Experienced Points: 4 Reasons Why The Mass Effect 3 Debate Refuses to Die

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 12, 2014

Filed under: Column 402 comments

As promised, we’re dredging up THIS crap again. The column is long, but I could fill double the space on the same topic and not run out of things to say. The problem with Mass Effect isn’t “the end”. The problem is a massive shift in tone, genre, gameplay, and lore that happens gradually throughout the story. Some of us manage to hold on longer than others, and a few people manage to hold on to the very end, so when the dust settles none of us can agree on the exact point where it all went wrong.

When did Mass Effect fall apart for you?

  1. The death of Shepard at the start of Mass Effect 2.
  2. Railroaded to working with Cerberus and all the attendant dialog shenanigans to make that happen.
  3. The focus on “building a team” of badasses to address a problem that can’t be solved through strength of arms.
  4. A Reaper is now personally interested in Shepard and taunting him/her like a teenager. “This hurts you.”
  5. The nonsensical treatment and frustrating conversation with the Virmire survivor.
  6. The moon logic of why The Illusive Man sent Shepard to fall for an obvious trap.
  7. The terminator final boss of ME2.
  8. The false choice at the end of ME2 that renders the entire game pointless.
  9. At the start of Mass Effect 3, when the team you built is completely scattered, thus rendering the previous game even more pointless.
  10. “We fight or we die.”
  11. We just found the plans for the most important artifact in the galaxy to stop the Reapers. And it’s on Mars.
  12. Kai Leng.
  13. The dream sequences.
  14. Cerberus is somehow fielding a massive army capable of attacking points all over the galaxy all at once.
  15. The Citadel moved to Earth? WTF?
  16. We somehow built a huge weapon and we don’t know what it does.
  17. The final conversation with The Illusive Man.
  18. The conversation with the Starchild and the revelation of the purpose (LOL) of the Reapers.
  19. The final choice.
  20. The final cutscene.

I re-played ME1 right before ME2, so for me the tonal clash was really abrupt. If it had been years between games, then it might have taken me longer to notice. And if I hadn’t played ME1 at all then I might have accepted the whole game. And if I skipped the first two games then I might have been just fine until the Starchild.

And when the story collapses, how bad does that hurt? Maybe you’re just annoyed that you played a videogame with a kinda dumb story. Or maybe you’re livid, because you’re incredibly invested in this story and this particular flavor of sci-fi space opera is so rare that there literally isn’t a single modern AAA alternative.

This debate isn’t going anywhere.

Having recently played Unrest, I want you to realize I’m completely serious when I say this: I’d love to see someone throw a couple of million dollars at doing something along the lines of Mass Effect 1, and I want them to put Adam Decamp on the writing staff. This fountain of perpetual nerdrage smells like a business opportunity to me.


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402 thoughts on “Experienced Points: 4 Reasons Why The Mass Effect 3 Debate Refuses to Die

  1. Tizzy says:

    I never played Mass Effect, my main exposure to it is through Spoiler Warning.

    What I do remember though, is the heavy TV campaign in the US before the release of ME3. And I remember thinking: “These marketing people have really no idea about what they’re trying to sell: they make it sound like Mass Effect is all about the Earth and humans and small in scope, and even I who never played the games know better.”

    Well, now I realize that I was wrong! Wrong about who exactly it was who had no idea what they were doing or what Mass Effect was supposed to be about.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      Yep. Because sooner or later, in EA, Marketing Always Wins.

    2. swenson says:

      The marketing was when I, as a massive Mass Effect fan, first started to know something was wrong. It kept going on and on and on about Earth, and all I could think was “what about the rest of the galaxy?”

      The first two games did a great job of getting me to care about more than just humanity, but working toward the greater good of saving the whole galaxy, and the big emphasis on Earth just made no sense at all.

      (ultimately, of course, the whole “save Earth” thing was relegated to a few terribly out-of-place lines sprinkled throughout, but the point still stands that whoever marketed the thing had NO idea what the games were about)

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      My experience is similar, but without the TV advertisements. For me Mass Effect fell apart at Mass Effect 1. The most common comparison made is Mass Effect and Star Trek… but Star Trek is all “hippies in space” nonsense, and by extension ME is “hippies in space with guns.” That sentence never worked for me. It never worked in ME1 either. I’m going to cut this off before it becomes a rant about how ME fans are more disappointing than the games themselves.

      1. Tizzy says:

        I see your point. And it makes me think of another one: In an age were shooters have become so short, what is the appeal in having soooooo many hours of (reportedly) mediocre shooting? Taking the guns away from the hippies would have severely shortened the game, but it may have improved the experience.

    4. Tom says:

      The series died for me when I realised that it HAD changed to be all about the Earth and humans and small in scope. Some time during ME2 or perhaps slightly after the first time I finished it, in other words. Definitely after the end of ME1 and before the start of ME3. (Earth never shows up in ME2, but it’s ultimately all about human colonies, which also happen to be easily the most boring locations in the whole game).

