Mass Effect 2:
Plot Analysis Part 1 of 3

  By Shamus   Feb 10, 2010   206 comments

The Mass Effect Trilogy

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One of the great things about planning to make a trilogy in advance is that you can design a coherent three-game story arc ahead of time. You don’t have to weld a series of self-contained stories together, but instead can weave the tales together elegantly. You can set up foreshadowing and plant characters that will pay off in later installments, and you don’t have to hide the seams between the games with a bunch of messy retcons and plot hacks.

The usual franchise works like this: At the end of the first game the hero becomes super-powerful, defeats the bad guy, gets the girl, and retires. Then the sequel has to take away his powers, eliminate the girl, and resurrect the bad guy so the hero can come out of retirement. A writer that is able to plan ahead will be able to wrap up story 1 without walling off story 2 like this.

When you plan ahead for a trilogy, then everything can be made to fit, and the three games together can end up greater than the sum of their parts. So many games are written as if each game will be the last, and knowing you have three games to tell your story is a rare and unique opportunity.

BioWare took this opportunity, and pissed it away with Mass Effect 2. The core story is a really small part of the game, which is good because it’s also the worst part of the game. Everything else is polished, engaging, and witty, while the central story features some of BioWare’s sloppiest plot-work in years.

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The main plot of Mass Effect 2 not only fails to stand up to scrutiny, but it retroactively goes back and messes up parts of Mass Effect 1 which worked perfectly fine. It’s cheap, obvious, and tacked-on. It fails to exploit any of the great ideas set up in the original, and instead does a messy reboot and burns all of the bridges built by the first game. The only thing it keeps is the idea that “Reapers are coming from beyond known space to kill us all”. But it even screws that up, because it takes the very small number of things we know about Reapers and changes them for no good reason.

But what’s interesting is that this mess is carefully (perhaps even deliberately) quarantined, and the rest of the game is much more satisfying. Furthermore, the plot holes, while numerous, are all spiderweb cracks radiating out from two problem areas:

1) The first ten minutes of the game.

2) The last ten minutes of the game.

I’m going to go over the plot in detail, but I want to stress that I don’t think that BioWare has suddenly let a crayon-wielding imbecile write their games. This is something else.

I’ll talk more about this later.

From here on are heavy spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.


Opening

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The game starts with the Collectors destroying the Normandy and killing off commander Shepard.

You could argue that this was how they introduced the New Threat, but they already had a dire threat which was already firmly established as an insurmountable foe. One lone Reaper was nearly a match for the entire Citadel fleet, and it was hinted that there are limitless numbers of them lurking somewhere out there.

The game then has the terrorist organization Cerberus bring Commander Shepard back from the dead because they recognized that he was the only one who could save humanity from the Reaper threat. This is the first giveaway that nobody was trying to make the games fit together. Cerberus in the first game was unambiguously evil and ruthless and it was never demonstrated that they had any goals besides the acquisition of power. (They claimed to be pro-human, but they arguably killed more humans than the bad guys. Never once were we shown how Cerberus was helping humans.) Shepard was their chief nemesis. Cerberus in Mass Effect 2 presents itself as a group with noble intentions and questionable methods. If they had planned on having us work for Cerberus in part two, they could have set things up for us in part one so this felt like a twist and not a rewrite. The Cerberus missions you foiled in the first game could have been part of an overarching scheme that is revealed at the start of the second game. There are so many interesting things they could have done with this. They could have connected the dots and shown how Cerberus weren’t as bad as they seemed.

Instead, they simply shoved you into service of Cerberus and then threw in a few dialog options to let you bitch about it in petty, non-specific ways.

The Reboot

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Why did they need to reboot the story by killing and reviving Shepard? This is something you should only do if you’ve been painted into a corner. But Mass Effect 1 left plenty of wiggle room to put Shepard into whatever situation they needed. When you’re planning to write a three-game trilogy, scene one of Act II should not begin with “start over”. This is particularly frustrating when, after the messy reboot, they have to come up with a bunch of contrivances to put nearly everything back where it was!

1) Your entire body is pulverized, but they bring you back exactly as you were before.

2) Your ship is destroyed, but they build you a new one that’s very similar and then give it the same name. (Except the new one has the CERBERUS LOGO stenciled on the side, which is a bit odd for a super-secret shadow organization. Somehow this doesn’t cause constant problems for you every time you try to dock somewhere civilized.)

3) You’re declared dead, but when you show up again the Alliance accepts you and your new career working for their enemy.

4) All of your original crew resign the Alliance and (on their own, apparently) join up with this terrorist organization. They seem to do so without knowing ahead of time that they will end up working for you again on a copy of the original ship. Apparently your entire crew was teetering on the edge of treason at the end of the last game? (Really. Dr. Chakwas’ excuse for signing up with Cerberus is that she missed space travel. She signed up with one of the most ruthless organizations in the galaxy – an organization that you had fought many times in the first game – because that was the only way she could think of to get back into space!?!) So by the time you take command of the new Normandy, everyone is already waiting for you.

So after all of this vandalism to the original plot and characters, we end up almost exactly back where we were at the end of game 1, with the same ship, same crew, same setup. The only thing different is who we’re working for. Which brings us to…

The Illusive Man

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“Illusive Man”. Really BioWare? (Keep in mind this universe already has a character named “Shadow Broker”.)

Exhibit B in the case that nobody bothered to plan ahead: Nowhere in game 1 does anyone refer to the Illusive Man. You are sent to meet him a few minutes into the game. If the first game had been seeded with allusions to this guy, this could have been a mind-blowing moment. “Woah! I’m going to get to meet the Illusive Man?!?” Instead I was like, “Who?”

In the recruitment dialog, you’re never given the chance to confront him about any of the past crimes of his organization or give him a chance to tell you his side of the story. Note that if you have the “Sole Survivor” background, then Cerberus is responsible for the life-changing backstory events that led to you undergoing severe physical and mental trauma and killed your entire unit. You can’t even bring this up during your chat with Illusive Man. In return, he never brings up any of the plans of his that you wrecked in the first game. He never tries to change your mind about Cerberus.

In fact, you can’t really say anything of value to him. Your only dialog options are halfhearted resignation or Luke Skywalker-level, “I’ll never join you!” bravado. The latter is particularly risible since, by the end of the conversation, you’ve done exactly that.

Building Your Team

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Once the game is done messing up your backstory, the characters, and the setting itself, it cuts you loose to recruit your team. And then Mass Effect 2 becomes completely awesome. Once the introduction is out of the way, you start collecting teammates and seeing their interesting stories. This is where you will spend a majority of the game. Assuming you recruit all the characters and do all of their personal missions, you’ll spend 75% of the game on the fun missions and only 25% on the annoyingly porous story.

But we’ll talk about the good stuff later.

A Hundred!A Hundred!6206 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?


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  1. Erenthal says:

    It’s not really an excuse, but Cerberus is far more fleshed out in the novels, especially “Ascension” which sorta spans the gap between the two games.

    Having read them, I wasn’t nearly as jostled by the events of the second game.

    • Tizzy says:

      Yuck! I don’t like it when the tie-in novels are instrumental in establishing the universe. They’re perfectly fine to add flavor and for the obsessed, but you would think that video games is a mature enough medium to describe the essentials without resorting to books. I mean, it should be *easier* to do that in a game trilogy than, say, in a movie trilogy.

    • JKjoker says:

      as far as i care any tie in novels do not exist, video games are a visual media, if its relevant to the plot/world then show me, dont tell me

      the codex or and DAO’s “notes” are just as useless (specially if they are sorted randombly and without any hotlinks to/from relevant items/quests they might be refering to)

      • Mechman says:

        So your response to “Well, it’s explained in the backstory” is that you don’t read that stuff? Games are NOT an exclusively visual medium. If you look at the best games that told the best stories, those stories were, at least in part, told in written words, even in the game. Deus Ex would not have been so immersive were it not for the newspapers and terminals, Baldurs Gate relied upon notes and text dialog, and Unreal had the story unfolding almost entirely in written notepads. Hell, Homeworld had by far the largest parts of the plot written in the manual, with a hundred pages that explained the world and people you were fighting for.
        You’re missing out on a key part if you ignore this, and its not the fault of the games.

        • modus0 says:

          All of your examples though, don’t require additional purchases to get the information.

          You shouldn’t have to go out and buy a separate novel to have the story explained to you.

          Take Halo, for example. Reading “The Fall of Reach” isn’t necessary to figuring out what’s going on. Sure, it may explain some things, but I believe the manual did all the necessary explanation for someone to jump in and play the game.

        • Spectralist says:

          “Show don’t tell” has been the doctrine of good writers since time immemorial. Codex entries are a terrible way of getting plot relevant information to the player. They’re fine as a reminder or for irrelevant side info but thats about it.

          • The problem is that, in practice, you can’t “show” decades of history, political background, etc. without being JUST as boring as reading it. It’s like watching C-SPAN. What was cool about Codexes and similar modes of presentation in games where this style worked is that they are not always terribly long (when they are, I do start to balk) and are totally optional. Further, they’re unlocked by my actions: I get to read more about the world by exploring it. A tie-in novel is unlocked by my credit card.

            • Oh yes you can, as any skilled writer can tell you. This is one of the reasons why tropes exist–so that you can put all that backstory info into a very small event.

              You don’t have to tell the “entire story” to the player/reader/watcher. Instead, you indicate the NATURE of the story to them in the way characters interact. For example, say you have two races who have been at odds for centuries over what was initially a misunderstanding that led to a war. A BAD writer conveys this by dumping a bunch of codex entries et al on you to the effect that these two races have been at odds for centuries yadda yadda yadda and then, when you encounter members of those species, they’re getting along fine.

              A GOOD writer, on the other hand, simply has most characters of the two species evidence significant hostility when they run across each other. The members of those species who are characterized as reasonable individuals (party members, most likely), on the other hand, are wary but willing to give the other species a shot.

              If, on the other hand, the enmity was well-founded (say, because species A EATS species B), you’d have a different situation. Species A people might be perfectly willing to work with Species B people (they might even find it amusing that the “food” is so frightened of them), whereas Species B would absolutely refuse to have anything to do with Species A, and for good reason.

              You don’t have to communicate reams of info in order for people to get the gist of something, and, in fact, the ability to communicate in terms of these essentials is what makes a good writer.

    • DaveJ says:

      I was going to mention those stupid books.

      I wish they weren’t so terrible, the mass effect universe is pretty fun otherwise.

      • fscan says:

        yeah, i stopped reading at the point where anderson explains that the bad guys probably saw their arrival from the mass relay and had an 20min head start. i just can’t stop thinking how this is supposed to work when they are traveling with an FTL (FASTER than light) drive for 20min to get there.

        • Markus says:

          When you drop out of a mass Relay it will take a few seconds to minutes to figure out how far the ships drift is and what coordinates would be needed to reach the planet. So all they need is to place a person waiting for any activity from the relay then run like s*** to tell his teammates that reinforcements have arrived.

  2. swimon says:

    I think the point of the whole dead/reanimation gigg is so you can try out a new class. It still doesn’t make sense since they made you exactly like before and I think most people would accept the strangeness of changing class mid stream, but I think that was sort of the point of it.

    • Whereas I’d say the reason for the death and resurrection part was to allow the player to customize their character’s appearance – granted, that could have been explained away as extensive plastic surgery.

      • Taellosse says:

        I imagine it was both of those reasons AND a justification for punting the PC back to the bottom of the level tier (though an imported character does get a leg up on a fresh one). The whole “killing Shepard and bringing him back” thing doesn’t bother me as much as some of the other things Shamus mentions. And, like him, I didn’t really twig to them until after I was finished. It was a “fridge moment” I guess.

        • [d20]thegrinner says:

          And remember how they completely altered how classes and levels work, so they needed some way to reboot or transfer, and how many people would be pissed if their uber-skills transferred down without SOME plot reason?

          • Agreed. The new classes and the fact that your skill levels at the end of the last game could have been at nearly godlike levels semi-reasonably justifies having Shepard being given the $60,000,000 man treatment.

            • Squigie says:

              It’s still not really necessary. Consider the Zelda games that use the same Link as one of the previous ones: he always starts off with nothing, having none of the strictly required items from the last game. The Metroid series is the same. Prime 1 and 2 start Samus off with a few upgrades, then have them destroyed or stolen, but Prime 3 didn’t bother. Then there’s Xenosaga. In addition to the battle system changing drastically with each sequel the party always starts at a low level (~5 for some reason instead of 1) and you have to regain whatever old abilities have carried over.

  3. neothoron says:

    Apart from Joker, Chakwas, G. and T., I don’t see anyone from the original crew aboard the new Normandy.

    I’d argue however that the only ones who say that Cerberus is helping humanity are TIM and people that have joined Cerberus. Considering that the source of previous information was either firsthand or anti-Cerberus, I believe that it’s simply TIM telling everyone to take his word for it that what he’s doing is good for humanity – and giving such a justification to his underlings. The absence of support for that theory from any other place in-game could indicate that Cerberus’ nature is not any different from before, simply hidden from Shepard.

    Two points that, though Fanon, do not seem far-fetched to me:
    -Cerberus harms more humans than the nemesis – human sacrifices and experiments on humans are the only ones that Cerberus can partially handwave away (by shutting down Alliance investigation attempts).
    -Seriously, nearly everyone (including an outraged email from someone you saved from Cerberus) seems to be in shock at the news of Shepard working for Cerberus – maybe Cerberus really did implant a docility chip in Shepard’s brain.

    • ALeX says:

      Apart from Joker, Chakwas, G. and T., I don’t see anyone from the original crew aboard the new Normandy.

      That’s because the original crew was Alliance personel. Joker says that the alliance docked him and Cerberus was the only way he could fly a ship and Chakwas is there to help Joker.

