Diecast #201: Another Funeral for Mass Effect

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 12, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 152 comments

This week I talked with SoldierHawk about her YouTube Channel, Mass Effect, and the sorry state of sci-fi in videogames.

Hosts: Shamus with guest Brittany. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:04 A bit about SoldierHawk and her YouTube channel.

A lot of videos show her playing through well-known games blind. (Blind in the sense that she doesn’t know the story. Not like, blindfolded or whatever.) Have a look at her archives and see if there’s anything you’d like to see through the eyes of a newcomer.

18:08 The Timeless disappointment of Mass Effect.

Screw Kai Leng.

30:06 What would it take for a new game to fill that same Mass Effect niche?

The tragic thing is that years later Mass Effect remains the best Trek-style AAA game out there, because nobody else seems interested in making them.

38:00 What are some other works that began strong and ended in disappointment?

Like I said in the show, we were trying to think of works that had a fantastic opening but led to terrible sequels. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re talking about works where the first installment begins a story and leaves us with a solid hook, promising more in the future. So I don’t think something like Highlander counts. Lots of long-running franchises degrade in quality over time, but we’re specifically looking for works that begin a story and fail to end it properly. Obviously there’s a lot of wiggle-room here, so see what you can come up with.


From The Archives:

152 thoughts on “Diecast #201: Another Funeral for Mass Effect

  1. AndrewCC says:

    The way every show starts makes me think I’ve accidentally skipped ahead a few minutes.
    Would it be hard to start the show with a “Hello, everyone, we’re here at etc. etc. with our guest ‘queue introdutions* etc. etc. “, Shamus?

    1. AndrewCC says:

      I strongly disagree with ME1 having weapons variety. It had 4 weapons. A pistol, a shotgun, an assault rifle, and a sniper rifle. The rest was all tiny incremental modifiers to fire rate or damage or “mag size”. Variety was 100% from powers and squad members.

      1. Redrock says:

        I wouldn’t say that. The weapon mods could change how you play significantly, especially the ammo. You could go with a low-capacity explosive handcannon or increase rate of fire and use freeze, etc. It still wasn’t all that great, sure, but you did have options. At least I remember that I spent quite a lot of time tweaking my shotgun into various configurations.

        1. AndrewCC says:

          I’ll give you that. You could make a shotgun or sniper build where you’d use explosive mods to turn them into a 1-shot rocket launcher basically.
          But ME2 and especially ME3 had much more variety.

          1. Jeff says:

            I think you’re conflating Mass Effect 2 with Mass Effect 3. ME2 is generally regarded as losing a lot of variety compared to ME1, especially for those of us who played on release.

            ME1’s base weapons were primarily trade-offs between damage, heat, and accuracy. They were “samey” in that they were effectively like choosing upgrades, but when combined with 2 weapon upgrades and 1 ammo upgrade you end up with multiple configurations where the extremes played very differently.

            In ME2 the different weapons had functional differences (as opposed to simple statistical ones) but the lack of upgrades mean that was all there was (without DLCs you just end up with something like 2 or 3 weapons of each class), and there was considerably less differences between the extremes. You ended up with less variety, which you really felt if you went into ME2 straight from ME1.

            Not to mention that in ME1 you carried and could use all weapons, while in ME2 you were restricted by class. Certainly in ME1 not all classes could invest in all the weapon skills, but (for example) Adepts (who only had access to Pistol skill) were commonly built with Assault Rifles or Sniper Rifles and were very effective with them. In ME2, at best you pick one extra weapon to carry when you get far enough into the game. Granted that was generally sufficient for what you probably wanted to do, but it’s still rather restrictive.

            ME3 was great for variety though – combining the base weapons in ME2 with the availability and customization of ME1. Not even weight was really a restriction, since it was yet another variable that affected cooldowns. Lots of experimentation and finding things that worked.

        2. meyerkev248 says:

          I think my favorite was the Feros zombie level, where I figured out that Explosive Rounds would knock the zombies down.

          So the damage output was low, but anybody who got close enough to actually hurt me got a shotgun to the face.

      2. Fizban says:

        I’ll second Redrock on the mods- though I eventually settled on my choice of the “best,” they still had the sort of “elemental triangle” you could switch over to if you needed more bonus vs a particular foe.

        But one thing I especially liked was the different weapons manufacturers. Figuring out which fit my combination of desired stats and paint job and which were clearly better or worse for the money really made it feel like I was picking a weapon. Walking up to a shop and going “oh that’s all trash moving on” based solely on brand recognition is some good verisimilitude if you ask me.

        1. Redrock says:

          Wait, you bought weapons? I think I used loot almost exclusively. Anyways, I think we can all agree that the inventory system was terrible. Really, really terrible. The fact that they overcorrected so much in the sequels just underlines what a train wreck it was. I couldn’t look at any inventory screen for weeks after playing ME.

          1. Mako says:

            It’s very much a YMMV thing. I’ve spent hours minmaxing weapon stats for each of my squadmates and I loved every minute of it. I’ve probably done 7 or 8 playthroughs of ME1, and I did it every time.

            I also thought the names of the guns were evocative, because I was into the setting. And I loved the descriptions of the various manufacturers.

            Basically, if you’re normal, then the inventory was probably tedious, but if you have some latent OCD then it was gloriously fiddly and a joy to use.

            1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

              As far as I remember, Spectre gear basically outclassed every other manufacturer, so what was the point of what you were doing?

      3. default_ex says:

        There is more variety then that in ME1’s weapons. You have as pointed out the 4 categories of weapons. In each of those 4 categories you have a few different brands. Each brand had different behaviors to them that gave you a variety. If you just stat scummed for the highest stat you would miss out on some of the details in how those other brands worked.

        There is one brand of automatic rifles that are particularly good at mowing down Husk rushes. Each projectile pierces multiple enemies before it dissipates, the description even mentions this property. In each category of weapons there is a brand that has incredibly fast recovery rate and isn’t otherwise indicated. The pistol of that brand is so ridiculous that it can reliably bug the game into the infinite overheat bug if your not careful but if you are careful it lays down tremendous damage very fast. Shotguns have perhaps the most variety in behaviors, specifically in the spread geometry. Some of them spread like a cone while others spread more like a capped cylinder and even more exotic ones seen to have a sinusoidal curve applied to the spread.

        The only reason I began to notice those things was that I was playing through Terraria at the time and began to wonder if maybe that flavor text was actually discussing real properties the guns had. Turns out a lot of it does.

  2. Infinitron says:

    The tragic thing is that years later Mass Effect remains the best Trek-style AAA game out there, because nobody else seems interested in making them.

    It can’t be emphasized enough how unusual this is. Space opera-style “high adventure in deep space” science fiction is one of THE two main touchstones of geek culture – the other one being high fantasy of course. How come one of these genres flourishes in story-driven video games and the other is non-existent?

    1. Redrock says:

      Sci-fi in general has become way more niche than it was in the second half of the 20th century. Anything even remotely resembling “hard” sci-fi scares away huge chunks of the audience. I mean specifically Trek-like sci-fi, something that’s at least a bit cerebral and interested in asking and answering some questions. Fantasy rules supreme, be it actual fantasy or Star Wars fantasy or Twilight fantasy or whatever. You can get a lot of sci-fi trappings, sure – some tech, some esthetics, but not Trek-like sensibilities and ideas. At least not in AAA gaming.

      1. Dev Null says:

        Keeping in mind Shamus’ directives against discussing religion on his site… I find it amusing that you refer to Trek as “hard” science fiction.

        Don’t get me wrong – I actually quite like some parts of the Trekiverse. But Trek (to me at least) was always about doing the _people_ well, and handwaving the science. It’s about as space fantasy as it gets.

        1. Phill says:

          Star Wars is about as space fantasy as it gets. Star Trek is much more sci-fi than that. Bearing in mind that most sci-fi isn’t really about hard science (especially golden age era sci-fi such as original Trek). The idea of hard sci-fi that tried to be rigourously scientific and consistent didn’t really turn up until the late 80’s or really 90’s (at least in stuff that I was reading). Most earlier sci-fi (rather than pulp or space opera) was about creating a setting to explore the consequences of an idea. The setting could be as hand wavy as you liked : it just had to support the exploration of the key idea. (E.g. time travel stories could be completely inconsistent in his they treated time travel or other technology in the story, but existed to provide the mechanism to expire an idea. Science fiction was about making you think about ideas, not creating scientifically plausible worlds).