      I’ll tolerate ME2, though, and all the ridiculous, nonsensical, boneheaded stuff it repeatedly insists I and my squadmates take time out from exploring the galaxy to do, but only for the sake of all the squadmate recruitment and loyalty quests, which are brilliant and let me get to know a whole bunch of fascinating characters, and maybe the rest of the sidequests. Plus the combat gameplay is way more polished than ME1, which unfortunately has just spoiled ME1 for me, despite it still having the best story, atmosphere and ambience, the biggest scope, the Mako (yes, I went there) and simply feeling the most “spacey” of the trilogy.

      Frankly, though, if they’d remade the games to remove something like 90% the combat and left just the exploration and character interaction, I’d consider it to have lost almost nothing and probably play with just as much enjoyment if not slightly more, even if it were then as short as a single episode of star trek. Which is a lot what it would feel like, and that would be fine by me.

      I never bought or played ME3, because I had heard what was coming, so I just watched Spoiler Warning for that one.

      My “ideal” Mass Effect would be:
      ME1: completely unchanged except for upgrading the combat mechanics to those of ME2, and remaking the side quests with much higher production values. Maybe give Liara’s mum a slightly less silly hat.
      ME2: unchanged except for the complete removal of all the pointless, moronic stuff you have to do for TIM, and the removal of that character himself entirely. Cerberus stays faceless. Give the option of genuinely just pretending to work for Cerberus and blowing off any and all orders you receive as soon as you get complete control of the Normandy, which you can work covertly to make happen earlier than it otherwise would anyway during the story. Checkbox in options menu specifically to turn off the Miranda Ass-Cam.
      ME3: Complete removal of the crucible/catalyst concepts in their entirety; lose the myopic Earth/Human-centrism – you’re not working for Cerberus any more. Reapers are beaten by actually uniting the galaxy against them properly. Maybe support this with a few sciencey macguffins here and there. Sidequests unchanged, except it’s possible, in the same manner as with Tali and Legion, to save Mordin, Wrex AND cure the genophage, but only if you worked really hard through the entire trilogy. Shepard lives.

  2. Ateius says:

    Mass Effect fell apart for me during the tutorial in ME2 – the segment where Shepard wakes up, and then escapes, the Cerberus hospital base. I recall that a very short way into the initial combat sequence against the suborned robots that I got a huge pop-up taking up what seemed like a quarter of the screen, telling me that I had killed 5 of 50 robots for an achievement.

    Not even telling me I had an achievement. Telling me I was ten percent of the way towards getting an achievement. It was a great big YOU ARE PLAYING A VIDEO GAME sign being slapped in my face and it tore me right out of my immersion.

    From that point onwards, because the game had so massively shot itself in the foot during the crucial phase of trying to invest me in its narrative, every flaw and logical misstep became all the more glaring. I didn’t trust the author for the entirety of the story. That was when Mass Effect died.

  3. Talby says:

    For me, it was more a gradual collapse that started with being railroaded into joining Cerberus for no reason in 2, and had completely shattered my investment in the story somewhere around the point of assaulting TIMs headquarters in 3. (although, it did recover briefly for the “curing the genophage” plotline)

    Although, my experience was kinda different in that I didn’t get around to playing through the trilogy until mid-2013, so I played them all in one go more or less. (I had played the original ME when it was new but never completed it) I knew about the star child and coloured endings, so I knew what to expect. It didn’t make it any less of a letdown when it finally happened, though.

    1. aldowyn says:

      Pretty sure assaulting the illusive man’s base is generally after curing the genophage?

      1. Talby says:

        It is, what I meant was – it was a gradual decline starting with being railroaded into Cerberus, recovered briefly for the genophage cure, and shot back down again by the endgame. I kinda put them out of order there.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think it was similar for me. Almost from the start ME2 started trying my patience but even though I was rolling my eyes pretty much every time TIM showed up on screen the game actually managed to distract me from most of its problems by use of the character pieces. I honestly liked the suicide mission mechanics with sending squadmates to do various tasks, while not much of a puzzle it did feel like I was actually rolelaying a commander and I made my picks both based on a character’s competence and how my Shepard interacted with them. The proverbial backbreaking straw for me came with the final boss sequence, the whole idea just felt so nonsensical and cheesy, not to mention that gigantic flailing skeletons is really something I would expect in an action game going for an arcade or some nintendo retro feel, not in an “all your choices count” “not everyone all will survive” game with pretence for roleplaying.

  4. newplan says:

    I accepted all of ME2.

    The Virmire survivor conversation was a bit annoying but ok.

    Working with Cerberus was ok if you think of them as a front for the Alliance with some plausible deniability and that the ME1 portrayal of them was simply due to the writers needing an enemy to throw guys at you – in fact, that makes the story better, imo – makes the galaxy seem real-er and more complex.

