Mass Effect Retrospective 33: Sentenced to Plot-Jail

By Shamus
on Feb 4, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

I know I said earlier in this series that I wouldn’t be covering DLC. And it certainly wouldn’t be fair (or wise) of me to attempt to dissect content I haven’t played. But I think we need to stop and at least mention the events and ideas of The Arrival anyway, because of the problems it creates for the main story.

The Arrival


Link (YouTube)

The Arrival was DLC for Mass Effect 2. You can watch the whole thing above. In it, Shepard abandons the team he established in the main game and finds a cult of indoctrinated people who are predicting that the Reapers Are Coming. They even have a countdown timer on the outside of their base, showing how long until the Reapers arrive. Shepard ends up fighting them and then crashes an asteroid into the local Mass Relay to blow it up just as the Reapers arrive, thus slamming the door in their face.

This seems to make a mess of the previous games: How did the Reapers get here? Did they just fly in from dark space? Remember that we saw them all “wake up” at the very end of Mass Effect 2. So how long was it from the end of the second game to The Arrival? A few weeks? Months? If that’s all it takes, then Sovereign and Harbinger are idiots for enacting their plans instead of… whatever caused this to happen. The Arrival retroactively makes Mass Effect 1 dumb and pointless.

But that’s not the worst problem. The worst problem is that we are now dealing with an immensely important plotline that may or may not exist in the main story, depending on whether or not you bought enough DLC from BioWare. This is exactly the dystopian world people predicted when DLC became a thing.

Players: We don’t want to have our games cut into pieces! Will we have to pay for lore? For the last boss fight? For the end of the game?

Publishers: DLC is all about hats and guns and new skins and cosmetic things.

But here we are. The “How do we stop the Reapers from coming to kill us all?” plot – which most people seem to regard as the main plot – doesn’t budge in Mass Effect 2, and instead it only moves forward in this piece of DLC. The Arrival moved the Reaper plot forward, then moves it back again, because no matter what it does it can’t feed back into Mass Effect 3 because not everyone is going to choose to pay for The Arrival.

This also creates headaches for me as I analyze this story. Specifically, I have to deal with:

Me: So Mass Effect 2 never advances the main plot…

Fan: That’s not true! The Arrival does exactly that. You can’t claim a book doesn’t make sense if you skip chapters!

Me, later: So the Arrival establishes that the Mass Relays…

Fan: You can’t cite Arrival, because not everyone played it. It’s just add-on DLC, making it less canonical than the core games! You’re just looking for stuff to complain about.

(To be fair, nobody on this site has made these arguments. I’m just trying to show how optional content makes story analysis problematic.)

It`s worse than that. It`s what your FANBASE warned you about: The complete unraveling of your fictional universe into dumb yet pretentious action schlock.

It`s worse than that. It`s what your FANBASE warned you about: The complete unraveling of your fictional universe into dumb yet pretentious action schlock.

This series is long enough without me needing to review every possible permutation of every game+DLC. Mass Effect has a nominally branching story, but this blog is non-branching. So for the purposes of this series: I may have to reference DLC lore, but “it’s explained in the DLC” is never a good enough excuse for the failure of some plot element in my book.

At any rate, The Arrival ends with Shepard blowing up a mass relay, which also blows up a star system and possibly kills millionsAgain, I didn’t play it, so I may be off on the death toll or the timing or other incidental facts, but I think I’ve got the plot down in broad strokes.. That’s a big deal. That’s a “Shepard dies” level plot point. And like Shepard’s death, it’s going to be glossed over because this writer doesn’t care about worldbuilding and wants to create huge character-changing events but never wants to stop and explore them in detail.

So at the start of Mass Effect 3, Shepard is in the custody of The Alliance. He’s either there for blowing up a Mass Relay or he’s there for reasons unexplained. He’s been stripped of his rank, his ship, and his crew. Maybe this means the Alliance are idiots and maybe it means Shepard was an idiot for turning himself in and maybe his squad were jerks for running off, but to what degree any one particular character is an idiot depends on whether or not we’re talking about a universe where The Arrival took place.

Arrival and non-Arrival are both broken plots, but they’re broken in different ways. Luckily the Mass Effect 3 writer did us a favor by sweeping all these problems under the rug, giving us a choose-your-own-plothole kind of deal.

It was all Part of the Plan. If such a thing existed.

The last game gave us a huge squad of aliens, and now most of them are gone and replaced with this guy who just wandered in from Gears of War. While I don`t care for James, I actually like the voice actor`s performance. I think James would be a cool character for some other, different videogame.

The last game gave us a huge squad of aliens, and now most of them are gone and replaced with this guy who just wandered in from Gears of War. While I don`t care for James, I actually like the voice actor`s performance. I think James would be a cool character for some other, different videogame.

In this series we’ve had a lot of discussions about whether or not the writers had a plan, if they broke from that plan, or if they needed to plan. Tolkien purportedly didn’t have a hard plan on how Lord of the Rings would be resolved, and his story turned out just fine. Other writers failed spectacularly when working from a plan. The focus on “having a plan” is something of a distraction. The reader generally doesn’t care if the writer spent years planning out their story, or if they came up with each idea thirty seconds before they appeared on the page, as long as it holds together in the end.

What the audience wants is a story that’s not full of contradictions, contrivances, loose plot threads, forced dialog, dumb characters, and sloppy justifications for character actions. I suspect that the more scrupulously you adhere to the rules, the less you need a plan. If you’re willing to let the rules of the world and the personalities of the characters drive the storyYou can hear authors talk about this very thing, where certain characters or ideas seem to take over a story and take it where the author never intended. then you can get away with winging it. But if you want to arrive at some predetermined outcome at a predetermined time – perhaps you have a plot that needs to run for the length of three AAA games, end each game at a logical and satisfying point, and conclude at the end of the third with a resolution to the central conflict – then the sooner you get something passable on the dry-erase board, the lower your chances of ending in failure.

A plan can help a writer achieve this, but it’s not required and it’s no guarantee of success. What matters most is that the author makes a world that holds together. The reason I bring this up now is that Mass Effect has some bizarre story structure:

Mass Effect 1 is a slow reveal of the Reapers, ending with what seems to be a quest to prevent them from ever showing up.

Mass Effect 2 abandons this for a side plot, then circles back and ends on the same note as Mass Effect 1.

Having skipped act 2, The Arrival seems to jump to the end of the story with OH NO THE REAPERS ARE HERE oh wait you fixed it.

Mass Effect 3 then opens with OH NO THE REAPERS ARE HERE. AGAIN.

While we can perhaps forgive them not having a proper through-line planned for the whole trilogy, this goes far beyond a lack of planning. The Arrival and Mass Effect 3 were made one after another. It’s even possible their development overlapped. Maybe it’s not fair to expect a writer to have a plan for five years from now, but certainly they ought to have a plan for what they’ll do tomorrow, right? Not burning a bridge you’re about to cross isn’t really “planning ahead”. It’s just basic sanity.

But now let’s get into the game proper…

Arrested Plot Development

1) `Idyllic future` is an outrageous mis-characterization of the tone of this universe.</p>
<p>2) The Reapers are `about` to return? HOW? The last two games made it clear they didn`t have a way to get to us. This is the core hurdle the bad guys needed to overcome in this story. You can`t just brush it away without explanation in the opening crawl.</p>
<p>3) Actually, EVERYONE saw that legend come to life when Sovereign attacked the Citadel.</p>
<p>4) Are we really going to frame this supposedly epic conflict as `only one soldier can save us all`? Ew.</p>
<p>5) The Reapers do NOT cleanse the galaxy of ALL ORGANIC LIFE. They cull civilizations above a certain tech level. Those are two very different things!</p>
<p>
1) 'Idyllic future' is an outrageous mis-characterization of the tone of this universe.

2) The Reapers are 'about' to return? HOW? The last two games made it clear they didn't have a way to get to us. This is the core hurdle the bad guys needed to overcome in this story. You can't just brush it away without explanation in the opening crawl.

3) Actually, EVERYONE saw that legend come to life when Sovereign attacked the Citadel.

4) Are we really going to frame this supposedly epic conflict as 'only one soldier can save us all'? Ew.

5) The Reapers do NOT cleanse the galaxy of ALL ORGANIC LIFE. They cull civilizations above a certain tech level. Those are two very different things!

Like last time, the game opens with jarring discontinuity. Shepard is under some sort of arrest for past events. Shepard has potentially done any number of things that might land him here:

1) Maybe the alliance is mad about him swiping the Normandy at the end of Mass Effect 1? Except, things were just fine at the start of Mass Effect 2.

2) Maybe the Alliance was mad about the whole “working with Cerberus” thing. In which case, this is an infuriating case of the game condemning you for something you didn’t want to do, and only did because none of the more sensible options were available to you. Spec Ops: The Line did this. But Spec Ops was doing it on purpose. People hated and resented the game for it, but at least the Spec Ops railroading was intentional. It was a deconstruction of a genre. In Mass Effect 2 it was just a dumb plot that ran on circular logic, and having Shepard punished in the third game is just salt in the wound. Instead of glossing over the mistakes of Mass Effect 2, it rubs the player’s nose in them. Also, it uses those past mistakes as an excuse for why the game continues to make them: Shepard isn’t allowed to pursue his goals because of the way the last game forbid him from pursuing his goals.

Also, Joker resignedOr possibly went AWOL? and signed on with terrorists. But instead of being put in plot-jail he was given back his old rank and even allowed to fly the Normandy again. If working for Cerberus is a sin, then why isn’t he also stripped of duty and rank like Shepard?

3) Maybe the Alliance is upset that Shepard blew up a solar system in The Arrival DLC? This would be one of the most historically significant events since the Rachni wars or the Krogan uplift. It’s the equivalent of dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima. The death toll is massive. Given that most of the galaxy still doesn’t believe in the Reapers, there will be a lot of controversy on how “necessary” this was. The various races will be asking themselves: Can other Mass Relays be destroyed? Has the balance of power changed? Is this something we can do defensively? Offensively? Do we know who did this and why? A Paragon Shepard should be haunted by the weight of this choice. And if nothing else, this act should have brought the galaxy to the brink of war.

All three of these are wrong, but the frustrating thing is that the writers wouldn’t at least commit to one of these wrong ideas.

Intro

Is it the Reapers? I know it`s the Reapers. Maybe. Probably. I figure it`s probably the Reapers for certain.

Is it the Reapers? I know it`s the Reapers. Maybe. Probably. I figure it`s probably the Reapers for certain.

The game opens with a conversation between Anderson and Shepard, and the writer flat-out refuses to nail anything down. Do people believe in the Reapers yet? Maybe. Is the military preparing for them? Maybe. Is Shepard under house arrest, or here of his own volition? Eh. Did Shepard turn himself in? If so, why? Why didn’t he keep his ship and his mandate?

For a series that began with such an eagerness for worldbuilding and details, this is a horrendous way to open a game. This is the opposite of worldbuilding. This is tearing down the ideas and assumptions of the series, and then refusing to build something new in their place. Nobody knows anything. Nothing matters. Don’t ask too many questions. Just shoot the bad guys when the talking stops.

Regardless of what happened during Schrödinger’s interlude, it’s not the only thing wrong with this setup. Once again, the last game ended with Shepard making a promise to solve the Reaper threat in some vague, non-specific way. And once again the next game opens with him having abdicated all his agency and leaving the non-believers in charge.

Imagine instead, a game that opened up with Shepard mid-mission. Perhaps he’s hunting down someone with information. Or he’s securing a base that has technology. Or he’s exploring a ruin that might have historical information on the Reapers. He could then have some dialog with his squad, “Boy these things we’ve been doing for the last few months sure have been effective/not effective!” We would get the sense that our hero is driven, forward-looking, and proactive.

But the writers of Mass Effect 2 & 3 never really understood how this story was supposed to work, so they never have Shepard doing things on his own. Shepard’s default state seems to be one of inaction. He simply reacts to the world around him. In Mass Effect 2, he was wasting his time on orders from the council until the Collectors showed up. After that, he took orders from TIM. Here in Mass Effect 3, he’s sitting around for various reasons and not making any progress on his goals.

Before the player has a chance to settle in and figure out which part of this broken story is the most annoying, the writers distract them with OH NO THE REAPERS ARE HERE.

AGAIN. SOMEHOW.

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Footnotes:

[1] Again, I didn’t play it, so I may be off on the death toll or the timing or other incidental facts, but I think I’ve got the plot down in broad strokes.

[2] You can hear authors talk about this very thing, where certain characters or ideas seem to take over a story and take it where the author never intended.

[3] Or possibly went AWOL?



A Hundred!A Hundred!209229 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. CliveHowlitzer says:

    Typo patrol for you – We would get the sense that our hero is dirven(Driven), forward-looking, and proactive.

    The Reapers just showing up anyway always felt like the most confusing and baffling case of not looking ahead ever. At least throw some technobabble at me!

    Also, still loving this series. My GF discovered Mass Effect recently and has been playing through it without having any experience in this genre of games, or sci-fi in general really. She is loving it, and even she was able to pick up on the huge change in tone from 1 to 2. I can only imagine what she’ll do when she hits 3…or worse, the end of 3. She might be broken forever given how much she loved 1.

  2. Gethsemani says:

    What always bothered me about Mass Effect 3 was how insistent it was on letting the Reapers hit full force. Just the simple fact that they could get from “Dark Space” outside of the galaxy and into the galaxy in what amounts to something like a year in game (at the most) means that Sovereigns and Harbingers plans were just wasting time. If you can just come down on the galaxy with all your force and win, without using your backdoor ambush, why even bother with trying to get the backdoor working to begin with?

    By putting the Reapers front and center of ME3 they made the previous two games narratives pointless and also made the Reapers less attractive as antagonists by making them less mysterious and less scary. We see the Reapers everywhere and we are never really in any danger of losing to them, except when the plot mandates that Shepard does (Earth, Tessia). This was the main problem of ME3 for most of its’ running time for me, it cheapened ME1 and ME2 and its’ central conceit of “Armageddon is here” made Armageddon feel rather bland.

    It would probably have been much more effective if the Reaper Invasion wasn’t the first scene in the game, but if it happened halfway through or even as the act three Point of No Return. That way the game could have had a build up to the Reapers, it could have given a non-lore breaking explanation to how they got here so quickly and it would have made the Reapers seen less, which would have benefited them as antagonists.

    • SPCTRE says:

      The Reapers’ representation as cute little figurine-like shapes in the navigation interface (oh no, the Moe-Mini-Reapers are here! let’s play catch!) didn’t help their overall lack of impressiveness and dread. It actually made me want a Reaper plushy toy.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        That’s one of the incredibly Star Control-type things about Mass Effect. Star Control has that exact system for solar systems being patrolled by the Ur-Quan, except instead of just giving you an instant game over, you have to fight a really tough ship. Instead of annoying the player, it’s all risk management. It’s an opportunity to feel cool for dodging and weaving around enemies, or to try your luck in combat.

        There’s none of the fun elements of that in ME3. The Reapers can be outmaneuvered, but there’s nothing interesting about it, and if they get within reach of you, there’s nothing Joker and EDI can do for you, for all their bragging.

        • Daimbert says:

          Worse, scanning systems is critical to getting War Assets and so critical to getting a good ending, especially before the extended cut and ESPECIALLY if you are only playing single player. But determining how many scans will trigger Reapers isn’t intuitive, and as it resets on completing a mission the best approach is to just scan every system to max, run a mission, and return … if you can remember where you already scanned. So, it’s not fun, doesn’t encourage fun exploration, is semi-mandatory, and relies on your memory to do it reasonably. It’s still better than ME2’s, but not by much.

