Mass Effect Retrospective 32: No Take-Backs

By Shamus
on Jan 27, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

As with Mass Effect 2, I’m going to be referring to the writers as if they were a single individual. In reality, each game was written by a team of people that shared some difficult-to-quantify overlap with the other teams. So yes, I realize that “The Mass Effect 3 Writer” isn’t actually a single person, but for convenience that’s how I’ll refer to them.

This is for the sake of my own sanity. The question of “Why?” lurks behind every plot hole, every retcon, and every implausible character beat. What happened to Mass Effect? Why did the story change so radically? Part of me wants to put up a bulletin board of photographs and newspaper clippings, forming lines between them with bits of yarn, obsessively toiling over this puzzle until I can crack the case and figure out Who Killed Mass Effect.

But that’s a fool’s errand. We don’t know what was said in the writer’s room. We don’t know what kind of pressures the writing team was put under, or what sort of ideas were imposed on them from the outside. We could just as easily end up cursing the name of an overworked writer who, in reality, did the best they could with the time and material given to them and who might even agree with a lot of this analysis.

Wow. The writer decided to take the story to Earth? I can`t wait to see what the political and cultural situation is there. Imagine the stories they`ll tell about how the world works in the future. How does life on Earth compare to life on the Citadel? This is going to be amazing.

Wow. The writer decided to take the story to Earth? I can`t wait to see what the political and cultural situation is there. Imagine the stories they`ll tell about how the world works in the future. How does life on Earth compare to life on the Citadel? This is going to be amazing.

Moreover, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to be done. It doesn’t matter who broke this story, or why. In the end, you can’t “take back” Mass Effect because not even the authors themselves have the power to do that. For good or for ill, this is the story we got. The point of this series isn’t to identify the guilty or single them out to be the focus of the widespread nerdrage the surrounds this franchise. The point is to put all the nagging issues to rest, simply by identifying and acknowledging them. We can’t fix the problems, but we can catalog them, and that brings a sort of calming sense of order to the madness and offers a grudging kind of closure. This is about moving on by way of clearing up all the questions that might be preventing us from doing so. I don’t know about you, but when this series is over I will be well and truly out of things to say about Mass Effect.

U Mad?

No problem, James. I apparently don`t have anything important or time-sensitive going on.

No problem, James. I apparently don`t have anything important or time-sensitive going on.

I said at the start of Mass Effect 2 that it wasn’t a horrible game, and that I wasn’t angry. I feel less sure about both of those statements this time around. Parts of this game are pretty horrible, and the failures do make me mad sometimes. We’re still talking the story apart and looking for problems, but this time the problems are more more pronounced, more numerous, and more baffling.

I suppose it’s not good to get mad at a videogame, but my anger doesn’t come from the fact that the game wasn’t everything I wanted. I mean, I thought Deus Ex: Invisible War and Master of Orion 3 were pretty huge disappointments, but I didn’t write novel-sized reviews enumerating their flaws. No, what angered me in Mass Effect 3 was how many problems are shockingly obvious and easily avoided. The problems with the game aren’t bugs, or janky assets, or asset recycling, or padding, or any of the other problems you might expect from a game that ran low on budget and time. Mass Effect 3 could have been drastically better for no additional expense. It was a game that was exceedingly weak in exactly the areas where the original was strong.

I’ve said before that if Phantom Menace had just been a random sci-fi movie and not a STAR WARS movie that it wouldn’t have drawn nearly so much rage. It would be a Fifth Element kind of thing: Campy, illogical, but otherwise inoffensive space opera with pretty visuals and fun action. We wouldn’t be outraged over the many plot holes or annoying characters (Ruby Rod and Jar-jar) because we’d be happy Hollywood threw us sci-fi nerds a bone this year.

Likewise, if Mass Effect 3 had been an off-brand Gears of War knock-off, we probably would have given it credit for being, “Pretty smart, for a shooter.” But this isn’t some random shooter. This was supposed to be something special. This franchise originally stood in stark contrast to the lowbrow bombast of stuff like Quake, Gears of War, Dead Space, Space Marine, or Bulletstorm. This was the conclusion to the Mass Effect franchise. This was the “Star Trek” of videogames. We weren’t just mad at the game we got. We were mad because of the game we didn’t get. The game we would now never get.

Previously we could look at Mass Effect 2 as this awkward bridge as the series transformed from middlebrow science fiction to broad action adventure. But now the transformation is complete and it turns out that the writer isn’t really sure how to make action adventure, either.

We Still Have The Original

It looks like Commander Shepard, yet this screenshot of Mass Effect 1 feels like something from a completely different franchise.

It looks like Commander Shepard, yet this screenshot of Mass Effect 1 feels like something from a completely different franchise.

Sometimes when you criticise a book or a movie or a game that stands as a sequel to an earlier, better work, you’ll hear the defense, “What’s the big deal? It’s not like they burned the earlier stuff. They still exist and they’re still as good as ever!”

Let’s set aside the problem that, “You can pretend it doesn’t exist if you want” is a really sad thing to say in defense of a work. The more important point is that it isn’t actually true. Terrible sequels can and do harm our enjoyment of their predecessors. This is particularly true if the sequel is a continuation of a story begun by the earlier work. If some hack takes over for Tolkien and writes a version of The Two Towers where it’s revealed that Gandalf is actually a fool and a liar, then our perception of the first book will be changed.

In Fellowship of the Ring, there’s a scene where Gandalf and Frodo sit in front of the fire at Bag EndIn the movies this was compressed into the scene where Gandalf jump-scares Frodo and asks him, “Is it secret? Is it safe?” and Gandalf slowly reveals the history of the ring and the danger it poses not just to Frodo, but to the whole world. By the end Frodo’s perception of his place in the world has dramatically shifted, and he realizes that the seeming safety and calm of the Shire is an illusion, and that he is naked and helpless in the face of an implacable enemy capable of dominating armies. His wise and powerful friend is even more wise and powerful than he ever understood, and yet still far too weak to defend him from this looming threat.

But in light of the alternate version of Two Towers, the scene loses everything that makes it special. The revelations that seemed so profound are just stories. The feeling of looming danger is dispelled and replaced with the mild irritation that this massive exposition dump is now a waste of time because none of it is true or meaningful.

I am no longer Gandalf the Grey. I am now Gandalf the slightly off-white.

I am no longer Gandalf the Grey. I am now Gandalf the slightly off-white.

When the reader returns to the beloved first book, their natural curiosity from within the story leads them to wonder about the future and how the story will turn out. Through this contemplation they are reminded of the revelations in the second book and how it diminishes the impact of this one. They are at the same time compelled to look forward and yet unable to do so. What should they do? Compose their own end to the story to take the place of this unsatisfying one? Indeed, you can see people doing exactly that.

But if you’re mentally sorting through multiple works and trying to build some sort of coherent story by picking and choosing among their elements, then you are very much stuck in the Primary World. Your sense of immersion is gone, and you’re left with the thankless task of cleaning up the mess left by a careless author. The best outcome you can hope for is to purge the later works from your mind and accept that the beloved original will be left forever incomplete, its questions unanswered, its characters abandoned, and its problems left unsolved.

Which is to say that yes, terrible sequels can ruin what came before. Mass Effect 1 is no longer a story where Commander Shepard embarks on a journey of discovery that will show him how to win reprieve or salvation from the Old Gods that are coming to unmake civilization itself for reasons beyond our comprehension. It’s a story about an apathetic galaxy that doesn’t want or deserve to be saved. It’s a story where the galaxy has been wiped clean by drooling idiots who cause the problem they were designed to solve and who only win because their guns are biggest. It’s a story where Shepard pointlessly works with and then fights against a Cobra Commander style supervillain instead of keeping his mind on the more important problem of learning about the Reapers. It’s a story that ends in the worst sort of Deus Ex Machina: One that ends the story but fails to conclude it.

Mass Effect 1 is the Best Part of Mass Effect 3

Sure, moments like this are great. But they`re not great because of anything that the Mass Effect 3 writer did.

Sure, moments like this are great. But they`re not great because of anything that the Mass Effect 3 writer did.

Just as Mass Effect 2 was a nonsensical mess intercut with fantastic character pieces, Mass Effect 3 is an absurd disaster of a story intercut with wonderful vignettes about how the various species resolved their original differences before coming together and having all of their hard work rendered moot. It’s not a good game with a bad ending. It’s a towering heap of juvenile action schlock with no understanding of tone, themes, genre, pacing, or even rudimentary story structure, but with solid mechanics and a couple of really good side-missions.

People defend Mass Effect 3 by saying they liked the resolution to the Krogan genophage story. Or the resolution to the Quarian / Geth conflict. And those stories are indeed interesting, smart, and reactive to player choice. But they have no connection to the main story. At the end, some people agree to join your cause, and that cause could have been anything. They didn’t need to be attached to this sophomoric tripe. Battlefield Earth wouldn’t be a good movie if you inserted a couple of popular Star Trek episodes into its runtime.

All of the problems with the Mass Effect 2 story are repeated here, only to a greater degree. The human characters take center stage, overshadowing both the antagonist and (at times) protagonist. The main character has even less agency this time around. The attempts at pathos are so crude and clumsy they become offensive.

Yes, the resolution to the Quarian / Geth storyline is great, and so is the conclusion of the Genophage. Same goes for those final character moments at the end when you say goodbye to Garrus, Liara, and Tali for the last time. But those are things introduced and built up in the first game. Mass Effect 1 made the investments so that those stories paid off. This is what you get from careful and patient worldbuilding: Stories with a ton of personal, emotional, and thematic heft. You get groovy stuff like catharsis, meaning, and closure.

In contrast: What did we get from Aria? The Collectors? Kai Leng? The Human Reaper? Sure, there were some stories there. But none of them led to the kind of payoff we got from the Mass Effect 1 storylines. Instead, radical new ideas were introduced (often with no sense of build-up) and were later forgotten without closure, or dissolved into nonsense.

Which is to say: The best parts of Mass Effect 3 – perhaps the only genuinely good parts of Mass Effect 3 – are only good because of the groundwork done by Mass Effect 1. Mass Effect 2 gave us a bunch of wonderful characters, but they’re mostly absent this time around, or demoted to side-charactersMy Mass Effect 3 squad was smaller than my Mass Effect 1 squad, which is really screwy since the middle game was all about assembling this massive roster of 10 or 12.. I don’t defend Mass Effect 3 because the Quarian and Krogan stories turned out so well. I condemn it because almost nothing else did.

I look at the dumb conversations with Aria or the stupid assault on Cerberus and think, “Why couldn’t this be as good as the mission to cure the Genophage?” The screen time is there. The art assets are there. The company spent the money, hired the actors, and scripted the cutscenes. The only thing wrong is that the script was a dreadful mess on every level.

Gameplay

Press (LEFT SHIFT) to run. And to stop running when you enter cover. And to exit cover. And to move between cover. And to grab items. And talk to people. And to activate things. And vault over obstacles. And jump over things. This game was apparently designed for the original one-button Atari joystick.

Press (LEFT SHIFT) to run. And to stop running when you enter cover. And to exit cover. And to move between cover. And to grab items. And talk to people. And to activate things. And vault over obstacles. And jump over things. This game was apparently designed for the original one-button Atari joystick.

I’ll give Mass Effect 3 this: I think they nailed the gameplay this time. The way the weights of different weapons will impact the cooldowns of your special abilities is a wonderful design decision. Weapon selection is now more nuanced than “figure out which gun has the best DPS”. Two characters with the same build might have totally different weapon loadouts, depending on playstyle.

The old linear skill trees have been replaced with branching skill trees that offer interesting tradeoffs. Do you want this attack to have a bigger blast radius, or higher single-target damage? Do you want to hit harder, or more often? Do you want to boost your own power, or your team’s?

On the other hand, the fact that one button is used to sprint, enter cover, exit cover, vault over cover, and interact with items is a pretty glaring flaw.

Still, if you were going to rip the story out of the entire Mass Effect series and judge it on its gameplay alone, Mass Effect 3 is the clear winner and Mass Effect 1 is the loser. This makes things somewhat difficult, since the reverse is true if you judge the series on any criteria related to the story.

It’s a videogame! Gameplay is all that matters! Therefore the game isn’t that bad.

It’s a BioWare story RPG! It’s all about the story! Therefore the game is a disaster.

On top of everything else, Mass Effect 3 is almost engineered to ignite flamewars.

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Footnotes:

[1] In the movies this was compressed into the scene where Gandalf jump-scares Frodo and asks him, “Is it secret? Is it safe?”

[2] My Mass Effect 3 squad was smaller than my Mass Effect 1 squad, which is really screwy since the middle game was all about assembling this massive roster of 10 or 12.



A Hundred!A Hundred!20202015There are more than 274 comments. But less than 276

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  1. Falterfire says:

    Speaking of the gameplay… The multiplayer mode in Mass Effect 3 is one of my favorite co-op modes ever. My only real problem with it is the garbage unlock system, to the point where it’s one of the only games where I’ve had more fun after cheating to unlock everything.

    I kinda wish they had done more with it in the main game. If you’re going to go to the trouble of designing gameplay and animations for all the different races, why not include side chapters where you fight for Thessia as an Asari or for Rannoch as a Quarian or Geth?

    Man, now I really want an XCOM:EU style strategy/tactical hybrid where instead of turn-based battles you have Mass Effect 3 multiplayer-based squads for the fighting. That would be awesome.

    • somebodys_kid says:

      Agreed about the multiplayer portion. I put over 600 hours into it since release primarily because the mechanics are so solid, and just simply playing is so enjoyable. Nothing else comes close. I hope the next Mass Effect doesn’t mess this part up…

    • GloatingSwine says:

      If Mass Effect 3’s co-op had a decent progression mechanic, I’d have played it for far longer than I did.

      And I played it a fair amount.

      More companies that want to engage players for the long term need to look at the progression systems in games like World of Tanks, where they’ve absolutely nailed the sense that the player can always have a short, medium, and long term goal and also reasonably connect the outcomes of their immediate gameplay to achieving those goals.

      Progression by opening CCG booster packs doesn’t let you feel like you’re intentionally making progress towards any goal other than “afford next booster pack”.

      Of course, it’s not as easy to be a predatory monetiser like EA with those systems because directly selling progress reduces the amount of time a player spends engaged and so shrinks your userbase. (Wargaming basically don’t care that 75-80% of players will never give them a penny, because they provide a large userbase that means that the proportion of the audience that does pay occasionally stays playing longer because the game is convenient to play and doesn’t shrink down to only an engaged hardcore who instantly mince noobs)

    • swenson says:

      Yeah, the multiplayer was a boatload of fun (still is, I suppose; every few months I still get the urge to go play a few rounds). The weekend events were also pretty fun for getting me out of my comfort zone–I would get very bogged down in a particular set of characters and powers, and they helped me break out of that and try new stuff.

      I played a bunch of different classes, of course, but I probably pumped the most time into krogan vanguard (the ultimate tank–just run around and punch everything to death while it futilely tries to damage you) and N7 Shadow (LIGHTNING SWORDS).

      I never got into playing any of the volus characters. I like high risk, high reward classes, but by the time I got my first volus character, I wasn’t playing all that much anymore.

    • John the Savage says:

      I remember putting in TONS of hours into the multiplayer for the first few months. My Salarian Engineer got me through some tight spots (even if tech bursts were way less consistent than biotic explosions). Then I had some life stuff that got in the way of video games for a while, and maybe a year later I came back to try it out again. I was excited about all the new content (characters, classes, weapons), but then I thought to myself, “Do I really want to grind my way through these levels to afford a chance to unlock this stuff?” Honestly, if I could just buy the characters and weapons from a store with in-game credits, I would be happy to put in all the time I needed to. But to spend all that time and effort, only to have an opportunity to play a slot machine?

      No.

      No no no no no.

      No. As much fun as the game may be, it’s not THAT fun.

      • Falterfire says:

        Oh yeah, the grinding was awful. Like I said, I eventually just cheated myself several billion credits and just bought Premium Specter Packs with that until I had everything (because apparently they had nothing server-side to prevent you from using client-side cheats to get free credits)

  2. Joe Informatico says:

    There’s one neat thing in ME3 that had its origins in ME2, and that’s Jack becoming an instructor at the Kahlee Sanders School for Gifted Biotics, Wolverine and the X-Men style. The Grissom Academy mission itself isn’t particularly interesting or special, but I thought that was a cool turn for the character: emotionally traumatized non-conformist finding her place in teaching young biotics. But Jack’s also the second-most interesting new squadmate introduced in ME2 (after Mordin, of course), so there’s that.

    • Mike S. says:

      I also liked the contrast of that mission played without Jack, with Prangley working to hold everything together despite not being the most badass human biotic in the galaxy, and the students less confident without Jack’s inspiration.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Who Killed Mass Effect.

    Consensus is:This guy.

    • Everything that we know may point to him, but there’s still a lot we don’t know, so assigning blame might be unfair.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      Remember, he may have commandeered the ending but Shamus’ series makes a solid case for why the problems started long before that point.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And he was the lead guy long before the ending.

        • Ponchow says:

          And he was also responsible for Mass Effect 1, the good one.

          I liken Hudson to George Lucas. He’s the ideas guy. He knows how to bring in talent to get the project done. Without a big win under his belt, and EA looming over the horizon, they had to work really hard and collaborate a lot on the first game. Then, BAM! Mass Effect 1 is great success, EA comes in and tells the team “Good job! Keep doing that!” and give everyone lots of money to keep making the games…. well, Hudson doesn’t have to sell Mass Effect anymore, he can just make it.

          It also reminds of the way the Wachowskis treated The Matrix series. The first one was great, because they had to compromise, there were limits when working in the box, but those limits made for some really brilliant and creative solutions to the problems they had. They had to sell something that would be appealing and clever and fun and break the mold, and it fucking worked. Then, they get success, and proceed to make the stories they wanted to tell, and it all falls apart because there are no ropes guarding the bridge.

          • Tom says:

            It’s happened so many times. In movies you’ve got Lucas, Spielberg, the Wachowskis, even Ridley Scott isn’t immune. (Dear god, please leave Blade Runner alone!) People who did their best stuff under intense pressure, without external expectations from fans/producers/investors and on a shoestring budget simply do not perform the same way when those conditions change. Even if they perform well once they have big budgets and fans, their output will still be noticeably different.

            In games it’s nothing new either – Mass Effect is now probably the quintessential example, but it goes right the way back to Alone in the Dark 1 (the original dev team quit in frustration over the direction imposed on AITD2 & 3), probably even further. The once-legendary Broken Sword deteriorated significantly with every sequel, despite ever-rising production values, and now its creators have even done a George Lucas and gone back and mucked about with the already-perfect original too. The guys behind Amnesia turned out a sequel best forgotten entirely. The second and third Myst sequels were weak because they weren’t done by the original creators, but even when Cyan got the brought the series back in-house and tried to do one of their own again it was also pretty crap, and finally killed the franchise off (though the alternate ending kinda makes it clear that they were probably sick of once again reheating a thoroughly played-out story and gameworld by that point). The list goes on…

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We could just as easily end up cursing the name of an overworked writer who, in reality, did the best they could with the time and material given to them and who might even agree with a lot of this analysis.

    Could be.But considering the responses about the whole ending fiasco,and how the extended cut “improved” things,its more likely that the case is lack of talent.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      The Extended Cut was a hasty project too most likely. New content, new writing, voice actors hauled back in for new lines. This thing came out 3 months, 20 days after the release of the main game.

      That’s three and a half months for people to play the game, compare notes with others to see if there were better endings, get upset, work up complaints, start making demands, then have Bioware finally decide that they needed to do something about this, call back in devs, artists, writers, voice actors, and put together the content.

