Mass Effect Retrospective 48: What Dreams May Dumb

By Shamus
on May 19, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

If there’s anything that drives home how Mass Effect 3 is playing flagrant bullshit for profundity, it would have to be…

Dream Sequences

Hang on, when have I even been in a forest?

Hang on, when have I even been in a forest?

At the end of each of the major chapters in the game there’s a long dream sequence. Shepard chases Some Kid That Died – a nameless character we have no connection to – through a forest that has no context or meaning except to be “spooky” in the most generic way possible. There’s no gameplay, no dialog, the plot doesn’t move forward, nothing is foreshadowed, and no information is conveyed.

While I think “playable dream sequence” is a terrible idea in the context of Mass Effect, this could have been greatly improved with some basic changes:

  1. Put the dream on the Normandy. (Or the Citadel, or some other familiar location.) It might actually be slightly unnerving to see the Normandy slightly off, the layout re-arranged, and totally devoid of people. The forest is silly and boring. We’ve never seen a forest in the game. It has no meaning or depth for Shepard, who either grew up in space or a big city.
  2. Each dream should reveal something new. The dreams are all basically identical. Shepard chases the little kid around, and at the end the kid stands there motionless while he’s consumed by fireOkay, the third time the dream shows Shepard AND the kid consumed by fire. That’s not really a “payoff”.. If nothing else, the dreams should tell some kind of one-minute story. The first time, the story gets cut off just as it gets going. The second time, it gets cut off just before the audience sees some big reveal at the end. The third would be the full dream, which would complete some thematic idea or give Shepard something to think about when he wakes upSomething more profound than “it really sucked when that kid died”..
  3. Put characters in the dream. The writer is trying to build up the Star Child. It might help if Shepard’s lost friends showed up in these dreams. Perhaps they could die trying to save the kid? Sure, that’s sophomoric, but at least it’s something. These sequences have the opposite of the intended effect. The kid shows up and interrupts your game. You then have to chase the kid around while moving at agonizingly slow speeds. There is no gameplay, no decisions to be made, no dialog, no story progression, no characterization, and no greater meaning. By the end you’re not feeling angst about the loss of this one child, you’re pissed off the little shit keeps showing up and wasting your time.

Once again, the writer is clumsily grasping at old tropes without understanding what those tropes are for and how they’re used. A dream is supposed to be where the writer turns the protagonist inside-out and we get to see into their heart and mind. It could also be a chance to do a little character-building by letting us see into their past. But this isn’t a nightmare for Commander Shepard. This is a nightmare for Bella Swan.

Earth

OF COURSE! The Citadel is moved to Earth! It`s so obvious! All the pieces fall perfectly into place!

OF COURSE! The Citadel is moved to Earth! It`s so obvious! All the pieces fall perfectly into place!

The Citadel has been moved to Earth. The story never hinted that it could do that, and in fact it makes no damn sense. What did it look like with something that massive taking a ride on the relay? Did it? Why would the Reapers move it?

The Prothean VI claimed it was moved to Earth so that it would be in “Reaper controlled space”, which kind of overlooks the fact that anywhere the Reapers show up automatically becomes Reaper controlled space, and they have every reason in the galaxy to want to capture the Citadel first.

According to the first game, capturing the Citadel allows them to shut down the mass relay network, which would basically halt all fleet movements and communication. Which would have foiled Shepard’s plan before he ever left Earth. Again, these are ideas that are part of the struggle against the Reapers. Retconning stuff isn’t ideal, but sometimes you need to. But retconning things that are central to the story and doing so without comment is incredibly destructive to our connection to the world. It makes it feel like anything can happen at any time without reason.

The writer thinks “unexpected” means “plot twist”. But plot twists are interesting if you foreshadow them so they can be understood in retrospect. Or if you spend some time exploring their ramifications. Or if they resolve a longstanding mystery. This is just the writer nakedly contorting the universe to suit their purposes.

In any case, Shepard summons the fleet to Earth for…

The Final Battle

Guys? Space is really... spacious. No need to bunch up like this. You`re not going to run out of room.

Guys? Space is really... spacious. No need to bunch up like this. You`re not going to run out of room.

We need to dock the Crucible with the Citadel, but the arms of the station are closed. Last time someone needed to access the arms of the station, they used the Conduit. In fact, that was the turning point of the plot of the first game, and was the answer to the long-standing mystery of “what is the conduit?” that had been established in the first act.

I’m not saying it’s a plot hole that we can’t use the Conduit againThe fact that the Citadel has moved provides a pretty good reason why the conduit wouldn’t help this time., I’m saying that the writer could have offered some sort of acknowledgement of this in dialog. It was a solution to this problem before, so it ought to come up in conversation now, if only to explain why it won’t work this time. Show us that Shepard is proactive and looking for alternatives.

So how can we board the Citadel? Well, maybe we could use the magic door that let a Cerberus army into the station, or the other magic door that let Kai Leng escape? I kid. That was hours ago. Who could remember back that far?

The Citadel is over LondonAt least it’s not New York or LA. and the Reapers are gathering up bodies and throwing them into this beam of pure energy that leads up to the Citadel. The story seems to suggest this is how they’re going to harvest humans. It’s a dumb idea and it’s pointless to take it apart, so I’m going to let this point go without making a fuss or nitpRENEGADE INTERRUPT!!

BioWare, I know you love your color filter, but I feel very strongly that Reapers and their machinery should really stand out from human things. You can have your color filter. Just.. you know... USE IT to communicate with us.

BioWare, I know you love your color filter, but I feel very strongly that Reapers and their machinery should really stand out from human things. You can have your color filter. Just.. you know... USE IT to communicate with us.

This is how the Reapers plan to harvest humanity? Even if people VOLUNTARILY marched to the beam en masse, it would take bloody ages like this. Most of the city would die of hunger or thirst while standing in line for the beam. Not to mention that nothing is capable of processing such volume on the other side.

Let’s imagine humanity decided they wanted to be harvested by the Reapers. So everyone converges on the beam. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, people jog into the beam at the rate of 2 a second. It would take 81 days just to shove the measly 14 million people of the London metropolitan area though this single chokepoint.

And all of this ignores the fact that there’s nothing on the other end of the beam that indicates the Reapers could possibly process people this fast. In Mass Effect 1 Vigil said that harvesting took centuries, but I sort of assumed that was because the galaxy was huge, not because the Reapers just had really shitty tools. These machine gods harvest civilizations, and yet when its time for the reaping they’re like a guy who shows up to cut the grass at St. Andrews with an eyebrow trimmer.

No, this isn’t a plot hole. It’s just yet another example of how random ideas are being thoughtlessly thrown together. There’s lots of room to make excuses to explain this. The point is that nobody cares. This scenario is just here for shock value, and not a reveal of the nature and purpose of the Reapers. Why do they harvest? How do they choose who gets harvested? Why this beam? Are they making another baby Reaper somewhere? Who cares? Shoot the bad guys!

I like how the dark blues accent the darker blues against the background of pale dark blue. The whole scene just POPS!

I like how the dark blues accent the darker blues against the background of pale dark blue. The whole scene just POPS!

At any rate, at this point in the story nobody has any way of knowing what the beam does. Maybe it liquefies you? Maybe it drops you into a machine that liquefies you? Maybe it drops you into a prison cell for later liquefaction? Maybe it instantly husk-ifies you? Or maybe it will drop you off in one of the wards and you’ll have to wander around the “Manhattan size x 5” station on foot, looking for a control panel that you don’t even know exists yet.

But Admiral Hackett apparently got a copy of the script, so he knows that if we can reach the beam on foot, then we’ll be transported up to the Citadel and appear right beside the controls that can open the arms of the station. Nobody asks what would happen if you flew a shuttle into the beam. Or perhaps just flew a ship through the beam way up in space, far from the battle. Everyone seems so intent on doing things the hard way.

But whatever. If the rest of this stuff worked, little details like this would be filed under the category of “Why don’t the Eagles take Frodo to Mt. Doom?” level nitpicks. It’s generally harmless and the only reason I notice is because the rest of the setup is such an illogical disaster. I’m overthinking it because the game is making me think too hard about it. This is the point in the story where all of the pieces should suddenly snap together, and instead it’s a big shapeless pile of tropes and half-baked ideas that don’t have anything new to say.

Whenever we talk about the ending, people are always so quick to point out how good it was to get one last goodbye with all of our friends. And yes, that bit is nice. But I don’t think this is actually a point in favor of the ending. It’s not like these little character moments are a byproduct of the ending. It’s not like all these gaps in continuity and breaks in immersion were done in service of making these character moments possible. We could have put these conversations into literally any sort of ending scenario and they would have worked equally well.

The ending isn’t good because of these goodbyes, the goodbyes are good in spite of the ending.

Extended Cut

IF YOU`RE GOING TO MINDLESSLY DO BLUE AND ORANGE THEN FOR THE LOVE OF MORDIN`S FANCY SHOWTUNES DON`T FORGET THE ORANGE.

IF YOU`RE GOING TO MINDLESSLY DO BLUE AND ORANGE THEN FOR THE LOVE OF MORDIN`S FANCY SHOWTUNES DON`T FORGET THE ORANGE.

It’s been a long journey. 48 entries and about 115,000 words, but here we are. The messy, controversial, confusing ending to the Mass Effect trilogy.

Shepard leads his team towards the beam and gets blasted by a Reaper eye-laser. He stands up again, barely alive. His armor is melted. He’s wounded, he can’t use his powers, and all he has is a pistol with infinite bullets. The gameplay is essentially over at this point. The rest of the game is all about walking forward and watching as predetermined events play out. You don’t get to make any meaningful decisions for the next twenty minutes or soNo, choosing ineffectual responses in the upcoming argument with TIM does not count as a meaningful choice..

After the initial controversy, BioWare released the Extended Cut ending. Some people were mollified, others were ambivalent, others were even more outraged because the supposed fix didn’t fix any of their problems, and some people didn’t care because the original ending had severed their connection to the franchise and they didn’t care to return.

I think the Extended Cut was a massive improvement. It’s still hopelessly broken in half a dozen ways, but at least we can all agree on what the writer was trying to say. We no longer have huge codex-fueled arguments regarding basic questions like, “What happened to the Normandy?” and “Did Shepard blow up the galaxy?” We can at least agree on what we’re being shown, even if we don’t like it.

For the record, this write-up is going to focus on the Extended Cut. This series is negative enough without delving into the original ending.

TIM Possible

Really Reapers? THIS is how you`re gonna process all of humanity? Shit guys, you should see what WE can do with COWS. And don`t you need us alive? Why is this just a big pile of dead meat? You guys are TERRIBLE at this.

Really Reapers? THIS is how you`re gonna process all of humanity? Shit guys, you should see what WE can do with COWS. And don`t you need us alive? Why is this just a big pile of dead meat? You guys are TERRIBLE at this.

Shepard steps into the beam and is transported to a blood-soaked hallway of the Citadel. Bodies are everywhere. Anderson is up here, too. Somehow. Shepard talks to him on the radio that somehow still works except in a few minutes when it doesn’tThe radio goes quiet when TIM is talking, because the writer hates being interrupted..

Shepard goes down a linear corridor to meet Anderson, who had no way of reaching this space without meeting Shepard. While you’re still pondering that little continuity puzzle, The Illusive Man walks in behind Shepard, even though there was no way he could do that unless you’d passed him in the corridor, which you didn’t. The writer has been gradually losing their grip on continuity and causality as we approach the endgame, and now the whole thing is coming apart.

And so now it’s time for one last conversational merry-go-round with TIM. He’s here to convince you that he’s going to control the Reapers. I don’t know why he’s bothering. I mean, if he’s got a plan then why doesn’t he just go and Do It Already and stop wasting his time arguing with Shepard? He doesn’t ask you to do anything. Like, try to imagine how the conversation would go if he somehow persuaded Shepard:

Shepard would say, “Okay, you win. Let’s control the Reapers. What should I do first?”

TIM is smug like he warned you not to interfere, but his plan literally requires yours to succeed first. Fine, he`s crazy or whatever. Why can`t I point this out to him?

TIM is smug like he warned you not to interfere, but his plan literally requires yours to succeed first. Fine, he`s crazy or whatever. Why can`t I point this out to him?

And then what would TIM say? He doesn’t actually have a goal here. If he wanted access to the control panel, then that would be something for the two of you to fight over, just like Shepard and Saren raced each other to the Conduit and then fought over the control panel to open the station. TIM doesn’t know about the Star Child. He doesn’t know about the ending-o-tron. Does he know – or think that he knows – what the Crucible will do? How is he planning on achieving his goal of controlling the Reapers?

The writer noticed that confrontations in this series involve red and blue color-coded dialogs, so they put that in. But the renegade and paragon dialogs are supposed to be how we resolve things between people with different or opposing goals. But TIM doesn’t have a discernible goal except to oppose Shepard.

He keeps saying stuff like, “Think of the possibilities, Shepard!” But he never actually articulates what any of those possibilities are.

I dunno, Timmy. Do any of the possibilities include a world where you’re not turning colonists into husks? What are you after? Power? Technology? Long life? Human Supremacy? What’s your vision? If you’re going to chew up five entire minutes of screen time could you at least spend one of those minutes saying something you haven’t said in our last three conversations?

The conversation is meaningless because TIM doesn’t actually have a point of view. We can’t argue about anything because he’s just a generic crazyperson who wants to kill everything. Nothing TIM did ever made any sense. He killed all those people to “study indoctrination”, but he didn’t need any of that knowledge here. He told the Reapers about the Crucible, even though that increased the odds that the Crucible would be destroyed and he needs it for his plan to work. And you can’t point this out to him. He’s nuts. Or indoctrinated. Or some other excuse that relieves the writer from the burdensome job of characterization and motivation.

You technically win this argument, but it has nothing to do with your choices or ideas. After forcing you to argue ineffectually in previous arguments, the writer will now force TIM to have a crisis of faith in himself. Again, it`s nothing really to do with Shepard. Anyone could have stood here and told TIM he`s being a butthead.