          • Mephane says:

            And on top of that, there are not infinite missions to reset it, I assume? In other words, this is a problem that can be optimized. As someone who cannot not optimize when they see such a glaring opportunity (especially when it can determine the final outcome of the game), I’d go nuts over trying to find the most optimal path through the game with the maximum scans and minimum reapers. And judging from past experience, I’d get sick of it and uninstall the game halfway through.

            My problem is indeed when the play-through as a whole can be optimized, I cannot ignore this and just play as if I didn’t know. If the optimization becomes too much of a hassle or gets into the way of fun… I can’t choose not to optimize, because knowing I could but I didn’t is just as unfun as doing so but being annoyed by it. A lose-lose situation.

            And yes, this means I tend to save-scum myself through games like this. When I played ME1*, I basically quicksaved before every single conversation once I realized the dialog options often weren’t what they seemed to be from the label, or the game reacted to my choices in seemingly arbitrary ways.

            *I played ME1 about 1.5 times. 1 time full play-through. Then left it at that. Never touched ME2, even though I got it cheap in a Steam sale (first didn’t get around to it, then heard too much bad stuff about it). The other half-play-through was interrupted by me realizing that a) completing the game in certain ways grants perks for subsequent play-throughs (for example +10% rifle damage because I played the first time as a soldier), and b) my original savegame no longer exists (I think this was before Steam Cloud and I never bothered to back up the savegame). Knowing full well how I’d blundered myself out of several significant perks for my 2nd play-through, I could not continue. To this date I still sometimes think about playing it again, only to remember the issue with the perks.

            • Daimbert says:

              Not only WAS there an optimized path, you kinda had to optimize in order to get enough War assets to let Shepard survive at the end (which was a rather dumb “survival” anyway). So for people like you, it was annoying, and for people like me, it forced moving to a FAQ just so that I could maximize my chances of getting a satisfying ending.

            • Kian says:

              You didn’t really need resets. I think there’s a counter of how many resources are still hidden (the explored percentage is shown). My strategy was to cheese my way through the scanning section. I knew I could just about cross a system before the reapers caught me, and that the direction you were facing when you entered the system determined where you entered the system from. So I just entered the system, ran straight through pinging all the way, and left just ahead of the reapers. Then I changed my heading and entered the system again, pinging in a different arc through the system.

              Since time also froze when you zoomed in, I could even grab the things I found on a subsequent pass with the reapers chasing me. Eventually I had the whole system scanned and I moved to the next. Could clear the whole cluster without doing a mission.

              • Daimbert says:

                I did stuff like that as well … but it’s still really annoying and if you didn’t do it properly — or they had multiple entry points that could cut you off — it’s a “Game Over”, which was irritating. Cheesing through it with the FAQ was SO much more convenient, as was finding what you could find using that, gathering it up, and then using a mission to reset the level to finish the rest off.

                I didn’t find escaping Reapers to be QUITE as easy as you did [grin].

          • djw says:

            It encouraged save scumming and google fu.

            • Daimbert says:

              Yep. This was the first time that I actually used the Gamefaqs FAQ to find all the assets, because I wasn’t going to be able to remember where I had scanned to avoid wasting mission resets, and the game didn’t help me out at all.

    • Poncho says:

      I agree. I’ve said this several times in this series, but I think it bares repeating here because we’re at the point of relevance in the review. This plot fails spectacularly RIGHT HERE at the beginning of ME3 due to its opening premise: “The Reapers are here and Shepard must stop them.”

      No no no no. You do not create a villain of demonstrably ridiculous power and throw them at the protagonist en masse and expect this issue to progress in tension or conflict in any plausible way. There is no way to defeat the Reapers without space magic from a storytelling perspective past this point. It’s like the writers just forgot about ME1 despite painstakingly including ME1 decision tags in the story: We had a single Reaper that nearly succeeded in wiping out the whole galaxy. Adding 10,000 doesn’t drive up the stakes, it launches the whole setting into absurdism wrapped in action action schlock with a Sci-Fi ribbon attached.

      The plot has to act like a vector; once you have a starting point and a direction, it must follow that line until it reaches its most satisfying conclusion (or any satisfying conclusion). When you pick an inane starting point, no matter the direction, it’s going to be impossible to arrive at that satisfying conclusion.

      ME2’s characters can make the bad plot easier to stomach, but there’s no luxury of that here, because the main conflict overshadows anything else that might come up. Even the generally well-written Citadel DLC is tainted by this premise, because it’s supposedly happening in the middle of a war to decide the fate of galactic civilization .

      The game’s introduction demonstrates the writer’s complete inability to display foresight or direction with regards to their story. It’s as if someone walked in on the writer’s room, told them they needed a dark and gritty war story, and everyone agreed on the first thing someone thought of without any reciprocation, planning, or experience.

      • guy says:

        I personally am of the opinion that ME3 should have opened with “thirty years later”, immediately followed by the Reaper invasion. Or possibly “seven hundred years later” with Matriarch Liara ordering the Citadel fleet to full alert. ME is a space opera Lovecraft hybrid, and it is entirely valid to end that by establishing that the incredibly powerful adversary is no god and the mere mortals can match its weapons.

        “Thirty years later” lets you still have Shepard, and it’s not that hard to work out a reason they didn’t show up earlier; it was their backup plan for if Sovereign was unexpectedly destroyed or they lost the Citadel entirely and they didn’t really make proper arrangements for the highly specific scenario that actually happened, so they stayed in hibernation until Sovereign’s destruction triggered a contingency alarm on the Citadel because they hadn’t thought to prepare for him being alive and able to communicate with the Citadel but not activate the Citadel Relay remotely.

        “Seven hundred years later” means that most of the characters are dead of old age but you can still have Grunt, Liara, Legion, and EDI, and gives more room for the galaxy to prepare. And it nicely explains why they didn’t do this earlier; the planning session would logically have gone like this at pretty much any prior point:
        Sovereign: MY ATTEMPT TO REACTIVATE THE CITADEL HAS FAILED. I WILL EMPLOY ANOTHER METHOD.
        Harbinger: SHALL WE SIMPLY APPROACH DIRECTLY? WE MAY ARRIVE IN 700 YEARS.
        Sovereign: NO. I ANTICIPATE SUCCESSFUL ACTIVATION OF THE CITADEL WITHIN THAT TIMEFRAME.

        Honestly, I would have felt rather unsatisfied with an alternate series which did not in fact end with you actually destroying the Reapers. The Reapers are a villain from a setting where you must prevent the ancient evil from awakening, but Mass Effect is a setting where ingenuity, courage, and cooperation can overcome any threat.

        • SyrusRayne says:

          “Thirty years later” could have worked. First, put Arrival in ME3; Full thing as a tutorial or a simple plot-recap. Shepard successfully stalls the Reapers and does not kill millions for absolutely no reason. Shepard turns themself in. Shepard goes to Space Jail for sparking an interstellar conflict/killing aforementioned millions.

          30 YEARS LATER: “Whoops, hey Shepard the reapers are really real after all, here’s your ship back go fix this.”

          ASIDE:

          If you had a story that was planned out at all, you might even put Arrival at the beginning of ME2 as your justification for why Shepard’s working with Cerberus; rather than killing and then reviving Shepard within the space of 5 minutes screen-time, instead Cerberus breaks Shepard out of Space Jail.

          It doesn’t fix the rest of ME2, but… You know. You can’t have everything.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I do not concur. The immense strength of the reapers in ME 1 was that no one knew they were coming and that no one understood indoctrination. Both were necessary for Sovereign to even get close to the Citadel -he needed indoctrinated geth and Saren plus additional traitors within -and had that failed, he’d have been locked out of the Citadel. And while the Alliance fleet and the Council fleets were badly damaged in the battle, they were also caught off guard. The Alliance sent one fleet (of the five) and threw it immediately into battle without even dressing the lines. And still won with the loss of only seven cruisers and no dreadnaughts or carriers.

      If the galaxy concentrates their forces and prepares adequately, the reapers are beatable as demonstrated in the first game.

      The unstoppability of the reapers in previous cycles stems from the fact that they first took the Citadel, then shut down the Mass Relay network, preventing the galaxy from concentrating their forces and responding. The Battle for Earth is a reaper nightmare scenario: all the combined fleets of the galaxy attacking the reapers, rather than being able to dismantle the galaxy piecemeal. Thus, a full frontal assault on the galaxy through conventional FTL can be possible, but still such a dangerous idea the reapers might want to avoid it.

      And this is hinted at through the games. ME1: human fleet doctrine is not to defend anything from orbit but to let the turians take the planet, then mass the fleets and come down on the turians like a sledgehammer, smashing their fleet. Then disperse into raiders (like the frigate Normandy) until another opportunity arises to concentrate the fleets into another hammer. ME3: Javik mentions that the lack of flexibility and emphasis on meeting force with force in his cycle meant they were crushed in detail, but the current cycle is diverse and flexible. Thus, maybe the current cycle can win.

      • Syal says:

        And even if the Reapers win in every scenario, if a surprise attack would win while keeping one more Reaper alive that’s a good enough reason to try it.

        But I totally buy that Harbinger was just wasting time.

      • Arumin says:

        If only they took their time to make this clear in the game! They never gave any indication of anything of this and all is left to fan speculation.

        • Alexander The 1st says:

          “If only they took their time to make this clear in the game! They never gave any indication of anything of this and all is left to fan speculation.”

          To be fair, it *is* in the game. On the other hand, it’s in the DLC.

          • guy says:

            I’d say it’s really halfway in the game, though personally I count codex entries not contradicted by events as part of the game and other people don’t. Between Vigil and the codex, it’s pretty clear that the opening Citadel strike is a really big deal, and it’s not entirely clear that they could have beaten the Protheans without it. Reapers are definitely superior, but not completely unstoppable, and making it literally impossible for anyone else to make long-distance FTL trips* is a big deal.

            On the other hand, the Reapers are way, way stronger than the Council races on a ship-for-ship basis and there’s quite a lot of them. Flying in from the outside of the galaxy and engaging everyone in the galaxy in a stand-up fight is actually a plausible plan and sensibly a better option than waiting a thousand years and then striking at the Citadel.

            *FTL is a common cause of confusion because it’s relegated to the codex, though honestly I don’t think the impression people get from the rest of the game is wrong in a way that really matters to the plot. There are two types of FTL, shipboard and relay. The shipboard type involves using the drive core to reduce the ship’s mass until its momentum lets it move at FTL (look it’s space magic just go with it) and produces the loading screen effect where the Normandy is flying on a blue-red background due to doppler shift. It’s relatively slow (12ish LY/day, I think) and makes the drive core build up a charge until it eventually discharges into the crew/electronics (I don’t know if this actually works either, but just go with it) so they need to discharge it into planets. Only some planets are suitable for discharging, and if you want to go from point A to point B sometimes there just aren’t any suitable planets in the right places. Then there’s the relays, of which there are two types. One type pairs with a specific other relay and turning it on will send you right over regardless of distance. Another type can connect to any relay within a somewhat smaller area (still larger than max flight time) so long as you know the coordinates. The Rachni relay was type 1, the Mu relay was type 2. Anyways, this means that when the Reapers switch off the Relays it’s possible to travel between star systems at FTL but it’s much slower and some areas are impassible. Meanwhile the Reapers are much better at shipboard FTL and can turn individual relays back on whenever they want. It’s like fighting a world war in the age of sail where one side has teleporters.

            • Mike S. says:

              I get what you mean by “relatively slow” (i.e. compared to relay travel, or the scale of the whole galaxy). But it’s still a striking term to use for something on the order of four million times the speed of light. :-)

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          To this, I agree. I think the makers of the game bought their own hype about Borg-Cthulu and sort of flanderized the reapers in reverse, making the unstoppable god-killers rather than what they were demonstrated to be in ME1: arrogant machine false gods.

          The model should have bee the Go’uold from Stargate.

      • Poncho says:

        It’s outright stated that Sovereign didn’t die until his shields failed after taking direct control of Saren. We don’t know how much more of a beating it could have taken, but assuming this an intelligent enemy capable of basic loss-aversion, charging through the Citadel fleet and docking with the station still appears to be a no-brainer for Sovereign. It doesn’t hesitate or take out a bunch of ships on its way when the arms are closing, it just jumps right in and gets to work. Its weapons are also super effective.

        Also consider that the Reapers win in any scenario where Shepard can’t activate the super gun, which means that the Reapers really are that powerful despite the sub-optimal scenario and acting like idiots.

        Speaking of dumb moves, they never take the Citadel, which controls the Relay network, and has the most Relay connections. It’s a literal cross-roads for ship traffic, and they ignore it during their opening assault. It’s like one or two jumps from Palaven, just send a Reaper or two and secure this massive advantage! Did the Reapers not realize that the Citadel was the catalyst, even though they built it? If the arms close up, can’t they just cart it wherever they want it, like how it got to earth in the first place?

        From the Reaper perspective, the strategic advantage of a surprise attack is mostly only mitigated by the fact they tried it and failed, so coming in full force in ME1, given the fact that they *almost* won anyway in ME3 despite that disadvantage, means their elaborate sabotage plans are doubly stupid. They’re increasing the number of variables that *must* go right in order for their optimal strategy to work, which increases their chance of failure with each new variable, when they’re only marginally improving their odds of success.

        Never mind all the questions FTL travel from dark space raises. It was implied that this was either impossible, or would take so long as to be irrelevant. From a storytelling perspective, this is all sorts of messy.

        I could buy the all out invasion if the Reapers had like a dozen surprise attack scenarios that all failed. If, in ME2, we were shutting all these down, and the Reapers showed up anyway.

        • GloatingSwine says:

          And then suddenly at the end they magically did. Offscreen.

          • tremor3258 says:

            The part I rage the most about with ME3 – ‘You know where ALL the relays are, and how to activate them! There is literally nothing but fiat stopping you from conquering the galaxy’s capital, shutting down interstellar communication, and putting Plan A back into action!’

    • mechaninja says:

      And have we discussed the technological ramifications of being able to move from deep space into the galaxy in a reasonable amount of time? Spend 10 seconds thinking about how one might weaponize that kind of tech.

      – Warp/teleport tech? Just drop a bunch of automated bombs literally anywhere.
      – Can wave at the speed of light as you pass it? HAHAHAHAHAH kinetic weapons. Also, you must have shielding or material science that would make a science fiction author weep.

      I mean, just detonating the right star at the right time could wipe life from multiple solar systems – if several years on, but Reapers apparently take the long view. The kind of tech they would have access to in order to cover that amount of space in a year-ish would give them power that would rival the Infinity Gauntlet.

      • ehlijen says:

        Most fictional scifi universes fall apart if you look at them that way. Feasible space travel (ie getting around the speed of light somehow) almost automatically results in every ship being a potential planet killer.

        Some handwavium preventing any given drunken space truck driver from accidentally wiping out worlds is usually assumed by most readers and writers unless this concept is specifically invoked as a plot point. Not doing so cuts out too many interesting story possibilities:
        -No privately owned ships (as they’re all WMDs)
        -Interstellar politics without M.A.D. deterrents
        -Space wars without routine planetary annihilation
        -No superweapons with terrorising impact (who’d want a deathstar if the Falcon can destroy a planet just fine?)

        Sure, the writers can explain why this doesn’t happen, but like english speaking aliens, gravity on spaceships and FTL itself, sometimes everyone just wants the story to move along.

