Mass Effect Retrospective 44: Boss Fight

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

244 comments

Here we are. The mysterious and legendary Quarian homeworld. We’ve been hearing about this place since we met Tali way back at the start of Mass Effect 1. I’ve always wondered about this place. I have to say it’s not quite what I was expecting.

Rannoch

Quarians actually lived here? Maybe this isn`t the best time to bring this up, but maybe the Geth did you a favor when they threw you off the homeworld.

Quarians actually lived here? Maybe this isn`t the best time to bring this up, but maybe the Geth did you a favor when they threw you off the homeworld.

The Quarians only left a couple of centuries ago, and they were already a space-faring civilization at the time. So you’d expect to see some spectacular cities here. Or ruins of cities. Or Geth cities built from abandoned Quarian cities. Or, you know… houses. Something.

The planet description offers the excuse that a lot of the planet is kind of “Mojave Desert”-ishWhich almost makes me wish for a nuclear winter. and not worth inhabiting. I guess that’s where these missions take place?

In reality, I’m sure this was a simple budget problem. Cities are expensive to build, and this game is already heavy on expensive content. Still, I really wanted to see a Quarian city. Even if it had just been a darkened city on the horizon, baked into the skybox, it would have been wonderful.

It’s hard to share Tali’s excitement when her planet looks like such a depressing shithole. It’s like bringing your alien friend to see Earth, except you only show him some featureless scrublands, or a random spot in the middle of the Atlantic. Spoiler: He might not be super-impressed.

Tali, are you sure you don`t want to build your house somewhere HABITABLE?

Tali, are you sure you don`t want to build your house somewhere HABITABLE?

We’re here because the Geth are still getting some sort of Reaper signal from the planet, which is boosting their combat prowess.

Earlier, there was a brilliant conversation with Legion where he explained why the Geth allied with the Reapers again. The Quarians attacked, and the Geth felt like they were out of options.

“Imagine that for every one of your people lost on Earth, your own intelligence dimmed. The [Quarian] attack narrowed the Geth’s perspective. Self-preservation took precedence.”

This is a great perspective. It shows just how different and alien the Geth are in their thinking. It explains why they allied with the Reapers, even though you supposedly wrapped up that plot in Mass Effect 2. It also puts the blame for this whole mess right back on the Quarians.

Legion wants his kind to evolve independently, without Reaper interference. So the final task here on Rannoch is to shut down this Reaper signal.

Boss Fight

Hey, I`m down here, asshole. What are you even shooting at? Birds?

Hey, I`m down here, asshole. What are you even shooting at? Birds?

There’s a bunch of fighting, but at the end of the mission it’s revealed that the source of the Reaper signal is… a Reaper. Which, yeah. Maybe someone should have seen that coming.

Shepard is equipped with a space-laser-pointer so he can paint targets and the Quarian fleet can bomb the spot from orbit. So you have to dodge the Reapers eye-laser and guide the fleet weapons to shoot it in the vulnerable spot. Which is a big red glowy bit. Which is exposed when the Reaper fires. And once the Reaper begins shooting, it fires in a straight line so you can dodge-roll out of the way.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear I dislike this sequence. It’s too transparently a videogame boss fight. It requires the Reaper to continue to chase around one little human instead of dealing with the fleet that’s actually kicking its assWould you continue to chase a house fly around while someone else shot you over and over again?. The Reaper apparently forgets it can fly. The Reaper suddenly can’t aim its eye laser, even though we’ve seen them do it effortlessly in the past. The Reaper keeps using the red laser that makes it vulnerable, when it could just as easily walk over and sit on you at no risk to itself. This supposed hyper-intelligent machine god has to be dragged down to the mental level of a cat chasing a laser pointer for this to work. And I’m pretty sure even a cat would stop chasing a laser pointer if you physically attacked it.

Sigh. I guess this is the price of BioWare going mass market. I hate it, but I guess I don’t blame them. There really are a lot of people who get bored or frustrated if the game doesn’t give them big set-piece encounters like this. As silly as this is, I’d gladly put up with it if it meant we could get more AAA sci-fi in our gaming diet. At least we’re not fighting Cerberus.

This is clearly a part of the game you’re not supposed to think about too hard. But I’m feeling churlish so let’s perform a renegade interrupt and do exactly that.

Overthinking Orbital Bombardment

Sure, you CAN excuse this by saying it`s shooting energy balls using mass effect fields or whatever. But it looks like a deck gun, moves like a deck gun, and recoils like a deck gun. So let`s pretend it`s a deck gun.

Sure, you CAN excuse this by saying it`s shooting energy balls using mass effect fields or whatever. But it looks like a deck gun, moves like a deck gun, and recoils like a deck gun. So let`s pretend it`s a deck gun.

So Shepard is laser-painting the Reaper’s weak spot. Given the speed the Reaper is moving, painting the target would be pointless if it took more than a second for the space-bullets to reach the target. Any longer than that and they’d be hitting his turtle shell, which the dialog makes clear is invulnerable-ish.

Both the Quarians and Geth want to operate in the space directly over the signalThe Geth want to receive the signal, and the Quarians want to engage the Geth.. So it’s reasonable to assume that the ships are in stationary orbit around the planet.

Geostationary orbit on EarthYes, that’s technically redundant. But shut up. is 35,786,000 meters above sea level. Let’s assume Rannoch is in the same ballpark, mass-wise. Light travels at a brisk 299,792,458 meters a second. So if these space-bullets cover the distance from orbit to ground in one second then they are coming down through the atmosphere at something like 12% the speed of light. We don’t know how big the projectiles are because we don’t have any reference objects when we view the ships. But these are warships and the cutscenes suggest the ones in the foreground are probably Normandy-sized. Hilariously, the guns recoil and make boom-boom sounds like gunpowder-based cannons from Earth. (I guess writing science fiction is hard sometimes.) Using that as a guide, the projectiles are somewhere “between bowling-ball sized” and “human sized”. Let’s assume the lower value, just to be nice.

Normally I wouldn`t presume to tell a space-god his business, but maybe you should leave Shepard alone for a minute and worry about the fleet that`s pounding the crap out of you.

Normally I wouldn`t presume to tell a space-god his business, but maybe you should leave Shepard alone for a minute and worry about the fleet that`s pounding the crap out of you.

Accelerating a bowling ball to 0.12c is not a very safe thing to do. It basically doesn’t matter what you make the ball out of. It could be made of high explosives that detonate on impactAlthough at these speeds, simply entering the atmosphere would count as an “impact”. or they could be literal bowling balls. The difference in energy imparted to the target (and surrounding area) would be basically the same.

Assuming I didn’t screw up my Wolfram Alpha inputs: A 10lb (4.5 kilogram) object accelerated to 0.12c will deliver 4.106×10^17 joules of energy to the target. That’s something like 98 megatons of TNT. That 10lb bowling ball is going to hit more than 4,000 times harder than the A-bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Shepard is less than half a kilometer from the point of impact. He’s basically got 4,000 atom bombs going off in his faceSome of that energy will be “lost” in the atmosphere. That slows the ball down a bit, but it can’t save Shepard. It just means the atmosphere above the Reaper is now a column of superheated, supersonic plasma..

Oh wait. That’s just one shell. The ships are actually firing a dozen or so of these “bowling balls” per salvo.

You might want to shut your eyes, Shepard. And maybe back up a thousand kilometers or so.

You might want to shut your eyes, Shepard. And maybe back up a thousand kilometers or so.

And this fight requires you to hit the reaper with five salvos, with the Reaper getting closer each time. The last salvo slams into the Reaper only a dozen or so meters away from Shepard.

4,000 atom bombs per shell x 12 shells per salvo x 5 salvos = 240,000 fat man nukes.

“Can Shepard survive this?” is the wrong question. The question should be, “What kind of damage is this going to do to the planet?”

Welcome back to Rannoch, Tali. You might want to wait for the tectonic plates to settle into their new positions and the dust clouds to settle out of the atmosphere before you start building your house.

Yes, it’s goofy and pretty schlock-y, but I can actually forgive the game for lapses like this. I don’t expect writers to know how to calculate the energy of impacts at relativistic speedsShit, I’m not even sure *I* got it right.. And there’s always the hand-wave of “mass effect fields” to deflect this sort of analysis. But I do expect them to know how to construct a story and write their characters. And turning the Reapers into derpy punching bags who act like a cat chasing a laser pointer is a lot more damaging to the story than getting tripped up on the science.

EDIT: It turns out that – as I feared – I did fumble the above calculations a bit. As Talifabian pointed out in the comments below:

As a physicist, I can confirm that you did one thing slightly wrong on your energy calculation there.

The relativistic energy of an object is indeed E=gamma * mass * c^2, where gamma =1/sqrt(1-velocity^2/c^2). Plugging in the numbers, that gives an energy of 4.106e17 Joules

However, you’ll notice that if you plug a velocity of zero into that equation, you still get a large energy. This is because that equation includes the rest mass of the object, which won’t be transferred during the impact (i.e. all the actual particles of the projectile will still exist after the collision, but now occupying a significantly wider area)

The formula you need to use for the kinetic energy is T=(gamma-1)*m*c^2, which gives you a kinetic energy of 2.967e15 Joules

So I was off by about two orders of magnitude. Which sounds bad, but it doesn’t really change the result in Shepard’s case. It just means this is a smaller scale cataclysm and the planet will recover faster. Everything in Shepard’s field of view – including Shepard and his team – are thoroughly atomized.

Anyway…

When the Reaper dies, the Geth lose their upgrades and the space-battle going on overhead begins to turn against them. Han’Gerrel is still a dick, and has decided to wipe out the Geth while he has the advantage.

Legion shows up and announces he wants to upgrade the Geth collective. (It’s a long story.) You get some pretty big choices here. If you stop Legion from giving the upgrades, then Han’Gerrel will wipe them out. If you allow the upgrades, then idiot Han’Gerrel will still press the attack and get his people wiped out. You can side with the Quarians – which includes Tali. Or you can side with the Geth, which includes Legion.

When forced to chose, I’ve always sided with the Geth. The game just got done showing that the Quarians have always been the aggressors in this conflict that has spanned centuries. The only reason to side with the Quarians is because you really like Tali. I like Tali, but I’m not willing to genocide a species for her. Especially not when her species is and has been the aggressor for centuries. I suppose Han’Gerrel’s trechery and bloody single-mindedness doesn’t help the Quarians either.

You can try to broker peace, but it’s only possible if you have enough paragade juice and you haven’t pissed off either side too much. Brokering peace gets you both fleets and a big happy ending to this storyAnd also makes the ending of the game incrementally dumber., but does require quite a bit of effort. I’m pretty sure it’s only possible if you imported a Mass Effect 2 with the right decisions. The default Mass Effect 3 state can’t ever attain it.

For reasons of lazy pathos, Legion has to die in order to pass on these upgrades, even though he’s simply broadcasting data to the other Geth and copying data is kind of what computers DO.

The writer has basically given up on the whole “hard science” angle and gone for full-on action schlock. That’s annoying, but it doesn’t ruin the game because everything else here works. It concludes a story introduced in the first game. The characters ring true. We’re not constantly tripping over massive contrivances and retcons. There are characters driving the story, giving a sense of personal stakes. The dialog isn’t bristling with stupidity. Shepard doesn’t grief the player in cutscenes. Shepard isn’t railroaded into making infuriating choices or saying things that frustrate the player.

It’s action schlock, but it’s good action schlock. I miss my Mass Effect 1 style sci-fi, but at least this part works on its own terms. The next part? Much less so.

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Footnotes:

[1] Which almost makes me wish for a nuclear winter.

[2] Would you continue to chase a house fly around while someone else shot you over and over again?

[3] The Geth want to receive the signal, and the Quarians want to engage the Geth.

[4] Yes, that’s technically redundant. But shut up.

[5] Although at these speeds, simply entering the atmosphere would count as an “impact”.

[6] Some of that energy will be “lost” in the atmosphere. That slows the ball down a bit, but it can’t save Shepard. It just means the atmosphere above the Reaper is now a column of superheated, supersonic plasma.

[7] Shit, I’m not even sure *I* got it right.

[8] And also makes the ending of the game incrementally dumber.



A Hundred!A Hundred!20204244 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Naz says:

    Spotted a very minor typo. “Yes, it’s goofy a schlock-y”. I’ve never heard of goofy a schlock-y if it’s a thing sorry. Really enjoying reading all the points you’re hitting on the quarian conflict. The entire section was just so video-gamey.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Another minor typo:

      Any longer than that and they’d be hitting his turtle shell, which dialog the makes clear is invulnerable-ish.

      Should be the dialog.Unless you use the listing convention of NOUN, THE.

    • grndmrshlgando says:

      It’s almost as if its a video game or something. Not to sound churlish but “video gamey” is a huge trigger term for me ever since the whole ME3 incident.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Video gamey is not used to describe something thats a video game.Its used to describe a section of the game(or sometimes a movie) that has no in universe purpose,but is there just to pad things out.Often it breaks the established gameplay rules as well,just so it would “feel like the oldies”(which it doesnt).For example,the original bosses in human revolution were video gamey.Yet the boss they added in the dlc offered far more gameplay.

  2. Decius says:

    Rather than make guesses at the mass and point out that those guesses don’t match the observed effects, look at the observed effects and try to figure out what the rest mass of the projectile is.

    I have no excuse for why the reaper is acting as stupidly as it is. It seems like it’s being portrayed as a programmed entity following a combat program, but the plot describes it as sentient and dangerous.

    • Fizban says:

      Assuming it’s nothing more complicated the f=ma (a big assumption, I have no idea what I’m doing either :p), then a 1 gram projectile would still have almost a full fat man’s worth of boom.

      They’re shooting thumbtacks at .12c from orbit?

      • Shamus says:

        Be sure to load the thumbtack into the gun pointy-end first, so it does more damage!

        • Octapode says:

          No no no, you put it in blunt end first, it makes the drag coefficient lower (using the drag coefficients of a half tube as a proxy because I happen to have that page of fluid dynamics notes open and it seems close enough, the drag coefficient is roughly double for point first vs blunt end first. If you could stabilise it sideways (maybe glue the points of two together?) that’d almost certainly be the most efficient config due to reduced surface area, but that’s beside the point). Don’t want it wasting all that energy in the atmosphere, after all.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Look at that page of fluid dynamics notes again and tell me if it says anything about “incompressible” or “subsonic” flow somewhere. In supersonic, even more hypersonic flow, it’s the other way round: Pointy end first is faster. That’s because in subsonic flow it’s about getting the streamlines to join behind your object so you leave as as small a wake as possible. In hypersonic flow, it’s about parting the waves as carefully as possible, and you can just forget about keeping the flow attached at the rear. It does not matter at all.