You technically win this argument, but it has nothing to do with your choices or ideas. After forcing you to argue ineffectually in previous arguments, the writer will now force TIM to have a crisis of faith in himself. Again, it`s nothing really to do with Shepard. Anyone could have stood here and told TIM he`s being a butthead.

Which… fine. The writer wanted their bad guy to play with. That’s selfish and obnoxious, but it’s not the worst thing about TIM. It’s these long, meandering conversations that really make the character a chore. The writer traps you in these long dialogs with him where he makes the same points again and again, and Shepard can either be a growling idiot or a sanctimonious idiot.

When you try to argue with TIM, Shepard always does so by talking about how “evil” Reaper Tech™ is. A much better line of debate would be to confront him specifically about his horrific deeds and their poor or negligible return on investment.

In TIM’s defense, he does seem to have mastered some kind of indoctrination. It doesn’t work anything like indoctrination as portrayed in the earlier games and it isn’t at all clear how it could possibly help him control the Reapers. But he does mind-control Shepard into shooting Anderson. So I guess he did get something. Sort of.

Shepard fights back, and through dialog or renegade interrupts, TIM dies. Shepard opens the arms of the Citadel and has a last moment with Anderson which, I grudgingly admit, is pretty nice.

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Footnotes:

[1] Okay, the third time the dream shows Shepard AND the kid consumed by fire. That’s not really a “payoff”.

[2] Something more profound than “it really sucked when that kid died”.

[3] The fact that the Citadel has moved provides a pretty good reason why the conduit wouldn’t help this time.

[4] At least it’s not New York or LA.

[5] No, choosing ineffectual responses in the upcoming argument with TIM does not count as a meaningful choice.

[6] The radio goes quiet when TIM is talking, because the writer hates being interrupted.



A Hundred!A Hundred!2019239 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. Arstan says:

    I remember playing me3 for the first time, and being very disappointed that there was no “suicide mission” me2 stlye role giving to my comrades. And the ending… actually, for me the extended cut made it worse, since in original you could just hypothesize “indoctrination theory” or some other thing, but extended cut made it clear that endind is a big pile of stupid.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      The same. It was such a good idea, it should have come back at the end.

      And the extended cut hasn’t aged well for me. Yes, it provides “context.” It also takes a lot longer and the context isn’t that great.

      As far as I’m concerned, the story ends in a white out after the line “you did good, kid.”

      Anything that makes it take longer to get there, or prevents me from skipping quickly to the credits is a step backwards.

  2. Arstan says:

    Also, Shamus, you glossed over the horrendous battle with reapers, while protecting the missile launchers. That was hard, boring and made me wonder, why chase shepard when they could crash those launchers all over.

    And that moment when you destroy a reaper using a hand-held launcher? That was also very stupid.

    And the last time we see Harbinger? That was also stupid. Especially when Extended cut made it so that Harbinger just sits and patiently waits for Normandy to evacuate your squadmate. Reminded me that DM of the rings panel, when GM discovered he didn’t give the sword to Aragorn )))

    • Flip says:

      Let`s not forget one-shotting a Reaper with a Cain. And this stupid “storm the Conduit” plan. And standing in the open while the Normandy teleports from spacebattle to Earth in five seconds and then hovers in Harbinger`s field of view. And the repetitive combat.

      • Bas L. says:

        And the completely random, thrown-in turret section between the goodbyes.

        • Profugo Barbatus says:

          You can’t have too many minutes of talky bits without blowing something up it seems. Shame, they could have put up a really eerie atmosphere.

          Just imagine, they established that Anderson and the surviving alliance members on earth were attempting to evade and fight the reapers. Rather than land directly into a continuing ground battle which is clearly desperate and ineffective, imagine instead slipping through the ruins in a more quiet, exposition driven run, moving through hidden survivor cells, and having your final goodbyes with the crew and other cast members also be a sort of “call to humanity” to convince the hidden cells to strike out in an effort to give Shepard a chance at doing whatever dumb thing the writer wanted him to do.

          It’d still be full of holes about the citadel and all that, but it’d make the reaper invasion just a bit scarier again, and it’d reference back to Shepard’s original role as a bloody hero of humanity.

        • Trix2000 says:

          To be fair to the developers, while that bit was kind-of out of place I don’t think it had much of a negative impact on the whole. It was probably not at all necessary, but I think it could be forgiven/ignored. At the very least, to me it didn’t feel like an interruption so much as a pause or break.

          But then my experience may vary from others’ (I really liked the turrets in that game for some reason), and either way it’s hard to say having the turret there was all that helpful – leaving it out would probably have been a good idea.

      • Anonymous says:

        You’re not killing a Reaper with Cain, you’re killing an AA cannon mounted on Reaper-like platform. There’s no indication that these things were sentient (if they were, why not defend themselves?) or had the same defences as actual Reaper destroyers.

        The rest is spot on.

    • Phill says:

      Reminded me that DM of the rings panel, when GM discovered he didn’t give the sword to Aragorn

      Quite possibly my favourite moment in DMotR.

      “Also, stay away from my daughter…”

  3. Mokap says:

    Just going to say, those ships aren’t the Destiny Ascension – they’re just Asari ships. The Destiny Ascension is just a huge Asari ship with a shitload of guns. I might be wrong though, but I’m pretty sure I saw them in the end of ME1, alongside the Ascension.

    EDIT: It wasn’t the ME1 ending, it was the Asari war assets from ME3. It shows the cruisers as the same as the destiny ascension, but with less spiky and dangly bits.

    • Corpital says:

      Speaking of these Asari ships, isn’t the destructive capability of the mass effect cannons purely dependant on their length?

      It seems like wasted potential. Hm. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the whole enlightened Asari race supplying every stripper in the known universe. Or for the game’s story.

      • guy says:

        It’s a metaphor for how other ship designs can be phallic metaphors and Asari do not have a particular need for any of those.

        In terms of actual practical justifications, the central hole is the mass accelerator and presumably they’ve got their power generation systems and shielding equipment and lasers and what-have-you in the spiky bits. The cannons seem to be roughly the same length as comparable ship classes for the others.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          This has always bugged me. Why is the bore on those mass drivers so huge? Why is it oblong? Do either of those things make it better? They’re launching irregular shaped slugs the size of cruisers. If they could hit the broad side of a barn, it would be more accurate to say that the barn is hitting the broad side of their shells.

          • guy says:

            I don’t think the shape helps. Having a larger bore, and thus larger accelerator array (and possibly larger shell but that isn’t the key point) is actually such an overwhelming advantage there is no coherent reason anyone would avoid doing it if they had the technical and logistical capacity to do so.

    • Cobrastyle says:

      Asari dreadnoughts, I’d presume. Their cruisers have a similar design in the War Assets page (sadly it doesn’t seem to vary much from the dreadnought). Standard asari design, I suppose!

      As per the Treaty of Farixen, the asari are allowed three dreadnoughts per every five the turians build (and the turians have about 39 as of ’86, sans the ones destroyed by Reapers).

    • Alex says:

      Yeah, the first game (the good one) established that the Asari had 21 ships in the Destiny Ascension’s weight class.

  4. Phill says:

    big shapeless pile of topes and half-baked ideas

    should be ‘tropes’ I assume

  5. gresman says:

    Just the obligatory “Shamus, you forgot the more tag” comment.

    For some weird reason these posts make me smile.
    Something a bit different:
    You asked a while back who would read these articles as a book. I would do that would be more enjoyable for me and my back.

  6. Bas L. says:

    I’m pretty sure the whole dream sequence and ending can be explained by ME3 being rushed and the writers originally planning to make Shepard indoctrinated. The dreams have a lot of resemblance with indoctrination (the black shadows, the whispers, that’s similar to testimonies you hear from indoctrinated people, e.g. those Cerberus scientists) and the kid is clearly meant to be an imagination on Shepard’s part (look at the lack of any acknowledgement of the kid’s existence from the soldiers in the shuttle that gets destroyed or from Anderson).
    Basically, the kid is the Reaper’s way to try and indoctrinate Shepard. Anderson and TIM at the end are also imaginary visions from Shepard. However, due to time constraints Bioware decided to drop this theory but by then it was too late to remove the dreams/kid/TIM/ending etc.

    They then missed a HUGE chance with the extended cut to acknowledge that the indoctrination theory was true all along which would have considerably improved the ending and make Destroy the only true one. The end product would still be severely flawed, as this series pointed out, but it would be significantly better than the current extended ending.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I’m pretty sure the whole dream sequence and ending can be explained by ME3 being rushed and the writers originally planning to make Shepard indoctrinated.

      I’ll contribute this quote from the dev commentary thing, Mass Effect Final Hours:

      And even in November, the gameplay team was still experimenting with an end-game sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard’s movement and fall under full Reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gameplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices).

      I can’t recall the other quote right now, but the developers said some things that pretty conclusively disproved indoctrination theory as it applies to the final game, the ending is real and not just in Shep’s head.

      I don’t think “X would be a huge improvement” is really an endorsement of X, a Markov text generator could make an improvement of the ME3 ending. Indoctrination theory essentially states “It was all a dream”, which is a terrible ending for a 90 hour trilogy, it just happens to be a terrible ending that comprehensively retcons a worse ending.

      • Poncho says:

        I don’t necessarily think it would have been a bad ending. Like most things, it’s all about execution. If the entirety of ME3 had been designed like the Tuchanka arc (sans giant bomb, that part is pretty dumb), people would have praised the game for having so many interesting plot resolutions to the choices they’ve made throughout the series.

        The writer would have to marry a ton of characters to each others’ arcs, and introduce fewer (or none, fuck off, Kai Leng) new characters in this last leg of the story, because there is a LOT to get through.

        In a purely rational sense, Shepard has survived through more Reaper contact than just about anyone, so it’s expected that her final struggle would be with a false set of choices introduced by the Reapers to cement the indoctrination. Remember, Saren was CONVINCED that he had it right, that the Reapers would spare him if he proved himself useful; that was the false choice Sovereign provided, and sort of like Inception, if the host is willing, the indoctrination can be more subtle and therefore the pawn more useful. It would be cool if Shepard was harping on some ideological opposition to the Reapers throughout the game, something meatier than “We fight or we die!” and that ideology was presented at the end of the game, and the only way to get the best ending (where Shepard lives) is to refuse or something.

        Whatever should have happened in ME3, the ending being a series of false choices could have been really cool. We don’t need all our decisions to come together at the very end of the game, they just need to be resolved throughout, and having a proper “canon” ending would NOT have pissed off nearly as many people as the shitshow they gave us did, especially if the rest of the game had been at all competent in delivering on those choices. However, Bioware wanted to make their endings open ended and “up to the player” which at this point is just shorthand for “do it yourself, nerds.”

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Even worse than ‘it was all a dream’ is ‘maybe it was a dream, maybe it wasn’t’. That kind of revelation would be almost catastrophic for a choice based space opera story like this one, because it would lead us to retroactively analyse the whole trilogy trying to figure out what was real or not, before giving up in frustration because there are no clear answers either way.

        Was Shepard indoctrinated from the very beginning? When they first encountered Sovereign? When they went aboard the dead Reaper or the Collector Base? Is the indoctrination only taking hold in Mass Effect 3, or before then? This is a rabbit hole with no end, and it only serves as a handy out for the writers to get away with any inconsistencies.

    • Alex says:

      That the Indoctrination theory is so popular shows just how badly Bioware screwed up. Fans of your series should not be trying to come up with ways to overwrite your ending with “It was all a dream.”

    • Grudgeal says:

      An ending where Shepard was indoctrinated would be sort of horrific, though, not to mention yet another tonal shift from the Star Trek-ian first game to the Dirty Dozen second game to the Star Wars third game. At that point I’m wondering just how such a plot twist would serve the story at all.

      An indoctrination twist ending really only looks good in comparison to what was already there. If the rest of the story was told competently (pretty big ‘if’ I know), an indoctrination twist-ending wouldn’t really fit in. There are a number of games where ‘you were secretly working for the bad guy’ or ‘you were secretly the bad guy’ works because it unifies the theme of the game, like in Spec Ops, but in Mass Effect it really doesn’t because the games had avoided any attempts at Lovecraft In Space themes from the moment the first mass driver shot hit Sovereign in the first game.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        because the games had avoided any attempts at Lovecraft In Space themes from the moment the first mass driver shot hit Sovereign in the first game.

        To be fair, the classic Lovecraft formula is “We learn about a threat, things get really bad, the immediate danger is defeated, we dwell on the knowledge that humanity is an insignificant speck which will surely fall when the Stars Are Right”. Defeating Sovereign doesn’t have to go against the Lovecraftian themes.

        We really break from Lovecraft in the last two seconds of the game, when Shepard says something to the effect of “The Reapers are still out there. And I’m going to stop them.” and the music, instead of being doom and gloom as Lovecraft would have it, is loud and badass as though Shep has just made a reasonable proposal.

        • IFS says:

          To be fair even in Lovecraft stories humanity sometimes triumphs. In Call of Cthulhu the titular elder god gets hit with a boat and goes back to napping, in the Dunwich horror some professors from Miskatonic figure out what’s going on and manage to figure out how to banish the monster. Granted in CoC the guy who rammed Cthulhu goes somewhat mad and is killed by cultists later, though Dunwich has a (comparatively) happier ending.

          If Mass Effect really wanted to adhere to a Lovecraft formula (which I don’t think it ever did, it just wanted to borrow some Lovecraftian ideas) then I’d say Dunwich would be the story to take inspiration from. In it the professors triumph because they study eldritch texts to understand what they’re up against and how to fight it. Unfortunately Mass Effect quickly decided to throw out the idea of actually learning anything meaningful about the reapers and how to beat them.

      • Zekiel says:

        One of the things that pissed me off about ME3 – even before I started reading Shamus’ devestating critique – is that indoctrination wasn’t explored properly in it. It is one of the Reapers’ most devestating weapons – the thing that makes them more than just “physically very strong”.

