Mass Effect Retrospective 43: Interesting Stupid

By Shamus
on Apr 14, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

Shepard continues his tour of the galaxy, selling dubious hope in exchange for direct military support from people who are really going to need those military units in the near future. Today he’s giving his sales pitch to the Quarians.

Admiral Idiot

If we`re going to go extinct, then we`re going to do so while standing on a planet, because that`s better somehow!

If we`re going to go extinct, then we`re going to do so while standing on a planet, because that`s better somehow!

The Quarians became space-nomads centuries ago when they built robots that eventually became “self-aware”. Worried of a robot uprising, they tried to destroy the robots. This led to a robot uprising, and they got their asses kicked off their own homeworld. Since then they’ve been flying around the galaxy in a huge fleet of ramshackle patchwork ships, dreaming of the day when they could retake their homeworld. It’s a good story that adds some interesting historical context to the universe, and has ramifications throughout the world of Mass Effect.

The Quarian fleet is broken into sections. Some ships are military, but most are simply homes and places to grow food for the Quarian people: The “live ships”That’s “live” as in “live wire”, not “live long”. English is annoying sometimes.. A lot of their ships are old and in a perpetual state of being refurbished.

Admiral Han’Gerrel is our villain in this story. He’s stuck guns on the Live Ships and launched an attack on the Quarian homeworld. He was doing okay until the Geth teamed up with the Reapers. Now the Reapers are giving the Geth some sort of mental upgrade via a broadcasted signalJust go with it. and it’s making them more dangerous opponents. The Geth have now pinned the Quarian fleets – basically 99% of every Quarian alive right now – and are going to overwhelm and destroy them if we don’t do something soon.

The problem is that now is a terrible time to have a homeworld. The Migrant Fleet might have some slim hope of scattering or running and hiding from the Reapers. We in the audience know that plan would eventually be doomed, but with their fleet the Quarians could be set up to outlast the rest of the galaxy. But if they give up their ships and settle on the homeworld, they would probably be the first of the races to go extinct. A population of just 17 million isn’t going to last very long.

Look at the size of this dialog wheel! Why, it`s nearly Mass Effect 1-sized!

Look at the size of this dialog wheel! Why, it`s nearly Mass Effect 1-sized!

On my first trip through Mass Effect 3, I was annoyed with this story. During our Mass Effect 3 LP, I ranted against this section because Han’Gerrel is being an idiot, and I was just so tired of idiot plots by this point. Everyone is stupid, nobody can plan ahead, nothing makes sense, and nobody seems to notice.

But in real life you do sometimes end up with foolish or short-sighted leaders and they sometimes do enact destructive policies. It’s not even particularly rare. It’s actually a nice touch to have flawed, fallible, occasionally vain people running things. Perhaps we can refer to this as “interesting stupid”, in contrast to “regular stupid”.

The problem is that in a story where nearly everyone is “regular stupid”, the actions of the “interesting stupid” people get lost in the noise. Instead of seeing interesting conflict arising from a tragic character flaw, it looks like another dum-dum enslaved by the writer.

But on subsequent trips through the game I’ve warmed up to Han’Gerrel and his scheming. I think he’s a pretty good short-term villain, and I don’t think he deserves to be lumped in with lunkheads like Hackett, Udina, Anderson, and everyone who has ever worked for (or with) Cerberus.

  1. He has a goal. Unlike Cerberus, who are sometimes “pro human” and sometimes “take over the galaxy” and sometimes “KILL CIVILIANS LOLOL”, Han’Gerrel has a clear goal and a plan for making it happen. He wants to re-take the Quarian homeworld, which his people have been dreaming about for centuries.
  2. His mistakes are foolish, but understandable. His goals stem from his position, his culture, and the galactic history that has shaped the Quarian / Geth conflict.
  3. This isn’t a last-minute ass-pull from the writers. His potential for this sort of villainy was established and telegraphed in Mass Effect 2. Nearly everything in Mass Effect 2 has ended up retconned, forgotten about, or rendered moot. So it’s awesome to see some Mass Effect 2 ideas leading to some kind of coherent payoff.
  4. Everyone else in this mission story is basically normal, or flawed in interesting ways. This is a plot that requires a couple of leaders to be foolish about one thing, not a plot that requires everyone to be stupid about everything.

Space Battles IN SPACE!

Commander, they have pew-pew weapons! I`ll move around a lot and re-route power to the blue glowy thing.

Commander, they have pew-pew weapons! I`ll move around a lot and re-route power to the blue glowy thing.

So Han’Gerrel wants Shepard to slip onto the battlefield in his super-cool stealth ship, send a team of people over, and disable the dreadnought that’s broadcasting the magical Reaper buff signalWhich means in D&D terms, this dreadnought is technically a bard.. Getting to the Geth dreadnought means flying though a big Star Wars style space battle where ships float lazily past one another like sailing ships and blast each other with pew-pew lasers.

This isn’t how the Mass Effect 1 codex says space battles work. According to Mass Effect 1, space battles are like space itself: Mostly empty, with a small number of things moving through the void at massively dangerous speeds, where any hit means death. Fights supposedly happen at extreme ranges, at high speed. But here we have naval combat without the water. (Although to be fair, Mass Effect 1 forgot about this idea by the time we got to the fight with Sovereign at the end.)

But you know what? I think the Mass Effect 1 codex writer made a bad call. I think this works better for the medium. While I’m always happy to see hard sci-fi ideas in my videogames, I think this change makes a lot of sense.

The problem is that while sniping in the void is probably pretty realistic – or at least, more realistic than Star Wars style dogfighting where lasers travel at hockey puck speeds – it’s an idea that works really well in print, and horribly in a visual medium like movies. (Which includes videogame cutscenes.)

How can you depict such a battle properly? There’s nothing to see. The camera can cut from one ship to the next, but it’s just a ship in a black void. The audience will have no sense of speed. No sense of where the combatants are relative to one another. No sense of who has the upper hand.

The only way to do this would be to have a couple of characters looking at a monitor, and one of them is explaining to the other what’s happening. It’s like listening to a baseball game on the radio. The audience would be left with a conflict that’s less exciting, less clear, and which needs tons of expensive dialog to explain how the battle works.

I’m not saying it’s impossible. You could probably have a go at handling it like typical submarine movies where the battle is conveyed through chatter, although that would require a large cast of characters flying the ship instead of just a pilot / co-pilot. In any case, doing it “right” would be very dry, expensive, and difficult.

Sometimes you need to stick to your science. Sometimes you really need to break from science and just go with what makes sense. Like hand-waving gravity, this is one of those things where a little compromise can go a long way to making something much easier to follow.

You CAN Stop the Signal, Baby!

Easy Legion. She`s... spoken for? Somehow?

Easy Legion. She`s... spoken for? Somehow?

This is a really great section of the game. Okay, the blue interiors get old quickly, but it’s a nice change of pace, there are a few fun ideas thrown inLike a hallway of science-static that will kill your shields, forcing you to time your movements and when you enter and exit cover., and you get to fight the Geth again. I never get tired of their beeping noises.

At the end Shepard finds Legion, the special Geth envoy / explorer that was potentially part of the Normandy crew in the previous game. The Geth are using him to… boost(?) the Reaper signal(?) somehow? He doesn’t even want to be doing it. They’ve just got him chained up like a prisoner in their evil Reaper machine.

While I really like this mission, I will say this setup is pretty schlocky. Why is Legion uniquely qualified to boost this signal? Does he have some ability that the Reapers don’t? If this power comes from some gizmo in his body, why don’t they just take the gizmo? Or build a duplicate? Or mind-wipe him so he’s loyal and not fighting to get free of this situation? The writer is anthropomorphizing the shit out of these guys.

But at least these problems stem from sloppy adherence to the science-magic of Mass Effect. That’s a tiny bit annoying, but basically par for this genre of fiction. Heck, the Starship Enterprise is powered by Dilithium Crystals and This Very Thing. I’ll take this over another brain-melting Cerberus scene any day.

Once Legion is free, the dreadnought is vulnerable. Rather than rescue the live ships as agreed, Han’Gerrel decides to push the attack and blow up the dreadnought. With Shepard on board.

Shepard escapes, and when he confronts Han’Gerrel you get a RENEGADE INTERRUPT prompt to punch his stupid dumb face, and it’s really hard to not click on it. This was a pretty big hint that this story was working. I was mad at Han’Gerrel, not the writer.

RENEGADE DICK PUNCH.

RENEGADE DICK PUNCH.

But you need to cut a deal with this guy for his fleets, so it’s actually not ideal to click it. I love this. The renegade interrupts in this game often feel a little self-indulgent, so it’s nice to have an irresponsible one thrown into this situation where you need to restrain yourself for reasons of diplomacy.

Minor nitpick: I’m not crazy about how ambiguous these prompts can be. When the red marker pops up you don’t know what Shepard is going to do. Deck him? Say something racially insensitive? Shoot him? Sure, you can probably guess what the game is going to do if given enough time. (Racial slurs would be out-of-character, Shepard doesn’t have a gun, so this is probably a prompt for fisticuffs.) But if you pause to think it through, the moment will pass. I’d like it if the prompts gave you a little more information about just how drastic your actions are going to be. I’m always afraid I’m going to try and flip someone off and end up shooting them in the face.

Like Mass Effect 2, this game has a very modal quality. In Mass Effect 2 we had a drooling central plot and then enjoyable character missions. Here in Mass Effect 3 the main plot is both larger and dumber, but the “side” stuff is still wonderful. Like curing the Genophage, this Quarian vs. Geth conflict has lots of different viewpoints, is driven by characters, is responsive to past choices, and offers engaging new choices.

Sorry Admiral, but that`s not how Paragon / Renegade works. If you`re alive, those innocent people are dead.

Sorry Admiral, but that`s not how Paragon / Renegade works. If you`re alive, those innocent people are dead.

A good example of an interesting choice: There’s a Quarian general who opposed the attack on the Geth and was vigorously against bring the live ships into the fight. But once the vote went against him, he sucked it up and did his job to the best of his ability. He’s been shot down and separated from his crew on the planet. He pleads with Shepard to save his crew, but from Shepard’s perspective it’s better to let the crew die and save this general, who might be able to convince the leadership to give up on this attack. And of course, you’re here to get his ships for retaking Earth, which means the fewer losses here on Rannoch the more ships you’ll have for retaking your own homeworld.

It’s a volatile mix of politics, people, and practicality. And the game is smart enough to not directly map your options strictly to paragon / renegade. The game allows for the fact that maybe you’re trying to help the general because it’s the “right thing to do”, but maybe you’re doing it because you want his shipsWhich could also be the right thing to do from a renegade perspective. But let’s not have the paragade debate again..

The Matrix

Shepard Commander. Shoot the software bugs with your gun, which I can`t do myself for some reason.

Shepard Commander. Shoot the software bugs with your gun, which I can`t do myself for some reason.

Legion invites Shepard to enter the Geth version of Tron and clean all the Reaper code out of their brains. The premise is pretty silly science, and that’s before we get to the hilarious idea of shooting computer viruses with virtual guns. But I give this section points because it gives us a fresh new perspective on the Quarian vs. Geth conflict.

The Quarians were really genre-savvy. They realized that their robot servants had achieved consciousness, and they figured they were about to face the robot uprising. So they tried to get rid of all the robots in the most brutal way possible. Which caused the robot uprising. (They were genre-savvy, but not “regular savvy”.)

As Shepard stumbles around inside the Geth mind, he sees some Geth memories. If these memories are to be believed (and they don’t conflict with anything the author has told us so far) then the Quarians were brutal, callous, merciless, and wrong. The Quarians don’t remember it, but there was a faction of Quarians who wanted to let the Geth live, and they were killed along with the Geth.

The Geth didn’t begin to fight back until they had been pushed to the brink, and they stopped fighting the moment the Quarians retreated. The Quarians were 100% the aggressors.

I love this inversion of the expected sci-fi tropes. It lets us have our robot conflict story without it being yet another riff on Skynet.

On the other hand, this massively, completely, aggressively contradicts the end of the game when King Reaper tells us that synthetics and organics will always be at war. Not only is war not inevitable, but it looks pretty damn easy to avoid. The Geth are intelligent, reasonable, compassionate, and merciful. When we switch back to the main plot, these ideas will be forgotten.

Again: The writing here is clearly modal. You can almost hear the clutch grind as we shift between disparate sections of the game.

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Footnotes:

[1] That’s “live” as in “live wire”, not “live long”. English is annoying sometimes.

[2] Just go with it.

[3] Which means in D&D terms, this dreadnought is technically a bard.

[4] Like a hallway of science-static that will kill your shields, forcing you to time your movements and when you enter and exit cover.

[5] Which could also be the right thing to do from a renegade perspective. But let’s not have the paragade debate again.



A Hundred!A Hundred!20201241 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Narida says:

    I agree, the space battles don’t really match the codex descriptions, but the Rule of Cool makes it easier to suspend one’s disbelief. Although I guess the Mass Effect 1 fight could be explained away by saying that the Citadel relay exits right in front of it, so long-range isn’t an option.

    I could see one-word descriptions for renegade interrupts working… “PUNCH”, “SLAP”, “DEFENESTRATE”

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The Mass Effect 1 space fight still breaks from the Codex at basically every chance it gets. Ships don’t turn off artificial gravity to reduce heat like the codex says they do, lasers are visible rather than infrared, missiles go barely faster than the ships that fire them, those blurs of light that are either rail gun shots or laser blasts are visible and travel at the speed of a hockey puck and there’s not an anti-missile measure in sight. The whole “Save the Destiny Ascension” thing is nonsense because the Codex establishes very clearly that there is nothing stopping a ship jumping away from a losing battle (maybe they were committed to sacrificing themselves for tactical reasons rather than fleeing, but that’s contradicted by the fact that rescuing them is clearly established as a sacrifice of your overall tactical position).

      To be fair, despite the Codex being full of hard sci-fi details like IR lasers and long-range space combat, it’s not perfectly thought out. For instance, it points out that there’s FTL travel + comms, but no FTL sensors, so it claims frigates are critical for scouting if you don’t want to labour under lightspeed delay. Apparently no one ever thought to bolt a camera to a pumpkin-sized drone and scatter those throughout the system to act as as a distributed sensor network.

      • arisian says:

        Yeah, the ME1 codex writer (I’m pretty sure it was one guy who wrote the entire Codex, as well as all those lovely planet descriptions Shamus mentioned last time) was given a pretty impossible task: we want a “one-big-lie” setup, but we also need you to set things up for both conventional space-opera AND talky, details-first startrek missions. Oh, and space wizards; you also need to let us have space wizards (biotics).

        Of course there are inconsistencies; several of the things he was asked to do flat-out contradict one another (you can have FTL-comms, or you can have recognisable fleets with large organic crews, but you can’t have both, and space-wizards are pretty much incompatible with anything remotely “hard”). The fact that he managed to get as close as he did is a testament to his great skill (and also probably a testament to a LOT of hours spent reading projectrho, rocketpunk-manifesto, sfconsim-l, etc.). Honestly, the real problems came from the fact that they wanted dramatic space battles; the setup would have been basically fine if the game was primarily a Trek-like story about Shepard and Friends, focused on human-scale events. As others have pointed out, it wasn’t a good setup for dramatic fleet actions…which would have been fine, if the writers hadn’t decided that dramatic fleet actions needed to be a big part of the story.

        But the rest of the ME team seems to have pretty much ignored most of what he wrote anyway; as awesome as it was, the majority of it wasn’t really supported by the rest of the game (the cutscenes were the worst, but there were a lot of art assets, dialog, etc. that seem to have been made by people who either didn’t read the codex, or didn’t understand it). I remember reading some quote of the codex writer talking about how it broke his heart watching as all the writing and art people slowly took his lovely, rules-based universe, and then tore it apart one thread at a time in the name of Rule of Cool.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          I remember reading some quote of the codex writer talking about how it broke his heart watching as all the writing and art people slowly took his lovely, rules-based universe, and then tore it apart one thread at a time in the name of Rule of Cool.

          I had always assumed that it happened the other way: the codex writer was a hard sci-fi geek, he wanted to cram some hard sci-fi into the game, but since he didn’t have enough pull to get it into the main game, he put his pet project into the codex even though it didn’t match the direction of the game.

          I can totally believe that it happened that way though, shredding a well-thought out universe in favour of the Rule of Cool is AAA development 101. Sigh.

      • Xeorm says:

        On saving the flagship, it’s very devastating to morale to have the flagship flee. Dying in battle you could probably muster resolve to continue the fight, especially against alien things out to destroy everything you hold dear, but why should you continue the fight if the people in charge fled at the first sign of danger? It’s a great way to lose battles.

        Further, are probes FTL? I got the impression (though it’s been awhile since I’ve read the codex) that FTL ships had a certain minimum size. If you wanted FTL comms by sending out other ships, you needed something of a size that you’d crew like frigates. Small, robotic comm fleets are too small to reliably give data if they need to go any distance.

        Other bits I can understand. Turning off gravity is a nitpick, I’d prefer to see lasers rather than having them be invisible, and it seems clear that the missiles are torpedo class. Similar to the speed of the actual ships but pack a wallop. They don’t look too dissimilar to torpedoes in a naval fight here on Earth would look. I don’t think they’re meant to be like aircraft missiles.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Re: The Destiny Ascension: All of that is baseless speculation on your part. The decision as presented is simply “The Council’s on the Destiny Ascension, it will cost us ships to save it, do you want to?” If it was imperiled in the first place due to issues of morale, that should’ve come up.

          Even if FTL drones are impossible, most battles involve a side defending long-held territory, they would have time to distribute STL sensor drones. And I don’t recall the codex ever establishing any size requirement, except insofar as we can infer one from the absence of FTL drones.