          1. Dev Null says:

            Science fiction was about making you think about ideas; _hard_ science fiction was about making you think about ideas in scientifically “plausible” worlds.

            By plausible I mean that they generally made up one or two completely ludicrous “what if” premises, but then tried to make the rest internally consistent based from there. Star Trek doesn’t even try to be internally consistent; they just make up a new version of space magic every time they need it to tell an interesting story about people. They’re _constantly_ discovering some new race/technology/application of their own technology that they should have figured out minutes after the tech itself was invented – that should completely change their entire society, and then never mentioning it again once the episode ends.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Depends on the episode.There are some episodes,like a taste of armageddon,where trek does discuss an idea more than people.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          Star Wars is so soft, it’s space fantasy. Star Trek is a solid “medium” on the hardness scale. The hardest sci-fi I’ve read is a book where a Mars colony gets hit by AI-controlled micrometeorites.[1] The book has pretty realistic space colonies which are hollowed-out meteors that orbit the sun slowly – basically half theme-park and half cruise ship. Everything presented in the book is rreasonably within reach of current technology, and the current known limitations of physical laws.

          [1] If this is spoilers to you, then you already know the plot. I mean, I guess you could randomly start reading the book, then realize later it’s been spoiled, but it should still be fairly veiled. Also, can somebody tell me the name of this book – it was so good! :)

          1. Robert Davidoff says:

            I think this is what you’re looking for (rot13’d to avoid spoiler):

            V guvax gur obbx lbh’er guvaxvat bs vf Xvz Fgnayrl Ebovfba’f gjragl-guerr gjryir (va ahzoref va gur gvgyr ohg ebg13 qbrfa’g yvxr gb fpenzoyr vagrtref)

            1. Echo Tango says:

              Yes! I’d totally forgotten that author’s name! Also Shamus has set up strike tags for spoilers! :P

            2. Reed says:

              Uru. Ahzoref jbhyq unir gb or va EBG5. :)

              1. Robert Davidoff says:

                Uru. Ahzoref jbhyq unir gb or va EBG5. :)

                Lrnu, ohg gur snpg gung gur ercyl pbafvfgrq bs abguvat ohg ahzoref jbhyq fbeg bs or n fcbvyre va naq bs vgfrys, naq ebg13 naq ebg5 qba’g fjnc yrggref gb ahzoref yvxr gur nccebnpu V qvq.

          2. Dev Null says:

            You’re the second person in this thread to call Trek a medium; I’d be curious about your reasoning, if you don’t mind sharing, because I just don’t see it.

            The “hard” in hard sci-fi has always – in my experience – referred to the consistency and plausibility of the science in the background. So I’d call The Expanse reasonably hard because – despite the complete lack of any science to explain the Epstein drive that allows them to zip around the solar system in Reasonable Time – they start from that one premise and then try to make the rest of their universe consistent with known science and that premise. So people still have to deal with G forces from acceleration, biological effects of zero G, farming in space, etc. etc.

            Star Trek, by contrast, has faster-than-light travel that behaves fairly inconsistently, and then it mostly fails to explore the societal effects of that travel. They have sensors that can pick out individual people on a planet from orbit… except when they can’t, instantaneous galaxy-wide communication… except when they don’t, the ability to teleport people and objects insane distances… except when they can’t, apparently infinite power and the ability to create finely-tuned matter directly from energy… except when they can’t, perfect artificial gravity… except when they don’t. There’s almost nothing consistent about the “science” in the shows anywhere – they just make up whatever they need in the moment to tell a story, and then explore almost none of the effects of those technologies on their culture or world. Because it was never _intended_ to be hard sci fi from the start – Roddenbury was pretty open about the fact that he wanted to tell stories about people, not technology, and the science fiction setting just let him get some distance from the politics of his day.

            1. Matt Downie says:

              Internal consistency – which tends to decline the more episodes you have – isn’t what normally defines hard science-fiction.

              Hard SF just means they try to be consistent with known science and avoid blatant fantasy elements like space wizards.

              1. newplan says:

                Blatant fantasy elements like remotely sensing emotions (but only wizards can do it – this is not something that can be duplicated by technology)? Like casting a telepathy spell that’s restricted to touch range?

                1. Joe Informatico says:

                  It’s not just touch range. Spock detected the 400+ Vulcans on the USS Intrepid dying from light-years away in “The Immunity Syndrome”.

              2. Dev Null says:

                Blatant fantasy according to known science like FTL travel? That’s a pretty strict definition of hard SF.

              3. Joe Informatico says:

                This is why the term “hard” SF makes my hair stand up:

                1) Everyone who brings it up has a definition in mind
                2) It’s frequently very different from the next person’s definition
                3) It almost always applies only to physics and maybe engineering, but rarely are biology, medicine, psychology, geology, climatology, etc. held up to the same rigour
                4) There’s always at least one miracle exemption to the laws of physics, usually the existence of FTL travel

              4. Philadelphus says:

                Internal consistency is one of the hallmarks of actual science (it’s the entire reason the scientific method can exist at all), so for something to be trying to be consistent with known science would also require it, perforce, to (try to) maintain internal consistency…

                1. Droid says:

                  Note to self: Use “perforce” in your next thesis.

                  Thanks, Philadelphus! I’m always looking to expand my “scientific English” vocabulary.

                  1. Philadelphus says:

                    Ha ha, you’re welcome! I actually usually think of it as more of a “legal” word (as in the kind of thing you’d find in old legal documents) as it’s somewhat archaic at this point. :)

            2. Echo Tango says:

              I’d say that episode to episode Star Trek (at least Next Gen, but I’ve hardly watched any eps of any season of any series) is fairly consistent. They set up some technology, then explore what that implicates. Overall, yeah, they just hand-wave shit like crazy.

              1. Joe Informatico says:

                Remember that time Dr. Pulaski had the incurable aging affliction, but they used her DNA and the transporter to restore her to her transporter pattern from two weeks prior to being infected, but she still had all her memories from the intervening two weeks? And then they never used that method again, even though it would be almost as effective a miracle cure as Khan’s blood in Star Trek Into Darkness that all the Trekkies got mad about? Good times.

        3. Redrock says:

          Hence my usage of the word “remotely”. Trek is pretty much middle ground on the “hardness” scale, like Philly said.

          1. Shamus says:

            I’m always uneasy when debating over the relative “hardness” of sci-fi, because the scale varies by medium. By the standards of sci-fi novels, Trek is a cartoon world, but by the standards of television or movies, it’s some of the hardest sci-fi out there. I think it’s probably the hardest sci-fi you could make and still have a reasonable hope of mass appeal.

            1. 4th Dimension says:

              Except The Expanse exists, and that is adamantium hard…when compared to other Sci-Fi shows. It’s still not that hard if we compare it to other Sci-Fi books.

    2. Fizban says:

      Maybe a combination of Star Trek basically taking a break for a generation and Stargate ending, while the Lord of the Rings movies showed up and smashed fantasy right into everyone’s faces?

    3. Gethsemani says:

      My guess is that partially what Redrock said, that Sci-Fi is more niche. But also that Sci-Fi has a higher barrier of entry for the creator. For Fantasy you can rip-off Tolkien’s Middle Earth, get some excuse plot of good vs evil and make the player character the Chosen One for whatever reason and that’s the narrative. Not so much in Sci-Fi. Sci-Fi fans demands more in terms of narrative content, not necessarily because they are much more sophisticated, but because Sci-Fi as a genre, especially in literature, has a reputation for being a genre about morality or meditations on technology and what life or humanity really is.

      Just take a look at what gets adapted into TV-series. For fantasy you have GoT as the main example, a show that generally foregoes the complex critique of many topics that Martin engages in, to deliver a narrative that’s all about a bunch of people wanting to conquer Westeros. Compare that to Westworld (technically a movie adaptation), The Expanse or Altered Carbon, shows that retain the original works discussion on topics like humanity, consciousness, morality, prolonged life, AI-rights, state rights and the cold war.

