Andromeda Part 20: Character Arks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 5, 2019

Filed under: Mass Effect 105 comments

The last few entries have been much too negative. Okay, most of the last 19 entries have been pretty negative. Sorry. Let’s switch things up and talk about something good. Let’s talk about…

The Ark Missions

Everything is NOT fine.
Everything is NOT fine.

We started the game on the Human ark, but there are three other arks out there: Salarian, Asari, and Turian. Like the Human ark, each of these is a ship with about 20,000 sleepers on board. All three are intercepted by the KettThe story never explains how the Kett are so magically good at finding these silent ships in the void. Then again, the story also never explains why the Kett never invade the easy-to-find settlements on the ground. Whatever., who begin doing genetic experiments on the inhabitants.

At various points you’ll track down one of these arks and find out what happened to them. I like these missions because all three of them tell a nice self-contained story. It presents a question like “what happened here and how do we get out of it?” and then it lets you work through to the answer without distracting you with a half dozen other questlines. The plot points happen every minute or two as you move from room to room, rather than being separated by driving around in the open world or passing through the tedious planet-hopping loading screens. The ark missions are where the game feels the most like a proper Mass Effect game and not a series of Ubisoft-style open-world distractions.

Also, the arks are often dark, which provides a nice quasi-spooky atmosphere. Seeing the familiar ark layout after it’s been looted is unsettling in a way that blasting your way through Kett Heinous Medical Science Lab #267 isn’t. I suppose it helps that on the arks, the beige foes stand out from the white scenery, while Kett installations usually feature a soup of beige-on-beige that all blends together.

I spent some time in the last couple of posts talking about the unsatisfying choices in the game. We get another one at the end of the Turian ark.

The Turian Pathfinder

Isn't there someone ELSE I can give the job to? The rules of succession are apparently very flexible.
Isn't there someone ELSE I can give the job to? The rules of succession are apparently very flexible.

You team up with Avitus, the second in line for the position of Turian Pathfinder. You search the ark for Macen, the current Pathfinder. At the end you discover that Macen is dead.

Avitus, filled with doubt, doesn’t want the title. You’re given a binary choice where you can either accept his refusal or attempt to give him a pep talk. The first time I went through this quest I thought Avitus sounded like too much of a mope. I figured the last thing the poor Turians needed was an unmotivated Pathfinder. So I let him pass on the job.

And then it turns out that this means the Turians don’t get one. No Pathfinder. Avitus wanders off and leaves his people in the lurch.

This choice is a failure on two counts. One, it’s not clear that you’re choosing between “Loser depressed Pathfinder” and “No Pathfinder at all”. In fact, our entire adventure is taking place because the Pathfinder title was passed to unqualified Sara instead of the fully-trained Cora. Apparently the rules of succession are incredibly flexible. It’s pretty reasonable for the player to assume that the job can just pass to whoever is next in line or whatever. If this is not the case, then the dialog should make that clear.

The second problem is that this is a simple right answer vs. wrong answer choice. It’s not like you’re balancing two desirable but mutually exclusive outcomes. You’re not trying to decide between the lesser of two evils. You’re not weighting idealism against pragmatism. If you choose one option then you get a bad outcome. If you choose the other then your pep talk basically changes Avitus’ entire outlook and he transforms into a confident hero.

In a game with so few choices, it’s a shame that the few we do get are so uninteresting. This is frustrating because they wrote the lines, recorded the dialog, scripted the different outcomes, and created the different cutscenes. They spent the money, but the entire premise of this choice was flawed from the beginning. I know this game suffers from an overall lack of polish, but this choice wasn’t going to get any better in the polish stage. The problems with this scene go all the way back to the dry-erase board.

I realize I promised I was going to be more positive. Look, I’m doing what I can. I still think the ark missions are pretty okay. It’s just tragic to see so much money and so many manhours of creativity were squandered building missions on top of scripts and ideas that needed a total re-write.

Let’s get back to the main quest…


Don't you hate when there's tons of open space around but someone else insists on parking RIGHT BESIDE YOU anyway?
Don't you hate when there's tons of open space around but someone else insists on parking RIGHT BESIDE YOU anyway?

So after dicking around on Kadara and putting up with Sloane, Ryder has finally obtained a “transponder” that tells her where the Kett flagship is.

When we follow the signal, we find that the flagship has captured the Salarian ark. The Kett are unpacking the ark and experimenting on the Salarians. So this mission is actually doing double duty. It’s both an ark mission and part of the main story. In the first half of the mission you explore the ark, wake up the Salarian Pathfinder, and tell her to get the ship ready to launch. In the second half you go over to the Kett flagship to steal the map that tells you how to find “Meridian”, and do some sabotage to the flagship so that the Salarian ark can escape.

I didn't want to say anything, but yeah. Your plan was pretty dumb. Go back to cryo sleep and wait for the enemy to go away? I don't see how that was supposed to work.
I didn't want to say anything, but yeah. Your plan was pretty dumb. Go back to cryo sleep and wait for the enemy to go away? I don't see how that was supposed to work.

Again, this stuff on the ark is pretty good and I liked the Salarian pathfinder. The pacing is good, the visuals are not too bad, the premise is fine, and the dialog manages to tell a story without contradicting itself.

Halfway through the Kett flagship there’s a cutscene where you blunder into a forcefield and end up…

Trapped in a Cutscene

Oh no. We've been captured by the bad guy. He'll probably torture us, but with any luck he won't monologue at us.
Oh no. We've been captured by the bad guy. He'll probably torture us, but with any luck he won't monologue at us.

Your three-person squad is held in an immobilizing field while the Archon comes in and mocks you. Then he stabs you in the neck and injects you with something. Then he leaves you all alone, with no guards, still holding your weapons, with a promise that he’ll come back later. This isn’t just cartoon villain behavior, this is Saturday morning cartoon villain behavior. It’s just silly.

But Shamus! This is actually part of his plan that you escape so that…

Right, right. I get that. I do. But the writer 100% needed to lampshade this. Yes, it’s true that possibly this half-hearted capture was deliberate on the part of the Archon. His real goal was to inject Ryder and let her go so he could follow her to Meridian. That explains why we were left with our weapons and no guards. Fine. We know this, but Ryder doesn’t. This situation ought to strike the team as inexplicable.

Liam is SO DONE with this monologue.
Liam is SO DONE with this monologue.

In Star Wars, our heroes escape the Death Star in the Millenium Falcon. It seems pretty incredible that such a small group of people could escape something so impossibly powerful. Our characters notice this, and they talk about it. Leia is intelligent and reads the situation correctly: They let us go because they’re tracking us. The prideful Han Solo assumes they escaped due to his great skill. Two lines of dialog manage to lampshade this situation to preserve believability in the minds of the audience while also characterizing two of our leads. At the same time, it creates tension because we realize maybe we’re not actually safe and this escape may simply be setting us up for something worse. That’s efficient dialog!

Andromeda doesn’t do this, so instead of creating character banter, building tension, and making our bad guy look cunning, it makes it look like our villain is a dumbass and our leads have short attention spans.