  4. Sydney says:

    Problem: There’s never a guarantee that any given game will be successful enough to be worth making a sequel. I vaguely recall you writing about this before, actually. They could have spent a lot of effort making Episode 1 feel like one-third of a story, and then…the next third of the plot could just never have come out. Or it could have come out and we’d all forgotten Episode 1. Or they could have made the first two episodes, but then never made the third and left the story half-written.

    Personally, I’d prefer your way, writing in episodes – but can see the impetus for having each game be self-contained, just in case.

    EDIT: FOUND IT:

    “I’m sure fans of the game will be quick to point out that this is the second act in a three-act play. Great. The first installment came out in 1999. Adventure games and budgets being what they are, there is no guarantee that the next game will even be made. And even if it is, I don’t really care to wait for it. In another seven years I’ll be 42, my oldest daughter will be getting ready to turn 16, and I will only have a vague memory of what happened in this game. Unlike a book or a movie, I probably won’t be able to go back and play this installment, either. Will I need to surf around, hunting for some Windows XP emulator? I had some trouble getting the game to run right on today’s equipment. I can only imagine the challenge of getting it to run on some machine built in 2013, just so I can go back and familiarize myself with all of the various characters and plotlines.

    I care about the story now because I’ve been playing it. I won’t care about it then. Seven years is a long time.”

    ^ From the analysis of Dreamfall’s ending. Could you quickly address the difference? Why is the seven-year-gap problem such a bear for Dreamfall, but not for Mass Effect? I haven’t actually played either game, but the Dreamfall passage made more sense to me, because I’ve seen this happen with books released episodically. I always end up having to re-read the preceding books to “study up” for the new one.

    • Shamus says:

      Thank the difference is that Dreamfall was a cliffhanger: It didn’t just leave SOME threads open, it left EVERYTHING open. Nothing was resolved.

      Mass Effect 1 wrapped up nicely, while leaving the greater threat open.

    • Primogenitor says:

      In the multi-part plot department, I’d like to point to Half-Life. Especially HL2:ep3…

    • Taellosse says:

      In the paragraph you quote, Shamus also puts a lot of emphasis on the time between the first game and the sequel. In the case of Mass Effect, we’re talking only a couple of years–the first one came out on the 360 in, as I recall, late 2007, and the second one has come out in very early 2010. Whereas that game he’s talking about had a 7 year gap. That’s huge, and I don’t blame him for complaining about the time between them. Mass Effect and its sequel are coming out close enough together to be on the same console hardware, and can reasonably be played on the same hardware on the PC as well (from what I’ve heard, 2 actually runs smoother on older hardware than 1 did). In 7 years, though, operating systems can change multiple times, and a lot of people change computers as well, sometimes also more than once, in that length of time (I think serious gamers replace rigs every 2-4 years if they can afford it). Consoles definitely change over faster than that, particularly if your first game doesn’t come out right at the launch of the hardware.

    • Sean Hagen says:

      This is what happened with Advent Rising. The first game came out, and was part of a planned trilogy. I mean, the website for the game is http://www.adventtrilogy.com/ .

      Then the company that made it went under, leaving all the fans left wanting. What really sucks about the company going under is that the game was made for the original XBox. There probably isn’t a patch coming allowing Advent Rising to be played on the 360 because the source probably isn’t around — or the people that know the source aren’t around anymore, or don’t want to work on it.

      Really sucks, because I remember going to Video Games Live ( video game music played by a symphony orchestra ) and Tommy Tallarico being all excited about the second one =(

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      Scoping out a story for the entire arc doesn’t require writing all the games, much less writing all the games at once. The basic plotting, and decisions about what to include and how in any particular game is a pretty trivial investment. It’s entirely possible to make a self-contained game that’s a small part of a much larger story without ret-conning anything, or leaving obvious gaps. Look at Star Wars (perhaps minus Lucas’s irksome indulgences) and how they hang together. Star War came out as a single film because they didn’t know if there would be the possibility of doing more. Then, when there was the will and budget to know that three could be done, all that needed to be changes was add one single line to the top of the crawler text to make it part of an arc, and the next film was ready to be added. The second had a bigger cliffhanger, but that could have been addressed otherwise without changing the actual events of the film much. If there’s any flaw in the whole collection, it is that things started in the middle instead of at the beginning. (For enough reason in this case, but it’s not something you want to do if you can avoid it.)

      • Blackbird71 says:

        The difference being that with Star Wars (the original trilogy anyway), Lucas actually had all three movies written out as a single plot in advance, and decided to save the last 2/3rds of the story for possible sequels when he realized that there was too much material for one movie. It wasn’t a matter of trying to tack on new material, but of just continuing the flow of the story as a cohesive whole.

        • ATMachine says:

          I hate to break it to you, but the oft-repeated assertion about Star Wars being “a single saga divided into three movies, as planned from the beginning” is totally false.

          Lucas did write a number of wildly different drafts for the original Star Wars film, yes–and many of the concepts in them were reused in later films. But in terms of overarching plot structure, the initial scripts contained only enough material for one movie. Consequently, the later Star Wars trilogy was constructed ad hoc from movie to movie, with awkward retcons stringing the films together.

          Here is perhaps the most telling evidence: in the very first script draft of Empire Strikes Back (written by pulp novelist/screenwriter Leigh Brackett), Darth Vader is patently NOT Luke’s father. Rather, Anakin appears to Luke as a wise and kindly Force Ghost, alongside Obi-Wan, during the Dagobah segment of the film.

          Unfortunately, Brackett died of cancer after she had written one draft of the script, and Lucas took over the writing duties himself after that. It was when only he went back to the drawing board, for what became the second draft script, that he came up with the “Vader IS Anakin” idea.

          Similarly, Luke, not Han, was the one meant to “get the girl” and win Leia’s heart–witness their steamy kiss in the second film. However, in order to increase the audience’s fear that Luke might die in the climax of Empire, Lucas had Yoda speak the ambiguous line that “there is another” when Luke leaves hurriedly for Cloud City. The need eventually to explain this mysterious allusion led to Leia being retconned into “another Skywalker” in Return of the Jedi.

          If Lucas had constructed the whole Star Wars saga at once from day one, there would never have been a need for Obi-Wan’s clumsy “certain point of view” circumlocutions. This sort of internal contradiction within a story is exactly why Shamus is right to urge game developers who KNOW they will be making sequels to their current game to maximize foreshadowing.

          I haven’t played either Mass Effect but it sounds like BioWare have pulled something of a “Lucas retcon” here. The more sadly so as they obviously had the chance to avoid it–which George didn’t, no matter what he says now.

        • Chris Arndt says:

          If George Lucas said it regarding his creative processes, I wouldn’t quite believe it.

  5. 6thfloormadness says:

    If you have enough conversations with Miranda you do get a chance to ask her about some (but not enough) of the things Cerberus did and she has good explanations.

    If you get Chakwas her bottle of liquor you 2 can reminisce and she gives the real reason she joined Cerberus. I believed Joker’s reasons for joining though.

  6. Wulf says:

    “They could have connected the dots and shown how Cerberus weren’t as bad as they seemed.”

    Wait, they _are_ as bad as they seemed.

    In my playthrough the whole Cerberus thing played out as “Pro Human” in a hmm… “Human are _the_ species” kind of way. Sure, they let alien species in the Black Ops Team, but they want the collector technology for the humans, and humans only (and if alien species suffer from the use of the technology, great, a win – win situation for cerberus). Humans here, Humans there. Humans are the best, etc. Thats what radiated from cerberus in my game.

    In short: For me, cerberus were the bad guys. They _said_ they are the only one to stand against the reaper, _but you have only cerberus’ word for that!_ There is no word from the Councils Black Ops Team, the Spectres.

    This is the real moral dilemma in the game. You work for the “bad guys” because _something_ has to be done and you trust the “bad guys” word that they are doing something.

    Edit:
    “4) All of your original crew resign the Alliance and (on their own, apparently) join up with this terrorist organization. They seem to do so without knowing ahead of time that they will end up working for you again on a copy of the original ship. Apparently your entire crew was teetering on the edge of treason at the end of the last game?”

    Oh come on, thats not even true. From your original Spectre Team, or friends, only _two_ characters join your new team. From the original ships crew only two are back on the new ship. And _your Char_ names the ship “Normandy” in a cutscene, not cerberus. I have no idea about the whole cerberus logo thingie, though, thats strikes me as rather stupid. :)

    • DaveJ says:

      Pro human isn’t terrible. I’d rather the pro human group looking out for me than the old council. Speaking of the council, if people on the citadel only talk about the GETH attack then Cerberus really would be the only group concerned about the REAPERS.

      They aren’t bad, they are ruthless. They’ll do all sorts of things to a little girl in order to advance human biotics. We need to be catching up to the aliens in every area possible. The krogans may be the the dumbest, but they managed to nuke themselves before the birth of Christ. Would the sacrifice of that little girl be on the same scale?

      • Wulf says:

        I, for one, say “ruthless”, when it involves torturing dozens of children to advance one girl (for example) is “bad”. Thats my moral compass. It also tells me the human-fixation of cerberus is deeply troubling and dangerous (i really don’t want to point out the obvious real world analogy here) and “bad” as played out by cerberus.

        as an aside: i really really dig what they (the writers) did with the krogans. Bioware fleshed them, the genophage and the salarians out in a truly astonishing way. It gives room for some really good moral decisions.

        btw.: perhaps the council masks the danger that are the reapers to quell a panic, before it rises. They are talking about geth, because that is something the people can handle. And the don’t talk to shepard about what the spectres are doing against the reapers, because shepard has a history of doing what he/she thinks is right. So if the council would spill the beans, especially as shepard works for cerberus in that moment, they have no way of controlling what he/she or cerberus tells the people about the threat. So they lie.

    • Swimon says:

      In ME2 cerebrus is evil but understandable in ME1 they are psychotics. For example if you have the sole survivor background they trained a tresher maw to attack an alliance group (the size of the group is rather vague). Arter that they somehow got the soldiers out of the maw and did experiments on them until all but one guy died. To me that is just beyond reasonable and doesn’t really seem to be in humanitys best interest. Also in ME2 the subject zero cell was rogue because “they went too far” but there is no indication that the maw research is rogue and that seems worse, to me at least.

      That is why it seems so weird to be working for cerebrus because they are simply psycho in ME1 not “stradling the line between good and evil for the sake of humanity”.

      • Markus says:

        Cerberus can be related to Specters. Each cell of Cerberus can do what it wants to complete it’s mission like specters. both the cells of Cerberus and specters report to someone above them weather it’s the council or the illusive man. the only differences is the illusive man keeps a closer eye on the cells then the council dose on the specters

  7. DaveJ says:

    What did Cerberus do in the first game that was so bad?

    • neothoron says:

      Trap marines with Thresher Maws to evaluate how effective Thresher Maws would be as a weapon? (Sole Survivor background) Doing the same ploy later?

      Experimenting on human beings against their will?

      Convert humans to Husks/Enslaving Rachni to evaluate the potential of these as shock troops?

      • Shamus says:

        Yeah. I love their plans:

        “Shoot people in face to evaluate face-shooting as a tactic.”

        If you’re going to be a militant pro-human black-ops group, could you at least do your tests on ALIENS?!

        LACKEY: Mr. Illusive. We’ve developed this awesome weapon that’s really effective at killing humans.

        TIM: Excellent. Hand the weapons out and go kill some Krogen.

        LACKEY: Ummmmm…

  8. DNi says:

    Cerberus isn’t exactly noble in ME2; a lot of characters, Tali in particular, do bring up past horrors. Also: Subject Zero.

    That said, I don’t think Bioware had a firm grasp on Cerberus in Mass Effect 1. There was this huge sidequest thread in it (that never went anywhere) revolving around Cerberus and a presumably dead extortionist named Banes, a character who I think probably evolved into The Illusive Man.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but you have to admit, everything regarding Cerberus in Mass Effect 1 was a total mess. You foiled a handful of their botched experiments, and took down one of their vaguely menacing cells that had unclear objectives. Nothing about them really went anywhere, there was no closure or even an indication that they’d return at all in the sequel. They were just a typical, shadowy, everyday Evil Organization.

  9. About my website link: The guys at RoosterTeeth made the widest-known machinima series “Red vs. Blue”. They also release DrunkTank podcasts on Wednesdays, and last week they were talking about ME2.

    So the question remains, then: Since you’re starting with a downloaded save on your first run-through, are you going to go back and detail the plot differences between the two at any point?

    The reason I ask is because you mentioned that Bioware starts you off with a generic character (if you don’t have your own save) whose choices in the first game become relatively moot. Starting with that generic character, according to the guys at RoosterTeeth, means that you don’t see some of the characters and most of the existing plot exposition at the beginning.

    Been trolling your posts for a while now, Shamus. Keep up the great work! Your reviews and design postings are keeping me alive in the video game world right now because you’re the only person who posts mostly “objective” reviews, not giving every game a 10/10 like IGN or Gamespot.

  10. =Dan says:

    I found the entire idea that I was working for/with Cerberus to be utter BS. I really expected to have some kind of control chip implanted in me but that didn’t happen. The thing that really got me was I ended up recruiting people who had even more reason to hate Cerberus. After finding out Jack’s background there is no way I understand her joining up.
    Add onto that the fact that your Love Interest from the first game seems nonchalant about your resurrection, the lack of any strong side quests, the ridiculous “twist” ending, and the ease with which you can win the loyalty of some strangers….And I don’t like the game as much as I did the first one, it is too shallow.
    They dug down and ripped out almost all of the RPG elements and the game suffers for it. I didn’t think I would ever miss the Mako and the generic side missions of ME1, but ME2 was too short and didn’t have enough to keep me invested. I was upset when I had to sacrifice a character in ME1, I am apathetic about losing team members in ME2.

    • Swimon says:

      If by Love interest you mean liara then the reason she isn’t surprised is because she knew about the project. She was the one who gave your body to cerebrus. It takes her some time for her to tell you that but still.