      To make a proper Sci-Fi RPG means setting your narrative aim way higher then you have to do if you do a fantasy RPG. Which probably seems like a lot of pointless extra work if you can get more sales while peddling an average narrative in a fantasy RPG.

      1. Redrock says:

        True. In fantasy you can always explain everything through “it’s magic”. We don’t really get fantasy worlds with rigid, Sanderson-like rules for magic. Even The Witcher, which I love, in the end relies on the notion of some barely explained power beyond mere magic that Ciri has. Because, honestly, compared to Ciri’s time and space hopping, the bullshit Force connection from The Last Jedi is child’s play. And yes, I’m not letting that go and yes, I intend to hate TLJ till my dying breath.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          You know, Star Wars has always been more “Fantasy, but in space” than sci-fi. That being said, there used to be some pretty well established rules about the Force. Rules that The Last Jedi decided to completely ignore out of a desire to subvert expectations.

          It’s sort of like if in the next Batman movie he suddenly started to regenerate lost limbs with the only explanation being that he “trained really hard” to achieve that ability. Yeah, if you ask the audience, of course it’s completely unexpected. Hilariously, no, that doesn’t make it good.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        So what you’re saying is that Idiocracy is coming true, and we’re all doomed? ^^;

    4. Lars says:

      Well. Star Citizen has a rich backstory of about 400 years of space exploration. But until squadron 42 is released, there is no way of knowing if its just hot air and doesn’t matter in the game itself.

    5. GoStu says:

      It’s a very good question, and in another piece on this site Shamus asks a similar question; why isn’t that ‘episodic’ style more popular as well? Specifically the “go to a planet, take on the story of the day, resolve, move on” style like the planets from ME:1.

      The whole science fiction versus science fantasy argument can be rooted in the concept (misconception?) that audiences don’t want that kind of story, but as Shamus mentioned the episodic structure would have some really good advantages for developers – allowing content to be added or cut much more easily seems like it would be a godsend for studios struggling with deadline or budget either way.

    6. Natomic says:

      I think the reason why fantasy flourishes in story driven video games while space-opera sci-fi flounders is the difficulty in world building, but not narrative world building but actual physical world building. If you were to ask me to design the map for a fantasy game without telling me anything about the game itself, I could just ask you what real earth biome you want to use as a base and go from there. If you were to task me to build a sci-fi map, I would have a LOT more questions, like what “sci-fi map” means. Did you want me to make a star map? Spaceship interiors? An alien planet? Some combination of the three? How are players going to traverse the world? In most high fantasy you can rely on players traveling primarily by foot, but in sci-fi you could be traveling by foot, jet-pack, spaceship, etc. How constrained would the play space be? Would it all take place in like a single space station, or would it be several galaxies large, or anything in between? Would players be able to free navigate open space? Roam endlessly on planets? Action centric sci-fi games don’t really seem to have this problem and I suspect that’s because the answers to these questions are heavily dictated by the type of gameplay they have.

      I don’t think it quite matches what people are looking for when they say “story driven space-opera sci fi,” but maybe give Xenoblade Chronicles X for the Wii U a try. It’s JRPG and take that as you will (although as far as JRPGs go it’s pretty western). It’s combat is very MMO-like, it’s main story is pretty mediocre, most of the main characters lack any nuanced characterization whatsoever, it verges over into fantasy territory quite a bit at times, it can require quite a bit of grinding, and a fair bit of the writing is very cringey. But even with all these, well I won’t them faults because some (not all) of these traits are perfectly acceptable to some so let’s call them quirks, even with all of these quirks the actual physical world itself was an absolute joy to explore and traverse. It takes place across four continents (each with a unique environment) on an alien planet that a human colony ship has been stranded on. It totally nails the whole “visit a totally alien world and explore and encounter unfathomable lifeforms and alien civilizations” vibe that some of you may be looking for and some of the writing does go into trek-style “use of hand-waved sci fi concepts to explore the philosophical implications and human nature” storytelling. But it also displays the care and complexity with which the map was designed. It had to be designed to be traveled by foot, then also by space car, then finally also by flying mech suit.

  3. Redrock says:

    When it comes to works that start strong and end in dissapointment, I think The Dark Tower qualifies. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Dark Tower. Seriously, I adore that crazy series. Even still, you can’t help but feel that in the end it went in a very different direction than what the first three books promise. It’s especially apparent when you re-read The Gunslinger and just see all the dangling plot threads that never get resolved. I still think The Dark Tower is really, really cool. But both times I read the novels, I just bounced off the fourth one, Wizard and Glass, and never quite got my steam back even as I trudged through the rest of them.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Personally, I would have been happy with just the original book. It was entertaining in its own right, and in its original publication was meant (from what I read about it) as a stand-alone work. The really disappointing part of The Dark Tower, though, is the movie. Reviews so bad, that even I (who read ALL the books, and loved them (minus being so dang long)!) won’t bother going to watch it. :S

    2. GoStu says:

      While I’m a big fan of the Dark Tower, I respect that Wizard and Glass was a bit of a challenge to get through. I’ll encourage you to take another run at it though, as I do think the series is worth finishing… maybe having hit it once before will let you burn through the chewy middle of book 4 faster on your second go-through.

      1. Redrock says:

        No, I did get through it both times. But the process always included me dropping the book for a couple of months, before coming back to it and grudgingly pressing on. I can’t really put my finger on why, though. Weird western is pretty much one of my favorite genres ever, but something about Wizard and Glass just doesn’t work. Maybe it’s the fact that Roland and gang just seem so goddamn stupid and slow. Because we know what’s going on and what’s going to happen, watching them ever so slowly get there just feels like torture. Now, Stephen King is often accused of padding out his books, but I think this one is the only one where I personally feel it enough to get annoyed. It’s a shame, really.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          That is… interesting that the best book in the series is the one that bugs you. Not the “barely readable” Song of Susannah or the “actively hostile and belligerent to the reader” Dark Tower book 7.

    3. Dev Null says:

      Ugh. You mean it gets even _worse_ after the first book? Guess I can save myself the trouble of trying that series again then; the first one is one of maybe half-a-dozen books in my lifetime that I have started and then deliberately put down in disgust. When you introduce your obvious Marty Stu Male Power Fantasy character by having him torture a woman for information by raping her into an abortion with the barrel of his gun? That’s not an anti-hero; the word you’re looking for is “villain”.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Wait. That happens in The Dark Tower? I must have forgotten half of that book. I thought it was just a story following this gunslinger through his travels, shooting raiders and chasing the man in black. I know Roland does some mutilation of demons and such later on (in the book series? maybe this book – it’s been a while), but I thought all the sick things done to humans was all perpetrated by the bad guys.

        1. Dev Null says:

          A lot of the Dark Tower fans I tell that story to have that reaction. The version that I read was apparently a relatively-recent (2003, says wikipedia) rewrite that King made some significant changes to. I don’t know whether that particular scene was added in the rewrite or not, and I certainly have no interest in exposing myself to it a second time just to find out…

          1. Echo Tango says:

            After finding an article on a fan wiki that explains this woman / character, I remember her finally. She’s a preacher whose religion has started being corrupted by the Man In Black (pretty much a demon). She was also pregnant by him, which makes the child at least half-demon. (So, it’s sort of half exorcism, half demon-killing.) She was trying to keep safe the Man In Black, who was trying to bring about the end of the world. So, Roland might not be somebody to aspire to be, but his actions are at least justified, in the cruel, evil world he inhabits.

            [1] He’s trying to stop the end of the world, by murdering anyone in his way. For a heroic gunslinger, see Vash The Stampede, or even Roland himself, when he makes disabling shots. Roland also sometimes kills his enemies quickly / painlessly, but only when he has no use for them alive.