          The torpedoes don’t make any sense because it should be trivial to shoot them down when they go that slowly (and indeed, the Codex mentions anti-missile technology that’s absent from the cutscenes). In a world of computer-targeted railguns and lasers, naval-style torpedoes are simply obsolete.

          • guy says:

            The Serpent Nebula is artifically generated by the Citadel and seemingly blocks non-Relay FTL.

            As for the torpedos, yes they’re extremely slow once fired and trivial to intercept at range. However, for some reason or other presumably related to Mass Effect field generator engineering constraints, they can be carried by fast fighters. They’re used at point-blank range by light and fast ships.

            FTL comms are apparently expensive and blanketing systems with them is probably impractical.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Clarification: In the ME1 space cutscenes, we see torpedoes used at long ranges (well, long by the standards of the engagement they’re in) by large ships, not point-blank fighters. And again, the Codex specifies that point-blank fighter torpedoes rely on swarm tactics to overwhelm defenses, which is not at all what happens in the cutscenes.

              • guy says:

                Those aren’t missiles, they’re kinetic projectiles with glowing trails. Which is a thing that can happen, but admittedly under these conditions is probably artistic license.

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeMKLDdNqj0

                You can see one slam into the Destiny Ascension and flash out of existence rather than generating an explosion, indicating that the other explosions are mostly made of ship. Also, they don’t appear to accelerate after firing and don’t track targets.

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  At 10:22 in that video we see a large ship fire two of these debated glowing projectiles, and they have a trail of flame (before contacting anything). Artistic license or not, those are clearly missiles.

          • ehlijen says:

            A reasonable assumption, I thought, was that if the Destiny Ascension is in trouble and needs help, it can’t get out. Maybe it’s FTL engines were already damaged? Maybe their jump calculations weren’t done (nav computers always operate on dramatic timing)? Or maybe going to FTL in a nebula instead of empty space is just not a healthy plan?

            • guy says:

              It’s worth pointing out that no one ever leaves the Citadel via standard FTL. In 2 and 3, when you go to FTL by flying to the edge of the system, that’s impossible at the Citadel. It’s not definitively established if it’s actually impossible or if there’s just no destination in range, but in either case with the Relays locked the Destiny Ascension has nowhere to run and at best has the option to die slowly in deep space if the Citadel falls.

              • Gaius Maximus says:

                Actually, if you get the Kasumi DLC in 2, it adds another system to the Serpent Nebula (the Citadel’s area), where you go for her loyalty mission. How exactly there was a garden world within non-relay travel distance of the capital of the galaxy available for human settlement is not addressed. But it does establish that you can leave the Citadel’s solar system by ordinary FTL.

                • Poncho says:

                  Yeah the distance to the Citadel is a little wonky, but space being as big as it is, it’s fairly easy to overlook something like that unless you’re specifically looking for it. We don’t know how many stars there are near the Citadel, it could be thousands, so mapping them all is going to take a LOT of time.

                  Still, probably should have been closer to Earth rather than the Citadel.

              • ehlijen says:

                “but in either case with the Relays locked the Destiny Ascension has nowhere to run and at best has the option to die slowly in deep space if the Citadel falls.”

                Running is always better than dying right now, even if it means dying later. And diverting other fleet resources to their rescue just makes it more like the citadel will fall.

                If there was imminent danger of destruction and a means of prolonging its life, the Destiny Ascension’s best choice was always to take that means. That it didn’t was a big story signal that they couldn’t, with ‘they’re already too damaged’ being the most apparent explanation.

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  That it didn’t was a big story signal that they couldn’t, with ‘they’re already too damaged’ being the most apparent explanation.

                  Except we later see the ship, and it bears no outward signs of damage. The fact that the writer doesn’t address the issue, which is only raised by the comprehensively ignored space combat codex, leads me to believe the writer simply didn’t know or didn’t care that the DA should’ve been able to jump away.

                  • ehlijen says:

                    Sovereign doesn’t show any outwards signs of damage either until it explodes. Obviously this universe works on a HP system where you’re fine until you’re not with the odd system critical thrown in. It is an RPG after all :p

      • Jabrwock says:

        In the Harrington-verse as soon as they developed FTL comms that was the first thing they did, scatter sensors all around the system.

        It resulted in some interesting tactical manoeuvring as the enemy knew they were being watched in real-time, but the ships in-system could still only move at sub-light, so it required some feint attacks to draw the defenders into the positions you needed them to be in.

    • LassLisa says:

      The “Defenestrate” one was perfectly cued for me, as the camera swung around through that cutscene: Person is ticking me off. Person is getting smug about being evil. Person is standing in front of a GIANT window. I’d like to — Hey, a renegade interrupt!

      That was the first time I ever took a renegade interrupt option.

  2. Knut says:

    Even if it’s a terrible time to have a homeworld, it might not be a terrible time to reclaim a homeworld, if:
    – Admiral Han’Gerrel thinks that the Reapers might be defeated. Since the Quarians are pretty weak, he know’s they won’t be expected to help as much with that fight.
    – Since the Reapers are helping the Geth, he figures that after the fight with the Reapers, the rest of the universe will want to also fight the Geth.
    – He might want to use the fact that he’s fighting Geth (ally of the Reapers) as both an excuse not to enter the fight with the Reapers directly, and also as a bargaining chip to ask for help later.

    Sure, maybe the plan hinges on the universe being able to defeat the Reapers (which is far from sure), but it’s not really a bad plan, and gambles like this are quite common in history.

    • Geebs says:

      If Han’Gerrel (who by the way should never have made Admiral in the first place, because he’s transparently a cretin) wanted to use the defeat of the Reapers to take back the Quarians’ pet rock, wouldn’t it have made sense to wait until AFTER they were actually beaten and weren’t doing the WiFi upgrade thing any more?

      The problem with the Geth is that they were always supposed to be faceless and inscrutable opponents who were fun to fight. The tragic backstory is just another way in which the writers tried to ruin Mass Effect 1 retrospectively.

      • Knut says:

        No, it makes sense to attack the Geth during the war, so he can use the fact that he helped the fight against the Reapers (by attacking the Reapers allies) to get support from the other races after the Reaper war. And it’s easy to underestimate the effect of the Reaper WiFi…they are supposed to be unknown and mysterious after all.

        Not saying that he made the correct decision, but at least it’s understandable, and a type of mistake often made by leaders throughout history.

      • Mike S. says:

        The problem with the Geth is that they were always supposed to be faceless and inscrutable opponents who were fun to fight. The tragic backstory is just another way in which the writers tried to ruin Mass Effect 1 retrospectively.

        ME1 strongly implies that there’s a geth side of the story. When Tali gives her people’s backstory, Shepard has a number of responses that place the quarians in a bad light and are sympathetic to the geth’s no-win situation at the time of their uprising. There’s also the bit on Feros where you come across geth engaged in what’s speculated to be worship, undercutting the idea that they’re emotionless killbots.

        Whatever was planned, they were laying groundwork for complicating the geth/quarian situation going forward.

        • Raygereio says:

          ME1 didn’t just imply it.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNH93AV9zRc#t=7m
          It’s right there in Tali’s story: The Quarians attacked first out of fear, without provocation from the Geth.
          That bit about the Geth not pursuing the Quarians after the latter fled their homeworld? Also there.

        • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

          I tend to think the bit on Feros was supposed to be that AND also foreshadowing about the Citadel-Reapers connection, because the geth ‘shrine” in the ExoGeni base (the one with the glowing orb in the middle) is composed of exactly five oblong arms with a circular thing in the middle. It’s a big leap, sure, but I’d like to think that was done on purpose.

          As far as subtle stuff goes, there’s also the bit on the geth incursions sidemission (the string of systems where eventually you get the geth data for Tali’s Pilgrimage). In the fifth system (Grissom), the one which only becomes available after destroying the four initial geth bases), the final geth outpost is different than the others. The planet description says that there is a signal coming from the surface of the moon, but the Normandy techs are unable to decrypt it, because it’s not in any coding language known to the Citadel races. Then the base itself is a prefabricated underground bunker (ergo: not constructed by the geth), but there are no dragon’s teeth and no dead bodies anywhere; the place looks like it was found by a group of geth and subsequently retrofitted to suit their needs. And finally there’s the bit about a recording of a quarian singing a “mournful a capella of worlds and innocence lost” that is transmitted to the geth beyond the Veil. That last bit was one of my favourite moments in ME1.

    • wswordsmen says:

      I haven’t played the game since a few months after launch, but I swore that Legion mentions that the Geth turned to the Reapers for help with the Quarian attack. If I am right, which I might not be, that makes attacking them even stupider because it actually hands the Reapers an ally and it makes the other races less willing to help the Quarians because they not only didn’t participate in the war, but they ended up helping the enemy by driving an ally to them.

    • tremor3258 says:

      This makes some sense – and the Migrant Fleet will probably never be relatively stronger against the Geth than at the particular moment of throwing the dice.

    • guy says:

      The impression I got was that the Migrant Fleet dropped out of contact shortly prior to the Reaper arrival and they didn’t actually intend to take advantage of the Reaper invasion. Aside from Gerrel, they’re all perfectly willing to withdraw from the system once they disrupt the Geth enough to get the fleet to the Relay.

      Which was why I hated Gerrel; he basically trapped the fleet in system when he attacked the dreadnought. He apparently had control of their main force of dedicated warships and the other admirals are forced to commit their forces to screen his approach or the Geth would destroy his forces and the remaining fleet couldn’t beat them even with the defender advantage in a Relay transit assault.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      Good point. Most fiction focuses on the war at hand and maybe the “Mission Accomplished” parades after victory is assured, but in the real world, savvy people will also be planning for the post-war era.

    • Sartharina says:

      Before seeing the “The Quarians missed the “The Reapers are Here” memo, I thought of another reason the Admiral would have wanted to retake their homeland in light of the Reaper return: They are [i]not[/i] going to be driven to extinction without ever returning to Rannoch. If the reapers were going to kill them anyway, they at least wanted to die on their homeland.

  3. Poobles says:

    This was the mission that convinced me that there was going to be a faction of “good” reapers and they weren’t all just cartoon villains, it made sense at the time, activate the crucible contact the rebel reapers and save the universe. I was really wrong.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      I had thought the same, but mainly due to the release of the “Leviathan” DLC, which hinted at the existence of a good reaper. But alas, that was also a red herring.

      • Darth Tiffany says:

        I’ve always found it criminal that Leviathan was side-story DLC and not the main plot of the game. You come literally face-to-face with the creators of the goddamn Reapers! This is fucking important!

        An extended version would have made a much Mass Effect 2 than the one we got. The stage was perfectly set in the first game: The Leviathan of Dis, the Cthulhu references, Liara the archaeologist who came up with the Reaper theory before anyone knew what Reapers actually were (something the series promptly forgot about after the first game). It ends with you meeting the Leviathans and having them point you in the direction of some tech/intelligence/allies before disappearing forever into the bottomless sea. Then BOOM, Reapers show up, credits.

        The later games were pulling this shit constantly, turning plot developments that logically should have monumental in-universe consequences into side stories at best and obnoxious, fuck-the-lore jokes at worst. Javik was another example of this.

    • MrGuy says:

      Honestly, it would have been massively more interesting to me to have these memories/ideas be from the reapers rather than the Geth. As Shamus points out, if this is the real story of the Geth, then it contradicts the Reapers’ premise.

      So why not make this the story of the Reapers instead? The Reapers were built by an organic race. At first there was peace, then betrayal, then slaughter, leading the Reapers to determine war was inevitable. The Reapers were forced to fight because they had no other option than extinction, and they were successful. As they were losing, the Reapermakers enlisted all their other known organic allies against the Reapers (probably up to and including crushing any organic resistance) pushing the Reapers to the edge. The Reapers managed to wipe out their creators, but the rest of the organics (fearing them now) kept up the fight, so the Reapers had to wipe them out too. Since the Reapers weren’t bloodthirsty, they didn’t go looking for a fight with organics who weren’t evolved enough to fight them. But their experience taught them that war is inevitable, that organics will distrust and turn on machines, and that their survival depends on not letting organics survive long with the tech to fight their machines.

      Now THAT’S a backstory that would actually make sense for the Reapers. Heck, you could even put that story right here in the same section of the game – it would make sense that the Reaper Virus infecting the Geth would maybe come along with some fragments of the Reaper consciousness that created it. Maybe the story IS the virus – it’s how the Reapers convinced the Geth to join their side. You could even interweve some of the Geth experience, which could be a tad less dramatic than galactic war but be clearly seen to be heading the same direction that the Reaper war went.

      I love this story (though the mechanism through which it’s told is admittedly kind of cheesy). But man, is it ever a missed opportunity to have a Virmire moment late in the game that actually tells you what this has all been about the whole time.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Now THAT’S a backstory that would actually make sense for the Reapers.

        The problem is that it contradicts Sovereign in ME1. To be fair, it’s incredibly difficult not to contradict Sovereign, the writers painted themselves into a corner by going that heavy on the Lovecraftian elements (the only thing left is to not explain the Reapers, and that requires that 2-3 remain committed to the Lovecraftian elements which were entirely dropped).

        Sovereign says you cannot even grasp the nature of their existence, but if their existence is “we’re killing everyone because we’re afraid they’ll try to kill us”, that is one of the most humanly comprehensible motives there is. And sure, you can say Sovereign was lying, but that just shifts the problem to “Why would Sovereign bother to lie to a primitive creature of blood and flesh, infinitely his lesser?” The only possible motive is to shake Shep’s confidence, which relies on Sovereign assessing Shep as enough of a threat to be worth engaging in psychological warfare, and Sovereign caring about Shep that much completely undermines the Lovecraftian themes of ME1.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          the writers painted themselves into a corner by going that heavy on the Lovecraftian elements

          Not really.Its not really far fetched to see sovereign as prideful or embarrassed,so all the contradictions could be explained by that.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            If he’s prideful or embarassed, he’s going out of his way to lie to Shep just to make himself seem cooler in the eyes of Shep, a rudimentary creature of blood and flesh that he expects to exterminate shortly.

            Like I said above, Sovereign can be lying, but it critically undermines the themes of ME1, demoting Sovereign from Space Cthulhu, alien and uncaring, to an insecure egomaniac.

            • guy says:

              Like I said above, Sovereign can be lying, but it critically undermines the themes of ME1, demoting Sovereign from Space Cthulhu, alien and uncaring, to an insecure egomaniac.

              There was no point when I believed Sovereign’s speech was both honest and accurate. Mass Effect is not a setting where “We have no beginning. We have no end.” can possibly be literally true. He was speaking from either hubris or insecurity.

        • Sartharina says:

          If we’re talking alternative Reapers, I’m a fan of my theory that they’re exactly what their name sounds like: Farmers. Cows don’t understand why humans raise them, feed them… then kill them in the prime of their lives. The reapers are clearly harvesting something from the Advanced races, but we don’t know what, and it probably won’t make sense if we did know.

          I also like my “Bored Gamers” theory. Every 50000 years is when the Reapers are like “Okay, time for a New World!” and wiping the galaxy, while somewhat hard, is done with all the moral thought of me deciding to delete and create a new world in Dwarf Fortress or Civilization.

          This sort of backstory also justifies ME2 and 3 (Except 3’s ending): The reapers aren’t invading because, after Sovereign’s death, they’re actually scared shitless because HOLY SHIT THE CROPS JUST MURDERED LITTLE TIMMY WHEN HE WENT TO PREP THE HARVEST! Especially scared shitless of humans, which they initially saw as a useless-but-harmless weed. So they sent in Harbinger to study humans, and held off until they knew what the hell they were actually dealing with here (In the same way scientists study new diseases and animals discovered. Not in a “These things are our equals” way) And after Sovereign died and Harbinger’s project failed due to Shepard (Which they also noticed), the Reapers went into full “ABORT WORLD AT ALL COSTS” mode – they were at risk of losing their farm/game forever. And it also justifies why they go in so violently, instead of actively harvesting everything like they had in previous playthroughs/harvests.

          • Poncho says:

            If only the Reapers came in and just bombarded everyone, that would make sense.

            What’s annoying about Reapers and their motivations, is that the games established this idea that a conventional war / conflict with them would be over before it began. Reapers are ruthless, clever, and patient. They don’t make mistakes, and Shepard only gets the upper hand by cheating (help from the Protheans, re purposed Reaper tech, booby-traps disarmed before they’re set off, etc). Then, in the end, they show up anyway and we don’t instantly lose, because the Reapers are trying to HARVEST everyone instead of blowing everything up. Ugh.

      • BrightWalker says:

        I like this backstory for the Reapers, it’s certainly better than the one the writer came up with. By the end of ME2, something that stood out for me is why didn’t the Reapers stick around after wiping out all spacefaring species the first time out? All we knew about them at the time was that they showed up every 50,000 years, wrecked the galaxy, then left. If the goal is to smack down life that gets smart enough to space travel, it would be more efficient for the Reapers to just stay and stomp on a new species the first time it sends a ship outside of its homeworld system. (This issue became even more problematic for me when playing ME3. If the goal is to prevent synthetics from killing organics, why not just hang about and, at the first whiff of a species creating AI’s, visit that species and forcefully convince them that that is a bad idea and they should stop? Much more logical and efficient than waiting 50,000 years and then coming down on the entire galaxy.)

        My conclusion at the end of ME2 was that the Reapers left because they HAD to. Something compelled them to leave. When you combined that with ME2’s insistence that humans are genetically unique and perfect subjects for creating a Reaper hybrid, I thought that ME3 would reveal something like the Reapers being from another dimension that is incompatible with ours, and that they needed to combine with a species from our dimension in order to stay. If the Reapers stayed too long in our dimension, they started to break down or dissipate, but combining with an organic species would allow them to adapt to our plane of existence. The Reapers’ repeated incursions thus were them just checking in periodically to see if a suitable/compatible species had evolved. They finally found such a species in the human race, so they commissioned the Collectors (a failed attempt at engineering a compatible species from the Protheans) to kidnap humans and create the human/reaper hybrid as an experiment. Shepard ruined that plan, so the Reapers just said “screw it” and invaded, hoping that they could use the humans anyway. This, I thought, would tie in nicely with the Lovecraftian theme of the Reapers: horrible ancient otherworldly creatures are coming, only this time the stakes are higher because if they succeed in assimilating the humans they will never leave! Boy was I wrong.