      So the Extended Cut was probably as hasty or hastier than the main game.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Oh absolutely, it takes forever to create content at AAA production values level. I mean, assuming they didn’t have some kind of previous agreement, which to be fair they might have had due to other DLCs, just having one voice actor move on to a different project could hold the thing back for who knows how long (to be fair there are obvious ways around that).

        I’d love to be the proverbial fly on the wall during the Extended Cut creation process. What was the exact date this was actually greenlit? What were the ideas for various fixes? Which got thrown out just because they were too time consuming or due to lack of some critical resource (like the VA I mentioned above)? Which made it through just because they could be done real fast?

      • Tom says:

        Well, when you consider that the new content in the extended ending basically amounts to pedantically explaining to us why we should’ve liked the original one (together with a nasty little slap in the face if we dared to still dislike it despite being told why we were wrong to do so, the “rejection” ending), which is absolutely the worst way any artist in any medium whatsoever can respond to any kind of criticism, and that they even did this whilst explicitly invoking the idea of “artistic integrity”… yeah, you could say it was probably a rushed job. Arrogance isn’t enough to explain such self-destructiveness; decisions that bad only come from real, frenzied panic.

        • Duoae says:

          I don’t have a problem with the rejection ending – at least as I’ve seen it on youtube (never played the extended cut myself as I’d finished the game long before that). I mean, it makes sense to me. You can read into the artists’ intent as much as you want but firing at the star child and rejecting its false choice* seems like it would actually result in that reaction.

          *I say it’s a false choice because we know a few things about the Reapers:

          1) They had some hand in designing the crucible
          2) Other cycles have built the crucible – at least to some extent
          3) They have some grand plan in order to end the cycles (because otherwise 1) and 2) make no sense!)

          Choosing any of the three endings that the Reapers offer to Shepard results in a ‘loss’ because they are the endings that the Reapers choose for the galaxy and they all solve the problem the Reapers were designed to ‘fix’.

          Destruction – no more AIs (at least currently – not sure how this works long term)
          Synthesis – everyone is the same, we are all static – no conflict
          Control – Is just another way of removing AIs – they’re just slaves again and no longer free-thinking

          You could argue that both destruction and control just pave the way for the Reapers to end the cycle once more (because they really make no sense and do not stop more Reapers/AI being created in the future, they just affect the here and now…) and, since in the original ending, synthesis was the most difficult choice to achieve (damn you war assets!) that the artists’ intent was to say that Shepard and Co. were the first to achieve this result and that might end the cycles.

          I chose synthesis on my one and only playthrough but thinking about it now, defiance in the face of the Reaper mandate seems the more logical choice (had I thought about trying it and it been available to me then.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The main problem with the rejection ending is the “so be it” line.Or rather,the tone of the line.Everything else is being said in this child robotic monotone,except for that one bitter line,which is immediately followed by another monotone “the cycle continues”.

            The other problems is that it still gives you the random people telling stories somewhere in the future,and the “congratulations for bringing end to the reaper threat” message after it.Despite the cycle continuing,and no one surviving.So they managed to get people to record new lines and make new animations,but they couldnt change a text?

  5. Hector says:

    I have one word for this post:

    Origin.

    That is all.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      That’s like complaining about a pizza because it was served in a bowl.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Glad to see I’m not the only one who still thinks that.

      One word. One word in very, very poor taste.

      It’s not like the name is the only reason I don’t use the service. It’s simply that the name they deliberately chose is a signifier of the shitty attitude of a significant portion of the decision-makers.

      Do I think EA is The Devil? No. EA was the first company I worked for, and I have no personal problem with any current or former employees in general. (I also never had any real responsibilities because it was a week-long unpaid internship in high school, but it was still a good experience.) But out of obnoxiousness or ignorance or just lack of taste, they’re willing to call themselves The Devil.

      Maybe it’s not a deliberate and extremely obnoxious reference to the Ultima series. Maybe it’s not actually supposed to be a “take that” to Richard Garriot and every Ultima fan. But the name reminds me of Origin Systems. And Bullfrog. And Westwood. And Popcap. And if the people in charge of approving the name were so ignorant or stupid to not know the implications, then they should have been fired for incompetence.

      And this is what crosses my mind every time I consider giving in and installing it: it’s still called “Origin”. To this day, it’s still called Origin. If EA wanted me to try it, they would not have called it that.

      EDIT: To be clear: I’m more disappointed than angry. The only game I know I might possibly be interested in that I can’t obtain elsewhere (through Steam or GoG or second hand physical copy) is Dragon Age III. But even if Origin was called something else, would I install it just for DA3? No, because I know I need to upgrade my PC first.

      In summary, I already have every EA game that I want that I can run on my PC, and I don’t even need Origin. That’s why I’m more disappointed than angry at this point. Bitter, bitter disappointment.

  6. Orillion says:

    I will defend the third game slightly by saying that all of the stuff connected to Javik was pretty cool too. Though I guess, again, that was mostly due to groundwork laid by Mass Effect 1 regarding the Protheans. Even though Javik has kind of nothing to do with those Protheans.

    But man they got the shooting down in the third game. I’m kind of cautiously optimistic about Andromeda just because of that.

    • Falterfire says:

      Oh man, the stuff with Javik? That stuff was GREAT!

      Well, I mean, I assume it was. people say it was, but I didn’t cough up the extra money for the super special collector’s edition and didn’t want to have to deal with the convoluted mess of buying Bioware Points, so like probably the majority of Mass Effect 3 players, I never saw that critical part of the story.

      Thanks EA!

      (To be honest, I normally defend most DLC stuff, and I think it gets an unfairly bad rap, but day 1 DLC for a character with major exposition functions is beyond what I’m willing to consider reasonable)

      • Trix2000 says:

        He wasn’t actually too critical to the story – mostly he just served as a interesting different perspective on the whole Reaper thing. Certainly worth experiencing, but I wouldn’t say it dramatically affected the overall experience for me.

        • Mike S. says:

          I’m generally much more positive on ME3 than Shamus or the consensus here. But while Javik was entertaining at times, I didn’t really like what he represented about the nature of Prothean society. He could have been a pessimistic, multiply traumatized war veteran (though while realistic, that’s not always so fun to have around) without making the entire Prothean Empire awful and exploitative from beginning to end.

          (I headcanon it that he’s not a historian and he lived centuries after the actual heyday of the Protheans, and so he’s just wrong about a lot of it, or interpreting it according to a totalizing ideology that grew up during a losing war for survival. But obviously the intent is to undercut all of Liara’s idealization by making the Protheans awful.)

          I much prefer their end to be a galactic tragedy that they heroically turned into a chance for future species, rather than a deserved comeuppance to a species that believed that might made right.

          • Purple Library Guy says:

            I think the intent is to draw a strong contrast with the more idealistic Amateurtheans.

          • djw says:

            Why can’t it be both? Humans have hero’s and villains, and many of our best have been to some extent both. If humans are complicated why not aliens?

            • Mike S. says:

              They could be. But that’s not the story they’re telling with Javik. Bioware knows perfectly well how to suggest narrator unreliability and how to signal that a character is conveying facts to the player. The difference being pretty key to background exposition in video games, and in drama in general.

              (Just as whatever Lucas decided later, when he told the story of how Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke Skywalker’s father, there was no “certain point of view” about it then.)

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              This is actually why I really liked Javik’s reveal, it made Protheans feel much more real and interesting to me. Pre-Javik most of the ideas we have about Protheans come from Liara when she was still a wide eyed, naive researcher coming from the culture that generally favours peace and coexistence. On top of that at that point everyone thought that everything left over in the galaxy from the previous cycles, including the Citadel and the relay network, was Prothean doing. Consider how we can idealise or vilify human cultures, it’s obvious that the galactic races would idealise the superadvanced Protheans and that’s the picture the player is getting. I would think that playing of genre tropes and player expectations with Vigil and doing the whole “a race that came before and was destroyed but in their nobility made the last push to give us a chance” was an amazing twist and a masterstroke… except I’m relatively sure this wasn’t planned.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I actually think the exact opposite.The first game made a huge deal about just the language of the protheans(not to mention all the craze about the beacons),and here we have an actual living and breathing prothean and people are just “So youre a prothean,eh?Cool.Anyway,on to more important stuff”.And no,saying “he is just a soldier,not a scientist” is both not a justification,and pretty insulting towards soldiers.What,are all soldiers suddenly uneducated war thirsty hicks who can barely read?None of them knows anything about arts and sciences?

      The fact that this character was chopped this badly just so they could squeeze handful more moneys is one of the worst things in this game.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Yeah. Javik is fun, but his presence in the story is a thematic and narrative albatross.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          The story I always hear is that Javik was meant to have a much larger role as a main character, but they ran out of time before the launch of the game, so they cut all the (presumably interesting) Prothean stuff and dumped him into DLC.

          That said, I realize I’ve never actually seen a source for those claims, does anyone know where that idea comes from?

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            He should have been a central figure to ME3. Heck, I wouldn’t mind if the whole game was “Javik the last Prothean” arc. Perhaps with the council races uniting and trying to put resistance to the Reapers but getting their asses steadily whooped (because Reapers) and Shepard travelling all over the place and trying to get them to actually pull some resources OFF the war effort for some kind of Prothean project that he and Javik are still actually trying to piece together.

      • Khizan says:

        Let’s say that it’s the year 52016 and you’re part of an alien task force trying to rebuild the Large Hadron Collider. How much help do you think an infantry commander from 2016 is going to be?

        • Mike S. says:

          For scientific knowledge, not a lot. Though if you’ve got 1930s tech and are trying to reverse-engineer 2010s (the Protheans were ahead of the current Cycle on a bunch of things), a West Point graduate who had a course in physics might remember a few things you don’t know.

          But he also reads colloquial English better than any of you with the possible and limited exception of the Shepard-equivalent. (Assuming we left beacons like the Protheans’.) If he can talk to you, there’s a decent chance he’s more useful helping work out wording ambiguities than humping a rifle on the front lines.

          (Of course, there is the problem that that argument applies equally to Shepard. The idea of the Crucible Project strongly implies that the guy who can read and think in Prothean should be working on it.)

          • Ponchow says:

            Which reminds me, the Protheans are lauded as nearly perfect genetic beings. They have the Quad-helix DNA (demonstrably more complex genetic structure), they can absorb biomass and read organic material through touch, they are powerful biotics, they tactically lasted longer against the Reapers, alone, and without a government, than a united current galaxy does (according to Liara’s math), and their scientists and engineers created wonders beyond the current cycle, with less time, while also being Spartan-like warriors. They’re idealized, proto-men (hence the name, I guess).

            Then Javik comes along and he’s just an asshole and hardly expands on any worldbuilding aside from the stuff on Thesia. He isn’t worth bringing on any other mission because his dialogue is mostly tongue-in-cheek or self referential, and the other characters are much more fun with stuff like that. He makes jokes about how everyone is a primitive monkey. We get it, Javik, you’re f@*#ing old. Give us what we actually want, which is lore and worldbuilding and story, not jokes. We have plenty of jokes, already.

            Even in the Citadel DLC, which is nothing but fanservice (god, the people that love that DLC are SO ANNOYING! It’s just fan service, people! It has no substance!) he’s one of the weakest characters by virtue of his lack of complexity. He’s Ned Flanders post-Flanderization, but from the get go.

            On the Citadel DLC, I imagine I’ll be saying this a few more times in comments for future articles: Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it probably works better as an ending than what we got. No, it’s not a good Mass Effect story because it’s schlock fanservice. It’s an apology cake.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              It’s been a while so I may be misremembering it but I personally interpreted Javik as bitter and jaded which kinda worked for the character.

              Here’s something that I suggested some posts earlier about making the character more interesting. If they made Javik not an actual full blooded Prothean but someone from one of the assimilated races. Maybe even one in the process of assimilation when the Reaping began. There’s lots of ways he could have been the one saved: he could be an experiment in the stasis technology, they could have more pods than people at that point, or he could be evasive about it claiming it was an experiment but eventually to reveal he backstabbed an actual Prothean to save himself. He would have limited data because they weren’t yet fully integrated into the society and so weren’t trusted with the really important stuff and would be unreliable about Prothean culture because he came from a conquered race plus making Protheans look bad would justify his actions…

            • Deager says:

              Sorry to be annoying, but with the wreck of everything after ME1, I was willing to take deliberate fan service and then do something with it. And I agree with you that it’s an apology cake.

        • Purple Library Guy says:

          Well, if he’s European he’ll be able to tell you what voltage the electric current the machines run on is supposed to be, and what the metric system is, and know some of the units involved.

          He’ll be able to tell you they used wires made of copper back in those days. He’ll be able to tell you that the weird little sensors in different parts of it giving position info so you can tell if it deforms by a micron, and relying on something cryptic they just call “GPS”, were actually using distance information from a network of long-gone satellites. He may be able to tell you the computers used integrated circuits with masses of miniature transistors to do logic and math based on huge numbers of on-off switches which could do calculations in binary, as opposed to whatever the hell they’re using by 52016. He might be able to tell you what a “megabyte” is supposed to be, and a “USB”.

          In general, all kinds of other things we take for granted but which are likely to change a whole lot in a few thousand years.

        • Decius says:

          Pretty damn useful if you have the original blueprints on CD-ROM but your engineer is trying to speak into the mouse.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Moreover, it doesn’t matter.

    But it does matter.Sure,mass effect is done,and is how it is.But these people are still working on other things.Identifying who did good and who did bad will definitely help in deciding which of their future projects are worth getting excited about and which are to be avoided like the plague.

    • Gabriel says:

      Or we could just wait for reviews to come out instead of running an Internet witch hunt.

      • Shamus says:

        While I’m not in favor of a witch hunt (please no) I think one of the problems is that reviews can’t help us. Stuff like this doesn’t make it into reviews, which are usually focused on graphics, gameplay, and features. So it kind of feels like we’re on our own when it comes to the deeper stuff.

        • Gabriel says:

          I guess more than “reviews” I mean “the general pulse of the Internet.” I didn’t read any formal Games Journalism Reviews of Fallout 4, but I knew what I was getting into after a few Diecast episodes, Steam recommendations, and general Internet forum skimming. Works OK for most bigger releases (although I have to read between the lines a lot.)

          I can’t put much stock in the standard “review” any more, unfortunately, mostly for specifically the reason you state.

          • Mike S. says:

            I think that works if you play the game more or less in isolation, and don’t mind spoilers. If part of your enjoyment of the game is coming to it fresh the first time, and another part is talking with people about what happened, it’s pretty hard to wait for that consensus to form.

            Obviously, in this case we’re still talking about it four years later. But that’s a pretty unexpected exception. And it says something about the game, for better or worse. (If nothing else, it’s the difference between the Star Wars Holiday Special, which everyone agrees is awful but no one except Lucas himself gets mad about, and the prequels, which can still spark genuine anger the better part of two decades later.)

            • galacticplumber says:

              Prequels? What on earth are you talking about? There’s only four star wars movies. Also Indiana Jones was an excellent trilogy.

              • Mike S. says:

                There’s a third Indiana Jones movie?!? Surely with the Old and New Testament bookends they were done.

                (Though I guess there’s that cool action short that starts with Indy in a Shanghai nightclub. Hard to see where you go after the raft sequence, though.)

                • galacticplumber says:

                  Wow. You don’t count the third one? I knew we all collectively shun the One Which Must Not Be Named, but the third was decent.

                  • IFS says:

                    He’s also not counting the Temple of Doom, which makes Last Crusade the second one.

                    • galacticplumber says:

                      I just don’t think any of the original three deserve that treatment. That’s like trying to ignore one of the early Aliens movies.

                    • Loonyyy says:

                      Nah, Temple of Doom’s pretty weird.

                      Like, Raiders and Lost Crusade are cut from the same cloth. They’re both about Christian theology, they’re both set against the backdrop of the Second World War, they both feature Indy going head to head with other treasure hunters to try to get some ancient artifact, which Indy wants to a) put in a museum or b) prevent from falling into the wrong hands, and the other hunters want to use it for nefarious purposes. They even have quite similar plots, just timing and event wise. Look at the endings, Indy is a prisoner, the bad guys try to tamper with power beyond their reckoning, they’re destroyed by ancient magic.

                      Temple of Doom puts him in an ancient ruin with two incredibly annoying companions, who are just viscerally irritating, just their damn voices, unlike his compainions in the other films who annoy Indy but provide comedy and drama, the story is their weird and kinda disturbing one about a cult that rips people’s hearts out, enslaves children, and are hoping to rule the world. How much you can enjoy Temple of Doom is largely up to how much Willie annoys you.

                      Like, it’s still a good movie, and quite enjoyable, but when you put it in with the others, it looks like the odd one out.

                      Would have been kind of interesting if they had of followed Temple of Doom with something really different again, they probably could have gotten a lot more out of the series. I like Last Crusade, it’s one of my favourite films, but it’s really, really safe.

                    • Mike S. says:

                      And it’s safe because Temple of Doom was perceived as not having worked. It’s basically “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” of the Indy series: a pleasant return to form (and to formula) after much-criticized turn.

                      (I at least suspect that they didn’t go further because Spielberg and Ford wanted to do other things and endless movie series weren’t as much of a thing other than the Bond franchise, rather than because they couldn’t have done more with the franchise. They did do the Young Indiana Jones spinoff afterwards.)

              • Blackbird71 says:

                I’m pretty sure there’s only three Star Wars movies. Even if you count “The Force Awakens,” there are still only three; one of them just gets repeated.

        • Phill says:

          But how can you have a witch watch if you haven’t first had a witch hunt to find a witch to watch?

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Identifying who did wrong and assigning blame properly is usually an order of magnitude harder than identifying what went wrong and telling everyone not to do that dumb shit, and more likely to get results. If the idiot gets tossed out and replaced with another idiot, you gain nothing, and nobody else does, either, whereas a trial of depersonalised and material facts produces analysis that can be generalised, beyond “this guy was a nob at that company, he’d probably be a nob here so let’s not hire him”.

      • djw says:

        You do get revenge on that first idiot though. Its not a noble goal, but sometimes it feels good, even if it does not result in a better future.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          I find the idea of “getting revenge on a writer for not writing the best story” so distasteful as to not even be a joke. Okay, you hated the story… so? Don’t buy the next one then. MOVE ON, geez.

        • Loonyyy says:

          That would be the problem though.

          It’s about Revenge.

          And we’re talking internet mob-justice vengeance, based largely on speculation on what went on at Bioware, and we really don’t have access to what happened.

          Casey Hudson was the Project Director. Of course he’s the one who’s at the front, he’s the one who is put there to make statements about the game. But those decisions are influenced by an entire team of writers, and subject to the decisions from EA. Picking him, as if he had some absolute control, is absolutely not justifiable, and doing it to hound him, is pretty damn gross.

          Yeah, some of the things he said were untrue. He was put down in front of someone to lie to them about the game. And that was part of his job. It’s an utterly shit job, but let’s not beat around the bush-Casey Hudson is the fall guy for EA and Bioware, and you’re going after the scapegoat, falling for the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Yeah, taking that job, and doing it is pretty shitty. And if you want to go after him for that, and every other game developer working for a big publisher, fine. Enjoy yourself. Let’s get a list of everyone on a contract with EA. Let’s make sure we spread it around. Let’s ignore the obvious impact of corporate culture, and the fact that it’s the work of a massive team. Let’s pick up auteur theory again and apply it to a game made by hundreds of people.

          And look-they managed to mess up Dragon Age all on their own. It’s almost as if this problem is endemic rather than just related to this one person.