            1. Dev Null says:

              We only have Roland’s word for any of that though, and he has no conceivable method of knowing it’s true at the time. As the scene is written, he just emotionlessly tortures a (probably insane) woman for information, and choses to do so by raping her with the barrel of his gun. Even if he thought it was to save the world – which the story in no way implies that he believes – he gives no justification for using such a needlessly sadistic method as his first and only attempt to get the information, when he’s clearly not even in much of a hurry (he spends a couple of days lounging around the town while local womenfolk bribe him with supplies to get sex from him… in case you needed any more ways in which the odious power fantasy stank to high heaven.)

              1. Redrock says:

                Which is exactly why he gets brought down roughly in the second book. Look, The Gunslinger was written by a teenager, and it shows. It was also written quite some time ago. I won’t argue that the sex and the violence in the book can be more than a little uncomfortable. For what it’s worth, I think it mostly works in context, but, of course, your mileage may vary. It should, however, be said that the gun-rape thing isn’t there just for torture, but is a deliberate attempt by Roland to kill the demon child. Still nasty, though, but not all that needless in the context of the story. Bear in mind, Roland is supposed to be a very nasty fellow at that point in the story, one to walk over a child and sacrifice anyone and do anything for his quest. Which is kinda the point. Still. Gross scene is gross, I’ll give you that.

    4. Jack says:

      And continuing on a literary path, A Song of Ice and Fire. The first three books were top notch and promptly released (1996, 1998, 2000) and then he hit a massive block where he wanted to do a five year time jump but couldn’t figure out how. The result being garbage books and huge delays in release (2005, 2011, not 2018).

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Yay Hawke!

    1. Daimbert says:

      Was this you expressing your appreciation of the guest host, or making a subtle comment that the Dragon Age series is an example where the first game was great and the sequels disappointing?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats me cheering for SoldierHawke.

        1. Soldierhawk says:

          *HIGHEST OF FIVES*

          Thanks Daem.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Not like, blindfolded or whatever.

    Theres your idea for a stream.Start a game you know well,put a blindfold on,and see how long you can last.

    1. Fizban says:

      I was actually pretty disappointed when I took a look at Lobos Jr.’s blindfolded Dark Souls run, wherein. . . they blindfold him and shout directions. Yay?

      I’d thought of a method for an actual playable “blindfolded” run (which could apply to a lot of games):

      Wrap a towel or something around the monitor so you can only see the bottom edge, forcing you to play the game based on memory of the environment and sound cues, with only the ability to check your feet out the “bottom” of the blindfold to get your bearings. I’d hyped up the idea in my head and then was a bit sour that run was just an old, bad audio, verbal+trial+error grind.

      Though if there are any runs of games out there like that, that’d be awesome.

      1. Cybron says:

        There’s an actually blindfolded run of Ocarina of Time on YouTube. Lotta memorization plus some sword based echolocation. The worst part is when he has to fish the ocarina out of the moat – it’s basically pure miserable trial and error.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait,highlander had sequels?Are you guys joking?How come I never heard of any of them?

    1. ThricebornPhoenix says:

      You have the favor of Lady Luck? Highlander 2 is infamously terrible. It starts with the fact of its existence – which is specifically precluded by the ending of the first movie – and just gets worse from there. It may be the definitive bad sequel.

      1. Redrock says:

        Knowing DL, he’s probably trolling. So, not so much the favor of Lady Luck but rather the favor of Lord Sheogorath, I’d say.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Ive looked everywhere,and I honestly cant find info about any sequels to highlander.You guys must be trolling me.

    2. Soldierhawk says:

      Pft. Of course not. There can be only one. It’s right there in the movie catchphrase!

      1. Nimrandir says:

        You can’t see it through your device, but I’m currently holding up a lighter, with a single tear slowly running down my cheek.

  7. Mr Compassionate says:

    There was a dead horse here, but it’s gone now.

    1. Durrican says:

      It got fed up with the beating, so it reanimated and galloped majestically off into the sunset.

  8. A Straw Man says:

    What about Quantum Break, Shamus? That’s a proper sci-fi game.

    1. Redrock says:

      I think he meant space sci-fi particularly. Time-travel, cyberpunk, near-future, post-apocalyptic – those we do get, from time to time.

  9. Kathryn says:

    I’m having difficulty thinking of any series that *do* have good, satisfying endings. A few random examples:

    -Harry Potter. In DH, Rowling forced her story back into its original outline despite the maturing she had experienced, both as a person and as a writer, in the… 14 years? More? since PS/SS. It shows. DH doesn’t even seem to be aware of the many issues with the wizarding world made manifest in the previous six books.

    -Any two-parter on TNG – Chain of Command in particular comes to mind. I don’t think part 2 ever paid off part 1 in TNG two-parters.

    -The Enchanted Forest books, which are all about the same conflict between wizards and dragons. The first two are brilliant. The last two…not so much. (And the last one was actually written first.)

    -Eschalon: Book III. Books I and II were good old-fashioned RPG fun. Book III was such a colossal disappointment (don’t get me started) that I would have demanded my money back if it weren’t an indie one-man operation.

    I could go on…

    1. Daimbert says:

      -Any two-parter on TNG – Chain of Command in particular comes to mind. I don’t think part 2 ever paid off part 1 in TNG two-parters.

      “The Best of Both Worlds”?

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The original foundation trilogy was rather satisfying,ending with that nice twist.And when talking about originals,the original star wars trilogy did not disappoint.As for more recent examples……Does 2121 jump street count?

    3. Boobah says:

      -Any two-parter on TNG – Chain of Command in particular comes to mind. I don’t think part 2 ever paid off part 1 in TNG two-parters.

      That’d be any season-crossing two-parter from any Trek series (or at least from TNG to Enterprise). They intentionally wrote themselves into a corner and, months later, after the first part had aired, they started writing part 2. No big surprise the two halves often didn’t mesh.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Improbable cause and the die is cast were made like that as well,and those two meshed well.

  10. Yay! A lady contributor on the show! This makes me so happy!

    And she’s a fellow veteran too.

    Please have her back for more shows. I really enjoyed this one.

    1. Soldierhawk says:

      I seriously had the best time. Shamus is a treat to converse with.

      Also, TYFYS! o7

      1. Rack says:

        Would also like to hear you come back to do more, your insights feel very complementary to the site as well as independantly interesting.

  11. Steve C says:

    What about Star Control 2? It ticks all those boxes. AAA studios didn’t exist back when it was made. It was top end graphics etc the year it was released.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Who else is excited for Ghosts of the Precursors? :)

      1. Steve C says:

        We’ll never see it. I think Ghosts of the Precursors is vaporware. It is part of a legal tactic to make their lawsuit stronger.

        1. Philadelphus says:

          We shall see, I suppose.

  12. Steve C says:

    SoldierHawk you may want to consider a more flattering mic for your voice. Condenser mics tend to accentuate the high frequencies. To be clear, your voice sounds fine and “flattering” does not mean “better” nor “more expensive”. The mic is just not a good match for your voice. It is giving the top end a harsh quality that isn’t part of your voice. It detracts and doesn’t need to be there. Your recording software might have a setting that filters it out.

    I hope to hear more of you on the diecast in the future!

    1. Soldierhawk says:

      Absolutely 100% will be taken into account in the future. I was using my headset because I didn’t want Emmitt [pet bird] to be too riled up and interrupt the podcast. In the future, I’ll move him into another room and use my usual mic. I’d have done that here, but I didn’t think about it until the last second; I’m so used to it personally I forget that other people miiiiiiight not find his contributions as….illuminating as I do.

      I always appreciate feedback about my audio setup, so thank you so much!

      1. Droid says:

        Hah, I knew there was SOMETHING important missing here, but couldn’t quite figure out what.

        1. Soldierhawk says:

          I informed Emmitt that you missed him, and his reply is as follows:

          “SQUAAAAAAK chirpchirpchirp REEEEEAWK chirpwhistlechirpchirp!”

          …I think that’s good.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Shows that you are new to the podcast business.Every time a pet interrupts a conversation,by sound or appearance,its the highlight of the show,shared by all of the fans.

  13. Matt says:

    This might be cheating because it hasn’t finished yet, but Game of Thrones began as a terrific adaptation of the source material and has devolved into what Ian McShane aptly described as “tits and dragons.”