SAM points out that the field is only active if you’re alive. He proposes stopping Ryder’s heartJust to be clear: He resuscitates her as soon as she’s free. so the field will turn off. It works. Then Ryder frees the other two squad members and they continue with the mission.

But this lack of lampshading is a minor nitpick. The real problem with this scene is that this is the big set-up for the villain’s plan at the end, and it doesn’t work.

The Idiot Ball is Given to The Audience

The Archon is a character with lots of dialog and nothing to say.
The Archon is a character with lots of dialog and nothing to say.

We know Ryder was injected in the neck with something. SAM immediately identifies it as a “biological transmitter”. After the mission, someone says that the Archon was able to use it to access Sara’s memories. I’m not sure how we know this, or how we know what specific memories he accessed, but… fine.

The problem is that nobody makes any further effort to remove this transmitter. My trust in the writer was pretty low already, but I sort of assumed that this removal happened off-screen. I actually went to talk to the ship’s doctor, assuming I’d get some post-op dialog making it clear she removed the item. When she had nothing to say on the matter, I thought that perhaps there was a scene where this thing was extracted by the doctor, but it had to be cut to get the game out the door. I just couldn’t imagine that the story as written would have the heroes forget about it, because that’s just too brazenly stupid.

Everyone knows this happened. It ought to be everyone’s top priority once the mission is over. The bad guy has injected some technology into our hero. What could it do? Read her mind? Mind-control her? Kill her? Poison her? Broadcast her position? It could do any or all of these things. We don’t know.

Also in this mission: The designer recycles the Cardinal boss fight from earlier where we fight someone who hovers around the battlefield in the A-pose with a regenerating shield gizmo.
Also in this mission: The designer recycles the Cardinal boss fight from earlier where we fight someone who hovers around the battlefield in the A-pose with a regenerating shield gizmo.

And yet apparently everyone just forgets all about this. I faulted the earlier games for inflicting “cutscene incompetence” on our lead, but this is maximally worse. This isn’t just stupidity on the part of one character for one scene, this requires that every single character on the Tempest be inflicted with a case of writer-imposed stupidity that goes on for the rest of the game. It also assumes the player is a dum-dum that can’t remember what happened five minutes ago.

The big reveal at the end will be that this biological transmitter has been broadcasting Ryder’s experiences to the bad guy, so that as she unravels the alien technology, he gets all the answers at the same time. This would be a fun and clever move if it were properly set up, but it’s not.

How I’d have done it:

You could fix this with just a couple of lines of dialog. Have the doctor extract the transmitter after the mission. So we in the audience think she’s in the clear. Then at the end the bad guy would say something like, “What, did you think I only put ONE transmitter into you?”

Sure, that’s dumb action schlock. But that’s fine. That’s all I’m asking for. Just do the bare minimum of effort to act like these characters have memories and planning horizons longer than five seconds.

Save the Krogan

An exalted Krogan looks like a regular Krogan, except 10% more spiky and 100% more naked.
An exalted Krogan looks like a regular Krogan, except 10% more spiky and 100% more naked.

I guess I should mention the choice at the end of the mission, if only because it’s one of the precious few choices in the game that actually works. As you’re escaping with the map to Meridian, you get a call from the Salarian Pathfinder. She’s pinned down by Kett and isn’t going to make it. At the same time, Drack’s team of scouts are here, and they’re about to be exalted. You can save the Pathfinder or you can save the scouts, and both choices have repercussions.

If you save the Pathfinder, then the scouts get exalted. You’ll face them as mini-bosses from time to time in future missions. An exalted Krogan really is a handful, so you will feel the brunt of this choice directly. (Also, Drack will be disappointed in you.)

If you save the scouts, then you won’t have to face them in the future and Drack will be grateful. But the Salarians won’t have a PathfinderAgain, the rules of succession are a little vague here. Did the Salarians really just give up instead of passing the job on?.

It’s a good choice. The game needed more like this. I’m pretty sure this is the only meaningful choice in the game.

Give Appeasement a Chance

What we gained? We gained TWENTY THOUSAND SALARIAN LIVES. Why does nobody bring this up!?
What we gained? We gained TWENTY THOUSAND SALARIAN LIVES. Why does nobody bring this up!?

After the flagship, we return to the Nexus and Sara announces her plan to voyage to Meridian, where she thinks she’ll be able to activate all the climate-control vaults at once and make the entire cluster habitable.

Director Tann opposes the idea. That’s fine. There are a lot of good reasons to oppose Ryder’s scheme:

  1. Meridian will no doubt be guarded by the enemy. For whatever reason, we only brought one Tempest-class ship on this voyage. It’s designed for exploration, it has no weapons, and there’s no reason to risk it on a military endeavor like this.
  2. You’re the Pathfinder, not a military general. Your job is to find habitable places for our people. If you die when picking a fight with the Kett, then we’re all screwed.
  3. Our colonies are coming along just fine without this Meridian thing. (Assuming these puny four-acre outposts are as valuable as the game pretends they are.) You’re risking everything for a technology we don’t apparently need.

But instead, Tann opposes the plan because he doesn’t want to “provoke the Kett”. This line is ridiculously out of place considering that you just got done with a mission where the Kett tried to harvest the entire Salarian ark. Tann is Salarian, so the Kett harvesting ought to have left an enormous impression on him!

Sure, you can argue that Tann is just dedicated to the way of appeasement, but that doesn’t fit with the other parts of the story that are trying to pretend he was a brutal dictator during the Nexus rebellions before becoming a timid weasel when he met you. This character is all over the place and the writer has no idea what he’s supposed to be.

I’m sure this scene is here to mirror the bit in Mass Effect 1 where the Council takes away the Normandy and grounds Shepard. Except, this scene doesn’t work because the story has already established that Tann has no real authority over Ryder.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

In fact, after the meeting Ryder and the remaining pathfinders immediately get together and begin to make plans to ignore Tann, because who cares what he says? Even if he really is a secret tyrant, he has no real military muscle and can’t impose his will on you.

It’s a scene where Tann uses a nonsense argument that’s wrong for his character to give you an order he has neither the means or authority to enforce in order to set up a conflict that’s completely irrelevant to your efforts. Once again, the writer is using established tropes but doesn’t seem to understand what they’re for, how to use them, or how to integrate them with the story.



[1] The story never explains how the Kett are so magically good at finding these silent ships in the void. Then again, the story also never explains why the Kett never invade the easy-to-find settlements on the ground. Whatever.

[2] Just to be clear: He resuscitates her as soon as she’s free.

[3] Again, the rules of succession are a little vague here. Did the Salarians really just give up instead of passing the job on?

From The Archives:

105 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 20: Character Arks

  1. BlueHorus says:

    So isn’t the thing that makes a pathfinder the super-complex AI in their head that knows everything?
    Could be that not everyone is compatible with the Turian/Salarian equivalent of SAM, or maybe they died in a way that means their version can’t be transferred?

    Of course, I can fully believe that the game doesn’t bother to explain that.

    Also, do the Salarians seriously get attacked by the Kett and as a solution…go back to cryosleep?! Some action are stupid, but that’s on another level.

    …unless they were tired of life? Maybe the Initiative’s Salarian division went out of its way to only recruit members who were suffering from depression.