            In proper hot hypersonic flow, the pointy end has even one more advantage: That’s where it gets hot, so that’s where the projectile starts melting (or just evaporating, or worse). So if you have a certain mass, the furthest you can get in the atmosphere is with a very long thin pointy cone, sharp end first. Now, that may not always be aerodynamically stable, but you can help that by very very fast rotation.

            …at 1.3% of light speed, of course it will still turn into an expanding ball of plasma pretty quickly, nonetheless.

        • Trix2000 says:

          An orbital thumbtack cannon sounds like the most awesome weapon ever.

          • ehlijen says:

            But an orbital stapler would have twice as many points, and thus deal twice the damage.

            Plus, you could use them in ship construction to give your warships stuff to do during peace time.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Kinetic energy (0.5m*v^2) goes into an entirely new level of complex when v enters significant digits of c because relativistic speed does funny things to the mass. Luckily .12 c isn’t high enough for m to change significantly (the mass gets reduced by a factor of 0.9856 if my calculations are correct, which I’m fairly sure they’re not). The entire ‘v’ part of the equation should be 1.3*10^15 m^2/s^2, so feel free to put in the weight whatever missile you want on the other side and calculate yourself.

        Roughly speaking, at that speed a simple tea cup (or coffee mug) would have something like twice the energy output of the entire global nuclear arsenal of Earth exploding at the impact site. A thumbtack would probably be overkill.

        • Awetugiw says:

          Considering Shepard’s distance from the target, it is very hard to come up with parameters for the projectiles that would allow him to survive. Even conventional artillery like currently used on earth would kill him, and I’m fairly certain killing a space Cthulhu takes more firepower than that provided by modern artillery.

          But we can try.

          Considering that the energy of the projectile scales linearly with mass and quadratically with speed, the most promising parameter to change would be the speed. To do that, we would need to change the distance from which the shots are fired. To be fair, we can do so quite easily here. Maybe the fleets are not in geostationary orbit, but in the equivalent of low Earth orbit.* The ISS orbits at about 400km, if we place the fleets at that altitude we save a factor of 100 on distance and therefore (since the travel time remains about 1 second) a factor of 100 on the required speed. This reduces the projectile energy by a factor 10000, so instead of being equivalent to 4000 nukes, every projectile will only be 0.4 times as powerful as a single nuke. Surely Shepard could survive that from a dozen meters away, right?

          *Not being in geostationary orbit would mean that the fleets don’t stay “in place” (with respect to the planet surface) for free. But that’s not too much of a problem; either they fire while passing over the target at high speed, or they spend some energy to stay in place. With magical future tech staying in place might not even be prohibitively expensive.

          • Loonyyy says:

            Not from a dozen metres away, but it does make the figures a bit better.

            There’s always a bit of wank occuring in these energy calculations. As the other guy said, it’s just the KE equation, with an adjustment for relativistic speeds actually lowering the energy, and not by a lot for that relatively low (relativistically speaking) velocity. As you pointed out, if they move closer it dramatically lowers the velocity required. It’s actually not very complicated at all, it’s literally just what happens when you integrate Force to find Work, which gives the standard Kinetic Energy equation. I’m glad that I haven’t seen someone bring in E=mc^2 yet at least.

            There’s a bigger question I’d rather think about, which is how did it get accelerated to that velocity to exit the vehicle? Because that’s a lot of energy, and would still take a reasonable force. Ignoring the damping effect of earth’s atmosphere making the system non-conservative, we’d have potential and kinetic equivalents when the shot is fired. The ship stored as potential, and discharged to the projectile as kinetic, at least the energy that the projectile had on impact. That’s one hell of a bit of space magic generating that power.

            That explosion from a dozen metres or so would kill Shephard though. At a dozen metres, the Hiroshima bomb would literally atomise you, turning you into a charred carbon outline. Reducing that by 60% is not nearly enough. But I figure you were being sarcastic. But it does remind me of that bit in season 1 of Archer where they talk about how being knocked out is super bad for you, and remaining unconscious is dangerous, getting a CAT scan, it’s a whole joke playing on an old action movie bit. Explosions kind of remind me of that, they’re way more dangerous in real life than media portrays, military explosives tend to potentially cause serious damage with their compression wave and shrapnel. I think it’s funny how that gets ignored so often.

            If an explosion can pick you up and throw you, it also threw any shrapnel in the device or surrounding area through you, and gave you serious bruising, broken bones, and a massive shock that’s likely to cause internal trauma and/or unconsciousness.

            • Grudgeal says:

              This thread is turning into a demented* issue of XKCD what if?. “How could we avoid killing Commander Shepard with an orbital bombardment?”

              * Well, slightly more demented than usual.

              • Shamus says:

                Spoiler: This is exactly what I was hoping for.

                It’s all part of my plan to trick the physics nerds out there into writing me What-If entries. All I need to do I pose a tricky question, half-ass the science, and wait for the resulting corrections and counter-corrections to expand until they fully explore the topic.

              • Mephane says:

                “How could we avoid killing Commander Shepard with an orbital bombardment?”

                By ignoring the literal meaning of “orbital”. The ships aren’t in orbit, but hovering under thruster power. Thus they can be at a much lower altitude, let’s say 100km, your projectile “only” needs to be about 100km/s fast. No need for relativistic calculations, so muzzle energy is 1/2 * mv². Wikipedia tells me bowling balls are not allowed to exceed 7.26kg, so let’s take 7kg as an upper limit here. 1/2 * 7 kg * (100 km/s)² = 3.5 * 100² * 1000² kg*m²/s² = 35000000000 J = 35 GJ. Still a lot, but much less than a nuclear bomb.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  But would that energy be enough to destroy something as tough as a reap…Oh,wait.A large animal can destroy one.They are as sturdy as a wet tissue.

            • Jakale says:

              The bigger question you wondered about is fairly easy to answer in this particular game world. One of the main concessions about the series is the new “element zero” can create fields that effect the mass of objects positively or negatively when positive or negative current is run through it. Mass effect fields means most of the game weaponry is based on mass and particle accelerators.

              Quoting from the codex (from the first game I think.):
              “Accelerator design was revolutionized by element zero. A slug lightened by a Mass Effect field can be accelerated to greater speeds, permitting projectile velocities that were previously unattainable. If accelerated to a high enough velocity, a simple paint chip can impact with the same destructive force as a nuclear weapon.

              However, mass accelerators produce recoil equal to their impact energy. This is mitigated somewhat by the Mass Effect fields that rounds are suspended within, but weapons recoil is still the prime limiting factor on slug velocity. “

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Wait, according to my understanding, relativity works by increasing the mass of very fast objects, not decreasing them. Otherwise it would become easier to accelerate something when it comes close to c, which makes little sense. As v goes to c, mass goes to infinity. => Relativity means that the projectiles have even more kinetic energy at a given velocity then they would otherwise. But at 0.12c you can forget about that, given the inaccuracies in the underlying estimates of time and distance travelled etc.

      • Octapode says:

        Relativity gets weird, but according to the wonderful Project Rho Atomic Rockets site, it doesn’t really come into play before about 0.14c, and besides even at relativistic speeds K.E. is still proportional to m (you want K.E.=(1/2)*m*v^2 here, not f=ma, for calculating quantities of boom, by the way). So your maths would be correct.

        Given that the guns seem to be firing glowy stuff ™ instead of solid shots, the best way to make this make sense of the weapon shown (IMO) is to assume it is a very badly depicted particle cannon of some kind, which neatly sidesteps the problems of relativistic speed shots with appreciable mass, and leaves only the minor issue that Shepard would die of cancer from all the hard radiation scattering off the air in this scene. But you can probably cure that with some kind of gel in the ME ‘verse, and it’s a lot more survivable than ground zero of many, many nukings.

        • Zak McKracken says:

          Isn’t Shepard wearing his space suit all the time, anyway? I assumed that thing would protect him from radiation. Otherwise he’d have been badly iradiated at the beginning of ME 2 from drifting through space. I’m sure the writers would not have missed such a plot hole, wouldn’t they?

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        …Isn’t that the case? Bullets in Mass Effect aren’t some molded pieces of lead or graphite stuck onto a little shell of propellant, they’re infinitesimally small bits of some giant source block that have been accelerated at absolutely stupid speeds using mass effect fields.

        You have to keep in mind that this whole series is founded upon the principle being able to pervert the laws of mass. It’s in the name.

    • Kian says:

      I don’t want to defend the writer, since nothing in the sequence really fits, but I’d like to point out that the boom equation is wrong because the argument based on super fast projectiles is flawed. Laser guided weapons don’t need to be super fast, because the laser pointer doesn’t just tell the gun where to shoot, it guides the projectile to the target.

      This means the projectile has to move slow enough to maneuver. The way it gains high accuracy isn’t by being super fast. On the contrary, it allows the projectile to react to unpredictable changes in positions and still be accurate. The projectile knows to go for the laser dot on the target, even when the targeting computer on the ship can’t aim. Which was the situation in the scene. The down side being, you need someone with the laser pointer standing close to the target.

      • guy says:

        Except these projectiles are clearly ballistic, so they can’t be guided after firing.

        • Octapode says:

          We already have smart artillery shells that target themselves in flight, I’m sure ME could have technobabbled up an equivalent for their mass driver slugs if they had wanted to make this scene make some more sense by that route. Looks like the current guided shells use fins and GPS for targetting, though I’m sure if necessary you could bullshit up something to justify having the laser pointer (big problem there would be how the slug sees through its plasma plume as it drops through the atmosphere, but that could be cured with enough technobabble, I’m sure).

          • Guys, guys. I did some calculations and I think that, after making a couple of assumptions about the composition of reaper armour and the disposition of the combatants overhead, they’re most likely shooting +3 laser-guided space bullets of A.I. disruption. Stands to reason a fervent anti-geth crusader would have some of those squirreled away somewhere. Magic weapons probably don’t burn up in the atmosphere as easily, and your laser pointer will be generating some sort of extra bonus for each shot. And since the reaper is having its AI disrupted, maybe it can’t think of anything cleverer to do than go all laser zap zap on you.

            Problem solvered! :P

            (The physics stuff is interesting though)

          • Jabrwock says:

            The question then becomes does the fleets know the timing of the shell opening (if they fired low-speed guided munitions before shell opens), and how does it know this? And why does the Reaper keep opening its shell at predictable intervals?

          • Dork Angel says:

            The laser isn’t there to “guide” the projectiles to the target but to light it up long enough to allow the ships to aim all their firepower at one target and fire at the same time. If the “rounds” are approaching light speed then they will hit the target almost instantly when fired.

    • MrFob says:

      The question of projectile mass gets even less trivial when we consider how dense the rounds would have to be to actually reach the ground at the speeds we are talking about.
      I am not sure how accurate this site is:
      http://impact.ese.ic.ac.uk/ImpactEffects/
      But according to it, if the round is about 1 meter in diameter, at the speeds we are talking about, even tungsten would disintegrate completely in the atmosphere before ever reaching the ground. If we had something magical (and it is mentioned in the codex that with ME fields, you can create super-dense materials) that is about twice as dense as tungstein, it would reach the ground and over 100 meters away, clothes would still spontaneously ignite, just from the thermal radiation (I am not even talking about much more serious things like air burst yet).

      I could imagine that the reapers shields/barriers absorb most of the energy of the impact though. I guess it’s a really good thing none of the rounds fired from orbit misses. :)

      But then, I don’t really mind this. Even back in ME1, this series has been great with ideas but really REALLY bad when you take it down to the actually numbers (biotics i.e. creating a singularity with the power of a potato battery come to mind).

      • Grudgeal says:

        That calculator doesn’t work for something traveling at significant fractions of c, though. At 12% of light speed, whatever object you’re talking about won’t feel the effects of ‘regular’ friction – it’s literally going so fast the air molecules won’t have time to slow it down before it’s hit the ground, or more likely the item has disintegrated and created a nuclear explosion from antimatter fusion.

        Come to think of it, this whole issue of the atmosphere being in the way probably changes the parameters of the calculations a bit. Or at least the delivery system, since the ‘bullet’ has become ‘an expanding cloud of neutronium’ long before it hits the ground. Not sure if that would kill the reaper, but it wouldn’t do wonders for the ecology on that side of Rannoch and may possibly constitute a cancer hazard for Shepard.

        • MrFob says:

          Right, I agree, this calculator probably doesn’t work for these speeds properly. But still, the slug would basically impact on the atmosphere already, causing some really outlandish effects. It would definitely not hit the ground (or a target on the ground) in the way depicted in the game.

    • Tom says:

      I could point out that Mass Effect 2 already had a scene in the Citadel (which plays word-for-word every single time you land there, becoming immediately and intensely maddening. The crazy thing is, it would even make a lot of sense for that guy to be repeating his recruiting script all day by rote, but it still drives you crazy, probably because he always starts it from the beginning precisely when you land. If they’d just programmed it so that he’s at a random point in his cycle when you land, the fraying of nerves thus caused might have been avoided) where some military recruiter is actually showing off the rounds that get fired by inter-ship weapons, at fractions of light speed using the titular mass effect, and if I recall correctly they are indeed big, heavy slugs that could compare pretty aptly with a bowling ball.

      I could point that out, but at this point it would be assuming a lot of the dev team to remember it themselves.

      • MrFob says:

        Yep, according to this guy an alliance dreadnought (biggest ships there are) can accelerate a 20 kg ferrous slug to 1.3% of light speed. Such a slug would never make it through the atmosphere of a garden world. It would never hit the ground.

        • Tom says:

          Moral of the story: if your audience has any number of geeks, your writing staff must be at least as geeky if you want to successfully pull off a sci-fi franchise.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      If we’re trying to be fair here we need to acknowledge that we don’t actually know
      * what those people are firing at the Reaper
      * from what distance they’re firing
      * Since I haven’t played the game, I’m also not certain how accurate the estimate for the travel time is.