        ME3 should have had you dealing with indoctrinated companions, indoctrinated Alliance personnel, indoctrinated Council members etc etc. But (unless I’m forgetting something) all you get is that TIM is possibly indoctrinated (??) and the odd passing reference to Anderson’s incoherent resistance being impeded by indoctrinated humans.

        What a waste.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          TIM and everyone else with Cerberus. We also get a few others (like that side quest with a Hanar taking the side of the Reapers because the Collectors serve the Reapers, and the Collectors were Protheans, or in flavour text from some NPCs, like that Asari with PSTD talking about her recent fight), but there isn’t much.

        • guy says:

          Yeah, Udina specifically isn’t Indoctrinated.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The idea of a TRUE Indoctrination ending would be that Star Kid was a hallucination designed to stop Shepard from using the Crucible and Shepard COULD just turn on the Crucible by opening the arms or whatever. By breaking loose momentarily from Indoctrination to do that, Shep would kill the Reapers and either a) also die in the process or b ) that killing the Reapers would free Shepard for a happy ending. They’d have to add more stuff in the game to truly make it interesting, but it does sound better than the “choose your favorite color of lighting” ending that exists.

    • Zekiel says:

      I seem to recall reading that the dream sequences actually do subtly relate to other events in the game, since the audio has lines from companions who have died (so there are more of them in later dreams). I never managed to identify this myself though, so this is hardly praise.

      I think Shamus’ plan for how to do the dream sequences better (if you have to have them at all) is really good.

      Also I’d like to point out that my beloved Baldur’s Gate 2 did dream sequences REALLY WELL.

      • Arstan says:

        Ultima underworld 2 did dream sequences well too. I think it shows that dream sequences could be useful in a game, you just have to use them well, which ME3 failed))

      • Grudgeal says:

        I preferred the first game’s dreams to be honest. Leaving it all spoken with a picture and the eerie music left much more to the imagination.

      • Poncho says:

        It’s much more obvious if you have subtitles on. The game will have [Character Name]: Text during these dream sequences.

        It’s a pretty crowded place if your Shepard is a dummy and killed most of their squad in #2.

  7. Corpital says:

    Reading this with a migraine was a bad idea. Well, reading generally is with an headache.

    My playthrough ended in one rather long session including Thessia and the Cerberus base and that sucked all investment out of me, so I just stopped paying attention. Can’t even remember if I actually finished it or confuse it with one of the LPs I’ve watched.

    The dream sequences on the other hand make me livid to this very day whenever I’m reminded. I can deal with non-interactive sections and the game throwing gibberish at me, but sluggish and very slow movement makes me irrationally angry.

  8. Nemo says:

    Next (and final?) stop: Starbrat station. Woo-hey!

  9. Cobrastyle says:

    I’ve finally caught up on all of these, and gotta say, I love this series. It brings up a lot of thought, puts a lot of things into perspective. Both Shamus’ articles, and the comments. It’s pretty much such a treasure trove of great thoughts and ideas. And a lot of ‘wtf is the writer thinking’. It’s all made me muse on a lot of things, myself, and get some ideas to incorporate into a Mass Effect fanfic I’m working on. And I’ve been taking up gathering and gaining a better understanding of Mass Effect lore as a hobby. Keep up the good work! C:

    I am sad that I’ve come so late to the party, but oh well–it has made for a lot of addictive reading.

    ANYWAY.

    I love the focus you put on worldbuilding, and the pointing out of the opportunities where there could have been some. I love the ambient conversations you can hear when you are wandering the Citadel, and I wish they’d include a lot more of that. I also agree with you on Cerberus. My friend Teddie calls them Cerbaderps and I think that’s quite accurate. XD. Would have been nice to see a lot of the Cerberus attacks replaced with indoctrinated factions, heretic geth, or something. Welp! Also, I would have loved to see more of Earth prior to the Reaper War. Because in reading through the Systems Alliance lore, there’s so much on it and yet you don’t really get a good look at what life is like there. (But just like, I’d like to see Palaven, Irune, etc.)

    From the codex about the Reaper War, specifically The Miracle at Palaven, I found an interesting tidbit:

    > In simultaneous strikes across the globe, Reaper ships began to explode. Turian resistance members had managed to smuggle the bombs inside when the Reaper processing ships, troop transports, and even destroyers and capital ships had opened their structures to indoctrinated turian leaders.

    Processing ships. So, probably what they use to turn people into DNA smoothies and pump into a new Reaper. Could be they were making these out of each species, and impaling the dead/rejects/those at their convenience and making them husks/marauders/etc to gain ground troops. Well, I guess that’s obvious, but yeah. They wouldn’t really need the Citadel for that? Also, a lot of weird stuff going on in that section of the Citadel you get into.

    • guy says:

      The theory is that they wanted a Sovereign-class human Reaper and decided to make it inside the Citadel because it happened to be avaliable and could be reconfigured to have the necessary equipment, while the Turians were being processed for destroyer-class Reapers.

  10. Coming_Second says:

    I am one of “the original ending had severed their connection to the franchise and they didn’t care to return” people, so I’ll be interested to read how the EC improves on it.

    I remember the internet shitstorms that raged about the ending when the game was originally released. Although I didn’t specifically spoil it for myself, it was impossible not to know the ending was supposed to be a carcrash. When I finally took it in for myself though, I didn’t really feel any sense of disappointment. Maybe this was because I was prepared for it, but I think mostly it was because the game had completely lost me long before I reached Marauder Shields. It was just more disconnected weightless nonsense piled on top of more disconnected weightless nonsense, in a way it entirely suited the game it was stapled onto. In order to be disappointed you need to have had your expectations built, and ME3 had done a pretty good job hacking those down to the roots.

    The whole point of this series is that the ire directed at the culmination of the series is misdirected, and Bioware set themselves and the audience up for a carcrash long before they got to it – something I very much agree with. So again, I’ll be interested to read how the EC manages to salvage something from it, because the whole reason I didn’t play it was because people saying “It fixes the terrible shit at the end so everything’s ok” meant almost nothing to me.

    • Grudgeal says:

      Spoiler alert: Not very much.

    • guy says:

      It fixes many of the things that were wrong about the ending given that they were doing the destroy/control/synthesis thing, but does not fix that they were doing that at all except with adding the Refuse ending where you tell the Star Child to screw off and proceed to lose. Which would be fair enough, except apparently then the next cycle goes and gets the three lights ending and picks one, so it’s not even a proper doomed but noble defiance.

      • Mike S. says:

        As far as I can tell, there’s nothing in the Refuse ending that says just how the next Cycle solved the Reaper problem. It’s equally possible that Liara’s beacons gave them the head start they needed to gank the vanguard left behind, reverse engineer the Citadel relay, and blow up the hibernating Reapers in dark space. Or that they figured out how to use the massive battery that is the Crucible to make a gun that one-shots Reapers. Or that they set up a protocol that dropped the Citadel into Widow just as the Reapers arrive so that they all effectively jump into a sun and are destroyed. Or, sure, maybe they built the Crucible, docked it at the Citadel, and picked a color.

        All we really know is that it didn’t involve an apocalyptic war (“they fought a terrible war so that we wouldn’t have to” – “that’s why we have peace”) and that it’s a direct result of our Cycle’s efforts (“without everything they accomplished, without the information they passed down, we too would be threatened”), and particularly Shepard’s (since the Stargazer just told the kid the story of Mass Effect). The rest is left to headcanon.

        • guy says:

          Apparently they confirmed that they used the Crucible on the forums.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Thankfully, author is dead combined with no textual support means you can completely ignore that comment.

            • Mike S. says:

              Especially in a case like this, where the writing process involved a great deal of collaboration and editorial work. “Forum post” is somewhere below “deleted scene” in terms of “if they wanted it to be part of the story, it should have been included in the story”.

        • INH5 says:

          Actually, the Refuse ending does sort of imply that the next cycle didn’t use the Crucible by having holo-Liara say, “We built the Crucible, but it didn’t work.” It’s hard to imagine the next cycle deciding to put a bunch of resources into the Crucible after being told point blank that it doesn’t work.

          • Mike S. says:

            It’s a fair implication. But the full data dump would distinguish between “didn’t work because it was a big waste of time” and “didn’t work because we didn’t entirely know what we had, and had to try to deploy it with incomplete information in the middle of All the Reapers”. Liara gave the next Cycle a head start that they evidently didn’t squander the way the asari did their own beacon. (And the other races, to a much lesser degree, with the information learned in ME1.) That doesn’t have to be the Crucible, but it could be.

            E.g., starting knowing “it’s a giant energy source with a Citadel-shaped outlet on the end” might let you dig into the Citadel, find the RGB devices, and figure out how the power distribution system works Then use that to build your own galaxy-scale device. Even if it’s crude and brute force by comparison (think Ilos Conduit vs the mass relay network), it could be enough to be a game-changer.

            Or the Crucible is a sideshow and a waste of resources, and they did something else. Leaving just what the next Cycle did vague is, I think a smart choice. (Given that the alternative is to tell a whole new story about characters the player has never heard of.)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The extended cut fixed exactly two things:Jack and shit.If you dont believe me,here is an in depth analysis of it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nVf_yDYftY&list=PLiWzMOLohpMmyaUhp8hva3Vxa8Y9jsLRD&index=1

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Which is funny, because they already fixed Jack in the base game, especially her outfit.

        heh heh.

      • Trix2000 says:

        It helps to address some of the obvious plot holes (like what was up with the Normandy and your squadmates?), though the way it does so is handwave-y at best and “HEY HARBINGER, MIND NOT SHOOTING US FOR A MOMENT WHILE WE PICK UP OUR GUYS? THX” at the worst. I think it goes a long way towards making the events at least make a little sense.

        …But it does nothing to address what was REALLY wrong, which is that the ending itself (with it’s choices, themes, and arguments) was wrong for the series and poorly-crafted besides. As much as we imagined otherwise when they announced the extended cut, I really don’t think there was going to be any way to salvage the end experience to make it into something good – they’d have had to rewrite the thing entirely.

        So it removes a lot of headscratchers, but it doesn’t make the ending any better from an experience standpoint. A significant improvement… but only technically.

  11. Coming_Second says:

    Also, my favourite observation in this entry: That Shepard has never been in a forest in his entire life. Never even thought of that. Another wonderful layer to the sheer awfulness of those dream sequences.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      I think the closest we get to a forest is on Eden Prime, in ME1, where we had to walk through a copse (if you can call it that) just before meeting with Ashley.

    • Daimbert says:

      I don’t know about that. After all, Shepard constantly waxes eloquently about Vancouver, and if there’s any forest that’s going to be left on Earth at this point, the interior of BC’s going to be a good bet. So being in a forest isn’t that unlikely.

    • Kian says:

      I think the N7 training had a part in jungle and other difficult terrain. So he may have visited a forest then.

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      The important point to all this is that nothing in Shephard’s stated or reasonably proposed background would reasonably have his subconscious strongly identify with “forest” as a setting for anything, good or bad. It’s not home, there’s been nothing mentioned that would emplace traumatic events in a forest, it’s not a place that culturally he would have been told to keep away from as a place of loss or hazard. Even the “military training” would have been likely to only left him with “not very comfortable; moderate difficulty moving; lousy sightlines” unless a particularly important thing happened during that training that we didn’t get told about.

      • Coming_Second says:

        This. I was being slightly flippant, guys. I appreciate he’s probably been in A forest at some point. They are extremely unlikely to have any particular connotations to him and so it’s incredibly lazy shorthand for “mysterious”, is what’s being got at.

  12. Erik says:

    Dont you see, Shamus?

    Dialogue with TIM is actually brilliant, because it makes the player long for the shooting bits.

    “Oh, let me just get back to shooting stuff, because at least there i had SOME meaningful input”.

  13. Zekiel says:

    “It’s been a long journey. 48 entries and about 115,000 words, but here we are. The messy, controversial, confusing ending to the Mass Effect trilogy…. … … Shepard opens the arms of the Citadel and has a last moment with Anderson which, I grudgingly admit, is pretty nice.”

    Thank goodness. So glad Mass Effect 3 has been wrapped up and we’ve got to the satisfying ending of Shepard and Anderson looking out at earth. Imagine how terribly it would have been if Bioware had tacked on some crap after that with an asspull twist.

    (haha)

  14. PhoenixUltima says:

    In that last image, is… is Shepard doing the t-pose? I… just… how do you mess up a cutscene THAT badly?! This is a series that, if nothing else, has always had good cinematography on its side, and here we have Shepard standing around like he was just spawned in with GMod? Just… what?!

  15. Edson says:

    “You don’t get to make any meaningful decisions for the next twenty minutes or so.”

    -cough- Marauder Shields -cough-

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      How is that meaningful? It’s kill him or “game over, try again”.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        No, the paragon choice is to spare Marauder Shields which unlocks the good ending of the game. It just so happens that the good ending looks like a game over screen.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Okay, that got a laugh. I genuinely thought you were serious (and wondering how the hell I hadn’t heard about it before… Yeah, it’s getting somewhat late, I lack sleep and it’s too warm here, not the best brain functioning conditions) until the end.

  16. lurkey says:

    I actually laughed out loud when Citadel got hauled to Earth’s orbit, and it also was the reason why I didn’t even get annoyed by the endings — for me the threshold of ultimate idiocy has been already crossed.

  17. boota says:

    there are so many reasons for not having the reapers being a threat after sovereign is defeated, so many interesting things could have been explored in the mass effect setting.
    each of these could easily be the main plot of an own game, are in my mind better suited for action-oriented RPG:s and would let us learn more about the world that was built.

    * following up on the attempts to establish humans as a race to take seriously in the galaxy
    * exploring the tensions and divides within the human community
    * human fragmentation/extremism
    * following up on the genophage
    * struggles of human biotics
    * in-fighting and controversy within the council
    * the situations of under-priviliged or underrepresented races
    * the influence of the megacorporations based on “neutral” planets on the alliance
    * hell, even a traditional space rebellion with factions wanting to break loose to form their own alliance would be more interesting than chasing for space cthulu. (though i’m not a great lovecraft fan)
    * the quarian quest to retake their homeworld

    most of these are pretty much handled in side missions while the reaper threat (which was a nice way to introduce the universe) eats up any sense of explorability. The’re, quite frankly, uninteresting once they’re a known commodity. by making sovereign possible to defeat with conventional warfare they pretty much played out their part as an interesting adversary.

