullshit to make your plot work then you might as well put on a wizard hat and call it a day.

                    • Mike S. says:

                      Fantasy isn’t failed science fiction. It’s an intentional genre of its own.

                      SF itself has all sorts of gradations of hardness, from planetary romances in the vein of A Princess of Mars to “crunch the numbers twice and count the rivets” stories like Hal Clement’s. Most media SF is in the middle tending towards the softer end. Star Wars is pretty much right at the bottom of the SF Mohs scale, Trek a few notches higher, something like the current Expanse TV series and the books before it probably a seven or eight– it uses a completely made-up drive (Q: “How does it work?” A: “Efficiently”) and a bunch of alien space magic, but it bothers to sweat the details and usually knows where it’s introducing deliberate fake science.

                      Only the most diamond-hard SF invokes zero handwaves for its fictional technology or setting. I absolutely respect anyone who’s willing to work without ftl or humanoid aliens and do the math on their made-up science. That’s performing without a net, and I applaud it. But that was never even the majority of the output of John W. Campbell’s Astounding.

                      Mass Effect is a notch or two higher than Star Trek, a couple notches below Larry Niven. It makes a genuine effort to tie as many of the impossible elements to its one major bit of rubber physics as it can. It bothers to explain why there are blue alien space babes who want to experience this thing called love with Earth people. (If anything, the effort to use the setting to explain both the original firearm mechanics and their retcon in the later games hurt them more than if they’d just ignored the whole thing.)

                      An SF genre that excludes Mass Effect pretty much dumps 90% of media SF and probably half of the literary output. There’s nothing wrong with not liking anything softer than X. But drumming it into fantasy gets into No True Scotsman territory.

                    • djw says:

                      My remark was a bit tongue and cheek.

                      However, I do think anything that involves FTL is basically fantasy (it ain’t gonna happen) so that is a big failure point for me with any story that pretends to be scientific. (Not saying you can’t write a good story with FTL, I’m just saying that on that point it IS fantasy).

                      In the case of Mass Effect the Asari are another major break point for me. I touched off a lengthy argument about this in an earlier thread. My claim was that the Asari are complete bullshit in pretty much every way. The best counterargument to that claim was that they were heavily lampshaded throughout the series and that the writers were giving us a wink and a nudge whenever they sciencebabbled their way through blue alien sex. I still think its stupid, but your mileage may vary.

                    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                      I thought NASA was working on an FTL engine.

                    • guy says:

                      NASA is discussing the possibility of one. It would require particles that theoretically can exist but may be impossible to produce or as-yet unconfirmed quantum physics effects.

                    • djw says:

                      I’ll eat my hat if that happens. You can mail me your hat and I’ll eat it too.

                    • djw says:

                      If you are talking about this then I am willing to stake large amounts of money on the proposition that they just made a mistake. There is no way that bouncing microwaves back and forth in a chamber produces thrust.

                      There are some speculative models that involve “exotic matter” that can allow the formation of wormholes. This is a remote possibility for FTL travel, but somebody would actually have to prove that exotic matter exists for me to take it seriously.

                    • djw says:

                      As my final word on the topic, if FTL travel is possible, it raises the importance of the Fermi Paradox dramatically.

                • Decius says:

                  If they maintain their previous absolute velocity, just start the jump from around a fast-moving planet, and use a heavy ship.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    I suspect you have targeting problems ensuring that there’s a Reaper at the proper vector when you turn off the FTL drive. And then it may be able to dodge by turning on its FTL drive. You could get lucky— a lot of these sorts of tactics show up in the great seminal space opera, E E Smith’s Lensman series, which featured inertialess drives– but it’s probably not a war winner.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thats still super slow for intergalactic travel.Our galaxy alone is around 150000 lightyears big.So even if the reapers are touching the very rim of the galaxy,they would still have to travel at least some 10000 ly to the nearest relay,meaning they would take decades to reach it.Not long for them,but too long for shepard.

          • Zerotime says:

            10,000LY at the 30/day they can do without using a relay works out to ~333 days, which is only, what, twice the time that’s supposed to have happened between Arrival and ME3?

            • Mike S. says:

              And for Arrival to ME3 they only need to go from the Bahak system (inside the Milky Way) to the next nearest mass relay. Considering that they’re a lot closer packed in our region of space (there’s one in Sol system, and one at Arcturus 37 ly away), six months travel is a pretty generous margin.

              The real issue is the three years or so between Sovereign’s destruction and ME3. Thirty-thousand light years outside a galaxy 100,000 light years across doesn’t exactly seem like “dark space”.

        • Redingold says:

          Nitpick: The ships in Mass Effect travel by continuously accelerating for half the voyage, then continuously decelerating for the other half, so the distance traveled actually depends on the square of the travel time. I think Ashley states a 12 light year cruise takes about a day, so in 2 days you could travel 4 times as far, and in half a day you could only travel a quarter of the distance.

          The fundamental limit on range for a spaceship in Mass Effect is actually drive core charge, which builds up over time until it discharges, destroying any electronics and people who are onboard. This doesn’t exactly make sense from a real world physics perspective (a ship can’t just gain a net charge from internal processes, because charge is conserved), but in ME, a drive core can be run for about 50 hours before needing to discharge, which requires a planet to discharge safely into.

          • Mike S. says:

            And the Reapers IIRC are stated to have a much longer range before needing a discharge, allowing for much faster effective cruising speeds.

            • MadHiro says:

              Wait, how much longer of a range? 50 hours of transit time gets you just about nowhere if you’re hanging out in intergalactic space and there are zero planets to ground into. Even having ten times the range only gets you 500 hours of transit time, which still shouldn’t be anywhere near enough to get you to a convenient planet.

              • Mike S. says:

                It looks like there’s a Codex entry that says they don’t have to discharge static at all:

                “Unlike Citadel ships, Reapers do not appear to discharge static buildup from their drive cores, although they sometimes appear wreathed in static discharge when they land on planets.”

                It also indicates they don’t need refueling. (“Reapers usually destroy fuel infrastructure rather than attempting to capture it intact, indicating that Reapers do not require organic species’ energy supplies. Consequently, the Reapers attack without regard for maintaining supply lines behind them, except to move husks from one planet to another.”) Presumably all to explain why they’re able to fly through intergalactic space to the galaxy.

                Which, yes, makes the whole Citadel thing seem comparatively pointless in retrospect. A strategic advantage, certainly– suddenly appearing in the heart of civilization and grabbing control isn’t nothing. But ME1 absolutely implied (leaving aside that final “the Reapers are coming”) that the Citadel was the way to and from Dark Space.

          • djw says:

            That is how acceleration works at speeds much less than the speed of light. At relativistic speeds acceleration does not work that way, and distance is not a quadratic function of time.

            From the standpoint of an observer in the galactic rest frame your distance would become closer and closer to a linear function of time as you approach the speed of light. From the standpoint of a person on the spaceship the distance traveled is contracted, so the travel time will get shorter and shorter (if you go AT the speed of light your travel time is zero).

            (Note, I am referring actual relativity, not Mass Effect relativity, I have no idea how they hand wave that at FTL speeds).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Someone mentioned that if you dont do arrival,you are tried for something else.So whats the reason for a renegade shepard who doesnt do arrival for losing faith in cerberus?

        • Raygereio says:

          If you didn’t do the Arrival DLC, it will still have happened. Just off screen as it were and it won’t be directly referenced.
          The only actual ingame difference is this one exchange between Shep & Anderson during the intro:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quiGpSh02yA#t=6m58s
          That’s what Anderson will say if you didn’t do Arrival in your import save, or start a new game.
          If you did do Arrival, Anderson will mention it:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZvFxUZGDgk#t=7m01s

          It is just like how Liara is the shadowbroker, regardless of whether or not you did Liar of the Shadowbroker in ME2.

          • Mike S. says:

            If you didn’t play Arrival, Shepard didn’t do it– instead a unit of Alliance Marines did, with 100% casualties. (Reflected in a small War Assets hit.) Shepard is then being tried for more general, presumably Cerberus-related, offenses.

            • SKD says:

              As I recall, I had not played the Arrival DLC when I did my playthrough of ME3 and I was still being tried for it. It was actually part of the reason I purchased The Arrival, so I could go back and find out what all the fuss was about and why I was in trouble.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        The silliest thing about Arrival is that the Alpha Relay is still in our galaxy. They still had to drive to the galaxy to use it, it was just the convenient point on the edge from which they could rapidly spread, and all that destroying it achieved was that they paused to get some Reaping done on the Batarians before carrying on giving the rest of the galaxy a few extra months.

        The whole plan in Mass Effect 1 was the Reapers inventing an automated portal gun which triggered with a remote control in order to get a beer from the fridge in the next room. It takes them literally a few months to drive into our galaxy from wherever they were hanging out, and if they’d just done that from the start then as soon as they reached any mass relay anywhere of any size they could have taken everyone completely by surprise.

        • wswordsmen says:

          Plan A did have the advantage of cutting off the head of the galactic government they were going to destroy, and I believe Vigil said the relay network was turned off so the Protheans couldn’t use it. It makes it easier but isn’t necessary.

          That said still silly that there wasn’t a plan B before Shepard came along.

          • GloatingSwine says:

            Yeah, but plan B could have done that almost as well. If they just drove a few months to the galaxy and then zipped around the mass relays they could be everywhere immediately before they start attacking.

          • Dilandau3000 says:

            I always assumed that flying to the alpha relay was plan B all along, and that the Reapers had been doing just that since long before Shepard came along.

            I think it was implied that it’s been a few centuries at least since the Keepers were supposed to have sprung the Citadel trap. When that didn’t happen, it seemed to have triggered two things: 1) Sovereign to wake up and try to find a way to manually activate the Citadel, and 2) all the Reapers in dark space start flying to the Alpha Relay in case Sovereign fails.

            That makes much more sense in my head because it means the Reapers were much further than two years travel time from the edge of the galaxy originally. It still doesn’t really explain anything that actually happens in ME2 besides the Arrival DLC, but it’s something, I guess.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      I’m wondering what was established regarding the Reaper IFF – is it hardware or software?

      Another inconsistency! It’s “immoral” to try and reverse the technology of the Collector Base, but apparently the Reaper IFF is perfectly kosher.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Maybe the Reapers have invented a gun that doesn’t need ammo!

    Thats crazy talk!Such technology is impossible!

  3. CliveHowlitzer says:

    It is amazing how much of this you don’t entirely appreciate the first time through. I remember enjoying the game quite a bit the first time. I think all the characters stuff I loved just made me forget the awful plot holes and story blunders until after the fact.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It all depends on when the series breaks for you.For me,it was when talking with ashley bitch,so I definitely noticed how idiotic this choice was.But I just said “Fuck you tim,Im blowing it up to spite you!”.That was reason enough for me.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        I keep wondering when it happened for me and I know I couldn’t make heads or tails with the Collectors’ Ship ambush so I’m going to say that’s the moment the game definitely broke for me. The moment I saw the Reaper baby… that was the moment I stopped being invested in the series.