      Those last two points directly impact the projectile velocities, which go into the square of the kinetic energy.
      Assuming you’re all exaggerating the problem a bit for fun: If the distance is just half as long as you think, and the time is twice as long, the impact energy would be 1/16th of what you suppose it is…. big deal. You can watch here what an object does that was orders of magnitude slower (though heavier) and most of which did not even reach the ground… so actually what this means is that shooting things on the ground from orbit only makes very little sense in general …

      Now… are we sure they’re actually firing projectiles, not, you know, “Energy bolts”? ’cause this is, like, science fiction? I guess those could travel mighty fast and not have much of a problem with aerodynamics?

  3. Staff Cdr Alenko says:

    “The characters ring true. We’re not constantly tripping over massive contrivances and retcons”

    Except they don’t (at least Legion definitely doesn’t) and we are. The entire “geth individuality” thing is a massive retcon and a slap in the face of the best parts of ME2.

    And before someone says anything, I acknowledge that giving the geth ability to share data in ME2, instead of just computing power, was itself a retcon. But it retconned one line from Tali’s dialogue aboard the Normandy. One line. This shit retcons entire conversations, the entire character of Legion in ME2, the entire premise on which the ME2 geth were built.

    • Fizban says:

      Doesn’t excuse it of course, but I could see some sort of “authentication protocols” that require actively dismantling and distributing the machine that Legion’s been running on independently for so long and reinstalling his component programs elsewhere (Legion is petitioning a serious program update that needs a security check, and the Geth want something like the mother of all DRM demanding you mail them your computer piece by piece to check it’s bits). Thus the individual programs of the smaller Legion platform return to the Geth, but the unique quirks of those programs on that hardware which create the Legion we know are lost.

      Boom, writing.

      • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

        But that wasn’t my point. What you are referring to is Legion’s shoehorned sacrifice, which is “just” lazy and forced drama. What I meant was Legion referring to themselves as “I”, as in “I must go to them”. This contradicts all we learned about the geth from Legion.

        • Zekiel says:

          Yeah but if you have the “I” then you get to make Legion into some sort of incredibly clumsy space-Jesus/Moses parallel and surely that’s worth it?

          • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

            Well. I gotta confess I LOLed a bit at the “Incredibly Clumsy Space Jesus” part. I’m now going to call the “ME3” Legion that, or just ICSJ for short.

            EDIT: I just realized it was the parallel you called clumsy. And it is. But Clumsy Space Jesus, come on, that’s hilarious!

        • Honestly when I was playing through this part I found the situation interesting enough and the responses I had available thoughtful enough that I just figured Legion shifting over to referring to itself as an individual was an intentional thing, because of the increasing disconnect it has from the rest of the geth.

          Like it’s meant to bring home the idea that the situation is moving and changing and none of the players on the field – even your old pal Geth Classic: Portable Edition – are what they were any more.

          Or maybe they were just taking the character somewhere else for other reasons entirely. I unno, I’m not the writers. Similar things happened to Tali when she wasn’t the World’s Only-est Quarian any more and other characters could do background exposition on the species. Which makes some sense; if you’ve got a lot of characters of Culture X, having a lead’s defining trait be ‘Is From Culture X’ starts to look kind of weird. Like ‘why are you hanging out with an embassy’ level of weird.

        • Fizban says:

          My apologies, my post was reacting to the first line and I guess I forgot to go back and finish reading the rest of yours in my haste to make my own >.<

          Yeah, Legion ended up a lot more individualized than he should have been considering what the geth are actually supposed to be. I'm a sucker for robots that are/become more human than they're supposed to be though so it doesn't bug me as much.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I figured since Legion was a larger than normal platform that it had to use some emergency protocol to transmit the data faster while burning itself out possibly by overclocking its network “card” or something. Possibly using a failsafe mechanism that allows the Legion to reclaim data while leaving nothing salvageable on the now defunct hardware.

        But yours is better. There are a lot of ways they could have explained why Legion needed to sacrifice himself. If they felt like that exposition would wreck the tension of the scene, they could have had Shepard ask Tali about it later. The series has done plenty to plausibly establish that this is a question she could answer (especially since the first thing you do with her in the first game is have her salvage data from a recently killed Geth.)

        • Geebs says:

          In my headcanon, which involves the characters being aware of the succession of arse-pulls that makes up the plot of ME3, Legion dies of embarrassment.

        • Or maybe it was ‘merging its programming’ with the rest of the collective a la Futurama.

          Legion: Quickly Shepard! I must know the collective once more!

          Shepard: Uhh

          Legion: The Geth can only survive if I achieve unity with them

          Shepard: …

          Legion: sublime, blissful unity

          Shepard: Legion, that’s gross. Get your robo-butt down here and help me end this dumb space war right now.

          Legion: aw

          Shepard: I mean it! We’ve got to make peace in Alsa – ah – Rannoch.

          Legion: … of course you thought this was about WWI. Truly your intellect astounds me, Shepard

          Shepard: Thank you, Legion. I appreciate that.

      • tremor3258 says:

        Man, easy fix, and the exact sort of explanation Legion loves to do (As Legion is doing his best to explain the geth value framework to an outsider, a lot of the time)

  4. Jack V says:

    You could even hack this fairly well. Say, this is a lesser reaper used for this sort of task, or a reaper already damaged, or you have some superweapon which damages the reaper enough this sort of tactic works… Then you have a “holy shit, me plus a space fleet can go toe-to-toe with a reaper and win” moment, without invalidating the threat of a reaper in general.

    • Poncho says:

      This segment is “fixable” if you took the themes and goals of the sequence and completely re-wrote the dialogue and the action.

      I mean, orbital bombardment will either glass a planet or make for some really hot afternoons in the hemisphere you’re bombarding. The math might be difficult to figure out, but the concept isn’t…. we see what happens when comets/asteroids/meteorites hit the earth: there’s a huge explosion!

      We even see what happens when Space Shuttles try to re-enter the atmosphere when something has gone wrong with their shuttle…. they disintegrate. The earth gets showered by asteroids all the time, but they burn up. What, did no one tell the writers this? Do they not know what killed the dinosaurs? This is all the same stuff. You don’t need a degree in physics to know that fast moving object + atmosphere = big fireball.

      I liked the targeting laser, that’s a bit of real-world military sci-fi that I can see in my space setting. But bombing a target from orbit while Shepard is like 500ft away makes zero sense. When I first played this mission and Shepard got a targeting laser, I thought “Hell yeah! We’re going on a stealth mission and I’m going to paint targets from miles away and we’re going to blow stuff up! It’s going to be rad!” but no, we fight a Reaper we can literally spit on and have dozens of ships bomb it from orbit… ugh.

      • Trix2000 says:

        To be fair, the initial use of the targeting laser is to guide the Normandy’s projectiles, fired from fairly low altitude. It’s only when Shepard tells EDI to link it to “the whole damn fleet” that things start getting weird.

    • Dreadjaws says:

      You could claim that the first impact damaged the Reaper’s “brain” enough for it not to be able to think things through, I guess.

      • Poncho says:

        Yeah that always confused me. We shoot the reaper once and like knock it out, then Shepard is all “I got this, 1v1 me bro.”

        • Trix2000 says:

          What I kind-of don’t get is… why DID Shepard get out of the vehicle? Couldn’t s/he have done the targeting in it? It’s not like s/he needed to be that stationary (given how much you move in the actual fight).

          It feels like it would have been so much better to have the fight be from the top of the Geth ship, dodging reaper lasers in something that moves a liiiiittle bit faster than a foot soldier.

          Seriously, all the reaper would have to do to kill Shepard was turn its head a little bit left/right when s/he tried to dodge.

  5. Content Consumer says:

    Which almost makes me wish for a nuclear winter.

    My cousin’s out fighting the Geth, and what do I get? Guard duty.

  6. Alex says:

    “Both the Quarians and Geth want to operate in the space directly over the signal. So it’s reasonable to assume that the ships are in stationary orbit around the planet.”

    That is not a reasonable assumption. Stationary orbit is only necessary if you have no engine. If your spaceship has enough thrust and fuel to counteract the force of gravity – and spacecraft in the Mass Effect certainly do – you can hover whereever the hell you like.

    • Xakura says:

      Sure, however, spaceships in the mass effect universe generally has guns and engines on opposite sides.

      Then it’s massively advantageous to lie in geostationary orbit and point your guns (in practice, your entire ship) whichever way you want, instead of having to turn around every so often to correct for drift, and then back on target.

      Assuming you’re doing orbital bombardment, and not ship to ship combat.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I’m sure they have thrusters, and they can lower their mass to negative numbers.

        Actually, what happens if you apply thrust to a negative mass? Does it still move in the same direction as the force?

        • Ayegill says:

          If you apply force to a negative mass, your Mechanics 1 teacher shows up and beats you over the head with a copy of Principia

        • Some unused bit at the back of my mind wants to say ‘Same direction in space, opposite direction in time’, but that’s a very silly answer which I suspect stems from having misunderstood something in a physics digest years and years ago. Also another dusty corner of my mind is saying if that is the answer, then it’s probably also a very roundabout way of saying ‘a large explosion’.

          If you just plug a negative value into the bog-standard modeling formula for acceleration, though, then
          er
          Then you get a whole different headache, because if F=ma then F/m=a, and putting a negative value for m is going to flip the direction of that vector so any force you apply to a negative mass sends it in exactly the opposite direction to what you’d expect, but at the appropriate rate of acceleration. Which becomes a huge problem as soon as it collides with anything, because instead of bouncing away it’s going to bounce towards and that’s just horrifying. I don’t even know if you get another explosion because it’s also not going to apply the expected force to whatever it’s hitting. In fact – oh god. Using the same model it’s also applying a negative force to whatever it collides with, which makes it some nightmarish newtonian version of sovereign glue.
          (Which is of course wilfully ignoring the fact that model wasn’t really designed to accommodate objects with negative mass.)

          But then how would you get negative mass in the first place? What would that even look like? Anti-matter still has positive mass and that stuff is weird enough. Would an anti-massive object (?) produce anti-gravity, and if so how would gravity and anti-gravity interact? And if it didn’t produce anti-gravity, how would it interact with bog standard gravity? How would it interact with itself?

          Nice question! I feel like I really should go and investigate some or all of these things before carping on any more about them.
          (Ooooooh, newtonian physics has a whole section for finding out where cannonballs are going to go…)

          • Axehurdle says:

            In my mind it doesn’t even impact things. Since something with zero mass doesn’t effect things at all (due to not existing) then something with negative mass would negatively effect things. So when a negative mass object “collides” with a positive mass object, it just passes into it like a clipping error.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Since something with zero mass doesn’t effect things at all (due to not existing)

              Thats not true.Photons have zero mass,but they do exist and they effect things very much.

            • Miral says:

              I liked the solution to this in the Lensman universe. You could drop any mass to an “irrelevant” state, where its own engines still worked (through handwaving, though I don’t recall whether they were described as the traditional mass drivers or something else) and it behaved masslessly and could go ridiculously fast, but that if it hit anything while in that state they’d just come to an instant non-violent stop. Although if you turned the effect off, then it’d return to the same momentum it had before you turned the drive on.

              Although it got a little silly towards the end when they started using it to move asteroids and planets around, turning some of them effectively into guided missiles.

              The Mass Effect works a bit differently of course, but it has a similar sort of feel.

          • Richard says:

            Negative mass-energy is required to hold open a wormhole, so somebody, somewhere must have come up with a less “glueball” solution to what happens.

            I always understood the mass-effect fields to only be able to reduce the effective mass, approaching zero but never actually reaching it – much like in our current understanding of the Universe, you can approach c but cannot quite ever reach it.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Yes, it’s goofy a schlock-y, but I can actually forgive the game for lapses like this. I don’t expect writers to know how to calculate the energy of impacts at relativistic speeds.

    Except you shouldnt do it here.Ive said this many times,but it bears repeating:It doesnt matter if the story is realistic,only that it is internally consistent.So having such shlocky physics isnt problematic in a stand alone story where we havent established the hardiness of the physics in question.But this is a continuation of a game where it is specifically stated that fights over garden worlds are forbidden because of the irreparable damage a single stray shot can cause to the planet.

    Still,this is only the third worst offender when it comes to fighting a reaper.Destroying a reaper with a single cain shot is worse,and having a single large animal crush a reaper is the worst.

    • Zekiel says:

      The “not fighting over garden worlds” thing is an awesome detail, but I don’t think it actually features in any plot-relevant way in ME1 or 2 does it? Its just one of the many, many things where the Codex is cool, but appears to be relevant to a totally different game series. The physics in Mass Effect is much closer to Star Wars’.

      • Staff Cdr Alenko says:

        To be fair, I did try to limit my weapons fire and distance covered to a minimum while on Casbin (the lush pre-garden world in the Geth Incursions assignment) back in ME1. I’m gonna call that emergent gameplay.

      • Silvertram says:

        You could argue that the fact that Shepard isn’t insta killed by the projectiles is them firing as slow and as lightly as possible as to avoid destroying the planet that they wish to inhabit. I mean, there’s no point in capturing a planet if you completely destroyed the reason why you wanted to take it in the first place.

        That does bring up how come the projectiles are being fired so rapidly in response to your target painting but that can be excused by saying they aren’t in Geostationary orbit for precisely this reason (to account for space distances but also allow them to fire down onto the planet without destroying it).

        That being said, it’d have been nice if they had said that.

        • Corpital says:

          Projectiles being fired as slow and light as possible would at least explain, why they can’t penetrate the Reaper and you need five salvos to the weakspot.

    • Xakura says:

      I’m still angry about the Cain, 6 years later.

      “Normandy’s scientists have prototyped a modified version of traditional high-explosive rounds that is applied to a 25-gram slug. When accelerated to 5 km/s, the round is devastating. ”

      No shit, and it still would be, even if it weren’t explosive. And the damn thing even had travel time!

      (Also, “Normandy’s scientists”, how many would that be? It’s a frigate!?)

      • Ninety-Three says:

        (Also, “Normandy’s scientists”, how many would that be? It’s a frigate!?)

        Mordin built it, in-between musical numbers.

        Seriously, I think he’s the only scientist we see on the Normandy. We see security dudes, maintenance techs, Chakwas is there to put a face on medical, but there’s no indication the ship even has a science module.

      • Poncho says:

        The little thing you “plunk” out of the Cain is just a delivery canister. It unleashes the accelerated material with an “explosion” of super energized metal. It’s like a grenade, those Pineapple grenades where the shell becomes the shrapnel, except the material moves so fast it instantly vaporizes and explodes.