    • Zekiel says:

      I disagree – at the end of ME1 the Reapers are a MASSIVE threat. It took an enormous effort to kill one – the idea that there are tons of them out there is scary. And it is pretty silly to imagine that they had no back-up plans if Sovereign/Saren’s plan failed.

      I’m not defending what we actually got in ME2/3 – it makes the Reapers ridiculous. But I don’t think its reasonable to imagine that we would go from the plot of ME1 being “galaxy-ending threat of space-Cthulhu” to theoretical ME2 & 3 plots which are smaller-scale. It might be a nice idea, but it’s not how videogames work – you always have escalation, or at least similar-level threats.

      I think there are plenty of interesting things you can do with the Reapers in ME2 and 3 after how ME1 sets them up. Finding out more about Sovereign’s intriging line “each one of us a nation to itself” would be interesting. Working to defeat sleeper agents which Sovereign indoctrinated. Delving more into the fall of the Protheans (e.g. a substantial part of ME2 could be Shepard reliving the memories of a Prothean and getting to witness the end of their civilization).

      But all of the ideas you mention are good ones that could still be explored alongside the ideas above (and not just as side-missions but integrally connected into a main plot which has the end goal of “stopping the Reapers returning”).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But the reapers were stuck in the dark space after me1.Yes they were a threat,but nothing indicated that they were a threat NOW.In a century,or two,or ten,maybe.

        And sure,me2 couldve simply retconned it by saying that while humping the citadel sovereign first sent out a wake up signal,and the reapers are now coming back.But even then,it would probably take them a decade or so.Except me2 didnt do that,and the reapers were just coming back in a different fashion cause why the fuck not.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Perhaps they could have introduced a new possibility for the Reapers to leave dark space – something that could be the focus of the second game, with perhaps a certain failure on Shepard’s part allowing them to (at least partially) succeed and start conquering the galaxy. Could perhaps even use the Collectors (with some significant rewrites) as the key, with their goal being to “open the door” to the Reapers through some obscure and difficult method (would need some justification for them not doing this in the first game). Perhaps they would even succeed in getting it open, with the final act by Shepard being a last-ditch effort to get in and close the door… preventing the full brunt of the Reaper forces from arriving.

          That might work well for the third game as well, since you’d theoretically still have a significant Reaper presence in the galaxy after that… but Shepard managed to stop them from ALL arriving, so now you get your massive galactic war which you MIGHT be able to win because the Reapers aren’t anywhere near full strength. Then a lot of the driving force of the plot could be either responding to their attempt(s) to reopen paths to dark space or figuring out a way to deal with their threat forever (ie: actually destroy them, rather than trapping them).

          With well-planned writing, I could definitely see that working well. Unfortunately, what we got didn’t look anything like “well-planned”.

        • Zekiel says:

          You are of course correct about Reapers being stuck in Dark Space. What I’m disagreeing with is the idea that after ME1 had a galaxy-ending threat, it is realistic to image that the other games in the trilogy would have smaller-scale threats.

          • Syal says:

            Especially problematic because the most obvious alternatives for galaxy-wide threats, portals into the unknown and dangerous newcomers exploding onto the scene, are both established backstories in the first game that everyone has already taken steps to prevent.

            …I guess plague was still available? Sovereign’s dead body has a radioactive effect, possibly Indoctrination based, and now the Citadel is spreading it through the Relays?

  18. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Wait, how does Shepard run on Reaper Tech? I know (s)he has cybernetic implants, but where was it said those were of Reaper origin? Or did you mean something else?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      For a questionable value of “run on”, some of his equipment is scavenged Reaper Tech or engineered from it.

    • Shamus says:

      You know, I had it in my head that TIM’s bringing you back from the dead was based on the excuse that he’d studied Reaper tech. But now that we’re talking about it, I can’t actually remember where that is in the game. Maybe it doesn’t even come from the game? Maybe it was a fan theory I accidentally assumed was official?

      Hm. Might need to change that.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I certainly don’t recall Lazarus being Reaper Tech, but in ME2 Shep does use scavenged Reaper Tech as equipment (see: the upgraded weapon he pulls from the Collector Vessel), and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does in 3 but I’d given up reading codex entries by that point so I’m not sure.

        • Coming_Second says:

          The weapons aren’t Reaper Tech (TM), it’s stuff the Collectors have taken off their captives. Each has a little codex entry which discusses their fairly mundane manufacture and service.

          That said the beam weapon you get on Horizon is very definitely Reaper Tech (patent pending). Absolutely nothing is made of it, however.

      • KarmaTheAlligator says:

        I know you can get one of the doctors to scan Shepard to see how the implants are working, and they don’t see anything weird (which I assume they would if it was of Reaper Tech (I mean, they do find everything else in the universe that’s Reaper Tech, so why not this?), but maybe I’m wrong).

      • Kian says:

        Project Lazarus started after Sovereign was destroyed, so Cerberus might have had access to Reaper Tech ™ at that point. But no, it’s presented as if curing death was just a two year project for Cerberus.

        The Normandy II, however, had a bunch of it. Including EDI and the IFF. So he might not run on reaper tech, but he gets around in it. Also, EDI is another example that shows AI and meatbags can get along just fine.

      • MichaelGC says:

        One of the criticisms of the endings is that the choice taken would also affect Shepard, being part machine. It’s not too much of an unwarranted mental leap/random walk from ‘part-machine’ to ‘part-reaper-machine’…

      • Lizard King says:

        No, the idea that Shepard was rebuild with Reaper tech was just a fan theory. Project Lazarus was just really “advanced technology”.

        If Shepard was rebuild with Reaper tech it would have been a huge deal, and given how hamfisted ME3 is, it would have been blatently in the player’s face.

        On a side-note. I would like to point out that Shepard can actually confront TIM about the fact that he could just go ahead and activate the crucible. That’s part of the renegade persuasion “path” of the TIM conversation. Challenging him to go ahead and control the Reapers, which Shepard knows he actually can’t.

        • Chris says:

          I still don’t understand the narrative purpose behind the entire Project Lazarus diversion. If it actually had been Reaper Tech, that might have been interesting. I’m not convinced that Shep’s death and resurrection were anything more than a combination of lazy deepity symbolism and an opportunity for JJ Abrams mystery box nonsense in the ME2 marketing trailers.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            The answer I have heard (supposedly there are dev quotes to support this, but I’ve not seen them) is that the team thought it was weird that ME2 was allowing you to pick a new class, so they gave you the 6 Million Dollar Man treatment to justify it.

            • Coming_Second says:

              …They killed you and then resurrected you to justify the possibility of you changing your professional focus?

              • Gruhunchously says:

                Yes. And then they let you do it without justification for Mass Effect 3, making the whole exercise pointless.

              • guy says:

                This would be a good excuse for why Shepard has biotics now, except that in ME1 Kaidan specifically says that Shepard does have biotics even if they aren’t in a biotic class; IIRC on an NG+ there was something like the ME2 loyalty powers thing and soldier Shepard could potentially get a single biotic skill. The dialogue pretty much indicated that Shepard lacked the training and practice to make effective combat use of them.

                Also, it’s not like any of the characters comment on it, so there was really no reason not to just treat it as a gameplay abstraction and just pretend Shepard was always that class.

                • Coming_Second says:

                  That explanation never sat right with me. Both the codex and Kaiden are clear that human biotics are really rare – you need to be exposed to ezo en utero, and then you have to hope you’re one of the few cases it gives space magic instead of cancer. No artificial procedure was mentioned then, so it seemed the Alliance was completely reliant on accident victims for their supply of combat biotics. So if someone capable of being an N7 was also a functioning biotic, you’d have to imagine they’d be heavily pressured to get the implants and training – in fact, they’d probably be ordered to. Soldier/Infiltrator/Engineer Shepard happening to be a latent biotic but choosing not to use it is like a soldier with six arms being allowed to go into battle with one pistol.

                  This was all before Miranda and the implication Shepard was rebuilt with ezo nodules in ME2 anyway of course, but because ME1 was generally faithful to its own world it stood out as not seeming right. To my mind my Infiltrator Shepard wasn’t a biotic, to the point that I avoided all magic special skills in ME2.

                  • guy says:

                    I presumed that Shepard was not a very good biotic and it did not seem an efficient use of resources to train them as one compared to training them as their actual class.

                    I’ve checked the wiki and confirmed my recollection that Shepard can get biotics as bonus talents in ME1, so it’s perfectly possible to play a soldier with Lift.

                    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

                      Yes, it’s possible, and playing an Infiltrator with Lift is awesome (Lift in general is awesome).

                  • Schlock Mercenary says two eyes, two guns max, and I’m inclined to agree. A guy with 6 arms and 6 guns is at best aiming 2 at a time.

                    I don’t disagree with you in any other way, it was just the 6 arms idea. Made me think of handing a mutant human 6 guns, one for each of his six hands, and how much stray fire that’d make.

                • Lizard King says:

                  Quite certain that the Kaidan dialog in ME1 where he mentions that you are a biotic even if you aren’t playing as one of the three biotic classes is a bug. Regardless, the idea that all Shepards are biotic regardless of class is shot down in 3 where there also class specific dialog exclusive to the biotic classes that the other classes don’t get.

                  Shepard changing class between games is just a gameplay mechanic, like changing his face.

                  • guy says:

                    It’s been a while, but my recollection of the conversation is that Kaidan phrased it in a way that sounded like it was intended to be heard by people who don’t have a biotic class; something to the effect of “well, you’re a biotic too, at least technically”. I’m pretty sure it was meant as in-universe justification for the bonus powers.

                    • Mike S. says:

                      The one I remember is where he explains that his L2 implants spike higher than a lot of L3s “except for you of course”. (Like everything, it’s on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Cvkl1d9xA4 ) That one seems aimed at a biotic Shepard, since it seems as if it’s sort of reassuring the player that they’re not being overshadowed by their companion. But there may be another exchange I’m forgetting.

            • Joe Informatico says:

              Yup, the dumbest reason ever to introduce some major narrative element that makes the setting more broken or nonsensical: to try and justify some abstraction that has no bearing on the actual story anyway.

              (See also: most attempts to explain changes in game mechanics in narrative, or most attempts to explain changes in art design or better quality sets/costumes/makeup in sequels.)

              • Zekiel says:

                Absolutely. If Bioware were so keen to justify a game-mechanics thing in the story – to the extent of introducing a MASSIVE story element which they then all but ignore – then it really rankles that your class choice basically never has ANY impact on the game otherwise, to the extent that as a powerful biotic you can never, ever use your biotics for interrupts. Grrr.

    • TMC_Sherpa says:

      Nah, the truth is Timmy doesn’t bring you back. At the beginning of ME2 you die and everything afterwards is a rogue faction of Hell. Dante style.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      If you do evil shit,your scars glow red.Reapers are red in the visions.QED.

  19. Radkatsu says:

    That was a very abrupt ending to this post, Shamus, it feels like there was more coming, then it just… stops. I have to wonder if that was somehow intentional to hammer home a point about how abrupt ME3’s ending felt? ;) Is next week’s post your own Extended Cut? :)

  20. Sol says:

    The very start of ME1, Joker gets the Normandy through a relay within 1500k of their target.

    1500 is then described as ‘good’. Joker takes offence to that because under 1500 is nothing short of amazing.

    Now we have all those ships jumping in right next to each other (even closer than the end battle of ME1, where they at least had an excuse for proximity).

    Then we do a flyby, before getting into shooting range.

    And Shepard is the one to say “FIRE!”

    Why? When did Shepard become the masterful fleet tactician? When are you ever in an actual space battle before this, calling the shots? Leave that up to the experts.

    Just another example of how the entire galaxy spins around Shepard now.

    • Poncho says:

      I’d like to think Shepard is yelling “FIRE!” into the console and the people who know better by now have surreptitiously turned the radio off, letting Shepard play at war god in his own mind some more.

      • Zekiel says:

        I really like this explanation.

        (It also reminds me of how someone – Shamus? Yatzhee? – likened Mass Effect 2’s galaxy map interface to Shepard pushing a model of the Normandy round a map and making spaceship noises.)

      • Jabrwock says:

        In the Honorverse, the Captain yells fire, the Tactical Officer presses the button, and unless the ship has taken a lot of control-link damage, all guns are centrally controlled and linked, but they have individual backup crews in case the only way to tell them to fire is over radio. Which is pretty much how most modern navies work.

        In Star Trek, phasers don’t seem to have local crews (only backup is battle-bridges), so if the Tactical Officer on the bridge gets a face full of console, you’re pretty much hooped.

        • Mike S. says:

          True in later Trek. In TOS the Enterprise had a separate phaser control room, seen in “Balance of Terror”, with firing orders transmitted from the bridge and implemented there. (It was a direct lift of a submarine movie, so they needed the torpedo room analog.)

          In other episodes phasers seem to be fired from the bridge, though of course Sulu or Chekov could just be pressing a console button that signals the phaser room to actually fire.

          (And then there was the auxiliary control room, which seemed to exist solely so that bad guys could wrest control of the ship from the bridge.)

    • guy says:

      1500 is good for the jump center point. If an entire fleet enters the relay at once they arrive in the same relative orientation. That’s the preferred method for relay assaults.

      Also, the inaccuracy is deliberate Reaper sabotage and the stolen IFF lets you turn it off, which is why you needed it in ME2.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      It’s already been discussed, but Shepard as soon as Shepard is inexplicably put in charge of the fleet, she orders them to fire entire salvos directly at Earth. Yeah, the situation is pretty desperate, but that’s still in violation of every space tactics protocol in the book, for good reason. Even without the Reapers, there’s not going to be much of Earth left by the time the battle is over.

      • Burnsidhe says:

        Do you really think the ME 3 writer cares about piddling inconsequential details like the fact that the fleet is effectively wiping out all life on Earth? That wouldn’t be cool! And cool dramatic cinematics are what the ME 3 writer is all about!