      • Taellosse says:

        But if you went with Ashley/Kaidan instead, =Dan is absolutely right. You find them on Horizon and they’re a bit surprised but not shocked to see you, and are mostly mad at you for not getting in touch sooner (and for working with Cerberus).

        • neothoron says:

          When I met Ashley, I thought that she never thought that Shepard was dead – in which case why would she be shocked right off the bat? As far as she knows, there is no way that Shepard would die a stupid death.
          It’s not like “surviving being spaced” is less plausible than “being brought back from the dead”.

          And as soon as I understood that, her reaction seemed natural to me.

          For me, it really illustrated how much she trusted me, and how disappointed she was:
          -She never believed I was dead (miss)
          -She never believed I would work for Cerberus (miss)

      • =Dan says:

        I didn’t get that from the game…I know that is the storyline in the comics but I didn’t have a conversation with Liara where she mentioned that.
        In addition I felt that more people seemed really upset that Shepherd was working for Cerberus but not really surprised that Shepherd wasn’t dead. Do people get resurrected by shadowy organizations a lot in the ME universe?

  11. Meredith says:

    I haven’t played this yet, and won’t till the price drops considerably, but I just wanted to applaud your opening paragraphs. I knew after just a few sentences that your point would be how Mass Effect didn’t do these lovely things, but I enjoyed the extended set up very much.

  12. GTB says:

    I’m convinced that despite specifically saying “We planned for Mass Effect to be the first part of a three part series” once they saw the sales figures, Bioware didn’t originally plan on anything of the sort.

    Mass Effect 1 was wrapped up in a fairly pretty bow, with a sort of ambiguous resolution of the ultimate antagonist just in case, but I don’t really think they knew it was going to do as well as it did. I think this game, and the third installment to follow, were shoe-horned into a trilogy. And they didn’t do it very well.

    The only good thing to come out of the story itself is the characters. I thought they did a really good job coming up with very detailed characters for you to recruit. The character backgrounds, their loyalty quests, and their general personalities were very, very good.

    I thought everything else about the story was terrible, one dimensional fan-fiction. It’s like they recruited some people who really liked the first game but have absolutely no idea how to write a cohesive plot and set them to work.

    I won’t talk about the game mechanics yet because Mr. Young isn’t there yet, but like a retarded version of the tin man, I’ll miss it least of all.

    • Bill says:

      I agree completely. Despite what Bioware has said, it’s very clear that they didn’t have a planned out trilogy in mind when they made ME1. They had one good game planned out and some vague ideas about what they might do in sequel games if the sales figures were good.

      This is almost always the way it operates for video games and movies (and sometimes novels). Usually the first is a good stand-alone story. Then the second and third go together to tell a related story. This structure is dictated entirely by money. (Good example: Star Wars 4,5,6)

      • =Dan says:

        Perfect example of this problem is the Matrix trilogy. They wrote one really good movie and then followed it up with mediocrity. I am very worried that I will have the same experience with Mass Effect. The games may end up being less and less rpg (plot-based) and more and more shooter (plot not needed).

  13. Factoid says:

    I don’t see the problems in Mass Effect 2 as having come from the first 10 and last 10 minutes. I see them as coming from the decision to allow there to be more than one canonical ending to the first game.

    I mean there’s a pretty huge gap between the two major endings of ME1….either you save the citadel and sacrifice a huge portion of the human fleet, or you let the council die and let humanity take over the galaxy.

    There was no way, in my mind, to reconcile that disparity except to pick one as the correct ending and make ME2 start from there.

    You can skirt that a bit in a sequel, but if they do the same thing at the end of ME2…where you can have multiple different endings, now in the third one they have an even worse time trying to reconcile the story.

    In order for the player’s actions in ME1 to still “matter” you needed to not be constantly reminded of them in ME2. Which is exactly what they did. You barely go to the citadel. You don’t work for the alliance anymore. It doesn’t matter which choice you made at the end of ME1, the sequel still only has a single path to follow.

    I agree with your points about cerberus. It was a weak subplot in the first game. It always felt like there was supposed to be more to it, but it got edited out or couldn’t be completed in time to make the ship date.

    But I think introducing Cerberus again in ME2 was actually pretty clever. Sure it’s a little sloppy, but it also gave them an opportunity to do something else everyone desperately wanted them to do: Upgrade the Normandy and get rid of the Mako.

    I haven’t played through the whole game yet. I’m only getting an hour or two at a time to play it, so progress is slow. So I can’t comment on the end. I’ve almost collected my whole team and then I’m doing Loyalty missions. A second playthrough with my Renegadge ME1 character will reveal a lot about the differences between the two endings, but I suspect very little in ME2 is different as a result except for some minor incidental characters and exposition.

    • Taellosse says:

      You’ve guessed right about the ending, I think. The broad strokes of the end are the same either way. You still get a choice to make (I won’t say what it is), but it is considerably less dramatic than the one from ME1.

      Although there is a moment in the epilogue where you do actually get to basically tell the Illusive Man to stick it, and you’re doing things your way here on out (but you don’t have to–doing so is the Paragon choice). That might have a larger effect on 3, but its hard to say.

      • [d20]thegrinner says:

        I imagine they planned the original ending as part of a trilogy but with the aspect that it won’t piss everyone off if they had to write of ME2 due to poor sales. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but they were prepared for it.

      • Markus says:

        The Problems of betraying Cerberus seems like it would be fun. Last person to tell the Illusive man off was tracked down and genetically mixed with reaper technology

    • qrter says:

      I don’t get why BioWare didn’t drop the Cerberus idea and made the ‘real Geth’ (as opposed to the heretics) the ones to resurrect Shepard. That would’ve been a workable surprise.

    • V2Blast says:

      I agree on some of your points. At some point when I was playing ME2 (a while ago), I thought to myself that it was a clever idea keeping Shepard out in the Terminus Systems this game – different planets to visit, not much hanging around the Citadel, new enemies and such to deal with. And giving Cerberus a bigger role was also a good idea – it’s sort of the company’s way to “get back in the game”, as it were.

  14. ProudCynic says:

    Eh, the opening never really bothered me–it’s explained later on in the game (by Miranda, I think) that Cerberus operates in independent cells, with the ones you encountered in the first game being completely different than Jacob and Miranda’s group. The option to confront the Illusive Man would have been nice, but I think the problem with that was that all of those quests were optional–the writers couldn’t be certain if any one player’s Shepard had encountered them in their playthrough. Hints as to the identity of the Illusive Man would have been good foreshadowing, and it seems like they just didn’t plan ahead there.

    What does really bug me is when the Collectors themselves are finally introduced, specifically, what they are exactly and why they’re doing what they’re doing. The revelation of what they are doesn’t really lead to anything, and why it is they abduct tens of thousands of people just seems like an absurd rationalization for a stupid boss fight. I’m looking forward to hearing Shamus tear into that bit. Maybe they’ll resolve it all in the third game, but I have no idea how the Bioware writers are going to make the motivations and origins of the millions-of-year-old immortal sentient machines that harvest all sentient life in the galaxy anything more than disappointing.

    • Samopsa says:

      It’s pretty clear they are kidnapping the special cases to learn about the enemy of the reapers (humans), and later abducting entire colonies to build the Husks, Abominations, Scions, Preatorians and of course HUMANTERMINATORREAPER. They did the same thing to the Proteans (made them the collectors). So seems solid to me!

      It doesn’t “lead” to anything per se, just makes the reapers more terrible and the downfall of the proteans even more tragic.

      • ProudCynic says:

        But I still see no reason to actually build a gigantic Terminator rip-off, except perhaps to make a moderately interesting final boss. The claim that they do it to reproduce makes no sense, since the thing is tiny in comparison to all the other Reapers seen and looks nothing like them. I just see no reason why they would bother with this, especially since it draws attention to them when the whole ‘surprise attack’ angle is one of their main advantages (the others being their basically unstoppable tech and vast numbers.)

        • Chargone says:

          well, you Did kill sovereign. replacement, maybe?
          Reproduction was probably not the best word choice there though.
          but yeah. that had issues when you stop and think about it.

        • Freykin says:

          The in game reason for this is that what you fight is made up of tens of thousands of humans, whereas a completed Reaper is made up of the equivalent of millions. As for why it doesn’t look like the other Reapers, they state that each Reaper takes after the shape of the creatures it is made from.

        • Devonian says:

          I think usually they’d make a new Reaper during the whole, well, reaping process, but that’s not really an option this time.

          Also, the Human Reaper isn’t near finished, presumably the final result would look a lot more like the other Reapers (there’s concept art of this very thing, in fact).

    • GTB says:

      One of the things I thought they did poorly in the first game was come up with any sort of motivation for this “cycle” that keeps repeating. It’s clear they needed a “bad guy” and they made one, but then later had problems trying to figure out WHY the bad guy has to kill everything over and over again. They got away with it in the first one by using a lot of “The reapers are so alien you couldn’t possibly understand” non-rationalization, which always seemed kind of weak to me.

      I still prefer that to the goofy way they finally answered the question in the second one. I actually facepalmed when I saw it.

  15. Rick W says:

    * The Reapers… I don’t see anything contradictory about what we learned in ME2. I suppose that’ll have to wait until the ending.

    Yes, they’re out there, but the only one close enough to Citadel space to do any damage was destroyed in ME1. The rest of them are far, far away and it would take them a long time to get into a position to threaten anyone. So we need new slaves of the Reapers. Enter the Collectors.

    I’m not sure why they left the Collectors behind. My only guess is as a contingency in case something bad happened to Sovereign. Which turned out to be good foresight, because the Protheans broke their hold on the keepers, and Sovereign was destroyed trying to get around that issue.

    * You apparently missed the conversation where Chakwas reveals the real reason she left the Alliance military. Chakwas and Joker are the only former Normandy crew members known to be in Cerberus in ME2; many of the rest of the crew are former Alliance military, but that’s really not surprising given that it would give them the background to fly the new Normandy.

    * I hated being forced to work with/for Cerberus and kept waiting for the chance to tell TIM to stuff that cigarette up his nose. (It finally came. Thankfully.) I wouldn’t have minded, so much, if I’d had the chance to in my first conversation with him, say, “Before I agree to work with you, I need explanations for everything I found two years ago. First, Admiral Kahoku’s men…” And the answers would have had to convince me he wasn’t just some humans-above-all extremist, which would have been hard because he is and doesn’t really try to hide it.

    I guess the idea is that what Cerberus is doing is important enough for you to put aside your distaste for them, but that’s never really established. Late in the game, when you finally get the chance to openly defy TIM, you tell him, “I won’t let fear compromise who I am.” Why couldn’t you take that stand earlier, except that it would nullify the whole game?

  16. Aelyn says:

    I can see some of your points. However, I see the death as being a way to reconcile the two endings in ME1. Everyone was so convinced of your death that you were even removed from the Alliance’s computer system. And now we’re going to question why you don’t work for the Alliance? The council didn’t really fall over themselves to offer assistance. At least Cerberus is stepping up with a boat.

    The idea that the council is doing something and hiding it is pure speculation and can’t be supported by anything in ME2. It’d be a neat plot twist in ME3, but I think that’s another item that should have been hinted at if it were the case. You could have been in a deep hole while trying to get the IFF and suddenly some mystery guy pulls you through… something, anything, to let us know others are working toward that end. But we got nothing.

    The problem really is that each game must be enjoyable on its own. Did you see the commercials? There are going to be a TON of people playing ME2 that’ll never pick up ME1. ME1 ended like all fantasy that *might* have a sequel. See bad guy. Bad guy lives a long way away in a mountain. Get friends, go kill bad guy. Then find out that maybe the bad wasn’t the Bad Guy…

    My love interest in ME1 was Ashley. She could have been sacrificed. How can you begin to make a major plot item in ME2 around someone that died? Wait, scratch that argument…

    Anyway, there are definitely holes. I’m not defending some holes as much as I’m saying that some of them are simply inevitable.

  17. Conlaen says:

    Bugger, and then I had to stop reading, cause I don’t want to be spoilered. I have read raving reviews about how awesome the game was, and was interested in why you had a different view on this. But I do still intend to buy the game (was not such a big fan of the first one that I am willing to pay the 50 euro that it’s going for).

  18. ngthagg says:

    That description makes me want to go watch Phantom Menace again, just to get it out of my system.

    Well . . . maybe not. But it’s still pretty bad.

  19. Robyrt says:

    I was reading the Mass Effect forums right after it came out, and I remember one of the Bioware team saying, “We just got the go-ahead for Mass Effect 2 after seeing these good sales numbers.” It’s pretty obvious that Mass Effect 1, like Star Wars episode 4, was planned as a self-contained story that could be expanded into a trilogy in a pinch.

    Contrast with Too Human, whose “first part of a trilogy” storyline is wholly unsatisfying.

    As far as the whole “everything dies and is reborn” thing goes: This whole contrived plot device made me feel indebted to Cerberus, despite being human supremacist terrorists. They brought you back from the dead, they gave you a sweet new starship, and they kick in matching funds for your entire jaunt around the galaxy.

  20. [d20]thegrinner says:

    The Opening: Yeah, being forced to work with Cerberus is annoying, but it makes sense. A) No one else knows you’re ‘alive’ and even when they do they have no way of ensuring you’re not under hostile control. B) Everything Cerberus says (no control chip, separate divisions, etc) could very well be lies. Obviously they need Shepard to get the job done, so any awful truths would be pretty blatantly counterproductive.

    The Reboot:
    1) People have to know who you are. And the rebuild cutscene, combined with the security check at the Citadel makes me think maybe you’ve now got lots of robot bits. Also, they’ve said somewhere that part of the purpose of this is to reset classes since the system for that is completely different, not to mention this accounts for non-ME1 players.

    2) The Normandy is supposed to be the most advanced ship that Cerberus has access to specs for, and they say they’ve improved it, so rebuilding it makes some sense. The logo… not so much. Unless its actually the logo to the shell corporation they hide behind and it just happens that everyone who sees you and mentions Cerberus recognizes what that means?