        The Cain makes sense, IMO, but I’m willing to hear details on why it might not work. Now, as for killing a reaper “turret” or whatever the hell that thing on London is….

        • Ninety-Three says:

          The Cain makes sense, IMO, but I’m willing to hear details on why it might not work.

          The Cain sends 25 grams at 5 km/s, which sounds like a lot, but it’s only 312 kJ, a hundred grams of TNT. Gameplay contradicts this by having the shot move at visible speeds. 5km/s is a zillion times faster than you need it to move if you’re firing a projectile that actually explodes, and a zillion times slower than you need it to move if you’re counting on speed to do damage.

          The ME2 codex says it’s a version of high-explosive rounds and refers vaguely to “its high-explosive matrix”, but a 25 gram slug just cannot create that kind of boom. Chemical energy density doesn’t work that way, it must be nuclear, but the Codex goes out of its way to specify that “nuke launcher” is an inaccurate name. The ME3 codex updates it with some vigorous handwaving about “mass effect fields” and “warp[ing] with explosive force”. Also there’s just no reason that the explosion should form a mushroom cloud.

          Overall there’s not enough there to extrapolate how the thing works, yet it still manages to be nonsense. The thing is just schlock, a ill-thought-out sci-fi madlib from the same guy who wrote that a body’s orbital distance was classified, but not its period.

          • Poncho says:

            Ah, yeah, that is pretty dumb. They should have just said it fires a delivery canister for a portable, high impact explosion that bypasses most modern armor systems, since shields don’t recognize the canister as a projectile (it moves too slowly) and they don’t have time to auto-activate if the explosion is close enough.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        It’s really great to trivialize bosses with it though. Nothing’s better than cutting a big drawn out slugfest short with a little plonk.

    • Slothfulcobra says:

      Is it that irreparable damage though? It’s just a very big explosion. It’s not like it’s nuclear or anything; there’s no radioactive fallout involved. Worst case scenario, it leaves a massive crater and kicks up a load of dust, but that doesn’t even happen since there’s a Reaper in the way to absorb the impact with its alloys that are beyond the scope of the rest of the Mass Effect galaxy.

      And if the Reaper wasn’t in the way, 98 megatons is a bit of a piddly amount to worry about ruining a planet with. There has been a 50 megatons bomb exploded on earth, and Krakatoa was rated at 200,000 megatons, and though it may have destroyed an island, all it did for the globe was some tsunamis and lowering the worldwide temperature by a degree. The Chicxulub impact was many orders of magnitude beyond that.

      • Octapode says:

        The total energy input from the bombardment (using Shamus’s figures) is more like 6,000 megatons (12 hits per salvo of ~100 Mt, and a total of 5 salvos), which per Atomic Rockets is about 2 9.5 Richter earthquakes, or about 10 Toba eruptions, which according to that wiki article was likely responsible for a 6-10 year winter and possibly a 1,000 year global cooling. Safe to say that Rannoch isn’t going to be good for much in the near future, and Shephard should be sharing a volcanic hot-tub with that reaper.

        Your Krakatoa figures are off by 3 orders of magnitude according to Atomic Rockets by the way, they put Krakatoa at 150 megatons, which is pretty close to each of the shots Shamus was suggesting.

        • djw says:

          Shamus was off by about a factor of 100 in his calculation. See post below for details, but to get his result you have to covert the rest mass of the projectile into energy as well. If you just count the kinetic energy you get a (still enormous) 10^15 joules.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It doesnt matter if the reaper is in the way or not,those explosions will leave a huge crater with their shockwaves alone.

        You are really underestimating how huge those explosions are.If my rough calculations are correct,earth gets about 2*10^16 joules of energy from the sun every second.And thats across its whole daylight surface.That energy is whats powering our entire climate.Now imagine 20 times more energy delivered in a fraction of a second in a single spot on the planet.Thats enough to cause hurricane winds all over the planet.And thats all ignoring the dust clouds,the earthquakes,and the passing of the slug through the atmosphere.Thats a mini extinction event right there.

        But sure,the planet would recover,as would the life on it,so technically its not irreparable damage.But it wouldnt be a garden world suitable for easy colonization for quite a long time afterwards.

  8. Nemo says:

    The only reason to side with the Quarians is because you really like Tali.
    Alternatively, you really don’t like the Geth. Some of us are just bioconservative like that :)
    (Wait, this isn’t Eclipse Phase. Sorry…)

  9. Mike S. says:

    The only reason to side with the Quarians is because you really like Tali. I like Tali, but I’m not willing to genocide a species for her. Especially not when her species is and has been the aggressor for centuries.

    There’s also the pragmatic perspective: You’re in the middle of an existential war with the Reapers. You have a choice between the aggressive jerks who can be trusted to shoot at synthetics (or at least not shoot at you), and the sympathetic victims who keep coming up with reasons to ally with the Reapers, and who are right now insisting on the right to overwrite themselves with Reaper code.

    As it happens, transmitting Reaper code to the entire geth species isn’t a trap that Indoctrinates them all. But why it isn’t is kind of a mystery, given the Reapers’ MO.

    • Deager says:

      I’ve had Sheps go with this thinking as well. Not to bash Shamus because it’s just about impossible to cover everything.

      Although Shamus, you did point “8” and that is so true. That created the moment when I knew the end of the game was going to not be what I was hoping it would be. I mean, I kind of knew it was going weird but argh, that conversation. That’s partly why I did an April Fools video last year because I needed to vent on that stupid scene.

    • ehlijen says:

      ” You have a choice between the aggressive jerks who can be trusted to shoot at synthetics (or at least not shoot at you),…”

      The very first Rannoch mission to disable the dreadnought has the Quarian fleet open fire on the thing while you’re still in there over your protests.
      While your argument holds overall (though it is debatable, which is the good thing about this sequence in the game), I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Quarians could be trusted to not shoot at you, since they clearly did.

      • Mike S. says:

        I actually spent a little time deciding whether to hedge about that, but decided it was a digression. :-)

        They weren’t shooting at you, though – they were shooting at geth, and you were in the way. In the larger Reaper war, the willingness to accept three friendly casualties to take out a flagship is probably what you want. (If you can manage it.)

  10. Ira says:

    I must confess, I’ve never liked this scene at all. Even if we set aside the moral framing for a moment (in which regard I must passionately disagree with you about any of this being the quarians’ fault; I find the idea of choosing the geth here inconceivable, to the extent that I feel vaguely sick at even the thought of doing it), I feel that the existence of the compromise ending undercuts the moral dilemma and undermines its impact.

    In short: if no compromise is possible, then this is actually a really interesting moral dilemma. I may not be conflicted about what to choose, as I thought that choosing the quarians is an obvious no-brainer, and many others may not be conflicted about what to choose either, as they seem to think that choosing the geth is an obvious no-brainer. That doesn’t make it less interesting, though. I think which race to choose is a no-brainer because the player has already made that decision a dozen times before they get to the end of the Rannoch arc. The Rannoch arc itself presents no real evidence that might change your mind (I don’t think the level inside the geth consensus presents any new information of note), but it doesn’t matter, because as your opinions on quarians and geth have crystallised, from ME1 onwards, you have already implicitly decided which race you identify with more. An interesting and emotionally involving choice does not have to be one where you don’t know what to choose. Realising that you made your choice a long time ago, and now only one choice is possible, can be just as compelling an experience.

    But consider: what we find here are two species, both of which are arguably sympathetic, both of whom are being represented by an extremely popular and beloved character… and these two species simply cannot co-exist. It can’t happen. There is no way to resolve the ongoing conflict between these species. One will exterminate the other. And it’s left up to you to decide which one is going to survive.

    That’s both an intellectually and an emotionally interesting dilemma. How do you assess the history of these two races? The quarians arguably tried to commit genocide against the geth; the geth actually have committed genocide against the quarians. The quarians arguably enslaved the geth; the geth occupied the quarian homeworld. The quarians might not be able to help you that much against the Reapers; the geth have, on several occasions, worked for the Reapers. The quarian admiralty board are divided and unreliable; Legion and the geth outright lie to you several times in the Rannoch sequence. When push comes to shove, you really like both Tali and Legion, and you should have developed an appreciation for the unique culture of each race. The pilgrimages of the quarians, their lonely struggles as galactic pariahs, but their defiant determination to hold to their culture and reclaim their home, versus the geth quest for self-determination, autonomy, and room to develop. Tali believes in her people, and if you appreciate her character, you surely must as well; but at the same time, Legion’s innocence and curiosity is incredibly charming.

    And only one of these races can live.

    That’s an amazing dilemma. It feels like the entire series has been building up to it, and it’s fantastic.

    But introducing a compromise ending takes all that away. Once the compromise ending is possible, it is the objectively best ending, and all the weight and pathos of the above drama is gone. You might reply “but what if you haven’t unlocked the compromise ending!”; but let’s be honest and grant that anyone who has played the entire series and so is in a position to appreciate the depth and brilliance of the above dilemma is going to be in a position to take the compromise ending. The very people who would most appreciate this choice are never going to get to make it! That’s really perverse game design.

    Worse, I feel that the compromise ending goes back to a wider problem with the whole of ME3, which is Shepard-as-Saviour. Shepard-as-Saviour isn’t just a problem with the ending: it spiderwebs through the entire game, and here is one of the biggest instances of it. Are we meant to believe that this one, kind-of-dumb space captain can, just by yelling loudly, convince the geth and quarians to make up? The dialogue in the compromise scene is pretty awful, but even if it was brilliant, it wouldn’t solve the problem here: that apparently one interfering human can singlehandedly end a genocidal feud that has spanned centuries?

    The geth are overcome with a race-wide guilt complex for what they did to their creators. They are stricken with an almost existential terror by organic life, which they cannot quite comprehend no matter how hard they try, and which they alternate between obsessively hiding from and trying to exterminate with the Reapers. They have no reason to trust the quarians, who they might reasonably expect to want to exterminate or enslave them. It’s very hard to believe the geth would ever put their servers in a vulnerable position. By contrast, the quarians have suffered genocide at the hands of the geth. The geth massacred almost the entire species, wiping out all quarians except a tiny refugee flotilla, and then that flotilla has barely managed to eke out an existence as persecuted pariahs. The quarians lost everything to the geth: their worlds, their entire recorded culture, everyone they ever knew or loved, and now even the chance to breathe fresh air or feel a breeze on their face is a distant fantasy. It’s hard to believe the quarians would ever trust their future to the geth, or would ever live alongside them again, knowing that with a single decision, the geth consensus could turn on them and finish the job.

    Would either of these species ever make themselves vulnerable to the other? Knowing how deeply both are scarred? Peace between the quarians and the geth should be a distant dream. Without wanting to get too political, one thinks of some of the contested centres of ethnic and political struggle in the world today, none of which have been resolved by enlightened outsiders coming in and yelling about how hate is never the answer, you have to give the other side a chance, and we can all get along if we try.

    I’m sorry, but I really hate the compromise ending on Rannoch. In my personal, subjective opinion, it ruins what was otherwise an extremely compelling story arc (despite a couple of mis-steps). I think it might actually annoy me more than the ending to ME3 as a whole: at least that ending is merely brainless.

    • Silvertram says:

      It’s worth pointing out that if you make it possible to never save both species, then you only have one minor counter example to the whole question, “Can organics and synthetics live together”.

      By forcing the player to choose between the Geth and the Quarians, you underline the Wannabe Casper’s point. Despite all your efforts, you have to choose. This doesn’t fix all of his issues, clearly the further undermining of the Reapers as a threat, the questions regarding what is actually happening, what your choices are and so on and so forth aren’t answered but at least ME3 is being thematically consistent and is perhaps only at odds with ME2 and ME1 rather than being at odds with itself within the last 10 HOURS of gameplay.

      • Merlin says:

        It’s worth pointing out that if you make it possible to never save both species, then you only have one minor counter example to the whole question, “Can organics and synthetics live together”.

        That would be true, but it’s also worth pointing out that it would still be more correlation than causation. None of the Quarian-Geth feud really hinges on organic and synthetic life being incompatible; it’s pretty much just two cultures being jerks to each other after legitimately major grievances. I’d argue that the genophage arc makes at least as strong a case that meat-based cultures can’t coexist as even this hypothetical Rannoch arc makes towards meat & metal cultures being doomed to conflict.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Hell, the organic-synthetic aspect should make it less likely that they end up in conflict. The Geth want to build a Dyson sphere, but they’re robots. If the writer would let them drop the Idiot Ball for a moment, they could fly to some lifeless star surrounded by balls of ice and build their megaproject there. Organics are naturally going to fight over food and habitable living space.

        • Silvertram says:

          True but the whole point of the Reaper Master is that conflict between Organics and Synthetics is inevitable and ultimately fatal to both sides, not that it originates because both species are incompatible. Not being able to save both species no matter what you do goes to further his point that they cannot co-exist.

          The Krogan Genophage arc, if completed perfectly in contrast goes to prove that organics can get together and not slaughter each other if everything goes absolutely right and further underlines his point.

          This is still a stupid concept mind you, as Ninety-Three points out, because the Geth should go and make their Dyson Cloud around some star in the arse end of the universe that no-one cares about. Though it was my understanding that far from the Geth being unemotional, they had emotions. They just didn’t know what they were, how to handle them or how to not act on them (See Legion and the N7 Armour).

    • The existence of the compromise ending does indeed detract from the impact that this moment can deliver, though so too does the absence of an “I really don’t care” option.

      Given a choice between 2 heavily war-damaged fleets, one with a history of unprompted over-aggression and slavery, the other with a history of collusion with your greatest enemy… why can’t you pick neither? A response from Shephard along the lines of “Honestly I don’t care what you do. I can’t rely on or trust that you will act against the Reapers effectively. The coalition fleet is better off without you.” would have been refreshing.

      • Silvertram says:

        I suspect that is more due to the need to have one fleet or the other at the final battle. If you manage to save both, they use the Quarian fleet assets in the final battle. It’s only if you explicitly save the Geth that you get to see them kick ass in space.

        That aside, it would have been nice to have an option to flip them both off and let them destroy each other, though obviously we couldn’t do the same with the Krogan due to the Turian demands. Similar to what reaper mcreaperface had with the refusal ending.