    Instead of intricate politicking that rewards a close viewing, we move from set piece to set piece with almost no narrative cohesion or consistent character motivations. Characters are treated indelicately at best or are totally mangled, undermining some of the pitch-perfect casting choices (and making the bad choices all the more irritating). In fact, these days, it seems like the writers don’t even understand the themes and tone of what they were trying to adapt. The central message of Buddhism is not “every man for himself,” and the message of A Song of Ice and Fire is not that Eddard & Robb were stupid and Tywin was smart, that traditional female roles and “soft power” were irrelevant, and that violence and revenge are wholesome, justifiable ways to solve conflicts.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I think season 1 had a pretty decent amount of good plot. After slogging through the next couple seasons though, I pretty much gave up. I’ve got better places to waste my time (videogames), see cool dragons (more videogames), or look at naked people (porn).

      1. Matt says:

        I think there’s a pretty neat and linear decline in quality from one season to the next, unfortunately in inverse relation to the show’s budget and cultural cachet.

        Personally, the negatives began to outnumber the positives around the end of season 4 and the start of season 5. Total story collapse didn’t occur until possibly this season, if the reviews are anything to go by.

        1. DriveBy says:

          The decline in quality wasn’t just in the shows. The books have also been decreasing in quality, although the decline isn’t necessarily linear. A Dance With Dragons was at least somewhat entertaining, whereas A Feast For Crows was a dull slog. Ironically: ADWD was probably the biggest letdown in terms of plot development and characterization, while A Feast For Crows actually delivered in some ways, but was nevertheless still drudgery.
          Series that will never be finished, and there is no end in sight besides what the TV show writers slap together.

  14. Rack says:

    My grief counselling for ME3 was the Animal House ending video. Worked well. Especially the epilogue for Vega.


    1. Echo Tango says:

      You jest, but this is basically the ending cutscenes from the Fallotu games. Pretty cheap to do, those endings that have static images, flavour-text, and music in the background.

    2. That was great, especially Tali, Garrus, and Vega.

  15. Echo Tango says:

    Since the original Mass Effect hasn’t had anything take its place, I’m going to play make-believe for a game in this unfilled niche. Since no AAA studios seem to want to tackle this, I’ll assume that this needs to be a smaller game, but large enough and shiny enough to be relatively satisfying. (Text adventures aren’t going to scratch the ME1 itch!) First, I’ll aim for a budget of a million bucks, and three years. That would work out to a maximum of 6 people’s salaries, assuming they’re living in Saskatoon (where I live) or Pennsylvania (I believe Shamus lives / lived here). This might not be “ideal” locations for game dev, but we’re going for budget. If the money’s being burned too quickly in year one, we’re firing the least senior person, and moving to the nearest relative’s farm, to live in the barn with the cows (we’ll buy a wi-fi repeater, so it reaches to our smelly office).

    Now for the actual game. Cartoony graphics like Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Borderlands 1, XIII, or Windwaker. We’ll buy pre-made assets for most of the stuff in the game, and run it through a script to make everything the same low- or medium-level polygon count, and have the game apply toon-shading on the fly with graphics-card shaders. (This will also keep our system requirements relatively low.) The main characters, statues, and primary locations will have hand-made 3D models. Pre-made music will be our soundtrack – if Kevin Macleod is good enough for the Diecast credits music, it’s good enough for this game! The game world will be made like System Shock 1, or Minecraft, out of blocks. (This will help a lot with our budget.) All terrain, buildings, and doors will be destructible, like X-COM. Unlike X-COM, we’ll throw in some basic physics from an off-the-shelf physics engine, to have things tumble into a pile of debris, for any blocks that aren’t outright destroyed. After the animation / physics is done, they become blocks again, so that players can traverse them without the physics engine going bananas. This will allow brute-force solutions, like exploding doors, or tunneling into the secret base that you couldn’t sneak, bribe, or seduce your way into.

    Most of the story will be told with crappy text boxes, like Faster Than Light, Into The Breach, or System Shock. If budget permits, we’ll make a few in-engine cutscenes, with voice-over from the nearest starving voice-actor. Since we’re doing most everything in text, we can have lots of branches and dead-ends in our conversations, like the main areas of Fallout 1 & 2. We can also have lots of side-quests, like the Fallouts, and Mass Effect 1. Skill points will be kept small, like Darkest Dungeon, Into The Breach, or Mass Effect 1. To keep this matched up with the story, there will be some countdown on the main quest, like dwindling water supply at home, or some invading force. This let’s us keep everything balance-able, and lets us focus on interesting stories / simulation of the game world. Once the quest is done, or time limit reached, queue voice-over ala Fallout 1, minus the expensive Mr. Perlman. :)

  16. Mortuorum says:

    I can’t think of a video game series that went off the rails quite as spectacularly as Mass Effect did. For television series, the closest I can come up with is the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, which started so strong, then just kinda went nowhere. That’s reasonably common with television (particularly science fiction series, for some reason), but Battlestar was a particularly striking example.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Finally, a kindred spirit! My friends who watched the Battle Star Galactica reboot all thought it was amazing. The first season was great, but you’re right – downhill from there. :C

    2. John says:

      The Battlestar Galactica reboot immediately rubbed me the wrong way when it said “They Have A Plan” right in the opening credits. Given what I know of how TV shows get made, there was pretty much zero chance that there was any kind of a plan past the end of the first season. When a show is in pre-production, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for writers or producers to spend a lot of time or effort planning for a second season that–TV being what it is–probably won’t ever happen. I’m not even sure that it makes a lot of sense to do a lot of planning for the end of the first season.

      1. tremor3258 says:

        You can say the characters have a plan as long as the producers have a plan.

        You can also claim there was a plan if there was no plan and you wing it well.

        Otherwise you get into trouble.

        (For the record, I made it to the first episode after the season four midseason break, and decided to watch something more uplifting, like Threads)

        1. Matt says:

          Maybe, like Archer, their plan was to crowd-source a plan.

      2. DriveBy says:

        BSG remake ran out of meaningful steam at the end of the first season. It coasted to the halfway mark of season 2 on fumes, and by the end of season 2 it had completed its descent into aimless soap opera schlock. Was a really good first season though, too bad all those tense plots never had satisfying resolutions.

  17. Nimrandir says:

    What are some other works that began strong and ended in disappointment?

    I was going to say Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but that’s really more in the Highlander mold of a single complete story that sales demanded get more stuff.

  18. DeadleDark says:

    Deep Space Nine ended gloriously! Seven year arc ended with all subplots closed? Here it is.

    I understand the appeal of Planet of the Week concept, but on the other hand, the idea of facing consequences and dealing with them, instead of warping to the other end of the galaxy, is equally powerful. Just different, and isn’t that’s what we want from spin-offs? And, for me, DS9 has stronger cast – all the members are very interesting and three-dimensional. TNG had only Data and Worf with occasional Picard.

    1. John says:

      DS9 is my very favorite Star Trek, but the final episode is just not all that good. Sisko and Dukat have been pitted against each other in a battle of wits for seven years. So, naturally, their final confrontation is–ugh–a fist fight in a cave. It’s not even a nice cave. The Dominion–the part of the show that people actually care about–has already been defeated elsewhere. Sisko and Dukat are slugging it out over which faction of incorporeal alien plot devices get to live in the wormhole. Whee.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        The sisko thing did end poorly,but the klingons had a nice ending,so did the war itself,and the obriens.The ferengi ending though….its just as stupid as rom.

    2. JBC31187 says:

      The finale of DS9 is great, if you subtract all the Prophet/Pah Wraith stuff. I usually watch up until the Dominion peace treaty, then skip to the very end, where we see how life in the universe goes on even when half the cast leaves.

      The one good part of the Pah Wraith subplot was Kai Winn getting pissed at her gods for ignoring her and Bajor for so long. It’s the closest the last season got to the older “Sisko and the Prophets are learning to deal with each other” relationship.

  19. DeadleDark says:

    38:00 What are some other works that began strong and ended in disappointment?
    I’d imagine, Command and Conquer, Tiberium series are in this league. Tiberium Wars did a pretty good set up (that continues Tiberian Dawn and Tiberian Sun), but Tiberium Twilight thwarted it real good (as I heard).