    3) I had Anderson do the accepting, and for my playthrough at least they’re friends. When a Councilor backs you, not much the Alliance can do blatantly without getting on everyone’s nerves and some of the Citadel sidequests talk about how anti-Human sentiment is spreading due to the repercussions of the last games end (ie constant Alliance presence).

    4) Other people have addressed Chakwas’ real reason and how its not really your whole crew. Talk to the engineers – they have a bit of backstory that shows how they come from a completely separate background than the old Normandy.

    The Illusive Man: Too much of the foreshadowing for him is apparently in the novels, so I pretty much agree with you on all points here. Although the last 10 minutes made me feel pretty happy when I went against him :D

    I feel like some of the stuff you find annoying is a case of something subtle/hidden or necessary for new people to the trilogy, while others are just cases of them completely missing an aspect.

  21. Danel says:

    It’s really sad that they didn’t use Cerberus more in the first game – everything in the background material indicates that they always meant for Cerberus to be a ruthless underground pro-human organisation, but instead in the game they’re just crazy space-COBRA. The plotlines don’t even tie up – there’s a few ways into the quest chain, plus entirely separate hints of them elsewhere, and a lot of them never really go anywhere. If they’d known then the more important role Cerberus would play in the sequel, they really shouldn’t have left that questline so unfinished; hell, it could even have been an opportunity for making the Renegade options make more sense by letting a Renegade sympathise with their aims and even help them out at some points.

    The way I understood the conversation with your human companion was that they thought you’d faked your death to join Cerberus.

  22. Raygereio says:

    What bothered me the most about the intro is that Cerberus is the only organisation looking into the disapearing colonies.

    This particular brand of stupidity was also present in the first game; a human colony is attacked by Geth. The reaction of the Council: “Meh, your own fault, then you shouldn’t have gone colonizing.”
    Also when Udina sends you on your way; he casually says they lost contact with the colony of Feros. As if it doesn’t even matter.

    And know in ME2, what’s the responce from the Alliance? Blame pirates and send one guy/girl to wait on a colony untill it’s attacked. Seriously; do colonies disapear this often in the ME universe to warrent such a response?
    I can sort of accept the Council’s disinterest as the disapearing colonies are outside their jurisdiction (Terminus systems), but not the Alliance.

  23. MelTorefas says:

    Know what I think would have been cool? If you played as someone else in ME2, and Shepard was a recruitable party member. This Shepard’s class, sex, romantic entanglements, and personality would be based to some degree on what choices you made in the first game. Shepard would possibly only be available later on in the game, to keep his/her power level somewhat similar (maybe as the “reward” of a decent size quest undertaken at the behest of some of Shepard’s old crew, who have now joined you). Personally, I think this would give a great sense of tie-in to the first game, while allowing them a lot more leeway without plot hacks. Maybe its just me though.

    • Raygereio says:

      If done right; that does sound a like neat idea.

      However, the backlash from ‘the fans’ would certainly have been a sight to behold if BioWare would do that for real.
      It was announced pretty early that Separd would die in the beginning of game; that alone allready caused a shitstorm of epic proportion of people ranting and raving on the BioWare forums about how BioWare was mean, etc, until a dev said ‘Don’t worry, he’ll get better”.

      • Freykin says:

        I’m really glad I missed that that happens at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. I tend to avoid trailers and previews of games beyond the typical seeing if I’d enjoy it, and in this case it made that whole sequence fresh and a surprise to me.

  24. Nyaz says:

    Some of the bits that annoyed me a lot in ME2 were not so much working for Cerberus (I actually LIKE the Illusive Man-character as this mysterious creepy guy who might screw me over at some point), but other things.
    As has already been mentioned, I too feel that Cerberus should have been more fleshed out in ME1. If that had been done, the portrayal of them here might have been much cooler. (Not to mention introducing the Illusive Man. I mean, gahh, he’s the head honcho and we don’t even know he exists up until NOW?)

    For example:
    – I’m just going to pretend the battle in the end did not happen the way it did. Okay, fine, the Reapers build new baby Reapers out of a currently available race, that’s how they reproduce. Fine. But they do NOT LOOK LIKE GIANT TERMINATORS WITH NO LOWER BODY. BAD BAD BAD.

    – Cerberus rebuilds Commander Shepard with a lot of robotic/cybernetic parts, apparently. But Shepard him/herself doesn’t seem to mind this so much after the rebuilding has been done. I would have figured he/she would have FREAKED OUT after looking in the mirror and seeing his eyes slightly red-glowy not to mention the red-glowing scars on his/her face.

    – The final mission… er, pretty much all of it, actually. BioWare paints it up as going to the Collector homeworld, there are black holes and dead suns and this shit is going to be seriously hardcore! But what do you find when you beyond the Omega 4 Relay? A whole lot of space junk, you fly around and try not to get shot down, and then you find a pretty small-ish space station with what appears to be a few thousand Collectors and an assload of pods with kidnapped humans. Oh, also that human-reaper-thing. I was expecting, you know, a FLEET of Collectors just laying around, or maybe a full-grown Reaper or two just waiting to blow you out of the sky.

    – I wanted to go to the Citadel more! I could only set foot in the stupid Zakera Ward, and I would have figured that I could at least stroll around in more of the Presidium than one stupid room with (in my case) Commander Anderson. They paint it up as a HUGE space station (that actually felt quite big in ME1) and now I get to see what, ONE building?

    That being said, Mass Effect 2 is still a really, really good game and I enjoyed it a lot. Working on my second play-through as a soldier now (my first one was a Vanguard) trying to do all the badass (Renegade) choices and see how creepy I will look in the end. Also, I might avoid killing off Miranda in the end this time. Ahem.

  25. James Pope says:

    It would be particularly interesting to see if someone might want to cash in on the presupposed success of the ME Trilogy and “do it right” by plotting out an actual trilogy and writing something scary intricate. With blow-em-up game play too, of course. You know, like the original Star War trilogy maybe – you start off a punk from nowhere and suddenly you’re rescuing a hot princess. You hook up with her, but later on -WHAM, didn’t see that coming. Or maybe you hooked up with the wookie, and left the smuggler to die on the Death Star so you could get this crazy old man to tell you more about your dad (and ask him why he keeps telling you to stop hitting on that hot princess chick…)

  26. Peachfuzz says:

    Good article, Shamus. And the “Sole Survivor” point especially bothered me. It made no sense to me why my character was willing to work for the people who fed his comrades to Thresher Maws and then (if I’m remembering this correctly) imprisoned all the other survivors for years of secret illegal tests. I spent most of the game convinced that there was a Bioware Plot Twist (TM) coming in which they’d reveal that Shepard had been brainwashed while they were rebuilding him. I think Miranda explicitly denied this at one point, but it was the only way for me to make sense of the plot.

    I just wish Bioware had found a better way to justify the plot, because the overall idea of being forced to work with an organization who you believe to be evil is interesting. I dunno, maybe they give you the option to refuse, but the Illusive man does the super-villain thing of poisoning Shepard and withholding the antidote unless he cooperates? I’m sure someone here can come up with a better excuse than that.

  27. Blackbird71 says:

    Well, I’m glad I haven’t gotten myself involved in this series, it seems that lately Bioware has lost a bit of their touch for storytelling. The rest of the game may be great, but I know that I’m obsessive enough about plot that if there are this many gaping, ugly holes, it’ll drive me nuts the whole time and the quality of the rest of the game won’t matter.

  28. If I’d written this second game, I’d have had Shepard et al part of a massive attempt to retake the Quarian homeworld from the Geth (who are allies with the Reapers, you remember). THEN you could have had Shepard be captured and given the treatment BY THE GETH and wind up spending the rest of the game trying to achieve some sort of peaceful settlement so that the galactic races could all get together and go after the Reapers together. Think of the possibilities, there.

    One of the weakest parts of the first game lay in that whole organics vs. synthetics arbitrary conflict. Sure, the synthetics don’t “need” organic races (which they indicated in the first game wasn’t exactly true, also), but we don’t “need” other organic races, either, and we manage to get along with them just fine. The whole war was B.S. and having the middle game be about resolving it would have been tremendous fun.

    I probably won’t bother with ME2, the first Bioware game in years that I’ve had basically no interest in playing. *Sigh*. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how this situation came about, Shamus.

    • Spider Dave says:

      Mass Effect 2 does elaborate on the organics vs synthetics conflict, telling you more about the Geth, and making the whole ordeal a lot less black and white.

    • neothoron says:

      Spoilers time!
      First, about the synthetic/organic war – the codex in the first game says that about geth:
      “When the geth showed signs of self-evolution, the quarians attempted to exterminate them. The geth won the resulting war.”
      It is one of the biggest misunderstandings – everyone seems to take it as a cautionary tale that developing AI is dangerous, while the whole war was initiated by the quarians attempting to genocide the geth as soon as they became sentient.
      Everyone seems to think that “synthetic beings are out to destroy organic beings” when in fact, the truth is closer to “organic beings are so afraid of synthetic beings that they attempt to destroy them at every turn”.
      And the second game does develop in that direction.

      About geth alliance with Reapers:
      The geth that were allied with Sovereign are only a tiny fraction, described by the majority as “heretics”. One of these “true geth” joins your party and explains as such.

      • So they “develop in that direction” but it sounds like they don’t do anything super-big with it. Ugh.

        Anyway, my overall idea was more along the lines of starting a new character with a different storyline in the 2nd game (you don’t PLAY as Shepard, although you could IMPORT Shepard who would be an NPC for the purposes of that game). In the 3rd game, you’d start another new character, and at the end your 2 characters from the previous games join you for the big Final Battle sequence. Now THAT would be ALL kinds of awesome. And, you’d feel like you actually got something in the end for your efforts to make Shepard, Char 2 and Char 3 Super Awesome Fantastico. It wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t have the right saves.

        • krellen says:

          If there’s any way to sum up ME2, it’s “nothing happens”. Every plot point introduced at the beginning of the game is completely resolved and ended by the end.

          Collectors? Gone.
          Dead Shepard? Resurrected.
          New Reaper? Destroyed.
          Destroyed Normandy? Got a new one.

          You better hope you enjoy the journey, because you just end up back where you started. You start with the Reapers still being out there and Shepard being determined to do something about it and you end with the Reapers still being out there and Shepard being determined to do something about it. You don’t even end up with a new, powerful support base with which to do something.

          • fscan says:

            ..and in my case, a fully functional collector station and reaper factory :)

            after all it’s only another day saving the galaxy from one of the servants of the reapers.

  29. Kdansky says:

    I am very happy that I did not buy the second one, after being quite disappointed by the first one.

    Mass Effect was never planned as a trilogy. Probably some guy said to the other during lunch break: “Wouldn’t it be great if we sold enough units so we can do a sequel?” It’s painfully obvious by how the plot works, similar to The Matrix. The second part is tacked on because of the success, and if you can sell a sequel, then you can always sell a third one, no matter how bad the sequel is (see Matrix. Again.)

    ME2 should just start you off as NOT SHEPARD, but any other random guy, or even a subordinate of Shepard (which would give you ample chance to weave in the old decisions). But no, the fanboys would cry angry tears and throw their fanfic at you. Which you must read, of course, because without at least 25 books, Mass Effect cannot work. No Sir.

    Mass Effect 1 was mediocre and hyped to death. ME2 seems even worse. No wonder it is popular with the Halo-crowd.

    • General Karthos says:

      Tacked on or not, there WAS ALWAYS a sequel planned. Even early Mass Effect news clippings referred to it as part of a trilogy, unlike the Matrix.

    • krellen says:

      Yeah, I always heard it sold as a trilogy all along too.

    • Nyaz says:

      Actually, you should be sad not to have bought the second one, because it is still damn good, despite these overlooks.

      • krellen says:

        If you like shooters, maybe.

        • fscan says:

          i see .. mass effect 1 was no shooter then?

          • krellen says:

            No, it wasn’t. No head shots, no ammo, no obsessive need for duck-and-shoot. You were more than capable of building a steam-roll build and bowling over enemies, especially on lower difficulty settings.

            The only thing even reminiscent of a shooter in ME1 was the fact that you had to point your cursor in the right general direction and pull the trigger. It’s about as much a shooter as Half-Life 2 is a platformer.

            • fscan says:

              Ah, i see, you had auto aim enabled in me1.
              yeah, the ammo .. ok .. i personally think it’s a good thing, makes your powers more interesting. And taking cover was definitely necessary for me in part 1.

              • Chargone says:

                Yeah, not taking cover would get you killed in ME1 even on the lowest difficulty levels.

                Except possibly in the late game if you were running around with an Shotgun loaded with High Explosive rounds and good armour and shield upgrades. (you needed both, really…)

                And even then it was a good idea if you were fighting anything big.

                • krellen says:

                  If ME1 were a shooter, rather than an RPG, everyone would herald it as the worst shooter of all time.

                  So it should be a significant surprise that ME2 becomes more shooter-like. And as my preferred play-style was Infiltrator, and thus sniping things to death, the very stripped down power-choices and crippling “thermal clip” deficiency introduced in ME2 was an even more jarring change than would have been for any other class.

                  And don’t tell me to “learn to shoot”. I headshot everything.

                • fscan says:

                  Too many nested replies i guess, i will just write here ..

                  If your definition of an RPG is collecting armor and weapons (and carrying an incredible stupid amount of them around all the time), then yes, me2 isn’t an RPG anymore.
                  me1 is an shooter with an RPG aspect (character development, choices that influence the story), me2 improved on the shooter part.
                  I have to say that sniping got easier thanks to the fast firing sniper gun (or the death bringing widow) and the incredible slow motion sniper zoom of the infiltrator class.
                  Also, in me1 you had 3 powers apart from first aid (useless now) and the weapon/health/armor skills (now operative skill), in me2 you have 5 next to operative (6 with the bonus power). So i don’t really get “stripped down”.

                  edit: Btw, if you would like mass effect without the shooting part, i would suggest trying KOTOR, if you haven’t already.