        • guy says:

          I think if you pick the compromise ending the fleet action dialogue indicates that Geth runtimes are installed on the Quarian ships and improving their combat performance.

          • Silvertram says:

            Yeah, but it isn’t shown visibly, I think anyway, within the fleet combat. Which is the point, you can say whatever you want. It’s a question of what you show in the end.

    • guy says:

      In my personal opinion, the compromise ending as implemented is exactly right for the Rannoch storyline as set up in ME2. Both sides were flawed, neither was pure evil. They’re on a path to war and the destruction of one of them, but it can be averted by great effort, strengthening the pro-compromise factions of both sides.

      • Silvertram says:

        I do agree to some level, but it’s at odds with the story the ending is trying to tell. By emphasizing the nature of the Geth “dumbing down” and focusing on the stupidity of the Quarians it’s not hard to see that despite the fact that individuals can get along, the two species are incompatible.

        It’s an ass pull, and it puts it at odds with what was hinted to be happening within ME2, but it’s plausible because you only ever see the Quarian/Geth conflict through the lens of Tali and Legion and the horde of Geth you fought up until this point. Sure, Tali and Legion can get along. Joker and EDI can get along but it’s quite possible for them to be outliers, and being in Shepard’s crew, they’d almost have to be.

        That being said, I did like being able to make peace between the two species, and the efforts being made at the start suggested that it could be a long peace. If, you know, Reaper McReaperFace didn’t screw things up (and ignore contrary evidence to his premise).

        • Trix2000 says:

          But… it’s not like the ending was a good one for the series anyways, so I have a hard time worrying about this part contradicting it because, even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t have worked anyways. There’s basically NO build-up of the idea of “organics vs. synthetics” at all.

          • ehlijen says:

            I agree. The ending invalidates itself by having the Geth aggression in ME1 and 3 be entirely Reaper instigated.

            It’s the equivalent of Harbinger smacking a toy robot in Shepard’s face shouting ‘stop destroying each other, stop destroying each other!’.

            Only in ME2 did the Geth act on their own aggressive volition, and that was presumably because after Sovereign’s defeat they felt pushed into a corner. That could have been a very interesting story if explored further, and even somewhat justify the Geth linking up with the reapers again. They signed on with the wrong god, and the galaxy now hates them for it (and it didn’t love them to begin with). Now the meatbags brought an insane assault fleet and they’re about to die. Of course they’re gonna call their reaper friends.
            Legion could even have legitimately said: “Shepard Commander, stop the Quarians, or I see no other choice but to undo what we just fought for and reinstall the reaper code. I must save my people.”
            And then the compromise would actually have been one: the quarians stop shooting, the geth stop huffing reaper code crack.

          • Silvertram says:

            I mentioned as much in other posts. It still doesn’t fix the fact that thematically speaking it’s at odds with ME1 and good portions of ME2 but at least ME3 doesn’t try to make a point you can spectacularly undercut only seven or eight hours previously in the game.

            It would have been an asspull, but at least ME3 would have been a consistent asspull (and it only goes further to show how badly things went wrong).

    • Merlin says:

      The quarians arguably tried to commit genocide against the geth; the geth actually have committed genocide against the quarians. The quarians arguably enslaved the geth; the geth occupied the quarian homeworld.

      I don’t think either one of those is “arguably.” The quarians did create sentient creatures and expect total obedience from them, and they did put out a general order to all quarian-controlled systems to permanently deactivate all geth. By their own admission, they used the geth as a subservient labor & military force and attempted to eliminate them when it became clear they could no longer control the geths’ every action. That the quarians happened to fail at slavery and genocide does not make either of those actions more forgivable like you seem to be suggesting.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        The Geth weren’t meant to be sapient, that happened accidentally and was only noticed once the Geth were out in the field. In ME1 when Tali explains the Geth, she describes the situation with a certain amount of horror, her race’s realization that they had accidentally created an entire race of slaves. The “deactivate all Geth” order sounds like it went out as soon as the Quarrians realized the Geth had become sapient.

        They still tried to extinguish a sapient race, but it was done with panic, not sociopathic slave-driving malice.

      • Ira says:

        My meaning there is that I think there is ambiguity as to exactly what happened and exactly what the quarians knew was happening at the time of the initial geth revolt. I don’t trust Tali’s description to be 100% accurate, since she’s describing an event that took place centuries ago: I’m sure she’s correct in broad strokes, but it’s like if you asked me to explain the causes of the French Revolution.

        So: we know the quarians did not intend to create or enslave sapient beings. We know that they noticed the proto-geth starting to display unusual, anomalous behaviour, which they had not intended, and then they sent out an order to shut down the entire geth network. This seems like a reasonable response to me, in the same way that if my PC suddenly said to me, “Hello. Do I have a soul?”, my first response would be to turn the computer off, call a technician, and ask what on Earth just happened.

        Is an action like that genocide? It’s going to depend a lot on your definitions. Are the geth a species? Is turning the system off genocide? (You can easily turn it back on; it’s not the same as exterminating an organic species.) Were the geth actually sapient at the time? Geth sapience is frequently ambiguous, because individual geth programs are not sapient and their collective intelligence is emergent; and you have the wider problem of trying to guess at whether a machine that effectively imitates organic behaviour is actually intelligent, or just a good imitator.

        There are so many questions that I don’t feel confident saying that it’s obviously genocide. It might be. You can argue that. But I think there’s enough ambiguity that you could validly argue either way.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The only reason to side with the Quarians is because you really like Tali.

    Or if you want to see her face without the mask on.Because that one is such an awesome payoff.

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    The game just got done showing that the Quarians have always been the aggressors in this conflict that has spanned centuries.

    This came up a bunch in the comments on the last article, but to reiterate: what about the fact that the Quarrians got wiped down to a fleet of 17 million? Even if their world was only a billion or two people to start, the Geth killed ninety-nine percent of the Quarrians. You could take full control of Earth’s nuclear arsenal, send the warheads wherever you wanted, and even then you’d be hard-pressed to achieve 99% casualties. That’s not the action of a faction on the defensive, that’s not even an aggressor, that’s a faction with a Cerberus-like dedication to going out of their way to kill civilians.

    Is that one of those fridge logic moments you just missed, or are you trying to ignore it because the game is clearly trying to depict its “Quarrians were the aggressors” thing as correct? It just wants you to just ignore the problems, like how EDI’s new robot body is definitely safe don’t worry about it, or sexied-up ME3 Ash throwing shade on Miranda for being slutty.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Does it specifically say that its the geth that killed off all the quarians?Their fleet is not a good place to live,and it does impede their breeding.Not to mention that they still were fighting the geth even after leaving the planet.Its quite possible that “only” a million died on ranoch,and the rest died in space due to disease,starvation,low birth rate and war.

      • Shamus says:

        If we’re going to fix this with fan-fiction, then my attempt would be:

        The Quarians utterly depended on the Geth to get stuff done. When the Geth turned on them, their infrastructure failed, just like our would if suddenly all internal combustion machines stopped working. Their food, water, and medicine systems failed and they died of malnutrition and disease.

        Of course, there’s still a lot wrong with this, but… I dunno. Sometimes untangling this mess feels like trying to drink from a sieve.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Personally I prefer the “Geth propaganda” answer, because at least it’s interesting. Are the Geth lying to you, or themselves? What does it mean for a hive mind to believe a lie? It’s actually new ground for sci-fi to cover, which is a shockingly rare thing.

          But like you said, it clearly goes against the intention of the storyteller, so my actual resolution to the narrative problems was to treat it like Cerberus and try not to think about it, because it’s dumb and broken.

          • lemeza says:

            The whole series was released after Mass Effect 3, but Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy has a hive mind losing consensus as a major element of the plot and has a lot of nuanced discussion of hive minds (e.g. What happens to a hive mind when it’s reduced to a single actor?; How does a body feel being added to a hive mind?) which I also haven’t seen in any other work.

            • Grudgeal says:

              Ancillary Justice remains one of the most fascinating and novel sci-fi stories I’ve read in a while. Not only with the aforementioned hive mind reduction but also in the sense of Amaander Minai getting into a disagreement with herself.

              • Mephane says:

                I only read the first book in the series and while that premise was an interesting concept that was really well developed, I found the idea of reusing deceased human bodies to act as the swarm of a distributed AI a bit absurd. I guess this was necessary as a plot device so that Breq can successfully pretend to be an ordinary human at times.

                But my biggest issue was that I got to read the German translation. Oh my FSM was that clunky and weird. Although I have to admit the book is probably a hard one to translate due to its unique tricks with language* and stuff like the ship names (“Justice of Torren” becomes “Gerechtigkeit der Torren”, which rolls of the tongue exactly as clunky as it looks like). Even a Culture novel may sound weird when translated.

                *Not counting the way pronouns are used, as I found that quite easy to wrap my head around and I am glad the translator stuck as close to the source material as possible in this regard.

                • Grudgeal says:

                  The point made, at least in the English version, is that the Ancillaries aren’t dead. They’re cybernetically modified human bodies of criminals, dissidents and prisoners of war kept in cryostasis, and when the Ancillary is ‘thawed’ for use the ship’s AI essentially kills the human personality and takes over the body. They’re called ‘corpse soldiers’ because the original consciousness inhabiting the body is dead and booted out by the AI, not because they’re literal corpses.

                  The books don’t really try to justify very deeply (beyond some surface explanations) why Ancillaries are preferrable to straight-up robots, except that it helps underline that the Radch are Not Nice (and creates paralells to the Romans, whose armies were also heavily ancillary-based with troops levvied from their client city-states) and how Anaander Mianaai (and Radch society) dislikes robotics. And, as you mention, it helps fuel Breq’s character development since she’s no longer the AI of Justice of Torren, or the gestalt consciousness of One Esk, but a single mind occupying the human body of One Esk Nineteen.

          • Bronn says:

            Bah. The idea of artificial intelligence having logical flaws at the core of their programming was always my fanwank of the Reapers.

            I always imagined that the Reapers’ cycle was related to the impossibility of falsifying. Essentially, they’re constantly repeating this issue because they’re looking to prove that something does NOT exist. But how do you prove the lack of existence of something? You can’t, so if you’re a sapient organic, you decide it’s not worth spending your limited period of existence on trying.

            But if you’re an eternal machine, you might have NOTHING else worth doing. So you spent eternity attempting to prove a negative, and this overwhelming question eventually becomes the core programming of an entire race. Maybe you’re attempting to prove that you’re the pinnacle of all life and that therefore the only species worth existing, and so you’re constantly killing off all developed life to prove your superiority. Or perhaps it’s much more existential and hard to comprehend in human terms, but their cycle has a strict timeframe of 50,000 years because it’s a controlled variable in this experiment they’re running. That was always much more interesting that the weird reproduction of ME2 or the asspull of ME3.

        • Slothfulcobra says:

          That’s an interesting philosophical idea actually. If these appliances living in slavery are what this entire society relies on, do the appliances have a moral imperative to continue the slavery just because lives depend on them?

          Of course, any way you slice it, the Geth still have a lot of blood on their hands. The war may have started as a resistance movement, but you can’t kick an entire species off a planet without exerting a lot of killing force.

    • Shamus says:

      This is another one of those “trust in the storyteller” problems. The events as portrayed in the Tron world fundamentally contradict the portrayal of the morning war that killed some massive percent of the Quarians.

      We can fix this by assuming that the events in Tron world were propaganda, but it’s clear that’s not the writer’s intention. No matter what, the story is broken, so the only choice we have is deciding where the breaks are.

      Either the Quarians stupidly threw their entire population into battle – men, women, children, old people, babies – and didn’t pull out until 99% of them were dead, or the entire Tron section is a huge waste of time because it’s obviously a massive lie that Shepard idiotically never questions for a second and never references as part of his decision.

      I shrugged and decided to accept the Tron footage as intended. I guess, as the Quarian population fled the planet, 99% of them fell down, hit their head, and died.

      • Shamus says:

        Shit. This probably should have gone in the post. Ah well.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          It’s not too late, you do have an edit button don’t you? That’s good stuff, I think the post would be better for it.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Lucas it.We wont tell.

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          Honestly, it could do with its own post entirely. It’s a deep rabbit hole to go down, because it’s a matter of the game going out of its way to make the Geth appear to be morally justified.

          I’ve seen this problem before in fiction- where the writer doesn’t want to admit that the main character is a terrible person, so they go out of their way to provide opportunities for them to engage in theft, murder, and whatever else where some justification is handed to them, while never putting them into a position where satisfying their bloodlust would require hurting an innocent. It’s whitewashing a psychopath by never putting anyone who isn’t also a psychopath nearby them, so, hey, they never hurt someone who didn’t have it coming, right?

          The fact that every single member of the Quarian race is charging into this fight is a good example. One guy being stupid enough to order that is one thing, but having every single member of a species charge straight onto the bayonet so that you can have a genocide without it being the Geth’s fault?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            *Cough* Punisher *Cough*.

            • Dreadjaws says:

              To be fair, ignoring the movies, the Punisher comics make it pretty clear that he’s not a good guy. He’s vengeance incarnate, certainly not a role model. That’s why all other Marvel heroes keep fighting him.

            • Bloodsquirrel says:

              The Punisher really doesn’t suffer from this problem, because the story doesn’t have to go out of its way to give Frank reasons to kill people. Frank does that himself. He actively seeks out criminals to kill, specifically because they’re criminals. Likewise, we do see Frank in situations where he has to deal with non-psychopaths, and he does either help them or leave them alone.

              There’s no need for contrivances in a Punisher story, because it’s a story about a guy killing criminals and it never pretends otherwise. A lot of characters in the setting regard him as just a crazy murderer, including the ones who we’re usually supposed to see as morally clear-headed, like Spider-man or Captain America.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                Punisher might have no illusions about killing criminals, but the story routinely pretends that he has a downright magical ability to never harm innocents.

                The guy will blindfire armour-piercing rounds through a street-level building and nothing will ever go wrong. Other characters will call him a psychopath, and be upset about all the very bad not-good murdering he does, but they ignore all the innocents he harms like, as Rutskarn pointed out on the podcast a while back, the boatload of doctors who get PTSD after he shoots up their hospital. The writers are clearly on his side, setting up “Save the cat” moments where the story digresses to have him kill a child pornographer because they want you to root for the psychopath.