    Can we count Dead Space series?

    Thief series as counter-example

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The Red Alert games also had a downward slope in the sequels. Not as bad as the Tiberian games, but still bad. :S

    2. Droid says:

      Command and Conquer: Generals is ludicrously (US-)nationalistic in its faction setup, depicts China as being incapable of producing a single military unit that does not violate the Geneva conventions, the entire Middle East and former Soviet nations as cesspools of terrorism, depicts people being run over by tanks, killed by Anthrax, roasted alive, irradiated and a lot of other forms of unnecessarily cruel deaths, as well as including a scenario about the US invading and occupying Baghdad … at basically the same time as the US actually invading and occupying Baghdad; – and is in many respects a really fun game.

      The Add-On Zero Hour does improve some aspects of the original game, and introduces “Generals factions”, sub-factions of the three basic factions that have some advantages and some disadvantages to them, but you can clearly see from all sorts of angles that the game was rushed a lot and lacks lots of necessary polish (maps being surprisingly and annoyingly hard, sub-factions not showing up at all in the new “Generals challenge”, three boss characters merged into a single one, and a very, very … creative interpretation of game balance for an RTS, and a C&C game at that, and LOTS and LOTS of unused audio, 3D models, 2D art, sub-faction concepts, etc.).

      And Generals 2 was just as bad a tease as your recent System Shock Remake Betrayal, just with EA spitting into our face after hyping us up for months instead of a small studio on Kickstarter.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Dang. There’s too few RTSs these days, let alone ones with a sense of humor.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          How about a tbs with a sense of humor?Space tyrant.

    3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Dead Space actually had a really strong ending if you play the DLC for 3.

  20. RFS-81 says:

    Meanwhile, there’s an absolute glut of 4X strategy games set in space. It’s not going to scratch anyone’s Mass Effect itch, but Endless Space 2 is relatively story-focused, as far as such games go, with each civ having a unique questline.

    Shamus, why do you think that Obsidian could not make a sci-fi game? Why not a top-down RPG on alien planets?

    1. Shamus says:

      Obsidian, when they are free to choose their own projects, seems to greatly prefer high fantasy in a dark / morally conflicted world. Trek-style optimistic futurism is not their thing. Yes, I’m sure the team COULD physically do it if they had some sort of external motivation, but it goes against their stylistic preferences. I imagine if you tried to get them to make a Trek-style story you’d end up with something deconstructionist or “anti-Trek” in tone, like Star Trek Discovery.

      1. Redrock says:

        Speaking of external motivation, I’d really like someone to motivate Larian to move on from their poor man’s Discworld imitation to another setting. While they couldn’t do Trek, they could do a decent Steel Rat if they attempted sci-fi.

        1. default_ex says:

          I would love to see Larian pull off a good sci-fi RPG that follows the same tongue in cheek and unexpected gut buster comedic lines of the first couple of Divinity games. Didn’t care much for Original Sin as it either takes itself too seriously or forces itself to be silly.

          That and it would be hilarious to randomly out of nowhere have a dialog option that simply reads “Maxos” and choosing it ensures that hilarity follows.

      2. Liessa says:

        That’s the thing about Bioware: they’ve always been best at those kind of light-hearted, slightly tongue-in-cheek stories and settings. When they try to go all grimdark, like with Dragon Age 2 (and even 1 to some extent), they can’t really pull it off. I was playing Jade Empire for the first time a few months ago, and while the gameplay was pretty meh, I found myself really enjoying the colourful settings and funny, likeable characters – and wondering where those went in their more recent games.

        But like you, I find myself struggling to think of another studio that could produce games in the same style. Maybe CD Projekt, but I think they’d need a different writing team from the ones responsible for the Witcher games. That’s part of what’s so sad about the decline of Bioware: there are still plenty of studios making good games, but they’re not the same type of games and we’ll probably never see anything quite like the Bioware classics again.

        Anyway, I don’t often listen to the Diecast but I enjoyed this episode very much. SoldierHawk is a great interviewee and I’d like to hear more from her.

      3. Sannom says:

        Obsidian has an undisclosed AAA project led by Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarski, and they’ve recently filed trademarks for something called “Outer Worlds”, so there is some possibility of them doing science-fiction in the near future.

      4. Mr. Wolf says:

        Even with external motivation I’m not convinced they could do it. Knights of the Old Republic was about as optimistic as you could get, mirroring A New Hope in both story and tone. Knights of the Old Republic 2 was arguably the bleakest entry into Star Wars that you’ll ever find. I mean your mentor was space-Nietzsche, how much father from Obi-Wan Kenobi can you get? You’d think LucasArts would have wanted something more traditionally Star Wars, especially given the mandate on art direction during the first game’s development.

        Then again Obsidian has diversified it’s portfolio a lot since then. Pillars of Eternity was dark, but not particularly subversive – it played heroic fantasy fairly strait. I’ve not played The Stick of Truth, but by all accounts it deconstructed the fantasy genre while keeping the world’s tone intact (although I’ll bet the source material’s irreverence helped a lot). In addition Chris Avellone isn’t permanent member staff any more either – his writing is great but I think he’s pathologically incapable of happy endings.

        In conclusion, don’t you hate it when you change you opinion halfway through making an argument?

        On an unrelated topic, I really wish you hadn’t said “anti-Trek”. It just makes me miss Farscape even more.

        1. Droid says:

          In conclusion, don’t you hate it when you change you opinion halfway through making an argument?

          Not at all. Take it as a sign that you’re open to new ideas and views.

      5. krellen says:

        I suspect this is actually more due to Chris Avellone (and his mentees) preferences than Obsidian as a whole, and Avellone is no longer with the company, so we may see something more from them in the future.

        Cain and Boyarsky (and Jason Anderson) worked on Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines together at Troika Games, which takes a generally crapsack world (the World of Darkness) and ends with a rather optimistic and hopeful ending, at least as hopeful as the setting can bear, so there’s some optimism around in Obsidian these days.

  21. Smejki says:

    Hello, Shamus. Could you please try to find a different player? One that has properly long timeline so that 1 pixel isn’t equal to 10 minutes?
    It makes rewinding a few seconds back a notable tragedy of the week. Thx.

    1. Shamus says:

      The player is now wider. Hopefully that fixes the problem for you.

      For the curious:

      You were seeing the default HTML5 player. Not sure why the default is set to so narrow, but I found some CSS to stretch it out.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        It’s probably set to the smallest it can be, and still contain all the info displayed. My guess is that it’s made specifically to be styled by the website person, since they’re the one who knows how the site will be layed out. Of course I think the default has some styling, with colors and shapes…just not the default width? This actually sounds crazy now…

      2. Smejki says:

        It’s ok now. Thanks!

  22. droid says:

    So an ideal mass effect would:
    – Place you as the commander of a crew
    – Have a main character that is special for reasons other than combat ability (though combat is acceptable)
    – Not have Kai Leng

    I have a few in my library that would almost qualify, but most of them aren’t similar to X-COM (I mean Mass Effect):

    Mass Effect 1 and 2, for various reasons I won’t go into here. I haven’t played Mass Effect 3 so I don’t know if it works or not.

    X-COM series: the commander is special because of their commanding ability, but we defeat the aliens by understanding them, and then killing them (rather than killing them without understanding). However all of the X-COM games allow renaming of the soldiers, so a Kai Leng is possible.

    Long Live the Queen places you as the heir to the throne, and you can train in several directions, not all of them will help you in combat scenarios. You aren’t really leading a team or crew though because you don’t yet rule and you don’t have a close team that you lead (think more palace intrigue than a star trek away team). There isn’t any Kai Leng.

    Monaco is about pulling of a heist. You aren’t the leader (unless you can convince the people you are playing with otherwise). There is combat if things go poorly. There is no Kai Leng unless he is one of your friends on steam.

    Star Wars KOTOR series places you as the leader of a bunch of misfits in space. You are special because of space magic. There is no Kai Leng.