                • krellen says:

                  Well, the story faults Shamus is and will be describing aside, the fact that my choices from ME1 felt hollow and meaningless in ME2 didn’t help the “RP” aspect for me.

                  As for powers – in ME1, my infiltrator could, while using the sniper rifle, use overload (good against shields), sabotage (good for slowing down attacks), dampening (good for stunning), immunity (defence against melee), shield boost (defence against bullets), assassination, and another bonus power. And could switch to the pistol and use marksman. And could pick between at least five different ammo types for both weapons.

                  In ME2, those choices are reduced to cloak (basically assassination with a new name and side effect), AI Hacking (useless against non-synthetics), and Incinerate (useless against shields), with only the choice of two types of ammo and another bonus power.

                  So I lost three ammo types, a stun, a weapon-fire slow, my defences and my tools for tearing through shields. So I went from six powers useful pretty much all the time to one power useful all the time and two powers with situational usage, and this is typical for all classes in ME2.

                • fscan says:

                  FYI, disruptor ammo damages shields and overheats weapons, cryo ammo slows/stuns opponents. Besides, i like the variety of the combat depending of what is attacking you, no point in having different enemies if you can treat them all the same. use your teammates to complement your powers. My infiltrator has miranda (overload, warp) and jack (pull, shockwave) with him most of the time, and pull + warp is an insane combo :).
                  For example, i love to hack those mechs: shoot down their shield (disruptor ammo), incinerate armor, hack and have fun watching it kill everything.

                  In the end it’s a matter of taste. The combat is different, but i like it better than me1.

                • krellen says:

                  The Shepard I ran through ME2 with simply would not work with Miranda and Jack. Their personalities were not the sort of people she’d hang out with. Most of the time she was with Tali, Garrus, Thane or Legion, not because they had the best complimentary powers but because they were the ones she liked the most.

                  But really, I don’t play a lot of shooters. Don’t like the genre. Have Gears of War if I feel the need to do so.

                • fscan says:

                  Yeah, i’m also not that big a shooter fan (the half life series got me addicted for some reason), but i like the mix (loved system shock 2, to bad i can’t get it running on my pc anymore).
                  I guess that’s why adept is my favorite class – more powers, less shooting .. lifting a group of enemies in the air and killing them all with one warp.

  30. General Karthos says:

    Just want to point out a few pieces of dialogue I came across from I-don’t-remember-who because I’m OBSESSIVE about exhausting EVERY POSSIBLE DIALOGUE OPTION (to the point of rebooting if I accidentally close off a conversation option, even if I have to redo fifteen minutes of gameplay) is that those elements of Cerberus that did the whole thing with Admiral Kahoku and the Thresher Maw were “rogue elements”.

    Yeah. It sounded like a pretty pathetic excuse to me too.

    Plus, you can sabotage Cerberus at a few points by sending key data on their operations to the Alliance. (Sidequests.)

    Still…. I admit that it took me almost 20 hours of gameplay to adjust to the point where I was saying, “Okay, I guess I’m kinda okay with the plot. At least -this cell- isn’t so bad. Still… I aim to misbehave.”

    Disclaimer: I am a big fan of Science Fiction, the Mass Effect Universe, and Bioware…. There was little they could have done that I would have hated.

  31. Lambach says:

    Am I the only one who thinks it would be increadibly awesome if Shamus started part two of this review by completely scrapping everything he just wrote?

  32. Sean Riley says:

    Dear Shamus,

    THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS.

    Regards,
    Sean.

  33. Nick says:

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    It seems to be a growing trend to be that Bioware games have fun middles and boring, terrible beginnings:
    1.Eden Prime and running around doing favors on the Citadel before you set off to save the galaxy
    2.Meeting Morrigan/doing the Grey Warden joining in Dragon Age
    3.Taris in KOTOR
    4.Now this beginning to ME2.

    Odd.

    • Spider Dave says:

      I miss the beginning of Baldur’s Gate 2. That was some fun stuff right there.

      • Yeah, contrast that with the beginning of KotOR2, which was EASILY the BEST PART of the game. It set you up with an immediate and logical goal, there was lots of interesting stuff to mess with/find out . . . it was cool.

        I think the primary difference is that Bioware seems to have forgotten or never really knew how to set up and continue a dramatic flow. The flaw is evident in ALL of their games. Start with Baldur’s Gate, which had a reasonably entertaining beginning (after you finished the tutorial in Candlekeep), and then just . . . stalled while you wandered around the countryside doing quests so you could level up. Then it picked up again at the end.

        BG2, I think, had the best continuity because they had at least somewhat of a reason for you to be wandering around doing side-quests: you needed cash and you needed EQ/xp so you could tackle Irenicus. (The cash thing was made explicit, if they’d been just a little bit more explicit about you NEEDING to get a good group together in order to handle Irenicus, the game would have been super.)

        Then comes KotOR. I didn’t mind the slow beginning so much because I was still trying to figure out how to play my character, but it was intensely frustrating to do all that questing only to have Malek nuke the planet. Jedi training was cool, but going around and finding the MacGuffins was kind of tedious. Then the ending was cool.

        Personally, I think Jade Empire was the most consistent pacing-wise, but it was ALSO the most LINEAR. Mass Effect, once again, had no pacing–especially if you wandered the galaxy doing side-quests. IF you follow the main storyline and do the side quests as they come up in Dragon Age, it has SOME pacing, but a lot of it seems forced.

  34. Danath says:

    For the most part I agree, however in regards to the Illusive Man, I think hes a fantastic character, and Cerberus seems more fully fleshed out in ME2, despite the sloppy implementation in regards to ME1.

    Also the “new threat” is sort of related to the reapers… so there IS that I suppose. I personally am not a huge fan of the combat, if I wanted to play a cover, plink enemies, cover shooter I would load up gears of war or some other game which did it better, as is right now, all I do is slow mo, pop out, headshot, repeat till victory, with only the bosses providing any break in the “action”. Or if I’m feeling daring, slow mo, run out, MELEE (enemies die fast to melee), then just continue on. I play on Insanity, so the second option generally isn’t all that great an idea most of the time.

  35. fscan says:

    1) You CAN change your appearance when they rebuild you.

    2) Somewhere in the game (i think if you ask EDI after the merge) you get the info that cerberus (or some front) was involved with designing/building the original normandy. The name, i think, is given to it by joker (or shepard himself? i don’t remember right now). The logo could be a logo of a front of cerberus, but it seems odd.

    3) Where do thy accept you?? Udina want’s you gone asap, the council would not even speak to you and the meeting with anderson is more or less secret (i think he says that he does not want anyone to know you spoke with him). The one letting you into the citadel is an corrupt c-sec officer.

    4) Simply not true, theres only joker and the doctor … and they have some good reasons as someone else already mentioned. From your team you have G and T and they both don’t really like to work for cerberus, but are loyal to you.

    Regarding the Illusive Man, i don’t know, but it seems like the only way to work with him. You may not like it and whine about it (as shepard i mean) but you also depend on him to complete your goal, there are not many factions that believe you. And he knows this, no mind control or brain washing necessary.

  36. Vendrin says:

    “And know in ME2, what’s the responce from the Alliance? Blame pirates and send one guy/girl to wait on a colony untill it’s attacked. Seriously; do colonies disapear this often in the ME universe to warrent such a response?”

    Regarding this, Raygereio, while I am the last to defend the Council most of the time, the reasons made sense to me at the time. The Council didn’t interfere in the geth attack on Eden Prime, because sending a fleet into the Attican Traverse(where Eden Prime was) would look like a staging ground for a full fledged attack into the Terminus Systems, a war the Council couldn’t afford.

    In ME2, the human colonies that are being abducted are actually inside the Terminus Systems, and outside Alliance and Council control, so sending anything more then a representative would definitely provoke a war.

    As for Shamus’ comments, while I sympathize with him, and agree Bioware could have done better, I enjoyed the endings and the beginnings, everyone compares the proto-reaper(and remember that’s why it was small, it wasn’t even CLOSE to finished yet) to a terminator. Well of course they do, what else is a human robot supposed to look like?

  37. mottaaf says:

    The working for (I prefer working with) Cerberus would have been a lot easier to swallow with just a couple of minor changes.

    After going to Freedom’s Progress, TIM could have told you there is evidence that the Collectors were working for the Reapers (like he did) and then actually show it to you. At which point the council would be brought up.

    A renegade Shepard would say, “screw the council, they are useless” and then start working with Cerberus. A paragon Shepard would demand to go to the council and then you could have a meeting with the council where they tell you, “Haha, you got played by Saren” (which is what they tell you later). Then you would go back to TIM and say, “I don’t like it, but no one else will help me, so I will work with you.”

    I would feel much better pairing with Cerberus if it had been shown to be my only option before I had actually paired with them.

    • Irridium says:

      I agree.

      I just find it hard that my Shepard, who is a sole survivor, who also wiped out all of the cerberus bases in the first game, would be so willing to work with TIM.

  38. AnZsDad says:

    Further to your comments regarding the “leader” of Cerberus, the word “illusive” means having the qualities of an illusion. Did the writers perhaps mean “ellusive”, meaning skillfully evasive? Either way, they may have been going for a “Cigarette-Smoking Man” appeal here, but it comes across as incredibly goofy.

    Allow me to temper what I have just written by stating that I have played neither game, so my knowledge comes from (and may be coloured by) Shamus’s depictions on his site. The games may be God’s gift to geeks, but I’m generally leaning away from them at this point.

    • Rick W says:

      It’s definitely “Illusive.” In the comic that came with the Collector’s Edition, he corrects the error, although he notes “Elusive” would be applicable as well. (Note: I only skimmed the comic, but that caught my attention.)

      • KremlinLaptop says:

        Both are pretty fitting, imo. Definitely Illusive though. I’ll confess I really liked the Illusive Man, but then again characters that fit the Cigarette Smoking Man quality tend to always appeal to me. Also being voiced by Martin Sheen didn’t hurt his whiskey soaked immoral idealist qualifications either.

  39. Kian says:

    The thing that bothered me the most was the ‘death&resurrection’ bit. Bringing a character back from the dead is the last thing you want to do in any work of fiction. It cheapens death, and in a world that tries to be sci-fi it opens all sorts of problems. Particularly when you not only die, but your body is absolutely destroyed.

    In the first few minutes of gameplay you get asphyxiated and frozen due to your suit getting punctured in space, then roasted due to re-entry, then the remains of your body should have shattered when it hit the ground at terminal velocity. Not to mention it could have fallen anywhere on the planet, yet they manage to find it. Your body wouldn’t have been anywhere near the remains of the Normandy, and the Normandy itself should have been spread over a huge area.

    Despite this, they supposedly brought you yourself back to life? In perfect working order? Sorry, but that’s impossible. It doesn’t strain disbelief, it shatters it. The only way I could keep playing after that was to choose to ignore that plot point.

    Now, I’m not against the idea of working for Cerberus. It’s a stretch, but it’s workable. Specially if everyone else has turned their backs on you and they’re the only ones helping you save the galaxy. As Shepard tries to explain a few times, I’m not working for Cerberus. Cerberus gave me a ship and some info and resources, but I’m still doing what I was trying to do two years ago. It’s not like I suddenly started experimenting on people. I’m still flying around, solving problems for everyone and being an awesome dude (Paragon all the way).

    But did they have to kill me? Particularly because the first cutscene paints an image opposite of what they probably intended. TIM tells Miranda “We can’t afford to lose Shepard”, and the next thing that happens is my ship is destroyed, I’m killed, and Cerberus grabs me and rebuilds me. Right, they’re the good guys. I thought at first (and for a good chunk of the game) that Cerberus had had me killed specifically so they could rebuild me. It doesn’t help when, during the rebuild, Miranda says “Damage was worse than expected”.

    Not to mention, killing my character pissed me off. My Shepard was awesome, and why didn’t any of the people on the top deck help Joker, instead of having me cross the entire exploding ship to go look for him? If he’d at least been captured, experimented on maybe, tortured, given for dead by the alliance and the rescued by a Cerberus cell, that would have set pretty much everything on track for you being on Cerberus’ payroll and somewhat indebted to them, without the ridiculousness of being resurrected. I imagine someone giving it a bit more thought could come up with even better ideas.

    I don’t buy that it was to give people the chance to play a different character, or with a different face. I imported my save file from the first game because I wanted to keep playing the same freaking character. If someone wanted to play a different character, they shouldn’t be importing a save file from the old game. They could have answered the same bunch of questions you have to answer in the first game, and then assume that the first game happened with whatever ‘canon’ choices the game would like to maintain. No need to murder you. Besides, if you change classes, they’re not bringing you back exactly the way you were.

  40. Caffiene says:

    Ok, so, from what I can gather from the comments here:

    Cerberus aren’t bad guys, it was just a rogue faction…
    The Geth aren’t bad guys, it was just a rogue faction…

    Sounds to me like basically saying “Oh yeah… half of the first game was just a misunderstanding”. I think I spent more time fighting Cerberus and the Geth in the first game than any other enemies, and suddenly they’re retconned out as irrelevant “rogue factions”?

    I’ll wait and read the rest of the review, but this all doesnt sound promising for my chances of buying #2.

    And thats not even counting the fact that I played Sole Survivor in #1.

    • Sheer_Falacy says:

      It’s more like “Cerberus are bad guys, but they don’t want humanity to get ownt and no one else cares”.

      As for the Geth… it makes a lot of sense, actually – you’re judging an entire species based on the few you’ve seen. You have the Geth who don’t care at all about organics that aren’t shooting at them, who never leave and thus are never seen by you. Then you get the Geth who serve the Reapers, who you do see.