    The obvious trap – also fine. In WWII the Allies broke the German codes and allowed bombings to go on that killed civilians because the need to protect the secret that the codes were broken was more important. The Illusive Man deciding to risk your life for some intelligence made sense in those terms. The real issue was that you could poke holes in the implementation of the idea in game but I’ll forgive that because the idea itself is fine. Shepard would accept that just fine – at this point he’s a high level covert operative and not really just a soldier (although a soldier would accept it also – never mind an officer who is expected to order men to their deaths without those men necessarily understanding the full reasons).

    The problem with the ME trilogy and where it falls apart is the start of ME3. If the reapers are there and you don’t have everything in order then that’s it – it’s over except for maybe sending messages to the people of the next cycle and maybe trying to hide some survivors. The whole point of the earlier games was that the forces of the combined races of the galaxy were barely sufficient to hold off the expeditionary forces of the Reapers. ME3 starting with the Reapers arriving? Nice for “drama” and “upping the stakes” but incoherent for the story.

    I wouldn’t have minded ME3 ending with Shepard’s death and a few humans surviving in hidden bases. I wouldn’t have minded Shepard getting indoctrinated and the “happy” ending is one where he has the fortitude to Saren himself and the downer ending is one where he doesn’t. But expecting to “win” at the end of ME3? That was ruled out long before – without introducing a bunch of game changers.

    1. Zanfib says:

      If you are thinking things like “The writers need to do X because Y”, hasn’t your immersion already been broken?

      1. newplan says:

        Willing suspension of disbelief.

        Especially if you can tell that the dissonant element is there simply because of the requirements of the genre – like needing some source of mooks to fight in a game or some reason to show boobs in an HBO show or a big action set piece in a summer blockbuster or putting an artist’s patron’s face on Perseus in a Renaissance painting.

        Art has to get funded somehow.

    2. aldowyn says:

      that game changer is the crucible. it’s just too little too late. (why didn’t Vigil know what it was? why weren’t we looking for a weapon in ME2 instead of worrying about the colonies? why.. why… why?)

      1. Mike S. says:

        I’ve said before that I don’t think that they should ever have allowed a full-scale Reaper invasion to enter the story. (Reaper plots should always have been about keeping the door shut, because if they can get through then it’s all over.)

        But once they did, with the end of ME2 (and doubled down in Arrival), I assumed that a deus ex machina would be necessary, and was more or less pre-reconciled to that. (Though I predicted, wrongly, that somehow its activation would depend at the end on Shepard and two companions fighting their way to the end of a corridor.)

        And sure, the Crucible doesn’t stand up under logical examination for reasons explored in Spoiler Warning. But I really liked the basic idea: that we were the final relay of a torch that had been steadily passed forward through time, by an incomprehensible succession of civilizations trying to ensure that somehow, someday, someone other than them would escape the doom that was overtaking them.

        It was an extension of the quiet heroism represented by the scientists who left Vigil behind, before taking a one way trip in order to help strangers tens of millennia in the future.

        And in that context, I appreciate the Reject ending letting Shepard decide that it’s better to let the next cycle cleanly succeed than to compromise with horror, even at the cost of everything and everyone she ever knew.

        Though speaking of Vigil, one ME3 decision I really disliked was making the Protheans– the heroes of the first game; in a very real sense Shepard is only their instrument– into imperialist jerks. I choose to believe that Javik– who had, after all, been raised well into the war– was educated by an authoritarian rump state that was rewriting Prothean history to support its ideology, a la the USSR or North Korea.

        (It makes a fair amount of sense that the Reaper War might lead to the ruthless and fanatical being able to seize control. And it actually ties in nicely with the attempted Cerberus coup in ME3.)

        1. newplan says:

          I've said before that I don't think that they should ever have allowed a full-scale Reaper invasion to enter the story. (Reaper plots should always have been about keeping the door shut, because if they can get through then it's all over.)

          But once they did, with the end of ME2…

          I didn’t really see the ME2 ending that way.

          ME1 basically set the ground rules – the Reapers are physically isolated from the galaxy to such a degree that they can’t travel to the galaxy conventionally nor can the races of the galaxy find or attack them. Why did the reapers do this*? For protection when they’re dormant. This isolation means that they need two things to get back (1) some way of “cheating” that they hid in an earlier cycle and (2) an agent of some kind in the galaxy to open the door. ME2 followed those rules. The Collectors were agents. They had a plan that would have allowed the Reapers to cheat their way back (making a new Reaper and attacking the Citadel). Ok, it was a bad plan seeing as how Sovereign failed at the same plan and was a powerful, experienced Reaper who had knowledge of thousands of space battles but, hey, it was a plan that followed the established rules.