    The Persona Series matches a lot of this. It places you as a high school student that leads a series of expeditions into a physical manifestation of the Jungian collective unconscious. The other students on your team call you leader because that way the voice acting lines up with the dialog better. You are special because you have weird mental powers and you care about many people, and power in that world comes from strength of relationships instead of XP (as far as the plot goes, but for gameplay there there is also XP). There is no Kai Leng unless YOU ARE KAI LENG (the main character is the only character you can name).

    EDIT TO ADD: Recettear: You contract mercenaries to dungeon crawl for you. You are special because you run an item shop and have crippling debt. There is no Kai Leng.

    1. droid says:

      Here are games that focus on exploration and discovery, but they don’t place you as the leader of a crew.

      Metroid Prime has a scan visor. That’s how you explore in that game, and it also lets you get critical hits on the enemies.

      Hack ‘n’ Slash is a game where you figure out how to break the game to win. This isn’t a programming game, you won’t be writing code but you will be tweaking data and finding edge cases. I haven’t won this game (even though I defeated the final boss) and I don’t know if it is because I broke it too much or it is that I haven’t figured out a clue.

      Frog fractions counts, but explaining why would spoil it.

  23. Quentastic says:

    This may be stretching what you wanted, the core attraction of Mass Effect for you being heroism, but have you tried Primordia? It has the information seeking aspect down, but not as much the leadership part. Horatio starts to do heroic actions towards the end, and some characters join you, but a lot of the game is seeking information and problem solving in a society (the writer is a lawyer after all). Its set after the apocalypse, humanity has died out, and all that remains are the robots trying to make their way with the world. So it is exploring a new world and its problems, but not in quite the way you wanted.

    It is an adventure game, and I remember using a guide at some points, but there was no moon logic. The closest was that it wanted me to do a thing that seemed like a step that you could skip, finding an item I need to progress, and a time sensitive puzzle that you don’t need to solve to progress (the solution required a long memory and close attention).

    The first ‘part’ of the game isn’t the most gripping but I found the time I spent had a great payoff.

    Hopefully this helps. It may not be quite the same kind of heroism that you were looking for but it isn’t shootman heroism, and the art and writing is excellent anyway.

  24. PhoenixUltima says:

    What about games that have a strong story and a solid sequel hook, but then never get a sequel?

    Anachronox has a pretty solid story, with likable, sympathetic characters, a ton of wit and charm, and a surprising amount of world-building for a comedic game. It also ends on a pretty clear sequel hook, with the game pretty much shouting “be sure to tune in next time for the exciting adventures of Sly Boots & Friends!”

    That was in mid-2001. Here, almost 17 years later, there still hasn’t been a sequel. And with Ion Storm defunct and the rights currently owned by Eidos, who AFAIK have no plans of ever doing anything with it, it’s almost certain we never will.

  25. I very strongly doubt that Patrick Rothfuss is ever going to satisfactorily finish off his Kingkiller Chronicle. Even in the second book it became pretty obvious that he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

    I don’t think the Terminator movies ever really got a satisfactory conclusion.

    1. I really hope you’re not right re Kingkiller Chronicles, but fear that you are. Although if there’s one thing that still keeps me hoping, it’s that KKC revolves entirely around the doings of Kvothe, in contrast to many, many “fat fantasy” series where the author proliferates a laundry list of viewpoint characters that the reader is supposed to care about to a greater or lesser degree, with an associated mess of plot points that notionally need tied up by the end of the series. GRRM is the obvious famous example – and he gets bonus points for random character assassinations that cause more problems (in terms of plot advancement) than they solve and mean that suddenly the poor reader has to drum up feelings towards *new* viewpoint characters hastily introduced to paper the cracks. (IIRC, the Crown of Stars series also had unchecked viewpoint character proliferation, although the author mostly shied away from killing them off.)

      So I’ll take Rothfuss’ approach over that any day – and I still harbour a faint hope that he’ll extract a digit and crack on.

    2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      My hope is that Rothfuss can finish the series by tying off the story of why Kvothe is in hiding, why he’s suicidal, and what King he killed, without necessarily tying off EVERY SINGLE loose end. Starting a new series about the same characters afterwards would not break the promise inherent in a “king killer trilogy.”

      1. Yeah, this. I read his spin-off about that lass hiding in the bowels of the University and really enjoyed it as a stand-alone piece, although of course it’s tied to the main KKC arc because of her interactions w/ Kvothe.

  26. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    I’m a first time listener and that was an interesting podcast.

    You keep taking part in these Mass Effect funerals, but you truly haven’t experienced its death. I know that maybe a lot of what you’ve heard about Andromeda has put you off to playing it and, perhaps, even covering it, but I think that it’s an endeavor worth undertaking. If only for completeness. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve written the formative work about Mass Effect that fandom will still be referencing years from now, but it’s still missing this final chapter.

    I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect franchise and I’m someone who entered Andromeda with hope – in spite of all the early memes – and I walked away disappointed. It’s not a bad game, certainly not as bad as the memes would suggest, but it’s a bad Mass Effect game. And I think that alone is worth exploring, especially when you calculate in the reports of what “went wrong” during the game’s creation.

    To me, there are a couple of types of “bad” games. There’s “so bad that it’s not worth my energy,” then there’s what I call “Aaron Sorkin bad.” It’s an interesting sort of bad that’s layered and nuanced and while the created work sort of fails at what it’s attempting, it’s still interesting to have all the conversations about it. Andromeda is chock-full of interesting, engaging ideas and it bumbles virtually every one of them in some way. It’s actually quite impressive in its failure. I know that it might feel like beating a dead Mass Effect horse, but I think it’s totally worthy of critique in the same way that a Sorkin show is.

    And in all the Javik you’ve experienced via YouTube, I hope you’ve seen the wonderful moment from the Citadel DLC when Javik comes face-to-face with Blasto.

  27. Gethsemani says:

    I actually think that the concept of Javik is pretty interesting in its subversion of expectations. Here we get a character from the Benevolent Precursors, the species that left all that cool tech around and which are widely regarded as intelligent, wise and philosophical… And it turns out that this guy is their version of a Dumb Brute. That subversion is interesting in itself, especially when you get into the details about how Prothean society collapsed and all those high points of their civilization vanished as everyone tried in vain to fight of the Reapers.

    Javik in concept is an excellent NPC. He subverts player expectations and he conveys the grim prospect of what failure means for Humanity and all the other races; A long and futile struggle where the first casualties will be everything we consider great about our civilization, in favor of sending our children and grandchildren to die fighting a battle they can not win against enemies they can’t defeat.

    That’s some powerful stuff. But like so much else in Mass Effect 3, the actual writing of Javik can not carry the great premise and concept. So instead we end up with a one-note character that’s all about fighting and Prothean racism (all his put downs of other races) and where the (brick) joke is constantly how he’s not what we expected. Javik can definitely stand as testament to the wasted potential of ME3.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      I don’t see Javik as one note. He’s like a twisted mirror that you can see Shepard through. Where Shepard created a rag tag multi-cultural team of different species and cultures, Javik’s society mashed all the cultures into one big “our way or the highway” effort to try to dominate. Whereas Shepard has lost some team members along the way (but likely the player has worked hard to try to keep as many of those team members alive as possible), Javik’s team was indoctrinated and tried to kill him… before he had to murder each and every last one of them, personally. That’s like the sum of all of Shepard’s fears.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Take a dumb us marine and send them back to before 1000ad.Even then,they could provide you with plethora of information that could benefit people everywhere.For example “Wash your hands regularly to avoid disease”.BOOM,revolution in medicine.”Burn coal to heat water and propel a wheel”.BOOM,revolution in transportation.And thats not even going to specifics,like if they knew a few more things about farming,or cement making,or watever.The stupidest thing you could do with them is to send them to fight in a war with a weapon they arent familiar with.Not even as a commander,because even the dumbest marine should know a thing or two about warfare,but as a grunt under some yahoo who thinks that “We fight or we die” is a plan.

      1. default_ex says:

        You seem to be ignoring what it takes to achieve those things.