          The fact that you use Revenge shows the exact problem here. Nobody should be angry enough for it to be about revenge. If they were cheated out of their money (And that’s the worst case you can make, and it’s a pretty fucking sad one at that, you were cheated out of your money on Mass Effect 3 about as much as you were for Mass Effect 2), they deserve redress. If the company made deliberately misleading advertising, they should be fined. That’s it. If you were unsatisfied with the writing and you want revenge? Then you need to calm down and get some perspective on things.

          And if you really were expecting every choice to be reflected in the ending of the game, and ignored the way that those choices impacted the entire campaign, and ignored how the previous games dealt with choice, well, frankly you’re going out of your way to pretend it was something it wasn’t, and taking it in the direction of “Revenge” says a lot more about you. Nothing good. Seriously, perspective. If you want your refund, fine. If you want “revenge”, then that’s really messed up.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            you were cheated out of your money on Mass Effect 3 about as much as you were for Mass Effect 2

            Not true.As low opinion I have of me2,they still did not lie about it.They said they were changing the focus,which they did.They did not promise one thing and do the exact opposite.AND me2 is still a finished product,not one that was rushed out,and had plot critical content cut out of it.

            Also,considering that there were just two people that made the ending,Hudson is not just a scape goat with a shitty job.He is the one responsible for majority of the crap.Not to mention that his “artistic vision” defense shows that at least one lie was directly his,and not passed down to him from someone above.

    • Darren says:

      I definitely agree!

      As a recent example, David Gaider recently left Bioware, but he was the lead writer for Dragon Age. If you aren’t a fan of that series, you likely don’t care, but I think it’s the superior of Bioware’s two main franchises and am worried that the series will suffer without his influence.

      But really, there are tons of games, past and present, where you can look and see the clear influence of an individual, even though in virtually every case multiple people worked on it. It might be impossible to pin down the exact people responsible for every failure, but patterns will generally emerge if you pay attention.

      • Ponchow says:

        We also get Post-mortem type posts, former writers and staff making claims, that paint a picture of who influenced what.

        The guy that came up with the Geth and Legion’s philosophy is godamned brilliant. Chris E’toile. He wanted to avoid the two main cliches with AI in popular media, and by doing so, created an incredibly interesting piece of lore and character with Legion in ME2. Geth in ME2 are unique to every other AI in media because of this guy. They are interesting and complex and alien, which is exactly what Sci-Fi should be.

        I think, perhaps, the best way forward is to praise the people we know were doing right rather than admonish the ones doing wrong. Positive reinforcement.

        Writing something good and big and as encompassing as Mass Effect is crazy difficult. Let’s praise the people we know worked hard to make it good instead of hunting down and killing the ones who didn’t have the chops.

        Guys like Chris E’toile and Drew Karpyshyn have a fan in me.

  8. wswordsmen says:

    “out of things to say about Mass Effect” [1] Until Andromeda comes out and I have to start this whole series over again

    You didn’t take the cheap joke, so I did it for you. Hopefully someone chuckles at this.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It would be a Fifth Element kind of thing: Campy, illogical, but otherwise inoffensive space opera with pretty visuals and fun action.

    Ouch!Im not the biggest fifth element fan,but to compare the decent visuals it had and the actually fun action with the crappy cgi snooze fest that is phantom menace?That stings.

    • Shamus says:

      That’s fair. I don’t really mean the two movies are equal in quality. (Fifth Element at least managed to have some fun.) I was just trying to show that being a stand-alone story will soften the nerdrage.

      • Hitch says:

        But Ruby Rhod was endearingly annoying. Bruce Willy did a great job of portraying Korben Dallas’ seething irritation with the character, so the audience enjoyed hating Ruby along with Korben. Liam Neesons in The Phantom Menace just irrationally accepted every stupid thing that Jar-Jar did and that made us angry.

        • Dreadjaws says:

          Indeed. The movie makes it clear that Ruby is purposely annoying. In contrast, The Phantom Menace makes it very obvious that we’re supposed to love Jar Jar.

          Plus, it’s still a bad example for many other reasons. Even if TPM wasn’t related to Star Wars it would have been a mess of a film (really, even people whose first introduction to the SW universe comes from TPM realize this), while The Fifth Element still provides a coherent story, better visuals, endearing characters and overall fun action. Plus, you could actually tell who was the protagonist. See if you can do that with TPM.

          • Slothfulcobra says:

            Is it? Obi-Wan never seems to like him much, and he’s only around because Qui-Gon is all enigmatic and such, seeing value in strange places. And the last few times I watched the Fifth Element I couldn’t assemble most of the plot in my brain.

            I’m not saying that the Fifth Element is some sort of shit like, but it’s got its own flaws that are allowed to go below the radar, whereas there is an ideological movement out there to make Episode One out to be some sort of antichrist, and to that end, all of its flaws get dragged out into the light and put on a pedestal, while shamans chant words of condemnation while wearing their goat skull hats, with only one true sentiment lying under it all, “This isn’t like how it was in the 80s.”

            • Loonyyy says:

              Pretty much.

              The prequels aren’t as good as the originals.

              But they’re not that bad.

              If you’re a kid who liked Star Wars, they’re fine. There’s lightsabers and space battles and aliens and all the stuff you’d want. Which is what a lot of the fans who hated the prequels liked about the originals. They weren’t adults performing literary analysis on the originals when they came out. They were kids who liked it because why the hell wouldn’t you, they’re great? I mean, that was a big bunch of a lot of people’s childhoods, pretend lightsabers and swordfights right?

              Yeah, they’re not as good as the originals, but there’s a deep seated effort to pretend they’re the worst possible thing, and they’re frankly not. They’re not great, but they’re not the crime they’re painted as. And hell, if I was going to hate on one of them the most, it’d be Revenge of The Sith, not The Phantom Menace. The Phantom Menace has it’s problems-it’s inconsequential, Jar Jar’s annoying, “Midichlorians” (Actually no, screw this, it’s just a short scene that does nothing to hurt the original series. Get over this. It’s even linked back to the meditation and serenity that Yoda shows are the way to access the force. And it’s shown that some people have a natural talent, and that talent runs in families. It’s dumb, but it’s not that dumb), The Gungans are pointless, the Queen’s swap is pointless, and Padme and Anakin’s age difference is confusing and bad later, but that’s retroactive, and the movie takes too much time to deal with boring politics. But the worst thing you can say about it is that if you skipped it, it wouldn’t matter.

              I quite liked the suggestion of “Machete Order” for watching the films. Put 2 & 3 between 5 & 6. 1 really doesn’t matter. I still dislike 3 intensely though. It’s at the worst part of the camp/awkward comedy “We’re smarter than this”, a bunch of the plot is introduced on the fly, and you’d only know about it from EU stuff, Grievous etc, Grievous is a comical character, rather than an intimidating one, Dooku is killed off immediately after only a short introduction in the last film, and Anakin’s fall is comical, nonsensical, and for something that’s meant to be the core of the film, doesn’t hold up at all. It’s the landing and the film doesn’t stick it.

              The Fifth Element? Man, that is some really polarising stuff there. It’s very much a love or hate film. Proposing it as some special quality higher than the occasionally bland and boring Phantom Menace? I mean, that film is the film equivalent of Jar Jar, if you can get your head around The Fifth Element enough to enjoy it, then you can get it around Jar Jar.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                But they’re not that bad.

                Yes,they are.

                Lets just ignore the story,and characters for this,and lets focus just on the visuals and action.Its badly shot,its action is overabundant to the point where it becomes boring(the conveyor belt scene and the anakin/obi wan fight in particular),the cgi replaces everything making those two even worse.Compare the cgi in the prequels with the cgi in terminator 2,which came almost a decade earlier,and youll realize just how awful everything is.Same goes for the action and cinematography.Or compare it with its contemporary,the matrix.Or compare it with modern action movies,for example fury road.The result is always the same,the prequels are boring shitty movies.They at best manage to claw up to mediocre standard in few brief moments,but thats it.

                And the fact that this lazy over usage of cgi had spilled into every movie afterwards,making the prequels not only bad movies,but bad movies that spawned a bunch of other bad movies.Which definitely does make them the worse thing ever.

                If you enjoy shlock,fine.More power to you.But dont go saying how its not shlock when it clearly is.

        • RCN says:

          To be fair, Liam Neeson was the one with the least patience with Jar Jar (he ignores or outright injures Jar Jar on several scenes, and he famously said that “Speech is no proof of intelligence” line about Jar Jar).

          What doesn’t make sense is how much Jar Jar seems to annoy Qui Gonn but somehow Qui Gonn just accepts that Jar Jar tags along for the ride. The writers simply make zero effort justifying why they tolerated Jar Jar’s presence, they just did. Likewise it makes zero effort at justifying taking Jar Jar along to Tatooine, let alone taking Jar Jar with them on the desert planet (a simple “let’s not leave him here to annoy the princess”, would suffice, but then again it would again raise the question of why he was tagging along). Jar Jar is simply never justified beyond a meta-thinking of “the writers thinks he will be funny”, without ever asking if “the other characters can manage to not strangle this creature to death”.

          Heck, the best thing about Phantom Menace is Qui Gonn, who obviously lacks some of the constraints of other jedis and has even been stipulated to be a grey jedi.

    • JRT says:

      I wish people would stop using the term “CGI” for the Star Wars Prequels. It wasn’t the special effects that made that film bad. For all the talk about The Force Awaken’s “practical effects”, there was a good mix of both in those movies AND in the Prequel Trilogy.

      People are demonizing the wrong thing.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        No,it wasnt just the cgi that made it bad.It was the story itself,the directing,the pacing,acting,choreography,….But cgi in the prequels was just as bad as all those other problems.

        However,while the bad directing of phantom menace didnt spawn a plethora of similarly crappy movies,the cgi used there did open the floodgates for a decade of terrible looking crap,to the point where some movies used cgi for freaking tears.So no,people arent demonizing the wrong thing.

      • ehlijen says:

        It wasn’t the CGI per se, no. But I think it’s fair to say that lazily accepting the limitations of the green screen played a huge part in why the prequels just don’t have the visual elan that the original movies did.

        You get something similar when you compare deliberately simple and cheesy movies against deliberately dumb and cheesy movies.

        Fury Road and Pacific Rim worked because you could see the whole crew giving it their all. The actors sold their ridiculous roles, the story was lunatic but coherent enough to draw the majority of the audience in and the effects were crafted with effort to appeal (no matter how they were done).

        Meanwhile stuff like Megapirahna flops and flounders. Every corner was cut and the cut played off as ‘it’s supposed to be bad’. Instead of something giving an honest effort, you get a deliberately half assed mess and that difference is palpable. It might still be enjoyable, but it’s never going to impress.

        The prequels didn’t feel like the same daring effort was there as for the OT.

        • Ponchow says:

          To put it another way, the CGI was an excuse for bad direction.

          If the director doesn’t have to get out of his chair and put down his coffee to make a movie, then it takes actual talent and motivation to make the movie good.

        • Loonyyy says:

          Yeah, but if you watch a bunch of those terrible low budget horror flicks, the megapirahnas, Megashark/whatevers, you notice how terrible the CGI is.

          It’s really lazy, really obviously CG, and the worst part is when the CG interacts with the actors and sets. It’s just absurd.

          The Prequels do not have this problem. There’s excessive CGI, but it blends and at least looks like it’s there. The biggest problem is the direction, which is just poor. They resort to CGI when they could have used a set, and the direction just plain sucks, they have plenty of actors there who are decent, and they’re given nothing to do. Natalie Portman is actually quite talented, but you wouldn’t think it to watch her in Star Wars. Notably, what is often castigated as the “worst” prequel, The Phantom Menace, also has the most sets and least CGI, so take from that what you will.

          The CGI in the prequels was overused, and might have hurt the performances, but at least it was competent, cutting edge CGI.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      The most appropriate comparison in my eyes is John Carter of Mars. If it had been a Star Wars (or similarly valued franchise), it probably would have made decent money. As it was though, it was a bit of a flop.

      Although I’d probably also argue that John Carter is a better film than The Phantom Menace, but I don’t really want to watch either again to form an informed opinion.

  10. Abnaxis says:

    The best outcome you can hope for is to purge the later works from your mind and accept that the beloved original will be left forever incomplete, its questions unanswered, its characters abandoned, and its problems left unsolved.

    AKA: Too bad they never made any sequels.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I disagree with you that any random sequel written by joe average impacts the original.Sure,our perception of the original can change because of it,but our perception of the original can change because of a weird looking burger we saw that one time.That doesnt mean the meat industry has any actual influence on the arts.Those things are incidental,not direct.

    What does directly impact the original are the sequels to UNFINISHED stories.When a story is designed to deliberately have loose ends,and is advertised as that left and right,its official sequel will directly impact the original.But for finished works(like highlander)its not that difficult to simply ignore every sequel,no matter how canon it is.

    Unless the author is a massive dick and decides to actively try and replace the original with their “improved” version,that is.

    • Ponchow says:

      A sequel released is by definition changing an unfinished story, because if there is a sequel to the first installment, the series isn’t over until you’ve experienced the whole thing. You can’t just stop at episode 10 out of 20 in a series and say you’ve seen the whole thing. That’s not how it works.

      I don’t really get your burger analogy at all. I’d say it’s more like my perception of the Big Mac has changed now that I’ve gotten food poisoning from McDonald’s…. The Big Mac is still the same burger, but I can’t really separate it in my mind from that awful experience. Looking at a burger doesn’t affect me at all, it doesn’t change anything, but I won’t eat something again if it nearly killed me once. There’s a powerful psychological motivator working in response to the things we consume and the things that hurt us as a result of that consumption. Observation doesn’t really play a role in it, it has to be something experienced. The subjectivity of experience is getting in the way of my rational mind when a Big Mac makes me sick despite it tasting good.

      The Matrix is a good example of a stand-alone piece of work that was made WORSE by its sequels. I saw The Matrix in 1999 in theaters on opening night. I was fucking BLOWN AWAY. I was also like 12 years old, but holy shit was that movie good. I’ve watched it almost ever year since, because I love it that much.

      But I died a little inside trying to fit it into the sequels. It didn’t feel like the same film anymore. It’s impossible to separate the films, because I will have forever experienced and have knowledge of the sequels when experiencing the original. The sequels gave me food poisoning and now I’ll never get to appreciate the delicious original again. I mean, The Matrix is still good, but it’s tainted. Tainted like spoiled beef.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It’s a videogame! Gameplay is all that matters! Therefore the game isn’t that bad.

    It’s a BioWare story RPG! It’s all about the story! Therefore the game is a disaster.

    I hate both these arguments because of how simplistic they are.Games are composite mediums,and saying that any one of their elements is the only important thing is nonsensical.

    An element of a game can be largely dominant,yes,but other elements of it still have an impact on the whole.For example,mario is gameplay dominant,but the art style and the music in it are pretty important,and are the reason why everyone remembers mario,but not a multitude of other platformers at the time,even when they had the exact same gameplay.

    • Daimbert says:

      To be fair, gameplay in a game is probably more important (and I say this speaking as a story gamer). If the gameplay isn’t fun or is non-existent, then even if it has a wonderful story we can ask why in the world it was built as a game and not as a movie or novel. This is especially true if the gameplay actually hampers your enjoyment of the game.

      That being said, I think Bioware is really on to something with the “Casual” difficulty levels. They let you experience the gameplay without having to focus on it too much, and so keeps the interactivity — and what that adds to the game — while knowing that, yeah, primarily you’re here for the story so let’s make sure that the gameplay mostly stays out of the way of that.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its actually interactivity thats important about games,not gameplay.Thats why the walking dead is a better game than call of duty 3*,despite having less gameplay.The walking dead at least gives you an illusion of choice and reacts to it,rather than sticking you on the rails where you cant even open a door on your own.

        And just how bad gameplay can yank you out of the experience,so can bad graphics,bad sound effects and bad story.Sometimes its much better to nix the offending element entirely(or minimize it as much as possible),than to have it “because its the law”.

        *Single player campaign,not the multiplayer

        • Daimbert says:

          Well, I think we’re working on different definitions of “gameplay” here, because in a game, to me, the gameplay IS the interactive parts. Maybe we can separate how the interactive choices impact the game from gameplay, but certainly HOW you make those choices — ie what mechanism — is gameplay, and if that’s terrible or problematic that’s a problem for the game itself.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Gameplay is part of interactivity,but its not all of it.Consider pushing a button and having your character swing a sword at a friendly npc,who just stands there,staring blankly into the distance,unmovable.Then think of pushing that same button and having your character swing a sword at a friendly npc,who then dodges away and says “Watch where you swing that,you maniac!”.Here you have the same gameplay,yet the second example is way more interactive.

            How you do it is important,I agree.But not the most important thing.Its the interaction of all the elements thats important for the final results.And yes,one problematic element can indeed crash the whole thing,but it can also be supported by the rest of it.Thats why games with bad gameplay,like the original fallout*drink* can be so immersive despite their problems,and why well polished games can yank you out of it.

            Heck,this series is the perfect example of that:Look at the improvement of gameplay from me1 to me2 and contrast it with how the poor story and crappy in world logic crushes that improvement.

            • Daimbert says:

              Well, let’s break down that situation:

              First, we have something that is clearly and unequivocably gameplay: can you attack and damage friendly NPCs? And the answer in gameplay is: No. So, then we have to look at HOW to implement that. The game could have simply made the attacks not trigger, but they didn’t. So you can attack them. So then, how does it enforce that it doesn’t damage them? In one case, you describe it just having no effect, while in the other they dodge aside. But if this does nothing else, then the second isn’t any more interactive than the first. The difference is purely aesthetic, but the actual impact on the game and story is the same in both cases, so you aren’t really interacting in a meaningful way.

              Now, imagine that if you do that, you still can’t do any damage — they dodge out of the way and call you a jerk — but it has an impact on their affection levels with you, or eventually if you do it enough they attack you. THAT’S interaction. The latter is still pretty much gameplay, but I’d concede that the former is mostly a story impact. But it’s a story impact through gameplay: attacking a friendly NPC, as we saw in the beginning.

              All interaction, in my opinion, comes from the gameplay, because to me the gameplay is what you do in the game, which has impacts. A game is better if the gameplay and story and aesthetics work together to create an overall great experience. But a great story with gameplay you hate will not get played, and a great story with NO gameplay is, to my mind, not really a game anymore. In both cases, they’d probably work better not as a game. On the other hand, a game with great gameplay and a terrible or non-existent story can still be a great game, and what’s great about the game can’t be captured in anything other than a game. Thus, my conclusion that gameplay is more important to a game than the other aspects AS A GAME EXPERIENCE. As an overall experience, perhaps not.

              Its the interaction of all the elements thats important for the final results.

              I completely agree. My comment is just on judging it specifically as a gaming experience, not as an overall experience. My view is more that a game with no or bad gameplay that has everything else working would elicit a “This would have worked better as a movie than a game” reaction, which reflects badly on it as a game, in my opinion.

              Heck,this series is the perfect example of that:Look at the improvement of gameplay from me1 to me2 and contrast it with how the poor story and crappy in world logic crushes that improvement.

              This is a bad example for me, since the change in gameplay from ME1 to ME2 almost made me drop the entire series … and, ironically, I actually briefly played ME2 FIRST before playing ME1. On the other hand, I found the story mostly inoffensive, mostly because it was incredibly easy to ignore it in ME2 as being non-existent. I LOVED the heat sink mechanism, and the switch to the “ammo-light” alternative annoyed the heck out of me, and despite how much I disliked the MAKO, it was a million times better than the “probe/fuel” mechanism for exploration in ME2.

              So for me, the gameplay in ME2 is mostly what makes me like it less than ME1, although ME1 does have a better story, too. That being said, in none of those cases would I say that they would be better as a movie, so there’s that, at least [grin].