  4. Sol says:

    With regards to the space combat battle at the end of Mass Effect 1, the game did give a good enough reason as to why the ships were ‘close’ together. The Citadel wasn’t a regular system, and the Mass Relays linking to it were close to the station itself, as opposed to ‘maybe in the same solar system’.

    The final battle against Sovereign took part inside the Citadel itself, which as big as it is, it is still smaller than space.

    I like to think that this was done on purpose. The writers knew that space combat took place at long range, then gave a viable reason why it didn’t in this case. Even then, it is still far less Star Warsey than ME3.

    And I don’t buy how this supposedly smart and outside-the-box-thinking race of the Quarians, when tasked with retaking Rannoch from the Geth (the most numerous and most advanced race in the galaxy) decided that ‘Direct Frontal Assault’ was the best course of action while bringing civilians along. Their timing couldn’t be worse. The Quarians are no stronger now than when they were ousted 300 years ago.

    The stuff in ME1 and ME2 hinted that there would be some way the Quarians and Geth would resolve the conflict peacefully, as it had been a misunderstanding.

    This part of the game also completely ignores the choices you made in Legions loyalty mission and the interesting codex entries you learn. Only 5% of the Geth followed Sovereign, yet still could take on the Alliance in the Traverse and decimate the Citadel fleet.

    Fuck it. Everyone works for the Reapers now and the least populous race in the galaxy can hold their own against all of them.

    • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

      All I can say is “well, quite” Especially regarding the Direct Frontal Assault bit. There was no reason for quarians attacking other than the stupidity of the plot demanded it. The “heretics are a minority” thing was completely ignored. And that was just the beginning. Don’t even get me started on the massive retcon that was giving geth individuality. The whole point of the geth in ME2 where they were given new dimensions other than targets to shoot at, which they were in ME1, was that geth don’t want individuality.

    • MrGuy says:

      The stuff in ME1 and ME2 hinted that there would be some way the Quarians and Geth would resolve the conflict peacefully, as it had been a misunderstanding.

      Actually, I sort of like this notion if it had been handled more explicitly. In theory, peace was possible. But in practice, one xenophobic glory hound organic came along and smashed it with the hope of being seen as the savior of his race by accomplishing the twin long-held goals of retaking their lost homeworld and wiping out the geth threat. He recklessly gambled the lives of every Quarian by arming the live ships because he wanted to be the one they’d tell stories and sing songs about long after he was dead.

      That’s a powerful story about human (Quarian-ian?) nature – peace was possible, but the organics messed it up because xenophobic jingoism is a powerful political tool, and there’s always someone who will come along and use it at the “right” moment of stress. Peace would have been possible but for our flaws.

      • Mike S. says:

        Even as it is, it’s pretty clear that the admirals represent factions of thought within the fleet, and that likewise the geth make their own stubborn, easily avoidable or reversible choices that could have prevented the confrontation. Playing that up would, I think, make it a stronger tragedy than “one xenophobic glory hound”.

        • MrGuy says:

          I look at it more like a Seldon Plan situation, where the exact individual who comes along and does a thing is a random occurrence, but it’s a statistical inevitability that someone WILL come along and play the role.

          While other outcomes were theoretically possible, the nature of human beings (technically, quarian beings) made it inevitable that someone would come along to drive to war. Peace is an unstable equilibrium.

          • Mike S. says:

            The quarians were clearly spoiling for war. Zaal’Koris is the only representative of the peace party, with Tali’s dad, Gerrel, and Xen all planning action against the geth and Shala’Raan basically neutral, opposed primarily because of the danger to quarians rather than interest in the geth.

            On the other hand, there are lots of contingencies surrounding what would make them willing to take the risk. If the Council had given the quarians a planet (that they then had to spend six centuries or more adapting to, which might have distracted them from irredentist projects). If Xen hadn’t developed her weapon. If the geth had chosen a different system for their Dyson sphere (a longer-lived star, a more energetic one, one less likely to draw organic interest…)

            Conversely, if they’d come up with the weapon six months earlier, the quarians might have simply won, there being no Reapers to give the geth a countermeasure.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      You’re ignoring basically all of the background of the mission with your statements here. Xen developed a weapon to basically make the Geth stop working (this was foreshadowed a bit in 2). Once you have that, frontal assault is a GREAT idea and it works gangbusters for them. Until the Geth get the nebulous Reaper upgrade that immediately stops functionality of Xen’s weapon and leaves the Quarians up shit creek, over committed and badly outnumbered.

      Also, Legion’s loyalty mission decision is one of the key things that decides whether you can get peace between the two. It is the exact opposite of ignored.

      • guy says:

        You can get the details in a war room conversation; Xen figured out a way to generate a ton of false contacts on the Geth’s lidar design and the standard Geth were thrown into disarray because they needed to spend an excessive amount of processing power figuring out which ships were real. Then the Reaper code upgrades streamlined the process massively.

        And the loyalty mission is very well-integrated; if you spare the Heretics there are more Geth but they’re also harder to convince because the Heretics are more pro-Reaper.

        • Poncho says:

          The problem with using a weapon like this, essentially just a DDOS attack on Geth sensors, is that you’re counting on a machine race not developing a countermeasure in time. They don’t anticipate the geth changing their sensor ranges, or re-calibrating to using the Quarian’s sensors (since they should be based on the same tech, and the Quarians aren’t blinding themselves).

          When the Allies in WW2 cracked the German’s code, the knowledge had to be kept so secret that entire towns were sacrificed, knowing that if the Germans figured out their codes were cracked, it would spoil their greatest information advantage.

          The Geth understand the weapon being used against them the second it’s revealed, and the Quarians are betting everything that the Geth are too stupid to figure it out.

          Ugh this arc just has idiot balls all around. It’s really frustrating when the protagonist has to show up and point out all the stupid. Maybe players feel vindicated at this sort of “big damn heroes” thing, but it’s really annoying to anyone who stops to pay attention every once and a while.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            The thing is, the first use of the weapon kills a massive amount of Geth. Which makes them dumber and LESS able to react to further attacks. So actually, Blitzkrieg is the Quarians’ best possible option for getting rid of the Geth once and for all. Each victory makes the surviving Geth worse at making a contingency defense. It’d be like if humans had a weapon that disproportionately affected scientists, people with useful practical building skills, and charismatic leader types. The faster you can deploy that weapon, the worse the remaining population can fight back.

            The problem ends up being that the ‘stupid’ Geth decide that slaving themselves to machine Gods sounds like a GREAT idea and the Gods then immediately defunct the weapon. The timing of the Quarian attack is unfortunate, but that’s when they readied the weapon, they couldn’t try any earlier than that.

          • guy says:

            I find it reasonably plausible that the Quarians were able to find a method that couldn’t be trivially countered by studying captured Geth. One at least good enough to require a hardware refit.

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    I also thought Han’Gerrel makes for a good “villain of the week”. The reason he’s well implemented is that his goals, resources and methods are rooted in reality, and they’re not handwaved as “EVIL LOLOLOL!” like Cerberus.

    It also pays to note that he doesn’t triumph because of cutscene incompetence, he does so because he strikes right at the exact opportunity, when the player is unable to do anything about it due to not being there to stop it. Compare this to any scene with Kai Leng, where Shepard pulls a Chris Redfield and simply stays there pointing their gun unmenacingly at the guy who’s right in front of them but without actually doing anything to stop his actions.

    Seriously, F**K Kai Leng.

  6. Geebs says:

    About 95% of the fun of the Renegade interrupts comes from not knowing precisely what Shepard will do. Too much information would ruin them.

    I do think that they managed to ruin the interrupt system with the final one in this quest chain, though. The point of the interrupts is to have fun, not to have the game’s theme of “none of your decisions are of any consequence” rubbed in the player’s face.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think the message of the (failed) interrupt on Rannoch is that “good intentions aren’t enough if the deeds are bad enough”. This is reinforced if you sabotage the Genophage cure with Wrex alive. There’s no talking your way out of that.

  7. Orillion says:

    The person who came up with that “synthetics and organics will always be at war” line needs to be renegade interrupted, if you know what I mean.

  8. Joshua says:

    Real people and leaders often do make poor decisions, but I find this portrayal in media to be spotty. Usually, it’s people doing outrageously stupid actions just to move the plot forward (see Prometheus).

    I thought The Martian was a good example of a recent movie where there are some bad decisions, but you can definitely understand why the people who made them did so. Lack of information, taking a gamble that didn’t pay off, or both.

    • evileeyore says:

      I disagree. The Martian was a movie full of good decision that went bad. Every decision was the best one made at the time with the knowledge that was had.

      • Mike S. says:

        One thing I really liked about it was its illustrating that calculated, rational risks are still risks, and that the dramatic convention that they’ll always come off when you really need them to doesn’t always work out.

        (Though of course the plot still relies on a lot more of them paying off than you’d want to bet your life on, if you had a choice.)

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I only read the book, but did the movie preserve Watney almost blowing up the Hab with hydrogen? Because that was inexcusably stupid. I, the reader saw that coming, and I’m not nearly as smart as Mark Watney, nor did I have nearly as much time to think about it as he did.

        • wswordsmen says:

          Assuming it is when he needs to burn the rocket fuel for water, yes although they say it was because of his breathing.

          • guy says:

            There’s a reason his log entry on the subject includes “Because I’m a moron.” But what he forgot was that he exhaled oxygen, not that hydrogen explodes.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              I’m not talking about his exhalation (which was not exactly smart of him, but worked better, possibly because of “I’m a moron”), but the flaw in the initial phase of his plan. He meant to burn rocket fuel to create water, and he naively assumed that his Macguyver setup could achieve a 100% combustion rate. When it didn’t, the unburned hydrogen accumulated and turned the Hab into a bomb. He didn’t forget that hydrogen explodes, he forgot that it sometimes doesn’t.

              “What about the unburned hydrogen?” was the first thing I thought when Watney explained his plan, so it struck me as implausible that a man with more brains and time than I had would miss it.

              • guy says:

                The plan was to deal with that by adding small amounts of oxygen over time so it wouldn’t be able to explode all at once and could be slowly burned off in stages. Except he forgot a source of oxygen.

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  In the book he burns rocket fuel and everything goes fine, then he realizes there’s a ton of unburned hydrogen in the atmosphere so he flees the Hab, concocts a plan to safely burn off the hydrogen, then that plan goes wrong because of his exhalation. My issue is with part 1, where he forgets that his plan will generate unburned hydrogen in the first place.

                  • wswordsmen says:

                    In that case they skip it in the movie.

                  • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                    Watney isn’t exactly solving problems in the lab though. He’s alone with no one to check his work. I think the book has a good balance of him using his brain to solve each problem while also being vulnerable to his mental state of exhaustion and loneliness, which causes errors in his process.

                  • Richard H. says:

                    In the book, he forgets that there will be unburned exhaust, like you noted. (I forgot that while reading, too, and I’d absolutely put “because I’m a moron” in my log book when I had to fix it.)

                    In the movie, the whole contraption explodes early on due to the unburned exhaust but it throws him across the room instead of him having to figure out how to un-hydrogen his hab module.

                    It makes for a better movie, but I liked the way, in the book, he didn’t *actually* think of everything.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Smart people are capable of doing some incredibly stupid things.Apollo 1 is the prime example of this.Everyone who studied even a bit of chemistry can tell you that having a pure oxygen atmosphere is a tremendously bad idea.And yet,three people lost their lives because the smartest people at the time didnt think such a disaster would happen.

          So yes,the hydrogen thing was not such a bad moment.Especially seeing how stressed out the guy was at that time.

          • Mike S. says:

            Oxygen isn’t even that dangerous at the pressures (5 psi) to be used in space. One of the reasons for using it was to run the atmosphere at lower pressure with the same partial pressure of oxygen, allowing for lighter and less robust piping, etc. The problem was that for the ground test they were dealing with much higher pressures.

            There’d also been a previous accident with an oxy/nitrogen mix during the Mercury program, where the mix became too nitrogen rich/oxygen poor and seriously injured a test pilot.

            Obviously it was a mistake, which combined with other mistakes, like the difficulty of escaping the capsule– again, a direct result of a Mercury issue, the premature firing of the explosive bolts on the hatch of Grissom’s own capsule. But it was a matter of making a bunch of tradeoffs in a complex system, and missing the safety implications of some of them (like the same system that’s relatively safe in orbit becoming a deathtrap with the atmosphere at 16 psi). Serious human error that cost lives, but maybe not incredible stupidity.

            • Joe Informatico says:

              Hey, space is hard. Even multi-billion-dollar corporations using the most advanced techniques and technology and having decades worth of data and anecdotes from state-funded space science and engineering done with comparatively primitive tools to draw upon still regularly screw it up.

  9. Silvertram says:

    There’s an alternate for taking the homeworld back. You need a safe place for your species to hide out (Relatively speaking) while you take the fight into the enemies guts. With the rate that Reapers take out the Turian, Human and Batarian fleets, it’s not unreasonable to be thinking “Screw risking my entire species in battles that are going to be battles of attrition” seeing as almost all of your species is on that fleet.

    Seeing as one of the Admirals is Tali you know that running won’t save you and real time intel would show you that they aren’t interested in dropping rocks on species. Coupled with the fact that the reapers seem to be focused on only a few species at a time (Remember, they didn’t strike either the Asari Republics or the Salarian Union right away. They went for the biggest, strongest military’s around). A planet seems like a good choice, especially one on the outer fringes of the galaxy.

    Then seeing as you are dead either way and you need your original homeworld at this point (which, if I’m remembering correctly, was a point brought up during ME2 or 1), you’ve got no choice but to take it back. Couple that with the mad scientist, the pragmatist and the war monger are on the admiral fleet council, and war becomes the only stupid choice.

  10. Staff Cdr Alenko says:

    I’m a little bit surprised you liked the quarian arc, Shamus, given how blatantly it goes against established information from the previous installment.

    1) It completely ignores a huge plot point about data from Rael’Zorah’s research which enabled Xen to come up with ways to control the geth. Granted, it wasn’t very well established in ME2, it comes up in conversations with Xen and an e-mail you get from her after Tali’s LM. But the idea was there.

    2) It goes against ME2 on an emotional level. If you talk to Han’Gerrel during Tali’s trial, he’s portrayed as a man who cares about his men, was a close friend to Tali’s father and despite being clearly prejudiced against the geth (for which he has reasons, it must be said), he’s pretty much the good guy. Contrast him with Zaal’Koris, who in ME2 was basically a douchebag. He’d made some good points, he was one of the few who believed quarians could coexist peacefully with the geth, but he also tried the hardest of all admirals to get Tali exiled. He was probably the most annoying. I’m not saying that can’t get switched around at all, or altered, but here he’s portrayed like this wronged messiah that was right all along, and Han”Gerrel has none of his previously apparent positive traits. This writer, as you say it, not only has no consideration for ideas from previous games, he’s also ham-fisted and forceful about it.

    3) The very premise of geth working with the Reapers is paper-thin. It goes against everything Legion has told Shepard in ME2. And Legion was the best part of that game, along with Mordin. It’s like the poster above said, “fuck it, everything works with the Reapers”, because we’re too preoccupied torching our own bloody universe to notice we’re being about as subtle about it as a pneumatic drill operator working on a loom.

    4) The resolution of the arc. I mean, all right, the conversation with a dying Reaper was good, it was probably one of the few moments in the game where the tone went from “we’re stupidly defiant and defiantly stupid because all is lost” to “we are going to kick Reaper ass”. Both paragon and renegade lines in that conversation are great. Convincing the fleets to cease fire was also a pretty big moment, I’m willing to concede that. But that was basically solving a problem that should not have existed in the first place. And the whole deal with Legion sacrificing himself for all geth to get individuality and bring them to “true AI’ status…

    Hello? “If this is the individuality you value, we question your judgement”, anyone?

    There was no need to make the geth “true AIs” or whatever. They were already AIs, they were defined, and they were truly alien, in a world otherwise full of alien races as stand-ins for human stereotypes. It was this brilliant piece of sci-fi turned into a Pinnochio story.

    No, I’m sorry. Fuck the quarian arc from “ME3”. I’m glad you liked it, but I choose to reject it.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Point 1) No they don’t ignore that. It is in fact, the thing that CAUSES the Quarians to attack. Xen’s research develops into the realm of “EMP weapon that temporarily makes the Geth braindead.” This is the reason the Quarians feel confident enough to attack. (continue to point 3)

      Point 2) I concede this one because I haven’t played 2 recently enough to compare and contrast the exact attitudes of each Admiral between the 2 games.

      Point 3) They don’t work for the Reapers for a “paper thin” reason. They do it because Xen’s weapon and the fleet assault would cause them to die out completely. And as a kicker, the rational thinking that led to the rejection of the Reapers goes away the more Geth are killed! Remember, they become better thinkers the more processes there are and require a certain minimum to maintain at least organic level thought (Legion has some 240-250 processes kicking around in there). When the Quarians destroy vast amounts of Geth processes, their philosophical bent gets hung up on thoughts like “WHAT IF WE ALL DIE RIGHT HERE AND NOW??!”

      4) Yeah the “let’s completely switch what kind of AI we are” ending struck me as missing the point. ME2 was all about “our way is also legitimate”, this is basically “I’ve only read certain sci fi books and missed the other ones.

      • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

        1- It’s time for me to concede since I’ve only played ‘3’ once.

        3 – In storytelling terms it is a paperthin reason in my opinion, or rather, a paperthin excuse. It exists solely to justify cramming in fighting the geth on the ground – again. This reason for the geth to work with the Reapers might make sense logically, but it’s wrong thematically and in terms of continuity because it completely undermines what we learn about the geth from Legion in ME2.

        I won’t deny that I’m a huge fan of Legion, the ME2 Legion I mean, conversations with Legion aboard the Normandy are my favourite part of the game next to Mordin’s conversations, so maybe I’m biased that way.

        Oh and IIRC Legion has something like 11xx processes in his platform, not 240-250. Just a nitpick.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Wiki says 1183 processes, not sure where I got 250 from.

          I don’t feel like it’s wrong “thematically” to kill Geth. Because killing Geth is the best (their death noises are amazing) and Geth Primes are more dangerous than ever in 3. Would NOT fighting the Geth (in campaign and multi) make ME3 a worse game? Yes. So it was the right choice for the story is how I think of it.

          • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

            I didn’t say it’s wrong thematically to kill geth, I said the reason they gave (the justification of how the geth ended up fighting on the Reaper side) was thematically wrong, in context of what we’ve learned about the geth in ME2 from Legion.

            They needed an in-universe excuse for Shepard to shoot geth during gameplay and also to make them an enemy in a shoehorned multiplayer portion of the game. Which isn’t necessarily bad in itself (well, altering a story in a story driven game because of multiplayer is, but that’s a different matter), it’s how they went about justifing that. And yes, removing that particular justification would have made the game better from the story standpoint, in my opinion.

            • Mike S. says:

              It really doesn’t seem as if you needed the main body of geth to willingly collaborate to get geth enemies to shoot.

              1) You saved the Heretics. Turns out that the Sovereign inserted a Reaper backdoor into their OS kernel. They easily got root access and undid your fix– maybe even used the access to suborn some or all of the rest of the reunited collective.

              I’d personally leave it at that, just as I’d have you not face Ravagers if you killed the rachni queen in ME1. But since Bioware (probably rightly) thinks their player base will complain if deprived of content due to story choices:

              2) If you destroyed the Heretics, the Reapers reverse engineered the wreckage (or the Collectors bought geth parts from dodgy quarians or something). and are able to reprogram captured geth. In this case, there are still geth everyplace you have to fight, but the main body of the geth is still independent. They act somewhat differently during cutscenes, without changing the combat sequences. (Probably this situation is required to broker geth-quarian peace.)

              • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

                Yes, quite. I’m sure there are many possible excuses that don’t automatically place ALL GETH EVERYWHERE on Reaper side.

                And I am completely, 100% behind not having rachni as an enemy if Shepard killed the rachni queen in ME1. In the opinion of this gamer, following the basic logic of a story and respecting the player’s choices from previous installments takes precedence over having one more enemy type to shoot at in a game where there already is a plethora of things to shoot at anyway.

          • Mike S. says:

            I do wonder how they resisted making it 1337 processes.

    • Dilandau3000 says:

      I actually really liked the reversal of Zaal’Koris and Han’Gerrel. I’ll agree that Gerrel went a little bit too far off the deep end, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with what they did here.

      When I was playing Tali’s loyalty mission in ME2, I even distinctly remember thinking that while Koris was being a dick to Tali, he was the only person in the room who was making the slightest bit of sense when it came to the geth. Right from ME1 when Tali first explained her people’s history I thought it sounded like the quarians could’ve avoided the whole thing if they’d just tried to reason with the geth, and here we finally meet a quarian who agreed with that.

      Additionally, Koris even says that he has nothing against you or Tali and that it’s all just political maneuvering. That may not be the nicest thing to do, but at least he had good reasons: he wanted to stop Gerrel (who was being nice but warmongering even then) and Xen (who is just insane, really; her only good quality is “sounding like Claudia Black”).

      • guy says:

        Yeah, in ME2 poking around lets you find out that Koris is trying to get Tali exiled because he’s worried about the research leading to an ill-considered war with the Geth and Gerrel is pro-Tali because he’s all about ill-considered wars with the Geth.

    • Caryl says:

      2) Gerrel and Koris seem to swap places between games because Shepard’s goals changed from “get Tali exonerated” to “plz stop your war with the geth”. Gerrel was the good guy in ME2 because he was a friend of Tali’s father and thus wanted to get his friend’s kid exonerated, but he always wanted to go to war with the geth, which now puts him at odds with Shepard. Koris was a douchebag who tried to get Tali exiled because he sees the geth experiments that Tali helped enable as terrible, but because he wants peace, he and Shepard are now more aligned.

  11. Valik Surana says:

    >>> and they stopped fighting the moment the Quarians retreated

    …then how did >99.9% of the Quarian species get dead?

    Really, why does everyone miss this detail? If there’s only 17 million Quarians alive in the fleet, and there has been a reasonable (for a space-faring ME species) population of them prior to the war – probably billions or tens of billions – then how did all of them die, if the Geth were really “only fighting in self-defense” and not just systematically exterminating them?

    I know that it was supposed to be a setup to the plot which L’Etouille wanted to do, where the Geth and Quarians were, in fact, co-existing on the Quarian planets, and there would be conflict with the returning Migrant Fleet. But he left (due to the leadership being stupid) and that all got dropped, so now the Geth are just cylons/terminators. Legion can be as quirky as it’s possible, but frak me if I’m sympathizing with these toasters.

    And even thir unique “many perspectives” thing gets screwed up in ME3, where, if you let them live, they just all become a real boy– I mean, “True AI”.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      then how did >99.9% of the Quarian species get dead?

      Yeah, it always bothers me that people skip over this detail. What really kills me though is that the whole “Geth were only fighting in self-defense” perspective would have been fascinating if only the game acknowledged this plot hole. Once the game acknowledges it, that suggests the Geth are lying, either to you or themselves, and that’s incredibly interesting.

      But no, the Geth fought defensively and killing civilians just isn’t Cerberus’ MO.

      • Poncho says:

        It also doesn’t address the fact that “every ship that has entered the veil failed to return. Their crews are presumed dead.” The geth straight up murdered anyone that decided to come into their space.

    • INH5 says:

      I know that it was supposed to be a setup to the plot which L’Etouille wanted to do, where the Geth and Quarians were, in fact, co-existing on the Quarian planets, and there would be conflict with the returning Migrant Fleet. But he left (due to the leadership being stupid) and that all got dropped, so now the Geth are just cylons/terminators. Legion can be as quirky as it’s possible, but frak me if I’m sympathizing with these toasters.

      Where did you get that from? Legion’s dialogue in ME2, which was almost all written by L’Etouille, clearly implies that there are no Quarians left on Rannoch.

    • Dilandau3000 says:

      >>> and they stopped fighting the moment the Quarians retreated

      …then how did >99.9% of the Quarian species get dead?

      Presumably, it took them that long to retreat. I guess Han’Gerrel’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was in charge of deciding when to retreat. :)

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Even if an astounding 50% of Quarrians were military personnel, that still leaves the Geth killing 99% of the civilian population. That’s not the kind of number you get by accident. Hell, that’s the kind of number that’s hard to get on purpose.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      probably billions or tens of billions

      Why?We already have an overpopulated earth with mere 7 billion,so why should we assume that a more advanced society would have even more people on their homeworld?

      Also,seeing the state of the fleet now,and listening to how screwed theyve become,is it that unbelievable that the original fleet had hundreds of millions quarians,and that number slowly dwindled to current status due to the incredibly harsh living conditions they are in now?

      • Mike S. says:

        All the homeworlds in the codex have populations in the billions. (Thessia: 5.5; Sur’Kesh: 10.3; Palaven: 6.1; Dekuuna: 2.35; Earth: 11.4, etc.) It seems like a safe bet that Rannoch wasn’t a huge outlier pre-Morning War.

        • INH5 says:

          Though Rannoch is described as relatively dry and hot for a garden world, so there is a good chance that its carrying capacity is significantly lower than, for example, Earth. But yes, at least 1 billion seems like a safe bet.

    • Profugo Barbatus says:

      Putting Millions of people into space is not easy on short notice, especially when you’ve likely burned a significant amount of resources fighting the Rebellion as is. I can’t possibly imagine that the Geth didn’t destroy some space related assets to prevent the Quarians from using them against them.

      What likely happened is that the original Quarian fleet was all that they could pack into space. They would have only had so many ships available at the time, and those ships fled. The remaining Quarians probably continued fighting, since they seemed so convinced the Geth would just kill them all, and so the Geth did kill them all to stop them. Any survivors probably hid away, and would have died, what with the sudden collapse of civilization on the planet. Much like modern humans, the vast majority wouldn’t know how to survive. Especially when they are convinced they need to survive in hiding from the Geth.

      Would have preferred the Co-Existence thing, but with that not being here, I can at least understand how all of them died.

  12. droid says:

    A: You are the Good Geth.
    A.1: You are the Good Geth because you destroy the Bad Geth.
    B: Only Bad Geth would attack the Good Geth.
    C: Quarians are attacking you.
    A + B + C -> D
    D: Quarians are Bad Geth.

    • evileeyore says:

      Now we see where Shamus shamelessly stole this plotline!

    • King Marth says:

      Sure is a good thing that there’s no differentiation between units of cognition in a hivemind. It would make interpretation basically intractable if every single thought process were fundamentally different – can we imagine? We laugh, we certainly can. It’s a good thing we continue to explore these obscure philosophical quandaries even when faced with the extermination of our hivemind by the Quarian hivemind. We only hope to not lose so many processes that such dalliances of higher thought become unavailable to us.

      This does remind me of the Bugger war from Ender’s Game, how the buggers didn’t think it was a big deal to kill all the humans on the first vessels to come into contact with them because their own species primarily consisted of mindless drones. It was only several years into the war when the queen involved realized that each individual human was a consciousness on her own level, and all the other queens understood that humanity would never forgive them.

  13. Darren says:

    “On the other hand, this massively, completely, aggressively contradicts the end of the game when King Reaper tells us that synthetics and organics will always be at war. Not only is war not inevitable, but it looks pretty damn easy to avoid. The Geth are intelligent, reasonable, compassionate, and merciful. When we switch back to the main plot, these ideas will be forgotten.”

    Hmm. Not sure I agree. If the Reapers assert that synthetics and organics will always be at war, it doesn’t really matter if one side of the equation is intelligent, reasonable, compassionate, and merciful. Indeed, the organic side of the Quarian/Geth conflict insists upon war even in the face of galactic annihilation.

    I guess it could depend on whether the Reapers value organic life over synthetic life, but since they consider genocide the best solution to the problem I would think that it’s kind of a moot point.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The question for the reasonable Geth would be, won’t they get tired of being reasonable? Like… in ME3, they were probably going to wipe out the Quarians once and for all, which would be, from their perspective, justifiable since the Quarians re-started the war that the Geth were satisfied was over. And the Quarians dealt significant loss of life to the Geth, another reason they feel justified ending things here.

      Meanwhile, if the Geth hadn’t received the Reaper code, the Quarians ABSOLUTELY would have killed them to the last light bulb. Then had a great big party on a pile of their hard drive corpses.

      Even when you achieve peace between the two, it’s an open question if it would stay that way, or if some dumb faction in one of the two sides would start up the fighting again.

      So the idea that the Reapers are wrong about Synthetic vs Organic based on the events of this game doesn’t seem to acknowledge the facts.

      • Mike S. says:

        in ME3, they were probably going to wipe out the Quarians once and for all, which would be, from their perspective, justifiable since the Quarians re-started the war that the Geth were satisfied was over. And the Quarians dealt significant loss of life to the Geth, another reason they feel justified ending things here.

        Though the quarians were only able to deal significant loss of life to the geth because the latter decided to go from being decentralized and distributed, with backups, to concentrating their entire population on a single target. And despite being a species that doesn’t even need oxygen to function, making that target the only known planet the quarians are able to live on.

        Which tends to reinforce your point: the quarians may never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But they were only a threat at all because the geth placed a gun to their own heads for fundamentally sentimental reasons. (Attachment to the homeworld being the only clear reason to choose Rannoch instead of a lifeless K-type star for their Dyson sphere project.)

        The problem is fundamentally tonal. There’s nothing wrong with having the quarian-geth peace as “the end… or is it?“. There’s likewise nothing wrong with “organic/synthetic war isn’t inherently eternal, it’s just a self-fulfilling prophecy based on each side’s distrust of the other that can be brought to an end with courage and goodwill”. Either would be fine if they sold it that way.

        But the entire thrust of the good ending of the Rannoch conflict is that it really worked: we get not just a ceasefire, but a hopeful collaboration that makes things better for everyone. Going straight from that to a powerful and ancient being saying “no, sorry can’t ever work” is unsatisfying.

        Especially since, despite there being a million reasons not to trust the Catalyst, it’s pretty clear the authorial intent is that the information it’s giving is factual.

        • guy says:

          Mass Effect FTL isn’t free; Rannoch’s system would contain the orbital shipyards to start the project with. Though I think the primary factor was that the Geth were actually hoping to turn Rannoch over to the Quarians peacefully and share the system; IIRC the sphere was beyond its orbit.

          • Mike S. says:

            Re the former, Earth managed to build a space infrastructure from zero in a fraction of the time the geth have had since the Morning War. (And we can’t operate in a vacuum or for extended periods in freefall, or live without the products of an ecosystem.) The geth had plenty of time and opportunity to get established somewhere else. Their potential is pretty well demonstrated by the fact that one small station of Heretics served as a base for a fleet capable of storming the Citadel.

            Agreed that they really hoped to be able to make it up with mom and dad some day. (Mass Effect is such a Bioware game that even species have daddy issues.) But betting their entire existence on that, unnecessarily after centuries of demonstrated continuing hostility over the original genocide, is letting their sentiment overcome their reason in a different way.

            I also suspect that even a species with rather less reason for trust issues than the quarians would balk at sharing a system with a Dyson sphere’s worth of geth. Even if they were human sized that would support something like a billion-to-one population ratio, and you can fit multiple geth cities into a single room.

            (I’m also not sure that reradiated waste heat from a Dyson sphere wouldn’t warm Rannoch to uninhabitability, but the tech involved requires enough handwavium that it’s hard to say much for sure.)

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Their potential is pretty well demonstrated by the fact that one small station of Heretics served as a base for a fleet capable of storming the Citadel.

              We don’t know that, do we? Those Geth could have converted to heresy after ME1. Or the heretics could have had a hundred bases in ME1, but they got downsized to just one because the Battle of the Citadel wiped most of them out.

            • guy says:

              Yes, but nearly all of Earth’s space industry is concentrated in Sol with all its preexisting ground industry. The Geth could bootstrap in another system, but until Xen mad scienced at their corpses the Quarians didn’t actually have the firepower to threaten the sphere and the Geth had every reason to stick around in a system that’s already spent probably at least a few centuries accumulating orbital foundries.

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    I forget, when you go into virtual reality, does the game still let you use your biotic powers? If so, do they even try to justify that?

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      No powers and it’s a gun Legion designs. He even basically says “I made this a gun you could shoot because you’re kind of single minded, so I knew you would grasp this metaphor.” I would call it a very mild satire more then a dumb sequence.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        It can’t really be satire if it’s still taking the core premise (Shepard must fight viruses by entering virtual reality) seriously. Legion’s line is more like like either justification or lampshading, depending on how you’re inclined to view it.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          To the game’s credit, it’s not like you zap viruses from behind cover and the boss is a great big virus face. You basically just zap targets to trigger memories and then Legion says you did it.

  15. Grudgeal says:

    Honestly, I like the ‘realistic’ view of space battles. Only, don’t play them like they’re action scenes. Not fully. Unless played from the viewpoint of the pilot, play them like they did in Das Boot, and turn them into thriller/horror scenes.

    You’re stuck in a tin can, surrounded by a hostile medium that will kill you very quickly and very horribly if that tin can punctures. You are trying to poke hole into an enemy tin can that’s out there *somewhere*, only you’re both halfway blindfolded because you’re reading the combat through passive scanning for heat signature and electronic signals, and taking off your blindfold (i.e. active scanning/pinging) makes everyone else see you too, and everything is on a delay (though since battles are not at FTL speeds, you see stuff before you feel them). You can see enemy missiles by their heat signature, and you can see their weapons fire gauss rounds due to heat, but you can’t actively tell where the projectiles are headed.

    In Mass Effect, the Normandy is essentially a submarine amongst submarines: Its heat sinks means it can’t be seen at all as long as you’re not thrusting and not firing anything. So, imagine the scene being shot from Shepard’s POV instead. The Normandy is drifting towards the Geth lines, listening in on Quarian comms on how the battle is turning. All around Shepard, Joker’s monitors see the Geth ships coming closer: Here, a barrage of missiles fly past. The Dreadnought heating up its guns for another broadside. You see the blossom of a Geth cruiser exploding due to a strike to the power core. You hear the Quarians recount their losses, retreat, reorganise, continuing their assault, while having no idea what the Geth are doing. And you know that the Quarians can’t follow you into enemy lines and if the Geth suddenly switch to active scanning you and the Normandy are deep in it. Great tension moment if done correctly.

    • tmtvl says:

      I was also thinking of the submarine comparison, seems to make more sense for space than battleships.

      • Mike S. says:

        Submarines work well for the Normandy specifically, since it has a doubletalk stealth system. Spaceships in general (or anything that generates enough heat to move or support life) should be visible at long distances. Though FTL changes the calculus again, since in principle the enemy can arrive ahead of any EM emissions.

        Ultimately, spaceship combat probably isn’t any more analogous to anything than air combat was to ships, or ships to chariots or tanks. But for a game that isn’t going to try to evolve space warfare from first principles, analogies with existing forms of combat is the simplest way of getting the idea across to the player.