        It wasn’t until 1791 that a process for making soap in mass quantity was discovered. Before then it was a secret shared by very few people and sold primarily to the wealthiest bidders. They didn’t even have the basic understanding of the difference between an acid and an alkaline substance. That differentiation wasn’t understood until the later half of the 1700s and is what lead to the discovery of a mass production method for soap.

        Finding, processing and burning coal isn’t as easy as dig it out of the ground and throw it in a furnace. The product is found mixed with minerals and metals and is usually found in ground with many highly flammable gasses. Even the head lamps of a modern coal miner has an extreme level of engineering to it to reduce the risk of sparks being exposed to the air in the mine. The best coal you could hope for 1000 years ago is wood coals, the process by which they were created wasn’t even understood, they were just a lucky byproduct that you might get after you burned some wood. However finding a blacksmith to forge a modern wood burning stove, as simple as it is would be ground breaking. Modern wood burning stoves trap the gasses and oils released when burning wood, which allows them to burn wood more efficiently and produce hotter flames.

        There are a lot of things in your every day life that would be a game changer 1000 years ago and are so much more attainable than those two things. Think about this one which many people don’t realize. If you burn bread, like thoroughly mess it up so that it’s charred all the way through to the point where it stops smoking. You have produced carbon foam. Carbon foam is an amazing refractory material, makes for great liner to melt metals inside of. Crush it into carbon powder and mix with clay, you have a clay that when fired can width stand the heat from molten steel. A great casting material. This stuff wasn’t known until this decade that we are living in now.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I was going for the simplest of things.You dont need soap to keep yourself clean,especially when dealing with wounds.Sure,soap helps immensely,but even just soapless bathing in clear running water is better than every day can make a huge difference.

          And you can create steam with just a clay pot and regular wood.It wont be nearly as efficient as coal and a good boiler,but it can make a huge difference.

          But like you said,there are plethora of simple things that can be done if you just know a simple trick or two,that would be even more beneficial.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        A lot of Javik’s advice is completely unusable from a biological standpoint. Like if he instructed to Shepard to bio-mind meld with the such and such device… Shepard as a human is near incapable of doing that. The beacon seems to be able to graft some of that ability to non-Prothean species, but it was busted, nearly killed Shepard, and Javik would have zero idea how to make a new one. He is actually far more useful in the sense of “what are good boots on the ground tactics for fighting Reaper troops” which is precisely how he is used in the war.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Or,how about instead of instructing shepard to use a beacon,use it himself and then translate the knowledge into words.The majority of the first mass effect was spent in trying to find a way for a human to bypass that barrier and gain a mere small glimpse from a few beacons.Now we have a full living prothean who can actually do it,losslessly.So naturally we ask him to go from beacon to beacon,with a bunch of researches accompanying him,recording every word he says.Right?Nah,screw that!Give the hand guy a gun and let him fire at a kilometer length spaceship!!

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            They can’t go from “beacon to beacon” because the one on Eden Prime was one of the first ever discovered! You discover one on Ilos which immediately breaks and one on Thessia which Kai Leng steals from you. It’s like you’re complaining “why don’t they just get another INCREDIBLY special briefcase in Pulp Fiction?” Because… they don’t have one. There’s no way to do that.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              No,the eden one wasnt the first one discovered,just the first public one.You later discover (and interact with) at least two hidden beacons that were kept secret,one by seron other by the asari.And of course,theres that archeology thing that also triggers a vision,indicating that there are things other than beacons you can use in such a fashion.

              And if you,a human only partially attuned to the prothean tech,managed to find three times as many beacons in 3 years than the whole rest of the galaxy in 2000 years,saying that a real life prothean is useful only for fighting is as ridiculous as….well,the entirety of mass effect 3.I mean this is a game where people have a single person who actually understands prothean language fully*,and send them to shoot people while some other people whack their heads trying to translate designs found in a prothean ruin.Such brilliant minds occupy this galaxy.

              *Since she shot the other one,and the third one was not yet discovered.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                A lot to unpack here. Firstly, I mentioned the Asari one. That’s what Thessia is. Did you actually play ME3? Kai Leng steals that one out from under you. And yeah, I mentioned the other one too. So your point is “no, what about the things you already covered in your description, huh? WHAT ABOUT THOSE??”

                Second, Javik is a DLC squadmate. They COULD have given you the option of sending him off to the project and getting X amount of war assets. But that’s essentially giving the player the option to piss $10 down the drain. That is terrible and no thinking person would ever want that. Especially because the “war assets” part of the game is boring and linear whereas the squadmates to fight and talk with is the universally agreed best part of the game. “Why didn’t they offer the player the opportunity to piss away hours and hours of content and $10 in real money so that MAH LORE THOUGHTS are satisfied better?” Gee… we’ll have to ponder that one.

  28. Dreadjaws says:

    38:00 What are some other works that began strong and ended in disappointment?

    Like I said in the show, we were trying to think of works that had a fantastic opening but led to terrible sequels. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re talking about works where the first installment begins a story and leaves us with a solid hook, promising more in the future. So I don’t think something like Highlander counts. Lots of long-running franchises degrade in quality over time, but we’re specifically looking for works that begin a story and fail to end it properly. Obviously there’s a lot of wiggle-room here, so see what you can come up with.

    This is a major problem with CW DC shows. It’s particularly notorious on The Flash. The second season introduced a powerful, scary villain that no one seemed to figure out how to defeat, so the entire season was dedicated to show the heroes learning, training and overcoming obstacles in order to reach a point where they could have the hope defeat him. The problem is, they reached that point too soon, so in order to make the villain look like a threat again they decided to turn all the heroes into bumbling imbeciles. Suddenly you couldn’t take the story seriously anymore.

    Then comes season 3. The last one ended up on a pretty big hook for a major universe-shattering events and the way this was solved was underwhelming at best. They helped by introducing an interesting, intriguing villain who was then put to the side when revealed to be the lackey of a boring, visually unimpressive, painfully cliche and dumb idea for a main antagonist.

  29. Son of Valhalla says:

    Sci Fi isn’t in an entirely sorry state in the games industry. There are some cool sci fi themed games, just not Mass Effect-like. Stellaris is one of those sci fi games I’ve enjoyed with the demo. I’m probably going to get it this week.

    It’s based on grand strategy and rts gameplay, but I’d recommend playing it. Building empires and having elements of RPGs and RTS games is always cool.

    That said, since nobody wants to fill the Mass Effect niche, maybe Starfield is some mysterious RPG title that Bethesda is making that’ll have those RPG elements?

  30. Miguk says:

    You could do a Mass Effect support group session every week and I still wouldn’t get bored of it. And bring back SoldierHawk sometime. She was great.

    1. Mako says:

      Not surprisingly, I second that. :D

  31. Mako says:

    Really loved this Diecast. One point I really need to make though: I think you guys are seriously conflating ME2 and 3 when it comes to the Prothean retcon debacle.

    In ME2, yes, the Protheans were turned into generic space bugmen, I guess for reasons of having an “OhMyGawd” moment done on the cheap (and the series has become more and more guilty of that over time), but at the very least with ME2 you could argue that the Collectors were the result of the Reapers’ genetic experiments and that the final “product” did not have to resemble the original species.

    It’s even lampshaded heavily in the Normandy crew dialogue in the mess hall: one of the crew members says this: “I always imagined Protheans as being regal. Not giant bugs.” to which another crewman replies: “Who knows what the Reapers did to them. Creepy”.

    Also the moment when you discover who the Collectors are has a very neat bit of dialogue from EDI about the fact that this particular Prothean (the one that they discover as a dead Collector on the Collector Ship) descended from a colony in the Styx Theta Cluster, which was a star system you visited in ME1. Sure, it’s kinda throwaway, but it clicked for me when I first played ME2.

    I think having the Collectors be radically different-looking from the Prothean statues in ME1 helped to maintain the aura of mystery surrounding the Prothean species, which was a HUGE part of ME1’s appeal for me. It’s not perfect, it’s kinda unnecessary, but my point is that if you really wanted to put this reveal in, that wasn’t actually a half-bad way to do it.

    Of course, then they came up with Jarvis the Prothean. I don’t think I have anything to say about Jarvis.

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