              • Loonyyy says:

                There is the question of what that gameplay actually means though.

                Swinging at friendly NPCs, whether it gets ignored, the attack doesn’t trigger, or they dodge, has no effect on the outcome. It’s a nice bit of polish if you can swing, and they move, but it doesn’t change the outcome. Look at Half Life 2, you can be a complete dick during the delivered story segments, and it doesn’t care, because that wouldn’t serve the game at all. It’s a linear content muncher.

                If you can fight them, but it’s a failure state, or you can’t progress, then that’s an even higher level of polish, but you don’t get anything from it. You’ve still been granted the same level of interaction, you can just distract yourself longer in the cul-de-sac before you load. It’s actually entirely non-meaningful, and if you’re interested in delivering crafted, motion captured, scripted content, it’s actually detrimental to the real gameplay-which is making conversation, making choices within those, and exploring story. As many have said, Mass Effect 1 doesn’t have great combat, but the gameplay of making choices and interactions is what people like. They continued to like it in Mass Effect 2, particularly exploring the Loyalty missions. Damien’s got it entirely wrong here-having an NPC dodge doesn’t matter. It’s completely irrelevant to the core of the experience. In the moment to moment gameplay, it doesn’t even matter. You can put time and polish into it, but it doesn’t make a significant improvment to the game. It’s polishing the doorknobs on the Titanic.

                You can make it entirely open world, and let the player ruin the game for themselves like say, Morrowind, which does have a lot of merit, but that’s an open world game with a much different method for delivering story and content.

                I don’t think Mass Effect would be much improved by the ability to get into fights with everyone and break the mission system. The game relies on these to deliver the main content, the story, which it expects you to go through in a fairly hand-held manner.

                It sounds like Damien is defining combat interactions as gameplay. And I think you could cut out all the combat from Mass Effect and still have a decent game, maybe even a better one. Lumbering around in Mass Effect 1 didn’t give me any joy, it’s a pathetic shooter. It’s not that it’s too hard, or too core, it’s just not very good. If they cut that, it’d be quicker and more interesting to go through, because meaningful interactions take the front.

                Each combat encounter is not a meaningful interaction. You get through or you don’t, and you load. The game is a set of linear sequences. You don’t get to make a real choice with combat. You don’t get any meaningful interaction, the result is a binary win/lose question, and if you lose you load. The combat really is just filler. The problem is that it’s not very convincing filler, especially at the start of Mass Effect. Ideally, the filler should be entertaining enough that you don’t notice it as such, like say, Half Life 2.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  It sounds like Damien is defining combat interactions as gameplay.

                  It depends on the game.If its a game about combat,then combat is the gameplay.If its a visual novel,then picking the options is the gameplay.In stanley parable,walking is the gameplay.In monkey island,solving puzzles is the gameplay.In need for speed,driving is the gameplay.Etc.

                  I just used the simplest example to show the difference animation and voice can put into a game without changing player input and the outcome of said input.I even stated that the npc reaction doesnt change a thing mechanically.But it does change how you perceive the game.Alyx moving away from you when you want to walk through the door,and saying stuff like “sorry”,covering her eyes when you shine your flashlight,etc,all of that didnt change a single mechanical thing,but it did flesh her out,made her more realistic.

                  This is why we now have actually simulated tennis instead of still having just pong with a wider field.This is why mario is a pixelized human instead of a single square block.This is why adam jensen keeps folding his arms and flapping his mouth,instead of just standing there like a tree.

      • Falterfire says:

        I think non-existent gameplay is really less of an issue than bad gameplay. If the creator wants to tell an interactive story, I don’t really care if there are no mechanical challenges or fail states or whatever, and I’d prefer not to waste time on drudgery if it’s irrelevant to the story being told.

        Even without gameplay, there are plenty of things you can do with games that you can’t do with other mediums, pretty much all of which are based on choices and being non-linear. I think it’s reductionist to say “You need gameplay or it might as well be a movie or book.” I can’t wander around a movie. You could write a choose-your-own adventure book with stuff like “to read about what the townsfolk eat, turn the page. To eavesdrop on the conversations of passerby, go to page 74. To skip back to the plot, skip to page 83 instead” but obviously a game does that sort of thing just so much better.

        Anyways, my point is just that I think bad gameplay is more worthy of criticism than non-existent gameplay (Provided, of course, that the game provides something of substance anyways – you can’t remove the gameplay if there’s nothing else in your game)

        • Daimbert says:

          It’s kinda the same thing as above: the gameplay is how you choose those choices in the interactive movie, at least, and so is indeed present. The only way you could say that you have non-existent gameplay is if, for example, you just walk up to a point in the game and the next non-interactive cut scene plays, or alternatively in that interactive movie none of the choices actually change anything.

      • EmmEnnEff says:

        IMO, Gameplay is the price of admission. It needs to be just good enough for me to have fun – after which point, the writing, the pacing, the atmosphere are what will probably determine whether the game is memorable.

        I am not nostalgic about Alpha Centauri for the gameplay (Which was passable for a 4x game) – but for the faction leaders, the atmosphere, the overall feel of the game. I don’t remember Deus Ex because ‘A supersoldier crouching for 10 seconds before he can line up one pistol shot’ was a great mechanic – but because of the size of the world, and the wild ride it took me on. Baldur’s Gate? Same story.

        Meanwhile, I’d love to be able to enjoy Morrowind… But it just *does not clear* the ‘is the gameplay something I can stomach’ bar.

        • Daimbert says:

          I agree with this, although I’d phrase it as “AT LEAST good enough”. The best is when the gameplay and the story support each other.

        • Ponchow says:

          Morrowind is the kind of game you have to get past the barrier of “you’re a low-level newbie, suck on an axe until you become a literal god.” It’s… otherworldly amazing. It’s weird fantasy. There are giant bugs that drive people around, magic is everywhere, and everyone wants to betray you for their own gain. The stories are complex and interesting and character driven and almost self-contained and almost world-elevating. It’s fucking fantastic.

          The only game that does it better, but in such a different way, is The Witcher series. Holy shit, talk about mastercraft storytelling that weaves worldbuilding, characters, and gameplay into a tangible, fun, consumable, interesting experiencing. The Witcher is like the action-RPG version of Morrowind. You start out as a badass in The Witcher. Morrowind just makes you work for it, but you end up becoming a world eater in the process.

          Definitely give Morrowind a chance, with mods if necessary. There are some really good ones out there that can tailor the mechanics to your liking.

  13. Daimbert says:

    I didn’t have the same opinion as you on the gameplay:

    1) The weight system wasn’t well-explained, didn’t seem to matter much — admittedly, I played on casual, but the details of your weapons and the like did seem to matter more in Dragon Age 2 on casual — and is a completely artificial way to generate that sort of diversity. It was just an annoyance rather than something that really made sense to me. If you want that sort of diversity, then create weapons and armour in “lines” that provide different benefits and detriments and thus really DO reflect playstyles. As it was, I used the assault rifle — for the first time in the whole series — just because it was good for most things, switching to I think the submachine guns for shields. Imagine if instead of the artificial “weight” they added more abilities for each weapon to be better at piercing shields and the like, but the ability costs it somewhere else. So, then, do you go with keeping a submachine gun for shields and then switching to the assault rifle for armour, or do you go only with a submachine gun but alter it to be more effective with armour, knowing that it’s not going to be as good at it as the assault rifle is?

    Now, there WERE, if I recall correctly, mods that could do that, but they cost weight as well, and were limited in how many you could apply. You don’t need to both have a weight restriction — restricting even WHICH weapons you could bring — AND a limit of mods on the weapons you have if you want different load outs. Thankfully, on casual I could generally run up and just punch things out, but I didn’t care much for that improvement (I liked the modifications and that they were limited, as they added real choice).

    2) I found the choices in ME1 better, as the choices in ME3 again didn’t seem like they added that much and were more confusing than helpful. Then again, I always played on casual, because I was there FOR the story, and only put up with the combat because it was what I needed to do to get through the story (which is really my attitude towards most games, to be honest).

    As for the story, I liked it better in ME3 than in ME2, because, well, there WAS one, and it tied into the sub-quests better. There is a REASON based on the main story gameplay why you’re on the Krogan Homeworld in the first place, and why you have to deal in one way or another with the Genophage, which leads to your choice in the matter which can lead to the wonderful ending, and one that you can choose based on who your character is (my Shepard was loyal to her crew, dedicated to saving Earth, and didn’t really care about anything else, so when the Salarian councilor makes her offer, my Shepard told her where she could go, because she wasn’t going to break her word to Wrex and Mordin).

    The same thing applies to the Quarian/Geth resolution. You have to go there because the main plot itself brings it up, and how you resolve that, at least in the narrative — even if not in practice — matters to your efforts. Sure, it could be something other than stopping the Reapers that drives you there, but a) the Reapers returning was the part that ME1 focused on and was good and b) the fact that the Reapers are attacking DOES play into why you’re there. I don’t really see it as a valid complaint, as your complaint seems to be, that you could insert ANY galaxy-wide threat there and recruit the people and the planets to your side, because you COULDN’T recruit them or even wouldn’t NEED to recruit them if it WASN’T a galaxy-wide threat.

    ME3’s visiting of the companions and resolving their stories is MUCH more organically linked to the main story than ME2’s was. You can see it as a vastly inferior implementation of the same story model as Dragon Age: Origins: you have to recruit as many forces as you can in the side quests, and each choice you make there impacts what you have … and you can see that in the ending and as you go along. So, to that end, it’s much better than ME2, and for me is mostly inoffensive until the end.

    I still see ME3 as an attempt to combine the deep story focus of ME1 and the character focus of ME2. It failed, but that still puts it one up on ME2, for me.

    • John Law says:

      I agree with a lot of this. I rank Mass Effect 3 much higher than Mass Effect 2 in terms of story, and that’s because it actually has a consistent 3-act structure. I also have an inverse point about ME3’s writing to the one made Shamus; where he says the best parts were because of ME1, not ME3, I’d argue the worst parts are due to the influence of ME2. Things like the rushed nature of the Crucible, the faffing about with Cerberus and the favoritism of the ME1 cast are due to the mistakes ME2 made, which is why I find it hard to pin those faults entirely on the ME3 writers. I feel like it made the best of a bad situation in a lot of ways, at least until it all fell apart at the end.

    • Falterfire says:

      The multiplayer does a much better job of showing off the details of how the combat system than the main campaign does, especially if you’re playing the campaign on lower difficulties where it’s intentionally possible to pretty much beat anything with anything.

      The guns do function very differently and serve different purposes, even within the same weapon class – The Claymore shotgun does an obscene amount of damage, but only gets one shot. The Reeger Carbine (actually a shotgun class weapon) does a lot of damage to everything, but has a hard range cap and eats ammo quickly. The Katana shotgun does less damage than the Claymore, but can be fired five times before reloading. The Acolyte shotgun is the lightest (And thus the best for biotics) and can switch between short range quick fire and a charge shot that’s accurate at longer ranges. That’s just the shotguns, and that’s not all of them.

      They even have differences against shield/armor, although those stats are hidden and really only hinted at by the descriptions. Just baseline, shields are weaker to rapid fire and armor is weak to powerful single shots though, so you can build around that.

      Weight matters not because of what it does to the weapons, but because it massively affects cooldowns for your abilities. If you bring an SMG with a lightweight mod on it, you can get to the point where your Biotic can through a Pull every two seconds. Swap to one of the powerful Snipers and the Claymore Shotgun and suddenly it takes eight seconds or longer between pulls. Designing a build involves figuring out which abilities you like, how often you need to use them, and how best to get firepower without compromising your ability to use them that often.

      It’s probably intentionally mostly flattened so you can do whatever on casual and have it work fine, but if you’re playing multiplayer the mechanical depth of the system becomes very apparent.

      • somebodys_kid says:

        There’s even a shotgun that fires one big slug that will penetrate thin walls and Guardian shields (also people!) without a barrel modification. Kinda a mini railgun. Pretty much every weapon feels different to use (save a couple of the assault rifles). That’s part of the reason I’ve spent so much time in this game.

      • Daimbert says:

        Yeah, I know that that’s there, but I wanted it expanded there. not with the artificial weight system. Why can’t weapon mods impact biotics, which means that you’re always constantly balancing the various abilities as well, without having the whole “Well, don’t bring the shotgun or the best shotgun if you want to use biotics!” because that weapon is, in fact, always heavier and so will at least almost always impact biotics? Why can’t a biotics reliant character still bring a variety of weapons for special cases, but having to focus on ones that don’t impact biotics as much, meaning that they have to build it out that way using the mods?

        If the mods are diverse enough, you don’t need a weight system there as well to confuse things.

        • Khizan says:

          It impacts biotics, but so what? You can roll at 100% recovery as a biotic just fine, you don’t NEED to maintain the 200%.

          My engineer rolls with a Revenant assault rifle and still maintains a +130% bonus and gets power times under 3 seconds.

          • Daimbert says:

            You aren’t answering my question: if you want to impact biotics, why do that through WEIGHT and not through specific weapon qualities and weapon mods?

            I’m only talking about the weight mechanism, because that’s what Shamus and others have said was so great here. I strongly disagree that the weight mechanism itself added anything, and feel that it only detracted from the BETTER mechanisms like mods and weapon groupings.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Weight is a good system because you have to make meaningful choices about your build. You can’t bring the most powerful shotgun AND fire your powers every two seconds. You can aim for one end of the spectrum or the other, or take a middle ground. For example, only bringing one heavy gun instead of two middle weight ones, as a compromise. There are gun mods that make the guns even heavier, but more powerful/useful and gun mods that make the guns lighter, but prevent you from placing any kind of an upgrade into that slot while you do that.

              I honestly don’t know what you’re getting at, and am certain you aren’t in a position to talk balance when only playing from the easiest difficulty. Which isn’t a moral failing or anything silly like that, but it means you certainly haven’t sucked the marrow from the bones of the game to discuss the mechanics in a deep way.

              • Daimbert says:

                Weight is a good system because you have to make meaningful choices about your build. You can’t bring the most powerful shotgun AND fire your powers every two seconds.

                If we consider, as we must, that the mods themselves and the characteristics of the weapons THEMSELVES add to what it means to be “the most powerful shotgun”, then again my question is why isn’t trying to use the most powerful weapon with the most damage mods what limits your powers, instead of adding on “Well, it’s heavier” to do that? It’d be trivially easy, for example, to create a line of shotguns that are listed as being “designed for biotics” that boost biotic powers and recharge at the expense of weapon damage and maybe even shot speed. So, for example, you could even have one of those one-shot kill weapons mentioned by others with a REALLY slow recharge time, but which boosts your powers recharge times, so that you focus on using your powers and only use that when you need to, or as a sniper specifically. So, for a Vanguard, you equip that gun and snipe at enemies for a while, and then when they get close charge in. But a snipe and scoot sniper could use it as well, switching to a faster weapon if they get cornered. And if you include mods, you can add ones to increase the weapon’s recharge time — at the expense of biotic recharge time — or increase the boost to biotic powers at the expense of recharge time.

                Now, given this, tell me what having the weight mechanism adds to such a system?

                I honestly don’t know what you’re getting at, and am certain you aren’t in a position to talk balance when only playing from the easiest difficulty.

                Good thing I’m not really doing that, then. Even on the easiest difficulty, the weight mechanism seemed artificial and something that added far less to balance and play style focusing than the mods system did. I don’t see anything that the weight system adds that couldn’t have been done better with a SLIGHTLY expanded weapon quality and mod mechanism, and when it did restrict me — I think that in some cases it wouldn’t let me bring all of the weapons I wanted because I was too overweight, but don’t quote me on that one — it annoyed the heck out of me. So, if you’ve “sucked the marrow from the bones of the game”, perhaps you can just go ahead and tell me what weight, itself, specifically, added that the mods and weapon qualities system COULDN’T have. And you can’t claim that it’s credible that weight would matter because weight didn’t explicitly matter in any of the previous games, and so this is another “So why, all of a sudden, do we need ‘ammo’ instead of the previous model?”, only much, much worse.

                (With the mods, you could at least point to an upgrade in the way mass effect fields are used in the weapons to explain the new effects, but weight would be impacting your own biotic skills that are mostly in your own body, with something that is indeed just tied to your own body).

                • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Weight DID matter in the previous games. They outright forbade powers classes from bringing powerful weapons without New Game + shenanigans. Lifting that restriction while not adding another one would break the game balance completely since gun classes don’t have quite as good powers because of their access to equipment.

                  I feel like you’re having a mental block on why weight is bad though. So you’re saying EVERY shotgun and sniper rifle should have the statistic “40% penalty to power speed” added? That’s… just weight described in a less understandable way. The things you’re describing (a shotgun for power classes to use or a gun that buffs powers) are all IN THE GAME already. You’re just quibbling with the words they used to describe it? Is that really something worth doing? Other people have been doing a good job of describing the system below. Every choice you make in your loadout has consequence on your other choices. A lighter gun means less weapon power/ DPS and perhaps no special characteristics to the gun but then has the advantage of a faster recharge speed for powers. More guns means more flexibility, but you have to take on the weight of each one.

                  Can you do this without a weight statistic? Sure, but that’s just less information to the player. Instead of having a universal stat for how much each weapon will change power speed, you have to read the flavor text of each one and each mod. How would that be better?

                  • Daimbert says:

                    Yep, this is the “RPG mindset vs shooter mindset” thing that I mentioned in my reply to guy (which I know you’ve read [grin]).

                    Weight DID matter in the previous games. They outright forbade powers classes from bringing powerful weapons without New Game + shenanigans. Lifting that restriction while not adding another one would break the game balance completely since gun classes don’t have quite as good powers because of their access to equipment.

                    Maybe this was mentioned in game and I missed it or am forgetting it — it’s been a while since I played the first game — but I always considered that to be less of a weight issue and more of a proficiency issue: certain classes couldn’t use those weapons because they didn’t train with them, focusing more on those biotic powers, while classes that were less focused on biotics focused more on weapons, so kinda like the difference between wizards and fighters in D&D, or, rather, given that this is a Bioware game the difference between Jedi Consulars and Jedi Guardians. Thus, I had no problem with the class distinctions, and if you wanted to “get rid of them” add skills to the skill trees for the other classes that allow them to use those weapons, at the cost of not being able to expand their biotics powers as much with those skill points or whatever. So removing the restriction and adding weight, to me, solves a problem that they didn’t have with something that, to me, made less sense and didn’t work as well.

                    Can you do this without a weight statistic? Sure, but that’s just less information to the player. Instead of having a universal stat for how much each weapon will change power speed, you have to read the flavor text of each one and each mod. How would that be better?

                    See, my first reaction to that last part is … yep, that’s EXACTLY what I want. When I pick up a weapon, I want to look at the details of the weapon to decide if THIS weapon is better or not, based on ALL of its characteristics. If we want to make this easier, then I’d want this applied to a LINE of weapons, where the “Desert Eagle” class of shotguns is designed for ease of use by biotics but doesn’t have the pure stopping power of the “Mountain Hawk” class of shotguns, which impede biotics but pack a wallop. Then, once I learn these types, I can progress up to the next weapon in that class with the best statistics — which might not just be damage, but might even be how many mods it packs — and if I come across a gun whose name I don’t recognize I dig into the statistics to see what is better overall. Sure, too many statistics becomes a confusing mess, but the weapons in ME3, if I recall correctly, just weren’t that confusing.

                    So I don’t see the benefit in replacing “Just look at damage” with “Just look at damage and weight”. And YES, I know there’s more to it than that, but if you’re going to add more than just those two as being meaningful, what do you need weight for? Just let the full set of statistics determine it, if I have to look at them anyway.