  4. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I was under the impression that the reason we opposed using Nazi research is that using it would have promoted others doing more such research. Some scientists might be able to justify it to themselves that they’re willing to get the blood on their hands so that others don’t have to and mankind could benefit from the unethical research. Maybe they’d see it as a numbers game, sacrificing a hundred to find a treatment could save thousands of others.

    By making a firm statement that not only is what you’re doing wrong, but we’re also going to throw your research in the incinerator unused so it comes to naught, you strongly discourage any others from doing this. Not to mention, this is post war. The Nazis are no longer a threat so we don’t have to understand everything they were doing.

    None of this would seem to apply in this situation. Using Reaper tech or not using it isn’t going to change how the Reapers operate. They don’t care what we think of their efforts. And of course they’re still an existential threat at this point in the story.

    • Matt Downie says:

      “We’ve captured an intact German Tiger Tank! We should study it to see how it works, whether it has any weak points…”
      “No! It’s made by Nazis, so it’s an abomination! Don’t even look at it, lest it steal your very soul!”

      • MrGuy says:

        Let’s take a less theoretical example.

        Basically the entirity of the history of human space exploration (American AND Russian) was built on Nazi research.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          I guess I was referring specifically to their more unethical experiments and not to literally every piece of research ever performed by someone who was ever a member of the Third Reich. I was thinking more of Mengele type stuff. Whatever he did in his past, Von Braun helped us get to the Moon by going to work for NASA. His work at NASA wasn’t unethical that I know of.

          • krellen says:

            For the record: the medical establishment absolutely used Mengele’s research. We talked high and mighty about how wrong it was and then did it anyway.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Because its the damned if you do,damned if you dont situation.If you burn the data,you are sacrificing the people that couldve been saved by it for the memory of those that were harmed by it,and safety and peace of those who survived the atrocities.If you use the data,you basically condone the sacrifice of those that were experimented on,and sow the seeds for other disturbed individuals to justify their actions.There was no morally correct answer,just choosing the lesser evil.

            • Joe Informatico says:

              Also for the record: most of Mengele’s research wasn’t that useful anyway, because of his terrible methodology. It’s really Unit 731 that should be singled out here, but they rarely are.

              • Lalaland says:

                Yup and I suspect the reason for that is it doesn’t make the allies look good whereas the rejection of Mengele’s useless collection of torture records makes everyone feel good.

              • Grudgeal says:

                To be entirely fair, ignoring Unit 731 was a part of a larger-scale ignoring of Japanese war crimes and culpability as a whole — MacArthur was a notable japanophile and he encouraged a “forgive and forget” attitude towards things like the emperor’s role in WW2, Comfort Women, the Burma Railroad, the Rape of Nanking and Unit 731. This contrasted very strongly with the attitudes taken towards Germany and the after-effects are still seen in Japan and Germany today.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But thats the thing,the collector base was doing only one single mengele type thing.The rest(seeker swarms,advanced weaponry and shielding,sleeping quarters,what kept it safe from all the black holes,etc)had nothing to do with human slurry.

            • Chauzuvoy says:

              It’s also worth noting that this wasn’t a question of not using scientific data gathered via reaping, it’s a question of studying the tech they’re using to do the reaping. Not studying the reaper base is more like not gathering data from the victims of a tear gas attack to use for developing gas masks. Your enemy has a weapon that you don’t have a defense against, which you just captured. And instead of figuring out how it works and developing a countermeasure, Paragon-Shephard chooses to destroy it because your enemies used it to do terrible things. Even though that makes it more likely that they’ll keep doing terrible things.

              • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                For the record, my original post was meant to be about how the Nazi comparison doesn’t hold up, in case people are trying to rebut. In other words, I was agreeing with you two.

          • swenson says:

            The Mengele stuff is pretty directly brought up in ME2 with Maelon’s research on krogan females… you can choose to keep or destroy his data. In ME3, it turns out that if you destroyed his data, there’s no way to save Eve’s life. Which clearly implies you should’ve kept the data, regardless of what means were used to collect it.

            • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

              Maelon is a strange beast that way. He was driven to commit an atrocity by his guilt over having committed another atrocity. Its like his conscience went into overdrive and then imploded on itself. I guess you could chalk it up to cracking under the strain.

              In a way that helps make the case for Mordin as a hero because he can bear the strain long enough to confront the morality of his actions and thus his reason is left intact to properly consider how to proceed when he reaches new conclusions about his past actions.

              When Maelon succumbed to his guilt, he coped by shifting the blame to his mentor. When Mordin realized his mistake, he took ultimate responsibility.

        • 4th Dimension says:

          To give the Russians their due, while they did extensively study whatever rocket tech they were able to scavenge from Germany, they really didn’t much use the German scientists to develop their rockets. They did bring a lot of them and settled them on an island and gave them a rocket to design, but their actual use was to comment on the projects Koroliev and his buddies and rivals were proposing simply so the Soviet leadership could get a unbiased second opinion. The rockets they eventually designed to reach space were 100% their design.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        As a university professor, I’d kindly ask you not to give my students additional BS reasons not to do their homework…

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Mass Effect is in favor of Nazi research: see Mordin’s loyalty mission. There’s big talk about how his assistant’s research was wrong and bad. However, saving it saves a brilliant Krogan leader’s life (Eve), whereas destroying it kills her and… makes you the moral victor? Uh yeah…

    • Jabrwock says:

      This site has an in-depth discussion on the pros, cons, benefits, and pitfalls of using ‘tainted’ research.

      https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html

      It examines various approaches, from a complete ban on using tainted data, to using it but making it explicit that the source data was unethically gathered, to something in between, and discusses the various ethical dilemmas that each approach entails (avoiding the data might cost lives because some actual useful medical data was gained in between the outright useless cruelty for Nazi lulz, using the data can justify the atrocities perpetrated to gain it, etc).

      The author of ME2’s attempt to ham-fistedly try to shoehorn this into the Reaper plot is over simplification of the issue to get a quick “player must have feels” moment. It reminds me of the moment in U-571 when they board the captured sub. The music swells, and everyone in the scene looks like they’ve lost their souls when the nazi flag is flown over the sub. As if every crew member has just somehow justified the nazi regime and is now complicit in their actions. As opposed to what was really happening, they’re putting on a nazi ‘uniform’ to get them past the guards so they can kill more nazis…

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Nah, the reason we don’t use the “controversial Nazi research” isn’t so much that the source is evil (though it is) but rather that the actual research has had little applicable point, was poorly done, poorly documented, duplicated work done elsewhere by not-Nazis with more rigorous SCIENCE! or some combination of any of the above. There was, IIRC, some experimentation involving freezing people to death and trying to revive them that’s actually turned out useful, and obviously we ended up using a TON of their rocket research and some aircraft theoretical and design work, but most of it was just plain crap science and not even worth worrying about moral issues.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I’d heard this too but didn’t want to complicate the point I was making since Reaper tech does actually work in the story.

        That tends to be how its handled when I’ve encountered it because its not that interesting to consider the question of whether we should use the shoddy clownpants science that involved kicking a bunch of dogs.

      • djw says:

        Well, maybe. That link above from Jabrwock was very hard to read (because the experiments were horrible), but it does look like there may be some useful data a few of them, at least. The ice water experiments (which were just as horrible as the rest) close a gap in current knowledge about how humans respond to severe cold. Better knowledge here could help design better responses to hypothermia, and better protection from hypothermia.

    • Paul says:

      There are guidelines (sugeestions?) on using Nazi research that even Jewish publications get behind! Example: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/naziexp.html or just Google Nazi research and read the top dozen hits.

      It’s seem that looting the base and publishing it all to the Galaxy Wide Web with a caveat that this research came from a horrific source would be regarded as morally acceptable by the relatives of the people killed!

      This game is so stupid that, in the face of real life atrocities, it fails to consider that it’s farcical attempts to posit a moral quandary have already been subsumed by real life events that occurred five decades ago! Next in the Mass Effect series: It may be possible to build a weapon that could wipe out all life, but the other side will build such a weapon too! How would the consensually assured destruction from this work?

  5. Ian says:

    I’ve played through ME2 multiple times and never had these existential crises… but that’s probably because after the first run, I tended to fast-forward most of the talkie bits and move on the shooty bits. TBH I skipped quite a bit during the first run as well.

    Not to say that your analysis is invalid – not at all – we all take out of a game what we want to.

    Staying on topic … and by paying little to no attention to the dialogs, I think that I always rationalised this Paragon choice as: “Fuck Cerberus – they’ll probably just use the tech to take over the galaxy and enslave every non-human.” The assumption being of course that TIM is basically a massive space-racist, and incapable of imagining any solution that doesn’t leave humans in charge.

    • MrGuy says:

      Which is kind of the problem.

      Throughout the whole game, the player has been actively prevented from saying “Y’know what, Cerberus? You’re crazy, and you shouldn’t have nice things or sharp objects.” It’s not that we had that option and chose not to take it – it’s that the game has never offered us the option to not actively help Cerberus.

      Until now. This is the first and only time the game lets you say “no” to TIM and his looney toons approach to “saving humanity.”

      But that’s not even how they present it. You’re not blowing up the base because you don’t trust Cerberus. You’re doing it because “reasons.” The writers apparently STILL don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t be totally into helping Cerberus, or why that would be a reason to blow up the base.

      What the writers have done here is give the player the ability to punch the writers’ entire plotline in the face for no reason. Most players take it for that reason. And they make it the bleedin’ PARAGON option!

      • Ian says:

        “Most players take it for that reason. And they make it the bleedin’ PARAGON option!”

        In a nutshell, now you mention it, yes (though the target is probably Cerberus, not the writers).

        It’s basically petulance with a massive explosion as the payoff which, as you point out, really should be a renegade action.

        Still felt good though.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        The real problem is they never even tried, beyond lipservice, to sell us on this idea that Cerberus was really misunderstood, and that that terrorist cell from the first game was one that got out of their control.

        We actually don’t get to meet a seemingly ethical group of Cerberus scientists till the third game and by then they’ve quit because Cerberus went completely nuts. Also nuts that saving them amounts to nothing more than some points on a war asset table and not, say, specific intel on how to find and eliminate Cerberus.

        “Not so fast Harbinger. I have 4200 points now. When I reach 4500, I can buy the deluxe space fleet from this mail in catalog and you’re finished.”

    • GloatingSwine says:

      I think most people rationalise it as “blow up the base to stop Cerberus from playing with it”.

      Shamus is just saying that that isn’t actually what’s in the game, and there’s not actually anything within the text that necessitates the “Cerberus or nobody” dichotomy.

      Shepard is the only person who has safe access to the base at the time of the decision, and all he needs to do is phone up Anderson/the Council and say “I have all the Collectors’ toys, would you like a go on them”.