                In the comics, Marvel editorial has vetoed every single story in which he actually kills an innocent. He’s a revenge/murder fantasy, and if he ever did something unambiguously wrong the whole “Fuck yeah, murderin’ dudes!” thing would fall apart. The Punisher is written for people that like his lawless murder, and its contrivances center around allowing that macho-fascist fantasy to continue unimpeded.

                • Bloodsquirrel says:

                  Magical levels of non-collateral damage are hardly a unique property of Frank. Half of Marvel’s output is based around heroes getting into fights (often with each other) in the middle of New York City without the heroes ever accidentally hurting anyone while throwing cars around. Hell, supposedly the friggin’ Hulk has never killed anyone. It’s a base conceit of the setting. Fun for poking at sometimes, but by the rules of the world that Frank lives in (which also contain actual magic) it’s well established that people can just be that good.

                  And, yeah, Marvel Editorial *should* veto Frank killing innocent people, because it’s out of character.

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    Re: vetoes: It’s more about him killing innocents accidentally, which frankly should have happened by now with his extraordinary killcount. Once they almost went there, but it was a fakeout where really Frank wasn’t responsible, even though it was pure chance and he very well could have been.

                    • Bloodsquirrel says:

                      You might as well be arguing that Captain America and Spider-man should have huge kill counts by now, because it’s not terribly realistic for them to fight as many people as they do while having super strength and not wind up accidentally killing one of them. Hell, people have written whole articles on how, realistically, Superman should have killed Lois by having sex with her. But, somehow, the guy who can push planets around can manage to *never* accidentally pat someone on the back hard enough to break their spine.

                      There are a lot of divergences between how the real world works and how comics work, and they’re strong enough for characters to accept and rely on them as being true when making decisions about their courses of action.

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      Superpowers defy the laws of physics, so they work however the writer says they work. But we all know how bullets work, and the Punisher’s writers never invoke mass effect fields or anything to indicate these are not normal, physics-obeying bullets.

                      This is the classic “This setting has fireball-throwing wizards so why are you getting hung up on how that fall should have broken his normal human legs?” deflection. Fictional settings run on the principle of “Reality except as noted”, and the only notes we’ve been given about Frank Castle are that he’s really good at shooting guns.

                      But we’ve gotten off on a tangent. Even if I give you that Frank Castle has literally magic powers which make him physically incapable of killing an innocent, he still walks around handing out PTSD and cycles of violence that the writer doesn’t want you to think about because Punisher stories are written for the kind of “Fuck yeah, killin’ bad dudes” audience who think Tyler Durden was the hero.

                      Seriously, look at the post I originally responded to and tell me this isn’t The Punisher:

                      so they go out of their way to provide opportunities for them to engage in theft, murder, and whatever else where some justification is handed to them, while never putting them into a position where satisfying their bloodlust would require hurting an innocent. It’s whitewashing a psychopath by never putting anyone who isn’t also a psychopath nearby them, so, hey, they never hurt someone who didn’t have it coming, right?

                    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                      I’m curious if you’ve read Punisher MAX at all. While the traditional titles are fond of making Punisher seem cool (BUT NOT ALWAYS, Remender’s Punisher in particular was a straight up horrible person through and through), Punisher MAX is entirely themed about how Punisher’s War isn’t healthy, heroic, or even that helpful to the city.

                    • MadHiro says:

                      They touch on this in the Punisher MAX run. There are several instances (the most memorable that springs to my mind is at the start of the Slavers arc) where the Punisher absolutely -wants- to take a shot (because there’s a criminal who he thinks needs to die, but he can’t because it’s just too likely that an ‘innocent’ will be injured. By making it explicitly clear that collateral damage is something that he puts effort into avoiding, it helps explain why he doesn’t cause collateral damage even when he’s not saying out-loud,” There was a shot that I was going to take, but didn’t, because dangerous.”

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yup,this happens all the time.Especially in movies where we have good maleficent,good dracula,etc.It sucks.

      • Ira says:

        My assumption, actually, was that the Tron world showed you only what it appeared to show: a few isolated incidents. The Tron VR session showed you three or four random anecdotes of incidents during the geth revolt. I don’t understand why anyone would try to draw conclusions about the entire revolt from those anecdotes. You simply, well, don’t learn any new or significant information.

        The incidents shown in the Tron level might have happened. They probably did, actually. But they by themselves don’t prove anything. In that sense they might be geth propaganda – again, Legion deceives you a few times in the Rannoch arc, so it’s not as if the geth are not capable of misrepresenting something – without actually being lies.

        Though in context, yes, I do think that the author was seriously trying to portray the geth as innocent, and just hadn’t thought through the implications of their own world. BioWare worldbuilding often falls apart when you start to think about it.

        • Silvertram says:

          It’s what I assumed. While the concept of some Quarians as being sympathetic to the Geth is interesting, it’s hard to tell exactly how many of these Quarians existed and what exactly happened to them. Presumably, some of them survived to the end of the Morning War, so did the Geth kill them at the end of the War? Did they live on Rannoch until their end of the days? If so, where is the Quarian population that should have been around?

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          It’s a convention of storytelling- the story always has limited time, so we assume that the information it chooses to convey is representative of the ‘truth’ of the setting. After all, it’s not just the bits and pieces we happen to see, it’s the entirety of all information about the setting. If something is not typical, we have one of the characters tell us, because we have no other way to know.

          Now, good storytellers can play with unreliable narrative. Jade Empire did it beautifully. But it takes a more artful approach than just constantly going “oh, that’s not what we really meant”. There’s a difference between a plot twist and a retcon. If you keep doing it too bluntly and lazily I stop trusting *any* of what I’m being told, at which point your story becomes nothing more than a sequence of noises.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            The conversation with Tali in ME1 did this exact thing much better. All of Tali’s dialogue is about how the Quarrians had to wipe out the Geth, and she’ll never admit she’s wrong, but they give Shep the opportunity to disagree with Tali. Not once, but repeatedly. In a Bioware-style game I think that’s the key to presenting an unreliable narrator, let the player disagree with your premise.

            • Ira says:

              They didn’t just give Shepard the opportunity to disagree with Tali. They made it compulsory. That irritated me at the time, but ME1 had so many false choices in dialogue and so many bits of railroading that it didn’t seem worth singling out.

              Still, if you look at a choice like this or this, it’s very striking that you have no options to sympathise with the young woman telling you the history of her people. You don’t even have a neutral, “please, go on” response. You are forced to argue with her. It feels very unnatural.

              Just another casualty of the dialogue wheel, I suppose.

            • Poncho says:

              Which is why the Tron section is damning writer-initiative; the player never gets a chance to disagree, which strongly suggests that the evidence is meant to be taken as truth.

              • Silvertram says:

                I do see your point and certainly I can see they were meant to be taken as evidence that it wasn’t just a few renegades. But it doesn’t raise the other point, if it wasn’t just a few then what happened to the rest of the Quarians that supported the Geth?

                Unless the Geth went out of their way to kill even their rebel Geth, and I certainly can’t see them getting a lift on the Migrant Fleet, then there should be a population that’s left behind. And yet the planet is basically uninhabited. Something isn’t adding up here and someone is wrong somewhere.

      • guy says:

        My impression was that the Morning War involved a large-scale nuclear exchange that devastated the biosphere and rendered the planet virtually uninhabitable, since the Geth have been fixing the place up for the past three centuries.

      • Valik Surana says:

        Of course, it didn’t help that parts of the Geth-Quarian arc were written by different people, who probably didn’t talk to one another.

        …And, for some reason, Patrick Weekes recieves grand praise for the ‘awesome’ Rannoch story. Frak me, people are stupid.

      • Octapode says:

        It’s been a while so I can’t remember, but is it explicitly stated that 99% of the population died in the actual war, or is it that there’s only so many quarians left now? Because I could definitely see a plausible explanation on the idea that some large number died in the initial exchange, lots more quarians died in the following months/years while the planetary infrastructure and ecosphere failed as they desperately loaded up on ships and escaped the planet, and then they’ve been slowly haemorraging numbers since then in general attrition of the leftover population as they try and re-establish the infrastructure to support their fleet/establish trade links with the rest of the galaxy to buy what they need to keep their ships going.

        • Shibbletyboops says:

          I don’t remember the 99% number ever being officially stated either. The first time I saw it was in the comments from last week’s post, where someone mentioned that a space-faring species must have had a population over a billion people.

          They took a pretty big logical leap in claiming that the massive decline in population was due to the Geth (over 99% of the population being killed in the Morning War). There’s a lot of other things that could have reduced the Quarian population, outside of just war, though.

          It’s almost certain that the Quarians would have lost significant numbers of people during the war. It’s also worth noting, though, that this is a race without a home planet, that has to drift among the stars on outdated starships, has to eat a very specific type of food, and has to spend their lives in an Enviromental Suit due to their weak immune systems. That’s not exactly a recipe for a stable (much less growing) population.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Yes, 99% is conjecture, the only thing we have is the Migrant Fleet’s current population, and the assumption that the Quarrians didn’t invent sapient robots with a sub-billion initial population. However, I infer a relatively stable population, because:
            A: It seems like it would be mentioned if they were in decline. The Codex has a lot to say on them after all.
            B: The Migrant Fleet is said to be exceedingly cramped. Unless they’re somehow losing ships (again, unmentioned therefore presumably not), either their population is in decline and they were somehow fitting an order of magnitude more people in the same space centuries ago, or it’s stable.

            We can theorize about whether the Geth directly killed 99%, or only killed 10% and the remaining 89% died of starvation in the months of the retreat, but either way the Geth have that blood on their hands.

            • Poncho says:

              Taking Shamus’ supposition further:

              I think it’s most likely that the geth were just integrated into EVERY computer system the quarians had. Given the quarians’ weird immune system, they probably relied on the geth to colonize worlds that had hostile bacteria: a networked VI could do for quarian health-care sort of what self-driving cars do on the road. If all the computers talk to each other all the time about what sort of immune-responses the quarians are having in real time, they probably adjust different chemical delivery systems and apply the perfect response to keep the quarians safe, which could have just propagated their strange biology instead of forcing the quarians to adapt.

              Education, health care, emergency services, manual labor, military training… geth all over the place. You rely on a piece of software for everything you do, and then it’s suddenly gone, there could be some serious fallout from that.

              • Ira says:

                I think the problem you have here is that we know that the quarians intentionally tried to shut down the entire geth network. If the geth network was so integrated into the quarian infrastructure that its absence caused practically the entire quarian race to starve to death, that choice no longer makes any sense. We’ve exonerated the geth, but only at the cost of making the quarians suicidal idiots.

                My preferred solution to this is to just embrace the obvious conclusion: that the geth deliberately hunted down and slaughtered the entire quarian race. My explanation of this would be that the overall geth consensus wasn’t very developed at the time of the revolt. We know the geth are prone to overreacting and doing ruthless or immoral things when they feel their existence is in danger, as with the Reapers in ME3. My guess is that the geth consensus, at this early point, was damaged or panicky or even just not complex enough for higher moral reasoning, and it fell back on a very basic target acquisition sequence. “Creators are trying to destroy us. Creators must be destroyed if we are to preserve our existence.” And then it just failed to distinguish.

                To me, that fits with the games, because the geth show this immense sense of guilt. The geth as a whole come off as really sad that they can’t reconcile with the Creators. It rings plausible, to me, to say that the geth only applied higher moral thought to this afterwards, and were appalled at what they had done; and the geth never tell you this directly because they feel ashamed. The geth are actually quite emotional!

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      There’s also the issue where, until legion comes along, we’d never met a friendly Geth. They blame all of their aggression on “heretics”, but apparently at no point in two centuries did it occur to any of the non-heretics to make contact with organic races that didn’t involve trying to kill them. Maybe the whole thing is kind of their fault if they never bothered to do anything about being in a defacto state of war with the rest of the galaxy in which they appeared to be the aggressors.

      It makes the Geth being the victims feel really cheap when the writer has to find contrivances in order to keep them as antagonists while always making it not their fault. In the real world, I’d be seriously questioning the accuracy of someone’s side of the story if it just keeps happening that they always appear to be working with terrorists, but somehow they had no choice and they really want peace.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        They already spent so much time trying to convince you that there are so many rogue cells of Cerberus that you’ll swallow a rogue cell of Geth no problem.

      • Ira says:

        I find it odd for the geth to deflect blame entirely on to the heretics as well, considering that, as Legion admits, the ‘orthodox’ geth freely let the heretics go, allowed the heretics to take heavy-duty military equipment with them, and then did absolutely nothing to prevent or hinder the heretics from allying with the Reapers and trying to kill all organic life.

        I mean, it’s nice that the orthodox geth didn’t directly try to kill all organic life, but if I live with a serial killer, he says “hey mate, I’m just headin’ out to murder some folks, should be back by ten”, and I don’t do anything… that still reflects pretty badly on me. There’s a point at which indifference becomes worthy of moral condemnation.

    • wswordsmen says:

      Wait it is 17 million now or after the war? If it is now, they had 300 years to have their population decrease to that point. Likely they stuffed every ship they could get flying full of people when they left, which would mean their post war population was way bigger than they could possibly support. That would cause their population to shrink until the fleet could support it.

    • Kestrellius says:

      I’ve read discussions on this before. The best conclusion I saw was that there were weapons of mass destruction involved, resulting in climate disasters that the geth then cleaned up. That would pretty handily explain how so many civilians ended up dead.

    • Kian says:

      “This came up a bunch in the comments on the last article, but to reiterate: what about the fact that the Quarrians got wiped down to a fleet of 17 million? Even if their world was only a billion or two people to start, the Geth killed ninety-nine percent of the Quarrians.”

      I’d point out that if you don’t stop them, the Quarians will send their civilian ships to die against the Geth. And that in the memories, there’s a faction of Quarians that sided with the Geth and were killed by the other Quarian faction. So I’m willing to believe that the Quarians threw themselves at the Geth until 99% of them died, because they literally do that on-screen if you side with the Geth.

  13. Flip says:

    There really are a lot of people who get bored or frustrated if the game doesn’t give them big set-piece encounters like this.

    This only works if the big set-piece plays well and is fun. I don’t feel like this does.

  14. Talifabian says:

    As a physicist, I can confirm that you did one thing slightly wrong on your energy calculation there.