        Who cares that an orbital bombardment with mass accelerators would effectively nuke half of the planet from missed shots? That’s not cool, but fleets shooting fleets, that’s cool!

        Besides, all those gunnery officers are trained to use computers to not miss! Therefore none of them miss even if it looks like they’re missing their targets!

  21. Ninety-Three says:

    I realize it’s a bit early for Starchild talk, but I realized yet another thing that’s stupid about the kid’s proposal, and it’s one I haven’t heard before.

    With Synthesis, you’re supposed to resolve the “synthetics always kill organics” problem by making everyone part synthetic, part organic. Putting aside the obvious questions like “What?” “How?” and “What!?”, this doesn’t fix the problem. A galaxy full of cyborgs can still invent pure synthetic life, and it can still rise up and kill the cyborgs. Are the Geth 2.0 expected to not kill their masters because their masters are part synthetic, whatever that means?

    • guy says:

      I think the idea is that once they’ve done synthesis they won’t have a reason to make purely synthetic life instead of more hybrids.

      • ehlijen says:

        But that’s a dumb idea. In the real world we are (mostly) fully organic. That’s not been stopping us from trying to clone or create artificial life, nor does it mean we fully understand how our own organic brains work meaning we’re still studying them, including how to build some ourselves. Nor has it stopped us from killing each other.

        Being part cybernetic is highly unlikely to prevent a species from pursuing AI or robot technology.

        ‘Synthetics will always kill organics’ is a contrived premise, ‘Hybrids will never pursue interesting technologies’ is a bizarre non sequitur conclusion from that, but ‘Beings won’t kill other beings similar to themselves’ is truly absurd. I mean, what has Shepard been doing for much of the three games other than killing?

        • Joe Informatico says:

          Or said another way, if in the future we all have smartphones embedded in our heads and artificial limbs, does that mean we wouldn’t still want robots working on assembly lines or self-driving cars? There’s still a lot of boring, menial, or dangerous work that has to be done that in most cases a machine could do better, for a longer time, without complaint or requiring much in the way of resources.

    • natureguy85 says:

      It works if you accept the BS that Synthesis is. Organics only make Synthetics to improve themselves. Synthesis is perfection, which means there is no reason to build Synthetics to improve yourself.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Ok,lets assume that synthesis is the final step.Mordins line on collector ship comes to mind (paraphrasing) “No evolution,stagnation,may well be dead”.

        • krellen says:

          It would have made way more sense if, instead of “synthetics and organics will always kill each other”, the Reapers’ ultimate goal would have been shown to be evolution itself. As synthetics, they themselves cannot evolve – but they can harvest the evolution of organics for their own self-improvement, and thus let organics continue expressly for the purpose of catalysing their own evolution.

          Such a thing wouldn’t really negate any of Sovereign’s arrogant spiel in ME1, would still jive with the nonsense introduced in ME2, and would be a lot more satisfying (and less head-slappingly stupid) than ME3.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Thats precisely what Ive been saying for years.Reapers harvesting organics makes sense as an evolutionary process.They seed the galaxy,look for new innovative races,and then incorporate them.Rinse and repeat.

            This way,you could even have a final talk down with the big bad that convinces them that their tactic is wrong,because they are still guiding all the races in a same way with the relays and the citadel,thus defeating their purpose of having unique evolutionary paths.

          • natureguy85 says:

            I like this. It reminds me of the Zerg from Starcraft. They assimilate useful species and destroy the rest. And like the Reapers in a way, they are seeking perfection. Also like the Catalyst, the Overmind sees itself as doing what its creators made it to do.

          • The Defenestrator says:

            My favorite explanation of the Reapers’ purpose is a more “altruistic” version of that: The Reapers have figured out that organic life in the galaxy tends to have a dynamic growth period after discovering FTL, which eventually gives way to a not-very-fun stagnant civilization. The Reapers decided that it’s better for people in general to have cycles of several millenia of growth separated by brief periods of terror and death. Statistically, most people don’t get killed by Reapers and those who do tend to spend a very small fraction of their lives doing so, so the actual harm done is minimal.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          I looked at it the other way: while there wouldn’t need to be any physical evolution, it’d force people to grow spiritually (then again, that’s a concept I like and would love to be used more often).

  22. Perivale says:

    You seem to have forgotten that us in London know how to queue! I mean seriously queueing for 81 days just to get beamed up to the death station is well within our capabilities – it’d likely be an improvement over some of the morning queues for the tube!

  23. Raygereio says:

    I still think ME3 kind of works if you interpret it as a meta-screw-you to the complacent audience.
    Mass Effect is a series where the illusion of choice is meaningless and has no actual effect on the rigid and inflexible story, and thus culminates in a meaningless and illusory choice that has no actual effect on the rigid and inflexible ending.

    It’s the writers taking a big steamy dump on your face and asking why you didn’t complain when they fed you bullshit before.

  24. NFK says:

    “The writer has been gradually losing their grip on continuity and causality as we approach the endgame, and now the whole thing is coming apart.” It would be interesting to see this done earnestly and deliberately, but I have no clue how you’d actually pull it off.

    • Ciennas says:

      If you mean in a game, you’d make a point of making a very detailed world that slowly falls apart in subtle ways, culminating in walking down the equivalent of rebar and plaster, walking off set and into the digital void beyond the game world.

      Plotwise, it would have to be a perfectly plotted waste. Like Spec Ops, a game that was designed from the ground up to never have a sequel. Ever.

      Interestingly, I think the latter two Saints Rows showed this very well- the cyberspace bit in three, the end of the simulation in four. They showed the world stripped bare, but also made it visually interesting.

      So you could do it.

      Maybe even end it similarly to those warner bros cartoons where Daffy or Bugs argues with the artist directly.

    • Uhm. Is the answer to this not The Stanley Parable?

    • Syal says:

      I had a story idea featuring a Prophecy about a Battle between Good and Evil, except the Big Bad gets killed in Act 1 by a particularly stubborn fellow and the rest of the story is Fate ripping down more and more of the world in an attempt to Frankenstein the prophecy back together.

  25. guy says:

    I don’t find it strange that the Reapers can move the Citadel; it seems plausible they moved it to its original location and there’s the general “Reapertech means not having to explain yourself” rule in effect. And moving it to Earth makes sense because that’s where they’ve got the biggest concentration assigned to havesting already. Why they didn’t do this earlier is a huge plothole, though, and the Ilos conduit probably should still work; the primary relays are not dependent on knowing the location of the other end. The Mu relay was a secondary relay, hence needing to know where it was. Then again, the Conduit was an experimental Prothean prototype and might not work as well.

    • ehlijen says:

      “Reapertech means not having to explain yourself”

      That’s one of the big problems Shamus and many others have with ME3.

      First of all: It’s wrong, or at least not as clear cut as you phrase it. Yes, you can handwave a lot of stuff with reapertech/magic/Mass Effect tech/etc…to set up a story. Once the story is going, you have to stop randomly throwing in setting changing abilities without explanation. In a story, reactions and consequences should always be the result of something seen by the audience, even in drama first stories, though if it’s seen before or after is open for creative experimentation.
      “Why is John mad at Amy?” “Why did the Reapers move the citadel?”
      If in a story anything can happen for no reason, there is no emotional connection to the characters. We have no idea what anyone can or can’t do. Instead of a coherent story, you get a slideshow of random stuff.

      Second: In ME1, and even a little bit in 2, learning about and understanding Reaper Tech drove the plot. What is sovereign? What is indoctrination? How are the reapers trying to get here and how can we stop them? What are they doing at the collector base?
      For ME3 to turn around and say ‘the reapers use space magic to setup the final battle for no reason, just go with it’ is throwing out Shepard’s mindset from two previous games.
      Suddenly we care neither about reaper motives nor their means or capabilities anymore while we’re trying to wage war on them/i> (while pursuing a magic all-in gambit strategy we know nothing about).
      That’s the opposite of good military leadership, and it’s a jarring change from the previous games.

      So yes, while reapertech could have allowed them to setup a story with little justification other than ‘that’s how they are’, by ME3 they absolutely needed to explain themselves or have this very mess we got happen: complete story collapse.

      • guy says:

        Well, in this specific instance, there was never any actual evidence that the Reapers couldn’t move the Citadel and its location implies they quite possibly could. Having better FTL tech than anyone can match or even believes is possible is within the realm of things the Reapers have already demonstrated. There is absolutely no reason to question them having the capacity to move the Citadel assuming there is a reason to do so. There is also a known and stated reason to do so. What is lacking is an explanation of why they did not seize control of the Citadel previously, because they had a known motive to do that whether or not they could move it. In terms of Reaper technology surprises, this is no stranger than the Citadel being a Mass Relay, because that was not hinted at prior to Vigil telling Shepard during the pre-final-battle exposition. Which incidentally doesn’t get around to actually explaining the mechanics of why it does not physically resemble the other Mass Relays because the characters probably don’t know and in immediate terms it doesn’t matter.

        • ehlijen says:

          The reapers can move the citadel, even through FTL and other relays:
          -How? Did no one ever notice it has huge engines strapped to it? Did a thousand reapers clamp on and carry it (in which case SHOW US! That sounds funny at the very least!)?
          This only needed a quick lampshade sentence, and is one of the smaller problems.

          Why did the reapers move it?
          -We know the reapers have large interior spaces themselves. What did they need the citadel for that they couldn’t do inside their own cargo holds? The method of cargo loading they chose, as Shamus pointed out, wasn’t exactly suited for massive volume.
          If there is equipment in the citadel they need they don’t have in themselves, that’s very risky. What if the organics discovered that equipment? What if they destroyed it?
          Do they need the keepers? They didn’t need them before on the collector base.

          Why did they move it to earth?
          -Why does Harbinger have an obsession with Shepard/humans? Remember that ‘humans are the chosen ones’ wasn’t a thing ME1 made the story about. Where did this come from?
          -Is earth more densely populated and they need the extra facilities? It’s never said and I’m not sure I’d believe it.
          -Was earth simply the closest major world and they moved it there first? (I don’t think the galaxy map bears that out)
          -If they wanted to bring it to ‘reaper controlled space’, why did they put it over the world with a large, organised resistance movement?
          -Or was it just so EA could use ‘take back earth’ as a marketing slogan?

          Did the reapers override the prothean tampering with the keepers or not?
          -If yes, why are any mass relays still working.
          -If no, why are the reapers using the citadel for anything? Shouldn’t it be unreliable, if not unsafe for them to risk that?

          The Citadel as a relay not being foreshadowed:
          -The conduit ‘statue’ on the citadel triggers several comments from party members if you get close to it in the presidium, plus there is the ‘what even are the keepers?’ quest to make clear that the citadel has plenty of mysteries.

          In this particular instance, little was gained in story terms by having the citadel move instead of having the reapers guard it where it is. The battle being on earth failed to truly have an impact because the player was never given a chance to get attached to this earth and the colour filtered grey london battles don’t really feel like being on earth either.

          But again, the big problem is: The enemy just displayed a new capability and motive and the commanders in charge of fighting these guys don’t seem to care. The how and why should have at least been left as asked if unanswered questions. But everyone just shrugs and decides to send the fleet to earth.
          What if, once the fleet got there, the reapers flew off with the citadel again? Since we don’t know how it got there, we won’t know how they might escape with it.
          If it can move at sublight speeds, how fast? Will the crucible be able to catch it?
          Could whatever method the reapers used be applied to make the crucible more mobile, too?
          Is this focus on earth an indication that the reapers might be relocating more forces to earth, arriving in the the council fleet’s rear? How strongly will they guard the relay? Might they have mined it or shut it down, even if they left the rest of the network alone for whatever reason.
          If the citadel is the catalyst, and the reapers now have it, did anyone make an effort to try and find out if the citadel defence militia might be able to provide guerilla assistance?

          The reapers moving the citadel, as well as the citadel turning out to be the catalyst, threw up a lot of strategic concerns no one appears to be considering in the game.

          • Pyrrhic Gades says:

            The reapers can move the citadel, even through FTL and other relays:

            The Reapers have imposed an artificial limit on the mass that can be transported by relays, a limit that they have administritive priviliges to override.

            -How? Did no one ever notice it has huge engines strapped to it? Did a thousand reapers clamp on and carry it (in which case SHOW US! That sounds funny at the very least!)?
            This only needed a quick lampshade sentence, and is one of the smaller problems.

            Yes
            They did it while you weren’t looking, since you were distracted shooting Cerberus dudes. I find that to be a rather good excuse not show it.

            -Is earth more densely populated and they need the extra facilities? It’s never said and I’m not sure I’d believe it.
            -Was earth simply the closest major world and they moved it there first? (I don’t think the galaxy map bears that out)
            -If they wanted to bring it to ‘reaper controlled space’, why did they put it over the world with a large, organised resistance movement?

            Out of all the homeworlds in Mass Effect Universe, Earth has the largest population of all of the Citadel Races’ homeworlds, with a population of 11.9 Billion. Greater than the combined populations of the turian and asari homeworlds, and just a billion more than those on the Salarian homeworld. The next closest citadel race in terms of population is the volus, and no one cares about them.
            All populated planets have numbers attatched to their population.

            Earth is indeed the closest major world (according to the Mass Effect 1 Map, as I can’t find any of the other species’ homeworlds on it). And since it’s so far away from where they entered the galaxy, the Reapers have the Salarian homeworld on their todo list.

  26. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We no longer have huge codex-fueled arguments regarding basic questions like, “What happened to the Normandy?” and “Did Shepard blow up the galaxy?”

    Actually,we do.Normandy still leaves the battlefield,for some reason,your allies still leave you stranded,for some reason,there is still the weird planet,for some reason,and maybe the relays dont blow up,but galaxy is still screwed,especially the earth.Exactly 0 things are explained by the extended cut,and all you get is a stupid additional narration.Its ridiculous.I mean,just look at the “your allies leave you” thing.People were complaining that your allies suddenly disappeared and never helped shepard,which they would totally do,so the extended ending rectifies this by…showing your allies leaving.Wow,such a great improvement guys.Good job.