        In short, I have no problems with the Reapers not suicide bombing whole worlds, regardless of what cool spacedrives they have.

        • guy says:

          Honestly, the Mass Effect drive is generically space magic but there’s really no clear indication that turning it on actually lets your ship deliver more kinetic energy than it would otherwise. You go faster by becoming less massive, and I’m not really sure what the ratio is.

          • Bas L. says:

            Yeah but since kinetic energy = 0.5 * mass * speed^2 (or F=m*a) the mass would have to decrease A LOT to compensate for the enormous increase in speed, if you want the kinetic energy/force to remain the same.

            Even an extremely small particle with a very low mass would deal a lot of damage if you can get it to the speed of light (or faster, like in ME). So yeah, if you start to think about it, suicide bombers would be the way to take out Reapers and the Reapers could easily take out entire planets if they would want to (in this case, you could make the argument that every Reaper represents an entire species, so they don’t want to kill themselves off).

            • guy says:

              Actually, I’ve been rechecking the codex, and I’m not sure they actually can violate conservation of energy. The entry for small arms comments that a paint chip at a high enough speed could impact with the force of a nuclear weapon, but in practice guns are limited by recoil. And Earth actually gets hit by near-lightspeed particles with mass basically continuously. If you drop a ship’s mass to that of a neutrino, you can in fact go very, very fast yet not inflict much damage.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The full on reaper invasion wouldve worked,if me2 was focused around someone(the collectors)trying to wake them up.Or if it was established that sovereigns last action before death was to send a signal through the citadel to wake them up.

      Though even then,the full on invasion has many problems(the thresher maw killing a reaper,or using a single cain shot to destroy one,for example).

  3. Raygereio says:

    Tolkien purportedly didn’t have a hard plan on how Lord of the Rings would be resolved, and his story turned out just fine.

    I know you want to move away from the whole “they should have had a plan”-thing. But the inner pedant in me is forcing me to point out that Lord of the Rings was only published as a trilogy. It was written as a single work.
    Sure when Tolkien started his “new Hobbit” he didn’t have clear picture of the story, or the significance of the ring, or that it would tie into his Silmarillion mythology. But once he did, there was nothing stopping him from going back in his manuscript and changing stuff.

    The Arrival and Mass Effect 3 were made one after another. It’s even possible their development overlapped.
    SNIP
    Shepard is under some sort of arrest for past events. Shepard has potentially done any number of things that might land him here

    The development did overlap. Arrival was first announced 14-03-’11. ME3’s official announcement was on 11-12-’10.
    So the writers knew they wanted Shep to be on Earth, but had no idea how to get him there. Arrival actually sets this up by having the Batarians be really mad at the Alliance because humans blew up one of their colonies. So Shep has to go to Earth and face charges in order to prevent an Alliance-Batarian war.
    And then presumably someone woke up and said “Hey, we can’t assume all players have the DLC.” and we got this weird mess of an intro in ME3 that tries its damnedest to be as vague and non-committal as possible.

    Annoyingly that same person apparently woke up a few other times to say “Hey, we can’t assume all players have played ME1 or ME2!”.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      But once he did, there was nothing stopping him from going back in his manuscript and changing stuff.

      Tolkien even pulled a minor-George Lucas. In the original Hobbit, when Bilbo wins the ring from Gollum in the riddle contest, Gollum basically reacts with a “Well played,” shows Bilbo the way through the caves, and they part more or less amicably. Once Tolkien decided that the ring was the One Ring and the corrupting MacGuffin of Lord of the Rings, he changed later editions of The Hobbit to reflect Gollum’s destructive obsession with his “precious” and make Golllum’s character darker.

      But I’m charitable because before the 1990s, all genre world-building was like that. It was all made up over time, each new book or episode or film adding a bit more and hopefully not contradicting what came before too much. Tolkien was obsessed with world-building more than most (his cushy day job meant he didn’t have to churn out stories and novels constantly just to put food on the table like most SF&F writers so he just spent decades making up lore) and even he was making it up as he went along. But these days, genre-worldbuilding is in the hands of big corporations who have committees and storygroups and canon-stewards. And anyone can make a wiki devoted to anything. If it’s really obvious you don’t have a plan, or worse, that your left hand is ignorant of your right hand’s activities, your audience will figure it out.

      • Poncho says:

        In the novel world, we call this “Discover Writing” vs. “Outline Writing.” George Martin calls it “Architects” vs. “Gardeners.” It’s pretty easy to figure out which authors are which types (generally, no one is fully one archetype) by how much they focus on setting vs. characters, or how well their endings are done.

        The consensus is (according to Brandon Sanderson and many other SF&F writers) that people generally bad at writing endings are discovery writers; they have a loose idea of where they’re going, but sort of just let the story and characters take them there.

        I’d qualify Bioware as discovery writers given the evidence, which is insane to me because these games have massive budgets and pretty strict time-tables for getting VA work and art completed at various times. You don’t get the opportunity to do a lot of re-writes with your script after they start shooting a film, for example, so it’s pretty important to have everything pretty well fleshed out in advance.

      • Shamus says:

        Also, and this is important: Tolkien made sure the retcon was paid for. He didn’t shrug off the change in a single line of dialog. The intro acknowledged the discrepancy before the story even began, and talked about the two different versions of the tale. Then there were multiple conversations in the book that dealt with it. There was one between Frodo and Gandalf, an implied conversation between Frodo and Bilbo, and then Bilbo had to tell the truth at the council of Elrond.

        Tolkien didn’t just change The Hobbit. He didn’t ignore the discrepancy. He didn’t have his characters fail to notice it. The change reverberated through the characters and their relationships, and actually made for a better story. The change tied into The Ring, thus highlighting how subtle and powerful it was, that it made even honest Bilbo bend the truth.

        He basically turned a retcon into a plot twist that also created moments of character-building and worldbuilding.

        Dude was a master.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          There is a small plot snag I have trouble reconciling though. I mean its not anything that would actually bug me since I’ve only read the updated version of the Hobbit but we’re supposedly reading from a historical document which was transcribed from the Red Book of the Westmarch. But by the time we got it, it should have contained Bilbo’s updated account.

          So did Frodo go back and forth on whether to include the true version of the encounter or Bilbo’s made up version?

          Its possible that this is a secondhand transcription and a scribe or historian had Bilbo’s original account on hand and decided to correct what he got from Frodo (because after all, he has an account that came directly from Bilbo.)

          • Shamus says:

            In the LOTRO intro it says that Bilbo’s original manuscript was left unchanged, but sometimes people added the other story as an alternate version. Sort of, “Yeah, we know this isn’t true, but we’re going to carefully copy Bilbo’s text because we don’t want to mess with it.” It even says that the reasons for this aren’t clear.

            The Red Book was the only account of the Hobbit for a couple of centuries, and it wasn’t until a couple of generations down the line that people started making copies. Conjecture: Later scribes didn’t feel like they had the authority to “correct” ancient texts.

            • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

              Ah. So he wrote his portion of the Red Book before his confession. That’s what I was missing. There is the bit about Bilbo intending to finish his book at the beginning of LOTR* ** but its possible that he only meant to have more adventures to add to the book.

              Your theory makes perfect sense. They would want the text preserved, though possibly annotated.

              *And while that was almost 20 years before the main events, it would also have been after he confessed to Frodo.

              **Or is that just a line from the movie which felt no need to confuse the audience with the revision.

          • ? says:

            I can imagine Frodo (or Sam) leaving some commentary or notes about changing Bilbo’s manuscript to reflect actual events since why eventually he lost a fucking finger is important. We know about both versions and have original version, we just know it was bullshit. And if we go with Bilbo wrote Hobbit, Frodo wrote LotR and Sam published it after they left, Sam would totally go “I knew Gollum, that doesn’t sound like Gollum on his best day, I’m changing it”. Gollum is the last person Gamgee would whitewash in history book.

            • Syal says:

              But, it was also like seventy years before Sam met Gollum, and before Gollum met the Mordor dungeons. How willing is he going to be to give his interpretation at that point?

  4. Ranneko says:

    From what I recall the events of Arrival occur regardless of whether or not Shepard is involved. If you didn’t buy the DLC a squad of marines intervened with the same overall impact (Alpha relay destroyed, 300,000 batarian colonists killed) but the squad itself does not survive. This is reflected in War Assets.

    UPDATED (Only if the player has not completed the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2)
    Military Strength: -50
    Admiral Hackett dispatched marines to the planet Aratoht to rescue a deep cover agent, Dr. Amanda Kenson. The teams were killed in an explosion that wiped out both the colony and the system’s relay. The Alliance spent weeks piecing together scattered radio transmissions, learning that the marines felt they had no choice but to send an asteroid into the relay to prevent invasion by the Reapers. While it bought the Alliance some time, the men and women lost on the mission were a severe blow to the 103rd Marine Corps.

    This simplifies some of the analysis. Rendering both Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2’s villains stupid, because they could just have waited a few more years and their invasion force would have arrived. If they had done nothing the galaxy would have been less prepared.

    • Zekiel says:

      It’s nice to know that, but it doesn’t solve the problem of why Shepard is in jail at the beginning of ME3 (because even though the events of the Arrival happen regardless, Shepard is only responsible for destroying a solar system if you played it).

      • Richard says:

        Equally, it easily could have done.

        a) You played Arrival. You’re being tried for destroying a star system.

        b) You did not. You’re being tried for assisting a terrorist organisation.

        It’s a short scene, there’s very little dialogue necessary, even if they did do the niceties they are usually so good at of adding a few mentions later on in important scenes if Arrival was played.

        But they didn’t! They didn’t even try!

        That’s what’s so frustrating throughout ME2 and ME3. So many ways they navigated the oceans of failure staying clear of the rocks of success.

        • Zekiel says:

          You’re quite right. I assume that the reason they didn’t is because of the possibility that the player wouldn’t have played ME2 (or ME1) – from what I recall, ME3 seemed to be the most-marketed of the trilogy, and was specifically marketed to the (forgive me) “dudebro” audience in a way that even ME2 wasn’t.

          From that point of view it sort of makes sense – they already have to explain the Reapers, but if they can fudge it to avoid having to explain some backstory (of why Shepard’s in prison) which isn’t going to be referred to later then that avoids having another thing for the new player to get their head around.

          This also explains why it starts on Earth since its easier to understand “humans in the future, on earth” than the whole complicated set-up with the Council races.

          Not defending this at all! Just trying to make sense of the mess that is the beginning of ME3.

        • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

          Again, as Shamus pointed out, how did Joker stay out of jail? Did he just have a better attorney?

          They give a hand wavey excuse for Chakwas that she was on vacation but if that worked for her, Shepard was legally declared dead. So if he’s here for being with Cerberus, then Chakwas and Joker should be too. And its a little weird that Donnelly and Gabby (I can’t remember either of their full names) were in jail and required your Spectre clearance to release but Kelly Chambers wasn’t. I know she ran, but why didn’t the other two run? You’d think Donnelly, Gabby, and Chambers could have ended up with Jacob.

          You know for that matter, how is Jack not in jail? Assuming Shepard wasn’t in Arrival, Jack’s crimes are far worse than his. She had a long criminal record and a high body count before working with Cerberus.

          No, I think this story only even begins to make sense if we assume that Shepard did Arrival.

          Another nitpick. So if Shepard couldn’t do it, Hackett was comfortable sending in a whole squad after Kenson. Why couldn’t I take at least one companion with me? The DLC was so dry running solo. Shepard has too little personality to carry a story of that length (male or female). Surely they had at least some of the voice actors on hand since they voice their characters in both the latter games.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            Yeah, but I’m sure every hour you have a voice actor in a recording booth costs $x, and even if they only let you take one squadmate, they have to make sure it’s not a skippable one (so no Grunt, for example) so we’re probably talking Miranda, Jacob, Garrus, Mordin, and Jack (the other squadmates you acquire before the Horizon mission).

            So what do you do? Do you force the player to take only the squadmate the writer has decided? What if they don’t like that character? Does it make sense for Hackett to let you bring Cerberus operatives on a mission for the Alliance? Do you record the dialogue for five different squadmate options at the cost of $5x? Or all 12? For a short DLC that’s apparently not relevant to the main plot?

          • Zombie says:

            I’m pretty sure that early on, Joker and EDI tell you that they basically fooled the Alliance people working on the ship into believing that Joker was needed on board the ship to get it to work. Or something like that.

            • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

              You’re right. That’s exactly what they did. I think EDI pretended to be voice locked to only respond to Joker (because remember she was pretending to be a VI, though not everyone was fooled, especially with that extra nonstandard processing hardware in the CPU Core.)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Joker is Seth Green,and therefore has immunity from all trials.

        • Jarenth says:

          “Shepard, you’re under arrest for… securities fraud.”

          “Shepard, you’re under arrest for providing false testimony. They can’t all be your favourite store on the Citadel.”

          “Shepard, you’re under arrest for all those hundreds of murders that you did. Yes, I know they were all Blue Suns mercenaries. But listen: that’s not how the law works.”

          “Shepard, you’re under arrest for murdering Wrex on Virmire. Not only is this horribly illegal, it also just kind of makes you a terrible person.”

          • TMC_Sherpa says:

            Tax evasion. It’s how they got Al Capone right?

            Are all your squad mates listed as dependents? Is every mission on the Normandy a business expense? You have been paying duty on all the equipment you’ve been picking up right?

            “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And we killed you in ME2 so…

            • Poncho says:

              Can I pay my back taxes in War Assets? Because I have plenty of those lying around.

              • Nope, MC, Visa, Amex, or Discover only. ME4 is Shepard’s fight against the credit card companies robots, trying to get signed up and pay his/her bill!
                (might have spent the morning trying to find a human by cursing over the phone because Representative, human, help, and everything else short of F you didn’t work.)

                • Mike S. says:

                  Refund Guy confirmed as squad member.

                • TMC_Sherpa says:

                  Many moons ago there was a website populated with information by (current? ex? dunno) employees that told you exactly how to get a human on the phone. I have no idea what it was called or if it’s still around. For instance if you need to talk to someone at UPS you say Agent, then when the kindly robot voice says ‘I can get you to an agent but first…’ you say Agent again. Why yes, I do ship things for a living, how did you know?

                • tremor3258 says:

                  Oddly enough, fighting collection agencies was a major plot point in Space Quest 5.

            • ? says:

              It’s an overdue book. Shepard’s research into stopping Reapers proves he/she is an epic procrastinator.

          • Decus says:

            Alien Trafficking. He was illegally trafficking a baby krogan for some period of time.

        • guy says:

          Technically speaking if the Council reinstates you you’re actually above the law and the Alliance can’t really try you for anything. If you do play Arrival, it’s understandable that they’d extradite you for blowing up an entire star system, but otherwise you spent ME2 being a Spectre doing Spectre things.

        • Taellosse says:

          It’s been a while since I played ME3, but I’m quite sure I remember Anderson mentioning Arrival in that walking conversation at the start of the game. It’s, like, a single line of dialogue, but it’s there. And it is absent if you didn’t play Arrival – I also played the ME3 demo ahead of the launch, and that line was absent when I played that because there was no save import available in the demo. Additionally, if I’m remembering right, at the end of Arrival when discussing things with Hackett, he warns you that when you return to Citadel space the Alliance will be forced to bring charges against you.

          That said, it’s an easy line to miss in ME3 (and most people will have played Arrival months before ME3, and may have forgotten how it ends precisely), as I recall, and there is no explicitly stated alternative cause for Shepard being on trial instead, as far as I can remember, if Arrival wasn’t played.