          Pretty solid ground rules, too – they allow for a ton of game to go on. The player has a good solid primary antagonist (the agent) and a huge galaxy ending threat (the Reapers). The Reapers also have technology that’s specifically designed to make organics their agent. There could be a ton of cloak and dagger plots in which Shepard would reasonably be involved.

          The agents are a good scale for an opponent of Shepard – they’d be incredibly rich because the Reapers would supply them with advanced tech and tradeable knowledge. Tradeable knowledge like better intel about the mass relay network. Tell me you can’t imagine a billion ways for an organization to build up galactic government levels of wealth with that knowledge? Was the Shadow Broker working for the Reapers? They had to have some intel on the races of the galaxy so they didn’t wait too long to come back and get wiped out. Basically the game would be much more like DE:HR in space. Shepard would have to investigate and uncover a plot. Damn that would be a good game.

          The way ME3 played out Shepard was simply the wrong main character. Oh, the human race’s best field operative and best gunfighter is needed to captain a ship?? and be a diplomat?? What? That just makes no sense. In ME1 it made some sense to have Shepard captain that ship because the ship’s primary mission isn’t ship to ship combat – it’s going places undetected so Shepard can go in person and use his field operative skills.

          And sure, the Crucible doesn't stand up under logical examination for reasons explored in Spoiler Warning. But I really liked the basic idea: that we were the final relay of a torch that had been steadily passed forward through time, by an incomprehensible succession of civilizations trying to ensure that somehow, someday, someone other than them would escape the doom that was overtaking them.

          Once they painted themselves into a corner by making the Reapers arrive then, yeah, something like the Crucible was needed (like I said “a game changer”) but man, the actual idea they had was staggeringly bad for the reasons Shamus gave. Building a high tech weapon where you don’t know what the final thing will do makes no sense as an idea unless you’re just assembling someone else’s design. As far as I know no one designed the Crucible! In a science fiction story you have to include a time travel paradox to have that kind of element!

          It’s like they got to the end and just threw elements from better fiction in – “assemble a machine whose function we don’t understand based on an advanced designed decoded from an mysterious alien message” – stolen from Contact; “a mysterious space station build for an unknown reason actually has a hidden purpose in fighting off a more advanced alien” – stolen from Babylon 5. The problem is that they just included the surface elements and didn’t understand why those elements actually made logical sense in the other stories. Which was a huge shame because ME1 and even ME2 set up a very very interesting universe.

          And in that context, I appreciate the Reject ending letting Shepard decide that it's better to let the next cycle cleanly succeed than to compromise with horror, even at the cost of everything and everyone she ever knew.

          Agree – in fact, I think that’s the only possible good ending once you have the Reapers arrive.

          * Now that I think about it that means ME2 introduces another flaw in the plot that I don’t think people have discussed. Why waste the Omega relay on the collectors? Simply hide a dozen or so Reapers on the other side. Anyone who tries to jump through without the IFF, gets annihilated by environmental conditions. When the time is right, jump back through, make a hop to the citadel and overwhelm the defenses – game over.

          1. Mike S. says:

            I agree that the main plot of ME2 was another attempt to open the door at the Citadel. I was referring to the very end of ME2: characters stare at a tablet showing some mysterious thing, presumably learned at the Collector base, that makes them shake their heads in concern. Cut to the Reapers, above the galactic plane, moving towards it. Basically a short silent movie with the thrust being: “they’re on their way”, with an ETA worthy of concern. That’s the point they made it clear that ME3 would involve facing the Reapers directly, which they reinforced in Arrival.

            Re the Omega-3 relay, I’m prepared to believe that the environment around the Collector base isn’t stable enough to hibernate for 50,000 years in. Besides, in general, the idea that they hide in intergalactic space implies that there’s some really good reason not to choose a hiding place somewhere inside the galaxy that we’re not aware of. (Interstellar space is really big compared to a mile-long object. Practically speaking, they could hide halfway between Sol and Alpha Centauri and, as long as they don’t radiate significantly while they’re in hibernation, we’d never find them.)

            Maybe they make use of the dark matter halo, or have some use for really flat space.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              They have thousands and thousands of years to fill between cycles. Clearly they need some free room to set up all their W40k minis.

              1. Mike S. says:

                “Fifty thousand years of doing nothing! *Sigh*– in the grim darkness of the far future there is only bore.”

        2. Classic says:

          There doesn’t seem to be a galaxy of cooperating sentient races in the Prothean Cycle though. Which kind of suggests that the Protheans weren’t super keen on other sentients in their cycle, or that Shepard’s Cycle has way more sentients. Maybe a massive, long-term uplift program by the Protheans before they realized they were boned?