      • “you’re judging an entire species based on the few you’ve seen”

        This bit is very important. The Mass Effect games try hard to avoid the cliche of giving each alien race a simple philosophy and personality that is shared by every single member. There are stereotypes, but still a clear variation between different members of the same species – there is as much difference between Garrus, Saren and Nihlus (turians) as between Ashley, Kaiden and Anderson (humans).

        With this in mind, why should it be the case that the enemy geth from the first game were a perfect representation of their entire civilisation? In fact even in the first game there was a very good reason why you only see the hostile geth – after the war with the quarians (which, as mentioned elsewhere on this page began with a largely unprovoked attack by the quarians), the geth withdrew away from Citadel controlled space and have never been seen for 300 years. You meet up with Sovereign’s geth first because they were the only ones who ever left their own space.

    • fscan says:

      Actually i even sympathized for the geth in the first part after talking to Tali about how they tried to destroy them when they realized the where getting sentient.
      I don’t know about cerberus .. i don’t remember what the missions were about specifically. I think lot of illegal research stuff (ai, biotics, weapons), which would fit the organization described in me2. The really nasty things they blame on rogue operations .. could be a lie but is plausible, it’s hard to stay a secret organization and get funding if you do this kind of stuff.

      • Caffiene says:

        I could potentially sympathise with the Geth if it was presented in the right way.
        I just feel that to write off the hostile Geth from ME1 as “a rogue faction” feels really cheap. There was plenty of opportunity to foreshadow in ME1 if there were to be Geth with different philosophies. But instead we were presented with an entire system of creatures, many of which had no purpose other than hostile action (Geth Armature for example – a walking weapons platform), and from memory (I could be wrong) there was no suggestion that Geth could even have differing opinions from each other.

        For Cerberus there were a lot of missions involving torture and human experimentation, like Shamus mentioned in the OP… those parts in particular are apparently the bits that were, again, written off as “a rogue faction”.

        • KremlinLaptop says:

          Don’t think it needs to be said but SPOILERS AHOY.

          Trust me, the way the Geth are explained in the second game is much better than it seems at a glance. It really isn’t so much a ‘rogue faction’ as it is a ideological split in the whole population and individual Geth are still pretty much as they were in ME1. Also I do think it was foreshadowed in the original game, after all Tali tells you – iirc – about how with so many Geth on their ships they started networking their processes and exhibiting artificial intelligence; asking the Quarians if the Geth have souls.

          In a particular conversation path with Legion the sentient Geth (explained as a single platform running 1000+ processes instead of the normal 100 or so with your average out and about kill-bot Geth) he can access one of the earliest recordings from some sort of great Geth hive mind archive and it’s pretty neat with a Geth asking a Quarian if the Geth have souls. And then him explaining that it wasn’t the first time the Geth asked, it was the first time the Quarians were scared by the fact the Geth were asking.

          So see, if the Geth were just bots with no capacity for differing opinion there wouldn’t be any reason why they would have rebelled against the Quarians. So it also makes sense that there could have been a split in there population where a large chunk wanted to follow Sovereign and a large chunk wanted to forge their own path and not serve another master. etc, etc.

          In my opinion ME2 managed to flesh out the Geth from what they were in ME1. It’s also made very obvious that while the Geth split on following Sovereign the Geth that decided not to are still very much ‘at war’ with the Quarians.

  41. eri says:

    I have to say that I felt exactly the same way about the introduction. There was nothing good about Cerberus in the first game, and despite all the horrible things Shepard witnessed by their hand, he still gets But Thou Musted into a corner. I feel like there could have been a much better way to pull this off – get rid of Cerberus as your sponsor, and hell, you could even reveal the Shadow Broker as your employer instead, because they actually mention him in the first game. Depending on how it’s played, it would even be a great twist in the third game to find that the organisation you’ve been working for has actually been your enemy all along, and there was some nefarious goal all along, etc.

    If I was Shepard, and assuming I still got killed off at the beginning, here’s how it would go down:

    1) I’d say “screw you” to the Illusive Man and get out of there.

    2) I’d head back to the Alliance or the Council. After my welcome parade, I’d tell them all about Cerberus and give them the location of their base.

    3) I’d go back to their base with a raiding party, search their systems for Collector or Reaper info, and use it as a way to convince the Council to go after them. Since I’m a war hero who kind of saved all of the galaxy, and have some firm information backing me, they’d at the very least let me go find things out on my own as a Spectre.

    4) I’d ask the Council or the Alliance for a ship. At this point it’d be acceptable for them to bring back a new version of the Normandy. As I mentioned above, maybe if they didn’t want to accept me back, I could seek out the Shadow Broker (or he could seek me out) and serve as my benevolent but mysterious financier.

    5) I’d ask for a list of the most capable people in the galaxy for my mission, since I need a capable crew, and then the plot would proceed as normal.

    In other words, after all this, the Illusive Man and Cerberus are rendered totally pointless to the plot. They could have done it in a much more logical way, tied it in better with the first game, and still have kept the exact same structure. It’s just sloppy.

    Oh, and as for the killing off Shepard… it’s a way of establishing that their game is Darker and Edgier than the original. Really, that’s it. It doesn’t make too much sense, though from a narrative perspective, if you ignore the plot holes, it serves its function well enough in establishing the villains and giving the player motivation to fight them, as well as a reason to bring back the old ship.

    But yeah, to be fair, I forgot about it pretty quickly because aside from this totally idiotic bit of the story, Mass Effect 2 is like, really awesome. I do feel like the Collector plot is given too much weight so far (I have yet to finish), considering the Reapers were a greater threat and it’s never clear how stopping the Collectors really impedes Reapers. It’s a lot like the bit in the first game where you blindly pursue Saren despite there not being evidence he’s behind everything until much later in the story.

    • fscan says:

      1) so, i guess you would call a cab?
      2) the council hates me for letting the geth kill the old council, which was the only logical course of action. the alliance does not want to risk war by sending troops to the outer colonies. no parade four you :) .. also we are talking about one of their bases (and the TIM is not there) ..
      3) ..which will be empty by this time i guess. if not, they don’t really have any more proof then the council has already. they just draw different conclusions.
      4) the shadow broker is really bad … just ask liara on illum (in the comic it’s even shown that the shadow broker is working with the collectors, but i don’t think that is mentioned in the game)

      • krellen says:

        It is possible to start a game with the old Council still alive. The fact that the game assumes Renegade and only really makes logical sense if you were is a large part of its biggest flaw.

        BioWare should have worked on taking the four possible endings to ME1 and weaving them to the same point through different openings – which they’ve already shown they can do thanks to Dragon Age – and then start the story from there. It shouldn’t be that hard to convince both Council-saving Paragons and Council-killing Renegades (along with the degrees in between) that some particular path is, in fact, the only real choice. Then you can have the regularly scripted game from there.

        As for the Shadow Broker being “really bad” – only in the same reality that rewrote Cerberus to being “not that bad”. In other words, only because it was retconned in that way.

        • fscan says:

          what i meant was, concentrating on sovereign and ignoring the ascension was the only logical thing to do in that situation … loosing the whole galaxy to the reapers is an awful risk to take for MAYBE saving the council.

          • krellen says:

            I disagree. Saving the Ascension is also a very logical choice – nothing the Alliance fields comes even close to packing the fire power of the Ascension. It is easily the most powerful non-Reaper dreadnought in the galaxy. Saving that ship could be critical to stopping the Reapers, because nothing else organics have would be able to pack the punch it does.

            It would take far too long to rebuild such a ship; saving the existing one is much more logical.

            • Shamus says:

              You make a good case for saving the ship, although remember that if Sovereign succeeded, the area would have been filled with Reapers and the DA would have been useless against that kind of firepower. No sense in losing the war in order to save your best ship.

              It all comes down to how much you think you NEED those extra ships. If you’re confident that you’ll beat Sovereign, then letting the DA die is a calculated political play and Not Nice. If you’re not sure, then the DA is a regrettable sacrifice in order to guarantee the safety of the galaxy.

              It’s another reason this decision shouldn’t have messed with the Paragon / Renegade sliders. The game wasn’t sophisticated enough to determine *why* you did it.

              • krellen says:

                Considering that, at the moment of the decision you have full control of the Citadel (and its defences), I’d say a reasonable individual would be fairly sure of being able to take down Sovereign. The possessed Saren wouldn’t have been part of the calculation.

                But that’s just the way I see it.

              • krellen says:

                Oh, and the choices are actually “Save the Council” (Paragon), “Let them die” (Renegade) or “Concentrate on Sovereign) (Neutral). So if you take the renegade path, you are explicitly choosing the “not nice” option, not the “this is necessary” option.

  42. Danath says:

    I’m finding it quite hilarious that people are complaining about TIM saying the cerberus experiments were a rogue faction… you realize who is telling you this right? The man could lie through his teeth and you would never know, he wouldn’t hesitate to do what he thought he had to to convince Shepard, and saying that the Cerberus experiments are a rogue faction would throw a bit of doubt into what Shepard would have known. As for the Geth, well bullshit.

  43. Chiller says:

    To address Shamus’ post:
    1) Cerberus being used in this manner seemed ok to me, I actually liked it because the (mostly unresolved) Cerberus story arc in ME1 clearly hinted that the organization is a lot bigger and important than what you encountered.
    2) Yes, the Cerberus symbol on the Normandy SR2 is unjustified. Apart from Jack, however, no one seems to recognize it, but I’m still pretty sure it’s a bad idea to flaunt it like that as long as Cerberus is still classified as a terrorist organization under Citadel law. Also, Jacob has it on his uniform.
    3) Out of all the things that didn’t make much logical sense, I especially call bullshit on the Normandy not going FTL the moment it came under attack, or even as soon as their stealth was compromised.
    4) Regarding Dr. Chakwas: other people have already pointed out you haven’t had the relevant dialogue yet. I just wanted to say – do you really believe everything you’re told ? Or just in games, maybe ?

    General impressions:
    To me, Mass Effect 1 seemed like just another game churned out of BioWare’s “RPG factory”, albeit with a SF theme tacked on. The only thing that held it together was the good combat system, which became painfully obvious when I tried to play it a second time (just couldn’t get past the horribly boring non-shooty bits).
    Mass Effect 2 is a much stronger game overall, due to the better dialogue and especially more believable characters.
    However, the self-referencing humour throughout the game and especially the final boss clearly said to me that they decided not to take themselves all that seriously, which I found TOTALLY AWESOME.

    Oh, and unfortunately, my biggest gripe with the interface (and probably, with the game) still remains – skipping dialogue lines can still cause you to accidentally choose a reply because of the way the dialogue wheel randomly appears while the characters are still talking (as well as having the same key for both dialogue skipping and replying – really, you wouldn’t think this is hard to fix).

    • Raygereio says:

      Click the mousebutton before you skip it with the spacebar, the mousebutton will cause the wheel to appear if it’s the last line of dialogue without immediatly choosing a reply.

      Edit; that offcourse only works on the PC and your comment about having the same button for replying and skipping sort of implies you play it on the xbox. Nevermind.

    • krellen says:

      Funny. The first thing I did after finishing ME2 was immediately replay ME1, which I enjoyed a lot more.

  44. Avilan the Grey says:

    I don’t get the “Worst intro evah” thing about the death of Shepard. To me it works.

    You loose your levels
    You become more badass (more cybernetics)

    As for Cerberus:
    As my character repeatedly points out, she does not work FOR Cerberus. She is tracking down whoever steals colonists and uses Cerberus’ resources to do it. Besides, they DID bring her back to life, while the Alliance left her for dead.
    Jacob and Miranda are Reasonable People(tm). Jacob is not even a Well Intended Extremists. Miranda is loyal to Cerberus because of her father.
    In short, I tink it makes sense for a character like Shepard, who ranges from “Neutral Good” to “Chaotic Neutral” (the Renegade options in this game is better than in the first game; it is clear that even with those choices, your overall goal is a good one. You are never a true villain)* to do the best of the situation, use whatever (s)he can get from Cerberus and then leave. Save humanity first, assassinate TIM later, basically.

    *Basically, in ME2, you play either as Logan (Paragon), or Frank Castle (Renegade).

  45. Knight-Templar says:

    I think you’re being unfairly harsh, some of the things you mentioned are explained to an OK degree in-game. Cerberus had a change in leadership, this was followed by a change in prioities.

    It grabed me and made sense, but I agree that the intro stages where lackluster. It all made sense, but I to a small degree needed to put the parts together. If I need to stop for a moment to figure out what is going on then the sceen isn’t working as an introduction. At that point it doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it should have been easy to understand given the sutuation.

    • Raygereio says:

      Erm; as far as I know it’s either said or implied that the Illusive Man was at the head of Cerberus from the beginning. And their priorities have always been the same; the advancement of the human race (just ignore the fact that in the first game they did this by murdering humans).

  46. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Spoiler heavy, as always.

    Whoah, such a lot of comments, I’ll try to be brief but probably won’t manage. I’m assuming that ME2 is mostly filler between 1 and 3, as such the problem is that 1 already revealed the epic scale of the threat and 3 needs to go with a bang so they can’t really reveal all that much in 2 (hence the cool side stories). I’m guessing the “big revelation” was supposed to be the entire Protheans/Collectors thing and they’ll probably elaborate on the ending of 2 in 3, I think it’s supposed to be a hint that there’s more to the Reapers than just “exterminate! exterminate!”. But we’re not to the ending yet. On the things that were covered so far:

    Cerberus: I think some of the Cerberus staff try to actually tell you that they’re working “for the greater good” in ME1 and you can sort of let them go if you’re playing renegade? Not 100% sure about the details. On that note Bioware attempts to at least lampshade a few of those (you can have a dialogue with Miranda where you throw some of the things from 1, specifically some of their experiments, into her face and she points out stuff like “husk were already dead”, “Rachni aren’t human and we dropped it afterwards”, “okay, this one was bad but it was done by renegades, or at least so I’m saying” etc.). The whole “working for the second-big bad” is still a problem, especially if you’re playing pure paragon (renegade doesn’t really have all that much trouble with it) but you do give them a finger by the end and they don’t really do that much from stopping you from doing what you want to be honest… We are also meant to believe that if you romanced in both games it will come to bite you in your ass in part 3 which I am not looking forward to as I intended to be faithful but I really liked my romance option way more in 2 than I did in 1 and, well, “it just sort of happened”.