      • The Mass Effect Writers says:

        Actually, we explained it explicitly in Anderson’s dialogue. Shepard was in jail for “half the shit (he) pulled.”

        I believe that’s game, set, and match, Shamus. We’ll be looking forward to your public apology in the next chapter of this series.

    • Naota says:

      I’m surprised nobody’s pointed this one out yet, so:

      The Alliance spent weeks piecing together scattered radio transmissions, learning that the marines felt they had no choice but to send an asteroid into the relay to prevent invasion by the Reapers.

      to prevent invasion by the Reapers.

      We’re still arguing over whether or not the things exist as they arrive, and this happened months or years beforehand. Apparently the Alliance no longer trusts their own own marine corps enough to even consider their information valid? This isn’t just one soldier with funny ideas – it’s an entire military unit collectively deciding to take extreme measures with equally extreme implications. What else could possibly justify this behaviour in this many people besides the Reapers being real?

      It’s absolutely comical how the Alliance and Council can respect Shepard enough to go easy on him and continue to offer him special privileges all throughout the trilogy, yet nobody in a position of power will ever believe him about the Reapers until it’s too late, no matter how much corroborating evidence surfaces to support his claims. These buffoons have literally seen one – first hand even, depending on your choices – and still blindly deny even the possibility that they could exist.

      Much worse than any of this, however: you are never given the chance to argue the Reapers’ existence with your detractors by confronting them with proof. Even if you could only lose this argument, it would still put you in a better place come ME3 than you find yourself in now (“These characters are idiots beyond convincing” vs. “These writers are idiots who don’t care if their characters’ actions make sense”).

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I think what they’re going for is that the Alliance and Council find it too terrifying. They want to believe anyone who has a valid argument for why they don’t have to worry about being invaded by hundreds or thousands of ships as big as Sovereign.

        And you could conceive of such an argument. Sovereign is a one-off. No species could build that many ships that powerful right? That was just a bluff on Saren’s part (I believe they explicitly say that part of it). A Geth ruse.

        And who is naysaying this? Shepard, who no doubt has PTSD from the battle and his brains were probably scrambled by that encounter with the Beacon. After all, when he reappears after two years, he’s working for Cerberus. They even rebuilt him so maybe this is their plot to make everyone scared to further human interests somehow.

        Lots of politically palatable reasons why we don’t have to stop everything we’re doing and throw everything behind an effort to repel a force that, if it existed, would be beyond our combined ability to repel anyway.

        But even with that, its unbelievable that they’d be doing nothing. Surely the Council would at least have their other Spectres quietly investigating this. We should at least be hearing from a jaded Spectre that they sent some Spectres out to investigate, they turned in their findings which were quietly ignored.

  5. Durican says:

    One thing ME3 did explain, albeit in easily missable conversation, was that Joker was not allowed to fly the Normandy or reinstated. He was brought onboard the Normandy under escort to help with the retrofit since EDI pretended to be a VI programmed to respond only to him. At the start of the game he didn’t so much get reinstated as steal the Normandy along with the retrofit crew when the Reapers invaded. It would be really cool if the game actually showed any of that, but they do at least explain it.

    As for how Joker is suddenly back in rank and officially part of the Alliance again immediatelly afterwards, uhhhhhhh Shepard’s magical wartime pardon extends to his/her crew? I dunno.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Anderson pardons him (Joker) by fiat as he orders you to leave. This is easy to do because the board that would normally argue about such things was just vaporized by a laser beam. I think it hangs together pretty solidly on this point.

  6. Grudgeal says:

    At this point, the ME progression almost felt like the reverse of how a DM railroads someone. Normally, the railroading DM wants to tell his/her cool story and ignores or punishes anything you do in gameplay that works against said cool story. Here, the railroading DM wants to have a space call of duty game against Reapers and ignores anything the story has said up to this point that would counteract setting up said space call of duty.

    So therefore, nevermind anything else that’s happened up to this point, DLC or not, the Reapers are here!… Somehow.

  7. Flip says:

    ME3’s beginning always reminds me of ME1’s.

    1st – You get some ominous dialogue (ME3: Anderson+Hackett about the Reapers; ME1: Anderson+Udina+Hackett about Shepard).
    2nd – There is an opening text (ME3: about the Reapers, universe, history and Shepard; ME1: about the universe and history).
    3rd – Shepard is in a location with somebody he knows but the player doesn’t (ME3: James; ME1: Kaidan, Joker).
    4th – Shepard then has to go to some sort of discussion room (ME3: Courtroom; ME1: Normandy SR1 comm room).
    5th – On the way there, he meets a future squadmate who will get the shit kicked out of them fairly soon (ME3: Kashly; ME1: Jenkins) and an older character that dispenses exposition (ME3: Anderson; ME1: Pressly).
    6th – In the discussion room he talks to someone with authority (ME3: Earth Defence Council; ME1 Nihlus+Anderson).
    7th – Then they get a video transmission of people fighting (ME3: from Luna Base; ME1: from Eden Prime).

    Only then, things start to diverge. Obviously, it is not an exact fit but overall, the sequence of events is similar. But they never do anything with it.

    7th – In ME1 the video transmission set up Sovreign and Ashley and contrasted nicely with Nihlus’ talk of how nice Eden Prime is. In ME3 some unknown Marine gets blown up.
    6th – We get to know Nihlus and Anderson. We already have Joker’s opinion on both (“I hate that guy” and “He sounds angry”). In ME3 we know nothing about this Council.
    5th – ME3 has a lot less exposition in this part.
    4th – We never get any sense of scale or location. Where is this courtroom? What kind of facility is this? ME1 gave you the freedom to go there yourself and you got to look at the ship.
    3rd – After meeting James in ME3, what do we know about him – besides visuals? OK, he salutes because he respects Shepard. Compare Joker: he’s a pilot and considers himself to be “incredible”, he hates Nihlus, he has suspicions about Nihlus, he’s snarky. Also, we know that the Turians “helped fund this project (= the Normandy)” and that Nihlus is a Spectre.
    2nd – Shamus already did this.
    1st – ME1 explains why Shepard is the protagonist. ME3 raises the tension. I actually like this part.

    TL;DR:
    ME3: Stuff happens.
    ME1: Worldbuilding, then stuff happens.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I was just thinking…

    • Zombie says:

      To be fair though, in ME1 we need a ton of world building because we have no clue what the heck is even going on in this universe. Its the first game in a trilogy, so we need to understand what’s going on, where and who everyone is, and why we should care.

      I think it can be reasonably assumed that if you’re playing ME3 you’ve at least played ME2, and therefore world building can take a backseat to trying to advance the plot.

      • Mike S. says:

        From the stats they circulated, 39.8% of players got the Long Service Medal, indicating a previous playthrough. And that includes people who just did ME3 New Game Plus. (Though some fraction of those without the achievement presumably had played an earlier game but switched machines or platforms, and didn’t have a save to import.)

        It’s probably a fair guess that at least half the people playing the game were entirely new to the world.

  8. MD says:

    If we continue with the Lord of the rings comparisons. The Reapers appearing at the beginning of Mass effect 3 is like if Sauron suddenly had the ring at the start of the third book.

    How did he get the ring? Uh, I dunno.
    What about Frodo and Sam? Hanging around somewhere.

    • Poncho says:

      Frodo and Sam are in a dungeon in Minas Tirith, for the crime of killing Golum.

      But wait, not everyone played that DLC, and killing Golum was completely out of line for the story at that point, anyway, since Golum was super important for the plot.

      Okay, they’re there because everyone assumes hobbits are thieves, despite the first two books showing us that these particular hobbits haven’t done any thieving of significance.

      Then the Steward of Gondor releases them from prison because their invaluable thieving skills are the only thing that can save the day.

      • Will says:

        Burglars, not thieves, word of Bilbo’s exploits having gotten out and expanded somewhat in the telling.

        I think it’s somewhat indicative that this ridiculous contrivance you ass-pulled to try to explain how ridiculous ME3’s plot contrivances are is actually less ridiculous than the thing you were trying to ridicule.

        • Poncho says:

          Darn, you’re saying I actually have to put effort and research into my ass-pull in order for it to be WORSE than the ass-pull ME3 gave us?

          I’ll stick with “thieves.” I think it fits the theme of the retroactive continuity ME2/ME3 tries to serve us.

    • Mike S. says:

      Considering that the second book ends with Frodo being dragged into Cirith Ungol and Sam alone and helpless with the Ring, it actually wouldn’t have been much of a cheat to have Sauron appear to have the Ring for the Gondor section, and then the specifics given when we switch back to Sam’s POV in the next part.

      (As it is, the Mouth of Sauron shows off Frodo’s armor, sword, and cloak and says that he’s under torture at Barad-Dur just before the final battle, and the reader has no way of knowing that isn’t true till the next chapter.)

      • MD says:

        A lot of the drama and tension in the books comes from the fact that it’s not implausible for Sauron to get the ring at any point (which is why the perspective change works to increase tension), but the dramatic structure of the trilogy would completely snap, if the third book would suddenly turn into a war story about fellowship gathering allies against the ring powered Sauron, after he takes he over the middle-earth.

        The book would have to end on a deus ex machina because there is not foreshadowing or narrative threads that could resolve the villain problem. Frodo finds another magical artifact that destroys Sauron, the end.

        The dramatic structure would resemble a pyramid built two thirds up with the last third laid next to it as a mini pyramid. The bigger one is incomplete and the mini is unimpressive.

        But if taken out of context, the beginning of the third book could feature the ring powered Sauron if Tolkien died and someone dumb took over.

  9. Joshua says:

    “You do not create a villain of demonstrably ridiculous power and throw them at the protagonist en masse and expect this issue to progress in tension or conflict in any plausible way. ”

    Reminds me of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seventh Season -Let’s create an incredibly powerful antagonist that takes several episodes to *barely* defeat. Oh, now there’s thousands of them, and they’re suddenly all mooks.

    This is a recurrent problem I’ve noticed with a lot of horror movies too. Let’s spend 75% of the movie explaining just how ridiculously powerful the antagonist is, then suddenly the heroes have to somehow figure out a way to defeat them in the last 25%. It frequently comes out with what TV Tropes defines as an Ass Pull. No link provided before people curse at me. :)

    • Poncho says:

      Precisely. It makes the villains dumb, which makes the story less interesting, and it cheapens the protagonist’s efforts to defeat them.

    • Falterfire says:

      It’s gotta just be a standard law of lazy fiction writing at this point, because it’s so common in so many things.

      Dr. Who does it with multiple things: “Oh, you thought four Weeping Angels was scary? What about an ENTIRE SHIP full of Weeping Angels? Or an ENTIRE CITY full of Weeping Angels?” as well as “Oh, you thought ONE Dalek was scary? What about an ENTIRE ARMY of Daleks?” Warhammer does it, from what I understand, with Necrons, taking them from rare super-powerful threats to commonplace regular foes.

      Making new enemies is hard, after all, and making INTERESTING new enemies that are also more dangerous than the previous one is even harder. Saying “Y’know the nightmare from last week? Well there’s TWO of them now!” is easy.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        What’s the TVTropes term for this? Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu, i.e. forty bad guys are always collectively weaker than a lone antagonist? TNG-era Star Trek went from a single Borg cube nearly destroying Earth and decapitating the Federation by itself, to the Voyager regularly taking on two or three cubs in direct combat alone by Voyager‘s last season. Ugh.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        I’ll give you the Weeping Angels thing, but the Daleks going from one to an army was really more just great foreshadowing, since Daleks were all over the place back in the old series.

        It’s more impressive when they can scale back down, because that shows great self-control and it shows things can stay tense, like when they go from an army of Daleks to four Daleks. Or like how in Shaun of the Dead, after dealing with lots of zombies up to that point, everybody still freaks out and panics while trying to kill one stubborn zombie to the tune of Don’t Stop Me Now.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          The problem with Daleks going from one to an army is that it makes an impossible mess of the idea of enemy threat. If a million Daleks are beatable, then a single Dalek can’t be much more of a threat than an angry kitten. If a single Dalek is a serious threat than a million Daleks should be so dangerous as to vapourize our heroes before they can blink.

          The Daleks got this particularly bad, as not only did they scale up from one to armies, but in the first season or two of New Who, the Daleks were recognized by multiple characters as the threat, an order of magnitude scarier than any other alien faction. That feeling is impossible to maintain after the sixth time you beat them, so they eventually got downgraded to just another type of mooks for the hero to face.

          • guy says:

            Honestly, I don’t think it’s anything like impossible to have a given monster be threatening in both small numbers and large numbers. A few of them are a serious threat to a small group, a lot of them are a threat to a nation. Or the protagonists get stronger and their enemies come in greater numbers.

            For instance, there’s Freespace. I forget where this is from, but someone commented that the Shivans only have two ways to respond to setbacks: more and bigger. And then in Freespace 2 they run out of bigger and double down on more and send in dozens of the most powerful warship ever built, and at that point the GTVA immediately officially gives up on actually fighting them and instead opts to collapse jump points to seal them off.

          • Syal says:

            Depends how they’re beaten. If it costs something to beat a big group, or takes a very specific situation, then a fight with a little group can still hold plenty of tension.

            The trick is to show the weakness of the bigger groups before the fight with the small group, so it doesn’t feel like cheating if things get scaled up.

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            This reminds me of a common Starcraft 1 lore thing – not sure if it was canon or not – about how Zerglings are scary not because they’re super powerful, or because they’re numerous, but because “For every one Zergling you see, there’s one you *don’t* see nearby.” – which is implemented in the game as Zerglings being created in pairs.

            In essence, you don’t fear them because they’re supposed to be strong, you fear them because they’re *numerous*.

            And that numerous fear doesn’t get dulled because only one is showing up.

            • Poncho says:

              For a Swarm like the Zerg, this makes them interesting villains to combat. Also, Starcraft is an asymmetric RTS, so the zergy nature of one race is inherently interesting to play as and play against.

              The “Zerg” aren’t villains, though, the villain is the Queen of Blades or the Overmind or the Cerebrate Daggoth. The villains are individuals with personalities and goals and flaws that can be exploited by the protagonist. “The Reapers” are only a villain in a sense that “the weather” is a villain. The protagonist can struggle against the forces of nature, but that isn’t a very compelling struggle.

              I imagine the writers of Mass Effect recognized this, and that is why we have dream sequences and cut scenes where Shepard looks stressed, but none of this internal struggle is conveyed to the *player* in a meaningful way, which is one more reason a Reaper War doesn’t make any sense for this story.

              Games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent handled stress and the struggle against the environment as gameplay mechanics, which is a beautiful way to immerse the player in the character. Mass Effect, especially the third game, has a very large disconnect between its tone, setting, and gameplay.

              • guy says:

                I have to disagree; stories can do quite well with impersonal adversaries. It’s a different kind of story from one with a human villain, and often they mix it up with infighting among the humans, but there’s plenty of room for stories like Aliens. Heck, the Starcraft zerg characters you name are barely in the original Terran and Protoss campaigns.

                • Poncho says:

                  I think impersonal enemies can be done well, but most of the conflict has to come from somewhere else. Sauron is a force of nature type villain in LOTR, but he works because he’s influencing people like Saruman and Theoden and the Elves had risky motivations in regards to the heroes — all these different personal conflicts mixed in with the inner-character conflicts make Sauron take a back seat, but he compels the heroes forward initially despite not having a lot of screen time.