          1. Ranamar says:

            Just such an uplift program is hinted at in various places.
            Most blatantly, there’s the Asari temple. I don’t know if you bought the Eden Prime DLC, but bringing Javik with Liara on that mission is entertaining, although you feel bad for Liara having all the mythos of her childhood torn down around her.
            On top of that, in the original Mass Effect, there’s a planet with an installation that has some data you can access, and it seems to be the experiences of an early hominid. I’m not sure there’s direct confirmation anywhere, but I get the impression that one purpose of the Mars base was to watch the life forms on Earth.
            That said, it’s possible that the Protheans were just as much imperialist jerks as Javik is made out to be. After all, it’s not like the Salarians uplifted the Krogan for any reason other than to use them as foot soldiers.

  5. Mersadeon says:

    Yeah, for me it was the ending of Mass Effect 2. Everything dumb before I was able to swallow and power through because it usually came with at least SOME cool ideas and themes. But once it was revealed that the Harvesters were really making Reapers from human-juice it was over for me.

  6. Michael R. says:

    Wow. You really hate Mass Effect. I mean, some of these things are legitimately terrible(5, 8, 13, 17-20), and others are a matter of personal taste(1, 2, 3, 7, 12). But I can’t wrap my head around a few of these (3, 9, 11, 14, 15). You’re taking somewhat illogical moments (at worst), and turning them into ridiculously huge plot holes. Any story will collapse if you do that.

    PS: For me, the part where you find out the Catalyst is the Citadel.

    1. Dovius says:

      So they’re physically moving the giant space station whom’s central location is the entire point of it’s existence halfway across the galaxy instead of just glassing earth as they have been hinted at doing to countless worlds in the past and then moving their forces to the previously established central staging point of their purges.

      There is no part of this that makes sense. It’s like Patton moving Washington D.C. to Western Europe during the later stages of World War II because it’s where most of his army is.

      1. Michael R. says:

        They weren’t going to glass Earth because they needed the material to make another Reaper. Also, is it preferable to leave the key to victory in a well-known and (relatively) poorly-guarded location, or in the middle of a massive fleet? It’s less like the Capital and more like an aircraft carrier. It’s the most important part of the navy*, so it’s surrounded by smaller battleships to guard it.

        *I think

        1. Taellosse says:

          They were able to make half a new Reaper with just a few hundred thousand colonists in ME2 – why would they need the entire population of Earth to make a whole one? There were plenty of other colonies they could draw from if they really needed human bodies. Besides, their tactics regarding their invasion of Earth make it pretty clear they weren’t that concerned with keeping most of the humans alive for conversion-to-reaper – they were wiping out whole cities, and only bothering to cart off survivors in relative handfuls.

          Also, the Citadel has no value for the Reapers except as a gateway back into the galaxy. That is it’s entire and sole purpose to them – a honeypot for the organics and a door for the Reapers. They don’t need it once they’ve come back into the galaxy the hard way for anything – bringing it to Earth just makes it easier for Shepard’s alliance to hook it up to their magical Reaper-killer space-gun. The actual smart thing to do would have been to move it to some hard-to-reach solar system (maybe one that had no previously-activated relay. The Reapers know where ALL the relays are because they were the ones who put them there, but it’s part of the Mass Effect lore that many of them remain inactive because the Council races are wary about turning them on willy-nilly, in the wake of the Rachni Wars. Without the Citadel’s ability to keep track of the relay network, the Council races would have no way to locate a newly-activated relay) and turn it off completely so there’d be no way to locate it.

          1. swenson says:

            Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes.

            There’s never any reason given for the Citadel to be so important to the Reapers, aside from keeping it out of the hands of humans (which they could quite easily do right where the Citadel was already). The Citadel is important to the rest of the galaxy because it’s needed to power the Catalyst (or whatever), but the game just sort of assumes that because it’s important to the protagonist (and allies), it must be important to the enemies too. But it’s never properly set up what they even need it for.

            Now, in fairness, it does appear they were using it to “harvest” large quantities of dead humans at once. But considering time isn’t really a factor for Reapers, why not just bring the humans to the Citadel? Or why not set up “harvesting” stations on Earth directly? Why even bother with the whole harvesting thing right now, why not wait until after they defeat the majority of military forces? These questions are simply ignored.

            It would make sense for them to take over the Citadel, because it does hold the key to the other mass relays… but that still doesn’t explain why they’d then move it. Just lock it down and kill/harvest everybody on board.

            1. Taellosse says:

              I can understand moving it. Not being able to assault from the Citadel first means the entire galaxy is mobilized to defend against them, and could attack from many directions at once if they left it in place once captured. But moving it to Earth was just dumb – it’s the homeworld of one of the Council races, and we’re told they know about the Crucible, and the fact that it needs the Citadel to work, so moving it THERE is just dumb.

              And ME2 shows us that there’s absolutely nothing in the Citadel that the Reapers actually NEED to make a new Reaper – the Collectors made one without it (or started to), so whatever gear they need to liquify organics and build a giant robot they can make somewhere else (and besides, it’d probably be easier to worry about that AFTER they’ve wiped out all organized resistance. As you say, there’s no hurry – the cleansing process is supposed to take centuries, after all, even when it goes well).