  6. Zekiel says:

    Goodness this ending really is appalling. Thanks for reminding me Shamus. (Seriously – I love this analysis.)

    As Shamus has pointed out before (elsewhere), the VERY LEAST they could have done with the ending choice is given you the opportunity to turn over the base to the Alliance or the Council. But no, Mass Effect 2 would prefer to pretend they didn’t exist by featuring them in the most minimal way possible at the beginning and then never again. Grrr.

    • Dev Null says:

      Or y’know, keep it for yourself. That was the option I wanted by the end of the game, as by then the writers had convinced me that everyone else in the galaxy – with the _possible_ exception of a couple of my crew – was an idiot.

    • swenson says:

      Or even to have the dialogue option to want to turn it over to the Alliance, and then have somebody be like “Oh no! Cerberus is going to swoop in and steal it first! I guess we don’t have time to tell the Alliance!” It would be a very stupid handwave, but it’d indicate they actually considered that as a thing people might want to do.

      • RCN says:

        It wouldn’t be a problem if you were allowed to become an informant for the Alliance…

        TIM – Hah! I will take this base to myself and conquer the galaxy!

        Shep – Anderson is, like, right here.

        TIM – Curses you Shepard and your logic to actually not trust the murderous terrorist organization!

  7. Zekiel says:

    Also seems like a good point to link the hilarious/tragic* “everyone dies” ending of Mass Effect 2.

    In the midst of this recognition of all the dreadful mistakes that ME2 makes at the very end, I find it quite impressive that they made the game in such a way that everyone on your team could die apart from Joker and you could still succeed in your mission. (But you can’t play Mass Effect 3 that way.)

    *No, its definitely hilarious.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      If its the one I’ve seen, I love that the player chose to make him look like a sickly John Locke.

    • Decus says:

      It becomes equally hilarious and tragic to take a 2 guys + Shepard save into ME3, especially if the 2 guys are the one-offs like the DLC duo or Morinth. The plot of ME3 hardly changes because of letters and other things somehow left behind by your now dead crew members. Guess you didn’t need any of them anyway!

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Isn’t it possible to take a zero man crew + Shepard into ME3? You only need one crewmember alive to beat the suicide mission, and I thought ME2 let you keep playing side missions after the suicide mission, in which case you could keep Zaeed alive then kill him in his loyalty mission.

        • swenson says:

          Unfortunately, as far as I know, you need to have a minimum of two squadmates survive the Suicide Mission for Shepard to make it. (Grunt in his tank doesn’t count as a squadmate.) And if you only have two squaddies, you don’t actually get the option to leave Zaeed behind.

          Basically, the game never lets you have less than two squadmates, because it wants you two have them available for missions.

          The worst possible ME3 import, IMO, would be if you just had Morinth and maybe Zaeed or Kasumi alive, because Morinth ends up just being a renamed Banshee, and Zaeed/Kasumi only show up in minor side missions. Or I suppose you could do Morinth and Jack and then ignore the Grissom Academy mission so Jack dies anyway…

          • Mike S. says:

            As I understand it, if you don’t do Grissom Academy, rather than dying Jack shows up as a Phantom at Cerberus HQ. So basically she winds up undergoing the fate she’d been running away from since her original escape– much worse than death.

            (Though it’s a little too bad that she’s just an ordinary Phantom, rather than the overwhelming bossfight that Cerberus’s efforts should have produced out of her.)

            • Attercap says:

              Jack will also show up as a Phantom if she survives but you never go through her loyalty mission in ME2, if I remember correctly.

              Both she and Morinth are a let-down from that respect because if you’re not really looking at enemy names (and by the time either appear, you’ve faced other Phantoms and Banshees) or kill them quickly, you might not even realize they had any follow-ups in the game at all. At the very least Shep could have lines of “Jack, what have the done to you” or something.

  8. Raygereio says:

    “Is it ethical to use research obtained through unethical means?”
    That can be an interesting thought experiment for a story. And that question does hover around in the background during various parts of the game: In particular Mordin’s & Jack’s loyalty missions.
    But the annoying thing is that ME2 simply doesn’t do anything with it. Until the very end of the game where that question suddenly pops up, looks around sheepishly and then slinks off because no one is paying it any real attention.

    It sort of looks like some leftover bits from an extensive rewrite. Or one the writers trying to get his pet project past the other writers who didn’t like it. But then ME3 repeats this with its “the created will destroy their creators” thing.

    They could have just rolled the credits as soon as you killed the Reaper, because this whole scene didn’t matter.

    Nuh-uh, it totally mattered. Destroying the base means you get 10 less war assets in ME3.
    Consequences! /jazzhands

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The weirdest part about that is that they didn’t make your choice completely irrelevant, just as close to irrelevant as possible. Imagine the ME3 designers sitting around having a discussion. “Hey Frank, branching content is hard so what are we going to do to make the last game’s ending choice matter?” “Turn it into war assets!” “Okay, but like, how many? It seems like it was kind of a big-” “Ten!” “Ten? That seems kinda small, you know we calibrated it for the player to get four thousand-” “TEN!”

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The thing about “This place is evul!” is how it contrasts to mordins loyalty mission.In that one,you get research data obtained by unethical means,and you get to ponder whether to keep the data or destroy it.Here,the data can have multiple purposes,but their origin is unqestionably tainted.

    Meanwhile,with the collector base,you have a base with multiple purposes,one of which was unethical,but its origin is unknown.And considering that it was probably built by reapers and only then populated by twisted protheans,its just as pure as mass relays.Destroying the base is like destroying the roads that led to auschwitz because one of their uses was evil.

    In summary,destroying the collector base “because its evil you guys!” is idiotic.

    Now if the question was preserving the reaperminator husk or oblitherating it,that one could be morally argued.And if me3 is brought into the mix,where of all the base only the reaperminator is prominently displayed,it seems that there was some miscommunication between the writers.Shocking,I know.

    • Taellosse says:

      It’s even better than that – in ME3, the war assets make it clear that bits of the “reaperminator” are ALL that was saved, in EITHER case. If you blow the place up, the Alliance gets hold of the thing’s heart (I think they call it the “power core”), and if you keep the place, it’s the brain (which I believe gets called the “main processor or something like that). Meanwhile, Cerberus carts off the corpse of the thing if you don’t blow it up, which you see when you assault TIM’s base. Apparently nobody cares about anything else that might have been salvaged at all.

  10. Dragmire says:

    Harbinger’s last bits of dialogue had me wishing he ended with,

    “I’ll get you next time Gadget. Next time!”

    • Grudgeal says:

      “Your species has the attention of those infinitely your greater. That which you know as Reapers are your salvation through destruction.

      …And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

  11. thak says:

    Small correction: “big the big” should be “be the big”.

  12. Pax says:

    My thinking at the ending was how in the first game, any exposure to Reaper technology, even well intentioned research, ended up with you going crazy, being indoctrinated, and impaling yourself on a spike, usually in that order. So I blew it up so there wouldn’t be yet another rogue cell full of Cereberus husks or worse. Of course, like you say, there isn’t so much as an option to articulate your line of thinking, just more Shepard posturing and pouting.

    But the band-aids are so easy to think up! What if the Collector base was actually a Prothean research station that had been co-opted by the Collectors/Reapers and thus was not as inherently dangerous as, say, a giant dead floating reaper carcass? Anything to indicate that you wouldn’t go crazy just from standing in the place.

    Also, I rather liked the Harbinger/Collector General reveal at the time. In retrospect, it does weaken the Reapers to have their resistance be quite so pathetic, but I had assumed I was fighting the Collector’s leader the whole time, and finding out Harbinger was actually a Reaper was a serious “Oh snap!” moment for me. Was always curious how Shepard got a hold of those technical readouts of Harbinger at the very end though. He must’ve been watching the cutscenes, too.

  13. Blastinburn says:

    I haven’t played ME2 yet* but I’ve been reading a few of your write-ups about it and the overall story sounds like a complete and total mess/waste of time. I’d still like to play it at some point because of the parts that do work, but for the overarching story, since ME2 makes the story go backwards would it just be better to skip straight to ME3 and come back later? Is there ANYTHING important that happens in ME2 that I would need to know before going into ME3? (I’m looking for a Yes/No rather than actual information, I can find that information myself if I decide to skip.)

    *(I bought ME2 but didn’t get to play it since I overwrote my ME1 endgame save with NG+) :(

    • Zekiel says:

      In the main game of ME2? Its all about the characters. If you skip it you’ll miss out on various other squadmates introduced in ME2, some of whom are really good. (I assume they won’t be present in ME3 if you didn’t import a ME2 save; if they are present, then you won’t know who they are.) You’ll also be in the dark about who the Illusive Man and Harbinger are.

      But you could probably cope with missing that information. In terms of story, I can’t think of anything at all you’ll miss out on by missing ME2.

      It is genuniely a fun game though!!

    • Deager says:

      Even with the broken parts and all the issues Shamus has brought with the story and some of the characters, it’s still can be a fun world to play in. I play ME2 for the characters as I still find most are enjoyable with fun loyalty missions. Compared to ME1, I think ME2 has better character interaction between Shep and crew. However, they nerfed a lot of the world building stuff from NPCs. I liked in ME1 how I could often ask someone his or her name and what he or she did.

      But, if the overall story is the more important factor to you in gaming…I don’t know. Maybe play ME2 once? There are things that carry over to ME2, particularly if you have the Arrival DLC or Shadow Broker DLC. Overlord DLC is not really that important to ME3 but it’s quite the story; to me at least.

      EDIT: Good point by Zekiel. The character carry-over is very useful and while you can choose to have a good “world state” with a new ME3 character, it’s still good to have the background on people to get that connection.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Whether it’s ME2 or 3 you decide to play, people have made save editors that allow you to quickly generate a save in which you pick who died, who Shepard’s besty is, and so on, I recommend you grab one of Google if those details matter to you.

      • Mike S. says:

        You can also download a save with the characteristics you want from http://www.masseffectsaves.com/ .

      • swenson says:

        Specifically, look for the Gibbed Mass Effect Save Editor, there’s ones for 2 and 3.

        There’s other save editors out there, some with more/different options, but the Gibbed ones are pretty straightforward. I would suggest creating a character in the game you want to create a save file for, then using Gibbed to set everything else up… it’s a lot easier than trying to set the appearance, etc. variables from scratch.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The only thing of value that transferes from me2 to me3 are the characters.The rest can be safely skipped.In both those games.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The thing about the mess is, you might be thinking it now, but you wouldn’t necessarily have felt the same way before reading this. Some people who have read this STILL don’t agree with Shamus’ points (some people think he’s going too easy on the game for example, while others think certain points are nitpicking or what have you).

      As an example of this, nah the story does not go backwards. In ME1, Cerberus is a sidequest baddie group, not that big a deal in the scheme of things. In 2, they are one of the most important organizations in the galaxy. In 3, they become one of the 3 main combat villains for the rest of the game. Obviously there was a progression there. All the party members and plot points that advanced in 2 become more relevant in 3 (Geth vs Quarian war, Krogan Genophage cure, issues with Miranda’s dad, etc etc).