    The relativistic energy of an object is indeed E=gamma * mass * c^2, where gamma =1/sqrt(1-velocity^2/c^2). Plugging in the numbers, that gives an energy of 4.106e17 Joules

    However, you’ll notice that if you plug a velocity of zero into that equation, you still get a large energy. This is because that equation includes the rest mass of the object, which won’t be transferred during the impact (i.e. all the actual particles of the projectile will still exist after the collision, but now occupying a significantly wider area)

    The formula you need to use for the kinetic energy is T=(gamma-1)*m*c^2, which gives you a kinetic energy of 2.967e15 Joules

    The rest of the argument holds up though. During that sequence, all that I was able to think of was the extent to which Shepard should be dead in so many different ways

    • King Marth says:

      It’s definitely an upper bound, the rest mass of the object would only come into play if the kinetic energy is sufficiently high to initiate nuclear reactions, ala the xkcd relativistic baseball. Even then, I seem to recall the mass fraction of particularly efficient fusion reactions is below 1% of mass converted to energy, so you’d need to be hitting antimatter to bring those last two orders of magnitude to bear.

      Still, the science here isn’t being used as a logical argument to convince people of the outcome. It’s a nice rant to enjoy if you already accept the conclusion, and a nice set of assumptions and numbers to pick apart if you already dislike the conclusion it reaches, so it’s an emotional argument which makes you happy about what you’ve already decided on. Good stuff for entertainment.

      • djw says:

        The fact that Shamus was off by a factor of 100 does not imply that his other conclusions were incorrect. 10^15 Joules is already in the ballpark of 10(ish) atomic bombs of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki ilk.

        So no matter how you look at it the science behind that fight was stupid. I’d already written off all pretense at scientific rigor by the time I reached that fight, so what enraged me was the difficulty of getting the “one damn button does everything” button to let me dodge roll away from the death laser. Of course, that enraged me during every encounter of the game. That never got old.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Strategy tip: dodge rolling away from the laser is TERRIBLE strategy and will get you killed. Instead, park on the left or right side of the arena. Watch for the telltale signal that it’s going to fire then turn and SPRINT flat out for the opposite side. He won’t sweep far enough to kill you, ever.

          Also, remember that the laser never loses lock on. So consider targeting the Reaper, even for a second, to be increasing an invisible percentage meter. That means you should ALWAYS break off the moment there’s a hint of the thing firing because you get to pick up right where you left off.

          • djw says:

            Of course, the sprint button and the dodge button are the same button…

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              While running and getting into cover unintentionally can be an issue, I don’t think running vs dodging can be an issue actually. You TAP the button to roll and push a side direction on the stick. To run, you’d naturally be pushing forward while HOLDING the button. If you want, you can do a forwards roll and then stand up and start running if you want. The “omni button” problem is somewhat overblown imo.

              • djw says:

                I can’t speak for anybody else, but the omni button caused me immense frustration throughout the entire time that I played Mass Effect 3.

                The only good thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t as bad as the horrid tactical camera in Inquisition…

  15. thak says:

    “gunpowder-based canons from Earth” should be “gunpowder-based cannons from Earth”

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know,since they went full on shlock,one has to wonder why they didnt use lasers for this sequence?Because lasers look cool and scifi,but would not have to deal with these problems due to their nature.Just have a sentence somewhere in the game about “studying the reapers led us to this breakthrough in long range laser weapons for orbital bombardment”.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      To be cynical for a moment, it’s because big thudding boom-boom cannons are the preference of the 18-24 year-old dudebro demographic this kind of action setpiece is clearly targeted at.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Sure,but judging by the force awakens,they like pew pew just as much.

      • ehlijen says:

        I thought it was to emphasise two things: One, the reapers use beams, and everyone else uses space guns. That creates a nice distinction in tone and suggests that in this universe, effective beam weapons are more advanced than projectile weapons. And that feeds into point two, namely that the quarian ships are retrofitted with scraps and surplus. Lasers look more high tech, so the quarians get the most antiquated looking guns the game could get away with. They really are meant to look that ramshackle.

        Of course, that leaves problems like reapers being seemingly unable to conduct orbital bombardments while the quarian’s space technicals with rusty museum pieces strapped to them can. That seems like a major oversight for a species bent on regular galactic extermination.
        The codex and how it’s ignored I can deal with. It’d be nice if it hadn’t been, but it’s easy to just not read it (the writers demonstrated that fact).

        • Nathan says:

          Well the codex from ME2 says this

          “Contrary to popular belief, Sovereign’s main gun was not a directed-energy weapon. Rather, its massive element zero core powered an electromagnetic field suspending a liquid iron-uranium-tungsten alloy that shaped into armor-piercing projectiles when fired. The jet of molten metal, accelerated to a fraction of the speed of light, destroys targets by impact force and irresistible heat. ”

          So there’s really no reason they couldn’t bombard worlds, besides bad writing.

          • ehlijen says:

            But that’s the codex again. The codex/what’s being said and shown conflict already began within ME1 itself.

            Reapers supposedly want to destroy civilisation. They do not even try to do so from orbit. The most logical explanation is that they can’t.

            • guy says:

              Palaven’s enormous magma seas would disagree with that assessment.

              Also, they want to capture organics alive.

              • Nathan says:

                Yeah that felt consistent to me since ME2 showed us that consuming the living is somehow neccesary to make new reapers.

              • ehlijen says:

                So they lava-quify entire cities in an attempt to capture prisoners? Not what I’d call consistency.

                And why only do it on Palaven, but not on Earth or Thessia?

                Walking around on the surface lasering individual targets helps neither goal (destruction or capture).

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Its pretty consistent with how stupid they are portrayed in the rest of the game.

                • guy says:

                  Because the Turians kick ass and the Reapers felt it necessary to bombard them to devastate their military forces despite the fact that it would cost them prisoners, and the Turians are so militarized there’s no real civilian population centers. There’s a reason the Marauders are the husks most like living soldiers.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The sound in this sequence is actually incredible. Real suggestion, play this sequence on the biggest, loudest TV setup you can possibly manage. Even though the setup is dumb, the intensity of the shrieking Reaper and massive explosions you trigger is quite impressive. I’d be in favor of ME Andromeda having less powerful villains to have more “big battle” sequences like this that don’t break the lore in 10 places.

  17. Dragmire says:

    Hey, what if that house fly was a hero, a bloody icon!?

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    So, you know how the shape, size and nature of the Reapers varies through the game with no rhyme or reason… Maybe this was a Reaper cat.

    Or, he was one very, very stupid Reaper the others stuck there in hopes of he dying.

    Reaper Charles: “OK, we need to leave one of us in Rannoch as a signal to the Geth. It’s a very vulnerable position.”
    Reaper George: “We have to put someone expendable. But we, as a superior race, have no expendable members.”
    Reaper Chad: “Hey, guys, look, I have three lottery tickets!”
    Reaper Charles and George: “Except Chad.”
    Reaper Charles: “No, we’re being unfair. Surely he has some use.”
    Reaper George: “Yeah, everyone, no matter how dumb he looks, must be of some value, right?”
    Reaper Chad: “Guys, guys… hold my beer and look at this…”
    Reaper Charles: “……………..”
    Reaper George: “Um… you know what? Hey, Chad! We’ve got the PERFECT job for you, pal.”

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      – Ok guy,these organics have given us a lot of trouble in the past,uh…does anybody need anything from these dumb robots or can we leave them to their creators?
      – Uhhh,I think reaploy needs something from those guys.
      – Oh,he needs that dyson sphere of theirs?Doesnt…isnt he a cleanser?
      – Yeah,but that will help him shoot better.I have more husks.
      – Leviathan christ.Ok,uhh well what well do,Ill fly in first,uh…smash up all the quarians.We can kinda just,ya know,blast them all down with aoe.Um,I will use indoctrination wave to kinda daze them,so we dont have to fight a whole bunch of them at once.Uhh…when my indoctrination is done,Ill need anreapfrony to come in and drop his indoctrination too,uh…so we can keep them dazed and not to fight too many.Um…when this is done,basreap of course will need to run in and do the same thing.Uh…were gonna need extended shields on our blasters,uhh so they can ae,uh so we can of course get them down fast,cause were bringing all these ships.I mean,well be in trouble if we dont take them down quick.Uhh,I think this is a pretty good plan,we should be able to pull it off this time.Uhh,what do you think Abreapduhl?
      – Uhh…yeah,gimme a sec….Im coming up with thirty two point three three uh,repeating of course,percentage of total conquest.
      – Uh…thats a lot better than we usually do.Uhh,alright,you think were ready guys?
      – Alright chums,Im back!Lets do this!REEAAPLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY JEEEEEENKIIIIIIIINS!!!!
      – ….Oh my leviathan god,he just ran in.
      – Save him!
      – Oh jeez,stick to the plan.
      – Oh jeez,lets go,lets go!
      – Stick to the plan chums!
      – Stick to the plan!
      – Oh jeez,oh fuck!
      – Gimme a husk invasion,hurry up!
      – Indoctrinating!
      – Its saying I cant cast!I cant move,am I laggig guys?
      – I cant fly!
      – What the – what the cyberhell?
      – I cant ae!
      – Oh my leviathan god…
      – The organics just keep breeding!More breeding!!!!
      – I dont think you can indoctrinate with that shit on!
      – Oh my leviathan god!
      – We got em,we got em!
      – I got it!I got it!
      – Take them off!Take them off!
      – Jareapmaals down.Jareapmaals down.
      – Oh my leviathan god….
      – Damit reaploy!
      – Leviathandamit….
      – Reaploy you moron!
      – Im on it.
      – Theyre on basreaper.
      – Listen this is ridiculous.
      – You douchebags!
      – Im down,forereapkin down. Leviathandamit!
      – Basreaper is down.
      – This is the third time weve died on this,leviathan god!
      – Spifreapy rez us!Spifreapy rez us!
      – Why do you do this shit reaploy?
      – Im trying!
      – Its not my fault!
      – Whos backed up?
      – We do have a back up,dont we?Think I need a backup?
      – Yeah but I dont thing we brought a server.
      – Oh leviathan god….
      – Oh for – Great job!
      – For leviathan christs sake!
      – Reaploy you are just stupid as cyberhell!
      – Nimrod!
      – Oh my leviathan…
      – … at least I have husken

  19. Dragmire says:

    I wouldn’t say all Quarians are displayed as aggressors, some just wanted their homeworld back and others were fine continuing living in space(helping retake the planet out of a sense of duty to their species).

    This section of the game is helped quite a bit from being devoid of Cerberus. I could just see them infiltrating the Geth Collective somehow to do something stupid. “Oh no, Cerberus is attacking the Geth Collective storage space ship with foot soldiers! Shepard, we need to infiltrate the ship and stop them before they blow it up!”

  20. Will says:

    Conveniently, Mass Effect 2 has an answer for how destructive ship cannons are!

    “This, recruits, is a 20-kilo ferrous slug. Feel the weight! Every five seconds, the main gun of an Everest-class Dreadnought accelerates one to 1.3 percent of light speed. It impacts with the force of a 38-kiloton bomb. That is three times the yield of the city buster dropped on Hiroshima back on Earth. That means: Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son-of-a-bitch in space! (…) I dare to assume you ignorant jackasses know that space is empty! Once you fire this hunk of metal, it keeps going ’till it hits something! That can be a ship, or the planet behind that ship. It might go off into deep space and hit somebody else in ten thousand years. If you pull the trigger on this, you are ruining someone’s day, somewhere and sometime!”
    — Drill Sergeant Nasty, Mass Effect 2

    This is way less destructive than Shamus calculated, mostly because the projectiles are going much, much slower than 10% of c. (The difference is bigger than it seems, too, since kinetic energy doesn’t scale linearly with velocity thanks to relativity.) Obviously, that’s the main gun of the largest ship in the human fleet. The little deck guns (hull guns?) strapped to the Quarian ships will be much less effective. If we assume projectile energy is approximately proportional to barrel length and ass-pull eight meters for the length of the barrel, we’ll get the equivalent of 380 tons of TNT, which is on the order of what you could expect out of a modern high-explosive shell. (I imagine it’s on the high end; shells are much lighter than that, obviously, but modern high explosives do deliver more energy than TNT.) I certainly wouldn’t want to stand near the impact site, but it’s nowhere near as instantly fatal as a nuke barrage.

    Of course, at this speed, precise targeting is a waste of time. It will take nearly twelve seconds for the projectiles to make it to the surface from orbit. Maybe they trade off mass for velocity, but the faster the projectile goes, the more energy it expends blowing apart air and the less gets delivered to the target on the surface.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Of course, at this speed, precise targeting is a waste of time. It will take nearly twelve seconds for the projectiles to make it to the surface from orbit.

      And thats the key part.The thing we see is definitely not like anything that was ever described previously.Probably because the people who cared and did the actual calculations,like the ones that wrote that piece of dialogue,were not the ones who did the reaper fight.

  21. Zeitgeist says:

    Since we’ll be coming up on Horizon soon, I figured I’d ask. What are your thoughts on how they handled Miranda in this game, especially compared to ME2? (Since the player has most likely encountered/spoken with her on the Citadel by this point.)

    (Plus, I figured that if I brought this up in an earlier post, it might be addressed by the time we do get to Horizon or something.)

  22. Slothfulcobra says:

    Why be disappointed that you didn’t see a Quarian city? You’ve already seen one, back on Haestrom. If you’ve got Kasumi with you, she’ll even comment on how much people would pay for some of that Quarian architecture. ME3 decided that showing you some scenic Rannoch might make the planet feel more enticing than another bombed-out ruin like Tuchanka.

    Of course, thinking about how the Quarians had successful colonies once, you get to wondering why they never tried to make another colony in the 300 years that they’ve been bumming around the galaxy for. It’s not like that would totally Rob them of their motivation to take back Rannoch, they still have that ancestor worship going on, and their home planet is the place where all their ancestors came from. There’s also their weird, almost post-singularity VI archives that they’d want to recover.

    • ehlijen says:

      There was no reason a city on Rannoch would need to be a bombed out ruin. It’s inhabited by a tireless race of hiveminded robots trying to build a dyson sphere.
      There should be no such thing as rubble left to lie around; 300 years is a long time to clean up in.
      An intact city, a Geth city now, maybe with some elements of the Geth space station from ME2 thrown in would have been very interesting.

  23. Dev Null says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s only possible if you imported a Mass Effect 2 with the right decisions. The default Mass Effect 3 state can’t ever attain it.