    Oh and lets not forget the crappy cgi wall where they couldnt even bother to let what you typed in appear on it.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Ah, but you see the Extended Cut showed us that your allies were very very sad about leaving you (well, Joker was, anyway), so that makes all better.

      It also shows that Shepard is perfectly willing to risk their entire ship because they suddenly had second thoughts about what was explicitly made out to be a suicide run. So there’s that.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Your allies are blown up by a car and can barely stand. That’s why they leave. Shepard isn’t going to ask people who can’t walk to run another 500 meters. “How is it safe for the Normandy to fly right next to a Reaper?” Uh… yeah I dunno. Maybe the Normandy’s stealth is immune to Reaper vision for at least a short time? That’s a very bizarre idea, but they seemed to have gone with it.

      Why did they leave Shepard stranded? They didn’t, he’s going to get into the Citadel, he was never going to re-board the ship. Why did they fly away? There’s a whole scene about escaping the activation of the Crucible. Why is the Crucible dangerous? Uh… yeah dunno.

      What is the planet? A random planet they landed on for repairs after the Crucible hits. Unlike the Standard ending, they always leave that place soon after. They also explicitly state that the relays get fixed in every ending and that nobody’s fleet starves.

      Summing up, is there some questionable stuff in there still? Yeap. Did the Extended Cut do nothing? No, clearly it did add some information.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Your allies are blown up by a car and can barely stand.

        ONE of them can barely stand.The other one is just fine.As are the other ones that never bothered to exit the normandy for some reason.

        Why did they leave Shepard stranded? They didn’t

        Yes they did.There are at least 4 healthy squaddies on normandy that couldve come with shepard,but no instead they leave her to do the push alone.Well,alone save for a bunch of other people that are rushing all around.They are brave enough,but your team mates arent?And lets not forget joker,the person who didnt want to leave you in the exploding station in me2,even when everyone but him and you were dead.He also leaves you without fire support?What?

        A random planet they landed on for repairs after the Crucible hits. Unlike the Standard ending, they always leave that place soon after.

        This explains nothing.All the questions remain.Why did they land there?Why did they exit to admire the trees?What happened to them afterwards?Not to mention that it adds a new one:If they immediately leave,why did they land here in the first place?

        They also explicitly state that the relays get fixed in every ending and that nobody’s fleet starves.

        Not gonna happen.Even if you enslave the reapers and they help you rebuild the mass relays,that would take a looong time seeing how huge these things are.And earth(along with at least two homeworlds we saw)was slagged.No one is going to survive a single month there.Not to mention all the fleets that were stranded on earth.So not only does that added scene not answer the question of survival,it adds another plot hole on top of everything:With what did they rebuild the mass relays?Not only what resource,but what manpower?

        No, clearly it did add some information.

        Well sure,in the sense that any word is information.But it added zero sensible,useful information.

        • Pyrrhic Gades says:

          Why did they leave Shepard stranded? They didn’t

          Yes they did.There are at least 4 healthy squaddies on normandy that couldve come with shepard,but no instead they leave her to do the push alone.Well,alone save for a bunch of other people that are rushing all around.They are brave enough,but your team mates arent?And lets not forget joker,the person who didnt want to leave you in the exploding station in me2,even when everyone but him and you were dead.He also leaves you without fire support?What?

          Shepard can only take 2 squadmates at a time. The rest of the squadmates couldn’t exactly reinforce Shepard because they were busy on the Normandy.

          A random planet they landed on for repairs after the Crucible hits. Unlike the Standard ending, they always leave that place soon after.

          This explains nothing.All the questions remain.Why did they land there?Why did they exit to admire the trees?What happened to them afterwards?Not to mention that it adds a new one:If they immediately leave,why did they land here in the first place?

          BECAUSE they had to land somewhere, Jesus! It was a random planet, Joker didn’t know where he was going when he was running away from the Crucible.
          And as for “What happens afterwards”? Well aren’t you a barrel full of fucking questions, you sound like you need EVERYTHING explained.
          Joker and EDI have kids and start a new civilization.

          “If they immediately leave, why did they land here in the first place?”
          This I can answer with Technobabble. Travelling at Super-Light-speed generates an enormous amount of static electricity. The Normandy had to discharge it all, else everyone on the ship would be cooked.

          • Pyrrhic Gades says:

            In hindsight, this comment came off rather harshly. It’s just sometimes the nitpicking can get infuriating when the nitpicker is picking so hard that he’s practically scalping. OK Now this is starting to sound like a backhanded appology.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            It’s just sometimes the nitpicking can get infuriating when the nitpicker is picking so hard that he’s practically scalping.

            Oh,you mean you were actually responding,not sarcastically joking?Well in that case I have a rebuttal:

            Shepard can only take 2 squadmates at a time. The rest of the squadmates couldn’t exactly reinforce Shepard because they were busy on the Normandy.

            Even if we accepted this silly gameplay rule as something that transfers into the narrative,me2 decidedly showed this as untrue since you bring everyone(who survived)to the ending mission.Also,joker remained to help all the time,even though he wasnt a part of your small squad.

            And even if we toss all this out,you can go the opposite:Shepard always has to have two team mates with her.If you dismiss one,you have to replace them with someone else.So why dont we do this now?

            BECAUSE they had to land somewhere, Jesus!

            Why?The ftl thing doesnt work,because normandy was on earth just moments ago,and even with its stealth full on it can go for quite a while before having to land.So once again,why the hell did the normandy have to land anywhere?

            Well aren’t you a barrel full of fucking questions, you sound like you need EVERYTHING explained.

            No,just the things that contradict previously established lore.

            • Pyrrhic Gades says:

              Oh,you mean you were actually responding,not sarcastically joking?Well in that case I have a rebuttal:

              My first paragraph was flippant, but my second quote was mostly serious with some frustrated dead-pan sprinkled in. This post shall follow the same pattern.

              Even if we accepted this silly gameplay rule as something that transfers into the narrative,me2 decidedly showed this as untrue since you bring everyone(who survived)to the ending mission.Also,joker remained to help all the time,even though he wasnt a part of your small squad.

              And even if we toss all this out,you can go the opposite:Shepard always has to have two team mates with her.If you dismiss one,you have to replace them with someone else.So why dont we do this now?

              Shepard being forced to string along two other partymembers is just a gameplay mechanic.
              The in story explanation is that you must gather your party before venturing forth.
              It’s partly why Nilhus didn’t want to join your party at the beginning of ME1, you already had Jenkins and Kaiden.
              Since the Spectres are the Jedi of the Milky Way, they can only travel in 3-men and 1-man parties. Nihlus, being a Jedi already had the Force Speed perk, however he hadn’t upgraded the feat past the first level so he could only self-cast it.

              Why?The ftl thing doesnt work,because normandy was on earth just moments ago,and even with its stealth full on it can go for quite a while before having to land.So once again,why the hell did the normandy have to land anywhere?

              The Normandy was on Earth, then it wasn’t. This was one of the things addressed in the extended cut: Joker was being chased by Harbringer so he had to run away and abandon Shepard.
              And the Normandy didn’t so much as land as crash. The only reason they survived the landing was because (as established in the Codex entry “Miracle of Palaven”) ships in the Mass Effect Universe automatically decelerate from Lightspeed immediately decelerate before they impact an object, as a safety measure (THAT CANNOT BE TURNED OFF).

    • acronix says:

      But clearly you took the Synthesis ending, because that’s the best ending and the only one sensible people would take! And that one totally explains everything because the Reapers are now buddies with everyone…!

      …wait, that sounds silly. Am I remembering wrong?

  27. natureguy85 says:

    You know, I’m really sad that this series is almost over!

    I love your idea of putting the dreams in a familiar location. While it would make some sense to see the actual characters, the one thing the dreams did well is have Shepard hear lines of dialogue from dead squadmates. Of course, I didn’t know about this right away because my one playthrough was of an import where nobody died. If there were lines from the Virmire Sacrifice, I didn’t hear them. Still, slow movement is the worst thing for me and I hated the dreams.

    I hadn’t thought about the Citadel moving keeping the Conduit from working but that makes sense. A recent thought I had was that they should charge the beam from angles that keep those spires between them and Harbinger so he can’t shoot them.

    The goodbyes are nice but that section is like a safe room in an action game. A break in the action. This is nice for gameplay but it’s weird in tone for the story, especially when it’s broken in half by a turret section for no reason.

    You’re spot on about the conversation with TIM, but the other problem with it is that it damages the conversation with the Catalyst. While I’m intrigued by the magic elevator platform, I’m bored of having nothing to do but listen to someone talking at me and make a meaningless dialogue choice. I really liked the conversation with Anderson and Shepard struggling to reach the platform, unsure of what to do. But I hated the conversation with TIM and I really hate the Catalyst. I look forward to the next two installments!.

    • Burnsidhe says:

      The turret section is there for one reason and one reason only: to get rid of the extra M-920 Cain that the player might have picked up during the previous mission.

      It’s possible to do that. I did on one playthrough. Picked up the extra Cain before leaving on the shuttle. During the ‘wander around saying goodbye’ first half, Shepard had the Cain attached to her backplate.

      After the turret sequence, the Cain was missing and it wasn’t dropped on the ground.

  28. Deager says:

    Ah the dreams. Dream 2 could have been the Virmire sacrifice or something. Sure, they’d have to set that up a little bit for people jumping into ME3 without playing the other games, but that would have been nice. I actually think someone with more modding talent than me is working on doing just that and I hope they pull it off.

    Hey, stop laughing. I know that doesn’t solve all the issues with the game…we just fiddle with things here and there. :)

  29. Xilizhra says:

    Point of order: TIM’s ability at the end there appears to work basically in the same way as Dominate, a power possessed by Morinth in ME2 and that Shepard can possess in ME3 after completing Leviathan. So there’s a connection, albeit a tenuous one.

  30. Burnsidhe says:

    The scene with Anderson is the proper emotional ending of the game.

    If the game had ended there, there would have been a small outcry from people who want to know “what happened next?” but that scene, that conversation, that’s the point of catharsis.

    If the game had gone “fade to black” at that point, it would have been emotionally satisfying. We didn’t need what happened next. We didn’t actually need to make a choice about what happened with the Crucible. We didn’t need to know what the Crucible actually DID, and we could very well have been waiting for Mass Effect 4: Aftermath with great anticipation.

    But that’s not what happened. And the following scenes, along with the final straw of the “buy more DLC!” pop up message generated so much rage it actually forced EA’s then CEO to resign due to bleeding income and damage to the ‘brand’ of Bioware and Electronic Arts.

    Drs. Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk left Bioware, the company they founded, and left the gaming industry over this. Casey Hudson hung on for another year or so, then left Bioware, because of this. He’s now a creative director at Microsoft. Note that we would not have had Mass Effect at all without Casey. And Mac Walters was promoted to project director of Andromeda.

    • Dilandau3000 says:

      Wait, Casey Hudson works at Microsoft? So do I, let’s see… Yep, he’s right there in the Global Address List, with his office number listed.

      Must… resist… urge… to… go… there…

    • lurkey says:

      Ah. So that’s who to blame for Windows 10.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I made a similar comment above, but as you bring it up here -would it be worth discussing the fan mod “happy ending” here or wait until after the Star Child/Epilogue discussion?

    • Metheos says:

      I’m calling BS. That would have been almost as bad of an ending. Maybe you would have been satisfied with a fade to black there, but I sure as hell wouldn’t, and I think most people would agree with me. The entire point of the series was about fighting the Reapers; the idea Anderson telling the player “you did good” would be satisfying enough boggles my mind. As badly thought out as the Crucible was, it was still the focus of the game’s plot. In fact, plenty of people (including Shamus in the critique of the ending he posted back in 2012) were angry precisely because the ending wasn’t clear enough about what happened to everyone. The idea that giving the players even less information would have made them happy goes against established evidence.

      Also, Muzyka and Zeschuk didn’t leave over this. They’d been planning to leave ever since they sold the company to EA, and retired almost exactly five years after the sale (which is a common practice). They were barely involved with the series to boot. Zeschuk was spending 10-14 hours a day working on SW:TOR during ME3’s development, and interviews with him after he retired made it clear he had little role in any of it.

      • guy says:

        I think the cutout right there would really be perfectly timed, especially with a hint of a sequel. At that exact moment, the Crucible has hooked up to the Citadel and is preparing to fire while both Shepard and Anderson are bleeding out. Cutting it there has Shepard die on the cusp of presumed total victory and takes a deliberately ambiguous tone; neither Shepard nor the audience gets to know how it all ends. Close out the credits as they did with Buzz Aldrin ending storytime for the night and the audience knows Shepard won and sets the stage for that to be followed up on in ME4.

        The problem with the actual ending is that it’s not set up to be an ambiguous ending and raises a ton of questions that didn’t previously exist like “Did I just destroy the entire galaxy?”

      • Burnsidhe says:

        Hm, I did not know that the Drs. were planning to retire anyway. From my perspective at the time, it certainly looked like the controversy over the ME 3 endings was enough that the two of them chose to move on to other things and leave the gaming industry.

        If they were planning on leaving anyway, then it’s all a case of unfortunate timing. It would have been nice to see them leave on a high note rather than after a disaster, but that’s the way it turned out.

    • Zekiel says:

      Yes/No. The best fan-edit ending to Mass Effect 3 I can imagine (don’t know if it exists) is:

      – Shepard & Anderson look out at earth while bleeding out
      – Cut straight to the consequences of the Destroy ending and proceed from there

      You cut out all the bullshit with the Starchild, you have a nice emotional ending for Shepard & Anderson, and you get your happy(ish) ending with the Reapers destroyed. I think its unrealistic to think a Big Action Game like ME3 could ever have an ambiguous ending.