    Ad 1) The whole back from the dead thing is cheap, but lampshaded a bit as they keep stressing that what they want is you exactly as you were. In fact it’s a bit weird you can change your looks from the old save at all. I’m suspecting there may be something more than you being a human hero, something they’re not telling you, something more personal between you and the Reapers, maybe related to the beacon or Sovereign, that they’ll give in ME3. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did pull some mind programming they left in your skull from their ass or something.

    Ad 2) They build a similar one, we are told that it’s much upgraded, but Normandy was supposedly the awesome-uber-extra-super-advanced design and Cerberus did a lot of work to get the initial plans. The name is actually given by Shepard and Joker I think so it’s you being sentimental not Cerberus being dumb. The logo is somewhat dumb though, I think they might be hoping for a bit of good press, like “he’s a hero, and he’s flying our ship, we’re not all that bad, see?”. Consider that you are a spectre, therefore you’re acting above the law, therefore they’d probably think about it twice before stopping you for questioning. Also, except for the citadel (and there’s the spectre thing for stopping you there) you mostly operate outside of Allaince and Council space and half of that time with various criminal organizations. Still, they could be a bit more discreet about the logo.

    3) Lampshaded when you arrive at the Citadel. Humans are now a council race, there is that lengthy explanation on how the scan at the entrance detects absolutely everything about you (I’d still wouldn’t be surprised if in part 3 you found out Cerberus put something in you they didn’t detect). Also, you’re a spectre, you’re top secret, you respond only to the council and if Saren’s any indication they don’t keep all that close watch on those as long as nobody complains too loudly. Heck, in ME1 they actually tell you something like “we don’t really believe in the whole Reapers thingy, but that’s why you’re a spectre, if you think it’s important you can go check it out”. You think that’s the first case one of those went “dead” for a couple of years and then suddenly came back? And if the council claims you’re Shepard why should the Alliance claim you’re not?

    4) Not your entire crew, you only meet a few people (though it’s hard to tell about the anonymous crowd). Also, Cerberus largely recruits staff who are somewhat unsatisfied with the Alliance and the Council and guess what, apparently those guys wanted to sort of spread your former personnel around and keep them away from the fleet, just so that they seem like single raving lunatics if they start some “giant living spaceships are coming to kill us all” thing. Also, a bow to Shepard to make it easier for him to assimilate into Cerberus ranks (“see, we’re not bad, we brought your friends along”).

    Sure, most of the above are somewhat cheap and/or stretched but they are SOME explanations, plus these are nothing compared to how you can parade a Geth around.

  47. acronix says:

    GAH! I forget to check up on the site, and suddenly there´s a post with a ton of comments!

    Probably someone said it alredy, but I really disliked how they technically took away the inventory system and how each class got reduced to just five or so skills.
    Also, I played with a “Sole Survivor”, and couldn´t help to notice that they never bother to give proper justifications of why Shepard would work with the people that killed all his unit. I mean, you even get an email from Toombs (another survivor that you find in ME1) basically saying “WTF Shepard?”, so it´s not like Bioware forgot. They were just plain lazy.

    I liked the shooting, though.

    • Avilan the Grey says:

      I have never actually played ME1, but the videos I have seen… To me everything is better in ME2. Besides, the Inventory… since this game have very little loot (unlike most CRPGs)… what would you use it for?

      • acronix says:

        That´s what I meant. No loot means there are less tacticals decitions. They took it away in favor of a simpler, straightforward upgrades system. I admit that the inventory in ME1 was a mess, but the solution was to organize it better, remake the UI, let you sell more than one thing at a time; not taking it away completely (pretty much like they did with the Mako).

        On behalf of that decition, you can play faster and you lose less time comparing gear (because there´s nothing to compare). But isn´t that what shooter do?

        • Raygereio says:

          You’re going to have to explain to me how more loot == more tactical decisions.
          Or are you defining ‘use Spectre gear because all other weapons are inferior’ as a tactical decision?

          And please don’t tell me loot == RPG; because if you do, you’re going to make me cry.

          • krellen says:

            The tactical decision comes not so much from which specific weapons or armour you use, but more specifically from what upgrades you install in them. Do you want to put out more firepower? Knock enemies on their rears? Bolster your shields or increase your powers?

            Taking out the modular upgrades did a lot to cut down on your tactical options; tying ammo into powers rather than upgrades even more so, making different ammo types no longer an option for Adepts at all and limiting ammo choices to all other classes explicitly. Not to mention how the “ammo powers” in ME2 take up two or three of the limited 6 power options a class gets, even further limiting their tactical choices.

            • Raygereio says:

              I can see your point.
              But even then there wasn’t much choice for me when it came to upgrades in ME1. I would use nothing but shredder and tungsten rounds. Just like the only armour upgrades I used were the medical and kinetic exoskeletons once I got them; all other upgrades seemed to be inferior.

              Mind you; I don’t think ME2 has much in the way of tactics either. At least not beyond finding the best cover positions.

            • fscan says:

              Ammo powers replace your weapon upgrades, you can research weapon/armor upgrades and customize your armor.
              The main tactical element they introduced is that powers are more or less effective (or do not work at all) against different type of defenses (barrier/shield/armor/health).
              I find it kind of hard to believe that every weapon manufacturer has 15 versions of the same gun or armor with different stats. Thy could have had more weapon and armor choices in the game, like one gun from every manufacturer ..

              • krellen says:

                Ammo powers do not “replace” weapon upgrades, because they are available only to certain classes. Every class in ME1 could use any weapon upgrade; in ME2, only certain classes get certain ammos.

  48. Kian says:

    I didn’t have so much trouble with the new Normandy and crew. I mean sure, Joker and Chakwas were a stretch. But I was happy enough to see them back that I didn’t mind. Though I noticed right away that it couldn’t be a sign of mental health that the first thing you do after being brought back from the dead is try to replace everything you lost as if nothing had happened, going as far as naming the ship Normandy.

    It could also be seen as the Normandy being the protagonist of the series, and just as you died and were brought back, she went through the same.

    As for the Cerberus crew, I figure Cerberus has access to a range of people for a wide spectrum of tasks. Being organiced into cells helps supports this. They have evil experiments they staff with insane people, like the ones you see in ME1 and Jack’s backstory, but in order to get funding and support they probably have a milder side. Your ship was simply staffed with the nicest people they had to offer, and some they recruited specifically because they knew they would be loyal to Shepard. They can even feed them the line that the nasty ones were ‘rogue groups’ since the only one that knows everything about them is TIM.

    It then comes back to bite him in the ass, though, since them being loyal to Shepard and nice people (particularly after you saved their lives) lets you steal the new Normandy for yourself. But seeing as TIM had written the Normandy off anyway, what with this being a suicide mission, it’s not so bad.

    So it’s not that Cerberus is suddenly good and honorable. TIM decided something needed to be done. Cerberus must have part of the missing half of Sovereign, enough to know the Reaper threat is real. Considering its ties to the Alliance, supposedly it started as an Alliance black ops group so the human centrist agenda is believable, and that the Alliance was the biggest fleet around after Sovereign blew up, I’d bet the Alliance has most of the missing bits of Sovereign and decided not to share with the Council.

    TIM must have figured helping Shepard would turn out in his best interests (and you do provide him some valuable intel over the course of the game), and he showed his best face to make it more palatable. The good publicity couldn’t hurt, either. Gives more weight to the argument that the bad ones were rogue units, even if no one with half a brain would believe it. He keeps a close enough watch on you for the others to be able to get far in what they were doing.

    • krellen says:

      Actually….

      ME2 retcons Cerberus. They are no longer a rogue Alliance Black Ops group. They are a group built around a manifesto written shortly after the First Contact War by an “Illusive Man” calling for a group to guard humanity from outside threats.

      Maybe they intended to pretend the Cerberus groups you encounter in ME1 were rogue cells that posed as Alliance Black Ops for a while, but really it just feels like they decided to ignore the old game and just start over on everything, including Cerberus.

  49. Gildan Bladeborn says:

    Reading over Shamus’s list of complaints about working for the Illusive Man and his Shepard not being able to do much to complain, despite all of his character’s history with Cerberus, made me think of something: He wasn’t using his character.

    See, I imported my Mass Effect save game, where I’d done literally every single side quest in the game, and you can definitely raise all sorts of objections – characters bring up the various experiments fairly often, you can argue with Miranda and The Illusive Man about it, there was none of this “oh, we just conveniently forgot all about the atrocities” that Shamus described.

    And that brings me back to how he started playing Mass Effect 2: with somebody else’s character from a savegame repository. What do you want to bet that the player who created that save didn’t do any of those sidequests? There’s this impression that only the really big decisions carry over, but extremely minor plot details of sidequests were quite often referenced throughout my game so I’m of the opinion that pretty much everything you did was carried over – the list of major choices we were told we could pick from (before they took it away) when making a new character from scratch was just the “bare minimum”, as it were.

    So what we may have here is a situation where Shamus remembers playing all of those sidequests and just how awful Cerberus was, but his character does not – after all, it wouldn’t make much sense for Shepard to all of a sudden start complaining about things a player had never actually had him/her witness.

    So what I’m gleaning from this critique is thus: Play the entire first game and import your save, or expect inconsistencies between what you remember from doing that once and what your new character does.

    After all, every single Cerberus quest from the first game was optional.

    • krellen says:

      I played such a Shepard when I played through ME2. The objections you can raise are minor and easily brushed aside, and you’re often still forced into choices between nothing but “Well, okay” and “Yeah, let’s do it!”, with no third choice.

      • Gildan Bladeborn says:

        Well it’s actually fairly logical and not at all hard to swallow why Shepard might work with Cerberus at first.

        1) He/she has spent two years being dead, wakes up in a facility under attack, and the only ones trying to help him are… Cerberus employees! Who’ve just spent two years and billions of dollars resurrecting you. Also he/she’s in the middle of nowhere, has no ship, friends, way to contact anyone or request assistance, etc. You don’t really have much of a choice but to play along to begin with.

        2) They tell you that they brought you back to help fight the reapers and then present you with rock solid first hand evidence of a clear-cut threat to humanity. And then they give you all sorts of intel, a new improved ship, crew, etc. What would you do, not take it? Again, see the bit about being in the middle of freaking nowhere. Also, Joker.

        So that’s why it makes sense to play along initially, but why continue working with them?

        3) When you approach the Alliance/Council about the Collectors, the Council downplays the Reaper threat and does nothing beyond (potentially) renewing your Spectre status, and then mostly to get rid of you. Anderson/Udina might know the reapers are real but their hands are tied, and the Alliance doesn’t know who is behind all the colony abductions and doesn’t exactly take the word of Cerberus at face value (even though it’s completely true in this case).

        Besides, if you take all the Paragon dialog options with the Illusive Man, you make it quite clear you aren’t working with Cerberus, you’re using their resources and intel but ultimately you are the one calling the shots about what you do or do not in pursuit of your mutual goal of stopping the Collectors, and Shepard will tell various party members that he/she fully expects Cerberus to betray you at some point, that he/she doesn’t trust them, that Cerberus isn’t calling the shots (though Tali will snidely inquire if that means all the monitoring devices were your idea).

        There could have been more animosity between Shepard and Cerberus sure, but you’re ultimately playing a fairly pragmatic hero type – even as a pure Paragon you’re still taking a far more practical and ruthless stance than the traditional “knight in shining armor” would. As the various former Alliance personal staffing the Normandy will tell you, the Alliance was downplaying the Reaper threat and Cerberus seem to be the only ones taking them seriously – you really can’t afford to turn their help down.

        The Illusive Man is well aware that you don’t trust him/actively loathe him, but he doesn’t really care – they didn’t want to bring back Shepard the puppet, they wanted Shepard. It doesn’t matter if you trust them, or agree with them – having you around is good for the cause of humanity, and while as players some of his ‘missions’ might feel like orders, he doesn’t actually try to order you to do anything until the very end of the game, and even that had to resort to appeals to reason and gratitude – you aren’t their lackey. You’re jumping when he tells you to because it’s a good idea to do so, because Shepard agrees with his assessment.

        That the game itself doesn’t actually give you the option of ignoring those scenarios shouldn’t be interpreted that you’re blithely taking orders from the head of a quasi-terrorist cell that might have ruined your life at one point.

        Also the Rachni/Husk/Thorian creeper exploitation was not attributed to rogue elements, and the Illusive Man wasn’t particularly sorry about it either – they were attempts to produce shock troops, they had his full blessing, and the only thing wrong with them in his eyes is that they didn’t work. What he claims is those projects were abandoned when it became clear that they were not effective.

        I’m vaguely recalling something about the thresher maw incident being brought up, but now I can’t remember the context – pretty sure that was denounced as a rogue cell though.

        • krellen says:

          Yeah, I’m not buying circular logic as valid. You have to work with Cerberus because no one will help you, and no one will help you because you’re working with Cerberus.

          It’s a really, really bad argument, and an even worse plot device.

    • Shamus says:

      I chose the savegame because it was from a level 60 sidequest-obsessed 100% paragon.

      Of course, it’s possible that he didn’t do the Cerberus quests, but if nothing else I should have had some dialog for the Sole survivor character I created.

    • Raygereio says:

      Like Krellen said; if you do import a save that did all those sidequests, it’s not “oh, we just conveniently forgot all about the atrocities” but more “oh, we didn’t forgot all about the atrocities, but we’re to lazy to come up with a decent explenation so we’re just going to call them rogue elements”

  50. Blackbird71 says:

    As a side note, Shamus, we really need a way to easily find new replies to old comments. Trying to scan a thread this long and catch which replies have come up since the last time you read through is just ridiculous.