    1. Coming Second says:

      Hairdressers and phone sanitisers.

      1. Sparrow555 says:

        Yep. They don’t have hair, and they’ve probably already invented self-cleaning telephones.

        Don’t forget the TV producers and account executives!

    2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      If I recall correctly, the game presents the Salarians going into cryo sleep as a sort of war of attrition, with the ultimate goal being “If we appease them now, maybe we’ll figure out something later, or otherwise get saved.” It’s clearly a garbage plan and the Salarian pathfinder comes within a hair’s width of just looking at the camera and saying “This is just stupid writing.”

      1. tremor3258 says:

        Picking a short-term solution that sounds reasonable but has unexpectedly huge and terrifying long-term consequences is, at least, in character for the Salarians, bless their impetuous hearts.

        Actually, of all species, with their family structure and short lives, wouldn’t the Salarians be the best at having a Pathfinder succession plan? I’d figure every Salarian in the Andromedan Galaxy would know how many other Salarians have to kick the bucket before they’re up.

        1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          If I recall correctly, Shamus is actually wrong here. If the salarian Pathfinder dies, she gets replaced by the captain of the Ark, a man with even less Pathfinder training than Ryder who basically gets it by default of being the second in command to the Pathfinder in her rag-tag team of salarians trying to fight the kett. As far as the narrative goes here, the only real difference between the new guy and the original is cosmetic, they both appear in the same cutscenes from then on and say roughly the same things.

          …Which of course, makes the issue with the turian Pathfinders not getting a replacement even more obvious. Why couldn’t Ryder just notify the Initiative and say that they needed a turian Pathfinder candidate? If Rix can become Pathfinder no problem and every other Pathfinder slot can simply be passed on even to people not origionally even on a Pathfinder team, why can’t we slap the title on any of the turians already out of cryo doing things on the frontier?

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            Yes. I’ve just played that, and yes, salarian captain becomes the pathfinder

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Here’s the thing: how much problem-solving/deep thinking gets done…in cryogenic suspension? And how do you get out of cryogenic sleep once you’ve solved the problem?

        Just think of all the Salarians who were killed while thinking ‘I know what to do, wake me up!’

        1. Mattias42 says:

          There’s an unfairly forgotten Philip K Dick novel called Ubik about this sorta, kinda cryo-sleep for dead people.

          The idea being that they’re still ‘there’ due to their brains being super-cooled just enough to keep on dreaming this shared dream of a sort. Letting (rich) people have this artificial after-life of a sort that can last indefinitely.

          The twist being that you can actually reuse these mostly dead people and have them talk with the world of the living. But since they’re, well, corpse-icicles, there’s a finite amount of times you can do that, before tissue damage becomes too much, and they die fully. Leading to this dilemma of that, yes, you CAN talk with grand-ma again… but every time you do, you risk robbing her of getting to enjoy that last sliver of life, as well as the chance of being fully revived one day.

          I could see that type of thing being something the ‘do science first, think later’ Salarians would do as a last resort. Giving the player this dilemma of risking the Salarian pathfinder’s life but gaining what’s basically somebody hardwired into their ship combat hacking for them, or free him to get medical attention but have to do a much harder combat sequence without that aid.

          Could have been pretty cool… but alas, that’s more or less Andromeda’s tag-line.

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            Ubik is the best PKD book. He wrote many amazing books, but that one… Pure imagination

            Somehow, I doubt, that Andromeda Initiative took cues from Ubik

            1. Mattias42 says:

              Meant the above as a ‘could have done X that would have been more interesting, as I read in book Y,’ not a ‘they did X and it came from Y.’

              Again, yeah. Andromeda might as well have been entitled: ‘Wasted Potential — The Game.’

          2. kincajou says:

            Ubik is amongst my favourite sci-fi books (if not The favourite)!
            Every person i’ve lent it to has had a moment after reading it where they need to touch something solid… just double check reality…

            1. RCN says:

              Isn’t Vanilla Sky based on that book?

    3. The lack of Pathfinder redundancy seems pretty ridiculous, overall, but the entire colonization effort has seemed pretty dippy.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        A joint VaulTek / Cerberus experiment, to see if this bunch of rejects will survive with the stupid plan, to prove that something-something plan is perfect

    4. guy says:

      The Pathfinder’s AI is largely not in their head, it’s in their Ark. The stuff in their head is just an interface, so it shouldn’t be all that hard to replicate.

  2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    It’s always funny to me when Shamus apologizes for providing the ruthless deconstruction we all come here for!

    1. Coming Second says:

      It’s something he does constantly. He’ll go ‘I actually like this part of the game, and I’m going to single it out for praise!’ *ten paragraphs of complaining* ‘ …oh, I did it again didn’t I.’ It’s honestly adorable.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        To be fair, he did give some praise before the complaining.

  3. Jbc31187 says:

    The other thing with Star Wars is that their escape from the Death Star cost them dearly. They saved Leia but lost Obi Wan. Or to stick to BioWare, in Jade Empire your mentor and one of your first companions gives his life to slow down Death’s Hand. You succeeded in your mission, but you mentor is dead and Death’s Hand definitely isn’t.

  4. Nimrandir says:

    This plot structure is fascinating and all, but can we loop back to the bit where the turians, whose whole culture has been a meritocracy for centuries (if not millennia), somehow decided not to have a line of succession?

    1. Pax says:

      You know what, you’re absolutely right. The turians should’ve been shown to be the only ones to have a plan that went all the way from the original Pathfinder to the lowliest janitor-in-training.

      Also in the vein of writing off established character traits, the subterfuge/strike first Salarians are probably not the people to say, “Uh, maybe if we ignore them, they’ll go away.”

      At least the Asari fight the kett with biotics.

      1. Liessa says:

        It’s pretty ridiculous that any of them don’t have a line of succession. Any minimally-competent organisation ought to have scads of deputies for a position of such importance, but they seem intent on treating the Pathfinder role as some sort of quasi-religious position like the Inquisitor in Dragon Age, even though this makes no sense for the world and setting. Why not have an entire team, or even department of Pathfinders right from the start? Did it not occur to them that a single person could easily get killed, or put out of action by injury or illness, or just die in cryosleep on the journey over? Apparently not.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          “Wait a minute – what if our Pathfinder pathfinds something dangerous…that kills them? Should we have a backup or something?”

          “Ah, that’ll never happen. Go back to cryosleep!”

          600 Years Later:

          “Well, shit. Who could have predicted this?”

          1. Liessa says:

            I mean it almost happens to Ryder’s twin, right at the start of the game. Sheesh…

        2. Mephane says:

          I think the very concept of a/the Pathfinder with a capital P is stupid and extremely cringeworthy, not just from an in-universe perspective, but also as a story device. So they decided they absolutely had to make a “chosen one” style story (which is bad enough already), and this is what they came up with? Really?

          1. Geebs says:

            Next time I’m map-reading in the car I’m going to insist on being called the “Pathfinder”. The capital “P” is non-negotiable.

          2. Nimrandir says:

            As a tabletop Pathfinder player, I’ve found this hilarious from the get-go.