      To look at the broad strokes from Bioware’s perspective, in ME1 Shepard defeated the plan that the Reapers had always used to destroy the galaxy, putting himself on their radar. In 2, he deals with that focus, suffering personal losses (including of his own life!) but then striking back. In 3, the full weight of Reaper aggression hits across the galaxy, leaving Shepard to stop them. Sure you can quibble with the exact details of each of these steps, but it’s clear what they MEANT at least.

      So why should you play 2? Because it’s a fun shooter game with good dialogue and satisfying combat. The romances, combat, and graphics are all far better than in 1 and playing 2 will prepare you for how those things are even better in 3.

    • Merlin says:

      For what it’s worth…

      I found ME1 to be mostly boring and tedious, and a game that probably didn’t deserve a sequel. The circumstances surrounding the Rachni War are, as Shamus has covered pretty extensively, a really interesting conundrum. But they’re also just background noise for an otherwise by-the-numbers Bioware adventure that is, per the usual, full of entirely too many pointless goon fights in identical warehouses.

      ME2 addresses some of those issues by improving the lizard-brain issues, but everything else gets even dumber. Companions in ME1 were either bland or static? ME2 makes them more important to the main quest and makes sidequests that specifically spotlight them. ME1 combat was a boring slog? ME2 gets a lot more active and makes your class more unique. (Daily reminder that Vanguard is the One True Way to play, and Charge->Smack->Shoot is almost endlessly enjoyable.)

      The very energy of it all makes it pretty easy to enjoy as a popcorn kind of game. If you hadn’t been following this series, you’d probably not notice a fair handful of the issues Shamus has covered, and you’d probably also probably notice & get grumpy about a few but ultimately keep going. The ending, though, is truly astonishingly dumb, and it snaps the game’s failures into focus. They try so hard to play the “Shit just got real” angle despite the final reveal being “Oh no Reapers are coming… still” and nothing actually getting accomplished. It’s similar to Fridge Logic, but they flub the landing so hard that it’s more like flashing a gigantic “WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE’RE DOING” message at the start of the credits. You aren’t even going to make it to the fridge before you start realizing how poorly it all fits together.

      Even if you grudgingly accepted that you were going to have to work with Cerberus to advance the game’s plot, you end by cutting ties with Cerberus with no overall gain. And then you start thinking back further. Remember how ME1 didn’t really pay off any of its big choices (Saved the Rachni queen? Good for you, nobody cares.) in favor of kicking the can down the road? ME2’s doing the same thing. And so on and so forth.

      Basically, ME2 picks up a bunch of ME1’s red flags, sews them together into a nice quilt, and waves them around. It’s a good show for a while, and I far prefer it to the first game. But it should be impossible to experience ME2 and come away feeling like ME3 is going to be a valuable use of time that ties everything together, and that it took so many people until the final 5 minutes of a 100 hour trilogy to realize that will never stop being mind-boggling to me. If you’re inclined to skip ME2, you should be skipping ME3 as well.

      • Daimbert says:

        I liked both ME1 and ME3 far better than ME2, and ME1 is my favourite of the series. The best I can say about ME2 is that if you mostly ignore the plot and just focus on the characters, it’s relatively entertaining. But ME1 had, to me at least, a better plot (and better gameplay, but we don’t need to fight that fight again) and better exploration, but ME2 did the characters a lot better. I really feel that ME3 tried to balance the two sides better and take the good parts from each … but it didn’t really succeed.

    • Daimbert says:

      There’s nothing that you need to know, but the characters are worth it … and there’s a part with Mordin in ME2 that really pays off in ME3 if you did it and choose a specific option in ME3.

      Ultimately, I suggest that you play ME2 anyway, just for the characters, and so that when the characters show up again in ME3 you have a connection to them and so can get why these things are important (especially since you don’t have to have them join up with you again, which would make those scenes seem pointless if you weren’t meeting up with an old friend).

  14. NotOJ says:

    I remember first completing the game I decided to keep the base but then told TIM to go fuck himself. As both your companions are telling you to destroy the base, I assumed this would result in me giving the base to the Alliance or the Council.

    Then I get back on the Normandy and everyone tells me off for giving the base to TIM, I was thoroughly confused! I explicitly told him to go fuck himself and that I didn’t trust him (It is nice that the game allows you to do this at the end). Why does Cerberus now have the base? I assumed I was working with Cerberus so we could destroy the Collectors, now that that is done, why am I not just going back to the Alliance? Especially since I just told TIM to go fuck himself!

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    You know, I only noticed this now that we reached the end, but at the very beginning of ME2 TIM and Miranda are talking about how Shepard’s a symbol of hope for humanity, a bloody icon, which is why they choose him. Having resurrected someone apparently for PR purposes, they proceed to let the galaxy continue thinking that person is dead, until word starts circulating that Shep is working for Cerberus who no one likes. Furthermore, they don’t even use him for PR. They never have Shep address the galaxy and say “I’m Commander Shepard and we need to fight the Reapers”, or anything of the sort. What exactly was their plan?

    • Deager says:

      LOL. You have once again proved the point that Cerberus must be a bungling, evil, insane, and incompetent group. And TIM being indoctrinated already doesn’t really work out since, well, Shepard should have been killed by Cerberus right away then.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Sort of a misread. Cerberus says we need Shepard to fight the Reapers and his ability to inspire people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise is his (or her) best trait. During 2, this takes the form of creating and then leading the suicide mission team. In 3, this becomes political maneuvering amongst entire governments. So Cerberus’ observances about Shepard were objectively correct. Why didn’t Cerberus keep working with Shepard in 3? Because the Reapers assumed more direct control of TIM (who is a little indoctrinated in 2 and increasingly so in 3) and ordered him to kill Shepard’s team instead.

      • Deager says:

        Good points. I still think it’s weird that, while Shepard inspires and is “a natural leader,” that…well, sheesh, still that Cerberus is involved and Shepard goes along with it to some degree. Argh, why couldn’t we have had a good conversation with Anderson on the Citadel and do something more with the Alliance or break free from Cerberus? I know there are so many paths a story can take but dang. There’s just no way to make this work quite right.

        Still; love those characters.

        EDIT: Also, thanks Shoeboxjeddy. To be candid, I also like this retrospective because I can throw out ideas and get correctly challenged and corrected. Helps me get a little sharper with this stuff.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Shepard is such a good leader that Cerberus needed to spend billions of credits just to have him inspire his squadmates on the suicide mission. Is there a single thing Shep does in ME2 that couldn’t have been done by an army of expendable Cerberus goons? They’ve have taken casualties, but it’s not like that’s ever stopped Cerberus. The only things necessary to complete ME2 are shooting waves of dudes, recruiting Mordin (he’s happy to work with Cerberus), having the already-Cerberus Miranda handle the biotic forcefield, and some random Cerberus techie handle the vents.

        I guess you could say that they needed Joker to unshackle EDI, but Joker was already signed up with them on the promise of the Normandy II. Plus, unshackling EDI is the most dangerous possible course of action, surely we can count on a random Cerberus goon to do that.

        • INH5 says:

          Horizon and the Collector Ship mission might not have happened at all if Shepard wasn’t around to use as bait, though that raises even more questions.

          I also think that you may be overestimating the ability of an army of expendable Cerberus goons, because ME3 repeatedly demonstrates that Shepard + 2 sqadmates > an army of expendable Cerberus goons. The ME3 Cerberus goons are also supposedly “enhanced” by Reaper tech that Cerberus might not have had in ME2 according to the video logs at their base, though again that raises more questions.

  16. Deager says:

    I am loving Thursday mornings. Thanks Shamus! And Kirk Lazarus is correct.

    Nothing to add here really, since Shamus pretty much nails all the points. What I do like is this particular entry as an explanation of why the end of ME2 wasn’t as ridiculous “feeling” as the end of ME3. When I care to engage people who think modding is stupid (and that’s valid to think story mods are stupid) I send them to this thread and now I think this is the page to send them to. At least it gives a succinct answer to why those of us disappointed with ME3 are complaining about waaaaaay more than just the end of ME3.

    Here’s a candid question to everyone, and maybe this is the wrong place to ask, but is there any way to patch the end of ME2 a bit to make it work a little better? For example, with the ME2 sequence and pcc editor, it should be possible to skip the TIM conversation about destroying or not destroying the base and then with a tlk editor change the conversation with TIM afterwards. Is that even worth doing or is baby reaper and all the other stuff already so stupid that why bother trying to change that bit?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I feel like there isn’t anything worth saving about the ME2 ending. It’s stupid through and through, and cutting bits off might make it less stupid by virtue of there simply being less of it, but that’s like saying you can make a lousy beverage taste less gross if you half-empty the glass before drinking.

      • Deager says:

        This is true. If I ever get extra crazy I still may try something but it’s highly unlikely. Reaper baby, to me, is a major problem, let alone the other things Shamus brought up. The many other things.

    • Zekiel says:

      I’m not quite clear about what I’m “allowed” to change but assuming I can add dialogue as well as take it away – but without adding any more art assets (so we’re stuck with TermiReaper):

      1) Modify the little bit of dialogue between Shepard and EDI when the Reaper Baby is discovered, making it seem more mysterious and less “oh its a Human Reaper, obviously”

      2) Have Miranda argue FOR turning over the base to the Illusive Man (at least ONE of your team should, and that removes the ridiculousness of her incomprehensible allegiance change)

      3) Allow Paragon Shepard to article sensible reasons for destroying the base (most obviously – cos it might indoctrinate people)

      4) Include dialogue explicitly allowing Shepard to suggest we turn over the base to the Alliance or the Council, and why that won’t work (as BeCeejed suggests below)

      5) Have Harbinger’s ending dialogue make clear that this Human Reaper wasn’t the Reapers’ only plan and now they’ll just have to think of something else – instead he can boast (in suitably mysterious terms) about their real plan to invade.

      There you go. Its not great by any means, but its better and it just costs some recording studio time (plus the patch implementation itself).

      • Deager says:

        Ah, that’s some things to think about. Technically lines can be “replaced” or, probably as you’re meaning, added. Sometimes an exact line exists to fit the bill. Sometimes they have to be created, but I’m getting better at it. I was able to get EDI to say something that involved 9 different tracks and I don’t think people realize it’s a custom line from the sound quality itself. Granted, robotic or staccato voices (Kasumi, Javik, etc) are the easiest to edit.

        Still, you’ve given me some things to ponder. Since taking away is easier, and despite the roots of ME1, going more Lovecraftian in ME2 seems to be the only realistic hope of change.

        Heh, my wife will once again roll her eyes at me if I start another mod. And obviously, it’s a very small percentage of people who go for story based mods; and for good reason.

        Thanks for the ideas; I appreciate it. More of that sound thinking from this group.