                    (And note that on “Casual”, you really don’t, for the most part. But correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that weight DID stop me from bringing one of each type of weapon, which meant that that was the only restriction that really had an impact on my game, which was really annoying in the early game and forced me to specific weapons in the end game because if I could only bring one, the assault rifle was my best bet).

                    EDIT: Let me expand on this a bit. I’m using my standard approach to an RPG in the ME games, so let me talk about how I do that. When I pick up or look to buy a new weapon or piece of armour, I generally look at its details and see how it improves or hurts each one of my stats. In a game like TOR, I GENERALLY don’t equip anything new until its impact on my stats is only positive. In JRPGs — which generally are more stats intensive than TOR — I find a couple of stats that matter most to the class of that character and equip items that increase those stats. This is the simple, down-and-dirty way that you can use when you run on the easiest difficulties and/or survive by massively overleveling. If I cared more, I’d have to learn more about what each of those stats did and balance accordingly.

                    NOTHING in ME3 is that intense or that clear, if I recall correctly, and weight’s impact itself is somewhat vague. It’s not complicated enough to provide real balancing choices, nor simple enough to be ignored. And that’s why I dislike it.

                    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      First let’s talk previous games. In 1, if you’re playing adept, you carry all 4 weapons. You will never fire anything but the pistol though, because you don’t even get the skill trees for the other weapons. You can New Game + hack one in there, but it’s suboptimal for your build anyway, so why bother. In 2, they decided it was silly to let you carry literally useless weapons and just took them away from you. So Adept now ONLY carries pistol and SMG. The focus still being on their powers. For weapons earned during the campaign, the first ones are a straight upgrade, but then there’s usually a trade off at the high end. More power and less ammo or vice versa is the usual one. Shotgun takes this to the extreme by offering a SINGLE shot weapon with extreme power to compensate. In 3, they were developing a much more robust combat system. Instead of 5 classes, they were speccing 20 some versions for multiplayer. They must have realized immediately that the depth available in combat would increase DRAMATICALLY if any class can use any gun they wish. But that immediately requires balance. Otherwise, your power guys can fire a black hole and then shoot a massive sniper rifle, leaving the soldier feeling like he picked the wrong class like a moron. While it may seem more fun for you to carry every weapon at all times “just in case” that’s terrible game balance. Only the soldier could do that in ME1, and the Soldier for 3 had some much more fun abilities planned instead (grenades, extreme melee powerups, etc).

                      Further, you’ve misunderstood the weapons in ME3, that much is clear. While there ARE straight upgrades, it’s not quite so straightforward. One pistol has the highest damage shot, but only carries four in the magazine. One pistol is weak but fires in three round bursts. One pistol fires electric bursts that you can charge for powerful hits or stutter to stun enemies briefly. One pistol fires small remote mines that the player can trigger at will.

                      Every class has this dynamic where it’s not JUST power vs weight. No there’s also “power vs firing harpoons through shields vs low ammo vs…” etc.

        • Decius says:

          “Impacting” biotics isn’t the same thing as “negating” them.

          This is coming from someone who puts light armor on a D&D sorcerer.

          • Ponchow says:

            Well now you gotta explain which edition, because light armor on a Sorcerer means very different things in 2e than it does in other editions.

            Kidding, kidding…

            I agree. Me3 is the most interesting and personal combat system of the games. The sheer variety of guns and their mechanics alone makes it better. The fact that they have trade-offs outside of their shots and behavior makes it fun to play with the toys again.

            I mean, there’s a freaking harpoon sniper rifle in ME3. A HARPOON GUN!!! How awesome is that?! I mean, I hated using it, but I loved the fact that it was there.

          • Daimbert says:

            Where did I say “negate” instead of “impact”?

    • guy says:

      I think the weight mechanic was excellent. What it did was apply a bonus/penalty to your ability cooldowns based on your total weapon weight, organically encouraging adepts, vanguards, and such to carry fewer and lower-end guns than soldiers or infiltrators without imposing the hard lockout of ME2 or lack of weapon skills of ME1. The guns were diverse with and without mods.

      • Daimbert says:

        At least with the hard lockout, you knew what weapons your character could and couldn’t use. In this case, it’s about balancing weight, which isn’t as interesting and meaningful as balancing mods, and again it’s really all about weight and not really anything else. It’s the weapon equivalent of encumbrance, except that the game really, really tries to encourage a variety of weapons, encouraging the gameplay that this move ends up discouraging for biotics characters. That’s … pretty much the exact opposite of allowing players to focus on the gameplay they want.

        • Falterfire says:

          But it’s not all about weight, and the way you write it seems like you think weight does more than it does. Weight affects the cooldown of your abilities. That’s it. It doesn’t make them do less damage, it doesn’t make them fail less often, or anything else. It affects cooldown and no other stats.

          So weight is only the most important thing if your one and only concern in building your character is maximizing the number of times per minute you can cast throw or slam or whatever.

          You can build an adept with a sniper rifle instead of an SMG and have it still work, you just have to be willing to use abilities less often. But you could also phrase that as “you can build an adept with an SMG instead of a Sniper Rifle and have it still work, you just have to be willing to fire weaker and less accurate shots.”

          Weight is one of the mechanics, but it’s not the only mechanic and it’s quite a stretch to say it’s the mechanic that all of combat and character design revolves around.

          • Daimbert says:

            I may be stating it poorly, but that’s rather the point: the weight mechanism only impacts your biotic cooldowns. So you’re balancing weight … just to deal with your cooldowns. NOT to balance overall damage vs speed, or to balance special functions vs straight damage, or to balance a weapon for all enemies vs weapons specialized for certain enemies. It’s just weight and cooldowns of biotics. That’s certainly not in any way letting you shape your load out for various playstyles, other than noting that mods have a weight too, if I recall correctly.

            For what weight adds to the ability to customize — and the demand to customize — for your playstyle, it might as well not be there. You could do everything weight does by simply having mods that impact biotics — boosting and impeding — and thus making the choices MUCH more meaningful without even really shading characters towards certain classes of weapons beyond what they already had (good against shields, not against armour, etc).

            • swenson says:

              Think less of guns as things separate from abilities, and more as guns as abilities in and of themselves. Basically, you have a limited number of abilities you can have, and this is a balance between gun abilities and non-gun abilities. You can’t have all of both.

              If you want your gun abilities to be better (read: take more guns or take guns with certain properties), you trade that off by having worse non-gun abilities (read: you can’t use your powers as frequently, and you probably ended up using some skill points on doing stuff like buffing firearm damage rather than buffing power damage). Or if you want your non-gun abilities to be better (use powers more frequently and don’t use skill points on gun damage/weight), you have to sacrifice your gun abilities (take fewer guns, and have more limited options of them).

              tl;dr: I think the limited choice is working as intended. If you want to focus on guns, you can do that, but at the expense of powers. If you want to focus on powers, you can do that, but at the expense of guns. If you want a mix of both, you have to accept that neither your guns nor your powers will be as optimal as they could be. You can’t have everything, and I think that’s quite intentional by design.

              Particularly on the lower difficulty levels, I really don’t think it matters all that much anyway… even on Insanity, if you happen to really like a gun or find it really useful, you can totally still make it work, even if it’s not maximally efficient in terms of weight/DPS/whatever ratio. Managing the number of guns you carry usually affects your weight a lot more than which specific guns you carry, anyway.

              • Daimbert says:

                My point is that the weight mechanism was a BAD way of doing this, especially in a system where they had weapons having different characteristics and the ability to mod weapons. You can easily build all of this into the mod and weapon systems and leave this artificial “weight” notion that didn’t really matter before out completely, and only make it better. As it is, you need “weight” mods to try to limit the impact weight can have, which stops you from making more interesting decisions on what mods to use.

              • Daimbert says:

                Managing the number of guns you carry usually affects your weight a lot more than which specific guns you carry, anyway.

                I missed this specific part before the edit window ran out, but this was what really, really annoyed me about the weight mechanism. I hardly ever used biotics myself, and so didn’t even NOTICE the impact on cooldowns until about half-way through the game, but it limited the weapons I could bring with me, which was annoying. I ended up mostly using the assault rifle, a weapon that I didn’t even TOUCH in the previous games. I would have liked to be able to bring along a decent or even inferior version of each weapon in case there was an instance where the characteristics of the weapon made sense to me, but the weight system forced that on me. If it had been directly limited by class, it would have made more sense and been easier for me to understand, and thus been less annoying.

                Then again, my weapons load out was odd throughout the entire series. In ME1, it was the pistol. In ME2, that didn’t work for me, so it was the submachine gun. In ME3, it was primarily the assault rifle combined with heavy weapons when necessary. So, in summary, my biggest complaint here was that the mechanisms keep limiting me in choosing the play style that’s best for me … which is in sharp contrast to Shamus’ comments that it really helped in ALLOWING you to choose the play style that best suits you and then loading out accordingly.

            • guy says:

              There is absolutely nothing stopping you from loading up your biotic character with every kind of gun and using abilities less frequently. Sure, it means your charge+nova combo no longer lets you basically overlap invincible frames, but you can instead charge people and shotgun them in the face. I have done both of those in the same playthrough. And I very much liked that I could swap my shotgun and pistol for an assault rifle when I felt it was appropriate.

              • Christopher Kerr says:

                On my Vanguard playthrough I ended up running the pistol-that’s-really-a-shotgun and some random SMG. With some weight mods on the SMG that let me keep 200% cooldown, so I could spam charge+nova AND shotgun people in the face!

                (The SMG was for dealing with guys on platforms where I couldn’t get close. It was terrible at that job, but adequate, and let me keep having fun the rest of the time)

              • Daimbert says:

                So, is weight a limitation or isn’t it? If it is, then there is indeed something at least discouraging you from doing that unless you manage things really carefully and really effectively, which impedes using this to customize things for your own personal playstyle. If it isn’t, then it isn’t a mechanism for customizing things for your own personal playstyle because it has no impact on it.

                Let me make it abundantly clear: I’m only criticizing the WEIGHT mechanism here. I LIKE the mod system and find the weight mechanism redundant at best and artificially limiting at worst. If we wanted to replace the weapon limitations with something that still at least guided certain classes towards certain load outs, it could have been done better through the mods system or even with something like weapon proficiency, with the ability to take that as a skill option for the classes that didn’t start with it. So, in all of this, I still don’t see what the weight mechanism added that made IT good that couldn’t have been done better.

                • guy says:

                  Weight reduces the frequency with which you can use your abilities. Taking minimal weight and spamming your abilities and taking more weight and relying more heavily on guns are both viable playstyles. It is also not redundant with mods, because mods do not provide a reason to not load up with every type of gun under all circumstances.

                  • Daimbert says:

                    I think I read your comment wrong, actually; in line with other comments, I thought you were saying that you could still be massively effective with biotics AND bring along all sorts of weapons if you managed it right, which isn’t what you’re saying here. My bad.

                    But I think you’ve hit on my major complaint:

                    It is also not redundant with mods, because mods do not provide a reason to not load up with every type of gun under all circumstances.

                    I LIKED having one of each type of weapon with me, especially early in the game when I was figuring out the gameplay and what worked for me (eg in ME1 it was pistol, in ME2 it was submachine gun, etc). What I would have liked was that the TYPE of each weapon you brought along had an impact (and mostly when you were actually using it), so you could tailor it to the style of play you preferred. As it was, I always had to bring along a heavy weapon for really tough enemies, and then that leaves not that much room for other weapons, which left me with the assault rifle, since it was relatively good at everything.

                    Maybe this is just my lack of skill or interest in exploring all of the options and mods, and maybe it’s the disconnect between the “RPG” focus of ME1 with the “shooter” focus of the later games, but it didn’t work for me, and didn’t seem to really force me to make meaningful choices … but it forced me into certain choices anyway, which is what I hated.

                    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      The fact is you’re not “forced” into anything. You can take a tiny peashooter and never ever fire it, killing big enemies with biotic power explosions or tech power combinations. You can take a one hit kill sniper rifle and a quick firing, lower power shotgun and never press the button for powers once in the game. You not experimenting with all the possibilities is not the game’s fault…

                    • Daimbert says:

                      Well, I hardly ever used powers. I think I was a Vanguard (I didn’t change classes, I think, from ME1). I don’t think I could bring all of the weapons that I wanted with me, while in ME2 at least I think in ME2 I could bring almost all of them (looking at the skill list, it looks like it explains why I never used assault rifles until ME3). Thus, I discovered the link between weight and biotics at about the half way point … but still felt limited by the game before that. Hence, my annoyance at the weight system. At least not even letting me use the weapons meant that I could outfit everything I COULD use and decide what I liked best. Here … not so much.

                      EDIT: In hindsight, maybe I should have just not brought the assault rifle with me at all. That might have worked better, as it would have possibly turned me into an ME2 Vanguard. That’s on me if that’s true, but I think you start with one, so the game has to accept some responsibility for that as well [grin].

                    • guy says:

                      It’s been a while, but I recall being able to load up on all five weapons as a Vanguard if I decided I didn’t want to use powers.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      You do get an increase in carry weight later according to the wiki, and my problems with it would have been early in the game. By late game, I would have stopped trying to bring more weapons with me, so that might be the disconnect. I remember trying to equip weapons like the sniper rifle and having it not take at all and deciding to just leave it off and go without it, and only discovering the explicit “weight” mechanism later.

  14. Mokap says:

    Mass Effect 3 is the very first game I played in which I couldn’t play with the vanilla controls. I had to change them on 2 as well, to the same as they were in ME1, but ME3… Oh god.

  15. Galad says:

    I wonder if we could get an official opinion from someone who worked on some part of Mass Effect, what it would be like.

    Also, was that the final part of this ME autopsy?

  16. Merlin says:

    Okay, thought exercise.

    The year is 2030, and you’re in charge of a Mass Effect reboot. Assume Andromeda languished in development hell for years and killed the brand in the process, so we’re just looking at ME 1-3. While the series is still remembered fondly by some old graybeards, you’re getting a good bit of latitude in how you update/adapt the games and have the benefit of hindsight to avoid screwing the same pooch twice.

    Do you:
    (A) Do a straight port of the series and make small script changes to remove the most problematic elements? (Examples: Dialogue wheel no longer lies to you in TIM conversations, Alliance accepts that you’re working undercover)
    (B) Retain the general structure of ME1/ME2/ME3 but make significant changes to some of the existing plot beats for a better fit? (Example: It’s not immediately clear that you’re working for Cerberus in ME2, there’s some justification that continuing to do so is not totally bonkers, Earth is not the Most Important Place)
    (C) Completely restructure the story progression while working in some of the same overall arcs? (Example: ME1 is entirely focused on the Geth/Quarian conflict and drops a few hints about the Genophage & Reapers. ME2 is entirely focused on the Genophage arc and only drops “OH NO REAPERS” at the very end. ME3 is entirely focused on the Reapers)

    • I’d seriously consider taking the universe, dropping the Reapers, and focusing entirely on some conflict element; Quarians vs. Geth, perhaps, as the A story (sufficiently sci-fi to be a unique angle, sufficiently humanizable and allegorically-connectable to modern day events to be relevant), and a few other selected storylines as the B storylines. (Would definitely consider the genophage story as a very high B-story candidate. Don’t quite think it can carry the A-story, though.)

      One of the minor problems with Mass Effect is that it built this fantastic, Star Wars-at-its-best-quality universe, and then the first story it told was of the universe burning down. If I were in charge of it, I’d at least wait for the third trilogy or something before I took that step. Drop a few Reaper hooks into the first story just for fun, but all subtle, all optional, and all small enough that if we do decide never to do that storyline nobody will really complain. (In particular, it’s a great little “behind-the-scenes” explanation of why the galaxy is only as populated as it is, in the same way that Star Trek has its little explanation of why all the aliens are humans with things on their face.)

      In fact, after I had played Mass Effect 1 and 2 was not yet out, I recall thinking at the end that the writers had likely bitten off more than they could chew. There’s setting up drama, and then’s there’s setting up a situation where no solution could possibly be believable.

      (For instance, I would actually have been happier if it had been established that this was, say, only the 10th culling, and that it is still plausible that we might be able to change something about the process, rather than something that has been going on for so long. Consider the difference between “The matrix has been reset 4 times, but now Neo has helped make it be something different” and “It’s actually the year 2,832,293 AD and the matrix has been reset several dozen thousand times, BUT WAIT here’s Neo to change everything!” Very different stories.)

      In a way, Star Wars has the same problem… no matter how hard they try, Star Wars can never feel big enough when told primarily through the medium of 1:30-2:15 hour popular movies. You just can’t have enough characters that way. The Star Wars universe really needs the TV series treatment, like Star Trek got. Fundamentally, the story of Galactic Rebellion is just too darned big, which is probably why we keep blowing up the Death Star over and over.

    • swenson says:

      B for sure. You can’t just cut out the Reapers and have the same series; while the Reapers were very misused in many areas, they literally are the entire point of 1. Making ME1 without the Reapers would not be making ME1, it’d be a game set in the Mass Effect universe that was in no way ME1.

      I would keep very broad strokes of things such as:

      ME1 – overall plot of Saren seeking the Conduit to access the Citadel. Include Benezia, the Thorian, and the krogan genophage. Make the Council less annoying.

      ME2 – overall plot of Shepard running around the Terminus Systems (aka outside Council control), either (unwittingly) under Cerberus’ control or offering the player the choice to either work for Cerberus or the Alliance. Include Omega and Ilium, they’re pretty iconic. Set the game up as not being about the Reapers, though. Shepard and everybody agrees that the Reapers were going to come, but they all (Shepard included) think they were thwarted by the events of ME1, which explains why Shepard is now running around investigating the Collectors. Only toward the end should it become clear that no, it actually was the Reapers the whole time. Keep most of the squaddies. Set up a clever way at the end of the game for the Reapers to come back, like the Collectors were building a second Conduit or trying to override the Keepers or whatever. In general, just make the Collectors’ plans less stupid. And make the Council less annoying.

      ME3 – overall plot of THE REAPERS ARE HERE OH NO and trying to unite people. Focus less on taking back Earth and more on defending the Citadel (and all of the homeworld planets). Make Shepard’s actions throughout the game have meaningful consequences, more like Witcher 3 than just +/- 10 Can We Beat The Reapers points–you can keep the same decisions, just make them do things later. Uber-powerful Cerberus makes no sense, so let’s replace it with several groups of antagonists to show how the universe has been torn apart by the shock of war. One of them can be Cerberus, maybe like some splinter group of turians, maybe some super-religious hanar are goin’ nuts, whatever. Don’t even mention the name “Kai Leng”. Chop off the last five minutes of the game and have it end with Shepard dying with Anderson, that was a perfectly lovely ending if you did a little “where are they now” slideshow for everybody afterward. And make the Council less annoying.

      In other words: the broad strokes are fine. Make various groups (the Collectors, the Council, Cerberus) have sensible motivations and resources. Keep most of the original locations and characters, probably even some of the better dialogue. Use the ME3 gameplay and paragon/renegade interrupts even in New ME1, for obvious reasons. Just link all these things together better.

      No, the end result won’t be perfect, and it won’t be as good as a full rewrite, but I think such changes would result in something that still felt very much like the original series, down to story beats, but was more satisfying.

      • Merlin says:

        Making ME1 without the Reapers would not be making ME1, it’d be a game set in the Mass Effect universe that was in no way ME1.

        Eh, yes and no. You could, for example, make Shep’s initial mission the investigation of a new wave of Geth activity that (it turns out) is prioritizing the destruction of Prothean-related locations. You still get your killbots and Liara leading you on a tour of Prothean hotspots, but you also get the emotional core of the Quarian/Geth situation. And if you want to tie those plots together, you could make Benezia the game’s big bad, further connecting us to ME1.