      My version means you don’t get to make an Important Galaxy-Altering Choice at the end, but I regard that as a benefit since in the endings we got, two out of the three choices are thematically ridiculous. (And the consequences of them are so enormous that they prevent you from doing follow-up games i the same universe without nullifying players’ choices)

    • natureguy85 says:

      You’re right on the emotion, but it would not have been a good way to end the story. The problem is that the Crucible was still an unknown. Nobody knows what it does which means they don’t actually know that it destroys the Reapers. Also, a big problem is the removal of the other characters. It’s been too long since that goodbye to everyone at Hammer FOB and we are close to those people than we are to Anderson. Anderson was a good mentor figure in the first game, being in charge at the beginning, moving out of the way for the story, and helping at the end. He had no real role in ME2 and was just some guy in the distance after being dumb in ME3. They tried to establish a connection in the intro, but I hated it. It was clearly for new players.

  31. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You know,this part is also excruciatingly bad from purely gameplay point as well.Not only do you have no agency,its also mind numbingly long,without any save points(did the ec fix that at least?),so if you have to quit for some reason,or power goes out,or whatever,tough luck!Do it all from the beginning!(or just watch a lets play,if you really have to know how it goes)

    • Burnsidhe says:

      You can ‘restart mission’ which takes you to the point where Shepard is staggering after being shot at by Harbinger, and Marauder Shields makes his desperate last stand to prevent the player from seeing how horrible the ending is.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats what Im talking about.That whole section from marauder shields to the star child is about half an hour long with no save points.

        • Burnsidhe says:

          On PC at least, you can also quicksave any time that you have control over Shepard. Which means during the long walk to Anderson and I think during the Catalyst conversation. Definitely after the Catalyst conversation too.

  32. silver Harloe says:

    If we’re going to go with Shepard indoctrination, the place to do it is in ME2 (note: skip the death scene and the working for Cerberus junk. different plot entirely(*)), then say she’s the one person who defeats indoctrination at the end. “Ah, but in their zeal to indoctrinate me, they revealed too much, and now I know how we can beat them…” game end. Then ME3 the player can wonder if Shepard is really indoctrinated or not the whole time (put in little call backs to make it seem possible), but Shepard isn’t, and you finally get to do the magic space wedgie that fixes the Reaper problem (hopefully not a Crucible) and we get a confirmation that Shepard was, in fact, not indoctrinated, but really did fix everything. The End.

    (*) Or Not – just have those be part of the resistance to the indoctrination illusion – Shepard’s mind tells Shepard through a fake death/rebirth sequence that something is changing – and tells Shepard through working with Cerberus that Shepard is working for the Bad Guys. None of those things occur from everyone else’s perspective, and everyone else is surprised that Shepard claims to be working for Cerberus. TIM doesn’t even exist outside of Shepard’s head,

  33. Paul Spooner says:

    So, now that the series is nearly over, it’s time to convince Shamus to sign the whole thing “Summer Glau”

  34. Gruhunchously says:

    If I were to be nice for just a moment, I think that the whole ‘hallway of death’ sequence is actually really cool and atmospheric, especially coming right after the desperate battle down on Earth. Seeing the Keepers wading through all the carnage gives them a really sinister edge, since they’ve been such a commonplace background element throughout the relatively safe Citadel in the past. It really drives home how central they are to the Reapers plans despite their innocuous appearance, something the previous two games only alluded to. The same can be said for the Citadel in general; instead of being a familiar and welcoming local, it’s now this Eldritch location filled with bodies and creepy noises and walls that move for no apparent reason. And then there’s the implication that it’s slowing shifting itself into something else, and that EVERYONE on board is now dead (they sure papered over that one). The fact that Shepard and Anderson are both exploring it and making comments to each other helps with this as well.

    Really, the whole sequence between Shepards arrival on the Citadel and the confrontation with TIM is pretty solid if you ask me.

    • Mike S. says:

      It’s not entirely clear that everyone on board the Citadel is dead, given that you’re in one unfamiliar location. (Somewhere at or below the base of the Citadel Tower, it looks like.) Having sufficient control to move it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve cleaned out the Wards entirely.

      The original ending mostly had the Citadel blowing up, making the point moot, but in the Extended Cut it’s evidently damaged but reparable (the animation shows surface explosions, but not the Wards blowing off as before), so the possibility of survivors can’t be ruled out.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Sure.But like the rest of me2 and me3,it only looks nice as long as you dont stop and think about it.Not only “how did these people get killed,but you survived the beam up?”,but also “why isnt shepard vomiting her guts out due to the stench?”.

      • guy says:

        Because they were in the Presidium when the Reapers overran it and now all the Husks are off hunting through the Wards or redeployed to the surface while the Keepers are hauling corpses around and re-configuring the station in their typical enigmatic fashion.

    • Burnsidhe says:

      Sure, it’s “really cool” and “atmospheric”.

      Which is exactly the problem. The entire sequence is meant to be ‘really cool and atmospheric’ but that’s ALL it is. There’s little substance to it. There’s no reason to it. The Reapers process their victims in processing ships that are currently on Earth. Why ship dead unprocessed bodies to the Citadel? There’s no point to it. There’s no explanation. We see the Keepers idly fumbling with a couple bodies, but they’re not *doing* anything with them. They’re not hauling them off, or pushing them down chutes, or doing anything other than just standing there going through idle animations. There’s speculation, but no evidence for that speculation.

      Much like large chunks of Mass Effect 3, which is more about ‘what looks cool’ than ‘what makes sense and is consistent with the universe originally described in the first Mass Effect.’

  35. Noumenon72 says:

    I finally realized that TIM stands for “The Illusive Man”. Wasn’t clear if you didn’t play the game.

  36. Gruhunchously says:

    Also, in the renegade version of the TIM confrontation Shepard actually does ask him why he’s wasting his time with Anderson and puppetry and actually goads him to go ahead and activate the Crucible. In response, TIM has a mini freak-out where he insists that he’s in control of the situation and throws some bravado around, with the implication that he really is just an indoctrinated puppet who, if he ever had goals, is incapable of achieving them.

    I mean, there some whispers of good characterization to him, but there’s no groundwork for it. So it just seems like this confrontation is happening because TIM has to do something in order to justify his existence in the the story, and that something is opposing Shepard whenever possible, even at the expense of his own motivations.

    And the Reapers apparently don’t want him to use the Crucible, even though in a few moments the Star Child will explain that it’s key to ending a cycle that doesn’t work anymore, but that’s another can of worms.

    • guy says:

      My main actual objection to TIM’s characterization is that before this scene all the other characters act like they think he’s not Indoctrinated. It’d be one thing if his first appearance had Shepard say something to the effect of “I see now you’re just another puppet dancing on their strings” and his dialogue throughout the game was basically the same but everyone else just treated Cerberus as an adjunct to the Reapers. Even if their control isn’t total, that just makes him an unwieldy tool unless Shepard can break through to him like with Saren. That’s not particularly deep, but it’s better than having that be the actual plot yet treating it like he’s got some actual coherent plan and motivation, because it’s still obligated to make sense and be something he’d do while uncontrolled. Since his plans apparently aren’t a giant red flag in-universe that he’s Indoctrinated, they must be something that someone who wasn’t Indoctrinated would do.

  37. Dmatix says:

    The dreams in ME3 are especially bad if you compare them to those found in earlier RPGs. Baldur’s Gate 2’s dream sequences were some of the game’s best- so much so that I can still quote most of them by heart. You had nearly all that is missing from here- the villain making interesting speeches, a character you cared about in peril, and information relating directly to your own character.

  38. ehlijen says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t the first few areas of Eden Prime in ME1 forest? I swear I remember some tress.

    Of course, Eden Prime looked nothing like that dream forest and even if it did, that would be a strange and spurious connection at best, far from sufficient to save those dream sequences.

  39. Michael says:

    Do you think nano-technology was too cliche for Bioware? You know, the logical step in a billions of years old sentient supercomputer. As far as we measly humans can imagine. Be it in destruction, harvest or anything, really.

    But then again, some planet descriptors (and the previous game installments) tell us the Reapers mostly bombard their problems away from orbit in the first place. Whereas Earth, of course, needs walking Reapers.

    And regarding the Extended Cut…I find it an insult that it just retcons a lot of problems away, like the relay explosions, for example.
    The entire galaxy would be dead, because the relays explode.
    The fact that Bioware went out of their way to make even new cutscenes that just have the relays fall apart is only one of many middle fingers in the EC. The very fact alone that they MADE an extended cut (especially after all that “artistic integrity” ridiculousness) should give them pause to think about what was wrong that needed fixing. Which, in no way, they did. I find it unbelievably insulting.

    By the way, we still don’t know what happened to the Normandy. It’s on a planet. No idea how or where. After outpacing the collapse of the Mass Effect tunnel? What? With squadmates that shouldn’t be there (in some playthroughs).
    Maybe I missed something.

  40. grndmrshlgando says:

    Dont forget this is the only point in the entire trilogy where you HAVE to take the renegade interrupt or else you die. If you needed any more proof the writer just didn’t give a single fuck anymore look no further.

  41. Zaxares says:

    There is actually a Codex entry that explains how the Reapers are harvesting humans. There are dozens (hundreds?) of “processing ships” that are similar in construction to the Reapers (but are apparently mindless) all over the world. I forget the exact numbers, but it was estimated that with all the ships working at full capacity, it would take them just over a decade to completely depopulate Earth.

    What I do agree and find annoying is that it’s never explained why the Reapers are throwing dead bodies into the beam. There isn’t any technology or facilities to build a new Reaper on the Citadel, and considering the Citadel only got here recently anyway, just what are the Reapers doing with all that rotting meat? Feeding the Keepers? The Keepers seem to have their own source of nutrition somewhere in the Citadel, so why would they need more now?

    On TIM and his plan, it does actually make sense what he’s trying to do. He was turning people into Husks so he could figure out how the Reapers communicate with them and give them orders. Once he uncovered the secret of how the Reapers control them, he researched a way to co-opt this signal and control individual husks and other Reaper soldiers, usurping the Reaper’s control over them. Once he mastered that, he hoped to blow this up to a massive scale and use the signal to control the Reapers themselves, presumably by feeding it into the Crucible’s beam.

    But as you pointed out, everything TIM does seems to work against that plan. TIM needs Shepard to complete construction of the Crucible AND get it to the Citadel in order for him to feed the new code in. The best way for him to do that would have been to work openly with Shepard and then sneakily upload the special code as part of the Crucible’s construction. Instead he does everything he can to sabotage Shepard’s efforts, warns the REAPERS about what Shepard’s trying to do, and presumes the Reapers won’t just vaporize him the second he steps onto the Citadel? Even if he was indoctrinated the entire time, then why the hell would the Reapers let him get that far in his research in the first place??

    It just feels so frustrating because to me, the whole thing reads like it COULD have worked, if the writer had just fixed up the major plot holes and tightened things up.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Wait, a decade for 11 Billion people? Holy wow, talk about inefficient (although I suppose with their usual tactics of disabling the relays, there’s no rush… which shows just how stupid it is for them not to go for the Citadel the moment they’re in the galaxy). No wonder the reaping takes centuries if they take about a year per billion… That means there really was no rush to retake Earth (yeah, I know it sounds heartless), yet everyone made it seem like they had to do it in the next month or that would be the end.

  42. PatPatrick says:

    I’ve always wanted to talk how stupid Bioware was portrayed ground battle against reapers in the ME3. Humans (and all allied races) fighting skyscraper-high walkers with grenade launchers and rifles!

    Really, humans armed with presend-day weapons would have had more chances against reapers. We have jet-fighters and bombers, which is faster than reapers. We have carriers, submarines and missile cruisers, and they can operate beyond reapers reach (they can’t swim for sure). We have heavy ground armored vehicles, missile helicopters, multiple launch rocket systems, large caliber artillery, minefields, atomic weapon etc.etc.

    In Bioware game combined galactic ground forces only have few dosens box-shaped flyers, few box-shaped ground wheelers, and one caterpillar missle system. Thats what happens, when you give the dilettante to describe military operations. FFS, this is final battle, all hands on deck, all in! There must be millions of soldiers and thousands military ground and air vehicles in London (do Bioware author ever heard about Battle of Kursk? – 3 millions of soldiers and more 10k of tanks was there). And all we got is some “counter-terrorist operation” scale of action with pistols and machine guns. And the main problem is not in lack of action and explosions. Main problem is in lack of logic and mismatch between picture and plot and lore.

  43. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    I just had a minor moment of fridge brilliance regarding why the reapers would move the Citidel to Earth (as weird as that would sound).

    It’s safer for the Reapers to move the thing to a location where the concentration of the Reapers would be largest. As for why the Reapers would concentrate most of their fleet onto Earth, disregarding any notion of “genetic diversity” that was mentioned in ME 2; out of all the homeworlds for Citadel races, Earth has the highest population. Its population is greater than Thesia and Palaven combined.

    • Metheos says:

      That doesn’t offset the fact that Earth has a resistance which can try to take the Citadel back, and that the Reapers know that humans want it to build the Crucible. Instead of taking the Citadel close to where their enemies want it, they could have kept it where there is no active resistance, or even taken it to dark space where nobody would be able to take it back until the cycle was over. Really, given that the Reapers knew about the Crucible, their actions show either utter stupidity or that they wanted the Crucible completed.

      • Pyrrhic Gades says:

        The idea of taking the Citadel to Dark Space is an absolutely ludocrous, that thing is freaking massive. Given the Citadel’s location in the Serpent Nebula, just moving it could cause it immense damage to the space station, and even if the Reapers did manage to park it in Dark Space, they would run the risk of forgeting where they parked it. Remember, Dark Space is really big, and the Citadel could very well float away as the Galaxy zooms with the expansion of the universe (Remember, the Citadel is a Space Station). And then the Reapers would be missing their very expensive space station, which played a crucial part in all of their past reaping cycles.

        But let’s say the Reapers do want to get the Citadel to Dark Space. As I said before, they can’t just tug it out of the Nebula without the station getting destroyed by debree, so they must have used the relay network to move the Citadel. If one were to look at the Galaxy map presented in Mass Effect 1, you’d notice that the closest relays that link to the Serpent Nebula are in the Exodus Cluster, which also connects directly to the Charon Relay. The fastest way to Dark Space would be through Earth, since you can’t jump to the immediate north or west of the Serpent Nebula, as there are no active relays in this cycle towards those directions.