            “I am detecting kett technology in the area.”
            “Sweet. Let’s roll initiative!”

            I’m still bummed that I don’t have a magical compass as a badge of office.

        3. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          To be honest, I feel having the Pathfinders act a small class of elite frontier scouts would have served the game better. Establish that Ryder isn’t one of four special individuals, but rather the captain of one of hundreds of scout ships flying about doing roughly the same thing. Give us a couple of example pathfinder NPCs we can talk to to get a sense of being part of a wider community and leave it at that.

          Since Ryder never really has a hands on role in commanding anything other than the Tempest/her crew, you don’t really need to make the role of Pathfinder more important than that. Maybe have some dialogue explaining that Pathfinders are expected to deal with most First Contact situations the Initiative will face and thus have some built in leeway to promise things when interacting with any non-Initiative parties they meet (the Angara, Exiles, etcetera).

          In the original games, Shepard being a Spectre was important, but ultimately the games always presumed there were a number of others doing roughly the same thing off-screen. In Andromeda, Ryder being a Pathfinder was so important that Bioware had to establish there was only one per race- which then immediately damaged the belivability of the story because it makes no sense.

          1. Coming Second says:

            As with a lot of things in Andromeda, it feels like something that was copied from the blueprint of previous games without understanding why it was there in the first place. One of the first things that happens in any Bioware game is that the player elevates to the rank of Special Guy, enabling them to do things they otherwise couldn’t. But if a) the Special Guy power is that a voice in your head tells you everything you’re supposed to do, and b) no effort is made to contextualise it outside of that, it feels pretty shitty.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            This idea is great. The Andromeda galaxy is massive; rather than being The Only Person Who Is Special Enough To Pathfind, Ryder starts out as one pathfinder amongst many; someone in charge of scouting a certain sector. It’s only after the Scourge and Kett are encontered that her expertise/knowlegde gain in importance.

            Just like Shepard was just a soldier (albeit a competent, decorated one) at the start of ME1, and he only become capable of understanding the Reaper threatafter encountering a Prothean beacon.

      2. Jbc31187 says:

        Shoot, the Salarians *invented* the Spectres, based off their STG groups (« Hold the line! »). And now they’ve almost literally gone and stuck their heads in the sand so the humans can save them. At least in ME 2/3 they’d be *proactively* wrong, uplifting some horrible new race to fight the villain.

        It would have been nice if BioWare had tried to do something interesting with how each race views their Pathfinder. Turian pathfinders would be a special branch of the military. Salarian pathfinders would be outside the chain of command, if not running the show. Asari could go full Jedi, a dozen veterans with their own padawan.

        Humans, of course, would go full Chosen One, a single person with full control over the operation.

  5. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    On the whole, this game is pretty rough, but I do admit to liking the Ark missions and the “loyalty” missions. I never really stopped to ask why, but you lay out a pretty solid reason here: They’re contained, linear stories and as a result, the focus is tighter. Everything gets more polish because there’s far less there that requires a polishing. These really are the missions that get dangerously close to feeling like they’re in a Mass Effect game. At the risk of sounding like I’m proselytizing, I think that if Bioware survives Anthem, they should learn one thing from this whole experience: Open worlds do not make for good Mass Effect games.

    I have to admit, it never even occurred to me that it was a choice to not have Avitus be the Turian pathfinder. Mostly because by the time we have that conversation, he’s demonstrated plenty of leadership and the ability to get stuff done and it just didn’t occur to me that when he says “Maybe I can’t do this,” to respond with “You can’t. You’re clearly a loser.”

    When it came to saving Pathfinder Raeka or the Krogan scouts, I’ve played it both ways, but I honestly prefer to save Raeka. Sure, it’s great in a generalized sense for the Salarians to have a pathfinder, but to a more acute degree, I find a lot of importance in saving the last of the original (and actual?) pathfinders.

    1. Biggus Rickus says:

      I don’t think it’s that you can’t make a good open world Mass Effect game. You just can’t make one that tries to mimic the original game(s) at the same time. I’d love something of a sandbox game set in the Mass Effect version of the Milky Way, where you can choose from a thorough selection of races and classes and pursue whatever kind of path you want, engaging with the different alien cultures and groups. Then Bioware could work in what they’re best at with self-contained stories relating to the various factions. Of course, I doubt they’d be willing to create something without an overarching story, and that would probably ruin the rest of it.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        That’s a reasonable hair to split. If you’re trying to make a game in the vein of the original trilogy, the open world is not the way to go. But if you’re trying to do something else with the Mass Effect name, then the open-world sky is the limit. But here’s the part where my bias creeps in: The only kind of Mass Effect that I want is the lore-heavy, story-focused character piece like the one created by the original trilogy.

        Sometimes, I hear people pitch the ideas of a Mass Effect-based RTS or battle royale. The fact is that this franchise filled a very particular niche that nobody else was filling and that I desperately wanted. My thought is that if you’re going to make a Mass Effect game, then make a Mass Effect game. I get that Bioware is a living entity with ever-shifting philosophies and abilities with people coming and going and it’s at the mercy of Locutus sending down orders on high from the EA cube, but it’s endlessly frustrating for me to see them initially get the formula so right and then get it progressively more wrong with each iteration.

        Your open world sandbox idea of creating a character, then just going out and seeing what sort of adventure you can create I think would be a fine idea… for Bethesda Game Studios. That’s the kind of thing they make and, bugs aside (and whatever Fallout 76 is about), they’re pretty good at delivering that sort of experience. And we very well may get that with Starfield.

        I admit that my feelings on this subject could be considered rather gatekeeper-y. I don’t think anyone’s ever interested in hearing what some Internet rando thinks qualifies or doesn’t qualify as a good Mass Effect game. But I think there does have to be some base on which we can all agree “This is a Mass Effect game,” that goes deeper than a mere shared lore. I just happen to draw that line at “Shared lore, but also a satisfying single-player experience based on a compelling narrative and interesting characters.” It’s my suspicion – though I don’t know this to be true – is that you can’t really do that with an open world. Maybe it’s possible, but as far as I can tell, nobody’s come close to figuring it out yet, including Bioware.

        1. Trevor says:

          I keep going back to the transition between Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft as the only situation I can think of where a franchise changed genres and yet managed to keep the same gaming experience through profound love of the lore. And even then you could sort of tell Blizzard wanted to move more in the direction of a roleplaying game than their RTS. Blizzard had made a mechanically great RTS in Starcraft and then on top of that added a cool story that kept you hooked and more invested in the game mechanics. When Warcraft 3 came along, they started off by telling a substantially similar story (swapping Arthas for Kerrigan) but really dove deep into the characters and their interpersonal drama. It became increasingly clear they wanted to tell stories about the characters in their world and didn’t care so much about the army mechanics. The Blood Elf campaign in Frozen Throne is particularly ridiculous in this regard. There are a bunch of missions that just seem like, “Look, we’re real sorry about this, but just build a base and conquer the computer’s base. Then you’ll get the next bit of Sylvanas’s story.” They were already moving in the RPG direction so it wasn’t as big of a jump as it seemed.