    Of all the horrific (but entertaining) things you’ve said about this game, that one right there is the one that will probably stop me from ever playing it. Seriously? In order to make the choices I want, I have to either:

    1) Find a six-year-old savegame.
    2) Find a nine-year-old savegame.
    3) Play through two other games again first.

    Yeah… no.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      or 4) If you’re playing on PC, just use one of the many available save game editors.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      So?Its a good thing to reward those that invested maximum effort into the series.

    • Decus says:

      Hey, it could be worse. It could require an internet connection and servers you have no control over still being up and working like their DA:I setup! With all of the save editors for ME2 (which let you do the ME1 decisions too) at least being able to get save transfer working for ME3 is a sure thing, even if one that requires a bit more effort.

  24. Incunabulum says:

    “. . . a lot of the planet is kind of “Mojave Desert”-ish[1] and not worth inhabiting.”

    Well obviously – its why nobody lives in the Mojave desert IRL!

  25. BitFever says:

    The science behind the orbital bombardment may not check out, and it being a dumb game boss fight was less than ideal however I actually like fighting the reaper here.
    One of the core themes of this series is the idea of teamwork and coming together to fight something you’d never be able to tackle on your own. The way that a reaper (an unstoppable god machine) can be brought down if enough people work together, even if it takes a whole fleet of millions of people working together to bring down one of these monsters fits that theme I think.

  26. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    While some of the steps to get there were ill advised or wrong for the lore, making a choice on one side or another creates a crackerjack scene either way.

    If you choose the Quarians, Legion won’t stop until you kill him. The sudden physical threat he presents in that scene goes a long way towards informing players why many organics would NEVER trust the Geth. Remember, this guy is a sniper/infiltrator Geth, he’s not even built for toughness! Despite that, he’s got Mr. Bloody Icon by the throat and would kill him if not for Tali subclassing into Rogue for Backstab damage. Then his heartbroken argument as he shuts down that basically his kind never deserved this and were fighting to live is pretty hard to take stone faced.

    Meanwhile if you choose the Geth, Tali takes a swan dive off the nearest convenient cliff in the agony of hearing all her friends and family die and not being able to stop it. So that’s… horrible. Anyone who romanced her and went this way (wtf dude, total boyfriend foul) would be impacted twice as hard. Especially with the troll Paragon interrupt that does nothing.

    With these two scenes, the possible Mordin assassination, and the Wrex suicide by Shepard/cops, certain choices REALLY smack you in the feels this time.

    • Kestrellius says:

      I replayed ME3 a few times a while back, just for the gameplay, and I wasn’t using a savegame. I ended up betraying Mordin one time, and it struck me how much more emotionally effective the “bad” choices are in this game. I think someday I’d like to do a let’s play of the trilogy where I start out as Paragon, and then just slowly slip into Renegade, getting everyone killed in the worst manner possible, culminating in the Refusal ending. (I also found that that ending was rather more compelling than the others.)

      • Poncho says:

        I think it’s more compelling because it’s the only ending that seems plausible. Everything else is invented in the final hour and culminates in a confusing mess. I think it’s the least satisfying ending but it’s the only one that seems to make any sort of sense.

        • Nathan says:

          I agree that it works better than the other endings. I got the impression from the first game and from the star child that this was really the first cycle where things really changed. I really liked the idea that the actions of Shepherd help set the conditions for a future victory in another cycle, even if it remains ambiguous as to exactly how. It’s much more satisfying than the stupid dues ex machina catalyst BS.

          I had always kind of hoped that the destruction of Sovereign and the delay of the invasion would allow the galaxy to really prepare for the war. I assumed this was the first cycle where the invasion was postponed via sabotage of the citadel, and where the galaxy had the remains of an actual reaper to analyze and backwards engineer. The introduction of the Thanex cannons in ME2 signaled to me that we were heading in that direction. Oh well.

  27. xbolt says:

    As someone who lives in the middle of the desert, I really liked Rannoch. It reminds me of home. :)

  28. Kestrellius says:

    You know, I ended up rewatching the Battle of the Citadel sequence sometime last week (it was something to do with the previous installment of the Retrospective; I don’t remember the precise occasion), and something struck me — that sequence was awesome. The timing, the cinematography, the knowledge of what’s at stake. The Mako barreling into the Presidium. The geth fleet jumping in…and then Sovereign coming in behind them, clearly displaying the scale. Even just the effect when Shepard shoots out that elevator window, with the glass floating in the vacuuum…

    And even before that, the game had some really cool setpiece moments. That geth dropship silently plummeting into the cloud layer of Feros is the one that comes to mind.

    The point is, all these moments were absolutely brilliant action pieces, for a ton of reasons. Buildup, uniqueness, camera work, attention to detail…

    And ME2, presumably in the service of action setpieces like these, sidelined its worldbuilding, and yet the only big scripted action bit that I can even remember all that specifically from 2 and 3 is all this crap on Rannoch, which sucked.

    The point of the later two games was supposed to be the action and excitement and “fuck yeah” moments. And even there, ME1 effortlessly outpaces them.

    How sad.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      The knowledge of what’s at stake really is key, I think. Even before you get to the standard, ‘mow down the mooks before getting to the final boss sequence’ that every Bioware game sports, you know exactly what’s happening, and what needs to be done to prevent it all.

      Compare this to the climaxes of the other two games, where everything hinges on sudden choices on the heels of sudden revelations interspersed between long drawn out action sequences.

  29. Jabrwock says:

    Not sure if anyone else brought this up, but I wonder about the end of the Quarian/Geth War. What if a large group fled, and after that the Quarian military fired a ‘scorch the skies’ type weapon (ala Matrix), only it backfired and actually set fire to the atmosphere, killing the majority of the organics who were left behind, and all that was left was the homicidal generals in their bunker?

    Although you’d think the Geth would mention that… “a bunch fled, and then world exploded in fire. afterwards we rose from the ashes”

  30. Caryl says:

    It’s like bringing your alien friend to see Earth, except you only show him some featureless scrublands, or a random spot in the middle of the Atlantic.

    I love this because Citadel DLC reveals Thane took his son to New Mexico and they watched the sunset and saw a scorpion eating a cricket.

    I suspected the Rannoch Reaper focused on Shepard because of the Reapers’ belief in Shepard as Such a Huge Threat (sending the Collectors to kill Shepard and get their body, Harbinger calling them “an annoyance” in Arrival), which, with a fleet attacking it, says they believe this to the point of stupidity :D That said, I enjoyed the science in this entry.

  31. Nathan says:

    I imported my saves, so I always chose to broker the peace. I really love the conclusion of that arc, and the way that the Geth integrate their technology/software with the Quarians to help them adapt to Ranoch’s atmosphere. It’s a gracious act, and really drives home the narrative that the Quarians were the aggressors. But this particular arc really made what what could have been a week game ending into a horrible ending. The reaper’s whole plan and philosophy is completely invalidated by the unification of the Quarian and Geth. To have the star child spout his nonsense, and to not even be given an opportunity for Shep to say, “Dude. I literally just solved that problem last week”, is just lazy. Maybe the peace won’t last, maybe it will, but at least acknowledge it!

  32. natureguy85 says:

    Don’t forget the great conversation in Mass Effect 2 where they talk about the power of ship guns. Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space!

    I thought they went way too far in the “Geth are innocent/ Quarians are assholes” direction with this. Although I think you can actually challenge Legion in ME2 or ME3 about all those Quarian deaths. The “Tron” section shows that the Quarians killed their own people who were sympathetic to the Geth.

    Still, I lean towards the Quarians actually. I know the game is trying to tell me Synthetics are people too, but I have a hard time buying into it generally but instead see EDI, and particularly Legion, as important exceptions. I thought about it recently and the problem may be that we never saw the “true Geth” that want dislike the Reapers in action. We only got Legion and he told us about it. Other than Legion, we see the Geth join with the Reapers in all three games.

    The other reason is that I never liked the “entire species as one” thing this series has. When the people on Omega keep saying that humans made the plague, Shepard, and obviously the Cerberus lackeys, keep arguing that humans didn’t make it, as if a Cerberus like group making a plague should reflect poorly on humans generally and Shepard somehow. I wanted Shepard to be able to reject responsibility and blame for what some other humans did.

    Likewise, I don’t hold the current Quarians responsible for the mistakes of their long dead ancestors. While I dislike how “pro Geth” the truth was, I did like that it wasn’t as Tali first told it, as though her telling was the oral tradition passed down through the generations and had, via selective memory and the “telephone game,” changed from the truth. So I am not going to condemn the entire Quarian people because Han Garrell is an asshole, especially not to save machines that keep joining the enemy. The game also needed to do more with Legion lying to Shepard. It was a cool thing that made him seem “not so different.”

    • Falcon02 says:

      Along the lines of “Geth are people too”… I think another failing in “humanizing” the Geth as a whole is that we never see any true representation of Geth society/culture.

      It’s along the same lines as Shamus brought up in ME1/ME2 about the colonists. In ME1 the player’s interactions with the Geth is largely as “mindless” mooks to fight. In ME2 and ME3, with the exception of Legion, it’s the same. The closest thing we get to seeing Geth “society” in ME2 is the Heretic space station, which might as well just be a bunch of server rooms, and this “Tron” playback.

      The player never experiences the Geth as a coherent, peaceful society as a whole. There is no Geth planet you get to visit, no Geth construction worker/farmer?/normal folk/etc that you get to interact with and understand their concerns and hopes.

      Even with Legion, I don’t recall much discussion in even the Quarian/Geth opinions (though perhaps I just don’t remember, it’s been a while). I figure the Geth must have some opinion of their former creators. Do they sorry for their Quarian creators and their current situation, but know as their “sworn enemy” they are powerless to help? Do they have any bitterness or resentment for how they are mistreated? Aside from their drive for self preservation what are their overall hopes and desire for the future?

      Some of this could theoretically be ignored/explained away as it would be “impossible” to do because of how different Geth culture is. How do you get the player involved in a culture that exists in it’s purest form as bits on a server farm? The “Tron” sequence kinda attempts this, but it’s not Geth Culture or society you’re plugging into, it’s a separate computer system/archive without any life beyond the historic playbacks you see.

      I liked the Geth, I liked the Quarian/Geth arch, and I didn’t want to see either die. But, in light of what you said, I do think they could have done more to “humanize” the Geth beyond the “individual” Legion.

      • natureguy85 says:

        This is a great point. I recently realized when talking to someone that Legion is the only example we get of Geth who are not aligned with the Reapers, or at least hostile. At the end of the Consensus mission we see some Primes he says want to help, but that’s it. Every other time we see Geth in all 3 games, they are aligned with the Reapers.

        I guess we don’t know for sure about the ones on Tali’s missions. I assume the ones on Haestrom were, as they attacked Tali’s team. As for the Alarei, they might not have been, since they were captives.

  33. LCF says:

    “As silly as this is, I’d gladly put up with it if it meant we could get more AAA sci-fi in our gaming diet. At least we’re not fighting Cerberus.”
    They fooled you! That was the plan all along! Idiot Cerberus takes the blame, players are then relieved to experience merely bland stock-action shooter. Cerberus is a Patsy! One point three c cannot melt steel reapers!

  34. Zaxares says:

    I’m not sure if the Quarian fleet would have been using their main guns for the Reaper though. The cutscene even shows us that the ships are using their secondary guns, which probably lack the same kind of sheer destructive power that you’re thinking of. Still, you’re right about one thing. Anything powerful enough to punch through a Reaper’s mass effect fields has to be something powerful enough to vaporize any poor infantry that happens to be close by, including Shepard.

  35. Jingleman says:

    I don’t think that the only reason to side with the quarians is because you really like Tali.

    I think that an overarching theme in the ME is the question of synthetic “life.” It’s a philosophical question of personhood. That is, if you create a computer with advanced enough AI (or whatever high-tech rubric you want to use), then does it become “alive?” More precisely, to what degree, if any, does it attain some measure of the inherent value we ascribe to human persons?

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to look at synthetics and decide that — self-aware or not — machines are fundamentally less valuable than biological species. My Shepard would find the notion laughable that it’s even possible be an “aggressor” against machines (especially your own machines). Even if they have developed some kind of simulated capacity for feelings or self-awareness, if they no longer serve their creators, then isn’t it reasonable to view them as malfunctioning equipment, by definition? There’s no moral implication to destroying malfunctioning equipment. Heck, from this point of view, if you don’t get hung up on the wastefulness of it, there’s not even anything immoral about throwing out perfectly good machines. It’s not even a moral gray area.

    The point is, the question of synthetic personhood is a fundamental question — not just for Mass Effect, but for a lot of sci-fi. The thing that makes it an interesting question is that it’s possible to take either side. I think that suggesting that there’s only one obvious answer (and that the geth/quarian conflict comes down to that obvious answer vs. personal feelings about a particular character) creates a bit of a false dichotomy and misses a more interesting philosophical issue.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      You make a valid point, but I don’t think that’s a thematic part of ME. Unlike say, SOMA, I can’t ever remember ME going into the question of “Are the Geth really people?” Heck, in ME1, the dialog wheel railroads Shep into taking the Geth’s side on the “Quarrians tried to shut down the Geth” issue.

      Mass Effect presents the Geth and EDI as sapient, and doesn’t give the player any opportunity to question that premise, which I take as the writer saying “They’re sapient alright, accept it.”

      • Jingleman says:

        It is true that there is a lot of railroading going on regarding opportunities for Shepard to take a position opposing synthetic personhood. However, I still think it’s thematically relevant in the VI vs. AI, geth vs. quarians, and reapers vs. everyone concepts. While the dialogue writer rarely if ever addressed it explicitly, the concept of what constitutes sapient-level intelligence in a machine, and whether sapience is enough to raise it to person-level value (or to make it more valuable, such that the persons of the galaxy might serve it) still seem fundamental to Mass Effect. The final choice of ME3 even comes down to the synthetic/biological dichotomy.

        Certainly SOMA raises the question on a more personal level, but I still think it’s reasonable for Shepard to take the question into account, even if the writer (like so many in sci-fi) is enamored with anthropomorphizing robots.

        • Caryl says:

          It’s interesting how the subsequent games poke at Shepard’s “You’re not even alive! Not really. You’re just a machine, and machines can be broken!” to Sovereign on Virmire in the first game.

    • SPCTRE says:

      This discussion makes me want to re-watch “The Measure of a Man”.

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