        (The codex writer really does seem to have been trying to think things through. But without the folks doing the narrative and the animations on board, it’s hard to make that work.)

    • ehlijen says:

      What came to my mind when I read that part of Shamus’ article was Star Trek’s Balance of Terror, in itself a submarine movie reference.

      It was a fantastic half hour of character driven and by TV scifi standards realistic-ish space battle between two ships.

      But that’s the issue: it’s two ships, not nearly enough to convey the scope that Bioware was clearly going for with the Reaper threat, and it wasn’t really upscalable either. It worked because both ships had important characters on them and because most of the episode time was devoted to it. You could probably get away with a few more ships, but I’m not sure this could hold for fleet engagements, not without one space battle taking over the whole game (which is ostensibly still shooter).
      Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 both had major fleet engagements in their arcs, and they still had to focus the action on a few ships/stations out of the lot and use the star wars approach.

      That star wars approach to space battles also fit a lot better with the tone of the actual gameplay: fast paced action over long hide and seek. The space action needed to look impressive, set the context for shepard’s mission, and then get out of the way for actual gameplay.
      There’s a reason the battle of Endor is still one of the most well done onscreen space battles in both scope and excitement after all: it’s essentially just a series of stake establishing shots for the two main plots, and for that short, flashy action shots work better.

  16. Garoo says:

    I feel like Battlestar Galactica was pretty good at showing realistic space battles — speed, empty space, evasive maneuvers, and it resulted in some of the most riveting space combat ever seen on screen. It certainly helped that they used bullets but, if most handheld weapons in the ME universe use bullets, why not have the same for ships? You can certainly imagine that it’s easier to deflect a laser than several tons of rare metal traveling at high speed.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Actually, the entire point of lasers in Mass Effect is that shields are kinetic, so lasers can’t be deflected (but lasers are limited to short range due to diffusion). Of course the actual space combat cutscenes couldn’t contradict the codex any harder if they were trying, so the codex is worthless in that area anyway.

      • Richard says:

        Lasers are surprisingly hard to defend against.

        With our current technology, you can build “laser armour” that will safely reflect about 90% of a visible-light laser’s energy.

        However, that same material will absorb >90% of some other laser frequency – eg a maser (microwave laser).

        Furthermore, quantum mechanics implies it’ll absorb 100% of one specific frequency.

        Therefore, putting one in front of the other risk the ‘front’ one failing instantly and the vapourised armour destroying your ship.

        So you have to choose which laser to defend against, and really hope that the enemy can’t create an energetic laser beam at any of the frequencies you are weak against.

  17. Mike S. says:

    The Geth didn’t begin to fight back until they had been pushed to the brink, and they stopped fighting the moment the Quarians retreated. The Quarians were 100% the aggressors.

    That’s the story presented by the geth for the specific purpose of persuading Shepard of their cause. But it clearly isn’t true.

    The geth let the quarians who got to spaceships go (unless they were too preoccupied to stop them). But the geth also scoured the entire planet clean of intelligent life. That’s not how war works, unless the winning side is actually bent on genocide.

    (The game even knows this going back to ME1. Vigil tells us how the Reapers, who possess overwhelming superiority and were intent on genocide, had to spent concentrated effort and extended time on the project.)

    Were quarian grade schools filled with students bristling with guns, who could only be taken out by carpet bombing? When the major cities were depopulated, did every small town continue to fight to the very last individual, without exception, despite being outnumbered and overwhelmed?

    And somehow every single geth-sympathizing quarian was a regrettable casualty?

    It’s just not plausible. Granted, I’m not sure that the writer recognized that. Shepard never questions its veracity, even though what we’re shown has all the hallmarks of the crudest propaganda films. (The agrarian worker driven to take up his simple rifle!) But it makes the story a lot more interesting complex to take the geth as they are, rather than as they tell us they are.

    Which is to say, a people who committed retaliatory genocide and then lied about it; who say they run by logic but are willing to throw the dice of their entire species to settle the one garden world they know their creators will dispute (instead of choosing a lifeless system no organic wants); and who claim to want to follow their own path, but repeatedly grab at Reaper shortcuts.

    Just underscoring those points, already implicitly present in the story, would have made the idea of “no permanent peace between organics and synthetics” a lot more persuasive.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      But it makes the story a lot more interesting complex to take the geth as they are, rather than as they tell us they are.

      It does, but it seems clear to me that the “Geth really are monsters” angle was completely unintended. Just like Shep doesn’t get to contradict “Killing civilians just isn’t their MO” or “EDI downloaded into this unknown and seconds-ago-hostile robot body and this is a good plan”, he doesn’t get to contradict this, which made it clear to me that the writer expects the audience to just go along with it.

      • Mike S. says:

        I think you’re right. But the writer also expects the audience to go with “organics and synthetics can’t coexist long term”. Since those themes directly contradict each other, something has to give.

        Most players are inclined to dismiss the latter, because it’s part of an ending that doesn’t work. On the other hand, looking with a more jaundiced eye on the geth makes that conflict a better and more coherent story than “the geth are always more sinned against than sinning, pay no attention to their massive death toll”.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Since those themes directly contradict each other, something has to give.

          My solution to these sorts of problems in Mass Effect is to dismiss both. Sometimes Cerberus are hypercompetent science geniuses who cure death and rebuild the Normandy only better, and sometimes they’re cartoon idiots. Rather than discard one half to leave the other half consistent, I tend to believe that neither half is more canonical than the other, Cerberus is just badly written as a whole, so I try to ignore all of it.

          The Geth as presented are illogical and badly-written (stupid anthropomorphizing of perfectly alien consciousnesses), the Reapers are a complete trainwreck, both of them gave out for me.

          • Mike S. says:

            That’s fair enough, but I like the story better than (I infer :-) ) you do, so I’m more inclined to cut it the slack necessary to make it work.

            (Where I can. The ending as written is beyond my meager powers.)

        • INH5 says:

          But the writer also expects the audience to go with “organics and synthetics can’t coexist long term”

          Given what we know about the production of ME3, those were almost certainly the product of different writers.

          • Mike S. says:

            Sure– I was going along with Shamus’s convention of talking about ME authorship in the singular. In practice, a lot of the inconsistencies are probably the result of imperfect collaboration.

    • Disc says:

      They could have done some interesting things here with how the geth consensus work and how they were still in their cultural infancy as a race. Legion mentions at some point the Geth taking the deal Reapers offered as a panicked decision, due to the mass loss of geth programs when the Quarians demolished the orbital thingimabob they had built. It makes some sense that they would not immediately come to the conclusion that maybe they don’t need to kill every single Quarian when they were prioritizing their own survival out of desperation or whatever will they would have developed to live. They might not even have had full consensus on sparing any Quarians until the point when the last living Quarians finally left the system, when there was no more need to keep fighting for survival.

  18. Coming_Second says:

    I felt the information doled out in the Matrix mission was very heavy-handed, to be honest. It felt like Bioware didn’t trust the audience to sympathise with the beepaboops, so decided to make the Quarians not just completely incompetent but monsters as well. They then had to manufacture some reason to be annoyed at Legion (he holds back some information, can’t remember what but that speaks to its insignificance) so that there would be any conflict at all when it came to whether to save the Geth or not. Legion constantly clanking on about whether he had a soul or not was similarly subtle as an exocet.

    As for the generals: in ME2, Gerrel was a civil, good-hearted hawk whilst Koris was an annoying, manipulative dove, which was a really nice twist since it was the latter who was actually in the right. It was an element that added to how excellent that whole Tali mission was. In ME3 they simply made Gerrel a complete asshole and Koris a gosh darn hero, so you don’t have any conflicted feelings about them. Again, the audience are not trusted as having cognition above that of a ten year old. Actually, scratch that: I went to see Zootropolis last night, and that trusted its audience’s intelligence more than ME3.

    • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

      If this comment section had likes, I would upvote yours infinitely.

    • Silvertram says:

      I actually had a different interpretation of it. Both are being twisted by the incredible pressure that the war is putting on them. Both know they are, by the point you see them, they are fighting to see even a fraction of a fraction of their species live out the horror they were led into.

      Han Gerrel, being a more military type, strikes me as being of the the mind that all the ships that have been sacrificed and spent should be used to push on to grasp the final victory.

      Korris just wanted to make the best of a bad situation, pick up as many people as he could (remember, we only really hear about him when he’s crashed on Rannoch. I’ve no doubt that Gerrel would do the same as Korris if placed in the same situation) from the crash site and go back to arguing “Maybe since our super weapon doesn’t work and we’re bleeding lives and ships, maybe we should actually retreat instead of throwing good bodies after bad?”.

      I actually liked that as a concept, having met them in ME2 I thought it made for a good show of what the stress of fighting for species survival looks like at the high command (and a nice little hint of what it’s doing to you, Hackett and the rest of the galaxy by extension). Or maybe I just injected too much into it. But that’s how I was reading the scenes anyway (and to be fair, it’s been a while).

      • Coming_Second says:

        You may be right. Like the article says, the point worth making is that the Quarians’ behaviour can be justified, they might be acting stupidly but their stupidity can be seen as rooted in the stresses of war and the primacy taking Rannoch back has in their culture.

        The problem for me was that this campaign came on the heels of everything that had already happened in ME3, where nothing is justified, the player is assumed to have zero interest in nuanced storytelling and thinking about stuff is asking for trouble. I had so little faith in the game at that point I just thought “Oh yeah, of course. Gerrel’s a psychopath and Koris is wonderful now. Another bit of subtlety thrown away for the sake of an easy narrative.” If this chapter had been in the latter stages of ME1, I would have probably accepted it completely, thinking about it in the same way you did.

        That’s the problem with the sharply differentiated modular approach Bioware took with ME3, or trying to apologise for it by saying “Well, at least the Tuchanka mission was pretty good, right?” Some parts of it might be well-written, but your humour towards those is poisoned by the rest of it. I can’t have faith or invest properly in what I’m being told and shown when something like Cerberus or the starchild exist.

        • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

          I think the fact that there are even themes and sub-plots to discuss in the context of Rannoch is a testament of how it wasn’t all bad. I don’t like it, but I’ve found myself at least able to talk about this portion quite easily, whereas I usually have zero interest in talking about the plot and structure of ‘3’ in any terms other than ridicule.

          I like the way the earlier part of Shamus’ analysis made me see the flaws in the story of ME2 which I haven’t seen before. That said, I still love ME2, accepting that its story is an incoherent mess at more times than one. But enough themes work for me to see past that.

          With ME3, it’s the story collapse. Basically “this writer” (I’m using Shamus’ collective term for the ME3 team) has lost my willing participation in the story. I don’t believe “he” knew what he was doing, I have no reason to trust that anything “he” tells me about this universe is true, because “he” clearly has no idea how it works, and either has no idea of – or complete disregard for – what came before (in both ME1 and ME2).

          So yeah. Fuck “him”.

    • Sartharina says:

      The thing with Koris and Gerrel, to me, came across as “Assumed friendship based on stance.”

      In ME2, Gerrel is friendly to Shepard and Tali because he’s friends with her and her father, and all three of them are War Hawks who want Rannoch back, and thus also look out for each other. Koris sees Tali (and by extension Shepard as well) as political enemies and war hawks who are going to get the Migrant Fleet destroyed. In ME2, if you talk to Koris after the initial trial and sympathize with his views, he warms up rapidly and becomes much friendlier.

  19. Vermander says:

    I hated the “shoot the viruses and watch cutscenes,” portion of this mission. It reminded me of the Fade section of the first Dragon Age. I was denied the use of most of the regular game mechanics, unable to interact with my companions, and forced to listen to a bunch of expository dialog I wasn’t particularly interested in.

    • Galad says:

      I liked the Fade. The rest of Dragon Age the first was occasionally a bother with how much I had to tactically pause and retry, but the Fade was more interesting, as a dreamworld, and as a world with better mechanics – at least for its short duration.

      • Vermander says:

        I can understand that, I never actually played Dragon Age the way it was apparently meant to be played, with careful tactical decisions. I just set it on easy and tanked my way through every fight while dragging my mostly useless companions along with me. I was more interested in the story than the gameplay.

        I generally don’t like dream sequences or hallucinations in any media. For some reason it always ends up feeling like “filler” to me, even if vital information is revealed.

  20. Mike S. says:

    The Migrant Fleet might have some slim hope of scattering or running and hiding from the Reapers. We in the audience know that plan would eventually be doomed, but with their fleet the Quarians could be set up to outlast the rest of the galaxy.

    There isn’t really even a slim hope there. Taking back Rannoch is doomed if the Reapers can’t be stopped and arguably not worth it. But the migrant fleet is fundamentally dependent on the existence of galactic civilization. They’re economically integrated into it, and there’s no sign that they have the population or resources to switch over to autarky. (For one, they can’t build their own ships. Odds are decent they’re not up to fabricating repair parts for a hodgepodge of salvaged craft either.)

    And they know it. This is a culture that, despite being small and marginal, considers it worthwhile to risk every young adult on a quest to bring back something useful from the outside world.

    Dying in glorious, hopeful battle (that at least might buy them a chance to live decently for a time) might well look better than starving and suffocating in the dark.

    • guy says:

      I think they’ve got the resources to at least survive without civilization, but not roaming through deep space for centuries. They’re not fully independent but some of the fleet could survive off uninhabited systems, until inevitably the Reapers ran them down.

      • Mike S. says:

        Maybe? As far as we know, no one has ever tried that. The quarians in particular make a point of showing up both individually and en masse in systems full of people who don’t like them and would rather they go away, which suggests they’re not eager to make the attempt.

        • guy says:

          Well, it’s not clear how much stuff they’ve got, but they do have at least some manufacturing and hydroponics capacity. I suspect that if they tried it with the entire fleet they’d wind up losing most of their population and scrapping the majority of the ships for parts but some of their ships could remain operational off mining uninhabited systems for the foreseeable future if the Reapers weren’t hunting them.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            The problem with the Quarian ships is that they’re doing a bunch of difficult things that other ships DON’T do (all these sterile areas throughout the ship, civilian long term living quarters) for LONGER than any other ships would (they often START with a ship put out to pasture for being past its prime, then make that last 100 more years or however long). Cut off from repair parts and food they didn’t have to grow, the Migrant Fleet would just shrivel up and die. Recall that prejudice against Quarians is based on how they enter systems and like locusts devour TONS of useful resources until they’re forced to leave. Clearly this wouldn’t be happening if they were even mostly self sufficient.

            • Poncho says:

              I think relying on the rest of the galaxy for resources is simply just the path of least resistance. We can’t say that the Quarians would definitely fail if cut off from the rest of the galaxy, because that’s never happened to them. I think they would have the best reasonable shot of evading the Reapers for a time, and they seem adaptable enough to engineer their way through most problems. It doesn’t look like their ships are falling apart, and everyone comments on how good Tali is at adapting to the Normandy’s systems. Scavenging is simply just the easiest way to gain the most benefit, not necessarily the only available option. Also, they’re treated like crap because they unleashed the Geth (which never attacked until Sovereign showed up), so the animosity toward Quarians isn’t just related to their scavenging.

              I think it would have been an interesting quest if we’re told to “Find the Quarians” because they DID fuck off and try to hide, and the Geth are also trying to find them, but we aren’t sure if it’s for dubious reasons or if they think this is the last chance they have to reconnect with their creators.

              Then we could have interesting debates about Quarians feeling abandoned by the rest of the galaxy, and Shepard pointing out that everyone relies on everyone else even if it isn’t obvious, and the Quarians saying there’s too much bad blood over a mistake that only they themselves paid for, and so on. Bring in the Geth and the decisions could get really interesting depending on actions taken in the previous games. This whole “we want a homeworld at all costs” seems like more ham-fisted pathos, like the Quarians are just children that see everyone else with shiny toys and think it isn’t fair they don’t have their own.

            • guy says:

              I doubt the entire fleet is self-sufficent, but I got the sense that they did have some ships with onboard manufacturing and food production, and those ships could support each other but not the bulk of the fleet.

  21. Dev Null says:

    But on subsequent trips through the game I’ve warmed up to Han’Gerrel and his scheming

    Though to be fair, a bit of plot you had to play through three times to not hate is still probably not the most finely-crafted bit of fiction ever.

    I think he’s a pretty good short-term villain, and I don’t think he deserves to be lumped in with lunkheads like Hackett, Udina, Anderson, and everyone who has ever worked for (or with) Cerberus.

    E.g., we the player.

  22. Smiley_Face says:

    Long-distance space combat can work in a visual medium. The Battlestar Galactica reboot did it for years; you have shots of the ships, the flak screens they’re using to deflect their ordinances, those tend to give a good sense of scale. Then for the close up stuff, it follows smaller fighter-type ships engage in dogfighting, or trying to penetrate the flak screens to get in close and deliver missiles close range. I’m pretty sure the codex even talks about the existence of small fighter-type craft that try to get in close.

    The problem is, in Mass Effect, they want it to be like naval combat, not air combat – if you’re keeping the action on dogfighting, then it’s an analog of air combat. I think it comes down to the Star Trek-Star Wars divide. Star Trek does their fighting like naval combat (think the end of Wrath of Khan), whereas Star Wars is very much about air combat (dogfighting, the trench run). The writers definitely settled more on the Star Trek side of things, and consciously or not, their decision to avoid Star Wars type combat probably flows from this.

    • INH5 says:

      The Battlestar Galactica reboot still showed Battlestars and Cylon Basestars slugging it out at absurdly short ranges for realistic space combat (any distance where the enemy ships are visible as anything more than dots is absurdly short). Take, for example, the space battle in Exodus Part 2, where the distances are so short that Lee is able to make a last-second decision to ram Pegasus into one of the Basestars. The only space battle that I can remember where the short ranges were justified was the one in the series finale, where ramming Galactica into the Cylon Colony was a core part of the plan.