          No one at BioWare is as in love with the lore of ME1 as the Blizzard people were with the Warcraft lore when they launched WoW, and that’s the issue. I think you could make the jump into RTS or another genre (let’s face it, the ME1 mechanics are not great, stuck as they are halfway between a cover shooter and an RPG) fairly easy, but you’d need to have Asari that acted like Asari (or played against type and characters commented on that), instead of hawt blue chicks. Instead you have the model Bethesda is following with Fallout. All the signifiers are there: The Power Armor, the Deathclaws, the 1950s futurism, but no one writing the games really is steeped in the lore so the sequels feel soulless.

          1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            A takeaway I get from this – and correct me if you feel I’ve read this wrong – is that if you want to successfully make a game with a deep story and interesting characters, the move tends to be toward making an RPG instead of moving away from that. And I would agree with this. That’s why the idea of a Mass Effect RTS sounds terrible to me. As great as the lore is, I would have trouble enjoying it if it was invested more with the gameplay than with the story and characters.

            But then how does an open world play into this, if you think it does at all? Do you consider the above-mentioned World of Warcraft to be open world? It certainly has some open world-y things going on, but I’ve generally walked away feeling like it leans more into RPG. I feel like I should be careful with the definition of “RPG” here. To some degree, perhaps these things overlap a bit on a Venn diagram. Ugh.

            I do recognize that IPs can and do shift genres with varying degrees of success. This is especially true when we travel from one hardware generation to the next and our machines become more capable of crazier things. I don’t mean to argue that this sort of shift is always bad.

            But when I look at that original Mass Effect with the clunky hybrid shooter/RPG mechanics, I see something slightly different. The fact is that we’re swimming in fantasy and sci/fi-based RTS games and have so for quite a while. But there’s only one RPG, story-heavy, worldbuild-y, character-driven sci/fi space opera franchise out there. In fact, it’s 11 years later and I can’t say that anyone else has really taken a successful shot at it. Heck, I think maybe Obsidian is taking a crack at it with The Outer Worlds?

            And maybe this is a distillation of my issue: What Mass Effect has been is singularly unique and something that landed squarely in my wheelhouse. And every choice that Bioware makes seems to carry them farther away from this unique thing, at least in my approximation. I probably wouldn’t be nearly has hostile toward them changing up the formula if we were otherwise flush with story and character-driven space opera RPGs. But as such, we don’t really have that.

            1. Trevor says:

              I don’t want to tie character-focused, deep storytelling to the RPG genre, necessarily. For example, a Telltale-type game could work really well in this universe as they are really focused on your relationship with characters and that game engine does the best to emphasize the “choices matter” thing. Walking Sims can do a really good job telling you a story and immersing you in a world.

              An RTS I don’t think works as well because it raises weird questions about who you, the player, are (are you a unit in the game? Do you live in your base’s Nexus?) and who the randos you send off to death are and where do they come from? I think Blizzard really plumbed the depths of what you could do with that medium and storytelling. An XCOM type RTS might work though, with your limited squad. Good storytelling can transcend genre though.

              But if what you want is a roleplaying game, then yeah, a roleplaying game is going to be the best fit. But I think with enough love and care, you could use the ME setting and play whatever game you want in it. A roguelike where you are involved in Citadel intrigue could be fun, or a ship-based game where you are a Starfleet-type captain who doesn’t go on away missions could work. I would say open-worlders are harder for this because they tend to do breadth over depth, but then there’s Witcher 3 (or is that an RPG?)

        2. Biggus Rickus says:

          I agree with Trevor above, but I also understand your point. And I share your suspicion that an open world makes it impossible to maintain a compelling narrative. Fallout: New Vegas comes closest, and that’s only because it steered you in somewhat subtle ways (for a video game) into advancing the narrative.

  6. PPX14 says:

    Gosh even the Archon seems to be in on the awe at how amazing humans are. You come along human, and do the impossible!

    1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      Clearly so. He had so much faith that he set the protagonists up with an escape plan that required at least one of them to spontaneously die and then be spontaneously resurrected. And the Archon didn’t even know that SAM existed and could create such a scenario. Hell, Ryder didn’t even know it was possible until right at that moment. Ol’ Ringhead understands the greatness of humanity better than the humans do.

      1. Lino says:

        And the Archon didn’t even know that SAM existed and could create such a scenario

        Of course the Archon knew about it – he’s read the script, after all…

      2. tremor3258 says:

        A plan that didn’t account for cybernetics could be handled better (has been handled better – Shep gets out of a few situations because she has ridiculously good cybernetics after her resurrection that basically give her a unique biology compared to humans) given that the Kett are focused so much on biology.

        Heck you could even have it be some crazy logic puzzle only an exalted brain could solve to top them and have SAM’s calculation ability simplfiy it down to that old Bioware standby of a Tower of Hanoi.

        1. Liessa says:

          Ah, the real reason for the failure of Mass Effect Andromeda: lack of Tower of Hanoi puzzles. Sudoku just didn’t cut the mustard.

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    This choice is a failure on two counts.

    I’d say three. Namely, why is this our choice at all? Why do we suddenly have authority over the whole of the Turian race in the galaxy? It’s the same deal with the Asari Ark mission. It’d be one thing if we were giving suggestions and they were like “OK, we’ll take that into account when making a decision”, but apparently we’re giving orders, and the non-human races are forced to follow them.

    This game just cannot decide what a Pathfinder is. Plot-wise it’s an explorer with the job of finding habitable worlds. Gameplay-wise it’s a soldier/mercenary tasked with saving innocents from monsters and other armed combatants. Story-wise it’s a leader (A hero? A bloody icon?) who even people in positions of power from other races look up to and whose decisions follow without a doubt. Hell, notice how all the people in the game who we’re supposed to root against is always because they try to go against Ryder’s decisions, whether they’re justified or not.

    But the writer 100% needed to lampshade this. Yes, it’s true that possibly this half-hearted capture was deliberate on the part of the Archon…

    …SAM points out that the field is only active if you’re alive. He proposes stopping Ryder’s heart so the field will turn off. It works. Then Ryder frees the other two squad members and they continue with the mission.

    It’s actually even more ridiculous. The whole plan of the Archon hinges in Ryder and their team escaping, yet he puts them in a decidedly inescapable trap that they only get out of because of something SAM comes up with on the spot that no one thought it was possible and the Archon had no way of knowing they could try.

    This kind of crap could only work in a self-referential comedy setting, in which the Archon could literally point out that he read the script while looking at the camera. Otherwise, this preposterous tommyrot is infuriatingly stupid lazy writing.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Oh, you don’t understand. Humans are the only race capable of doing anything properly* in the entire universe!
      The Archon’s security measures were actually just a bit of fancy string and an ESCAPE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED** sign.
      I mean, it would have worked on an Angaran…

      …actually, the more I think about this idea, the more I love it. SAM knows exactly how dumb the characters around him are and actively hates them. So he just makes them do unpleasant things for the lols and schadenfreude.

      ‘Ryder. I’ll need to stop your heart and then restart it to escape this trap. It’ll really hurt, but it’s the only way out. Honest.’