        I may bounce these around with others on the me3explorer forums to see if it seems worth attempting. This one would be a big one. Not as bad as CEM, but it’d be pretty time-consuming.

  17. BeCeejed says:

    I tried to play a Pro-Cerberus playthrough once.

    I tend to play BioWare games a few simple ways. The first game I run through and just pick whatever options feels fun or interesting or I get a strong feeling about. I don’t think about it too deeply. “Oh, this option will let me blow something up, I can tell. Let’s do that. I like blowing stuff up.”

    Then I build a couple characters based off the dividing lines of thought that I got the feeling the writer was designing into the game. So for instance humans vs non-humans is a theme in ME1. I liked Garrus and Wrex and Tali on my first playthrough and was so bothered by Ashley’s apparent space racism that I cut our first on-ship conversation short and ignored her for a while, immediately regretting it when I got to Virmire because here I am forced to sacrifice a character I was planning on getting to know LATER, just for curiousity’s sake, or the guy Shep was kinda romancing sorta (Kaiden’s romance is slow and weird).

    So anyways I made a Shep to romance Ashley and decided he would be ‘pro-human.’ Like he could work with aliens (I try to build characters that will always recruit everyone despite differences because I like to see various side character opinions change) But he definitely sought the interest of the Alliance and humanity first. Boy was I pleasantly surprised with Ashley! :) She’s great.

    Anyways I deliberately avoided a lot of the side missions in ME1 because Charly Shep was pretty Renegade and part of what motivated those decisions was a tendency to cut to the chase, so he always focused on the larger objectives and ignored side distractions (Noveria was VERY annoying for him). So Charly went into ME2 without a lot of first hand knowledge of Cerberus. But hey, advancement of humanity? Apparent vast wealth of resources? Raise him from the dead? New ship? Hire his best bro? New, chill bro who sympathizes with Shep’s ideals? Sexy co-commander? Sign him up!

    Ashley’s not really on speaking terms anymore? Major bummer, but it was kind of okay. He figured he’d find a way to turn her around eventually, and if not he was major proud of her for advancing in the Alliance cause he knew how much that meant for her. It was basically a short nap for him but she had two years and a mourning session so things were bound to be different.

    And then we got to Jack.

    I always set my characters up to be strongly a certain way at the start and let them be influenced by other characters as the story progresses. It feels more organic, and less like the world is player-centric and more like its ‘party-centric’ because the decision the main character reaches are influenced by the opinions of the supporting cast. Jack was basically the epitome of Charly’s ideal: No time wasting, going right for what she wants or sees as the solution to a problem, a powerful human biotic LEVELS above what most could reach (Lore -wise), not taking shit from anybody (including him or Miranda). I spent an agonizing amount of time in the game bemoaning the art team’s poor choice in outfit design for both Miranda and Jack. Can we make the two women who so diametrically oppose one another’s ideals not look like every confrontation between them is a magic-sexy-lady catfight for the benefit of the player? Seriously?

    Anyways Charly DEFINITELY wanted Jack to be his friend, the way youths who feel disenfranchised look at jaded, slightly older youths who skip class and smoke under the bleachers as if they were cool. Except Charly is Shepherd, a cool Soldier Dude who definitely had his life together before the Collectors ripped apart his ship and dropped him down a gravity well. So mostly he wanted to earn Jack’s respect and prove to this woman (who clearly had a lot of problems with people he thought were like him) that he was worthy of her respect. So, yeah, paragon options in discussion with Jack? Yes. Oh you wanna go blow something up? Definitely. I like blowing stuff up.

    Discovering the notes in the base was revelatory, and taking Miranda along was not a super great reflection on her – or Cerberus in general. A lot of the things that kind of bugged Charly about the Alliance sure made a lot more sense in light of what a LACK of oversight and regulation could result in.

    So, cut to the end decision. Here’s Charly, a character I built SPECIFICALLY to play through the mentality that Cerberus is supposed to embody: The advancement of Humanity, Chaotic rather than Lawful, Ends often justify the means. All Charly could think about is the same Cerberus that tortured and killed children to make Jack getting possession of a Human Juicer that made a Human Robit for pseudo-sciencey reasons. He could imagine a million ways their possession of the base could go wrong. And hey, he likes blowing stuff up…

    TL;DR Cerberus is so incredibly bad that even characters who should by all rights agree with their defining principles can’t even stomach handing technology over to them unless you are playing a literal “Is Jared Leto the Joker?” Nonsensically Chaotic Evil character.

    As a side note I never even thought of other options, like calling the Alliance or the Council or trying to hold the base myself. Mostly because the Omega 4 relay is in a section of space the Alliance and Council really don’t seem to want to go in or risk interstellar war, and I assumed Edi had transmitted data on the IFF to Cerberus so they’d get in eventually. But its true that the game doesn’t really even consider those other things to be options on the table enough to eliminate them from the player’s mind. So where such thoughts occur the game has no way of addressing them. Unless the player is making the same assumptions as the author, or assumptions that at least don’t contradict directly whatever is going on in the Author’s head, the game has no way of address what should be fairly obvious concerns.

    People often note the apparent rumor that two people basically wrote the Starchild ending to Mass Effect 3 off on their own without ever really vetting it with the rest of the team. I feel like that was probably a problem way before that though? Nobody seems to have taken the time to think “Well what if the players don’t want to do either of these options? Is there something we can add that gives them another choice or explains the limitations of this choice?”

    Lots of these things will be simple fixes.

    Shep: “I do want to hand the base over…to the Alliance/Council.”

    Edi or Jacob or Tali or Legion or Mordin (whoever’s alive and/or loyal): “That won’t work, Shepherd. Cerberus already has data from the IFF. I sent it to them before Joker released my constrainsts / I know Edi sent it to them. They will be able to replicate it and be through the relay before the Alliance or Council can catch up.”

    Shep: “Damnit, we can’t let access to reaper technology just go! Can we hold the base until then?”

    Someone: “Not while the collectors are still alive. Not against what Cerberus will bring to claim it. And the Window between when the radiation will allow us to come back and when we could get help from the Alliance or the Citadel is too large.”

    Shep: “I guess our only option is to hand this over to Cerberus or…Nuke it.”

    That’s not even unproblematic but at least it addresses some possible major concerns.

    In development one often finds really stupid bugs in a code because someone simply didn’t think of a possible use-case for some function that gets called in a weird way later on. That’s why its good do a lot of case tests yourself but also have at least one other person look at it. That’s why large companies hire entire testing TEAMS of various technical expertise to think of ways to use a piece of technology and ensure that it remains stable through as many possible scenarios that are likely to come up.

    I feel like narratively speaking Bioware needs a logical debugger for their scripts. “What about players who want to do X?” “We can add that option.” “What about players who want to do Y?” “We should probably explain why Y isn’t possible in this case.” “What about players who want to do Z?” “The explanation for Y will have to suffice, that’s really too specific a request to give any serious attention to. Its not a bug, its a feature. :)”

    • Mike S. says:

      My intentional pro-Cerberus Paragon Shepard never got that close to Jack, and (being Paragon) wasn’t hugely interested in blowing up whatever empty installation Jack was obsessed with. He still planned to do it, but, you know, after the important mission through Omega-4.

      Tragically, Jack didn’t make it. (Miranda assured Shepard she could maintain the biotic bubble…)

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Your Shepard is bad at making decisions if you have a BIOTIC choice between genetic engineered super biotic and generally normal, but enhanced, person who is pretty great at biotics, she swears, and you go with the latter. It’s like if you needed someone to win a race and you had the choice of Batman or the Flash and went with the former because “he’s highly trained.”

        • Mike S. says:

          Miranda is his trusted XO, who brought him back from the dead, successfully fought her way through a baseful of hostile mechs, and has repeatedly demonstrated her biotic prowess in combat. Jack is a psychotic pirate who likes to crash space stations into moons for fun, and hates the organization Shepard is working for with a burning passion. And her overwhelming biotic superiority only seems to come into play when Shepard isn’t looking– as a squad member she’s average to below.

          If Miranda, who’s got actual scientific chops, says that any biotic can handle the bubble, why should Shepard risk everything on someone who might decide to crash the mission just to watch it burn (and kill a lot of Cerberus personnel)? Jack’s sense of self preservation isn’t something Shepard wants to rely on.

          And since it’s not as if it’s possible for him to do multiple runs, Cal Shepard has no way of being sure that Jack would have done any better. After all, Miranda made it. One casualty for that mission is much better than anyone was anticipating. Shame about Jack. (But honestly, if he had to lose someone…)

          (A very different experience from Vic Shepard, who was at Akuze. Jack lived through that one, but no one who volunteered for Cerberus did– not Miranda or Jacob, not the crew, not Chakwas. And if it had been possible to lose Jeff “leather seats” Moreau…)

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Oh, it doesn’t seem you made a bad decision as in out of character. Just that your Shepard let personal biases get in the way of his professional judgment. He left a biotic superstar on the bus because he didn’t like her haircut and how she said bad words!

            • Mike S. says:

              Oh, she wasn’t on the bus. She was standing right next to Miranda. After all, the only way to be a victim of the failure of the biotic bubble is to be one of the people in it. (I can’t imagine why she didn’t use her superior biotics to just shore it up.)

          • Daimbert says:

            But you can choose Samara to do it, can’t you? And as Chuck from SFDebris said, why wouldn’t you choose the one who SUGGESTED it over Miranda there?

            If you don’t have Samara available, then the choice between Jack and Miranda is a tough one, as the job seems to require both raw power and control. Jack has raw power but her control might be iffy, while Miranda has control but almost certainly doesn’t have the raw power of Jack. Turns out you need more raw power and endurance than control there.

            • guy says:

              Or you might select Jacob because he literally has Barrier and proceed to watch him screw up and get someone killed.

              I am eternally bitter about that.

            • Mike S. says:

              I’m not sure (they kind of run together by now), but I think that may have been the playthrough that didn’t stop at Illium at all. (After all, we’re in an urgent hurry! And after the Jack thing, TIM’s dossier recommendations pointing to a hit man and an obsessive space samurai don’t sound super-tempting.)

              So no Samara, no Thane, and Liara was on her own dealing with the Shadow Broker. (Sorry, Feron.)

              (I think the main point there was avoiding Liara, since I didn’t want Cal to meet anyone trustworthy with bad opinions of Cerberus.)

        • Mike S. says:

          (And you know that, at least in the last thirty or so years of DC Comics, if Batman agreed to a race with the Flash, it would be because there was some reason he had figured out a way to win it.)

      • BeCeejed says:

        Jack isn’t easy to get close to, by her own deliberate intent. Sheps have to see something about her worth the effort and the bitchy behavior to push through and there’s really only one way to do it effectively, her interactions are extremely split by paragon and renegade behaviors. Most of my Sheps manage, just cause I like her a lot, but not all of them and I could definitely see most intentionally cerberus agents skipping over Jack after the first argument or so.