        Sure, she’s actually playing lieutenant to an indoctrinated Saren that’s using the Geth to destroy records of the Protheans on Sovereign’s behalf, but we don’t need to completely tip our hands like ME1 does. Just resolve the immediate Geth conflict and make clear that something even nastier is lurking out there for next game. That incidentally gives a much nicer escalation of threats from entry to entry, as wizard lady gives way to spec ops guy gives way to Lovecraftian horror.

    • Alex says:

      I’d do C. Mass Effect 1 would be about the same with better gunplay, but Mass Effect 2 onwards would be about the galaxy, NOT the Reapers. As far as I’m concerned killing Sovereign delayed the Reapers by at least a hundred years, so now you get to play around in the galaxy you saved.

    • Slothfulcobra says:

      Well, aside from the whole daunting concept of rebooting an entire trilogy at once (although with the way reboots are getting these days, we’re not far from that), I’d probably downplay some of the pretense of choice from the original, since we, in the future already “know” what’s going to happen. Maybe focus more on the interpersonal relationships, and the player’s ability to choose how they react to things rather than what they do.

      I’d also give serious thought to downplaying the Reapers, since the shift in ME3 to some sort of horrible tragedy where all life is being steadily wiped out by a lovecraftian horror that we can’t begin to understand is a serious left turn. You I get rid of the Reapers war completely, since they’re such a major component of the game, but find some way to soften things. Maybe cut it with the whole schtick of the Reapers being so far beyond us (that’s cool and all, but what the context is asking for is a more simple enemy) and cool it with the footnotes everywhere about billions dying with nothing you can do about it. This is a game where all problems are supposed to be engaged with either talking or shooting, not a game about accepting the futility of life and inevitability of death.

  17. silver Harloe says:

    I remember how in love I was with the BSG reboot… until the end. The last few episodes completely destroyed my enjoyment of the entire series and also every attempt (Caprica, Blood and Chrome, whatever) to put things in the same universe. Angels and non-sensical decisions just UGH.

    So, yes, sequels can ruin originals. I tried to just pretend the last season doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t entirely work.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      It’s like a gymnastics routine ending in a face plant. That’s going to have a big impact on the overall impression, regardless of the rest of it.

    • jawlz says:

      I understand that this is a relatively commonly held view, but I still have a hard time understanding it. Religion was baked into the show from the first episode. Early in the first season, we are told that Gaius is ‘guided by the hand of God’ or something similar in randomly picking the right place to bomb a Cylon base.

      I mean, sure, the show didn’t land fully on the ‘there is/isn’t a God(s) out there behind this,’ but it’s not like it was a new concept pulled out of thin air, and there was a good amount of screen time dedicated to things that might have been caused by some divine force throughout the series.

      • Robyrt says:

        It’s not that religion is out of place in the series, it’s that religion is used as a deus ex machina to handwave the writers’ failure to think of a proper ending.

        Arthur C. Clarke runs into the same problem in his Rama series: the last book offers up no answers to the weird and wonderful mysteries raised in the first two books except “God did it”.

        • jawlz says:

          For one thing, I think it might not be inappropriate to use a Deus Ex Machina when so much of the show is draped in the trappings of ancient Greek/Roman religion.

          But besides that, given a series in which God(s) have played a role in the past, I don’t think it’s a hand-wave to have a God be a major part of the resolution/conclusion. Or, if it is a hand-wave, hands have been waving since the very beginning of the show. It would be one thing if there wasn’t any significant discussion of a God throughout the story, but there was, and given the conclusion it’s even reasonable to assume that he was an active (if off-screen) participant in the story’s action. But, at this point I am repeating myself.

          I get the cognitive dissonance in that for the most part, science-fiction avoids including real divine powers, but, of course, not *all* science fiction avoids this.

          • ehlijen says:

            Gaius’ connection to god was kept deliberately vague through the early seasons, as was Roslyn’s visions’ origin.

            Maybe Gaius picked the place to bomb by luck? Maybe he subconsciously did know where it was because he’s super smart? Maybe he just gave the most likely location his full confidence because he has issues in admitting he isn’t sure about something?
            Maybe head7 is real, maybe she’s god, maybe she’s just a delusion.

            Maybe Roslyn had divine visions, maybe the prophecy is real, or maybe she’s the most fortunate druggy in the fleet.

            The show never committed to there being a god, it always left things vague. Until, in the end, angels having visions of angels solve all the problems.

            The issue wasn’t about scifi vs religion (which is a false conflict, lot’s of scifi involves religion), but about the story removing agency from the characters and dumping an unjustified ending in everyone’s lap. If anything can happen, the writer has to explain why some things don’t happen, and that wasn’t the case here.

            Imagine the story of moses being filmed, only in the end it’s not the red sea that drowns the roman pursuers, but an armada of alien flying saucers blasts them and leaves. And that is somehow justified simply by god being depicted in the opening crawl with big black eyes and a very small nose. Everything else is true to the bible.
            The issue wouldn’t be scifi in a bible movie, but that it’s forced in badly.

            • jawlz says:

              I guess I just disagree that it was forced in badly. I’m not sure your analogy is appropriate, given that there *is* a good deal of talk about god, the nature of head 6, etc, Roslin’s visions, etc. So ‘it was God’s plan’ is not nearly as out-of-the-blue as a bunch of UFO’s destroying Moses’ pursuers would be, and is consistent with a bunch of what came before, even if the show never came down conclusively on one side or the other until the last episode.

              As opposed to something like ME3’s Star Child, which pops up with no previous discussion and offers a 3 choices for an ending, all of which *directly conflict* with the themes of what had preceded him.

              • silver Harloe says:

                In any case, pretty much the minute they started playing Bob Dylan onwards, it feel apart for me, and the ending was terrible to me.
                There’s no objective “right v wrong” here – the show was ruined to me, and I felt it was so much better in the earlier seasons.

                • jawlz says:

                  You’re right that there’s no objective right and wrong here. Actually, regardless of whether the ending works *or* doesn’t work for you, it does color how you see the rest of the series if you rewatch it, which is an extension of Shamus’ point that ‘pretending the sequel doesn’t exist’ isn’t really possible.

                  • silver Harloe says:

                    Of note:
                    The difficultly of mind-scrubbing a pre/sequel can vary a lot by the completeness of the work absent the pre/sequel, as well. I find it a lot easier to ignore the SWars prequels because they are in no way necessary to the 4 movies (so far) after them time-wise. Whereas BSG is just incomplete if you cut it off at some point (if, indeed, you desire to do so).

              • ehlijen says:

                Sure the characters talked about god, and some had visions. That’s not the same as god directly intervening.

                Every major decision in the show up to the ending was made by a character and every event followed the rules of the setting until starbuck returned.
                But the finale is brought about when someone who turns out not to really be there takes a leap of faith. (I like to phrase it as ‘everything is fixed by the hallucinating hallucination’, but that’s admittedly only one possible view).
                Whether god exists is a question the show does deal with, yes. But that alone doesn’t set the stage for secret angel agents fixing history.

                There was a definite switch from ‘people acting on their beliefs’ to ‘god(s) meddling in the affairs of their followers’. That change was not telegraphed and clashed badly with the gritty hard scifi themes and moods that show had been trying to cultivate up until then.

                And I’m saddened by that. The show had great moments in every season otherwise.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Clarke did only the first book.The other three were fanfics made by someone else that Clarke simply gave his blessings to.Thats why instead of this incredible world changing artifact and its impact,the three “sequels” focus on some idiots and their interpersonal drama.

      • Ponchow says:

        Battle Star Galactica was much more about the cyclical nature of the universe and patterns repeating than it was about religion. Religion is the foil in which the patterns are presented, because it’s easy to explain, but mythology had very little to do with what was happening in the metaphorical sense of the story.

        “This has happened before, and it will happen again.” was a common phrase spoken, both in the minds of people influenced by Cylons and those who weren’t. Patterns appeared throughout the series and characters picked up on them, followed them, and were lead to believe in the cyclical nature of the universe. Sometimes, these characters were completely against order, favoring chaos (Starbuck, for example), and yet even these characters succumb to the patterns and cycles that dictate existence.

        BSG wrapped mythology around the idea of “What goes around comes around.” It was about Man’s incessant ability to recognize patterns and follow them, sometimes to their doom, sometimes to their boon.

        The final episode highlights this pretty damn hard. The Gaius and “Number Six” / Tricia Helfer characters walking around seeing people from the story in the modern day with images of technological advancement and AI research progressing… it’s all about how this sort of thing is inevitable due to our nature. On a larger level, it’s probably about storytelling (post-modernism) and such.

        I love that show, and while I agree that the endings are kind of weak in how far-out there they are, they didn’t really jump the shark and I have to respect them for that. The deep end was still a bit a ways away.

    • Alex says:

      I agree with that. BSG should have been a series about people who happen to be religious, not about the subject of those religions being true.

  18. Flip says:

    One thing that’s really odd about ME3 is that it feels like a technical downgrade, at least to me.

    The characters and especially the faces look worse than in ME2. Joker even looks worse than in ME1 (Have you seen his eyes? Urgh.).

    A lot of the animations are stiff and bad (Anderson), others got cut (Who wants to holster his weapon anyway? This. is. a. shooter!) and there is a lot of animation skipping, especially for hand-shakes.

    And they managed to bring in-mission loading screens back, only this time, they are hidden as Shepard “hacking” a door, which is just as boring as ME1’s elevators. ME2 barely had in-mission loading screens.

    • Attercap says:

      Animation skipping, characters blinking in and out of a frame as camera angles changed, TIM’s weird cheek lines, occasional vocal syncing issues… I ran into more of these oddities in ME3’s base than 1 and 2 with all DLC combined. (And don’t get me started on the animation trainwrecks I got in ME3’s Omega DLC.)

      • Christopher says:

        Bioware are always bad at this, but it’s extremely noticable during ME3’s first mission. Maybe don’t try to be all cinematic when characters flip out even during normal conversations.

      • Deager says:

        Aria’s speech…so bad. And it’s not even worth the effort to mod the stupid thing. Finding all the blasted interps and changing camera timing.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      I know, right? I feel like Bioware set out to do a graphical overhaul for their final installment and realized halfway through that they had bungled it terribly, but that they had invested too many resources into it to go back. In still images, ME 3 is a clear upgrade from it’s predecessors, but the moment anyone starts moving, it plunges into the uncanny valley. I watched some videos of ME3 and then went on to play ME1 for a bit, and I could swear that ME3’s facial animation were worse. The way everyone moves their mouths seems slow and labored, like their faces are made out of play-dough or botox, and there are SO MANY broken animations.

      And Joker looks different, Ashley looks different, Atheyta looks completely different, Conrad Verner looks like he’s aged ten years, and Bailey and Udina look like they’ve de-aged ten years. For whatever reason, back when ME3 came out, I found it infuriating.

  19. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Just as a point of reference, back when this series started I was having good feeling about ME1 and I said “I’ll play one last run -all the way through. I’ll make a character and do my definitive playthrough.”

    I took the disc from the box, I stood there, hovering over the Xbox 360. And then the thought of playing ME3 swarmed over me. I put the game back in the box, put the box back on the shelf, and haven’t touched it since.

  20. Flip says:

    But those are things introduced and built up in the first game. Mass Effect 1 made the investments so that those stories paid off. This is what you get from careful and patient worldbuilding: Stories with a ton of personal, emotional, and thematic heft.

    I think this cannot be emphasized enough and it’s also true for ME2:
    Tali’s loyalty mission? –> pay-off for worldbuilding in ME1
    Mordin’s loyalty mission? –> pay-off for worldbuilding in ME1; expands the Genophage storyline
    Legion? –> pay-off for worldbuilding in ME1; introduces the Geth’s perspective
    Garrus? –> his work as Archangel fits his ME1 character; you get to meet Harkin again, who was already a shady character in ME1
    Lair of the Shadow Broker? –> Gives pay-off for the Shadow Broker who was introduced in ME1 and is barely acknowledged in ME2 if you don’t have the DLC

    And then ME3:
    Genophage storyline? –> set up in ME1
    Quarian/Geth storyline? –> set up in ME1
    Javik? –> you get him on Eden Prime (ME1) and scenes on Eden Prime call back to the Ilos facility
    Liara’s vigil? –> calls back to the original Vigil on Ilos

    These are the best parts of ME2 and ME3. So I think it is fair to say that the only things that hold up throughout the series are built on ME1’s foundation. And that’s really sad.

    • Merlin says:

      I struggle to give ME1 props for all of this though, because while it mentions all of these elements, it fails to do much with them. Like Shamus mentioned in #7:

      Sadly, I’m willing to bet most players had no idea about any of this when they ran into the Rachni Queen. You could only learn about the Rachni through the codex, and even then it’s not like the game went out of its way to draw attention to this particular entry. Wrex is the only one who brings it up in conversation, and only if you talk to him about his people often, and even then the Rachni are barely a footnote in his story about the genophage.

      Basically, this could have been a major mind-blowing reveal, but instead ends up feeling like a little bit of trivia: “By the way, did you know this bug-thing was believed to be extinct?”

      It becomes relevant on Virmire, but the setup is largely flubbed storytelling-wise, and the player’s inability to do anything intelligent with the facility foreshadows ME2’s handling of the reaper base. Similarly, the Quarian-Geth conflict is a perfectly fine idea (aside from introducing the daffiness of VIs versus AIs), but ME1 only uses it to give you a squadmate and a shooting gallery.

      ME1 isn’t as egregious about this kind of thing as, say, Dragon Age: Origins, which basically amounts to “Meet the mages, meet the templars, meet the dwarves, meet the elves, okay join us next time where you might need to give half a crap”. But it feels a little disingenuous to credit ME1 for massive improvements that ME2 & 3 made on the original.

      • Mike S. says:

        I’d second that. The genophage and quarian/geth conflict were established in ME1, but ME2 is where they’re made palpable: the difference between Wrex explaining stuff and actually seeing and hearing what it means for the krogan, or Tali giving you the origin of the game’s killbots and getting a deeper sense of what the quarian and geth cultures really are. And ME3 is where they come to a head. Whatever one wants to say about the main story, you really do need all three parts of the trilogy for those stories to work.

        I don’t hate the main stories of ME2 and ME3 as much as some (except for the end). But they really can be treated to some extent as a framing sequence for those ongoing stories (and smaller vignettes, like the Blue Rose of Ilium storyline that runs from 2 to 3, or even the adventures of Refund Guy).

        (And one reason that the end bugged me is that many-to-all of the outcomes tend to undercut those stories.)

        • swenson says:

          Also agreed. Without the greater exposure to the krogan and genophage in ME2 (through Okeer/Grunt, Mordin, and all the Tuchanka stuff), the genophage stuff in ME3 would have little meaning for the player, because it’s only introduced in ME1, not explored like it is in ME2. Same for the geth/quarian conflict. Again, you have two squad members who are directly linked to the issue (Tali and Legion), and their loyalty missions explore it as well. Without ME2’s exploration of quarian society and what the geth are “really” like, ME3’s geth/quarian storyline would be a lot shallower.

          ME1 set up a lot of stuff. ME2 expanded on a lot of stuff. ME3 concluded that stuff in the best of cases, but also discarded a lot of stuff ME2 set up, which you can’t really blame ME2 for. (dark energy, for the most egregious example)

      • Flip says:

        I agree. I merely wanted to point out that the (imo) best parts of ME2 and ME3 are those that build on ME1. Unfortunately, most of the good ME2 stuff like Jack gets put in optional sidequests while the human reaper and Cerberus appear in the main questline.

        Oh well.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      Jack bonding with younger biotics at the Academy. –> Build up from ME2.
      Mordin’s redemption. –> Build up from ME2.
      Samara’s reconciliation with her remaining daughter –> Build up from ME2 (in the sense that she finally is able to not have to hunt one of her daughters)
      Tali’s or Garrus’ romance –> Begins in ME2.
      Thane’s last stand –> Build up in ME2 and 3.

      To respond to Shamus about it being odd that the squad is smaller after ME2, I think it works because a lot of them have grown into roles that allow them to have a larger impact on the conflict. You have some becoming leaders, others teachers. They’re contributing in ways that are more specific to their characters. And you needed such a large squad in ME2 because you had nothing else backing you up. Certainly nothing like the alliance you build in 3.

  21. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    It’s a story about an apathetic galaxy that doesn’t want or deserve to be saved.

    This is why I was willing the accept that it was impossible for the war to end with the galaxy intact. If all tech had been wiped out (as was originally implied for the Destruction ending) I would have been fine with that. Its the best ending they deserved. At least they could rebuild, even if it took centuries, without this looming existential threat (in fact, I think it might have been interesting to jump ahead from this point and watch the story of every species racing to get back into space and establish themselves, afraid of what other races might do if left unchecked.*)

    And while there are lots of legit complaints about the ending, there are also lots of fans (I’ve argued with them) that believed that you should be able to earn a complete happy ending with everything intact and all your friends alive. But when the game begins with the Alliance and Council having put Shepard on trial for war crimes while ignoring his warnings once again, it shouldn’t end better than it originally did. As soon as the Reapers attacked at the beginning of ME3 my first thought was exactly what I quote from Shamus above “These people are idiots and don’t deserve to be saved.” As I watched them scramble I thought “They’re getting what they deserve right now.”

    So as with ME2 (being my introduction to the entire series) and its miraculous reconstruction of Shepard, the beginning of ME3 set my expectations for the game well. I ended up being pleasantly surprised by what came later because so much of the beginning had a “rah rah” military feeling to it.

    *Just think. The Asari struggling with the knowledge that their place at the top is in jeopardy, fearful of the new status quo that might emerge. The Quarians, being fleet based and used to salvaging junk somehow getting back into space first and going from the oppressed second class citizens to the dominant oppressors. The Krogan being scattered among multiple planets, threatening to overrun civilizations as they try to rebuild, even as Wrex sets a new direction for the Krogan of Earth while Eve does the same on Tuchunka, cut off from each other, taking diverging paths to the evolution Krogan civilization.

    • Flip says:

      I think a suicide option, where Shepard kills himself because he’s frustrated and has given up hope, would’ve been cool. Maybe you could have it after the Reapers show up on Earth. Shepard would take Anderson’s pistol, say sorry to Anderson and kill himself, a bit like Tali’s death. Then you get an epilogue that shows the galaxy and maybe some of your former team mates dying.

      (I would make this my canon ending.)

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I think what I’d like (building on your excellent idea), is Shepard takes that gun to his cabin as a memento. He sets it on the end table where he has his one picture of his romance option.

        Then, any time he’s there, you can have him pick up it, the shot then freezes on the camera pointed upward at the gun in hand in the foreground with Shepard’s face behind, his eyes obscured by shadow, no music, just the hum of the ship’s engine and the faint sound of Anderson’s voice in echo and maybe a hint of Reaper thrum (too faint to understand what he’s saying, barely audible over the ship’s hum) . The dialog options “put gun down” or “put gun to head”.

        If you select the latter, he sits on the bed and rests the barrel to his head. He closes his eyes. Anderson’s voice is louder intercut with the voices of people you’ve lost and fainter sounds of panicked masses and battle. The dialog options “Shoot” and “put gun down.” If you select “put gun down” you take a breath and do so. If you run this interaction a few times, the breath is accompanied by eyes watering and fighting back tears, slamming the gun back down on the end table.*

        If you select shoot, the noises get louder as he positions the gun properly. Then all the noises and the ship hum cut out and a second or two later, the trigger is pulled. A few somber piano keys, nothing too maudlin, and slowly fade to black (then maybe a cutscene of the consequences.) If you’ve done this interaction several times, maybe you have one option that says “Put gun down” and five other options that say “DO IT!!”