                  The Terran campaign had a lot of fighting other Terran, and escaping the Zerg, while the Protoss campaign had a lot of conflict of identity while facing this overwhelming threat. The Overmind is a big deal towards the end of SC, and Kerrigan is a big deal toward the end of Broodwar.

                  The Reapers could be an interesting villain, but there aren’t enough interesting ways to pit Shepard against them in a video game. The story, admittedly, has a lot of other conflicts going on, but it’s all bookended by the Reaper conflict which is itself souring in its execution.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    Indoctrination was an oddly underused option for providing Reaper-aligned enemies with a manageable power level and an emotional hook for Shepard or someone in the squad.

                    Javik will give backstory exposition about how he had a squad like Shepard’s that all wound up indoctrinated, and he had to kill them all in hand-to-hand combat. While doing that to Shepard without some sort of hope of recovering them would frankly have been too much for me, it’s a little convenient that the only indoctrinated enemies are people Shepard doesn’t have much reason to like anyway.

                    (This would have been really hard to take, but: Anderson is separated from the main action on Earth for the entire game. Imagine if, unbeknownst to the player, the reason he was still at large was because he’d been captured, secretly indoctrinated, and left in charge of the resistance as a double agent.)

                    • Poncho says:

                      I was totally waiting for Hacket to be indoctrinated. That dude sending me on tons of side quest in ME1 and being in charge of the anti-Reaper weapon being indoctrinated would have been an amazing plot point.

                  • guy says:

                    I’d have to say that impersonal adversaries mostly lock you into having a very specific type of conflict. When they’re involved directly the only story is whether or not the protagonists can win a given fight and how they go about doing it. This can absolutely work; it worked in All You Need Is Kill, which got a loose adaption as Edge Of Tomorrow in the US (movie Rita is substantially less awesome and I am very disappointed) and the only antagonist is monsters with no apparent motivation beyond conquering the world and exterminating humanity and no dialogue.

                    Most works go for a somewhat more varied set of conflicts, and an impersonal adversary can’t carry that on their own, but a zombie story without zombies or zombie-like koalas or whatever is no zombie story at all. Even with human antagonists in the mix, as there nearly always are, the zombies make the story.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The new who bungled a lot of villains however.Old who managed to keep daleks as a serious threat longer.But this was because:
            a)the stories spanned multiple episodes of 20 minutes instead of a single 45 minute one
            b)the heroes would most often flee from the threat for quite a long time,instead of doing a heel turn in the last 15 minutes or so
            c)they were used much less

      • guy says:

        The Necrons are sort of mixed and it depends on the author. Firstly, I don’t think there was actually any point where the basic warriors could beat Space Marines one-on-one even in the earliest stories. They were, however, legendarily tough; it takes a good bit to put them down and a disturbingly high percentage of the time they proceed to get back up. Also, once you’re clearly winning a fight the entire Necron force and any wrecked ones that haven’t outright melted teleport away for repairs. Worse, often when people discover Necrons they’re on a Tomb World; countless millions are beginning to awaken from stasis and it becomes a desperate rush to stop them. Their durability has gone down in more recent books, but they’ve always had a numbers thing going for them. And there was never any point when a few hundred were a serious threat to a Titan.

    • Ivellius says:

      I too was thinking of that show’s finale. At least Whedon’s “drama” handwave does sort of work–not like the Buffyverse has a ton of world-building.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        And at least we’re still surrounded with characters we’ve grown to love over the course of seven seasons. People can forgive boring or trite plots if the character work is strong (e.g., most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). Mass Effect has a handful of good characters who end up sidelined for at least 50% of the main plot of the three games, and the consistent ones are almost all boring humans–most especially Shepherd herself.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      To be fair to buffy,they did open the chakras to turn all the potentials into slayers,so that kind of balanced things.

    • Steve C says:

      Joshua, I’m trying to remember what you are referring to in Buffy and I’m at a loss. What was ridiculously powerful that turned into mooks?

      • TheCheerfulPessimist says:

        The Elder Vampires (Turok-Han). When the first one emerges it kicks the crap out of Buffy and she only eventually kills it in a big dramatic arena battle. At the end of the season, the whole Scooby Gang is taking on thousands of them in the Hellmouth itself, and they manage to hold their own (with a couple notable casualties) even BEFORE all the potentials are activated by Willow.

  10. Poncho says:

    Imagine instead, a game that opened up with Shepard mid-mission. Perhaps he’s hunting down someone with information. Or he’s securing a base that has technology. Or he’s exploring a ruin that might have historical information on the Reapers. He could then have some dialog with his squad, “Boy these things we’ve been doing for the last few months sure have been effective/not effective!” We would get the sense that our hero is dirven (sic), forward-looking, and proactive.

    Infinitely better than what we got, but I’ll propose a new idea.

    If they wanted to continue with the action they have, start the game off with tragic loss, be able to introduce world building and exploration as part of the deeper mystery to solve a crisis like the first game, just start the third game with Harbinger showing up and trashing the Citadel.

    1. The Citadel is an interesting location that every Shepard has a stake in, because every Shepard has been there and interacted with it in some way. Earth isn’t interesting because we’re never given a reason to care about it, other than that it’s home to humans.
    2. It can still be a big damn action scene without tearing apart audience expectations. Instead of asking how all the Reapers got here so fast, you only have to explain how this particular Reaper got here so fast.
    3. You can have an interesting boss battle at the climax, instead of guarding a static rocket launcher.
    4. The protagonist can have a clear goal in mind that branches off in any number of ways without railroading the plot into a MacGuffin that the previous two games never bothered to introduce.
    5. You can still get the part about uniting the galaxy together to stop the threat, because Harbinger is a big bad worthy of uniting fleets, and he’s sitting on the cross-roads of civilization. He’s sacked Rome, time to either build a new Rome or kick him off our lawn.
    6. We can actually explore this villain and give him personality and complexity. It will actually mean something when the player succeeds.
    7. It would make ME2’s plot somewhat relevant, because Harbinger is introduced in ME2 but has a greater stake in things now that Shepard personally kicked his teeth in. Now Harbinger is coming to finish things himself.

    • Zekiel says:

      Its not a bad idea. However (to be Mr Pedantic) unless Harbinger is much, much more powerful than Sovereign you would not need to unite the galaxy to defeat him. Sovereign PLUS a great big geth fleet was defeated by the Alliance and Citadel defence fleets so Harbinger alone wouldn’t be enough of a threat.

      • Zekiel says:

        Oh and also this doesn’t help with the [asinine] marketing of the game – “Why would people care about this alien space station? We should set it on Earth so that players have an obvious stake in the conflict!”

      • Poncho says:

        I think it’s easier to write Harbinger as a threat than it is to write 10,000 faceless space-squids as a threat, especially given that we know Sovereign could withstand that combined firepower and didn’t die until he poured his shields into taking over Saren.

        Also, remember that in ME2, we’ve established that the Reapers have far superior control over the mass relays. If he’s parked at the Citadel, he’s even taken over the government or exterminated their leaders. There would be a big debate about saving the survivors or abandoning them. It would be worthy of a Paragrade system, IMO.

        If Harbinger is parked next to the Serpent Nebula’s mass relay, any ship coming in would get torn to pieces before it figured out where the threat even was, or where they were in the system. Ships had a drift of 1500+ kilometers when interacting with these things, so amounting any sort of offensive that required coming in hot off the Relay would be incredibly tenuous.

        And if a fleet somehow survived long enough to give Harbinger any pause, he just jump through the Relay in a quick scoot and start over again.

  11. Christopher says:

    The ME3 intro is so frustrating. The confusing dialogue is one thing, but besides that, I have no idea what to think about the reapers. In ME1, they talk about themselves as gods, and some of you seem to think they are that powerful, but actually they just cheat and win every cycle by having boobytrapped the opposition millennias before they were born. Oh no, the elder gods are doing a surprise attack, how terrifying. But then in ME3, people have known about them and seen them for years and are STILL caught by surprise just by the reapers traveling regularly and bombarding planets. I think maybe those guys were overthinking their strategy when just flying over to planets and shooting them works just as fine as controlling the entire galaxy’s infrastructure.

    I didn’t personally get the idea that the reapers woke up at the end of ME2 though. That was what that timeskip was about I figured. Turning on the headlights is just a cool thing to do, like every reaper tilting their shiny anime spectacles at once.

  12. Galad says:

    Off topic, but FYI – Shamus, Rise of the Tom Braider has Denuvo DRM. Dunno how clear it is in the installation, and what traces are left of this DRM in your system after Tom Braider’s deinstallation, but it would be worth a look.

    • Rob says:

      … And?

      From what I’ve heard, Denuvo doesn’t have any of the anti-consumer practices that past hated DRM systems had – no rootkits, no install limits, no spying on your system and reporting home. In fact it’s just a protective wrapper around whatever authentication system the game actually uses, such as Steamworks. It’s pretty much the ideal DRM, one with zero impact on paying customers (bar any problems with the underlying authentication, but again, that’s not Denuvo).

      It seems like it’s only a big, scary name because pirates hate it. It’s the first protective measure in a long time that actually works, delaying cracks for weeks/months and remaining hard to break even by groups that have defeated it in the past. The reports of it doing things like reducing game performance or killing SSDs with constant read/write cycles were flat-out wrong, but are still repeated endlessly because pirates want to hate on it for not letting them have things for free.

  13. Orillion says:

    Floating in was the backup-backup-backup plan for the reapers. Remember that wiping everyone out was ostensibly done partly to create new reapers, meaning there’s a reproductive tendency there. Even if they don’t have an individual survival instinct, it’s clear that creating a new reaper is a massive pain in the ass. Floating in also gives the organics the most advanced warning by far, whereas warping straight into the citadel gives them immediate control of the political center of the galaxy.

    It’s not “a waste of time,” it’s risk management, and for all the plot derailments to latch on to, it’s a pretty weak one since it’s just barely not spelled out over the course of the games.

    • Poncho says:

      This would be all well and good if ME1 didn’t explicitly show how incredible difficult it is to kill a single Reaper. With the size of their forces, they could just park a Reaper or two over every planet and it would be a cake-walk. No single race has a fleet strong enough to take on more than a couple of Harbinger-class Reapers, by ME1 standards.

      Of course, the third game nerfed the Reapers by a large margin because it was either that or make them worse than stormtroopers at combat.

      Floating in would still give everyone next to zero time to prepare because no one would know what the hell a Reaper was or what it was doing before it lazered or mind-raped your populace. You’d probably have entire planets full of people worshiping them.

      The episode of Rick and Morty, “Get Schwifty,” demonstrates this absurdity in a pretty poignant way. A race of god-like floating heads shows up at earth and demands the population “Show me what you got” for a music talent show. They try to nuke it and the bombs do nothing, the head doesn’t even care. Some people start a religion because “I’m going to pledge my eternal soul to the thing that literally controls the freaking weather!”

      If the Reapers had just showed up in ME1 instead of enacting this elaborate scheme to mind-control a SPECTRE into getting the Relay open, the story would be over right then and there. Reapers win.

      Floating in is only the worst possible plan because the events of ME1 and ME2 gave people time to get ready. There’s no reason to bankrupt the galaxy to build powerful starships to stop non-existent threats, since no one knows about the Reapers until they show up. The surprise attack is not only unnecessary, it’s downright stupid given the premise of ME3.

      Floating in makes Sovereign and Harbinger’s plans in the previous game look like the Reapers value avoiding inconvenience more than they do guaranteed success.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        A single reaper supported by an armada of Geth warships.

        A reaper which didn’t engage and just ran through to its actual target.

        And when they actually could fire at the reaper it took only part of one of the smallest fleets in the galaxy to actually kill it, quite quickly, which they did losing no heavy combatants, in almost the worst possible situation because they could not afford their heavy guns to miss and damage the Citadel.

        Mass Effect 1 demonstrated that the Reapers could be killed in open combat.

        • Gethsemani says:

          You are forgetting that Sovereign was not taking damage up until Shepard defeated the “resurrected” Saren that Sovereign was controlling. The feedback from controlled Saren’s death made Sovereign drop its’ shields and allowed the fleet to deliver effective fire. ME1 makes it clear that without Shepard delivering the incapacitating blow via Saren, Sovereign could have gone on for much longer. Sovereign also has the power to one shot kill the Destiny Ascension, the most powerful ship in the galaxy, which means that had Sovereign only bothered to attack the fleet instead of ignore it, the battle would have been even more loop-sided in Sovereign’s favor.

          • guy says:

            There is never any indication that he can one-shot kill the Destiny Ascension. It either survives the battle or is picked apart by the Geth. You are thinking of the fact that the Destiny Ascension can break through the kinetic barriers on a human dreadnought in one shot. Sovereign does not take physical damage prior to Saren’s death, but that only means the fleet hadn’t yet breached his kinetic barriers. It does not guarantee he could have survived a pitched battle facing sustained bombardment from the Citadel fleet.

        • Mike S. says:

          I’d thought humans had one of the bigger fleets in the galaxy. The turians are bigger, obviously, but the asari and salarians both seem to rely on smaller, concentrated forces. (Having another big power as a counterbalance to the turians seemed to be one reason they favored our unprecedentedly rapid ascent.)

          The geth and quarians are also presumably larger, though the quarians are arguably a special case. (At least till they start arming their school buses.) But is anyone else?

          • guy says:

            The Asari and Salarian fleets are probably roughly comparable to the human fleet; by treaty they have 3/5ths the power of the Turian fleet while humans have 1/5th but carriers aren’t restricted.

          • Bas L. says:

            True, the humans have the second biggest fleet, but only the 5th fleet attacks the Geth forces / Sovereign. So that’s still only a fraction of the entire human fleet.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Floating in also gives the organics the most advanced warning by far, whereas warping straight into the citadel gives them immediate control of the political center of the galaxy.

      Only in ME3 we see a world where not only did the Reapers float in, but they announced their presence in advance by botching the annexation of the Citadel, and the entire galaxy was still taken by surprise. It’s management of something the game shows us it not actually a risk.

  14. Slothfulcobra says:

    Arrival was straight garbage. It invalidates everything about Harbinger and Sovereign by saying the Reapers were just worried about a little commute, but even more than that, it’s just a bad story. It’s kind of neat that Shepard goes alone to be sneaky, but you have squadmates who are supposed to be way good at sneaking.

    Then after the rescue, it’s just a bunch of railroading through pointless bits until you get pushed into mass murder. Maybe you get to warn the planet that you’re murdering. Shepard comes out of it as the biggest murderer in history, not to mention the destruction of a mass relay. Makes Vega and Anderson come off as horrible racists for blowing off the charges against Shepard.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      They don’t “blow off” the charges, it’s just that Shepard was faced with the classic trolley problem. Only instead of one person on tracks and one person on the other set, it was one PLANET on one side and then EVERY OTHER LIVING PERSON on the other set of tracks.

      Interestingly, Vega’s backstory involves making the near opposite choice. He sacrifices a large number of human colonists to the Collectors in order to rescue a scientist with detailed information for defeating the Collectors. The awful thing is… he does this shortly before the suicide mission when Shepard wipes out the Collectors as a threat. So that intel is never able to be used for anything.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        “If you could divert a trolley into killing one person in order to delay the potential deaths of a bunch of people by a couple months…”

        Also if you don’t divert the trolley, a team of marines will, and they’ll have a really hard time doing it.

      • Mike S. says:

        It’s not even really the trolley problem, since it can be reasonably assumed the Reapers would destroy the batarian colony when they passed through.