              1. Dovius says:

                Hell, if you want to make the argument that they’re moving it to assist in constructing a Reaper… why didn’t they move it to the Batarian Hegemony? I mean, Shepard’s making a clear, publicaly visible effort to retake Earth and the space around it is actively contested, but if you shove it over to Kar’Shan, I don’t think you’re gonna run into much trouble because no one gives a crap about them.

                1. Taellosse says:

                  Well, yeah, but it’s all about the humans, cuz humans are the best!

          2. Mike S. says:

            In ME2, EDI says they’d need “millions” of humans to complete the Reaper, and would have to go to Earth to get them. (Despite their being at least two colonies with millions of people on them– Eden Prime and Terra Nova– human expansion being unrealistically rapid given the timeline.) So presumably the embryonic version you fight still needs a steady diet of human slurry to grow up big and strong.

            It’s true that if you only need millions, you can be pretty wasteful of the raw material on Earth, where on a colony of four million you really would have to be careful about casualties.

            (And if EDI was off by an order of magnitude, Earth might be the only place to go, while killing off 99% of the population could still be acceptable losses.)

        2. It’s debatable if they “needed” humanity to make another Reaper. Given the events of ME1 and 2, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the Reapers decided that humans would become the 101st All-Husk Mook Squad for the Collectors to use during the next cycle.

          I mean, we still don’t exactly know what being a Reaper means. If a race’s sludge becomes a Reaper, do they automatically fall into the “100% Rah-Rah Reaper” mode via some kind of indoctrination? If so, does it really matter what organic matter you use? Given that, why would the Reapers even need to complete the cycle unless they were just vindictive jerks, since they could just synthesize more organo-goo from amino acids.

          1. Mike S. says:

            I got the strong impression that it does matter, at least to the Reapers, what species is harvested to make another Reaper. That was the thrust of Harbinger’s assessment of different species while taunting Shepard in ME2, and by implication a big reason that humans get picked is because Shepard is such a thorn in their sides.

            Obviously, turning human slurry into a Reaper isn’t going to stand up to any sort of hard SF analysis. But it at least seems that you get the knowledge and capabilities (whatever that means post slurrification) without the volition, which passes through indoctrination and is fully identified with the Reaper cause.

            1. I’m a little dubious of what kind of “capabilities” I’d still have after being turned into soup and then brain (sludge?) washed, then stuck in a giant spaceship shaped like a squid. I mean, the skeleton-reaper thing makes even less sense given that every Reaper looks like a cephalopod, not the species that they were built from. If one assumes that every Reaper has a robo-version of the original species inside of it and just a squid exterior… again, it makes even less sense why this is done.

              1. MichaelGC says:

                I’m reasonably certain that if you were turned into soup and then soupwashed, you’d still have enough residual ability left over to turn in a more satisfying conclusion than the one we got.

                (We’d probably still complain about the sudden appearance of The Croutons, not to mention the eventual Napkin Ex Machina. But I doubt we’d still be doing so 2.5 years later…)

              2. Mike S. says:

                The idea that there’s some special human essence that matters even through extreme processing is very Campbellian. (John W., not Joseph.) To that extent, it harks back to the sorts of space operas Mass Effect was imitating. (As witness the first game, where we’re a new, primitive species… that manages to militarily impress the turians, produce a Spectre, and leapfrog itself onto the Council, all within a handful of decades.)

                See also Babylon 5, where humans are among the species that within a million years or so– an evolutionary eyeblink– won’t even need physical bodies at all. (Also an implied future for our descendants in its Golden Age inspiration, E.E. Smith’s Lensman series.) If you can survive becoming a disembodied psychic entity, you can surely survive mere disassembly into slurry.

                (And no, I don’t believe in either, but they’re within the established range of this sort of SF.)

                1. Okay, reminding me of older “harder” sci-fi just made me think of a way that the Reapers could/might work. Or at least, it’d let you have a war against space Cthulhu.

                  Whatever race the reapers once were, they were alone in the universe. They found evidence other races had existed, but they’d all died out for one reason or another (a theory as to why we haven’t seen alien beings; life’s self-destruction may be built-in unless life expands into space and finds a way to keep from regressing). The proto-Reapers were alien to us, but they could still feel alone. This feeling drove them to survive their own extinction that seemed inevitable due to the ravages of time. They made themselves into fusions of biological and synthetic systems, but even that wasn’t enough to preserve them. They then fused entire worlds into what we now know as Reapers: Huge, eternal mind-vessels comprising the intellects that had once been separate, now working together as our own brain cells produce “us.”

                  They retreated to the blackness between the stars to await the next wave of higher life forms. Safe from casual discovery or mishap (i.e. supernovae, asteroid impacts, etc.) they could preserve themselves in stasis until life arose.