  18. Lalaland says:

    Nazi medical ‘research’ was the unmoored imagination of a sadist given free reign the ‘work’ was useless as medical research (especially Mengele’s work). Unit 731 however was an equally evil but methodically performed body of research into the effects of various extreme environmental conditions and biological weapons on the human body. The work involved thousand of live test subjects (referred to as ‘logs’ in the books) who were frequently vivisected by the medics at the facility.

    The true horror of this work is that the US made a deal with the lead medic to obtain his research data shielded him and every other ‘researcher’ from the consequences of this industrial scale depravity . In fact the US went out of it’s way to rubbish reports of what happened at Unit 731 for decades to hide this odious deal.

    For an overview the Wikipedia article is a good place to start: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_731 and if you’re tired of good sleep or faith in humanity I recommend the 2001 documentary ‘Japanese Devils’ where 14 former workers describe what they saw and did there.

    Sorry for drifting OT but the question of using Nazi medical research question is easily sidestepped due to it’s deeply unscientific methods but the very real deal to exploit the murder of thousands (probably tens or possibly even hundreds of thousands) by the US. We’ve committed this sin before and there’s little reason to believe we wouldn’t again which really undermines the very simple retort that Shepard gives when you flip the TIM the bird.

  19. tremor3258 says:

    It’s odd how this choice goes good/evil on what’s going on versus the ‘okay, both these are kind of technically evil and could bite us later’ paragon/renegade choice in Legion, for instance (man, when carefully analyzed, the multiple writers really show).

    On the Collector Base: I’m hoping Paragon Shepard was worried about everyone ending up indoctrinated ala Dead Reaper, but Paragon Shepard goes notably inarticulate every time they talk to TIM this game. It’s really kind of aggravating. I blew it up pretty much because Cerberus thought it was a really good idea to leave it intact.

    The Collector’s small scale comes to bite them here – if there was more than one ship (apparently) then irradiating the base would not also be a clearcut victory.

    Shepard should, perhaps, have been more worried that after cycle and cycle the Reapers are changing their strategies after the Prothean Cycle to include more backdoors. One way that could have upped the threat feeling: the Collectors were also being tasked with building a new intergalaxy relay as a backup entry point).

    • Mike S. says:

      A replacement Citadel seems like a real missed opportunity, as both an obvious thing for the Reapers to want once they figure out what went wrong with Sovereign, and as something high tech and energetic that could be turned against the Reapers to allow for a victory in ME3. (Turning the enemy’s plans against them being a standard underdog tactic in adventure fiction.)

      In general, the Reapers never really take advantage of the fact that this is their thoroughly understood technology that we’re just operating using the rigged GUI they left us. The Omega-4 relay and the Alpha Relay are the only real hints of it once their attempt to use the Citadel is rebuffed.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      You know, if they acknowledged the Illusive Man’s passive ability to indoctrinate and used that as an explanation as to why Shepard suddenly loses the ability to make coherence points when he’s talking to her…it would still be a really lazy and aggravating cheat, but at least it would be kind of interesting, having the dialogue options being messed with by mind control.

  20. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    Just for an alternate viewpoint, I never saw Shepard’s complaints about the base as a “this is wrong because it was TAINTED by evil.” No, I saw the team coming to the conclusion that Cerberus might try to CONTINUE making a Reaper through organic milkshakes, just one that they could control to then fight the Reapers with (aka, the “Let Them Fight” strategy). THAT is what even Miranda was disgusted by.

    And can you disagree with that idea? Isn’t that exactly the sort of thing that Cerberus has been doing the entire game? Meanwhile, the Renegade position is “Yeah, go ahead and build a friendly Reaper, that might be the only way to beat them in the end.”

    • Daimbert says:

      Or even, taking into account the “We’re not ready” comments, that giving any party that has an interest in defeating any enemies the ability to sacrifice thousands of people in order to build a massive weapon that can take on, at least in theory, the bulk of the main battle fleets of most of the races is not a good idea. Only the most paragon of people WON’T be tempted to do that in order to dominate their neighbours, and given the threat of the Reapers wiping everyone else out only a complete and total SAINT wouldn’t be tempted to use it to build a few Reapers to help stave them off, arguing against trading off thousands or even millions to save billions. TIM is certainly not to be trusted with this, because even if you happen to trust him doing that sort of thing is pretty much his mission statement. The Salarians and Turians were flat-out and even enthusiastically willing to make the Krogan infertile because they were a similar threat, and the Asari haven’t actually demonstrated themselves to be sufficiently above it all, so that leaves out the Council races — except for the humans, who are, well, pretty certain to use it badly as well. Who do you give it to?

      A renegade might think “We can use this to stop the Reapers” … but then you might as well give it to TIM as anyone else. At least TIM will be honest about his desire to use it for that purpose, so you know that if you give it to him he WILL do it. Since giving it to anyone almost guarantees that use, you only don’t destroy the base if you’re willing to have it be used for that purpose. Otherwise, you do.

  21. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    From my review of Mass Effect 3 on facebook, dated 22 May 2012:

    “Everyone’s complained about “We fight or we die” from the opening scene -truthfully, that’s actually fairly defensible. He’s trying to put some steel in the spine of the Joint Chiefs as they freak out about the reaper invasion. It’s cliche and not terribly helpful, but it at least makes some sense in context. But there are other ones which are far worse. Sometimes, it seems like Shepard has forgotten events from prior games.

    It is worse at the very end. When facing down the indoctrinated TIM, Shepard says we aren’t meant to try to control the reapers. TIM responds that he doesn’t believe that -why shouldn’t we do it? And Shepard’s response is “we aren’t ready for it” I wanted to hit him. Either we can’t control the reapers or we can. Either we should or we shouldn’t. There is no “when we’re ready” involved. Guys, consult the final conversation with Saren from ME1, you know how to do this properly.

    And while I’m ranting on this topic, would someone please sit down and discuss these types of moral arguments with someone who has demonstrated the ability to make them. Shepard’s moral reasoning skills would have been dismantled by Polemarchus -while drunk and engaged in an orgy with Alcibiades. Socrates, Shepard ain’t…I mean, there are serious and interesting moral questions to ponder and debate about the use and abuse of power, and the risks of assuming godlike powers of god. Before you embarass yourself with lines of dialogue like “I don’t believe that” and “we’re not ready,” crack your Bibles to the first 3 chapters of Genesis, or the fourth book of Republic, or the third book of Nicomachean Ethics. Hell, pull Neitzsche’s Genealogy of Morals off the shelf and read the first essay. He’d improve your villains, too.”

    I saw it clearly in the third game -I more or less didn’t notice it the first time, but I think that might have been the above-mentioned metagaming. I wanted to destroy the base to keep it out of anyone else’s hands, and especially Cerberus -but that is head-canon, not text in the game.

    • Daimbert says:

      I can easily see the “we’re not ready” lines as being similar to Kosh’s reaction to the anti-agapic in Babylon 5, that required killing another person in order to produce the element needed to make it work. The Warmaster said that the races would be killing each other just to produce the anti-agapic, and she was probably right. Kosh’s response was, essentially, to stop any possibility of that in the hope that at some point they could get there without having to — or wanting to — kill everyone else to do it.

      • Mike S. says:

        Though we pretty much have to rely on the Vorlons’ vast knowledge to believe that a) something that current science could produce once can’t be done again, especially given the knowledge that it exists, and b) that the process really, truly, relies only on sapient beings and can’t possibly even in principle be shifted to an animal source, at least not before we’ve killed billions over it. (Really? Humans can get whatever-it-is from a Minbari or a Drazi, but not from a much more closely-related cow or pig?)

        That’s the premise, of course. (And granted, science in B5 is explicitly vitalist in a way that real science isn’t. Given that “life force” exists, it’s less off the charts to suggest that the life force of sapient beings is somehow special.) But it’s pretty much the universe insisting on a diabolus ex machina to drive the solution.

        • ehlijen says:

          ‘We’re not ready’ is a common trope in scifi, actually.

          Star Trek’s prime directive was all about not bothering people before they ‘were ready’. Though you could argue that that’s a practical determination of ‘ready’ rather than a spiritual one (once they’re flying around at warp, trying to hide from the becomes impossible), it’s very often framed more spiritual than that.

          SG-1 had the Knox, the Tollen and the Asgard all declare that ‘humanity wasn’t ready’ at various points and shouldn’t be trusted with weapons tech. (To be fair, humans are the kind of jerks who’ll blow up a solar system to assassinate their enemy in that show. I wouldn’t give those guys superweapons!)

          Farscape revolved around technology the universe wasn’t ready for, ie wormholes, and actually demonstrated why in the fiery finale.

          It’s the implicit message of Jurassic Park regarding genetic technology.

          And it was around when Asimov finally decided to buck the trend and write robot stories that don’t end up with a mechanical uprising just because.

          • Mike S. says:

            Oh, I know it’s a common trope. It’s just one that annoys me. It’s patronizing (since while the people making the declaration may be hyperintelligent pandimensional beings, it’s ultimately the judgment of an all-too-human author), and it generally runs against the way science works. If one person or team can come up with something, then odds are another working in the same milieu can manage it eventually. Especially given the clue that it’s possible and general parameters of the problem. The number of things that can be delayed more than a few years– or at most decades– by the lone genius deep-sixing their research or being blown up is pretty small.

            (The more general Prime Directive says that things like the Peace Corps and Doctors without Borders shouldn’t exist, and that we should be embargoing cell phones from less developed countries till they figure out how to make them themselves. Which, no.)

            • INH5 says:

              On the other hand, the Prime Directive isn’t too far off from most governments’ official policies towards uncontacted tribes. That is, they tend to leave them alone apart from occasionally flying over them with a plane to check on their status and location. But then, the situation isn’t quite the same since most if not all “uncontacted” tribes are aware of the existence of the industrialized world and have on some level chosen not to contact it, often because previous incidents of contact have been unpleasant, to say the least. Some, like the Sentinelese, go as far as to attack any approaching outsiders. As far as I know (I haven’t watched much Star Trek), the Prime Directive doesn’t give pre-Warp civilizations a choice, since the Federation doesn’t make its existence known to them.

              • Mike S. says:

                The Sentinelese are fascinating, and I’d love to know what the world looks like to them. (Unremittingly hostile, presumably. But what stories do they tell about ships and helicopters and the people in them?)

                I wonder if, as drones and small passive surveillance devices get smaller and less conspicuous (and cheaper, so that losing one isn’t half the research grant), there’ll be an effort to use them to study uncontacted groups. I’m sure that the proposition will be very controversial, and I don’t know how it’s likely to come out, but I’m equally sure it’ll be raised at some point.

                (“Do you ever feel like you’re being watched over by a distant entity that weighs your every action?” “Oh, yeah– that’s just the anthropologists. Don’t pay any attention to them. Though if you can find one of their totems and smash it with a rock, it’s full of cool wire and some really clear crystals. See my new burning glass?”)