  15. Bloodsquirrel says:

    On plans and not-plans-

    There’s a difference between not having a detailed synopsis of the whole story and having no idea where you’re going with anything, or what you even want to say.

    It’s a lot easier to wrangle something that you’ve been making up as you go along into a coherent story if you were at least working from solid ideas to begin with. In particular, you need to understand what your central conflict is, how it ties in thematically to the other elements of the setting, and what *kind* of resolution you’re building up to. You might not have the details of how the story is going to end worked out, but you need to know where on the scale between “everyone lives happily forever” and “everyone dies in misery and everything was for nothing” you are. You also need to have a general idea of what subplots , character arcs, and themes you’re going to commit to.

    That’s why Tolkien didn’t need a detailed outline for LotR. He knew what kind of story he was telling, and he knew all long what themes/tone he was building up to. We can probably say, rather safely, that Frodo getting into a fistfight with Sauron was never on the table. Neither was Aragorn turning out to be the evil mastermind behind it all. Tolkien might not have had a plan by the strictest of standards, but it wasn’t a free-for-all.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      Tolkien took a dozen years to polish LOTR to the point he wanted it. He had a secure day job so he didn’t have to write novels to pay his bills, he wasn’t locked into a contract with a publisher, and he didn’t have legions of Hobbit fans breathing down his neck on social media to finish the sequel already. Basically, he wasn’t working for a major media entertainment corporation that has to leverage its popular IPs on a consistent basis so their shareholders don’t destroy their stock rating after a low quarterly-earnings call.

      But on the other hand, if a major corporation is dependent on the consistent performance of its IPs for its profits, maybe it should devote several people to keeping that IP consistent and resonant. Quality Assurance shouldn’t only be applied to bugs and game mechanics.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        Plenty of other people have managed to *not* turn their stories into a complete mess despite not having 12 years to churn out a book, and plenty of people have had produced garbage at their leisure. Good writers can work within limitations and still succeed. Bad writers are always, somehow, the poor guy whose work got ruined by executive meddling.

        Gears of War managed to create a trilogy with a more coherent, structured plot, and they were a studio with no real experience or reputation for narrative games, while rushing out four main titles in the time Bioware did three.

        Besides, you don’t create a work like LotR by starting off with, say, R.A. Salvatore’s writing and polishing it for a few years. You can add quality and polish by iterating, but you can’t add vision just by rearranging chapters and rewriting dialog. You need solid foundations.

    • guy says:

      On the other hand, not planning can in fact work out. When Star Trek:TNG had “Mister Worf, fire.” as a season-ending cliffhanger the writers genuinely did not have a plan on where to go from there. And then the beginning of the next season was one of the most popular episodes of all time. The problem is not that Mass Effect did not have a plan, it was that they did not have a plan and failed at making things up without a plan.

      I do think it was a bad idea to commit to a trilogy with no plan at all, but it is not impossible to succeed at that and it is also possible to just have a bad plan and fail that way.

      • Mike S. says:

        I’d say that the resolution of the Borg two-parter is as unsatisfying as Mass Effect’s. (Seriously? The Borg have an accessible network port that allows an unblockable, universal “sleep” command? That no one’s ever managed to exploit in their centuries of expansion? Well, that’s lucky!) That it works at all is a testament to the character work, not the plot.

        And it led TNG to try the “we’ll think of something” trick repeatedly, to diminishing returns.

  16. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Its just hit me. Leviathan should have been Mass Effect 2.

    Take Mass Effect 2, strip out all of the Omega 3 Fatty Relay stuff*, and replace that with Leviathan. Keep the squad building and loyalty missions. It would have been perfect. Combine this with Shamus’ earlier thought to have Shepard work with the Shadow Broker instead of Cerberus and you’re halfway to a much better game.

    TIM could still be in there and maybe you work with him to help some of the human colonies which creates tension with the Council but gains you access to info that Cerberus has about Leviathan. Later in the game you clash when it becomes clear that your mostly alien squad wants to help aliens too. The Council’s reluctance to support the human colonies and resistance to your findings could set up that great moment Campster suggested for the end of ME3 where TIM lectures you about how the Council buried its head and won’t see after human interests.

    At the end of ME2, you’ve come up with an idea for a weapon based on knowledge of Leviathan*. In ME3, you build it while building forces. Hopefully, with this grounding, they can come up with a better ME3 ending.

    Of course they could have ruined this plot with their carelessness too.

    *Maybe there’s a weakness in Leviathan biology that still exists in their Reaper forms. The ME2 climax might even be testing a smaller scale implementation or a version of the weapon that works on Leviathans.

    • Poncho says:

      As long as the ending of your version of Leviathan doesn’t end with Shepard yelling at the squid-gods into joining his cause, I think it could work.

    • James says:

      I feel like ME2 and ME3 should have been about preparing and learning about the reapers, Leviathan would be apart of this, and finding out that the reapers have a back up plan that gives them access to the galaxy in the outer rim.

      Plan 1: Citadel is designed so it becomes seat of power, once invasion starts citadel falls and control relay network, begin extermination

      Plan 2: Back Door in outer rim, reapers can travel there relatively fast IF a signal beacon is activated there.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        And here’s the important thing. There’s no reason they couldn’t still end up in the same “We’re screwed” situation as in ME3. The problem there is that we’re not even trying to deal with the problem. But if ME2 had been spent prepping, there’s no reason the Reapers couldn’t have thrown us a curve ball than leaves us in worse shape than we were expecting. Thus both our team and the Reapers look smarter than they did in this version.

        The key to this curve ball would be to not completely negate the work you did in ME2. Have it be something where you have to tuck your tail and run but you still have the knowledge, resources, whatever. You just have to do some more stuff now since the Reapers caught you off guard but without the work you did in ME2 you’d be even more screwed.

        EDIT: Just more ideas here. If they want Shepard to be rogue in ME2, one of the Council members is Indoctrinated. Shepard can somehow tell because of his contact with the beacon but the Council won’t take his word over the Council member’s. So the Council can’t give support but a sympathetic Council member finds a way to let Shepard run off with the Normandy. The Alliance can’t officially condone Shepard’s actions but they turn a blind eye while he builds his team (same as in the original ME2). Wrex hooks Shepard up with the Shadow Broker and it goes from there.

        One of the things resolved at the end of ME2 is the exposure of the Indoctrinated council member. Possibly one of Shepard’s squad mates is picked to replace them (Mordin would be the most likely, but you could make a case for Garrus.)

        EDIT EDIT: To address you directly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ME3 being about actually fighting off the invasion, if we’re actually going to do it. Unless you want to keep it as a very open ended “The Reapers will be back some day” as opposed to the more urgent framing we get here.

        But that does get back to the idea that the universe is more interesting than the Reapers so maybe that should take a backseat to just exploring. But Leviathan could help solve that. I felt like it did a good job of adding to their lore without breaking their Cthulhu mystique too badly. They’re still pretty big and inscrutable and what they turned themselves into is big and scary even compared to them. It could make the Reapers seem that much more alien if you encountered these big scary Leviathans and they let slip that even they are frightened by, and unable to fully grasp, what they built.

        • James says:

          My idea for Shep being rouge in ME2 is to have him work With Alliance Intelligence on some anti reaper work, and you can have Cerberus show up as contacts in the traverse, this shadowy, evil guys shep needs to worth WITH in order to get the job done.

  17. James says:

    The Death Toll in Arrival was something around the 300,000 mark, i think it was trying to evoke a Hiroshima/Nagasaki idea, but its falls flat because the game by this point stopped making sense regarding the reapers and any semblance of higher ideas.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      Also, how did a kill count that low bring the Batarians to the brink of extinction? That is a tiny civilization. How were they ever a threat to us with such small numbers? Did we already wipe out most of their population prior to Arrival?

      • Poncho says:

        The Reapers killed the Batarians because Batarian space is the first place they entered when invading.

        Giant machines that are worshiped by the geth completely ignored the area of space inhabited by AI that are building a dyson sphere so they can knock heads of the warrior race just to make players feel better about kind of committing genocide.

        And they still get to earth before anyone knows what’s going on.

      • Ranneko says:

        Sheperd wiped out some Batarian colonists in Arrival. The Batarians are near extinction in ME3 because the Reaper force entered Batarian space first. They were the earliest victims and because they spent the last couple of decades alienating themselves from the rest of the galactic community, they weren’t in the best place to call for help.

  18. Deager says:

    What’s kind of a shame is that the strategy in the past was to cripple governments by zipping into the Citadel mass relay and crushing the government right there since that’s how the Reapers setup the mass relays to essentially entice people to the Citadel. Not sure if baby Reaper was going to be built to do the same attempt as Sovereign or not; kind of crazy stuff in ME2. But in ME3, the Reapers attacking Earth and Palavan and all that first? Why not enter the system from dark space, start using the relay system, and hit the Citadel first?

    It would have been cool if the story had at least mentioned concepts along the lines of the Protheans were arguably the first people of a cycle to stop the Citadel relay plan , therefore the Reapers used so much energy coming from dark space that they’re not exactly at full strength like previous cycles. Whether a good idea or not, that’s relegated to head-canon.

    • Raygereio says:

      But in ME3, the Reapers attacking Earth and Palavan and all that first? Why not enter the system from dark space, start using the relay system, and hit the Citadel first?

      For one the writers are clearly hoping that the player will be invested in saving Earth & other homeworlds (despite never having seen these places before).

      But more importantly that strategy you mentioned is from ME1. And ME3 has to ignore ME1 as much as possible, in order for its story to work.
      Seriously: ME1 establishes the reapers’ tech to be several magnitudes more powerful then everyone else’s. An entire fleet was shown to do little more then annoy Sovereign. He was only beaten when the unsave removal of the Saren-device caused a BSoD in Sov’s OS.
      ME3 expects us to believe that we can have a conventional war with thousands of Sovereigns and handwaves this with “Oh, everyone upgraded their weapons.”
      “Really?” You might ask the writers, “Well, how come we see them using the same old weapons in cutscenes?”. To which the reply is “Lala, we can’t hear you.”

      ME1 also establishes that the Citadel can control the entire Mass Relay network. Anyone who has access to the Citadel can cripple galactic society by removing everyone’s primary means of FTL (and presumably even interstellar communication).
      This is never mentioned again after ME1, because why would the reapers waste their time & resources attacking multiple fronts, when they can effectively trap everyone in their solar system and attack one system at a time?

      • IanTheM1 says:

        And then in order to bypass said relay lockdown, perhaps you’d have to make use of some kind of IFF beacon. Hmmmmmm.

        And the fun part is that how you get your hands on such a thing in the middle of a Reaper invasion could be played as either intellectual sci-fi/Lovecraft or dumb action schlock.

        • Poncho says:

          Let’s find a way to make this plot point in ME2 relevant to the story and setting by shutting down the relays and forcing us to find someone to reverse-engineer this IFF.

          “But not everyone played ME2!”

          Yeah, you’re right. Fuck it! Let’s just make everything up from scratch again.

          • Deager says:

            LOL. I loved all the comments on my comment. Note to self; gotta stay focused on the what actually happened in Mass Effect…must not try to let dreams and logic enter into this right now. Nope, I can’t do it. Dang. Still, all good points people. :)

      • Mike says:

        > the unsave removal of the Saren-device caused a BSoD in Sov’s OS.
        That is the funniest way I’ve ever heard that phrased. Gonna have to remember that.

  19. mechaninja says:

    But I believe Aang^H^H^H^HShepard can save the world^H^H^H^H^HGalaxy.

    Didn’t read all the comments, so I’m hoping no one else made the same point, or at least didn’t use the same silly quote, but I wanted to point out that different stories with different rules can use tropes that are out of place in one but work well in another. And Aang really doesn’t save the world by himself, but is the spec of dirt about which the pearl that is the full blown resistance coalesces. He likely would not have succeeded without all the strong people he met (or already knew in at least one case)(or different strong people), and those characters are well treated in the cartoon (there was no movie, so I have no idea how they were treated in it).

    But my point is, that statement doesn’t feel out of place at the beginning of the cartoon, because it feels more like … hero worship, I guess? and less like a line written by marketing. Katara really feels that way about Aang (most of the time, anyway).

    I don’t even know why I keep reading this article series. I got off the Bioware train the day they announced the first Dragon Age. Something about that announcement derailed me from believing in Bioware. Maybe without Feargus (or someone similar) providing a high level of guidance, I felt like the doctors were just going to go completely off the rails (and I don’t even like trains). Well ok, I keep reading it because I like reading Shamus and because this entire writeup feels like Shamus doing a victory lap on my behalf. But I should probably resist commenting. I mean I’m not going to, but I should.

    • Poncho says:

      Aang being the “chosen one” is built into the setting and world building. You have these avatars, which cycle between the various elements, and the fire nation is all butthurt so they kill the air benders. Well, one of them survives due to circumstance and becomes the de-facto Avatar because that’s how the universe works.

      Shepard is the chosen one because he’s the player character.

      In ME1, we’re playing as Shepard because he ends up being the important piece of the puzzle due to setting and world building. There is this ancient race whose technology is super important, and we’re Joe the space Marine going to pick it up, but everything goes tits up and the technology makes Joe Marine pretty key to stopping the bad guys.

      It’s incredible what proper attention to the relationship between setting, plot, and characters can do for a story. If all these elements are related, the whole thing is enhanced by any one of them being good. ME1 had an amazing setting, okay characters, and a decent plot, and the game was fantastic. If they are disparate elements, like in ME2/ME3, the story falls apart when any one of them are too bad to ignore. ME2 had excellent characters, okay setting, and poor plot, which made the game pretty sour for many, despite overall not being any worse than ME1 in most regards, it’s just that these things weren’t as related. ME3 fails even harder to connect these elements and thus the contrivances are far more noticeable and egregious.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats the difference between a good story and a bad story.In a good story,the special character is the protagonist.In a bad story,the protagonist is special.More clearly:a good story finds a special person in the world,then focuses around them,and a bad story focuses on joe average and turns them into a special person just ‘cuz.

        • Mike S. says:

          There are a fair number of good stories in which the protagonist is chosen by circumstance, or is even mistaken for or faked up as a Chosen One, and then rises to the occasion. (The Lego Movie is a recent example.)

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Technically The Special is a unique person in how unimaginative he is.Also,he is surrounded by plenty of unique characters.

            But even ignoring that,the lego movie is a deliberate subversion of “the chosen one” trope.And parodies work on the exact opposite thing that makes regular stories work.

  20. Dragmire says:

    ” So long was it from the end of the second game to The Arrival?”

    I believe that’s supposed to be, “So how long…”

  21. Jokerman says:

    It wouldn’t fix the opening… that would require me to write a series as long as this in the comment section, but one thing that might have helped would be to just… swap the opening scenes of this game.

    Have you start on mars, trying to find out about the reapers, finding the plans to the crucible… then go down to earth, willingly, not under arrest, to stand trial. It would make Shepard seem less stupid anyway… and you would possibly have more evidence to bring to that trial, which should have been a real trial, referencing choices you have made throughout the games.

  22. Dilandau3000 says:

    To be fair, the intro is a little more specific if you DID play Arrival. If you imported a save where you finished Arrival, Anderson’s dialogue specifically references it as the reason why you’re there. Basically, it boils down to Shepard having turned himself in to appease the Batarians, who otherwise would’ve started a war with the Alliance which Shepard wants to avoid right as the Reapers are about to get there. It’s only if you didn’t play Arrival that the intro becomes so vague. Obviously, they were expecting everyone to shell out the cash for this DLC.