                  Arise it did. But so many didn’t reach the stars. So many opportunities to share experiences and points of view were lost! Their core purpose, to preserve highly evolved life kicked in, and they knew what they’d have to do: Create the means for life to traverse the stars (the Mass Relays). Reap the galaxy when sapient life reached its (to their minds) zenith. Preserve that life in the form they’d adopted (naturally, the best one there is). Bring that life to the void between the stars, and repeat the cycle. Reap. Preserve. Wait.

                  Unfortunately, it never occurs to them that there’s any greater form of existence. They may even have dreams of fusing a large enough collection of Reapers to form some sort of transcendent mind that could achieve feats thought impossible even by Reaper technology. They have come to understand that lesser life forms will resist being uplifted in this manner, for what organism wants to leave the comfort of its simple, carnal existence and endure what must be done to ascend? The experience of being a Reaper can’t be explained or comprehended by such limited life-forms, for they can’t know what it is to be alone in the universe.

                  They destroy us for our own good, to improve us for our own good, to force us to understand for our own good.

                  You cannot comprehend their existence. Therefore, you must be made to comprehend.

                  I want this game now. :(

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    I think that basically could work, though the terror tactics are kind of hard to explain. (It’s remarked in-game that husks have no really efficient purpose, and mainly work against morale.) It seems as if their mission should be performed with the professionalism of a surgeon treating a child, or a vet working on a dog or cat– they can’t understand why it’s necessary, and of course they’re scared and in pain, but you don’t go out of your way to exacerbate that.

                    Of course, maybe it’s all just a horrible misunderstanding.

                    (“What do you mean? They have the natural glow of friendliness, and are arrayed the colors of peace and calm. Wait, you don’t see ultraviolet? Well at least you heard the soothing aural signals we… ‘horrific keening screams,’ you say?. We see. And we suppose that their efforts to reach large population centers to spread the message were misinterpreted as well? Oh, dear.”)

                    1. Oh, indeed. Playing up their perceptions being different from ours to the point where actual communication/negotiation for a meaningful truce or stop to hostilities would play up their alienness and also make us wonder if it’s a product of their physical form or of their intellectual existence being too far above ours (the old “you’re like an amoeba to them” trope).

                      It’d also help plaster over any plot holes regarding odd behavior on their part, like why they attacked X instead of Y when Y makes more sense to us, etc.

                    2. * …where actual communication/negotiation for a meaningful truce or stop to hostilities is impossible

              3. Shamus says:

                You liquefy all humans and shove them into a Reaper. Great. Now you have a Reaper that doesn’t want to reap. It was to read celebrity gossip, play Angry Birds, and masturbate to internet porn.


                1. Mike S. says:

                  It’s certainly consistent with what we see that the Reapers return when civilization hits peak production of cat videos and porn, acquire it all (using the Citadel’s data to locate it), and then kill all the witnesses to spare themselves embarrassment.

                  (The asari were going to be target #1, what with their surplus of exotic dancers. But after Sovereign connected up with Eden Prime’s extranet, there was no real question of whom to go after.)

                2. MichaelGC says:

                  That sounds like a realm thoroughly within my comprehension. Remind me again why we’re supposed to oppose the Reapers?

                3. That brings up another thing: They’re just Reaping colonists, or at least, that’s all they got for their first human Reaper. I assume they planned on making more, then? Or were they just going to make the one and then wipe out all other humans? If it was the latter, their criteria for reaping the best of humanity seems to just be “was willing to relocate to other planet.”

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    I think it’s one species=one Reaper. (With Harbinger being the one for the Leviathans.). The colonists were just the starter set. (As witness the fact they’re still running slurry to the embryo even as Shepard arrives at the Collector base. It’ll be a long while before that thing’s 2km long and spaceworthy even without Shepard’s intervention.)

                4. MetalSeagull says:

                  During that whole revelation that humans are being made into machines, I was thinking “But why? If you’re going to break people into their component parts anyway, why not just gather the component parts instead? Much faster, much less stupid. Are they suggesting that the reapers are actually harvesting souls or consciousnesses? So the reapers’ real weakness is magical thinking, and not understanding the concept of emergent phenomena?

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    Since we have literally no idea what’s going on, we don’t know that they’re being broken down all the way to chemical components. Maybe the slurrification is a side-effect of doing a destructive read on their memories and personality.

                    (“Yes, really we only need the brains if you want to get technical about it. But one doesn’t get to be a two-kilometer living dreadnought by discarding useful organic mass one already has to hand.”)

    2. Ilseroth says:

      With regards of Citadel to Earth the issue isn’t explaining it. the issue is. Why Earth.

      Out of every planet, every civilization, every species in the vast spanning cosmos, in a game series where Humans are pretty much the new kids to the galaxy and are barely important at all. Why Earth?