        You might even do something where, the more times you have him do it, the quicker it gets to him doing it and the more intense the voices. Promote the idea that this war is finally taking its toll on him (something the game did very little with and I’d have liked to see more of, between the weight of the burden and questions about his own humanity having been rebuilt by Cerberus.)

        *Might even have it where when the gun is slammed on the table, it knocks the picture off and now there’s a crack in the glass pane.

        • Supah Ewok says:

          Honestly? It sounds kinda neat on paper, but I’m intensely uncomfortable of the idea of a piece of interactive media, that directly encourages emotional investment, giving and even encouraging the option of a player to have their avatar commit suicide.

          I’m not interested in debating how much videogames may or may not influence people, or how much or how little creators have a moral obligation to society. Deeply depressed people find expression in media, and even if the experience that pushes them over the edge could come from anywhere, I would not be comfortable with a game that could influence real life suicide rates for the worse.

          Agree or disagree with me all you want, it’s fine, but I have the notion that most devs aren’t going to want to touch the subject in that manner either.

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            I share your concern.

            My version of the idea does make the option too immediately available.

            I think your concerns might be somewhat alleviated if it were somehow buried better in this interaction (like maybe the first dialog option is “pick up picture” or “pick up gun”, maybe under gun “remember anderson” or something.) Something where you won’t find the suicide option unless you’re actually already curious about it. That way the option will only be reached by players seeking this form of expression in their Roleplay.

            ==Alternately==

            Have the gun there to be interacted with as soon as you can access the Captain’s Loft but don’t have the suicide option until at least one current or former squadmate has died in this game.

            That way, people who would interact with the gun just for the sake of interacting with everything in the room will already have explored the immediately available options and not think to check back while the people who would RP this could have a “stare long and hard at the gun” scene and be intrigued by the now available suicide option.

          • Decius says:

            I can imagine what would happen in the media if people who played a game that did that had half the base rate of suicide.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats what ratings are for.Well,should be for.So that you know specifically if a game(or any other medium)has problematic stuff in it that youd want to avoid,or want your kids to avoid.

        • Flip says:

          That would work too. To me, an ending like that would actually be bittersweet, unlike what we got at the end. It would satisfy me personally: I tried to save the galaxy, but they wouldn’t listen or cooperate. And it would be a great middlefinger to the writer.

        • Henson says:

          Damn that’s good stuff.

          But no way would Bioware go there. Or almost anyone else, for that matter.

          • Christopher says:

            I can think of examples where the good ending involves killing yourself, in both indie and AAA releases, but it’s such a spoiler to say what games I’m thinking of.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              I can give one where I felt this way as soon as the premise was made clear. NWN2 Mask of the Betrayer.

            • Henson says:

              Yeah, but that’s a good ending, so context is different (I’m not sure what games you have in mind, but I have a few suspicions). The example Wide & Nerdy puts forth above is when killing yourself is a bad ending, though still better than getting harvested by the Reapers.

              I can still see some developers going for it, like 11 bit studios maybe. But most will find it just too risky.

            • Decius says:

              In the one I think you’re thinking of, the best ending comes when you die in the first chapter.

    • Deager says:

      I’m getting more and more into the results of the refuse ending being the one that makes the most sense. I don’t like how the game gets there exactly, but I like the results of it.

  22. Flip says:

    Since we are already praising the gameplay, may I use this opportunity to say that I hate enemies with insta-kills? Especially as a Vanguard? Those are not praiseworthy. And ME3 has 3 of them: Banshees, Brutes and Atlus (Atli?)

    Those and the bad controls are probably the worst part of this “better” gameplay.

    • Dilandau3000 says:

      Actually, 4 of them: there’s also Phantoms. Though to be fair, only Phantoms and Banshees really pose a threat. I didn’t even know that Brutes and Atlases could insta-kill until I saw it happen to someone else in the multiplayer.

      • Flip says:

        To be even more fair, nothing is more frustrating than finding out that an enemy has an unavoidable insta-kill move.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          NO enemy has an “unavoidable” instant kill mode. The avoidance part just comes before they start the animation, not during it. If they felt the need to keep this mechanic in 4, there should be a way to break it off, depending on your health supply (in multiplayer, shots from friendlies should also stop the attack).

      • swenson says:

        Ugh, Banshees. The only enemy my krogan vanguard’s patented “run up and punch them in the face” technique won’t work on. Their grab radius is ridiculous.

  23. WWWebb says:

    Ehhh, the gameplay was ok if we’re talking about the squad based, 3rd person shooter bits. But I remember most of the gameplay being a Star Control-lite game about scanning my way around solar systems to increase my war assets and steering away from Reapers.

    PS- Ur-Quan >> Reapers

  24. Xander77 says:

    I’m sure you had a lot of ME3 retrospectives recommended to you, whether genuinely helpfully or in the spirit of contrarianess, but I really think you want to check out Lt Danger’s LP:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxR5B4m-aYw
    It makes a lot of obvious points that are rarely mentioned when discussing ME3, and while I disagree with the overall conclusion, it’s hard to argue with some of the premises. It’s the first argument that actually convinced me the writers were going for *something*.

  25. Darren says:

    I’ve been thinking about Bioware’s approach to writing lately since I recently finished Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC. I think part of the problem* is that they clearly prioritize characters over story. This is very evident starting with Mass Effect 2.

    Their two big franchises have diverged in their approach to the main plot, however. Mass Effect’s plots have been large stories that span multiple games, and so the opportunities to make a hash of things spiraled out of control. With Dragon Age, the plots, while connected, have largely been such that they are mostly wrapped up with a single cast of characters, and those characters are increasingly pushed to the forefront. Inquisition’s main villain is a flavorless nothing who fades away because the game is more interested in how the character’s react to a crisis than in the crisis itself, while Dragon Age 2’s plot is a preordained bit of doom-and-gloom that is more about forcing the characters to face in-universe philosophical disagreements than in insane templars or persecuted mages.

    It’s an interesting dichotomy. In one series efforts are made to create scenarios you can become invested in but which collapse under scrutiny, while the other series satisfies itself with being a hang-out movie where some basically logical but boring and generic stuff happens in between conversations.

    *For the record, this is only a problem if you expect–or are promised–a riveting story. I don’t mind the weak plots of Dragon Age because, while they aren’t anything to write home about, they don’t utterly fail when glanced at and I greatly enjoy the characters. But I understand why some people find they have little impetus to play through them.

    • Deager says:

      I haven’t played The Witcher but the joke/comment I read often is you play The Witcher series for story, Bioware games for characters, and Elderscrolls/Fallout games for worlds.

      That’s obviously simplified and Wild Hunt is huge from what I’ve read. But anytime I read or even chat with friends, that’s the impression I’m getting.

      Now, if someone could put everything together that’d be nice. Playing my first Metal Gear Solid game ever. Sneaking around: fun! Horribly long, drawn out cutscenes saying the same thing 5 times: boring. However, if they’re going for garbage 80’s action movies, they totally nailed it.

  26. Dilandau3000 says:

    Another example of later events “ruining” earlier parts of the story is Mad-Eye Moody in the fourth Harry Potter book. Once you’ve read the ending of that book, all the earlier moments of Moody connecting with Harry are ruined when re-reading. That’s perhaps an even worse example since it’s in a single book, not a sequel we could potentially ignore.

    For the record, I greatly enjoyed Mass Effect 3 for its character moments (I loved how characters now actually move about on the Normandy and interact with each other), subplots, and how it was generally effective in showing how dire the situation was with the whole universe at war. The actual handling of the main plot was completely nonsensical, though.

    As any pilot will know (I have a private pilot license), your passengers will judge the flight entirely by the landing. You can have the smoothest, nicest flight ever, but if you have a rough landing your passengers will ignore all that and think you’re a bad pilot. I guess that applies to storytelling as well.

    • Merlin says:

      Yep! It’s a good rule of thumb, and I’ll always remember the version that was posted in my high school’s music room.

      There are two golden rules for an orchestra: start together and finish together. The public doesn’t give a damn what goes on in between.
      — Sir Thomas Beecham

  27. Mike S. says:

    If some hack takes over for Tolkien and writes a version of The Two Towers where it’s revealed that Gandalf is actually a fool and a liar, then our perception of the first book will be changed.

    Note that something very similar happens to The Hobbit as a result of The Lord of the Rings existing. (And to a much lesser extent, the published Silmarillion and ancillary works.) The Fellowship of the Ring literally does establish Bilbo as a liar, if not a fool, and implicitly or explicitly recasts a lot of the events of the earlier book.

    Tolkien then even did a George Lucas-like revision of The Hobbit, reducing a few inconsistencies in events (Gollum no longer actually offers the Precious as a reward for the riddle game only to renege), while leaving others and doing little to change the tonal conflict.

    And as a result, it’s almost impossible to talk or even think about The Hobbit as what it originally was, an isolated children’s adventure story. (With a handful of in-references to Tolkien’s hobby writing that about a dozen people on the planet, all of whom knew him personally, might catch.) And even more impossible to adapt: one reason that a short small-scale children’s story became a bloated film epic is that a more direct adaptation of The Hobbit would have confused audiences to no end.

    (There’s a fun retelling of The Hobbit in an SF milieu, There and Back Again by Pat Murphy. Out of print, but cheap used on Amazon. It’s got a clever sfnal equivalent of the Ring and does some interesting turns on the characters. But it’s also a standalone, which means that there isn’t a larger conflict lurking in the background as there now is for The Hobbit proper. That gives it an interestingly different feel.)

    The Lord of the Rings isn’t hackwork, and Middle Earth (amazingly coherent for something Tolkien kept messing with till he died) is a singular accomplishment. So the trade is fair, in the way that a bad sequel or adaptation doesn’t feel. But there is still something lost, or at least changed, when the original story takes on an unshakeable context that wasn’t there when it was created.

    • Cinebeast says:

      I was wondering if Shamus would bring this up. This actually happened! It doesn’t bother most people because Tolkien wrote it, so it feels more official. (And more people care about Lord of the Rings than the Hobbit, anyway.)

  28. Dreadjaws says:

    Shamus, I freaking love this series. I realize this particular franchise had such a powerful impact on you that you just had to do this deep analysis, but I want to know… Is there a chance for you to do a similar project for a different franchise once you’re done with this one? Because I’d really love to see it, but I’m not sure what other game could be worth your time for such a thing.

  29. neothoron says:

    I would agree about the reality of the power of sequels to retroactively ruin previous installments. I will only mention that you may be interested to read Patrick Rothfuss take on the subject, about Clarke’s Rama series.

  30. Tristan says:

    I always find it surprising how well people like the conclusion of the Genophage plot, it was always one of the things that bugged me about the series.

    In Mass Effect 1 we hear that the Genophage is a sterility plague. That’s a pretty serious problem, and something we would want to help with for sure to save the species. We also hear the justification for why it was used, regardless of whether or not it was truly justified.

    In Mass Effect 2 we get more information, and it becomes an even more interesting story (Though I found it occasionally mishandled). It’s not actually a sterility plague, but actually brings their birthrates in line with Council species standards, meaning one child at a time. Given that Krogan are by far the longest-lived organic species in the galaxy (Wrex is 1400 years old), have immunity to disease and are naturally resilient, the Krogan should be completely fine to continue as a species. We also find out from other sources that the Krogan were halted not just because of their rebellions, but because their excessive birthrate (1000 per clutch) meant they were stripping planets too quickly to sustain themselves.

    By every rationale argument, curing the Genophage should have been an important debate about whether allowing one species to thrive as a weapon (the Krogan) was justifiable in war, knowing that it would essentially bring another war directly afterwards. Instead we got a naive “Hey, if you cure it, you’re nice, and if not, you’re mean”.

    • Mike S. says:

      It’s true that even the best case, you’re relying on two people arguably in charge of one planet (one of whom isn’t even there as of the end of the game) to change the direction of an entire species, everywhere, forever. And maybe they can, but you really don’t have a plan B.

      But if you don’t have the conviction that this is absolutely the best thing for an already devastated and weakened galaxy, you may have to shoot two of your friends to stop it.

    • Flip says:

      To some degree, this is just another case where nuance falls victim to the Paragon/Renegade system. Without it, the game wouldn’t have felt compelled to judge you.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Paragade stupidity aside,the decision of whether to cure it or not is still a big deal.But it also has a huge personal component,in that no matter how you resolve it,one of the two beloved people in the series will die,depending on your choices.AND it incorporates your choices from all three games well.Thats why people like that one,and not because of the blue/red bars.

    • Bas L. says:

      The whole Genophage plot is proof of how people don’t really pay attention and how superficial the Paragon/Renegade system is.
      Since curing the Genophage is the Paragon option and the other route requires you to shoot your own squad members, it’s what most people go for and they’ll justify it to themselves in some way. But in truth, the whole Genophage choice is not a choice at all, unless you are roleplaying an utter moron. Sabotaging it is the only choice that makes sense, even with Wrex and/or Eve alive.

      Simple facts. There are one billion, IIRC, fertile females on Tuchanka alone. With the Genophage cured they will get 1000 eggs per year. Sure, many will die, but too many will be left. It is naive and inherently stupid to believe that two Krogans (Wrex and Eve) can keep that many in check. Even dictators who ruled by fear (in human history) didn’t survive for very long and Wrex and Eve don’t have the manpower or technological superiority to suppress the other clans. Plus, can they change basic Krogan nature (their aggressiveness) in one generation? I think not.

      The real mistake regarding the Krogans is not the Genophage but their uplifting by the Salarians that happened before it. It would be a more interesting choice if you could reverse both mistakes. If you can somehow remove their spacefaring capability entirely, they can go through a normal evolution on their home planet (perhaps resulting in nuclear war) and eventually learn to become either more peaceful or go extinct.

      As it stands, curing the Genophage is a good example of how you can roleplay that real-life can be fairy tale and Bioware believes in it too, because they never let you deal with the consequences.

      • Deager says:

        Now that’s some good analysis. Definitely characters over story is the Bioware theme. Dang, where is a game that really has consequences and is thought out?

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The thing is, the Krogan problem is solvable: allow them to open new Mass Effect relays once the Reapers are defeated. The whole “not enough planets to live on” thing falls away when they’re allowed to go exploring into the ENTIRE galaxy. Is that deferring things to a later, bigger problem? Maybe, but maybe Krogan culture or biology will shift over the time period it would take for that to become a huge problem.

        • Deager says:

          It’s an option I suppose. There are always ways to make things work. I still think that ultimately, the krogan situation is very, very messy.

        • Mike S. says:

          The problem is that the krogan don’t just like breeding and expanding onto strange new worlds. They preferentially, instinctively like killing people and taking their stuff– especially the first part. Look at Grunt– the implanted memories were just information to him, but when he hit puberty he started getting a visceral, unlooked-for desire to start putting sharp things into people.

          Everyone thinks there’s something wrong at first (including him), but no, we’re told, that’s just being a krogan.

          And exponential growth at a thousand young per clutch starts to get serious even on a galactic scale. Depending on how quickly they reach reproductive age, you could populate the entire galaxy in a century.

          (Even if each krogan female manages only one surviving clutch in their whole long life after they get through with one another, each generation is a five hundred times the size of the one before. They can produce enough krogan to give every one of the 100 billion star systems in the galaxy the population of Tuchanka in about four generations.)

          In practice, you hit resource limits way before that. (Just spacelifting all those krogan alone, or feeding them…) But “hitting resource limits” in that context is often another word for “war”. I can imagine Wrex and Bakara enforcing limits within their domain. But krogan liberated from the genophage who aren’t interested in family planning (which is clearly going to be a lot of them) can just go somewhere else, and then come back a few quadrillion strong.

          Of course nigh-unkillable near-immortal obligate warriors whose population growth rate is naturally explosive are a nightmare contrivance, not a plausible hard SF concept. (Just as the asari start with the unlikely intersection of hot space babes and wise space elves, and then develop the justification and explore the implications. All of Mass Effect has always been Trekish soft SF in that way.) But accepting the premise, they really are a hard thing to live next door to.

          It’s not even a matter of trust– Wrex is the most restrained and thoughtful krogan in history, and he’ll tell you to your face how much he likes smashing people. (And monsters. He’s not picky.) His original plan after all was just to stop fighting and start breeding to restore their strength, not to stay peaceful forever. And his reason for not going all Krogan Rebellion after the genophage cure is pretty much just not wanting to provoke genocide. If the krogan get big enough that the Citadel can’t threaten them, even he doesn’t really have much reason to care what his people do to the rest of the species in the galaxy.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            A bit of this is a corrupted sample size though. If all the Krogan you meet are barbarians or mercenaries OF COURSE those will be the violent ones. On Tuchanka, Krogan vary from the template quite a bit. There’s ones who just want to run a store, noble ones, weak ones, a romantic one (!), etc. With a sustainable Krogan population, there might be more than the one Krogan scientist, just for example.

          • Pax says:

            I seem to remember there was a Codex entry somewhere that said that all living Krogan suffer from the same insane bloodlust as a result of their nuclear war, and that before the war, this people were a minority. So only the psychos managed to survive the Krogan post-apocalypse.

            1. Just think, Krogan-themed Fallout game.
            2. Maybe someone should look in to getting this species chemical balanced in the brain again.

        • Bas L. says:

          Mark S. basically explained what is wrong with this idea. Krogan are aggressive, they don’t seem all that curious about exploring the unknown (especially when the planets are likely empty and there is no one to fight).

          Even if they can be convinced to open new relays and conquer the rest of the galaxy, does that really sound like a good idea? Soon they’ll outclass the rest of the galaxy in terms of military power and they will start picking the easier (and more fun) route, which is colonizing planets close to you. Who cares if the Asari or humans are already there?

          Truth is, curing the Genophage is a big recipe for disaster. Arguably (especially with how easy it is to kill some Reapers), the Krogan are even a BIGGER threat than the Reapers themselves. You are replacing one evil with another.

          Sabotaging the Genophage is even better for the Krogan themselves, since curing it will inevitably lead to (nuclear) war between themselves. I’d rate their chance to go extinct (or every other race) higher if you cure the Genophage, rather than sabotage it.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            A lot of problems in the post here. First, WILL the Krogan surpass the rest of the galaxy? Sure in numbers, but think about spaceships and technology. If they go out to the frontier, where will they get it? Could the Krogans make a shipyard? If they’re as irrational as you say, I wouldn’t think they had the temperament to do so. And if they can carry on with business like every other race… then why shouldn’t they be allowed to? It’s a twisted argument that is made against them.

            Krogans are irrational, violent, and bloodthirsty! They have no interest in a real civilization!

            AND

            Krogans are too dangerous to allow to spread! Their civilization left unchecked would defeat and crush all others of any other race!

            • Mike S. says:

              The krogan prior to the Rebellions were entirely civilized– they had naval power, controlled multiple systems, etc.– and entirely aggressive. And if their growth rate is going to fill the galaxy in four generations, fighting over stuff seems inevitable by the fifth even if they’re all by inclination the Dalai Lama. (Recent human history indicates Malthus may have been wrong about us. But he’s dead on about the krogan so far.)

              Maybe their culture undergoes a demographic transition and willingly stabilizes their population before that happens. But that’s a complete leap of faith– it’s not something that ever happened in prior krogan history, including the period that they were the high-tech heroes of a gratefully-defended galaxy: they grew, asked for space, then demanded space.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Difference being, the Rebellion era Krogan didn’t see the downside of demanding space. Now that they’ve been through this terrible period, there’s a strong argument against doing that. Heck, the Reapers give them a strong argument against doing it, even if they WIN. It’s not a guaranteed happy time with them, but the “no, we will continue to control your population as WE see fit” argument cannot be seen as anything but repugnant. Imagine if there was a sci fi game about aliens controlling human reproduction because we had “too many” kids and “had the potential to become a danger to the galaxy.” Killing those guys would be something players would unambiguously get behind.