        Really, given that the Reapers knew about the Crucible, their actions show either utter stupidity or that they wanted the Crucible completed

        I think it’s pretty obvious that the Reapers did want the Crucible to be completed. It would be ludocrous beyond belief that a chain of species would somehow, over millions of years, build and design a massive mcguffin without any concievable way of translating them, unless there was some third party guiding them (i.e. the Reapers).
        It wouldn’t be the only way the Reapers would be guiding technological progress, as they did seed the galaxy with “Prothean” technology, so that other races may advance in predictable manners.

        The Reapers so clearly wanted the Crucible to be completed, and the thing is their own design. The entire thing is Reaper tech (TM). Remember the Catalyst? Which is the Citadel, which is Reaper Tech?
        And what about the Star Child, which comes into existance when the Catalyst is brought to to the Crucible and is behind it all? He’s the embodiment of all Reapers. This should be the most damning evidence of all that the Reapers were behind the project to build the Crucible.

        Now why would the Reapers want the Crucible to be finished? Remember how the Reaper’s primary function is to prevent Organics from creating robots that rise up against Organics and kill all organics by killing all organics? If anyone were to succesfully construct and use any of the Crucible’s main functions, the Reapers would become obsolete. And that’s ok with them because they have a strong union, which affords them a whopping amount of redundancy pay given their time serving Reapers Incorporated.

        Control : Reapers are obsolete because Shepard can now assume direct control of all robots in the galaxy. No free will for robots means no more robot rebellions
        Synthesis: Everyone is cyborg. No more robot rebellions, as all robots aren’t pure robots, and thus not technically a robot. Reapers obsolete
        Destroy: All robots die. Reapers are obsolete, because they are dead.

        Wow, when I started this post I really wasn’t expecting it to be so long. Nor did I expect the Mass Effect 3 ending to make so much sense.

        • Gethsemani says:

          It doesn’t make sense. If the Reapers wanted a race to use the crucible to end their cycles, why did they resist when the crucible was complete? Why move the Citadel to a hard to reach and heavily defended location if their end goal was to submit to the crucible command? Why is the battle still raging outside the crucible after Shepard reaches it and thus has activated its’ primary function?

          It could make sense. But the Reapers are doing everything they can to prevent the use of crucible all throughout the end game, that’s why they move the Citadel, that’s why they fight the united fleet and why they try to kill Shepard all the way until Shep goes through the plot beam. If it was to make sense the Reapers would yield the moment they saw a finished crucible, as that means the organics have finally reached a level of technology where they are ready to make an informed decision.

          Of course, that doesn’t get away from the utterly insipid idea behind the crucible in the first place. The Reapers are exterminating space faring races regularly to make sure they don’t create AIs and get killed by AIs. But should some space faring races become advanced enough to create AIs they are given an additional way out by means of the Crucible, which would allow those races to alter the decision of the AI that decided there was no way organics and AIs could co-exist because it would prove a level of advancement worthy of survival (despite the fact that the AI previously concluded that the same level of advancement only meant they’d be exterminated by AIs).

          That’s even before we get into the problem of the crucible somehow evolving over many thousand aeons and hundreds of races developing their own little part of this machine that everyone knows will be the key to survival but has no idea what it actually does. If the very inventors of the Crucible doesn’t know what it is or what it does, how can the Reapers magically know it is the key to ending their mission? And if they know, why are they unable to decide whatever they want to stop organics from using it or if they should keep on exterminating?

          • Pyrrhic Gades says:

            It doesn’t make sense. If the Reapers wanted a race to use the crucible to end their cycles, why did they resist when the crucible was complete? Why move the Citadel to a hard to reach and heavily defended location if their end goal was to submit to the crucible command? Why is the battle still raging outside the crucible after Shepard reaches it and thus has activated its’ primary function?

            It could make sense. But the Reapers are doing everything they can to prevent the use of crucible all throughout the end game, that’s why they move the Citadel, that’s why they fight the united fleet and why they try to kill Shepard all the way until Shep goes through the plot beam. If it was to make sense the Reapers would yield the moment they saw a finished crucible, as that means the organics have finally reached a level of technology where they are ready to make an informed decision.

            They resisted because the united forces were shooting them. And they didn’t want to let the organics have it easy.
            If Shepard can’t get past a Reaper blockade then the organics of this cycle are not worthy of making the final decision.

            Why is the battle still raging outside the crucible after Shepard reaches it and thus has activated its’ primary function?

            The battle immediately calls to a halt once Shepard activates the Crucible’s “primary function”, which is to innitiate one of the 3 endings that end in rainbow-colours. The only time the battle doesn’t immediately end is when Shepard REFUSES to activate the crucible, thereby dooming the inhabitants of this cycle.

            That’s even before we get into the problem of the crucible somehow evolving over many thousand aeons and hundreds of races developing their own little part of this machine that everyone knows will be the key to survival but has no idea what it actually does. If the very inventors of the Crucible doesn’t know what it is or what it does, how can the Reapers magically know it is the key to ending their mission? And if they know, why are they unable to decide whatever they want to stop organics from using it or if they should keep on exterminating?

            “How did the Reapers magically know the Crucible was the key to ending their mission?”, you ask.
            Because the Reapers were the very ones that invented it in the first place.

            Of course, that doesn’t get away from the utterly insipid idea behind the crucible in the first place. The Reapers are exterminating space faring races regularly to make sure they don’t create AIs and get killed by AIs. But should some space faring races become advanced enough to create AIs they are given an additional way out by means of the Crucible, which would allow those races to alter the decision of the AI that decided there was no way organics and AIs could co-exist because it would prove a level of advancement worthy of survival (despite the fact that the AI previously concluded that the same level of advancement only meant they’d be exterminated by AIs).

            Here is the thing about Reapers. They are a bunch of stupid robots that went rogue due to a misinterpretation of their programming. You are not supposed to take their philosophical ramblings seriously.

            They are fallable, mortal robots made my fallable mortal men. When the Star Child (A REAPER) talks about how Organics and Synthetics inevitably always go to war and that peace is impossible, he is flat out wrong. The fact that you can broker through hardmade Paragon-points a peace between the geth and quarians proves this. This is not a plothole, the Star Child is just an idiot.

            • Bas L. says:

              Reapers were still resisting in the cutscenes after the (Destroy) ending though. It also doesn’t make any sense that the galactic races need to “prove” themselves by fighting past the Reaper forces and making it to the beam. Not only is this a very random test (it depends on so many factors, like the homeworld, pure luck. etc.) but what if the technologically superior race isn’t military-focused at all? What if the peaceful Asari got a Shepard-like figure to read Prothean beacons and finished the Crucible by themselves? Are they then doomed to fail simply because their race isn’t aggressive enough?

              Also, the Star Child isn’t flat out wrong that war between organics and synthetics is inevitable. The geth, in fact, are the perfect example where war did eventually break out. Yes, you can get peace now, but that doesn’t change the history. And who’s to say there won’t be another war in the future?
              I agree that Shepard should’ve been able to point out the Geth&Quarian conflict (and EDI&Joker’s relationship, possibly) to show that synthetics & organics can get along, but this still does not dispute that war is always an eventual outcome. The Geth&Quarian conflict is a bit of hope, not a 100% irrefutable argument.

              • Burnsidhe says:

                The problem is that the Catalyst doesn’t just make the assertion that synthetics will fight organics.

                The problem is that the Catalyst makes the assertion that synthetics will destroy all organic life.

                It has no proof that this is an inevitable outcome, and there is counter proof that it never happened in the past, despite synthetics having been built by organics prior to the Catalyst ever existing, according to Leviathan. If the assertion that synthetics will destroy all organic life was true, then there would be no organic life existing now and the Catalyst’s makers, the Leviathan, would have all been destroyed long before they could have made the Catalyst.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      It’s only safer if you disregard the fact that the Citadel controls all the relays (which was one of the big reveal in ME1). Disable those, and it’s safe anywhere.

  44. George Monet says:

    The Extended Cut not only failed to fix a single one of the problems I had with the ending but also introduced a gaping new problem. The entire ending continued to be nonsensical, as the space magic had no place in a galaxy that started out grounded in some level of realism, but the contrivance of the ending also made no sense for the reasons you pointed out. There is no way that the Citadel is mobile, and even if it were, which it isn’t, it wouldn’t fit through a gate. In Mass Effect 1, the codex mentions that producing a mass effect field requires producing enough electricity that the entire ship becomes charged and needs to discharge either by landing on a planet or landing on the Citadel. If the Citadel was actually a ship, then the mass effect field needed to reduce its mass high enough to allow it to move at relatavistic speeds would create the same problem, the Citadel would become charged and need to discharge. But the Citadel is too large to land on a planet and there is no station large enough to take the charge from the Citadel. But the Citadel can’t move. The amount of energy required to move the Citadel would be astronomical. It would take another game’s worth of questing to get enough resources together to produce a mass driver capable of moving the Citadel. And we never see anything on the Citadel that looked like an engine. So the Citadel clearly is not capable of moving and Bioware couldn’t just handwave this glaring problem away. Not addressing this huge issue continued to make the ending fail.

    The science doesn’t work out. The galaxy is huge, there is no way that an expanding wave function could travel from one end of the galaxy to the other in just a few seconds. And even if it could, which it can’t, something traveling that fast would not be able to affect matter not only because it is traveling too quickly to affect matter but because the dispersal of the wave function would reduce the area of the wave itself. The wave starts at a relay gate which is about three times the height and length of the Normandy. That means it is less than a mile in diameter. So the wave starts with a diameter of less than a mile and then expands to hundreds or thousands of light years in diameter. There would be so much dispersion that the majority of the wave function would be vaccuum completely devoid of whatever material the wave function was supposed to have.

    The next problem pertains to the mass relay around Earth. If so many of the Reapers are hovering around Earth that Earth has become the main Reaper territory, the Reapers could be imprisoned in our solar system by blowing up the mass relay gate in Sol. Earth is a lost cause anyways because any humans who still managed to survive would already be too indoctrinated to be worth saving anyways. And maybe the explosion would take a few Reapers out. This raises a huge problem with the space magic in the first place. If you actually used the little ME3 app and spent time clicking on the space battle timers, the Reaper fleets actually get pushed back to such an extent that Admiral Hackett actually says that the Reapers are losing ground in some systems and some Reapers have been destroyed. The galaxy could have won a guerilla war against the Reapers. There aren’t that many Reapers and there are millions or billions of solar systems in the Galaxy that the Alliance could hide in and fall back to. And that kind of victory through conventional warfare would match the tone of the three games where you beat back Sovereign and Harbinger through conventional warfare. All the missions involve beating back the Reapers through conventional warfare. The Galaxy had time to adapt the technology recovered from Sovereign and in fact Mass Effect 2 specifically said that this was being done. Thanks to the destruction of Sovereign, the Galaxy had the foreknowledge of the Reapers and the technology needed to win a conventional war against the Reapers. And winning that conventional war should have been the ending of Mass Effect 3.

    Anyways, the huge new problem introduced by the extended cut is the scene where Shephard and friends are running to the beam of light. During the extended scene, one of your team mates gets injured by a Reaper beam. So your entire team stops running forwards, takes a coffee break and calls for Joker to come down to Earth and pick the injured team mate up. So Joker disengages from the battle over Earth, flies down to Earth, lands the ship, you load the injured team mate onto the ship, wish them well, and then go back to running into the beam. What the hell was the Reaper doing during all this? The only way Joker could have landed and picked up the injured teammate is if the Reaper stopped shooting while this was taking place and only started shooting again once Joker took off from Earth with the injured team mate. This was a huge glaring plot hole. The entire reason why you were running hell for leather is because the Reaper was shooting at you nonstop while you were running towards the beam. There is no way any of this could have occurred if the Reaper was attacking you.

    Going back to Mars, that scene tried to retcon the introduction to Mass Effect 1. The reason why it was so important for the Terrans to get the beacon on Eden Prime was because the Martian archives were completely exhausted and the Terrans hoped that the Prothean beacon would contain new technology and allow the Terrans to make another giant leap in technology and hopefully catch up to or possibly exceed the rest of the galaxy. But Mass Effect 1 makes it very clear that the Martian archives were exhausted. There were absolutely no undiscovered plans for secret giant space guns in the Martian archives. If the writer had played Mass Effect 1 they would have known this. This wasn’t a simple retcon, this required rewriting the entire introduction to the series. Retconning the guns is one thing, retconning the introduction to the series is on a whole different level.

    I’m glad you ripped apart the writer for Kai Leng. Just seeing a picture of him still brings all the rage back, I haven’t gotten over that huge betrayal yet. Even within the books Kai Leng is the world’s largest Mary Sue. Kai Leng serves no purpose other than the author gratification you pointed out. He isn’t a foil for Shephard, he isn’t the anti-Shephard, he is just a poorly written Final Fantasy villain who got lost trying to find the game he was supposed to be in who would still be completely insufferable in that Final Fantasy game but at least he wouldn’t be out of place.

    • Michael says:

      There’s also the problem that the ME lore established that the relays are nigh impossible to destroy. Especially not by a puny rock (“small planet”…). The Rachni relay survived a friggin supernova, for f’s sake. It also notes that the relays are “locked in place at a subatomic level”.
      Though you’ll probably recognize it when I quote it, it still rings true: “You’d think in the billions of years those things exist, some rocks would’ve hit a few of them from time to time”.

  45. Smejki says:

    “The Citadel is over London”
    Ok, I lost it there. I was living with the impression that Citadel is extremely massive for a space station, so “over London” would actually mean “over half Western Europe”

    • Burnsidhe says:

      The Citadel is an O’Neill habitat, not a small moon.

      It’s 44.7 km long, 12.8 km in diameter when the arms are open, and has a mass of 7.11 thousand million tons.

      “Over London” is correct. “Over half of Western Europe” is not.

  46. Richard MacDonald says:

    The eagles don’t carry Frodo to Mt. Doom because Sauron would see the ring, which is sort of the thing they spent the entire trip trying not to let happen.

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