      ‘No, no, Ryder. This irradiated shithole that isn’t actually getting safer over time IS the only viable place for a colony. Trust me, the magic space pillars that only I can use said so. I’m not trying to sterilise you all within one generation at all!’

      (Private message) Hey Cora, I don’t think you’ve mentioned to Ryder that you were trained as an Asari commando yet.
      *Thinks to himself* And, there she goes again. Holy cow, I’ve met goldfish brighter that these idiots.

      *And when I say humans I mean SAM.
      **Yes, strictly. That means even on weekends.

      1. Finding out that the AI was just torturing you all would probably have been better than anything else the writers came up with .

        1. Coming Second says:

          You can’t spell SAM without AM. Just saying.

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            What is ‘AM’, if you don’t mind? Google isn’t helping.

            1. guy says:

              It’s the evil military supercomputer from I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. It wipes out nearly all of humanity, then tortures a handful of survivors over and over again.

              1. Syal says:

                Figure I might as well link the intro.

              2. Karma The Alligator says:

                Thanks guy and Syal. I’d seen that intro a long time ago and completely forgot about it.

        2. Nemryn says:

          SAM is just AM with an S hastily sharpied onto his console.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Man, if that had been the reveal at the end of the game, everything would have been forgiven.

        1. Mr. Wolf says:

          SAM I AM.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      It’s actually even more ridiculous. The whole plan of the Archon hinges in Ryder and their team escaping, yet he puts them in a decidedly inescapable trap that they only get out of because of something SAM comes up with on the spot that no one thought it was possible and the Archon had no way of knowing they could try.

      I was just about to point that out. The Archon’s plan hinges on Ryder dying and coming back to life. Did he see a lot of humans do that at some point? Or is it something that the kett do a lot and he just hasn’t noticed that humans don’t work that way? Because that seems really stupid to me.

      1. Syal says:

        I’m thinking the Archon was actually expecting them to just wait until the forcefield’s batteries died. He probably watched the death-and-resurrection trick and went, “well THAT was overkill!”

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          I wonder if that’s why the Archon goes after SAM later (or so I’m told), he saw that Ryder died and came back to life and decided he wanted some of that.

          1. Nessus says:

            Now I’m imagining a penultimate mission where the team has to rescue a captured SAM “before the kett can add his DNA to theirs”.

            1. Syal says:

              And it turns out… you just let them, and the Kett become so obsessed with pointing out minutiae to each other they can no longer discuss anything important.

              It’s like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but much louder and more annoying.

        2. Nimrandir says:

          Somewhere there’s a deleted scene with Archon about to set off the Rube Goldberg escape plan when Ryder’s heart stops. He looks quizzically at the display, because that face is only capable of looking quizzical. Then Ryder resuscitates, and the team escapes without his plan.

          “. . . Well, that’s that done. Time for a scone.”

  8. Flip says:

    Even by the standards of linear Mass-Effect-style missions the Turian Ark mission is badly designed.

    It’s obvious Bioware wanted this to be an eerie mission. The level designers made an abandoned ark and the sound designers made spooky ambient music. Those are both well done. But then some writers or game designers thought it would be a good idea to have Ryder run around with her 4-person squad (Ryder, 2 squaddies and the Turian guy) and to have SAM and the others talk quite a bit (“I could provide analysis via the scanner, Ryder.”). Some of the dialogue is really lame too (“We are lucky this part of the ark survived.” – “Looks can be decieving, pathfinder. The hull is barely holding together.” – “Thanks SAM, always a ray of sunshine.”).

    The level/sound designers and the writers/game designers were so not on the same page. You can’t have lots of (sometimes light-hearted) dialogue between characters and a spooky atmosphere.

    This is so easy to fix. First, make SAM shut up. Second, send Ryder in alone and then have a heartfelt dialogue after the mission where Ryder tells the Turian guy that the original pathfinder is dead. Third, give Ryder only a pistol and no other guns. (Just say the Turian ark is too unstable to support 4 heavily armed people running around.) Fourth, no resource pick ups that disrupt gameflow. That would make this a much better and more atmospheric mission. It would even be cheaper to make.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Restricting weapon choices in a freeform build-your-role game like this would be a really bad design decision. It wouldn’t affect biotic characters in the slightest but could make heavily armed Soldier types playing on higher difficulties rage quit the entire game. Proof: the Citadel DLC from ME3 (the DLC as a whole is generally one of the best pieces of content in the franchise) but the opening fight in it is MADDENINGLY hard on Insanity difficulty if you’re playing certain classes. For story reasons, Shepard was on a friend date with Joker, wearing whatever your most dressed up outfit is and is therefore only armed with the new pistol weapon added in the DLC. I hope your plan of engagement didn’t involve a steady stream of assault rifle, shotgun, or sniper rifle fire! Also, your armor is crippled because you might be wearing a suit or a fancy dress at the moment. It turns what’s meant to be a fan service laden party into a desperate struggle against powerful foes with sniper rifles who you can’t biotic charge and don’t have the proper weaponry to go after.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        As my engineer Shepard spammed the bad guys with flamethrower turrets, missile-firing drones, incinerate and overload, I remember thinking “This must be a nightmare for gun-based players.” The handgun you get is actually quite powerful, but it suddenly demands a very specific playstyle of people who rely heavily on their weapons.

        One of the most frustrating parts of Andromeda combat-wise is when we temporarily flip over to the other sibling and all they have is a crappy handgun and some grenades and that’s about it. A fight that would’ve been trivial for our own player with our selected weapons and powers becomes an all-thumbs firefight that’s mostly annoying. And I don’t trust the game’s narrative enough to assume that this was a story-choice made to show how far the Pathfinder had come in comparison to his/her sibling. It just makes me feel like the storytelling is as clumsy as I suddenly am.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Another problem is that you’re getting the level 1 version of the weapon with no mods in it. At level 5 (for playthrough one) or level 10 (for new game +), maybe that weapon is great! At level 1, unmodded on Insanity, it’s good for a single enemy before you need to start considering ammo.

          1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

            I had this exact experience, I went from level ~80 guns custom built to my playstyle with a skill set I’d continuously used for half the game to the pistol and a basic grenade ability I’d never used before. Even though the fights in that section are all against small numbers (1-2) of basic Kett it still turned what I presume was supposed to be a desperate fight for survival into a boring half hour slog.

      2. Flip says:

        You are right, but…

        This mission doesn’t actually contain any enemies, so having weapons or not doesn’t matter. (The player doesn’t know this in advance.) Making Ryder seem more vulnerable would work well without any downsides.

        (That’s also makes removing the squad mates easier.)

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Okay, I didn’t know it was a non-combat mission. In that case, I STILL wouldn’t force change the players’ weapons though. Because it tips the player off that something is up, and it’s that annoying “cutscene Shepard always uses the starting pistol in every fighting cutscene, despite MY Shepard NEVER using that weapon EVER,” thing. Which is so unnecessary to cause that discomfort. Making Ryder go alone would be fine though.

          1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            I’m with you on this. It would be weird to have this one instance where the player is initially like “WTF? I only get this one crappy gun?” only to learn after the fact that it didn’t matter. I don’t think I would walk away from that feeling like the tone that was set really pulled me in, but rather that the writers were messing with me.