        • daveNYC says:

          It works there because:
          1) The Vorlons are setup as freaky ancient beings that everyone is sort of in awe of. Plus, half the stuff Kosh says makes little sense, so a straight answer like “You’re not ready.” makes an impact.

          2) The magic drug is stated as having been designed as a revenge mechanism by the evil doctor lady. She was pretty clear that her plan was for all the races to start harvesting people in order to produce the immortality drug.

          The thing about the control option for the Reapers was, why wouldn’t you just control them into the nearest sun? If you wanted them dead, and didn’t want to nuke the Geth (and potentially Quarrians, maybe) in the process, control seemed like a viable option. Assuming you didn’t think that it was a trap.

          • Mike S. says:

            I think a lot of that is the whole limitation of choices that any CRPG has to have (because it can’t anticipate everything). So Control is limited to actually commanding the Reapers in place because there’s no way to come up with everything any Shepard might conceivably want to do with total authority over a bunch of living dreadnoughts. (“First off, I want a solid gold reproduction of my apartment on the Citadel, scaled for a Reaper. And a statue of my human form the size of a moon.”)

            Even internally, it’s as plausible as anything else about the endings (yeah) that once your consciousness is merged with that of a Reaper, destroying all Reapers doesn’t seem like a hot idea. You may still be guided by Shepard’s consciousness, but you’re still an inhuman creature coming to terms with the knowledge and instincts of a billion-year-old monstrosity in its head.

          • guy says:

            Honestly, I saw no particular reason to destroy the Reapers if they actually could be controlled; it seemed more than a little dubious that controlling them would actually be possible, but if it works then there are all kinds of useful things you can do with them even if you don’t want to play galactic police.

            • Mike S. says:

              Given that the ending plays Control entirely straight, I can’t say you’re wrong. But while I’ve tried all the available endings, in my heart I can’t see Control as other than the equivalent of ending The Lord of the Rings with Aragorn putting on the Ring at Sauron’s bequest and using the Ringwraiths and armies of Mordor for constructive purposes. The entire trilogy (right up to the scene just before you make the choice) was all about how the Reapers subvert and brainwash anyone who tries to use them.

              (AIs have a dispensation for some reason– EDI, the geth with the Reaper code– but organics, never.)

              Choosing Control feels exactly like believing Morinth when she tells Shepard they have the strength of will to survive her Ardat-Yakshi abilities. Like the game is asking “were you even paying attention?”

              But then Reaper Shepard goes and creates galactic peace and prosperity with the Reaper fleet. Go figure.

    • Daimbert says:

      This does clear up the choice they expected you to make, though, as most of the initial comments focus on keeping the base around to do what Harbinger was trying to do in making the Baby Reaper, not just keeping the information and, say, ditching that part. And even in the final comments, pretty much everyone makes the quite reasonable comment that maybe you shouldn’t have or can’t trust TIM with that information and power, while those who support keeping it seem to be focused on it being under your/their control.

      In one sense, this makes more sense, then, but it still cries out for a simple explanation of why not destroying it means that Cerberus will have it. That being said, chances are the writers expected you to think that if it still existed, TIM was going to do everything he possibly could to take it from you. Maybe you could hold them off … but somebody was probably going to die if you tried, and it wouldn’t get you anywhere in trying to stop the Reapers, so this doesn’t bother me as much as it does Shamus.

      • Decus says:

        Or it would be as simple as TIM pulling a “*puff* *pause* The pilot on that alliance vessel was under my employ from the beginning. *puff* *pause* And there were husks in the cargo hold to test the effects of husks murdering an entire crew mid-flight. From there retrieving the IFF you lent them was simple and I’ve since extracted everything necessary to build my own crazy baby reaper.”

        I’d cry foul on that for sure, but I cry foul-er on reasonable options–like handing things off to the Alliance–not existing in the first place. Reasonable options not existing hurts Shepard as a character, whereas TIM being bullshit just hurts TIM as a character. TIM will always be bullshit, but ideally Shepard would not be struck with plot stupidity. Or they’d provide more concrete details to explain why he/she wasn’t.

  22. skulgun says:

    >ethics of using (say) Nazi medial research.

    However, Nazi extremity research was completely ethical, 10/10 Holocaust survivors agree.

  23. ehlijen says:

    I think this choice is the game trying to get back to its robo-Chtuhlu roots:

    Forbidden knowledge driving you insane and possibly making you a pawn of the elder gods is an established theme in the lovecraft mythos.

    Throw in that we saw what happened to Cerberus’ other attempt to research reaper technology (husk central), there are valid concerns about leaving this base intact.

    But that just isn’t supported by what Shepard is saying, as Shamus points out, and it’s too late in this story for that. We’ve had too much technobabble trying to explain the reapers, we’ve installed and used reaper tech on our own ship without apparent drawback and EDI’s constant ability to analyze things through the telephone is robbing the setting of any mystery it might have (save ‘what was the writer thinking’ moments).

    Your mission in ME1 was to find out information about the reapers because we’re doomed if we don’t. In ME2, you’re supposed to find out how icky that knowledge is and decide to defeat robo-chtuhlu without risking your sanity.

    That could have worked, if the writers had just tried to actually make the games coherent. But as Shamus has shown, that’s not the case. So instead you get:
    TIM: Give me knowledge, it’s power!
    Shepard: But knowledge is evil!
    Garrus: But didn’t we come here for knowledge?
    Tali: Yeah, you said we were doing this to stop the reapers.
    Shepard: TIM is the bigger threat!
    Miranda: Yup.
    Jack: WTF?????
    Grunt: Anyone else hungry?

  24. Sean Riley says:

    Please tell me you’re going to publish this whole thing as a book when you’re done, Shamus.

  25. Rodyle says:

    So, I wanted to bring this up before, but I forgot to do so. Did anyone else really hate the romancing systems in both 1 and two? My experiences are like this:

    In game one, I played a friendly guy/footstool. I talked to my crew members and generally tried to not be a dick to anyone. Then suddenly, halfway through the game, Liara and Whatshername walk up to me and say: “you gotta pick me or her” and I was really confused. I did not know which actions I chose had led to both being flagged as romanced; I had just picked options which were generally positive, but not romantic in any way.
    In the second game, more or less the same happened. I liked Jack as a character. She was damaged and deranged, yes, but there was a good person beneath that. My Shepard tried to help her be less completely edge all the bloody time and start to actually trust people. Then suddenly she accused me of leading her on and things got weird from that point.

    Am I just such a social maladjusted person (yes, yes I am ) that I didn't see those options as romantic, or are the people at Bioware not aware that a man can be friendly with a lady without wanting to get into her knickers, or in the case of Jack: suspenders?

    EDIT: Whups, messed up a bracket.

    EDIT2:
    Some more thoughts on the subject:
    I think it is a real shame that the start of these romances have such clunky buildups, since I do believe that some of them have some real emotional payoff. I loved the scene with Thane especially, since it feels real (for those who like Thane, Critical Miss did a really good comic on that romance) . (the dialogue, at least. Some of the acting is a bit off, and the animation is somewhere between hilarious, the uncanny valley and just plain bad. For example: why is Garrus still wearing his visor on his date with FemShep? Why does he suddenly do have a uniform which is not shot?) But these things cannot just be about the payoff; the story of how you get there is just as, if not more important. So why did Bioware skimp on this?

    Also: Shamus, you have more or less avoided talking about the romances so far. Is this an intentional decision?

    Just a bonus: one of the best suggestions on what’s behind Tali’s mask!

    • Mike S. says:

      My experience was similar (Kaidan and Liara pulling the “pick one” in ME1 when I thought Shepard was just being friendly, Jack winding up answering in monosyllables). I suspect this[1] is why more recent Bioware games put up giant neon signs “THIS IS THE FLIRTY/ROMANTIC RESPONSE”, “IF YOU TAKE THIS ACTION YOU WILL BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THIS PERSON!!!”. Which is a little (a lot) handholdy, but at least it’s clear.

      [1] Well, and the bit in DA2 where Anders is mildly annoyed if you rebuff him. Which a subset of players seem to have gone ballistic over.

      • Rodyle says:

        But someone at Bioware must have been in a relationship in some point in their lives. They must know that relationships do not work like this or do they? I am genuinely asking. You don’t just go from friendly banter to “yup… So… Wanna make out?”.

        • Christopher says:

          That’s an unfair thing to say about them. Fiction isn’t real life, and games are very systematic. Even in a game with a bunch of focus on dialogue, awkward 3d models and this kind of conversation system is always gonna make human emotion a bit weird, especially since there’s less abstraction compared to a visual novel or sprites or something like that.

          The Mass Effect games were bad at it, but I liked the Iron Bull relationship in Inquisition a great deal. It lasts a much longer part of the game, for one thing, and it is very clear about having conversation options marked as flirty and asking you what you want to do. Mass Effect 1 was the worst because it’s the Bioware game I have played that had the least character stuff and is the shortest, so relationships progressed oddly.

          • Rodyle says:

            It’s harsh, but not unfair. A company that prides themselves on their characters, such as Bioware has been doing for a long time now, should not be getting the basics of human interactions this wrong.

            As for romancing in the other Bioware games: I wouldn’t know. I can’t remember that much about KOTOR and of the Dragon Age games I only played Origins, in which I played the most antisocial and ugly Elfmofo possible.

            • ehlijen says:

              That’s assuming bioware was trying to simulate real life people, not action movie characters.

              I’m pretty sure part of the blame falls on the weird feedback effect that started with putting romantic subplots into action b-movies.

              If you’ve got only 90 minutes to go from ‘just met’ to ‘making out/boinking’ (depending on the rating) in your romance plot, you’re going to have to either question what you’re doing (yeah, right) or take shortcuts.

              And some people actually do go from friendly chat to boinking very quickly. So the problem for me was never that it was in the game (though opting out should have been a bit easier), but rather how much of it was in the game. It stopped being a thing said about a specific character and started suggesting that was the norm when it wasn’t. Suddenly half your crew were sex driven hormone fiends. (And the one specifically denoted as being a teen in puberty wasn’t even one of them! >:( )

              But of course you can’t just have ‘the one sex-positive character’ in an AAA game, or you’ll be excluding everyone who wants such a character but isn’t attracted to this specific one.

              I don’t really want to get into discussing the merits or drawbacks of exclusivity at all costs, I’d just like to say that in a game where you only get one pun loving adolescent brute to be on your team, I would have had no issue with only one leisure suit larry type team member as well. Make ‘likes sex’ an actual character trait that helps make NPCs unique, not an entry requirement. It feels a bit like TIM was just browsing dating sites when he prepared your team roster.

              • Mike S. says:

                “Oh, crap. Why are my next ten dates with a bunch of heavily scarred commandos? *sigh*– I switched the dossiers, didn’t I?”

                (“… I hope Shepard does okay with the asari in the low-cut leather and the hot drell.”)