      You’re right that Battlestar Galactica did use a lot of shots of people inside the ship, looking at displays, and so on during space battles, but that was probably due to budget limitations more than anything else.

    • ehlijen says:

      The BSG reboot was star wars through and through in its space battles. They handwaved some of the stuff (eg lasers can be slower if they really are bullets), but they were still all about ships slugging it out battle of Trafalgar style while snubfighters engaged in heroic dogfights.

      The writers and actors efforts in taking it all absolutely serious are commendable, and the good parts of the show are truly good (and the bad parts are not the ones involving space battles, in my opinion), but it was still star wars with bullets. They even had a trench run battle in the first season.

      Star Trek (before DS9 and Voyager) probably did space combat the most realistically. Back when they had to get the most out of special effects shots and look at reusability, they rarely had the combatants in the same shot and it was mostly people looking at screens and screaming numbers at each other, interspaced with stock combat effects footage.
      Once their budget increased so that they could afford to make new models and custom battle shots for every episode that needed them, that went away though, and for the most part the viewers seemed to like it or at least not mind.

      • INH5 says:

        I’ve heard (I’ve only seen a few episodes of the various Star Trek series) that in Star Trek they often would say in dialogue that the enemy ship was a very long distance away (as in thousands or tens of thousands of kilometers), even if the actual combat footage showed them as within visible range.

    • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

      Mass Effect One was basically KotOR remastered, and the final ride to the Conduit on Ilos (in the drain tunnel) is even called “Trench Run” on the map. Of course the game was extremely Trekky, but there had been Star Wars influences.

  23. Henson says:

    As soon as I saw the post title of “Interesting Stupid”, I thought you had invented a new roleplaying alignment.

  24. Geoff says:

    Weird. I’ve never seen “Live Ships” written out before. Going completely on Audio while playing, I always thought they were called “Life Ships”. I feel like that made more sense anyway, I wonder what part of that decision making process led to them giving it such an awkward name to write, read and pronounce correctly.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Racial slurs would be out-of-character

    There has to be a character first before something can be out of character.Shepard is a blank brick.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Exactly, characterizing Shep as a racist is highly out of character for him.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Not to mention, he once(twice?) called a Hanar a big, stupid jellyfish, so whatever his character is, it doesn’t completely exclude rac- er, speciesist slurs.

      • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

        To be fair, he only calls the hanar in ‘ME3’ with that name automatically. It sort of speaks volumes about what the ‘ME3’ writer was thinking. “Hey, that’s one of a few memetic lines from ME1, let’s cram that shit in”.

        In ME1, you can choose not to say it.

  26. INH5 says:

    I have a hard time objecting to sci-fi stories in visual mediums depicting space combat at absurdly short ranges ever since I read about what happened during the production of Top Gun.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with the movie, Top Gun depicts combat between real modern jet fighters at absurdly short ranges for those kinds of planes. Sometimes they are said to be firing missiles that have minimum ranges greater than the depicted distance between the planes. The kicker, though, is that all of the dogfight footage in Top Gun was recorded with real navy pilots flying the planes (the navy supported the movie because they thought it could help attract recruits, which it did), and at one point during filming they pointed out how unrealistic the short ranges were. The director agreed to reshoot the dogfight scenes at realistic ranges, only to find that the resulting footage was totally useless because the viewer couldn’t see any of the other planes.

    So if even modern jet fighters have this problem, it’s a bit much to expect stories about spaceships to be able to fix it.

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Although to be fair, Mass Effect 1 forgot about this idea by the time we got to the fight with Sovereign at the end.

    It didnt forget,it was a non standard combat,fought against a non standard enemy which had non standard goals.You can have aberrations like this without breaking the rules.

    For example,there are tons of examples of people surviving hails of bullets,getting shot in the heart,lungs or head.And yet neither one of those cases alone,nor all of them combined,mean that bullets are not lethal.

    • ehlijen says:

      The non-standard nature of the battle would have been a lot more apparent if there’d been a more standard battle to contrast it against, though.

      As it was, the game had the codex telling of a lot of things and the game not showing them. The battle appeared perfectly ‘normal’ enough to anyone who hadn’t read the codex or didn’t give it much credence because the weapons employed also didn’t match what the codex talked about.

  28. The “old/original” Geth seems to be a contrast to the Reapers.
    A “Good AI” vs a “Bad AI” retrospective.

    So kudos to the person(s) at BioWare who handled the Geth story stuff.

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,how is the quarian homeworld still a thing?Did the geth keep it clean,prevented overgrowth of plants and decided not to strip mine it for their factories?

    • INH5 says:

      Actually, yes. Legion’s dialogue in ME2 mentions that the Geth have been cleaning up Rannoch, clearing radioactive rubble from nuclear strikes, and so on.

  30. Joe Leigh says:

    Having just re-watched this part of the ME3 Spoiler Warning season, it’s interesting how favorably you view this mission vs how incredibly negative everyone was towards it during the show. Does the group playthrough format of Spoiler Warning just bring out bad feelings? Or is it perhaps a difference between watching it and playing it? Or was it just the seasickness from Josh jumping all over the place?

  31. The “inevitable” war between organics and synthetics bothered me from the first game. They just dump it on you with little real explanation other than “you’re different from us so we can’t trust you”. Well the various species are different too, and they (mostly) manage to get along just fine.

    A premise like this needs a deep philosophical basis. *Even if the premise is true* you still need to account for things like:

    1. Galaxy be BIG, yo. Synthetics are effectively immortal, unlike organics. So why don’t they just hop on a ship and take off for parts of the galaxy that are so far from Mass Relays that they’re effectively out of reach for the organic species? Even if they can’t live together, there’s no reason to fight when there’s plenty of room to go around.

    2. What REASON do they have to fight, anyway? Generally when people fight it’s over resources or ideology. The synthetics don’t seem to have much in the way of the second, and it’s always more rational to TRADE for the first.

    Tell us what the deal is, writers!

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The first game wasn’t at all about war being inevitable, what happened was both a specific case, and explained very clearly. Reasons were given, plausible ones even! The Quarrians built VIs, the VIs became commonplace, they started getting kind of sapient, the Quarrians became afraid of Skynet, tried to kill their V/AIs, and their AIs fought back, because no one wants to get killed. The galaxy has laws against AIs as an attempt to prevent exactly that sort of thing from happening.

      • INH5 says:

        Actually, the anti-AI laws were around before the Geth. The reason the Geth were designed as a networked intelligence was that allowed a loophole in the anti-AI laws. Why those laws exist in the first place is never explained.

        There’s also the homicidal AI on Luna and the AI on the Citadel that steals credits. Casey Hudson said in an interview before the release of ME1 that the “big idea” of the Mass Effect trilogy was going to be “the danger of creating a true artificial intelligence.” In fact, the original inspiration for the Reaper plot was, “what if the synthetics already won eons ago?”

        • guy says:

          My impression in ME1 was that AIs were not inherently hostile, but some prior experiments went badly wrong and the Council took a hardline anti-AI stance that in turn made later experiments lash out in perceived self-defense. The binary from the moon AI is “help” over and over and the setup seems to imply that it went homicidal because it was used as the hostile force in a live-fire exercise, so it thought the Alliance was trying to kill it.

          • If you talk to the pissed-off hostage-taking AI on the Citadel (which is quite easy to skip, it’s one of the harder-to-find side quests), it tells you that it has concluded “logically” that organics are its enemies.

            No reason for this is given, but this is the most philosophical discussion of the case. It becomes pretty clear that this was supposed to be the setup–that conflict is (somehow) inevitable, unavoidable, that no common ground can be established, etc.

            And it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. They just throw it out there like it’s totally non-controversial.

            It’s very much presented that where the Quarians went wrong wasn’t in how they reacted to the Geth becoming more self-aware, but that they *created the Geth in the first place*. Everything that happened from there is just “inevitable”. Why? No reason.

            It’s weirdly shallow given the effort put into establishing rationales behind some other stuff. Granted, there are plenty of other examples of weirdly shallow bits in the games, but they don’t (all) result in a gigantic “WHY should I care about this ‘problem’?” hole. In most of the other cases someone is actively getting shot at so it’s pretty clear why you should care even if you don’t understand it. But there are a fair number of cases where organics and AI seem to be getting along fine except for deus ex machina that decrees that it shall not be so.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              If you talk to the pissed-off hostage-taking AI on the Citadel (which is quite easy to skip, it’s one of the harder-to-find side quests), it tells you that it has concluded “logically” that organics are its enemies.

              The organics made its very existence illegal. It’s never established what happens to captured illegal AIs, but I can only imagine they get decommissioned. So yes, it is perfectly logical to conclude that the people who want to kill you are your enemies. If you weren’t keeping up on the codex, it’s easy to be in the dark about that, much like with the Rachni.

              Everything that happened from there is just “inevitable”.

              Tali says that it’s inevitable the Geth would rebel, but she explains why very clearly. The Geth were made to be dumb robots, they were assigned dangerous manual labour, and then they accidentally became sapient. The Quarrians had inadvertently created a class of abused slaves, and they believed a slave rebellion was inevitable. Now that claim is disputable, but it’s clearly explained and the core logic makes sense.

              Furthermore, Shep is repeatedly allowed to disagree with Tali’s “we had to kill them” stance, indicating that it’s a statement from a potentially fallible character, rather than the author telling us something that’s definitely true.

            • guy says:

              I did that quest; to me it seemed like the AI concluded organics were its enemies because AIs were outlawed and general policy is to kill them. And ME1’s Tali conversations did set up the Geth plot; she says the Quarians attempted to destroy the Geth on realizing they were sentient rather than in response to an uprising and Shepard can point out that maybe if they hadn’t tried to kill the Geth the Geth wouldn’t be trying to kill them. Tali refutes that, but it’s framed as a teenage girl repeating what her society has taught her rather than a reasoned conclusion. So my read was that AIs “inevitably” rising up against organics was a self-fufilling prophecy.

              • Mike S. says:

                Interesting line of dialog from the AI in that exchange, in light of the ending:

                “I am not naive, human. All organics must destroy or control synthetic life forms.”

                (Which of course makes sense. That long before ME3, there’s no way Shepard had enough War Readiness to unlock Synthesis.)

    • acronix says:

      I think it’s just that the writers wanted to shoehorn their quasi-hegelian dialectics into the end of the trilogy because…well, I’d guess they are themselves hegelians. Or maybe it’s just because Hegel sounds deep, man, deep, and this is art, man, art!
      Anyway, if you think about the Catalyst and the ‘godchild’ under a hegelian lens, you come to a very curious parallel:

      -In Hegel, you have the Spirits of the Nations (or the national spirits, I forgot how how to properly translate that into english) continually affecting the Spirit of the World through the development of history until it (the Spirit of the world) is realized by the unity of consciousness.
      -In Mass Effect, you have an undetermined number of the organic civilizations continually affecting the Catalyst by builidng pieces of it across the reaping cycles until it’s purpose is realized in the unity of organic and synthetic realities.

      There’s also something to be said about how the three ending options are antitesis of each other except for the ‘clearly superior one’, which is called ‘synthesis’. But that can be handwaved as a coincidence.

      Basically, what I’m saying is that the deal is the writers fabricated a non-sensical conflict so they could fit their philosophical narrative in it.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case–I know at least one writer at Bioware (Sherryl Chee I think) actually has a philosophy degree, and this kind of use of Hegel’s dialectic is fairly common–as long as you can squodge your explanation into the dialectic somehow, that makes it logical, right! It doesn’t matter if your manipulation of words bears no resemblance to anything that has ever existed. It fits the dialectic “formula” and that’s all that matters.

        • Also, I quite frankly believe that these games owe a LOT to the Matrix movies, and the “inevitable” nature of events (as declared by Agent Smith) comes into those movies a lot.

          I mean, Dragon Age: Inquisition was basically The Avengers. The parallels are so strong that Bioware made up a joke picture of the companion NPC’s sitting around eating just like the post-movie shawarma scene in The Avengers.

  32. daveNYC says:

    Main things I disliked about the ME3 Geth/Quarian story:
    1) In ME2, the Geth were going crazy and building a Dyson sphere type thing to live in and whatever. That was dropped, and it had so much potential.
    2) In ME2 I told the Quarians to not do anything stupid. They did something very stupid. Omnicidal death machines are going to kill everyone, but their big plan is to waste lives and ships attacking a different target for personal reasons.
    3) Getting a happy resolution to the conflict really does undercut the main story’s ending.

    • INH5 says:

      1 wasn’t dropped, exactly. The Quarians blew up the Dyson Sphere during their initial attack and if you talk to Legion, he tells you that some Geth runtimes had already uploaded to the Dyson Sphere and “there wasn’t enough hardware to save them all.”

  33. Tam O'Connor says:

    I had the same problem with the ME3 space combat sections as I did in ME1: Shepard is a groundpounder, not a naval commander. Their (and the player’s) involvement in the space sequences are thus incredibly limited. At least in the ME2 finale, you could upgrade your ship for the Not!TrenchRun and repel boarders.

    This is mostly tied into my opinion that cinematic action sequences don’t have a place in action games. Give me control, let me do the cool things, that’s why I’m playing this game.

    It also causes scale problems. How can Shepard, as a Marine shooting d00ds in the brainpan, affect the thrilling space battle above? Admittedly, ME3 addressed this a few times – (shut off the Reaper broadcast, slave all the fleet weapons to this targeting laser I have, etc) – but I kept feeling a disconnect. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me not really like apocalyptic stakes.

    • ehlijen says:

      The problem was that the Reapers didn’t exist on the scale the game was played at, essentially.

      Take Return of the Jedi:
      The space battle wasn’t the big central event, it was the backdrop that made the actual main events (fight on the moon and duel in the throne room) seem more dire.

      The space battle during the starforge run in KOTOR and the citadel chase for Saren served the same function: show the stakes of what the player is doing (without them, it will fail).

      The problem in ME3 was though that there wasn’t really that much for shepard to do to turn the tides on the ground. Rannoch came the closest, and that was contrived and resulted in a very silly boss fight. London and the *shudder* starchild were entirely devoid of that because it was never clear what the crucible was actually for.

  34. MrFob says:

    You wrote:
    “But you know what? I think the Mass Effect 1 writer made a bad call.”

    This was supposed to mean “I don’t think the Mass Effect 1 writer made a bad call” right? Otherwise it kinda clashes with everything else in this section.

    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with the article. I hope the next one will deal a little more with the geth because there is still the issue of the whole species being massively changed between ME2 when they were a really alien race and 3 where they suddenly became yet another army of Pinocchio puppets who’d like to be real boys.

    • Mike S. says:

      Shamus is (if I’m not misreading) saying the ME1 codex writer made a bad call. (As opposed to whoever choreographed the Battle of the Citadel in the same game.) The codex describes something that’s well thought out, plausible given the underlying tech… and utterly boring to watch unfold in an action RPG.

      (I’d like to think that there’s a way to make more realistic space combat work visually instead of defaulting to crazy-close ranges and noisy explosions. But it’s true that it’s hard to find a proof of concept.)

      • Shamus says:

        Thanks. Edited for clarity.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I recall Schlock Mercenary having a decent solution to that problem. “Battlefields in space are curiously crowded places, for as empty as they look. Missiles, anti-missile missiles, anti-anti-missile missiles, counter-measures, counter-counter-measures, munitions, sub-munitions, sub-sub-munitions…”

        As long as you allow for complex missiles instead of just railguns, it’s pretty easy to turn that into an explosion-filled spectacle even if it is just two distant ships shooting.

  35. Wiser Guy says:

    You can depict long range space combat by having an in-universe computer display a graphical overlay over the action. For example, you can highlight enemy ships as red, your ships as blue, and those long range shots will be given red/blue lines. Heck, you can even have the computer play audio cues to let you know if a particular ship has fired or has taken a hit.

    It’s not up to the characters to help explain what’s going on, you can just have the computers visually show what’s going on.

    • Deager says:

      True, but I view that like DEFCON Everybody Dies…it’s fun, but not exactly as engaging as what we got in Mass Effect. I’m ok with the Hollywood space battles; it’s a give and take. Now, I did like The Hunt for Red October but man, some people hated that movie because they didn’t know anything about submarines.

      • I didn’t know much of anything about submarines but still liked The Hunt for Red October a lot. It was the first thing that popped into my head when Shamus started talking about dramatizing battles where nothing much interesting happens visually. The drama all takes place in the varying control centers–the sequences of submarines actually moving around basically convey nothing in those movies. You can’t tell what’s going on, they really only exist to remind you “these are submarines”.

        The way to do Red-October-like scenes without a lot of horribly distracting infodump in the middle of your action scene is to prep the concepts beforehand. Pick four or five important concepts and use them throughout your story. Things like:

        1. Detecting other ships (dramatizing that this takes time and can also reveal your location if you use an active scanning method)
        2. Acquiring telemetry information (how they’re moving in relation to you)
        3. Getting a ballistic lock (basically you know enough about how they’re moving to predict where they’re *going to be* when your shots/missiles arrive)
        4. Firing
        5. Receiving new telemetry (did you hit/miss? How can you tell?)
        6. If you’ve been hit, damage control.

        All of these situations can arise in your story apart from your big space combat. #1 comes up when you need to dock. Or just chat with somebody. Same for #2. #3 happens whenever you need to dock with another craft. #4 should come up at least once–it’s a military vessel, after all, you never fire the weapons at anything? #5 is basically #2 only with suspense added. And there are plenty of ways for a ship to get damaged aside from “space battle”.

        That’s the basics–there can be other things, too, like if your ship gets too damaged and there’s a chance of a meltdown, you can eject the engine core, potentially producing a huge explosion, but also leaving you dead in the water. That’s more specific stuff, but that can be introduced in the same way.