    As I said in the previous post, I think the Reapers had been flying towards the edge of the galaxy ever since the Citadel originally failed to activate, which according to ME1 was at least several hundred years ago, if not more. They would’ve been flying while Sovereign was still trying to find a way to activate their shortcut. After the destruction of the Alpha Relay in Arrival, the Reapers now have to continue flying to whatever the next system is with a Mass Relay before they can properly invade, which takes them the 6 months between ME2 and ME3. I never thought the “waking up” scene at the end of ME2 was meant to be literal.

    It is a bit confusing why Sovereign, after hundreds of years of trying to get the Citadel activated, executed his very risky plan with Saren only 2.5 years before the Reapers would’ve gotten there anyway. Sovereign must have been utterly convinced he couldn’t fail, since by failing he actually gave the galaxy more advance warning than they otherwise would’ve had (which they subsequently didn’t do anything with, but that’s another story), and waiting another 2.5 years doesn’t seem very long on Reaper time scales. Unless Sovereign somehow didn’t know how far away the rest of the Reapers were, but that doesn’t seem to make much sense either.

    I guess you could argue that taking over the Citadel is enough of a strategic advantage that it was worth the risk of Sovereign’s attempt, except we never see the Reapers suffer from not having done that. If anything, their reaping seems to be going even faster than during the Prothean cycle (judging by what Javik says) despite not having that element of surprise. Though maybe that’s just because all galactic leaders are idiots in this cycle.

    • Poncho says:

      If the Reapers were flying toward the Milky Way ever since the signal failed, then this would have started OVER TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO with the Rachni Wars. Seriously, the Rachni are the first instance of noted indoctrination in the ME timeline between cycles, and since the game never explicitly says when the signal fails, we have to assume it is when Sovereign first started getting to work in the current cycle.

      The reason this is hard to believe given Sovereign’s actions in ME1, is that the Reapers are presumably waiting for some device on their dark-space end of the line to activate so they can get through the Citadel Relay. If they’re flying toward the Milky Way, and Sovereign gets the Citadel doors open, they would have to stop, fly back, and then go through the doors. If it takes two thousand years to fly to the Milky Way (which, admittedly, is a much more mathematically friendly number given FTL and the distances between objects in space), then it makes Sovereign even more of a dolt for trying to open a door that was doomed to stay dormant for centuries.

      If it’s just a button that unlocks the Reaper SUPER FTL 5000 that lets them jump from anywhere in space, well then the story is just jumping sharks at this point.

  23. wswordsmen says:

    I hope you spend at least a few sentences on how N7 badass shoots-dudes Shepard is sent to assemble a fleet in space, while the Admiral who presumably has skills to do that stays on Earth.

    Not that keeping any assets on Earth makes sense, but if it did Shepard should stay and Anderson should leave.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Meh, Shepard has personal contacts and even relationships with the Krogan, Salarians, Asari, Turians, Quarians, AND Geth. No other living person can say as much, so he’s a pretty logical choice for ally gathering.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Shepard has personal contacts who are Asari, Salarians, etc, but that’s different from having contacts with the Asari, Salarians etc. “I have contacts who are Chinese” says one fairly minor thing, “I have contacts with the Chinese” is the statement that implies political connections.

        To Shep’s credit, he has the only known connection to the Geth, and (if Wrex lived) he’s friends with a powerful Krogan, but the rest of his squadmates don’t count for much politically.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Actually, that’s not true.

          -Garrus’ dad is a fairly highly placed Turian army/fleet guy. Consequently, Garrus is one of the few people to make headway with his racial government in terms of “get something ready for the Reapers.”
          -Liara’s dead mom was a powerful politician and it turns out her “dad” is ALSO a politician, if a currently less powerful one. She (the dad) still implies having the power to deploy commando squads at will though.
          -Shepard has a personal relationship with the Council, so that’s an extremely highly placed Turian, Salarian, and Asari who are all familiar with Shepard specifically. To be fair, Anderson also has this.
          -Shepard has personally spoken to all of the Quarian leadership and they know him by name. In 3, his close personal friend can become the Junior member of the Quarian leadership herself.
          -The Geth… leadership (?) basically created an ambassador out of nothing JUST to speak with Shepard, they have no particular interest in talking to anyone else, from what we’ve seen.
          -Depending on the world state, Shepard is either personal friends with the Krogan main leadership, or was directly responsible for putting them into power.

          Shepard “knows” these races in both senses basically.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Or how about the council of admirals,all well versed into tactics and stuff,asking this soldier few ranks beneath them on how to plan out their defense.”We fight,or we die!”

  24. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Arrival… words do not do justice to how much I despise that little narrative tumour, and that was after I thought ME2 main quest has hit rock bottom.

    Not only is it supposed to be narration linking parts 2 and 3 (though do note that there need to be literally no changes made for it to be linking 1 and 3) that got relegated to a DLC. Not only does it invalidate things that were already established. It makes no sense internally or externally and it is horribly written.

    Reapers need Shepard alive for some reason again, otherwise all the good doctor needed to do was shoot you in the back when you rescued her, or crash the shuttle, or even just tell you that the operation will be carried out regardless and you shouldn’t go there so as not to risk leading hostile forces to it. Apologists claim that she was “fighting indoctrination” but first off, she is indoctrinated to the point where she literally calls for “Reapers’ blessings” and goes all suicide bomber to stop you. At the point where everyone is completely indoctrinated nobody ever thought of doing anything to the operation whose only purpose is to stop their reaper masters, they did not blow up the engine, remove any essential components or even delete the “cosmic pinball.exe” file, the doctor only attempts to sabotage the thing once Shepard is awake and in action. I’m not even going to get into the nonsense of having the countdown as exact as seconds for “the arrival”.

    As if that wasn’t enough the writing is atrocious. My only theory is that one half of the writing staff was doing SW:TOR and the other half was already doing ME3 and this was left to some super junior writer. The terminology itself reveals it, names like “the alpha relay”, “the project”, “the object”. We’re going to make Shepard have to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to buy galaxy some time… but let’s make it someone who’s not actually likeable, not Quarians who the player likes and have this whole “galaxy’s opressed minority” thing going, or Assari who are refined and cultured, Elcor who make us chuckle, or even Volus who are kinda endearing through their silly design. Let’s make it Batarians, who were always terrorists or gang members, and let’s make sure they don’t come off as sympathetic here, let’s have them throw their prisoners to the hounds for fun and give them lines like “I like listening to prisoners scream” and “torturing you will not give me any information but it will amuse me”, heaven forbid we take this chance to explore some background to this race. And finally, in the crowning moment of awfulness let’s hark back to that cryptic conversation that Shepard had with Sovereign, only this time we’ll have Harbinger be petty and throw around empty insults and futile threats and Shepard come off the conversation on top with empowering lines like “even if it’s impossible that’s what humanity does, we always find a way!” because in case you haven’t heard Humans! Are! Special!

    Urghh, I’m ranting so hard I can actually feel my blood pressure rising. Seriously, if ME2 made me give up on treating the series seriously Arrival is the instalment I’m actually actively hostile towards.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m glad you wrote this. I started a rant after watching the video, then thought better of tearing apart content I haven’t played.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        There’s really not much more to it. I fastforwarded through the video and far as I can tell it skips just the shooty bits. i seem to remember there was one godawful line to the effect of mooks going “oh my god! He/She killed Kenny!” that I can’t find, but like I said just fastforwarded so might have missed it.

        I didn’t want to be accused of hating on the DLC for not being the story I wanted but I can’t shake the impression that at its conception Arrival might have been the tale of people who went out to do what they thought was necessary and slowly their conviction faltered, partly due to the effects of “soft” indoctrination. I think things like the doctor telling us they have moral issues with going through with the plan and the “this will cause the death of three hundred thousand people” message on an attempt to run the program may be leftovers from that storyline. It could be interesting to explore indoctrination turning what we’d consider virtues against the people under its effects but even if this was the angle they were originally imagining (and again, no actual solid proof of that) I think it’s very clearly beyond both the scope of the DLC and the capabilities of the writer(s).

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Wow that is bonkers. I played all of ME 1 and 2 and all of the DLC accept for Arrival and then never played 3. I think I made the wise decision. If I had played Arrival and then there was never any mention of Shepard having a guilt trip I would’ve raged.

      And yeah Making the Batarians always the bad guys with no reference to their culture is kinda sleazy. Even in the DLC for the first game where Batarians are first introduced, that group had concrete reasons for what they were doing, and they were, for lack of a better term, a rogue cell. Trying to pass off an entire species as all bad all the time is just absurd. Usually this roll is filled by the Krogans(read Mandalorians(read Klingons)), but they actually still have nuance. They aren’t just painted as evil.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        To be perfectly fair as Shoeboxjeddy mentioned below there are some sympathetic Batarians in ME3 and there are some interesting angles if you delve into the codex (and possibly some companion sources? my knowledge of those is strictly second hand). I don’t think it either makes up for their rather one dimensional depiction in the actual games up to this point which definitely doesn’t help achieve the emotional weight that the devs tried for here.

    • James says:

      The Batarians, so from other media and a little from Mass Effect 1 mostly in the Bring Down the Sky DLC, they are characterized fairly well its not very deep, and it would have been nice to explore them some more.
      Batarian and Human space is right next to each other, Terra Nova was originally planned to be a Batarian Colony, but Humanity rather then ask anyone settled a colony there rather abruptly, the Batarians complained to the Council who promptly did nothing, in response the Batarians closed their embassy and left the Citadel entirely. the Batarians whilst similar in size didn’t have the Military to match the Alliance in a straight up conflict, and without the council to help them, they resorted to more underhand means to getting payback. this includes various terrorist actions including i think 1 of the Origins and 1 of the “Psych” profiles. (The Skyllian Blitz and the Assault on Mindoir)

      EDIT: Oh they also funded the raiders that based out of Torfan which was part of the Ruthless Psyche

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think the treatment of Batarians in Mass Effect is even handed compared to say, the Vorcha, which are basically a pure trash species, good for nothing but fodder. They’re villains in 1, where they do appear, but the bad guy has a clear goal. Understandable but unacceptable, a fine placement for a villain. In 2, they are mostly villainous, but that’s just where they’re placed in the story (mostly as bounty hunters or mercs). They aren’t treated as any MORE despicable than human mercs for the most part. In 3, there’s sympathetic civilian Batarians, you can gain some war assets for working with surviving Batarians and the race is a fleshed out multiplayer species with unique powers and cool builds.

      Regarding Arrival specifically, the game is VERY CLEAR that the ones who will die are innocents. Even if your species tend to hate each other, this magnitude of loss is unacceptable to most Shepards, but he is unable to change things despite that.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Agreed about Vorcha. That said the DLC throws around the term “innocents” in a way that doesn’t allow the player to assimilate it emotionally, and mind you I don’t expect (in fact I would beg the devs not to go there) scenes of Batarians hugging their children and running along the beach with their significant others. The fact of the matter is that Batarians simply aren’t portrayed as a sympathetic species. Especially considering what we’ve seen of them at this point in the story (that is pre-ME3) blowing up a planet of “I like torturing people” Batarians has a somewhat different impact than blowing up a planet of “Resigned despair: It is not possible to evacuate an entire colony in such a short frame of time” Elcor no matter if the player is told that those Batarians they’ve seen are probably not the best their species has to offer in terms of likeability.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          I think it’s interesting as a choice. First, it logically makes sense since we’ve already been told that the Batarians and Humans are the most likely to set up colonies on the fringe spaces. So that checks out. Then it asks for sympathy for the enemy. Your Shepard may have been involved with some NASTY Batarian based business in the past, but even that person can see how this will be a horrible tragedy. Then when you encounter your enemy from 1 (assuming he lived) in 3, he’s FURIOUS about Arrival… but has to admit that the choice was necessary since the Batarians EASILY got it worst when the Reapers DID arrive.

          Assuming the same species are hanging around in Andromeda, a Batarian security officer on the ship would be a cool thing to do. Which also assumes the player’s ship isn’t just an Earth Alliance vessel (hopefully it’s not).

    • Poncho says:

      Not to mention Hackett’s reasons for not letting you bring squad members makes zero sense.

      Hackett: “I don’t want to start an incident with the Batarians, so I can’t send in three soldiers when I’ve already sent this huge crew of mercenaries and scientists.”

      Me: Over half my squad are aliens. Let me take Thane, who is like a master assassin and is probably gonna die in a few weeks anyway, and don’t have a proper government or homeworld or anything like that. They live with jellyfish people, he’s not going to piss anyone off. Or the Turian vigilante who abandoned his job and place in society to play space batman. Or the Asari Justicar who has a literal license to kill and the most powerful government in the galaxy. Or the master thief. Or the mercenary who hates batarians, who have no ties to the Alliance. Or the quarian who lives on a fleet of constantly migrating spaceships.

      No?

      Hackett: “This is a sneaking mission, Shepard!”

      FISSION MAILURE

      • Ringwraith says:

        Yeah, the sheer number of people on that base breaks any sense it’s supposedly super-secret to avoid detection.
        They’ve got dozens and dozens of guys, on a quite large base. Without anyone noticing.
        Somehow.

        Suuuuure.

        • Pyrrhic Gades says:

          To be fair, the batarians did notice the Alliance base in the system. No one ever said it was a good secret.

          • Ringwraith says:

            Yet this doesn’t seem to be communicated if that’s the case?
            You’d think as large an operation as this is rather obvious.
            Especially with the whole “we can only send Shepard” excuse. (Which is probably more ‘we really didn’t record any new lines for anyone else and that’d be weird’).

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              I think the solo was about two things. “Stealth missions” (this was a failure, they didn’t bother bringing it to 3) and solo challenge fights (this was better and so was later brought back for multiplayer and the Citadel DLC). The assumption that they didn’t want to pay the squad for more VA may be true, but they were very willing to do so on the ME3 DLCs so… I dunno.

            • Pyrrhic Gades says:

              Judging by the questions the batarian torturer asks (e.g. “Where is your human base of opperations in this system), it implies that they know that the Alliance has a base in the system.

              (although this one is grasping at straws) Judging by the fact that the torturer doesn’t even care about learning the location of The Doctor’s human base and is just doing it for fun implies that they already know its exact location.

              As vague as the batarian’s torture method is, I’d like to believe that he’s just asking the same 5 questions over and over again via the investigate option of Bioware’s dialogue wheel.

      • Ofermod says:

        Wait… this suddenly makes less sense. Since doesn’t Hackett send a whole squad of Marines if you don’t have the DLC?

        • Poncho says:

          Yes. The mission is simultaneously super dependent on stealth and super dependent on everyone finding out what happens anyway, no matter what.

          Ugh I hate Arrival so much. It was the beginning of the end for me. I could look past ME2’s plot faults because I had high hopes for ME3 (they lost their lead writer in the middle of the project, maybe 3 will be better because it won’t be so internally chaotic… right? NOPE). Once I saw the intro scene revealed at E3 or some convention I knew that the whole game was just going to be like Arrival. So disappointed.

    • Pyrrhic Gades says:

      I was under the impression that The Doctor only became fully indoctrinated once she got a second dose of Reaper Artifact. She seemed pretty adamant about how “WE’RE ALL DOOMED” up until the point where she showed Shepard the proof of the Reaper’s coming.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        I always assumed her reaction to Shepard introducing him/herself and the conversation with the base she has on the shuttle was foreshadowing since the moment she started talking I thought “yep, she’s indoctrinated alright”. But even if I give the DLC that it still means they had two full days when Shepard was under to do anything they wished with the engines.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That opening text…It still angers me..