    • Bas L. says:

      I agree. To be honest, they do seem to know how a romance should work in one instance. They gave us Kelly Chambers.
      While she’s a minor character and the romance is pretty bland, it’s the only one that actually has some decent build-up and could work IRL.
      You flirt a lot, she shows concern over your wellbeing, and after a lot of even more flirting you have an actual date where you just eat together. Only after the SM will you be able to actually invite her to your cabin, and arguably the real romance only starts in ME3 where you again need to come back to her multiple times to secure it.

      This is why I’d like Bioware to just focus on two (one for each gender) romances but make them more fleshed out. But of course a (frighteningly) large part of the fanbase are people who buy these games for the (alien//different/etc.) romances. I guess that’s cool, it’s just not for me.

      • Lachlan the Mad says:

        They do seem to have put a lot more thought into each individual romance in Dragon Age: Inquisition. If anything, the straight human romance options in that game are by far the most dull. Of course, this came at the cost of the main story; the effort put into the writing seems to be divided between about 95% character development and about 5% main plot (it’s actually kind of like ME2 in that sense).

    • Mark says:

      Re: Tali’s mask, I prefer this one.

  26. newdarkcloud says:

    There’s a funny thing about the whole Miranda/Jack.

    When I first played Mass Effect 2, I did Miranda’s loyalty mission first. I got on the ship and did the followup scene with her in her cabin. In that scene, she does express doubts about some of the things Cerberus does, explicitly listing what they did to Jack as one of those things.

    Then, I completed Jack’s loyalty mission. Suddenly, Jack rampages in Miranda’s cabin saying “She won’t admit that what Cerberus did to me was wrong.” I distinctly recall sitting there for a moment, pondering what Jack just said. Miranda told me, literally one mission ago, that she feels some regret about what they did to Jack. Now, she’s butting heads with Jack about this very same thing.

    Fortunately, I had enough Paragon points to avoid picking sides, but I was just baffled with that scene.

    Honestly, I find the Legion/Tali fight just slightly less arbitrary than that, but that’s outside the scope of this post.

    • daveNYC says:

      I can do that one better. I completed Jack’s loyalty mission after I did the suicide mission, and I had gone with the Paragon ending (because I wouldn’t trust Cerberus with a Lego set, much less a base of Reaper tech). So basically immediately after I tell TIM to get bent, and Miranda quits without giving two weeks notice, I’m now watching Miranda defending Cerberus’ advanced child torture base.

      And I was probably like you, just watching and going, “But you quit those guys, why are you suddenly defending them again?”

    • Chris says:

      I actually think it’s kind of realistic and believable that Miranda might privately confide in Shephard (whom she trusts) her concerns about what Cerberus did to Jack, yet completely stonewall with Jack. Being inconsistent and dishonest because of pride and stubbornness seems genuinely human to me.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        I think you’re right, but it would be nice if the game acknowledged that and gave Shepard an opportunity to call her out on her behavior. Miranda being petty or having a superiority complex isn’t really the problem, the problem is the game insisting that she’s super amazing XO material even when she demonstrates that she probably isn’t. Though, since she is the main liaison to Cerberus, I guess her being untouchable does make some kind of sense, the Illusive Man probably wouldn’t take kindly to his right-hand woman being undermined, but that just leads us right back to the problem of ‘why am I being forced to work for these idiots’.

  27. Mike S. says:

    Remember that EDI herself is Reaper tech, and she’s invaluable.

    I really think EDI is the Chekhov’s Gun that doesn’t go off. There should have been a chance that she, like every other AI ever encountered by organics (including her first time round) would go off the rails. Shepard’s treatment of her and dialog choices while talking to her (and maybe Joker’s during the segment he’s under player control) should determine whether EDI thinks that it’s possible to develop ties with humans, heads off on her own (with some doubletalk way of getting out of the Normandy and replaced by a VI so the devs don’t have to make a new ship), or throws in with the Reapers a la the geth.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      She ends up that way, but I don’t think the writers intended her to be one, in the same way they didn’t intend for Cerberus to reach Saturday monring cartoon villain levels of incompetent evil. The game doesn’t even give your character an option to say “Hey, maybe this EDI thing is a bad idea”, and I took that as an out-of-character sign that it would all work out fine.

      I think the fact that that was my reaction indicates my level of engagement with ME2. “Hey, I wanted to say perfectly-reasonable thing X and the game won’t let me. Eh, I guess that means X won’t ever matter in the plot.”

      • Mike S. says:

        What they intended with Cerberus really seems to be a matter of multiple writers producing incoherence. In ME1 they were one-dimensional cardboard villains, half of whose plot was left lying on the ground. (Remember Anderson’s dark talk about Armistan Banes? Bioware never did.) In ME2 they’re all over the place– it’s impossible to consistently treat them as Hard Guys Who Do The Things No One Else Dares even if it isn’t nice or as villains who have Shepard over a barrel or as villains Shepard is infiltrating. (As a resident defender of ME2, I can only throw up my hands and suggest working out a headcanon.) In ME3 the leadership is half cartoon villain, half tragic tale of indoctrination, while the rank-and-file are all indoctrinated slaves (who Shepard never takes a second to feel bad about the necessity of setting on fire).

        Likewise with EDI. They bothered to put in the “half-Sovereign, half killer Luna AI” for some reason. But it never actually matters, either plotwise (“I can spoof Reapers thanks to being able to fake Sovereign’s telemetry!”) or to her character. So what’s the narrative purpose of not just having her be a standard AI?

  28. Flip says:

    One thing that I always found odd is that the cutscene you get after you give TIM the base shows him looking at a holographic display of Cerberus ships flying towards the base.

    Does this mean that Cerberus ships are literally now closing in on the base? If yes, that means they got through the Omega 4 Relay, which begs the question: Why did Cerberus not give us a few frigates, just in case we encounter heavy resistance? Why did we collect all these crew members and upgrade our ship for the suicide mission if we only needed the IFF that TIM had his science team extract before he sent us to the Collector trap? Why did we even focus on collecting a crew when instead it would’ve been more sensible to first find a way through the Relay?

    Or is TIM looking at something that might happen in the future? If so, why? Does he want to bask in his own brilliance?
    ___

    Also, I would like to mention something that Shamus hasn’t really touched upon but which I think should be mentioned: the downgrade of the post-mission round-table with your crew.

    In ME1 you get a round-table discussion on the Normandy after Therum, Feros, Noveria and Virmire. These discussions allow the characters to interact with each other and they allow the characters to figure out parts of the story by themselves. They give the impression that your entire crew is involved in the hunt and that they don’t just stand on the Normandy the whole time. They even allow for some characterization, like when Ashley gets bitchy and says: “Who put you in charge? Did the commander resign when I wasn’t looking?” and they act as a setup for the council conversations and the choose-your-romance-scene.

    Contrast this to ME2. You don’t talk to your team mates first, you talk to TIM, who gives out exposition by decree and imposes plot development on you. Then you get a very short conversation with Jacob and Miranda and (sometimes) Mordin. These conversations don’t do much. I think the only somewhat relevant thing you learn is that the Collectors live in the galactic core. Oh, and you can sell Legion.

    I know, I know, this is a game where you may or may not have most characters at any point in the story. Still, they made stand-ins for lots of characters for ME3. It wouldn’t hurt the game if some characters had the same lines so that they could act as stand-ins for each other. And in ME1, they modified these conversations for when you haven’t recruited Liara yet.

    Or am I just the only one who cares about this part of the game?

  29. Community
    Enterprise for
    Research and
    Base
    Equipment of
    Rogue
    Units in
    Space

  30. Xaos says:

    Speaking of Mass Effect 3, I just checked. Mr. Btongue’s epic ME3 ending video was taken down by CBS. Bullshit!

  31. King Feraligatr says:

    I personally have been working on a total Rewrite of the series after ME1 for a while and would love some feedback. I still consider it in pre planning phases and I find many things are open to change. I also have many things I have not written down as I’m lazy :( .

    Links about some of the stuff in my Rewrite (RP is dead for now):

    http://me3explorer.freeforums.org/king-feraligatr-s-mass-effect-2-and-3-total-rewrite-thread-t1901.html

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=14480731110A55107100&page=0

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=14432354360A43358500&page=1

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/posts.php?discussion=14433342990A41975200&page=1#1

    Anyone care to give me constructive (not telling me I’m an idiot and the like) criticism on the ideas I have?

  32. natureguy85 says:

    While her total rejection of Cerberus is still jarring, Miranda does show more loyalty to Shepard throughout the story, which is how I viewed her turn at the end. She starts out questioning if the Lazarus project was worthwhile, despite what she says in the intro. If Shepard isn’t romancing anyone, you’ll get a nice scene with Miranda before heading into the Omega 4 relay where she will encourage Shepard, smile, and salute.

  33. Tombsite says:

    I have never, NOT, blown up the base. And the reason is really quite simple.It was my first and only opportunity to say “F you” to TIM.
    I had spend the entirety of my first play through trying to get away from Cerberus or some how bring them down, only to be screwed over by lack of obvious dialog options every time. The catharsis from blowing up the base, just to spite TIM, went a long way to sweeten my memories of ME2.

  34. Guile says:

    On the upside, it felt like a great payoff in my game. I handed over the base to TIM on the grounds that at least SOMEBODY is going to figure this Reaper shit out even if he personally annoyed the piss out of me.

    And then he ends up Indoctrinated in Mass Effect 3! Oops, I thought. I just fucked over hundreds of thousands of people by turning TIM evil-er by giving the Reapertech a chance to indoctrinate him.

    Except apparently he does the same actions anyway, even if you go Paragon Stupid and blow up his fancy base? … God damn it Bioware.

  35. Jim says:

    Not sure if it’s worth mentioning, but the jarring tonal shift is evident on the box of ME2. Look at the two covers: For ME, there are cool blues, fitting in with the visual design of the universe, as well as the distinctive ME1 Heavy Armour (a design I wish I could have accessed in the other games), a tangible sense of mystery (what is that eldritch-looking writing? who is staring so menacingly from the top of the cover?) and at least some hint that this is a sci-fi exploration game (maybe I’m stretching a bit too far). ME2’s cover features orange, a closeup of Shepard holding a smoking gun, and not much else.

    More distinct than the covers, to me at least, are the logos. Mass Effect’s curving, silver/grey text in decidedly in-line with the tone of the game. ME2’s bold ‘2’ on a gritty red background with scratches and scarring is also decidedly in-line with what that game tried to be. The two together, as shown on the ME2 box, epitomises what that game is: a jangled mess of conflicting ideals.

  36. Russell McNay says:

    Given your take on the main quest for Fable 2, and the disturbing similarity to what happens in Mass Effect 2, I think that that the guy wrote Fable 2’s main quest also wrote the main quest/story for Mass Effect 2. It reads as being just as terrible as you described Fable 2 to being.

    It explains perfectly why ME2 main story is lousy and offers plenty of examples of how much like it is to Fable 2’s main story.

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