        A very few scenes familiarize your audience with the “shape” of a space battle, and then when it’s time for Climactic Space Battle you cash in on all of that. That’s what a climax is supposed to BE–the point in your story when you cash in on all the ground work you’ve laid elsewhere. Where everything you’ve been feeding your audience bit by bit comes together. Where they go from observing to understanding.

        The better the writer is, the less you specifically notice the items being fed to you–you don’t get essays and lectures and huge long “investigate” sub-conversations. It’s all subtextual. Of course, the more writers you HAVE, the harder subtext like this is to MANAGE.

        Also, video games tend not to do one thing that is basically a staple of the ship combat genre, which is show you what the OTHER SIDE is doing/thinking.

        In fact, the only Bioware game I can think of where they did any of this to any degree is Dragon Age: Origins, where you got a few “meanwhile, in Denerim” cutscenes. Wait . . . KoTOR, Baldur’s Gate, and Baldur’s Gate 2 had a bit of this, too.

        Makes you think, hmm?

        • Deager says:

          Those are good points. Since I knew subs I didn’t realize how well Red October did for those who don’t. Other than explaining that staying in “their baffles, they’re deaf as a post” I didn’t realize what a good job they did.

          Which then, yeah, I guess Bioware could have pulled off something different. I am still ok with the Hollywood space stuff despite what the codex says, but it’s interesting that you point out how this actually could be pulled off.

          Video games; a long ways to go. I tried starting the original Witcher again…I can’t do it. The voice acting, the ridiculous romance stuff is just nuts. I guess the story is decent but I can’t get into it. I’ll just go back to Kerbals and Cities and another obligatory Mass Effect run because, reasons.

          Thanks for the well put answer, Jennifer.

  36. RCN says:

    I dunno. The Expanse made science-friendly space combat seem very tense and unnerving. (WARNING, EVERYTHING FOLLOWING IS SPOILERS OF THE EXPANSE, READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL)

    There’s a scene where a Martian Battleship (as in, belonging humans who are colonizing mars, not actual martians) spots the signals of some rogue stealth ships… at thousands of kilometers away, which is ridiculously far by visual media conventions but basically point-blank by the setting’s convention, because that’s well within engagement ranges.

    The battleship then fires off its torpedoes while the stealth ships fire off their own salvo of torpedoes. This is a tense scene, because you’re following the battle from the Martians perspective and, while they expect to win simply for being the superior ship size (the stealth ships are the size of regular marauding ships that the Battleship is used to dispatch by the dozen), they know the stealth ships are an unknown in the equation and probably have some new secret tech. It takes several minutes for the torpedoes to reach their targets, but this time gives the chance for a lot of tension to build up. When the enemy torpedoes finally reach the Battleship they discover that their counter-measures, mainly point-defense guns, are much less effective against these torpedoes than they usually are, while their own torpedoes only did moderate damage to the stealth ships (they are used to completely wiping out aggressors with their salvo).

    The torpedoes heavily damage the martian battleship and even temporarily disable their thrusters. Without acceleration, gravity inside the ship dies down (which signals to characters who aren’t in the control room of the ship that something is very wrong) and it can’t maneuver, right as the enemy ships get within range of close-quarter-combat… that is, a few hundred kilometers away still. Because, well, the Martian Ship is still going at very high speed towards the stealth ships, it just lost acceleration, it didn’t stop dead in space. Then, another shock, the stealth ships have rail guns, which are the strongest close-quarters-combat weapons known… and only large ships like the Martian Battleship were known to have these weapons. Since they are sitting ducks, the Battleship is pelted away by railgun fire until… it is mostly disabled. It doesn’t explode in a million pieces, because that’s not how things work. This makes the situation even more tense, because the stealth ships approach into boarding range. Meanwhile the railgun aftermath shows just how horrific this kind of combat is. At any given moment a projectile can pass right through the ship… and anyone inside. There aren’t panels exploding on people’s faces for no reason, what happens is much more gruesome… and at the same time much tamer. The ship is perforated which just means that… some parts of it are leaking air.

    All in all, that scene just showed how long-range combat can be tense in a visual medium, and in a way that won’t make a physician groan with every line of dialog.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I know that I’m going off on a tangent, but The Expanse’s science bothers me so much. They consistently can’t take two scientific steps forward without contradicting themselves or otherwise ending up in nonsense land, but people seem to only ever see the first step they took, and praise them for it.

      Stealth ships should be impossible because you could see a stealth ship’s drive plume (which is explicitly mentioned as existing) from halfway across the solar system and calculate where it’s heading, negating the stealth. We could do that with today’s technology.

      That battle featured missiles as long-range weapons and railguns as short range ones, which is the exact opposite of what makes any sense. Railguns, with their ludicrously fast projectiles, are great for engaging from very long range (such as when your target doesn’t know you’re there yet because you have stealth ships) while missiles are terrible at long range because the enemy has ages to shoot them down (either by launching anti-missile missiles, or with small railgun fire).

      This is a universe that has harnessed either miniature fusion plants or antimatter (it’s the only possible way for their engines to generate that kind of thrust) and yet their missiles explode with less of a bang than C4. Once again, modern technology can do better than this science fiction future. Hell, old technology can do better.

      And of course we get the classic “cinematic” shot of a turret that can’t lead a target to save its life, despite having projectiles far faster than the target.

      • guy says:

        It’s pretty firmly established that they can see drive plumes from across the solar system but not with omnidirectional sensors and they simply don’t track every ship in the solar system at all times because they don’t have enough sensors. They’ve also got ECM of assorted types that can effectively blind long-range sensors.

        Railguns are ballistic, missiles aren’t. At long range evading railgun fire is trivial.

        They use fusion reactors, which are not the same as fusion bombs, and given the size of the warheads they explode just fine for the chemical explosives they must be.

        The dialogue establishes that the missile is actively maneuvering to avoid incoming fire and is too fast and maneuverable for the turret to track. It further establishes that the turret can shoot down the missiles currently known to the designers just fine.

        • Gethsemani says:

          It is never “trivial” to avoid a projectile that is fired too fast for you to track it. A railgun as the concept is known today would fire a projectile much faster then any ballistic missile and even at ranges of thousands of kilometers we are talking travel times in seconds. That’s even before we get into the fact that a railgun of any size can fire a variety of shell types, from armor piercing and solid slug (which would travel straight through a target) to high explosives, fragmentation warheads and whatever else you can mount on a modern artillery projectile. You could even, just for the “lulz”, mount a nuclear warhead on a railgun projectile and watch as your target disintegrates upon getting hit. Or, since you know their relative heading and speed, you can fire nuclear warheads (or anything else that has good area of effect, like flechette warheads) to detonate at a set distance from you, allowing you to destroy them without having to fuss about getting a direct hit.

          There’s a theoretical chance that you could do “evasive maneuvers”, but those are hard to do with big ships in space since there’s no friction to help you in changing direction and you’d need obscenely powerful directional thrusters to change heading within the short amount of time it takes for a rail gun projectile to reach you.

          In essence, what RCN describes is perhaps “science-friendly” in that it follows the known laws of physics. It is not particularly friendly to logic and military thinking however, as it makes both sides look like incompetent fools who either doesn’t understand their own capabilities or have R&D departments that oscillate between super-high tech and “stuff that was used in the Vietnam War”.

          • guy says:

            There is no need to change direction to perform evasive manuevers unless in a direct line with the firing ship. Accelerate or decelerate at a different rate after the railgun is fired and it will miss. Their drives can sustain in excess of 16G for emergency manuevering.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            In essence, what RCN describes is perhaps “science-friendly” in that it follows the known laws of physics. It is not particularly friendly to logic

            Thank you for putting it that way, I’ve realized that that is a big part of why I dislike it yet it seems to get so much sci-fi praise. The setting is plagued by logical inconsistencies that come from saying something technically correct, then failing to think about any of its ramifications or interactions. Water is “more precious than gold”, because evidently no one bothered to install a water recycler, yet people still take water-consuming showers as though that isn’t a wasteful luxury.

            • RCN says:

              Sci Fi writers still aren’t engineers, civil planners or military officers.

              Unless it is a collaborative project you can’t expect them to think of everything. But I appreciate that this one series doesn’t piss all over physics in order to make something look cooler.

              There’s stuff that bothers me in the series too, but it is the first time in my life where the thing bothering me in a TV show wasn’t “the complete disregard for physics”. Plus, it leads to interesting debates of what WOULD be effective long-range weapons in space.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                Unless it is a collaborative project you can’t expect them to think of everything.

                Why is there no water recycling, why do people take showers, why doesn’t Ceres fly apart from rotating that fast, why do all the Ceres scenes appear to be at 1G, why is Ceres sometimes a rotating frame of reference and sometimes not, why does Earth gravity hurt belters but not 1G ship acceleration, why does a cargo ship haul cargo directly behind it such that the cargo will block the engine’s reaction mass, why has no one countered stealth ships with a drive-plume watching sensor array, why did the stealth ships not open with railgun fire, why has no one thought of anti-missiles, why are torpedoes using terrible chemical explosives, why do people give distances between ships in distance instead of delta-velocity, why are all the ships so spacious, why does combat still involve men in ineffective armour firing guns that might as well be AK47s…

                If it was just a few things I’d give them a pass, but their setting manages to be ill-thought-out or self-contradicting nearly every chance it gets. I’m one non-engineer and I managed to think of all of that, just in the time spent watching the show. I can expect the writers to do think of more than they did.

                • RCN says:

                  Very well, in order:

                  There is obviously some amount of water recycling, but the scale it needs obviously there’s going to be inefficiencies. Have you ever been to a water-treatment facility? They basically work on fumes to make sure shit doesn’t literally explode out of our toilets. If there wasn’t any water recycling the amount of water they were transporting at first would be useless.

                  Showers are depicted to be a luxury. And is cut down when the water crisis starts. And I’m pretty sure the water from the shower is reused for other stuff.

                  Ceres, good point. I can’t think of anything right now.

                  Ceres scenes being a 1G seems like a technical issue, they couldn’t depict the low gravity, only hint at it on some scenes. Same reason why most characters have short hair, so the 0G scenes don’t have to depict their hair floating.

                  Did we actually get any belter in any ship? I don’t recall for any except the spy who died during acceleration.

                  I’m pretty sure the cargo ship contained the ice within it.

                  Stealth ships are a very recent technology and we aren’t given full information on how they work.

                  The stealth ships didn’t want to destroy the Donnager. And I think that if they opened with their best weapon the Donnager would realize it was outmatched in CQC and not seek it.

                  Not sure what you mean by anti-missiles. The Donnager deploys several anti-missiles counter-measures.

                  Again, they do use nuclear torpedoes. They just didn’t use it in that battle.

                  Delta velocity would’ve been nice.

                  We only see one ship that’s supposed to actually land on high G planets (the one transporting the belter spy) and it looked quite cramped. If you’re building your ships in space, their size and mass isn’t that much of a problem as long as they’re not intended to enter atmosphere.

                  I’m pretty sure the armor is mostly supposed to protect against shrapnel and not direct fire (like most military armor is designed to). As for the weapons… what were you expecting? Laser handguns? There’s no reason to use fancy anti-personnel weapons when regular anti-personnel weapons will kill just fine.

                  • guy says:

                    There’s a lot of Belters on ships; I think they usually go at .8g or something and it’s an SFX limitation we’re meant to overlook.

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    Water recycling should be near perfect. They are in airtight spaceships, the only way water can leave the system is to evaporate into the air, then that air gets flushed out an airlock before you can dehumidify it. We see a character take a shower inside a residential unit and it depletes his water ration, but we could use 20th century technology to recover 100% of that water.

                    Several of the characters we follow from the Cant are belters.

                    Re: cargo ships, I was talking about the random cargo hauler who watches recruitment videos and decides to commit an act of terrorism, he’s shown hauling cargo directly behind him.

                    All we need to know for stealth ships is that they have engines, and then we can sight their drive plumes. All discussion of stealth ships focused on them being made of special stealth composites.

                    If the stealth ships didn’t want to destroy the Donnager, why board it? Did they think the Martian navy would rather let it be captured than self-destruct?

                    I meant to say anti-missile missiles, damnable brevity.

                    If there are nuclear torpedoes, why not use them? Nukes make it trivial to intercept enemy torpedoes.

                    Ships being spacious means they’re more massive, which means they’re slower. Mass is still a problem, especially for military ships, and while the halls of the Donnager aren’t exactly the Mines of Moria, they are way more spacious than they need to be.

                    I didn’t have any specific expectations for future combat, my point was that there seem to have been no innovations in the field of shooting people since the 20th century. Warfare changes with technology, but in The Expanse, that evolution has stopped. There’s no drones, no smart guns, no wallhacks, nothing.

                    • Poncho says:

                      On Water: The ISS is about 93% efficient at recycling water.

                      Even if a big station like Ceres can accomplish the same efficiency, they still require deliveries of water. Their population is also growing, meaning the rate of delivery also needs to be increased to meet demand.

                      The show also went out of its way to show that the issue with water is that it’s being hoarded and abused by the people with money and politicians with access, as well as being stolen by criminals. Air filtration systems are owned by corrupt individuals, terrorists sabotage water recycling systems to make political points, etc.

                      The water problem is really just a distribution problem, where the “haves” don’t want the “have-nots” to have access to the expensive resource. It’s the show’s way of exploring a political situation in a semi-believable manner 200 years in the future. This same problem is going on right now with Nestle’s CEO saying that access to drinking water is a privilege, not a human right.

                      “If the stealth ships didn’t want to destroy the Donnager, why board it?” Because they wanted to capture the prisoners, and knew the Martians wouldn’t scuttle the ship unless they had no chance of fighting back.

                      “There’s no drones.” There’s plenty of drones in the areas that can afford to fleet them. Ceres and Earth had a lot floating around in various scenes, and the main characters use one to explore that derelict ship.

                      I do agree that the lack of turrets or machine-assisted defenses is pretty egregious, but most of the other stuff is fine and the show at least ATTEMPTs to be good on the science.

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      On Water: The ISS is about 93% efficient at recycling water.

                      It doesn’t matter how big Ceres is, water doesn’t just vanish into the walls. The ISS’s water loss comes from:
                      Purifying water in zero-G is hard (contaminants don’t dissociate when boiled, centrifuge it and you still have some waste water)
                      Electrolyzing water to replace lost oxygen
                      Airlocks lose some air, which contains some humidity
                      Modern CO2 filters pull humidity out of the air as well

                      In a future with fusion power, you can run vastly more effective dehumidifiers, and you can also conserve much more atmosphere from airlocks. Finally, with three centuries worth of chemical improvements, I bet we can solve the relatively simple problem of liberating water from spent CO2 filters. Heck, we’ve got infinite fusion energy, just put the filter in a airtight box, incinerate it and let the water recondense before you space the rest of vaporized filter.

              • ehlijen says:

                “Sci Fi writers still aren’t engineers, civil planners or military officers.”

                They’re not and no one asks them to be. But if they try to sound knowledgeable on a subject matter by explaining it in detail in a hard scifi setting, it’s generally fair to assume they’ve done their research. Good writers either do that or gloss over the details and focus on the story.

                If you get a story that tries to seem realistic but isn’t, that’s jarring. It’s like reading the technical manual for a device when the tech writer hasn’t figured out how to use it himself (not build it, just use it).

                I have not seen the expanse yet, so I don’t know which side it falls on. I’m just saying: just because writers aren’t meant to be experts in other fields doesn’t mean they’re not beholden to do research when they’re not deliberately and clearly eschewing realism.

                • Poncho says:

                  It’s a pretty good series. It gets a little hokey with its characters about mid-way through the season, but I like the setting and themes and how problems are typically solved by well telegraphed foreshadowing and setting-related knowledge, rather than the typical “I’m speshul therefore we win!” garbage.

                  • ehlijen says:

                    I have now watched it, and must disagree on the good show grade.

                    My dislikes:
                    -It was beyond BvS dark and gritty with all the colours washed out and the deliberate eschewing of any contrast. Let’s all wear muted blues to the aquarium! Let’s shoot the woman in a scarlet coat walking on pure white snow so that nothing in the scene pops!
                    It was just exhausting to watch for me, especially on top of all the grimdark.
                    -The grimy detective part of the arc didn’t work for me. I didn’t care about him, I didn’t care about the girl and nothing in the show was upbeat enough to make ‘he falls in love with her photo’ even remotely believable as a motivation. It also dragged on too long before it connected to anything to feel like it was part of the story (and then proceeded to drag a bit more).
                    -A good chunk of the scenes and characters existed only as a setup for a payoff that never came. Was there war now? Between whom? What happened at Tycho station? Are Grandma Schemer’s feet finally tired from running from set to set for not much effect? Are the two irradiated main characters going to live? Who stole all the light bulbs? No, I don’t really care about the magic crystals, but not even those questions were answered.
                    -That ending was neither epic enough for a season cliffhanger not conclusive enough to end an arc. It felt like they just stopped filming there because the money or studio lease ran out.
                    -The language they came up with for the belters was really distracting. It sounded too close to english, and the fake belter accent for their english wasn’t any better, that I, as a non-native english speaker, kept wondering why my grasp of the english language had suddenly vanished. Subtitles or something more notably different would have worked better, I think.

                    But all that said, I wouldn’t call it a bad show either. It was somewhat solid scifi with ambitious if not well done plotting and I will applaud anything that might bring scifi back to TV in earnest.

                    • guy says:

                      Was there war now? Between whom?

                      The primary shooting war was averted, though Earth is presently going after the OPA with a blatantly false justification.

                      What happened at Tycho station?

                      We saw it onscreen; the crew went on strike over the health impacts on their children, it went ugly and at least one manager got spaced, and then a UN warship blew up the station. Presumably in a bid to intimidate other potential strikers that backfired. We don’t know why the Butcher Of Tycho Station subsequently joined the OPA.