  31. Artur CalDazar says:

    “But they have no connection to the main story. At the end, some people agree to join your cause, and that cause could have been anything. ”

    I don’t see how that is true? The reason you go to them for aid in the first place is they have something you need for your fight against the reapers, ignoring everything in the quests there’s still a connection.

    • Daimbert says:

      Yeah. I mean, you’re only on the Korgan homeworld if I recall correctly because you need the help of the Turians, and they say that they can’t help until they have support against the attack on their homeworld, and the Krogans are best positioned to do that, and thus curing the Genophage is the price for their help. There was nothing even remotely like that in ME2.

  32. Blackbird71 says:

    “Part of me wants to put up a bulletin board of photographs and newspaper clippings, forming lines between them with bits of yarn, obsessively toiling over this puzzle until I can crack the case and figure out Who Killed Mass Effect.”

    Shamus, I can answer your whodunit in two letters: “EA”. The moment Bioware was acquired by/sold out to Electronic Arts, it was inevitable that the influence of their new corporate masters would cause the quality of the once-great studio to fall to the level of conveyor-belt crap as has happened with every other studio that has taken that path before them. There is no great mystery here; Bioware simply stopped being the Bioware of the past and instead became just one more EA-owned development studio. Maybe that’s simplifying things a bit, but in the end, I think it’s all that really matters. It has happened before and will happen again. No matter what studio it is, once it shows “EA” on the label, you can stop expecting anything of quality to come out of it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats not quite true.A lot of the problems from mass effects can be traced back to the very first bioware games.They were always shaky with their main stuff,and its the characters that they excelled at.Sure,the crunch from ea can be seen in some stuff like the stupid dlc partitioning and the rushed feel of me3,but other stuff like the idiotic main story in me2 is just bioware.

      • AdamS says:

        Except, didn’t EA basically cannibalize Bioware’s teams so they could waste time making SWTOR? I seem to recall reading that a LOT of ME and DA writers had been repurposed to handle quest writing and the like, since EA was so sure SW MMORPGs were their meal ticket.

        • Alexander The 1st says:

          Technically, Bioware cannibalized Bioware’s teams.

          In fact, IIRC, Bioware wanted to be acquired specifically so that they *could* make the SWTOR MMO.

          While the source Wikipedia had from Gamespot gets redirected to “Generic News Coverage Page for SWTOR”, this is one thing they apparently said at the time regarding SWTOR’s development:

          “BioWare had long been interested in working on a MMORPG, but waited until they had “the right partners, the right team, and the right I.P.””

          So it was my understanding that while E.A. enabled their splitting of the team into multiple projects and running them thin, the prerogative to do so was with Bioware themselves.

  33. Joshua says:

    “The best outcome you can hope for is to purge the later works from your mind and accept that the beloved original will be left forever incomplete, its questions unanswered, its characters abandoned, and its problems left unsolved.”

    On a tangent, how does that impact stories that are left incomplete? Does it impair your playthrough of a game or exploration of media when the various ideas and stories laid out are never resolved in a sequel?

    The most famous ones being Half-Life 3, and the ever-expanding release of Song of Ice and Fire. We (sort of) dodged the bullet with Wheel of Time. There’s plenty of other examples, I’m sure, like Shamus’s review of Dreamfall (I guess they’re developing episodes now, almost 10 years later?)

    A lot of people will use the defense of “the author doesn’t owe you anything beyond what they’ve already developed”. I’m personally not a fan of this argument, when the appeal of an earlier part of the work was appreciated especially because it promised to be part of a larger story. To me, it’s like saying that a person who’s spent the last hour telling you the build up to a joke doesn’t owe you a punchline.

    So, what’s worse, that a “beloved original will be left forever incomplete”, or that it’s actually completed but with a crappy conclusion? That’s a rhetorical questions not meant to be answered -both suck.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Both are bad obviously but I personally despise unfinished stories. A crappy ending at least gives me something to analyse and deconstruct, and ultimately complain about, but an unfinished story, arcs left open, resolutions not delivered annoys me to no end.

      This actually made me skip or postpone a lot of stuff: after reading the first two books I decided to hold back until the whole thing was released to make sure Rowling would keep her word and actually end the thing (I caught up by book 5 or 6 when it became impossible to avoid spoilers, it’s also what makes me often play the big name games as they are released rather than wait for the series to be concluded as would be my MO), it’s also why I’m never going to finish Zelazny’s Amber, I’m putting away Song of Ice and Fire, didn’t get into Wheel of Time, watch Dr.Who only once the season is concluded, waited for the final season of BSG to be finished…

      • Daimbert says:

        Um, didn’t Zelazny’s Amber series finish? Both of them?

        There were some new books and things after, but each series is as complete as a series can expect to be, at least in my opinion.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I’m getting conflicting information on that actually, some people tell me that it’s finished, other that it’s not. The best I was able to figure out without getting it too spoiled is that certain major plotlines are concluded but some of the big “meaning of life and universe and everything” stuff isn’t. The people who know my reading preferences well (I’m very much into the big “meaning of everything” arcs) tell me that the stuff I’d be most interested in is left hanging.

  34. Khazidhea says:

    “What’s the big deal? It’s not like they burned the earlier stuff. They still exist and they’re still as good as ever!”
    The best outcome you can hope for is to… accept that the beloved original will be left forever incomplete, its questions unanswered, its characters abandoned, and its problems left unsolved.

    I’ve found this to be equally frustrating for the doing away of the Star Wars extended universe. I’ve no illusions about the quality of those works, and can understand the reasoning behind ending them, but I’ve spent decades with the adventures of characters old and new, and have seen them grow and explore many different directions. No matter how good the new trilogy is, and any subsequent works, my characters are gone now with no option to see how their lives continue.

    If it wouldn’t set me off on a rant a better example more directly similar to today’s post I’d also go into the retcon of the Mandalorians during the Clone Wars TV show that abruptly ended the Republic Commando series of books (a favourite of mine, one of the few works I regard as good (your mileage may vary) resulting from the prequel trilogies).

    • Mike S. says:

      While the EU isn’t my particular poison, I lived through DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, so I feel your pain.

      I admit to a little hint of schadenfreude at the generation who grew up with the world that created learning just what that’s like via the New 52. (Not enough to make it worth it.)

      • Matt Downie says:

        They’re already planning to reboot the New 52 universe and bring in a ‘more like the movies’ universe. So the New 52 generation will soon feel the pain of the previous generations of comic readers.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          They’re going to implode. They do entirely too many universe shake ups at DC, a problem they’ve had for decades now.

          At least I get the reasons for Marvel doing its recent reboot. They’re trying to undermine the people holding onto their movie rights. DC is just plain making every wrong decision with their properties aside from the Nolan Trilogy (I know we complain about Nolanification these days, but The Dark Knight Saga was great and I think if it weren’t for Nolanification, DC would have simply botched their Cinematic Universe in some other way.

          • Mike S. says:

            That’s the thing– they’ve had the problem for decades, comics sales have been on an overall decline since the Golden Age, and predictions of the imminent death of superhero comics have been going on since at least the collapse of the magazine distribution system in the 80s.

            If something can’t go on forever, it will stop. But when it will stop is anyone’s guess. I don’t see any more reason that this cycle of reboots will be the one that implodes it than the ones in the 90s.

            At least right now both of the Big Two are IP shops for media conglomerates. By all accounts, they aren’t allowed to operate at a loss or directly subsidized. But by the same token the larger entity has an interest in the pittance it costs to keep throwing costumes and codenames at the beta testers to figure out what’s worth making a blockbuster out of.

            Honestly, by now I’d have expected at least monthly comics to end in favor of trades, or now electronic distribution. But even that hasn’t happened.

            When comics started, distributing fiction in flimsy monthly packages is what everyone did: sf, romance, mystery, literary fiction. It was a decades-old system that published famous authors from Charles Dickens to Norman Mailer. That entire model for fiction is basically dead, aside from a bare handful of venerable sf magazines, literary and poetry journals produced at a loss… and hundreds of superhero comic titles. This isn’t an easy industry to move, let alone kill.

            • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

              It used to be most of those big events didn’t shake up the status quo for too many characters. But starting in the 00’s, “nothing will ever be the same again” became the tagline.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Um,why?Out of their recent movies,only two of the batmans were well received,their superman movies were awful,and their other movies arent even out yet.To plan something so huge based on such a flimsy foundation is stupid.

          On the other hand,what do I know?Im obviously not old enough to appreciate this companys work since I still have 10 years before I am the correct age to understand the genius of their decisions.

          • Mike S. says:

            As someone of the appropriate age when they made the statement, with a deep and abiding love for what DC once was (and still manages to be occasionally on TV, if nowhere else), I can assure you: it doesn’t help.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I don’t see this as being as relevant to things like the EU.

      The new Star Trek hasn’t stopped me from continuing to considering the pre-reboot universe my Trek. TNG and DS9 are still far more my trek than the new movies. Likewise the EU stuff went on for quite a long time. Mass Effect got cut off after one game.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        The parallel universe stuff is designed to let people who don’t like it ignore it, though. I mean, it firmly established that old Trek is still there and that Scotty killed the Duchess’s dog, so it’s a fairly crafty reboot.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          Good point.

          I am able to treat Dragon Age Origins as the only Dragon Age, and KOTOR as the primary Star Wars canon but the alternate universe set up for Star Trek does make it easier to accept TNG and DS9 (especially since TNG:Parallels established that all possible universes exist.)

    • Daimbert says:

      The only issue with the Star Wars EU is that, at least for now, they aren’t writing new works in that universe. But it still exists and is deliberately completely separate from the new works, so nothing in them will retcon them out of existence or have an impact on those stories, and they are still publishing them (under the “Legends” line).

      For now, I think they don’t want the competition and so are only writing the new universe, but if there are enough demands and enough money to be made extending the “Legends” line, I’m sure they’ll do that. Heck, having the “Legends” division makes doing that massively convenient, so I can’t imagine extending it wasn’t in the back of their minds when they decided to do that.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Regarding Republic Commando, that was a casualty of Lucas having a competing (and not completely terrible) idea, so obviously he would win. And also of Traviss kind of having a meltdown and going to war with the fanbase. To the point where they just cancelled her last book and cut their losses.

  35. MadHiro says:

    And for the nth time I write: Apologies for Master of Orion 3. The people making it were just as disappointed as everyone else.

  36. Mephane says:

    Does ME3 have the same silly ammo mechanic, where all guns mysteriously are worse than two years earlier, and on top of ammo spawns only for you when you have little left, just to force you to scrounge for it all the time?

  37. Slothfulcobra says:

    I guess another reason why “the best thing in ME3 is ME1” is that ME3 does its best to ignore or counteract most of ME2’s decisions.

    All that moral complexity and sociological reasoning involved with the genophage in ME2? It’s out the window, and the genophage’s greatest champion has changed his mind offscreen. The Quarian-Geth conflict focuses mainly on the fact that the Quarians tried to shut off all the Geth at the beginning, which was the only thing that ME1 touched on, whereas ME2 focused more on the fact that the Geth had been doing something behind the Perseus Veil for all those years. There’s also not peep about the Collectors or the fact that the Council gave Shepard the shaft.

    Even most of the ME2 cameos seem to fall flat. Grunt’s terrible at leading, Kasumi and Zaeed show up when you’re on the job and don’t give much assistance beyond some token war assets. Everyone is totally superfluous because they might be dead. The worst is Kelly Chambers, who only lives if you order her to keep quiet about being a character in ME2.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Even the Citadel DLC with all it’s focus on the characters and their bonds and friendships forgets about poor Kelly Chambers. The poor woman put up with me constantly ignoring her updates about my emails while I danced around the CIC, got kidnapped and traumatized, hunted down by Cerberus and forced to change her identity, and she doesn’t even get a proper send-off. It’s really not fair.

      Seriously though, I actually really liked Kelly. I liked the way she had a small conversation after every story beat where she backed and forth-ed with Shepard while maintaining a quiet affection for her. I liked the way she immediately backed off if Shepard insisted that she wanted their relationship to be entirely formal (it took two conversations to get Liara to do the same in ME1). I like how she rarely reached a point where she straight up ran out of things to say, like every one else did. I liked how she was the only one to suspect that you might have swapped out Samara for Morinth like the dummy you were. I especially liked how she fed Shepard’s fish, too.

  38. Deager says:

    This read is going to be awesome for ME3. The groundwork has been laid by Shamus; now it’s payoff time.

    Since I knew Bioware games were characters over story, at first, I was merely just disappointed with ME3’s ending. Not mad, but just scratching my head since, despite the story being pretty messed up, it still should make some sense. But then I did get mad…and I couldn’t figure out why.

    Then it hit me. I found the character stuff of Shepard at the end not in character…that’s ultimately what wrecked it for me. Yes, I get that Shep is nearly dead. But in the original release, the lines are very much, “uh-huh, whatever you say Casper.” The Extended Cut helps Shep’s character a bit and you can choose to challenge the Catalyst statements a little bit more, but ultimately, the main character is not the main character anymore.

    Yes, I’m sure many people will disagree with that consensus, but primarily, that’s what ticked me off. And that’s why I find catharsis is modding this game and using mods. It doesn’t change the facts of the fiction Bioware did, or fix the majority of problems with the story, but at least at the end, depending on the mod, Shep can remain Shep by skipping/changing some of the crazy.

    In ME3, I just wanted the plane to land and the orchestra to finish together. Plus it’s fun to do things that aren’t supposed to be done. ;)

    Shamus, we wouldn’t have this retrospective without your devotion to the sane notion of the official works of fiction being the ones that matter. But, while fan fiction gets such a bad rap, since the word fiction exists in both “official works” and “fan,” I don’t care. Is a lot of fan fiction, even fan fiction I made, still crap for the story? Sure. Maybe even the characters. But I can take living in denial of official works of fiction since none of it is real.

    That said, nothing beats fiction, official stuff, by the original author, kicking butt in the first place. Ah…I’m day dreaming about The Martian again. Man I loved that movie.

  39. Caryl says:

    My Mass Effect 3 squad was smaller than my Mass Effect 1 squad

    Who did you have die on you, Shamus? By the numbers, the ME3 squad should have been about the same size: 3 vanilla was James, Liara, Garrus, EDI, optional Virmire survivor, and Tali (so either six or five); 1 was Kaidan, Ash, Tali, Garrus, Wrex, and Liara (six, five after Virmire).

    Or did you expect more new characters and I’ve misread?

    • Gethsemani says:

      If Tali and Garrus die in the Suicide Mission in ME2 that takes you down to as low as 3 squad members (assuming you refuse the Virimire survivor). It is entirely possible to have fewer party members in ME3, though perhaps not expected.

    • Shamus says:

      I actually cut Ashley loose to be a Spectre, just because I wanted to see what would happen.

      Spoiler: Nothing particularly memorable / amazing. I think she just turns into war assets?

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        And you miss Ashley’s regretful hangover, which IS rather great.

      • Mike S. says:

        Yeah, I was disappointed that when my Shepard both kicked Kaidan to the curb and told him there wasn’t room on the ship for him, that we didn’t get any Adventures of Spectre Alenko content. (Reports from Hackett or the Council would have been fine– I’m not one of those who feels cheated by text updates.)

        But my impression is that Bioware takes these things as “if you like the character, you’ll recruit them. If you don’t, it means you’re uninterested in them and we should just let it drop.”

      • Deager says:

        Yup, you get war assets. That’s it. I can’t remember how many she is but relatively speaking, she’s pretty good compared to an Alliance fleet. ;)

      • Caryl says:

        Yeah, just war assets. Would’ve been nice if they’d done more with a Virmire survivor who wasn’t on the Normandy.

  40. natureguy85 says:

    When asked why I still talk about the ending of ME3 on the Bioware forums, I say that it’s not so that the endings are changed, because they won’t be, but rather it is so that the mistakes are acknowledged in order to keep them from being repeated.

    I am in complete agreement about sequels being able to ruin the earlier titles. As much as I love Mass Effect and still really enjoyed Mass Effect 2 despite the terrible plot of the latter, Mass Effect 3 has kept me from playing the earlier games again because I know it only ends in pain.

  41. Guile says:

    Can’t argue ME3 tripped over itself a lot in the main storyline. Heck, you could even say the main storyline was one long pratfall, with Shepard almost managing to right himself a couple of times only to trip over himself and start tumbling down the stairs again. But I think ME3 shined much more in the… I’m not sure what you would call it, the zeitgeist? The way the small things build together to create a sense of momentum pushing you along for a confrontation you’re not ready for (possibly because you futzed around in ME2, Shepard you noob).

    Shepard’s PTSD dreams were a bit hamfisted, but not too bad (if not for Starkid, I know). Not even the side missions with Jack and the rest, though those were good. The news reports, the emails cluttering up your inbox from Hackett and others telling you about people you know and like or even hate fighting or dying elsewhere, all that stuff.

    Kal Reegar was one that stuck with me the most.

    Here’s my second or third favorite Quarian, not really that important in the grand scheme of things, he was just kind of around, you know? For Haestrom and Tali’s trial and stuff. He’s a marine, so he’s a bit of a meathead, but respectful to the lady and his heart’s in the right place. And then I get an email in my inbox about Kal Reegar and his squad took and repaired a crucial communications tower somewhere at the cost of their lives. Somewhere out there, maybe while the salarians were fucking around on Tuchanka, Kal Reegar had a ‘Fuck Yeah’ moment. I remember smiling as I read it. It turned a little wry, a little bittersweet, because Kal Reegar was out there doing his thing, being awesome. And I never knew, and would never get to see it. Because he had his moment, and now he was dead. For me, Kal Reegar was the face of the entire known universe fighting and dying by inches.

    And it was good, damn it. Of course, then I played more of the main storyline, and the sweet pain turned into more of a migraine. But Kal Reegar and that little email that some writer probably spent 10 whole minutes on got me through to the end of Mass Effect 3, and left me with more happy thoughts about it than sad or angry ones.

  42. RTBones says:

    For me, I wouldnt say ME3 gameplay is necessarily better than what came before – its just more refined and in the direction BIoware decided to go. Mechanically, you might say its smoother. At some point along the way, Bioware took the decision to move from RPG-with-shooter-characteristics to Shooter-with-RPG-bits. If Bioware had maintained focus, we would likely still have gotten more refined gameplay. I do think, Shamus, you are right about branching skill trees. I also think that the game plays differnetly based on what class you play – and that is a credit to Bioware.

    I also wonder how many people besides me did NOT play multiplayer. I wasnt in this for multiplayer content, had absolutely no interest whatesoever in it, and was ticked when I figured out / realized multiplayer affected my single player game. I didnt care that nearly everything I had read about multiplayer said it was good – I wasnt interested; multiplayer simply isnt my thing.

    As to the Quarian and Krogan stories, I think that Bioware could probably have stretched each one into their own game. I think they are two of the few bright spots to ME3. My problem however is that as far as ME3 goes, they were simply footnotes.

  43. MrFob says:

    Wow, I am curious how this will continue. In my perception, they tried really hard in ME3 to get their act back together (until the ending that is).

    Of course, there was only so much to rescue after the disastrous state that ME2 left us in but I really did mainly blame ME2 for the most of the bad aspects of ME3. I find a lot of the contrivances in the main plot were necessary in order to get the abandoned reaper plot back on track and steering it towards some kind of conclusion in the time and budget allotted.

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