            The illusion that they’ve stolen your choice away feels pretty much the same as if they really stole your choice away. And it tends not to feel great in either instance. At the very least, contrive some situation where I’m still carrying the guns I brought, but that they’re somehow damaged or without ammunition. You can still create that tension without feeling – even momentarily – that my gameplay choice has been chucked out the airlock. But even at that, I still might wonder if it’s worth contriving a manufactured weakness story-wise just for narrative effect. I don’t know that it would counter-balance my initial annoyance.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      Wait, you pick resources in the arks? So you’re basically looting them while they’re still in use? What?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Well, naturally.

        It’s only humans that are special enough to use the important equipment properly. Other races would just hurt themselves trying to eat an assault rifle or failing to unplug a light source.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Well, we did see the Asari incapable of unplugging something, so maybe you have a point.

  9. GoStu says:

    I ended up saving Drack’s scouts because (A) the one mandatory miniboss Krogan fight told me that I didn’t want to fight more of those guys than absolutely necessary, and (B) the story had already shown me that Pathfinders killed in action are just replaced by someone else down the chain. You know, how Alec Ryder was replaced? Right? We all saw that?

    I didn’t think there’d be NO replacement whatsoever.

    To fix the Turian Pathfinder problem, a line or two would have straightened it all out:

    *Avitus interacts with a datapad or something*
    “So many lost… I don’t know who would replace me. All my backups are dead or missing. It could take ages to work out who’s next in line.”

    After all, Mass Effect 3 had a MAIN MISSION based off Turian lines of succession. Remember the general you rescue on Palaven’s moon? He’s important BECAUSE the lines came down to him being in charge; even though he wouldn’t normally have been considered a good fit for the job.

    I know forgetting details from ME:1 is standard, but now they’re even forgetting details of the most recent game. Yikes.

    1. Trevor says:

      If you choose to save the Krogan Scouts, Captain Hayjer, the captain of the Salarian Ark, becomes Pathfinder. There is no way for the Salarians to be without a Pathfinder at the end of the game.

      I’ve never told Avitus that he sucks, so I didn’t know that you can end the game with no Turian Pathfinder, but Shamus is wrong about you being able to leave the Salarians without one by choosing the Krogan Scouts.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        That’s good to know, because I was trying to figure out how the ‘Pathfinder meeting’ scene works if you get the initial Salarian candidate killed and haven’t done the other ark quests yet.

        I presume it would have been Ryder in a room by herself, giving a reskinned variant of the ‘we fight or we die’ speech.

      2. Shamus says:

        Arg. I assumed the Salarians wouldn’t get a pathfinder, because that’s what happened with the Turians. The game taught me that Humans were the only ones with lines of succession.

        It’s like they went out of their way to be as inconsistent as possible.

        1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          So, your original opinion was that the Raeka/Krogan scout choice seemed relatively meaningful. Does learning that the Salarians end up with a pathfinder either way change your opinion of how meaningful the choice is? Because the only significant in-game difference is whether or not you end up fighting uplifted Krogan.

          1. Shamus says:

            Yeah, that does make the choice retroactively much less interesting. Although, I suppose it works as an interesting choice for a first playthrough. Or at least, the choice is interesting until you side with Drak.

      3. GoStu says:

        I must have totally forgotten about the existence of the new Salarian pathfinder. Does he get more than a couple lines? I did “finish” the game but have zero recollection of that guy at all.

        And now that I think of this, it makes the choice to save or not save the scouts even dumber. It sucks that one Pathfinder dies but when compared to the threat of the Kettified Krogan it’s a no-brainer. Pathfinders can be replaced, and we just met that guy. Salarians live like 40 years, Krogan can do hundreds.

        You’d have to be actively wanting to wipe out Krogan to not choose to rescue the Krogan. It’s a reasonable decision if you’re considering the implications of having a rapidly-breeding hyper-violent and hard to kill species in your immediate neighborhood… but the planners of the Andromeda initiative never thought of that, so why should you?

      4. OldOak says:

        To add to this inaccuracy, earlier SAM also mentions it can counteract the agent Ryder was injected with. This was the first thing SAM mentioned, and Ryder replied that it was definitely “priority number two”. The villain only gets access to Ryder memories just before her death, when the barrier went down (and SAM was dealing with “priority number one”).

  10. Hal says:

    So, what effect does it have on the game for there to be no Pathfinder for any given race?

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      I assume “not much”, in light of everything so far.


        The other Pathfinders show up in a few cutscenes, mostly to agree with whatever Ryder says when all the Initiative heads meet up (this doesn’t change anything, there’s no voting so having three people back Ryder doesn’t matter). In the very final level each Pathfinder has a cameo and if all three Pathfinders have been found/rescued/recruited will ensure Captain Dunn survives the final battle. If you don’t know who Dunn is, she’s the captain of the human ark and stopped being relevant to the story about five minutes after the game began.

        Or in less words: ‘not much’.

        1. Hal says:

          Thanks for the reply! That sounds like a terrible way to do things, especially because they aren’t clear about the thing with the races simply having no Pathfinder.

  11. Shen says:

    Y’ever get the feeling that the writer REALLY wanted to write a fantasy story with Great Families and Succession Crises against Crazy Religion types making people Conform with the Power of Proper Nouns? Might explain why they seem to resent everything sci-fi.
    And give things dumb names like The Scourge.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Every time someone says ‘the Scourge,’ I have flashbacks to Peter MacNicol’s character from Ghostbusters II listening to Vigo.

      “Yes, yes, the scourge . . .”

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Look at it this way: it could have been called the Taint instead…

      1. Sartharina says:

        YE GODS!

  12. KillerAngel says:

    But the writer 100% needed to lampshade this. Yes, it’s true that possibly this half-hearted capture was deliberate on the part of the Archon. His real goal was to inject Ryder and let her go so he could follow her to Meridian. That explains why we were left with our weapons and no guards. Fine. We know this, but Ryder doesn’t. This situation ought to strike the team as inexplicable.

    Okay I think this is actually way worse than needing to lampshade. I think this was the missed opportunity to make the following scene where Ryder gets grounded make sense and have real drama and stakes.

    Instead of some wishy-washy appeasement crap, you could have the basis of grounding Ryder be that she was just injected with something by the enemy leader and we can’t be 100% certain she’s clean. Ryder can say that she feels fine, or the Doctors can try to get it out of her but don’t find anything, or SAM can say something about probability, or all three. Then when you break free of containment (an opportunity for drama) and run off to fight the Kett and he drops the reveal on you, suddenly the reveal is personal because you ran off against the wishes of others who had a point.

    You can still fix it in the end, but fixing it suddenly becomes a lot more personal to Ryder because now it’s her mistake.

    1. Agammamon says:

      But Ryder can’t make mistakes. She’s perfect. That’s why she was selected over all the other people who actually had training and experience. Its why she’s on the mission in the first place – taking a seat from someone else who had training and experience.

      ME: A gives me the impression that is basically low-grade fan-fic.

    2. Syal says:

      You can still fix it in the end, but fixing it suddenly becomes a lot more personal to Ryder because now it’s her mistake.