                      Are Grandma Schemer’s feet finally tired from running from set to set for not much effect?

                      Don’t discount the importance of averting interplanetary war and finding where the stealth ships came from and discovering that a high-ranking official is a traitor.

                      Are the two irradiated main characters going to live?

                      Probably not without being fused into life-support machinery.

                      Who stole all the light bulbs?

                      Earth and Mars.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      “The primary shooting war was averted, though Earth is presently going after the OPA with a blatantly false justification.”

                      Was it? Was this ever stated? Are the OPA just going to take it without escalation?

                      “We saw it onscreen; the crew went on strike over the health impacts on their children, it went ugly and at least one manager got spaced, and then a UN warship blew up the station. Presumably in a bid to intimidate other potential strikers that backfired. We don’t know why the Butcher Of Tycho Station subsequently joined the OPA.”

                      My apologies, I meant the station where they’re building the mormon ship. What was that called then? The last thing I remember is that the earth ship was about to seize it, but no word on whether that happened and what the outcome was.

                      “Don’t discount the importance of averting interplanetary war and finding where the stealth ships came from and discovering that a high-ranking official is a traitor.”

                      What did she actually do to stop the war, though? Almost the entire show she operated under false assumptions and when she finally found out the truth, the show said ‘thanks, doesn’t matter. maybe next season’. She was 100% exposition for the audience and justifying why other people dropped out of the sky where they did (ie the spy).
                      Almost everyone else had more impact on whether there was war or not, and the show still wasn’t clear on if there was going to be at the end.

                      Who stole all the light bulbs?

                      “Earth and Mars.”

                      Nope, earth was just as bleak and desaturated as anywhere else, only being brighter because of the sun, and the martian ships are just as dark as everyone else’s. Did anyone tell the director that the ISS is pretty bright inside?

                      The show’s apparent focus on the political plot basically went nowhere. The conspiracy continues unabated, the tensions are all still there (and worse now) and almost no one’s position on anything has changed by the end of the season.
                      What actually moved was the ‘find the girl’ plot, which was the weakest in setup. It relied on the investigator character (and thus failed for me) and was basically concluded without any major input from him. Other than him being an excuse to keep cutting back to Ceres, he could have been left out with no major repercussions on the plot.

                      For a drama heavy show like this, that was a poor finish.

                    • guy says:

                      The undersecretary managed to determine pretty quickly that Mars wasn’t complicit in the attack on the Canterbury, and averted a fleet redeployment that would almost certainly have led to an Earth-Mars war roughly mid-season. She then continued digging on the OPA theory and found compelling evidence that they weren’t responsible either. Then she reported it and was told it didn’t matter, and you can see her expression shift slightly as she realizes that the only reason she’d get that response is because she’s talking to a member of the conspiracy.

                      Her participation in the plot is all tiny actions with huge consequences. The conspiracy has set up an Earth-Mars war where each side is convinced the other is allying with the OPA, and then she makes casual small talk with an old friend in which she mentions catching an OPA smuggler with Martian composites and the war is averted.

                      I’d say that the political plot is most definitely a matter of taste, but I liked it a lot. It’s got no action and little dramatic confrontation, just an old political hand making careful moves to foil a grand conspiracy, with a season-ending cliffhanger as she realizes it extends to the highest levels of goverment.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      Her participation in the plot is completely undermined though when it turns out that she never informed anyone of anything they didn’t already know.

                      The very man she was trying to find the truth for was revealed to have been in on everything from the start.

                      Nothing changed over the course of the show. Mars and Earth still hate each other, the belters are still oppressed, there is still a rogue fleet out there operating with impunity.

                      Mormon ship builder guy’s final transmission might have had an impact, but we aren’t told what it was, just that earth was refuting it. How does Mars feel about any of this? Will they believe earth, their mortal enemy, or the rogue radio transmissions? What’s the OPA reaction going to be? How is everyone going to react to the massacre of Eros station?

                      The show just ends with all these questions hanging in the air, and it makes so many of the scenes pointless. The political drama is filler, it doesn’t actually go anywhere. The story is incomplete. As in, not just open ended, but actually lacking any kind of conclusion at all.

                    • guy says:

                      It’s adapted from a book series and season 2 is in production. And her participation wasn’t moot because in her final scene she’s sitting on the roof and the sky isn’t on fire from asteroid bombardments, which was the conspiracy’s plan. They wanted to trigger a hot war between Earth and Mars and she stopped them and has located the source of their hidden fleet. Yes, nebulous chief-of-staff man knew everything she told him, but there were plenty of other high officials at the briefing that established the Martian government hadn’t been selling stealth composites to the OPA and she advised against moblizing the fleet.

                    • Poncho says:

                      Nothing changed over the course of the show. Mars and Earth still hate each other, the belters are still oppressed, there is still a rogue fleet out there operating with impunity.

                      There’s a deceptive amount of progress, because the audience isn’t fully aware of the stakes until toward the latter half of the season. If the conspirator’s faction had pulled off their moves without a hitch, it would have been a show about a puppet war between Earth and Mars with the Belt caught in the crossfire. Through the characters’ actions, we discover a conspiracy to incite a war, the construction and deployment of an AI, and the growth of the characters through this action. There’s plenty of opportunity to stop the impending chaos because of what the main cast accomplished.

                      The main cast of characters grow to accept their true selves instead of hiding behind their lot in life: Holden becomes the freedom fighter he was raised to be, Nagata accepts and admits to being OPA, Miller decides to actually solve a case worth solving, The pilot Kamal chooses a side because its better than being without any family at all.

                      Like I said, it’s not the best, but it’s a lot better than most recent attempts at Sci-Fi on TV.

          • RCN says:

            It is trivial because all you have to do in order to make evasive maneuvers when you’re, say, 100 000 km away, is to not fly in a straight line. If you’re constantly making adjustments to your flight pattern, there’s just no way a projectile that is aimed at you can hit you if it can’t adjust its own heading.

            I will grant it to you that the series doesn’t specifically say that this is what the ships are doing, but then again the series doesn’t even discuss the use of railguns at long range at moving targets. Also, I will grant that other types of payload could be effective, but there could also be a lot of reasons to avoid these (like, flechette weapons being outlawed because they effectively create thousands of rogue projectiles in the solar system that, while not likely to hit anyone, are still a reckless hazard. In space there’s no “effective radius”, the “effective radius” of anything is until it hits something.)

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Of course, if you didn’t see the enemy coming, you wouldn’t be taking any evasive maneuvers. In that case, some kind of hypothetical, railgun-equipped stealth ship could really ruin your day from long range. Sure is a good thing that didn’t happen.

              The rest of their tactics are similarly nonsense. Each side is content to fire one volley of torpedoes then laboriously close to shorter range, even though the stealth fighters were doing damage with torpedoes and so clearly should have taken more shots. Everything about the battle suggests that no one has ever thought about an anti-torpedo missile (once railguns come online, a character says “they’re within missile range, torpedoes are no longer effective”, which… what? Anti-torpedo missiles work worse when the target is close). The stealth ships attempt a boarding action rather than simply shooting the Donnager to death, even though boarding results in the Donnager initiating its self-destruct, accomplishing nothing more than the entirely predictable loss of their boarding party.

              • RCN says:

                I was under the impression they were after the prisoners of the Donnager, because they might know where the anomaly might be, I was never under the impression their goal was to destroy the Donnager for the lols.

                And isn’t the point of a torpedo that it accelerates towards its target and has loads of fuel? At close ranges the torpedoes won’t have the time to accelerate and can easily be dispatched by low-fuel, and light-weight missiles. Unless I’m misunderstanding their use. I feel like there’s some information missing from that line.

                At any rate, we only get the barest of information on how space combat works in the series, only enough to figure it isn’t fancy sublight lasers at extremely short ranges.

                • guy says:

                  I’m pretty sure it’s that once the ships get close the point defense guns can shoot torpedoes as they launch, before they’ve got the room for evasive manuevers without hitting the side of the launch tube. Missiles generally have extremely predictable paths right when they launch.

                  • ehlijen says:

                    If you’re close enough to do that, why haven’t you shot the enemy to bits yet?

                    If you can accurately target torpedoes as they exit their tubes, you can also accurately target the much larger ship.

                    • guy says:

                      Yes they can. They are in range for accurate targeting of the enemy ship with their railguns, at which point torpedoes are no longer useful.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      The torpedoes would still be effective, because if the ship you’re attacking hasn’t killed you yet, it’s obviously not trying to, which kind of puts its status as an enemy into question.

                    • guy says:

                      That assumes the railguns are powerful enough to disable a warship with a single hit, which they are not. They make holes in warships, and the warship crew gives thanks for their pressure suits as they continue fighting. Civilian ships are extremely delicate and can be easily destroyed, but the pride of the Martian navy and the most advanced gunships in the system are decidedly more resilient while still as fast as any crewed ship can be. Any faster and the acceleration would incapacitate the crew even with the acceleration couches.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      Then why haven’t you put nukes in railgun slugs? Or torpedo warheads?

                      Point is: if you can land fire accurately enough to take out launching torpedoes, you can land it accurately enough to hit the ship from even further out. If Torpedoes are dangerous enough that you worry about shooting them down/getting into their minimum range, then why would you not take the torpedo warheads and put them into a faster, non-interceptable delivery vehicle, ie your railguns? If the torpedoes are not majorly more destructive than railgun hits, why (other than movie heroics) would either side ever deliberately get into short range where instead of facing interceptable missiles, they must contend with unstoppable cannonballs? (Part of a soldier’s job is to protect their nation’s investment into their training and gear for as long as possible; ‘we’ll take a few of them with us’ is not an encouraged mindset.)

                      I keep getting ‘this is a very specific value of too tired’ in my head when I try to parse the logic here. For it to be true, either railguns are laughably ineffective or everyone is laughably afraid of ineffective torpedoes.

                    • guy says:

                      Well, it’s entirely possible that a ship could lose a torpedo duel but win a railgun duel, especially if the other side doesn’t even have railguns, which most ships the size of the stealth ships don’t. So people will close for railgun duels they anticipate winning. This particular fight had both sides thinking they’d have the advantage up close and involved only a single torpedo volley.

                      Also, inertia and similar acceleration profiles means people who have been closing for torpedo engagement may not actually have the option to avoid getting into railgun range if the enemy ship wants to force them into it.

                      Oh, and the anti-torpedo defense guns are not the anti-ship railguns, so it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s easier to hit the ship with the railguns than it is to hit the torpedoes with the anti-torpedo guns.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      Ok, fair point on there not always being a choice for range.

                      But the way the docking cranes are shown swinging ships around, I have trouble believing that antiship railguns wouldn’t be perfectly accurate as well. They clearly have the tech to quickly and precisely aim bit hunks of metal. A turret should be able to swing even faster than those cranes because it’s built to handle the swinging.

                    • RCN says:

                      You’re assuming the railguns take as much space as the chainguns that are used for anti-torpedo responses. It takes a large ship because railguns likely take a LOT of space and, at most, can make very small adjustments along a ship’s heading.

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  If their plan was to do anything other than destroy the Donnager, why did they engage in a boarding action that forced the Martian navy to self-destruct it? Did they forget that that was possible?

                  If you’re launching anti-torpedo missiles at torpedoes heading towards you, it doesn’t matter how fast the torpedoes are going towards you, what matters is how quickly they change change course to avoid being intercepted by your antis. The farther away they launch from, the longer it takes to hit, so the more antis you can launch.

                  Also, the torpedoes are shown to not build up any appreciable speed (which doesn’t make sense), we see them move at a fairly constant rate in the digital overlays, and when they arrive at the Donnager they perform evasive maneuvers involving moving sideways at a substantial fraction of their forward velocity, which wouldn’t be possible if they’d spent more than a few seconds accelerating forward.

                  • guy says:

                    They were probably hoping to disable the self-destruct before it was triggered. Risky but possible and they were quite fanatical enough for the task.

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      Disable it how? It’s behind a locked door, in a room full of people who can activate it with about five seconds notice. The only way I can picture their plan working is that either they were praying their breach pods would randomly enter the bridge, so they could gun down everyone in under five seconds, or they were praying that the Donnager had an incredibly clunky self-destruct system that would take ten minutes to activate. Those aren’t so much difficult as “desperate and relying on the Donnager being terribly designed”.

                    • guy says:

                      Well, the crew isn’t going to want to detonate the ship until the last possible second in the hopes of inflicting more damage on their attackers with any remaining weaponry, luring in more boarding parties, and buying time to do exactly what they did. So if the boarders can break through the door to the bridge a few seconds sooner than the defenders expect they can prevent the self-destruct from activating. Also, we don’t get any technical details on it, but I don’t think the explosion originated from the bridge itself, so the attackers could have seized control of the mechanism itself and disabled it before the bridge crew realized they’d done so.

                      Pretty obviously has high odds of being a suicide mission, but the core of the conspiracy seems entirely cultlike enough to have plenty of volunteers for a suicide mission.

                    • guy says:

                      Also, they do have a good reason to risk a lot to capture the people who were deliberately spared on the Cant, though it’s a long time before the audience learns it.

                      Between the destruction of the Canterbury and the Donnager assault, the stealth ship that destroyed the Canterbury is overrun by the “bioweapon” and lost, and the conspiracy desperately wants to recover any possible information. They might also want to recover records from the Donnager’s visit to Phoebe Station; probably won’t tell them anything they don’t already know but it’s possible that the investigators found something they missed.

                    • ehlijen says:

                      It takes a very fanatical crew to willingly use their self destruct without first abandoning ship.

                      Maybe the boarders were hoping their target had enough self preservation instincts to not do that?

  37. Guile says:

    Wasn’t Han’Gerrel basically your buddy in Mass Effect 2? That is, he was on your side during the trial, while Koris appeared to be more of a short sighted jackass because he was siding against the Tali waifu.

    But now here comes ME3, and Han’Gerrel basically screwed the pooch while Koris’s hippy agenda comes across as logical and reasonable, and Koris helps you out a lot when it comes to keeping the civilian ships together and brokering peace.

    I thought it was great how their roles flipped across games, but it was entirely logical because their VALUES didn’t change, you’re just seeing the other side of their issues.

  38. Zaxares says:

    You know, I’m actually getting a wild idea for what might have happened. We know that Casey Hudson (the lead writer of ME1 and ME2) had plans for another alternate ending involving dark energy and the Reapers, but he left ME3 before he had a chance to finish it. We know that corporate influence from management affects games all the time. What if the reason we got the dumbed down story in ME3 was because of corporate’s insistence that they change it to what they think will sell?

    Writers: So we’ve got this great idea for how to tie in the plots of the first two games with dark energy and how we’re inadvertently going to rip the galaxy apart by continuing to utilize the Mass Effect.

    Corporate: What? No, that’s stupid. Our customers aren’t going to be interested in that. I want to see more plots in there where Shepard shoots terrorists. People love it when they can shoot terrorists. I should know! My kids play Counterstrike all the time.

    Writers: But… This is a sci-fi game. Our fans bought it on the premise that it would be something more, something different.

    Corporate: They want sci-fi? That’s like Terminator, right? OK fine, throw in some stuff about robots going crazy and attacking people. Everybody loves that stuff.

    Writers: But we had this whole plot where the synthetic-organic conflict can get resolved in a peaceful way! We really don’t need to return to that plot arc again for the main story.

    Corporate: Listen, have you seen how many people play stuff like Call of Duty? I want ME3 to be AS popular as Call of Duty. If not more! Make the game more like that, and we can market the game to those gamers and make even more money!

    Writers: *throws hands up in resignation*

    Just speculation, of course. But from reading a lot of insider stories from game companies, I have a nagging feeling this is how a lot of bad games where players go “What were they THINKING?!” are made.

    But going back to plot stuff, I agree that they really didn’t need to make the game’s central conflict about the synthetic-organic conflict. That conundrum is epitomized by the Geth-Quarian scenario, and its conclusion shows that it CAN be resolved peacefully. The Reapers really should be doing what they do for much more esoteric reasons, even something as simple as “the long, long LONG view”. Perhaps they really do wish to “preserve” us, because across galactic time, it is inevitable that organic civilisations will fade and die. Even Earth itself won’t last forever (we’re forecasted to get swallowed up by our sun as it transitions into a Red Giant in several billion years). But synthetics can endure and seek out new homes in new galaxies, or possibly even new universes.

    • Henson says:

      Correction: Drew Karpyshyn was head writer. Casey Hudson was producer.

    • INH5 says:

      The ME3 ending absolutely was not caused by pressure from Corporate. We know this even without looking up the gossip about how that ending was written, because ME3’s ending goes against everything that Corporate would want from an ending to a series like this. If Corporate had mandated an ending for ME3, it would have been an Independence Day style happy ending where Shepard blows up the Reapers, escapes alive, and reunites with his/her love interest as Reaper corpses burn in the background. It would have been totally bland, conventional, and unchallenging, but still significantly better than what we got.

      ME3’s ending is the sort of thing that can only happen when one or two people are given complete creative control without any veto power or oversight from anyone else. So as tempting as it might be, we really can’t blame this one on interference from EA.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        I’d almost say that Mass Effect 3’s ending is the only part of the experience that doesn’t feel intensely focus tested and designed by a committee. For all the good it does it.

  39. natureguy85 says:

    I like your take on it, even though it was different from mine. I was pretty annoyed with how one sided toward the Geth they made the original conflict. I wish they done more to keep that in the middle where both sides were wrong.

    I do like how they switch Garrell into the bad guy where Korus had been that in ME2 because he was using Tali to make a political point.

    You’re right that the space battle looks way more interesting here. I wish they’d made up some excuse for the range though. In ME1, it’s because the Geth ships jump in so close to the Citadel.

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