    Its also a perfect example of how the effort decrease over the course of the games.In me1,they bothered quite a bit to label human like intelligence as sapient.Meaning that someone in there actually cared for proper terminology and real science.Then,apparently that someone left the project,and those left didnt care to even study the past work of the person that left,so they just slapped on the popular sentient.They figuratively ran out of fucks to give at this point.

    • Poncho says:

      ME1: “This is a science fiction universe with some action elements. Hold on to your butts.”

      ME3: “This is an action game with cool explosions and you get to be the hero while your friends die.”

  26. WWWebb says:

    Did they ever resolve your legal status as “real Shepard” or “fake Shepard” in ME2? I was under the impression that you started ME3 waiting around for a final hearing on whether or not you were really you.

    It’s a bit odd, since either way, the Alliance doesn’t have any authority over you. Real Shepard is a SPECTER and answers(ish) to the Council. Fake Shepard might be “criminal” in the sense that he “belonged to Cerberus”, but they’ve been pretty vague about space-law so far in the series so the Alliance may-or-may-not have any authority there. They can’t even complain about the Normandy 2 since it was privately built (by a bunch of terrorists sure, but it’s still not an Alliance ship).

    The only reason you’re having anything to do with the Alliance is that Shepard (the character) is a good guy.

  27. MrFob says:

    One more thing about Arrival is that you can even play it before the end of ME2 (it is even set up for it and the conversation you have with the Harbinger reaper hologram in that case turns into a conversation with the collector general hologram).
    Hackett’s fairly urgent briefing also is triggered after Horizon, meaning that without metagaming, you are encouraged to play the DLC then and there.

    Now get this: If you play Arrival in the middle of the game then the reapers arrive in the Milky Way at the end of the DLC. Yet, Harbinger continues with his plan and is then seen far away from the galaxy in the last scene of the main game AFTER Arrival has already happened.

    So what’s going on? Are there two groups of reapers, one arriving, the other one Harbinger’s? Did they go back for the end game to have a great photo-opp? Was that shot at the end game out of time?

    This whole thing annoyed me enough that I actually made a mod that triggers Arrival only after the main game is over. Otherwise it really doesn’t make sense at all.

    • Flip says:

      Actually, why don’t we (or Kenson’s team when they weren’t indoctrinated) time the collision between relay and asteroid in such a way that the asteroid hits the relay about 10 seconds after the Reapers arrive? Boom, supernova, dead Reapers.

      After all, we know the exact time of the Reaper’s arrival.

      • MrFob says:

        Well, the reapers do seem to know what’s going on (at least Harbinger knows when you see him in his hologram form before the steroid hits). Maybe they know because of their indoctrinated servants on the base. So I guess they wouldn’t fall for that one.

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So remember that small detail back in me1 when it says that mass relays are indestructible?Apparently “indestructible” means “has to be hit with a big rock in order to break down”.In fact,plenty of things in me3 just need to be hiw with big rocks in order to break down.

    • guy says:

      Eh, that one’s explained. Relays were considered indestructible but in actual fact are merely extremely tough. No one had ever actually hit them hard enough to damage them before, in part because they’re reluctant to attempt to destroy critical infrastructure they cannot replace. I forget the exact details but whatever protects them isn’t strong enough to deal with being hit by a moon at high speed.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But thats the thing about this game.You have bullets that fly at you at almost the speed of light,which has enough energy to devastate a planet,and thats not enough.But a single asteroid slowly going towards the planet,THATS what does it.Its like they forgot(or more likely,never knew) that kinetic energy increases linearly with mass,but squares with speed.

        Its even worse in the thresher maw scene however.

        • guy says:

          The most powerful weapon in common fleet use is the dreadnought main gun. It fires a twenty-kilogram slug at 1.3% of lightspeed. The microflechettes the standard guns fire are tiny, even less massive than their size would indicate, and do not go even remotely close to lightspeed.

          We don’t have any numbers for the mass or speed of the asteroid, but you’re probably looking at more than three orders of magnitude more energy than the dreadnought gun.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Seeing how slow that thing moves(it is mentioned somewhere that the boosters were fitted on it quite some time ago before you arrived),its doubtful that it has even the same amount of energy as a shot from a dreadnought,let alone more.Not to mention one other very important thing:huge energy concentrated into a small package will deliver a more devastating blow than that same energy spread out in a big package.

            • Poncho says:

              You would need actual numbers to make a fair assessment.

              For example, if the Moon were to orbit within the Roche Limit of Earth, tidal forces would rip both of them apart and the surfaces of the earth and Moon would liquefy from the frictional heat. That’s a shit ton of energy.

              If the asteroid was large enough, it could rip apart a more massive object like a Relay just based on gravity forces alone.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                True.But,keep in mind that reapers posses the tech that is quite resistant to high g forces(the sovereign doing that maneuver in planet atmosphere).And,like Luhrsen mentioned,a relay can survive a supernova.No matter how big your asteroid is,it wont provide more energy than an exploding star.

                • Mike S. says:

                  The relay hardware isn’t trying to accelerate the supernova energy, though.

                  It’s all rubber science. But I can see it as the difference between hitting a tank with an explosive shell and running bits of shrapnel through the engine gears. The latter has much less raw destructive power, but it’s being applied to a sensitive part of the mechanism in a way it’s not designed to be resistant to.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Outside of a structure is not a sensitive part of a machinery.Or at least,it should never be.Especially when that outside is put in a place where it is in constant risk of being bombarded by all kinds of crap.

      • Luhrsen says:

        “Relays were considered indestructible but in actual fact are merely extremely tough. No one had ever actually hit them hard enough to damage them before,”

        It was a main plot point in ME1 that the relays were seemingly invincible. A supernova was insufficient to break one. They are supposed to be locked under a mass effect field at a molecular level.

        Also ‘high speed’ is not how I would characterize that asteroids movement.

  29. Annikai says:

    I think it was the Arrival that started this annoying trend by Bioware to put plot important stuff for the next game in DLC for the previous game. Like how Dragon Age 2 has a DLC that introduces a main villain for Dragon Age 3. It’s one of the things that really started turning me off.

    • Jokerman says:

      The 3rd game, inquisition, does the exact same thing again with “Trespasser” but that DLC feels far more important than either Arrival or Legacy.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The alternative is for them to release DLC that people largely declare an “unimportant side mission of no significance to the campaign, not worth a buy, 5/10”. It’s a lose-lose situation for them. Release important, interesting, exciting DLC that took months of extra development to create? “WHY WAS THIS DLC?!” Release smaller, bite sized DLC that can be enjoyed at any time or skipped without consequence? “THIS DLC IS A WASTE OF MONEY, WHY DO THEY PUT OUT THIS CRAP?!”

      • Mike S. says:

        What do people think of Bring Down the Sky from ME1? I liked it, and it seems like a decent example of something that’s clearly a side mission, but is nonetheless appropriate for your character to get involved with and which has serious but self-contained stakes.

        But I’m an easy mark for Mass Effect, so I don’t know if the larger consensus is positive or negative.

        There is the story downside that because ME1 comes to a definitive ending, you can only do it when you’re in the middle of a supposed “Race Against Time” to get to Saren. But that’s true for all the many sidequests, from tracking down crooked video poker machines to playing amateur genetic counselor.

        (BTW, if anyone with ME1 doesn’t have it, BDtS is now a free download for the PC. http://masseffect.bioware.com/me1/galacticcodex/bringdownthesky_pc.html )

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Citadel was very well-received without being at all plot-critical (there were people saying “This should’ve been the real ending”, but that was a function of problems with the real ending rather than Citadel being critical). I think that’s the logical way for Bioware to do DLC, character-focused stuff, because everyone loves Bioware characters but it’s easy to avoid introducing plot-critical stuff.

        • ehlijen says:

          I think the Citadel DLC was received so well because in part it felt like an apology/acknowledgement by Bioware for what had gone wrong with the main game. It even contains a reference to Cerberus experiments always going wrong and killing their own dudes.

          It was utterly the wrong kind of content for something that wanted to be as epic and tragic as ME3, but people loved it because unlike the epic tragedy that was ME3, they managed to write it well.

      • MrFob says:

        I’ll grant you that it’s a tight line to walk but then, it’s not like anyone forces them to make DLC in the first place.

        • ehlijen says:

          Agreed. Expansion packs have been a thing for a while, and there is nothing wrong with them, though.

          The point of expansions was to give players more content for a game they liked at less production cost than a new game. So why would you ever make DLC and the sequel game at the same time?
          If you’re already shouldering the expense of making a new game, adding DLC to the previous one will make the entire process more expensive, not less.

          Players who haven’t played the previous game will be encouraged to buy it through the new game already, and players who have won’t buy it again.

  30. Mephane says:

    Is it the Reapers? I know it`s the Reapers. Maybe. Probably. I figure it`s probably the Reapers for certain.

    http://fs5.directupload.net/images/160204/hccea2oc.jpg

    scnr :D

  31. defaultex says:

    Mass Effect as a whole show why I dislike the idea of DLC. The DLC provided some much needed insight into the galaxies’ history. Without it the game is kind of bland for it’s lore on the history of the reapers aside from the fact they reappear to knock everyone back to the stone age every once in awhile. I don’t mind the idea of an expansion pack and really don’t mind waiting for them to produce a quality expansion, at least then we are presented the information in a concise manner that drives sub plot forward. I don’t mind the idea of DLC things like multiplayer maps, costumes and weapons; that makes perfect sense for what DLC was meant to be.

  32. Miguk says:

    Having never played any DLC, once I get to ME3 it’s really infuriating when every Batarian I meet is being a dick to me for reasons I don’t understand. It’s bad enough to have important parts of the plot in the DLC. It’s even worse when I get repeatedly scolded for actions that I never took and don’t even know about.

    I can just imagine a writer thinking “remember how we forced the player to join Cerberus and then had several NPCs tell them how horrible and stupid they are for it? Let’s do it again. It’ll show how dark and gritty we are.”

  33. vdweller says:

    I’m eagerly awaiting for the time where you discuss EDI’s cameltoe.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Oh god,that one.Its so bad!

    • Deager says:

      Your comment made me chuckle. I had a back and forth about it with giftfish once and we both were in complete agreement about how bad the whole EDI model was. Having a body was fine…but that body? Sheesh. Gaming still has to grow up a bit. We’re getting there, but it’ll be a while. MGS V anyone? Thank goodness for mods. Last I checked, clothing can be breathable and if it’s not, stockings make no sense. No sense, Quiet!!!!!!

      Sorry, off topic random rant. I, a married man, get tired of female sexual objectification. That’s why I play as a lead female when possible; if she’s not being objectified. It’s a nice change of pace from when I was growing up and was not aware of any good options.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        To be fair to the EDI model, TIM had it made as his personal assistant. So it’s barely even head canon (rather than just stated canon) that TIM was getting it on with the robot he had made for himself. Which is sad/hilarious.

  34. Zaxares says:

    Shepard’s state at the beginning of ME3 only makes sense if the player has played Arrival (which leads to the sorry state of affairs you talked about where stuff in a game won’t make sense if a player hasn’t purchased certain DLC). Essentially, Shepard blew up a Mass Relay, wiping out the entire solar system and killing hundreds of thousands of batarians. This is a war crime on a staggering scale, and the batarians have evidence that proves Shepard was there at the time when the relay blew up. Even with Shepard’s Spectre status, this is a HUGE black mark against the Council-led races and the Systems Alliance. Thus, the Alliance arrests Shepard and “locks him up” to await further trial and investigation. It’s the only way to keep the Batarian Hegemony from going to outright war with the Alliance.

    Of course, if you never played Arrival, then the reasons are much more nebulous and don’t make much sense.

    Also, Joker was also placed under arrest when Shepard returned to Earth. There’s a little conversation with him and EDI in the cockpit where they lied and pretended that EDI, as the ship’s security system, would only respond to Jeff’s commands. So they often brought him onboard (under guard) during the retrofits (why waste a perfectly good ship, after all?) When the Reapers attacked Earth, Joker just happened to be aboard the Normandy, so they stole it and flew to Shepard. (A bit of author licence there, but I can live with that.)

    However, that story breaks down a bit when it comes to Dr Chakwas, who ostensibly was in the same position as Joker, yet still wasn’t arrested. Chakwas says that she got a proper leave of absence, but the idea of Joker just going AWOL to join Cerberus doesn’t really sit right with me either.

    • Mike S. says:

      While they don’t actually make the point, it’s arguable that providing medical care that happens to take place inside a Cerberus-owned ship isn’t actionable in the same way that actually flying combat missions for them is. Chakwas didn’t strictly take up arms for a criminal/insurgent organization, while Joker did. Medical assistance is frequently treated as a special case. (E.g., in a war zone intentionally targeting military engineers is kosher, but targeting ambulances and hospitals isn’t.)

      Chakwas, as a maternal-looking veteran of decades, probably also inspires more of an inclination to leniency and generous interpretation of the regs than the prickly, intense Joker does.

  35. Guile says:

    You’ve said before you don’t intend to do DLC, but please reconsider on Leviathan if you can get ahold of it. There are shades of Arrival there, but it’s better written (not Bioware’s best work, but good) and adds something to the canon that is pretty intriguing.

  36. Roger says:

    Not that the beginning of ME3 was that great, but certainly better than ME2’s ‘blow up everything for no reason’. At least you’re back with the Alliance. Maybe I just had too low expectations but to me it still seems that ME3 did a lot of backtracking on ME2’s stupidity (also seen in game mechanics – especially the inventory).

  37. peacemon says:

    Am I the only person who noticed this? That opening text says the Reapers cleanse the galaxy of all organic life every 50,000 years. ALL ORGANIC LIFE. That always strikes me when I see it.

    I always found this particularly revealing, as it shows that the makers of ME3 understood neither the story of Mass Effect nor basic common sense. That, or they were incredibly sloppy/careless.

    This is a theme that goes through the entire game, but it’s right there, right in the beginning, in the fourth sentence of the game, setting the tone for everything that would follow. A massive slip that has never been fixed, either because they didn’t notice or they didn’t care. Don’t know which would be worse.

    • Shamus says:

      That is such a good point I couldn’t help but edit it into the post.

      It’s amazing how much they got wrong in just a few lines of exposition.

      • peacemon says:

        Cool 8)

        I really wonder what was going on in their heads… I mean it suggests that the entire evolution on Earth happened in less than 50,000 years… but then, pointing out blunders in ME3 always feels like pointing out plot holes in Sharknado.

        Was just recently linked to this series btw, it’s really great, thank you. Was delighted to read an in-depth analysis of the entire series, even more since I found that it agreed about 95% with my impressions (hence I decided it’s the wisest and truest thing I’ve read about it).

        Like, I loved ME1’s story so much that I could look over the obvious flaws.

        I was appalled about ME2’s lack of a main storyline and change of tone, but with time learned to love what it does right with characters and loyalty missions. So I could appreciate what it did right despite its massive flaws.

        In ME3, thousands of things happened at the same time, nothing seemed to make any sense, so I started just waving through the story/dialogue parts and just do whatever mission I was supposed to do next, without ever having any idea what this all was about. I just wanted to have some action (which is pretty good) and wished I could just skip all the dreadful story/dialogue/cutscenes entirely. ME3 would have been a much better game if it ditched the story entirely and was only shooting action. Which may be the most damning thing you could say about the conclusion to the Mass Effect saga.

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