      But it’d feel cheap to the player because they were railroaded into it. You would need a good reason for them to break out of containment, and if they have a good reason then the consequences won’t make it a bad choice.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        SAM: Cora. Liam. I have located a Magical Space McGuffin that will nullify what the Archon did to Ryder. If you make your way to these co-ordinates and recover it, we can convince the Council to let her go.

        Cue a special one-off mission where you play as a companion character with unique abilities, recover the McGuffin and have Ryder released.

        (Later in the game)

        Archon: Haha! You though that you had nullified my tracker? My nanobots fooled your AI! You have told me everything I needed to know! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!’s not an amazing solution, but it would work, and it fits what the story wanted to accomplish.

        …and it took me all of 5 seconds to think of.
        Sigh. The more I think about this story and the more I hear about Anthem, the more I think…

        …RIP Bioware.

  13. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Something that strikes me about the “What have we gained” line. You think that the “twenty thousand Salarian lives” argument is compelling? How about “the actual physical survival of the Salarian race”? See, from what the Initiative people know everyone back in the Milky Way is very likely dead. I assume the handful of Salarians scattered around already are not enough to sustain a population (at least not without issues) so as far as these people are concerned we’re talking literal extinction here.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      The Initiative left before the Reaper invasion started, so they have no reason to suspect the Milky Way is in any danger actually.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        For the record, I have not played the game just watched some Let’s Plays and read about it a bunch but I was under the impression that the idea behind the Initiative was to ensure the survival of the Milky Way races in case the whole Reaper thing went pearshaped? Isn’t that why Cerberus got involved?

        So after a little googling it seems I’m semi-right. According to the game’s wiki the “benefactor” did indeed get involved because of the Reaper threat but I imagine it is not common knowledge among the colonists… which on the one hand somewhat understandable since they have a lot on their plates, on the other hand I’d imagine at least the people in charge would be in the know. If not for any other reasons than so to ensure that if in a 100 years someone doesn’t come up with a smart idea like “let’s send a message home telling them we’re doing fine and giving our return address”.

        1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          Apparently about the only people in the know about the Reapers are the very uppermost echelon of the Initiative, as in the founder of the Initiative (Jien Garson); Alec Ryder; the Cerberus assassins presumably hiding on board the Nexus and… Well that’s about it as far as I recall.

          Garson is killed shortly after arrival in Andromeda (see ‘Cerberus assassins’) and Alec conveniently dies before having time to mention the apocalypse they escaped to anyone. Which means by the time Ryder sets off for Eos the first time no-one (including Tann) has a clue about the Initiatives true purpose beyond exploration and colonisation for the sake of adventure.The only way the player can even find out the hidden agenda is by pursuing a long collectible hunt on the various open-world maps of the game which slowly allows SAM to show Ryder their fathers memories (including the talk about a ‘benefactor’ funding the Initiative to escape the Reapers). I think at one point during the side-quest you also get an audio log from your father talking about Milky Way distress calls he somehow recieved when the human Ark arrived in Andromeda dating from when the Reaper invasion started. Aparently he was the only one to intercept these messages and decided the sensible thing to do would be to hide those messages inside SAM so if he died the next human Pathfinder would have to jump through some hoops (read: collectible sidequest) to find them.

          Before you ask: no there are no special conversations you can have with people about Ryder discovering the Reapers are real or dealing with the Initiative may be the final remnants of their collective species and cultures.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            That is incredibly short sighted and self defeating… sounds like a Cerberus operation allright.

  14. Philadelphus says:

    The story never explains how the Kett are so magically good at finding these silent ships in the void.

    Oh, that one’s easy: it’s hard to hide in space (at least, I’m assuming these massive people-mover arks don’t have some kind of sci-fi cloaking device on them but I wouldn’t put it past this game) and they’ve had 600 years to track our progress from the Milky Way.

    1. Coming Second says:

      This is maybe a little unfair to bring up, but if it’s easy to track a lot of big things moving in dark space, why were the Reapers such a surprise to the Milky Way?

      1. Jbc31187 says:

        In MA1 I assumed that the Reapers- unknowable Robo-cthulhu beasties that they were- were way way *way* out in dark space, partly for safety and partly because they’re drama queens. Then we find out they’re in flying range of the Milky Way. So the answer is the writers didn’t care, I guess.

        Mass Effect was never hard science, but the funnest and most interesting bits were whenever they put a little thought into how a standard sci-fi universe would work.

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Well, ME1 actually said that the Reapers were trapped in dark space until the Citadel relay got opened, so yeah, they really were way way *way* out in dark space. Then ME2 happened, and suddenly they need only a few months.

      2. Philadelphus says:

        As space-Cthulu, they can have whatever kind of sci-fi cloaking device they like.

        I mean, the arks could too, but since the Initiative apparently never considered the possibility of meeting hostile aliens it seems unlikely they’d have gone to the extra expense of outfitting their gargantuan people-popsicle ships with them.

        Though then again, since they’re also apparently funded by the Magical Infinite Cerberus Budget™, who knows?

  15. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo: in “The spent the money” the initial word is missing the trailing ‘y’
    I also feel like there was a missed opportunity somewhere in that vicinity involving an allusion to what happens when you polish a dry-erase board.

  16. It’s telling you reference that Star Wars moment since by lampshading that moment, it then brings up and fails to justify why they still went straight to the rebel base anyway.

    Sure, that’s dumb action schlock. But that’s fine. That’s all I’m asking for.

    This wouldn’t feel so blatantly disingenuous if your requirements for what is and is not sufficient plot justification in a game was in anyway consistent, but I’ve been here since the aughts and its always been completely arbitrary.

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s not LITERALLY all I’m asking for. It’s all I’m asking for in this particular case.

      You’re right in the sense that if this game had succeeded in being serviceable action schlock, I still would have complained. I would have faulted it for failing to live up to the Mass Effect name. But the game can’t even rise to the level of broad action. You’re wrong in saying that I’m being “blatantly disingenuous”. The reader is expected to understand that I’ve lowered my standards, and I’m trying to meet the game halfway. Do you realize how long and pedantic this series would be if I held Andromeda to the same standard I held the previous games to?

      When I pick apart a scene, it’s because it was bugging me while I was playing the game. What’s wrong here? Why am I not laughing at these jokes? Why am I not experiencing the intended tension? Why don’t I care about this character that’s so important to the story? So I dig down and diagnose where I think it went wrong. Other people experienced those same nagging doubts and frustrations. An analysis like this can allow us to commiserate, or maybe I can help someone understand stories better.

      The fact that you view criticism and analysis as an act of hostility explains why my writing seems “completely arbitrary” to you. You seem to think I’m playing a game of “gotcha!” with the writers. If I can find a nitpicky flaw, then I get to call them out on it and I win. If you can contrive some plausible explanation to negate my nitpick, then I lose a point. This is such a strange way to read my site and I have no idea what you really want. Whatever it is, it’s not something I’m interested in doing.

      If you really think I’m just a big liar who makes things up so I have something to complain about, then stop hate-reading my site and move on. Find a writer you enjoy.

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