    Perhaps a quote option instead of nested replies?

  51. Barachiel says:

    1) Cerberus is fleshed out in the source material as being an extremist group. Plus if you take the Paragon ending, the Illusive Man goes on a rant that kinda shows that his “enlightened self-interest” is just a cover for his megalomania. The point of the game was to put you in a moral quandry: how do you feel about working for an organization as ruthless as Cerberus, and how do you reconcile what you saw of them in the first game, with what you see of them in this one? This is *key* to the Mass Effect 2 experience. Sorry you missed it.

    2) There *is* dialogue where you get to point out what bastards Cerberus was in the first game, both early on and later. When your old squadmates *berate* you or joining with them, you can defend yourself with “They’re using me, but I’m using them back” and other rejoinders. Again, you seem to have missed the *entire* point of the Cerberus plot arc.

    3) Um, its not Shepard’s old crew. It’s nearly all Cerberus. The *only* crew that comes back initially is Joker, and later Tali and Garrus if you recruit them. Most of them have never even met you before, only know you by reputation.

    Yes, their could have been more options to call the Illusive Man on what you learned in the first game, adn that was a tad disappointing, but the beginning of the game is hardly the disjointed mess you make it out to be.

    • The problem is that moral quandaries are pointless and in fact insulting and demeaning when the answer to them is determined in advance. You can’t NOT work for Cerberus. There is no moral quandary. To have such a thing would require CHOICE. The game handwaves away your objections. In character, many paths would want to KILL this man instantly, or take him in to the law. And how can it be a key part of the experience when all of the substance for your objections are handwaved away by lame excuses?

  52. Chimarea55 says:

    The Reaper multiple contingency plan makes complete sense. They’ve been doing species genocide for a couple billion years or so, and that means the are guaranteed to different plans if their original plan fails. There are a lot of things that dont make sense in the plot-line for ME2 but I bet that it will all be explained in the third one.
    Personally, I loved the game and treated it like it was an epic space opera, which is what it truly is when it comes down to the details. The games main strength is the character development; Bioware created 12, repeat, 12 completely different characters with very distinct personalities. Its where the game truly shines. Yes, planet-scanning slows down the game immensely, so now all we need to do is complain to bioware, and they’ll get rid of it in the third one. Also, I dont know why people were so hostile towards Mako?! It was a lot of fun driving around a planet! The thing is also that they are planning dlc where you basically get a hover-mako so to speak, so that is something to be happy about if you liked the mako like I did. Also, the most annoying thing in the game is no helmet toggle. I got the terminus armor and I feel like an idiot while wearing it inside the citadel or other like places.
    Finally, this game is just setting up for the third one. Did anyone else notice how Shepard has been slowly making alliances? I can almost guarantee that the third one is about uniting the entire galaxy against the reapers.

  53. Passerby says:

    Shamus, Dr. Chakwas’ reason for joining Cerberus and serving on board the Normandy isn’t really just because she wants to be on warships. She has an assignment for you that will reveal her true reasons.

  54. H.T. Black says:

    I’ve gotta ask: which dialogue options did you choose during Chakawas’s sidequest? When I asked her in my playthrough, she said the only reason she would even remotely consider working with Cerberus was because she’d already been informed that they were bringing Shepard back.

    As a side-note, I spent the entire game hoping that TIM, Miranda, et al. were lying through their teeth about their pro-humanity agenda. Here’s hoping.

  55. Jeff says:

    @Shamus:
    You really ought to learn more about your examples before using them. One of the reasons Dr. Chakwas joins Cerberus is to follow (and take care of) Joker. Just get her drunk and the truth comes out.

    • Shamus says:

      What’s the difference? It’s still a crap reason for joining a terrorist organization.

      Really? You joined because your friend joined? If ALL your friends joined the space terrorists, would you?

      • ballistic3188 says:

        it does. there are many explanations for joining an evil organization with your friends.
        peer pressure cause people to “hang around the wrong people”. it happens all the time. she could be not a really moral person. she could be an alliance spy.

        she could be joining because she needs to look out for joker makes sure he isn’t with the ones that did those experiments. (my thought of how it went down)

        her stated reasoning is that she is very lonely being a war time doctor means colleagues die often. she found family when dealing with joker as he has to come to her often to make sure he didn’t break something. so she kinda followed him and as i stated is highly probable that she is making sure joker stays out of trouble.

        you can say that is speculation but that how roleplaying in first person goes. you won’t know everything there is to know about people or situations. you only get a glimpse from talking or watching. and sometimes people surprise you. some people have done crazy things even when in contact with people daily. you haven’t seen her in two years. as you have seen with liara people can change a lot.

  56. Drift-Bus says:

    I figured Cerebus was compartmentalised for the safety of all those involved. Some splinter groups were more ruthless than others, but Illusive Man always has plausible deniablity. Much like the CIA

    I do agree that possibly, having the whole death/reboot could’ve been done better, maybe just go into training? Have your love interest from ME1 kidnapped? I guess oweing your life to a group kinda makes you indebted

  57. Booze Zombie says:

    I thought the point of this all was that “the threat was so great that even Cerberus was willing to help you, who crushed so many of their schemes in the first game, THAT’S HOW GREAT IT IS”?

  58. Draconis Ravenus says:

    Most of my opinions have probably been mentioned numerous times in the comments (I apologize to everyone, but I just don’t have time to read through every well thought out comment, though I wish I could!). I make no excuses for Bioware or how they put the game together; I think it’s an amazing narrative and they certainly don’t need any excuses… but I think the main problem I have with your critique is this, Shamus:

    – You can’t really judge the storytelling of interactive media like Mass Effect to a standard 1-track narrative of that in a book or movie.

    A few comments are comparing Mass Effect to Star Wars, and my answer to that is, how can you? Unless there are 5 different versions of each Star Wars movie with different endings (I know, I know… there ARE!), one where Luke sells out the Rebellion, one where he blows up the Death Star, then doesn’t blow up the death star, then betrays Han, etc., you can’t really compare something that Lucas is the author of to something that Bioware AND US are the authors of. And I make no qualms about that; playing this game gives you a very large amount of control over the storyline. Want a happy ending? Make your entire team survive and save the day. Want a tragedy? Go in with a bunch of unloyal jerks on an antique ship.

    My experiences were NOTHING like the one you described, which is a testament to how much power you the player have over the narrative! Isn’t that something to be celebrated, and not nitpicked?

    My Renegade relished working for Cerberus. “You’re pro-human and willing to kill whoever is in your way? ME TOO!” He pushed further than they were even willing to go, and several of my crew, even the Cerberus loyals, questioned me along the way.

    My Paragon also had a very different experience from you, or at least I interpreted it differently. Mine was closer to Gildan Bladeborn’s awesomely detailed explaination above. My Shepard in no way trusted Cerberus, expected them to backstab him every moment of the way, and took advantage of their generosity only while it suited the greater good. “You offer resources and I’ll take them while a bigger threat than you exists… then I’m gonna turn my gaze back on you!”

    So my point is I think you’re in large part critiquing one path of a branching storyline… one that YOU helped create. Maybe your choices never led you to the place of mistrusting Cerberus or expecting them to turn on you at any moment. I just have a hard time when you try to place a definitive analysis on the story they’ve put together when there are 4 or 5 distinct narratives getting you there, several of which vary drastically from your analysis above.

    For my part, I did all of the Cerberus missions in the first game, and as I was playing it, I never got the impression they were unequivocally evil. They were Pro-Human, yes, and they were willing to do things that crossed the line, certainly, but their intentions were always to help humanity. They were no different than the Thorian experimentation ExoGeni did on Feros. Were they crossing a line? Yes, but that doesn’t make them wholly evil.

    Ultimately, I think the tradeoff of having these vast epic spin-offs in the story that you have a large amount of control over is that some of it has to be a little bit more vanilla. The Collector threat may not be as meaty and detailed a story arc as Saren’s was in the first game, but I for the life of me don’t understand how you think they’re unrelated to the Reaper threat. Harbinger is a Reaper. He’s acting through the collectors by possessing them. How is that NOT related to the threat of the first game? The Reapers are locked out in deep space; they can’t be the direct threat until their minions get them in. I thought it was relevant and fitting that they’re targeting the guy who took out Sovereign and coming after him the only way they can at this juncture, by cybernetic possession.

    Personally, I think the energy you’re investing in picking apart Bioware’s storytelling process would be far better spent praising them for the amazing job they’ve done in putting together a cohesive game that enables you to make so many choices that greatly impact how the world plays out around you. Especially when the last game isn’t even out yet. What if in ME3 the crew you put together in ME2 becomes the bad guys, and you have to hunt them while chasing after Hombre Illusivo? Or maybe if you’re evil and sided with Cerberus, then the Alliance team from ME1 comes after you? A lot of your complaints might turn around when the full narrative is revealed.

    No matter how you slice it, though, I loved the story and the control I have over it, and I eagerly await how it will all unfold in ME3! My only “complaint” is that I have to beat the game 15x in order to have every narrative iteration! =)

  59. ballistic3188 says:

    treating a game like book is kinda hard when you are role playing a character. The game took a pretty good stance that you are mostly playing in first person view point. as in you don’t know everything. you don’t know we are going to illium because it has a mass effect relay. subtle hints are helpful. i think that some might be necessary, however how would you get the hint that cerberus had good qualities in the same vein of how would you know that geth are good if you never see the good ones. you played space police officer in ME1. only answering to distress calls. why would you hear that cereberus the shadowy organization is doing something good?

    though I agree how EVERYONE knows you are working for cerberus and having an emblem for everyone to wear is just as stupid as everyone knowing your a spectre so far that you have a fan base.

    actII reboot is standard like how samus need to have her armor blown apart every game because people maxed out the skill tree entirely and the new combat system was placed because the first combat system was pretty bad. how are you gonna explain that huge a change? in books you don’t have to deal with changed mechanics. they needed a new combat system and way to expand your leveling. game mechanics will always supersede story. just look at WOW. tons of retcon and stretches as the eye can see. game sell loads when the gameplay is great see mario and zelda. the story are kindergarten material yet everyone sells 10 mill a piece.

    how your body survives reentry and vacuum is just stupid i would have liked it if your oxygen tank just ran out and your orbiting. easier to resuscitate.

    how is the illusive man hard to grasp? someone has be to in charge of cerberus. apparently his name is Illusive man nothing special can be gathered by his name or anything he is just the guy in charge of an organization.

    I get how you would want to act like a paragon they did some horrible things. but get angry and not accepting the deal would just end in game over. seriously who would help? where would you get your resources? where would you know the Reaper IFF was? how would you ship survive the collector ship? how would you even get a ship?
    you have seen that the alliance and the council are both slow acting groups. until the collector ship start attacking alliance colonies they won’t act.

  60. […] this point, I will utterly spoil a whole lot of the plot elements in the game. *I* was spoiled by this post before I played it, but that’s fine, because that kind of thing doesn’t bother me much, […]

  61. […] Gears of War clone, with conversations between battles. Is not that the story is bad (although it destroys the first part story) but is much much more an action-rpg than a RPG with […]

  62. […] moment. But then I read Twenty Sided’s three-part assault on the story. Here are the links: part one, part two, and part […]

  63. smudboy says:

    I’ve made my own video plot analysis of ME2. Thought you might be interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR558wTjOUU

  64. But if I’m interested in the minutiae, the timeline, what event caused what, etc., then it will either be doled out in increments or it’ll be in a codex or supplementary material. You’re right that you can get the “feel” of something, but to get actual history down at anything like the level of resolution of the real world, you need something like C-SPAN, so it should be optional. I mean, for God’s sakes, how much video game dialogue do we skip, even well-written, perfectly witty stuff? The only game I can think of off the top of my head where I don’t skip SOME scenes is Dissidia.

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8 Trackbacks

  1. By The Mass Effect 2 (spoileriffic) | Random Average on February 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    […] this point, I will utterly spoil a whole lot of the plot elements in the game. *I* was spoiled by this post before I played it, but that’s fine, because that kind of thing doesn’t bother me much, […]

  2. By .The Softening of CRPGs - The Elder Thoughts on February 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    […] Gears of War clone, with conversations between battles. Is not that the story is bad (although it destroys the first part story) but is much much more an action-rpg than a RPG with […]

  3. […] moment. But then I read Twenty Sided’s three-part assault on the story. Here are the links: part one, part two, and part […]

  4. By What do I like in games « Drake's blog on February 25, 2011 at 4:35 am

    […] don’t have to. Someone else who is a much better writer already did it for me: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=7004  (by the way, if anyone can tell me how to turn that into pretty text, instead of just an ugly ass […]

  5. By Drake's Blog » What do I like in games pt1 on September 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    […] Actually I am not gonna let Mass Effect 2 off the hook,we need to reel it in, because there is something fishy about it… I’m sorry that was awful. Mass Effect 2 has, without a doubt, some of the best dialog and characters (among other things) going for it. The plot, meanwhile, hurts me.  I would go into a rant about it, but frankly, I don’t have to. Someone else who is a better writer already did it for me here. […]

  6. […] 2 que vais a leer aquí son mías,  pero que decidí escribir este artículo después de leer la crítica de MASS EFFECT 2 que hizo Shamus Young en su blog TWENTY SIDED. Debo reconocer, que su análisis me ha ayudado a […]

  7. By The Ravings of Demented Rabbits » Mass Effect 2 on January 17, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    […] talked about the main plot very much, and I’m not going to, except to say that while some people (massive spoilers there) didn’t much care for it, and I will admit that the first part is a […]

  8. By Mass Effect 3: Mass Letdown | trions WordPress on March 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    […] other trilogies. There is a blog that goes further into detail about the failings of the series http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=7004 to be more accurate, HE KILLED IT! I still very much enjoyed a lot of aspects about the series but […]

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