      The issue is the decision to make it “personal” to the player by attacking their home planet. As opposed to keeping with the theme of the original game and (to a lesser extent) the 2nd one humans are suddenly the most important group ever.

      Other species have taken over hundreds of planets and have populations, power and technology to make them dominant in the galaxy. Humans are mostly irrelevant so the fact that in 3 they decided to make them not just important, but *the* most important over any other species in the galaxy is awkward.

      1. Michael R. says:

        Reapers are interested in humans because our genetics make us prime subjects for Reaper-ification.
        Plus, most of the plot is spent doing favors for all the different species in order to convince them to help you. It’s less humans being “the most important group ever” ,and more “Humans won’t survive unless all the species unite”.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          The problem is that’s just a handwave. ANY race could have been labelled “prime subjects for Reaper-ification” and we could have accepted it. The fact that humans are singled out as ‘the special ones’ is just another form of the anthropocentric tone of the later game(s).

          And I do believe the original plan/vision may have been what you said – the missions were efforts to help other races so they would help you too (I scratch your back so you scratch mine). The problem is that the tone seemed to focus less on “we need to unite to save the galaxy” and more “we need to unite to save humans – screw everyone else’s problems unless they’re directly relevant to our interests”. I suspect that was not their original intent, but their implementation leaves much to be desired on that front.

          1. aldowyn says:

            the argument the games make is basically that Shepard impressed harbinger on behalf of the entire race. Shaky, I know.

        2. Kana says:

          That works for everyone, though. All the species die if they don’t unite against the Reapers. What makes Earth so special that it can fight them off for longer than anyone else and that they have to move the Citadel there?

          Weren’t the Turian and Asari homeworld’s also attacked during the game? Only the Turians could push them off (if I recall correctly), the Asari lost their homewold. These are races that have fought galactic wars before, and have had far, far more time to build up their fleets and train soldiers for this scale of combat.

          Heck, the Geth should have been the special ones. Synthetics that wanted to work with organics, which was the whole stupid reason for the Reapers to keep killing everyone. But I’m a Geth fangirl, so more of them would be awesome in any case.

          1. Michael R. says:

            That’s the point- Earth isn’t special. None of the other species are willing to defend Earth until their own security is assured. The turians only help Shepard once he helps reestablish their chain of command. The asari only help him once it becomes clear that, no matter what, they will lose their homeworld (turns out not having a large standing army isn’t a good idea). The krogan only help once Shepard cures the genophage. Quid pro quo.

            1. Kana says:

              No, that’s what I mean. Earth is able to fight off the Reapers for that entire time. You go fix the Krogans, Turians, and Asari problems while the Reapers are attacking Earth. Humans spontaneously become such phenomenal badasses that they can hold their planet the entire time Shepard is off playing space babysitter.

              1. NMD says:

                Earth is not really fighting more resisting Reaper occupation of Earth Which is a lot easier to do when your enemy is going out of their way to capture everyone alive. Which is an advantage the other species don’t have since the Reaper are not trying to melt their entire population into Reaper smootie.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “Which is a lot easier to do when your enemy is going out of their way to capture everyone alive.”

                  Except they arent.They shot down refugee shuttles instead of capturing them because…um,explosions are cool,and look,some kid exploded,tragic!They destroyed a bunch of buildings because…errr,we need to have a devastated battlefield and jumping on falling buildings because thats war damn it!

                  It just makes them look reckless and dumb.Heck,the collectors with their paralyzing swarm that leaves infrastructure intact while they collect the frozen victims were much smarter and more terrifying.At least,until you got to fight them and THIS HURTS YOU SHEPARD nonsense.

          2. Mike S. says:

            The first game establishes that Earth, despite it’s newness to the galactic scene, is actually a military power to be reckoned with. We’re not “barely important at all”, we’re a rapid up and comer that the turians are suspicious of and the associated species like the volus and elcor are deeply jealous of, since they feel we’re jumping the queue.

            The turians are #1, but our resistance against them lasted longer than they were expecting, and we followed it up by handily beating a minor but established power, the Batarian Hegemony. And we’re rapidly acquiring respect and influence. (Including by means that the Citadel doesn’t really like, like expansion into the Traverse and the Terminus Systems and getting into fights with the batarians.)

            There are clues in the first game that we’re to the turians as pre-WWII Japan was to the United States. (In those terms, the conflict with the batarians is comparable to the Russo-Japanese war.) Not necessarily that we’d go to war with them again, but we’re the rapidly modernizing regional power that’s gone from zero to mounting a respectable challenge incredibly fast.

            (They even include an analog of the Washington Naval Treaty, the Treaty of Farixen, limiting us to one warship to every five the turians– which, like the Japanese in the twentieth century, led us to route around the limits by relying on carriers instead.)

            The asari and the salarians rely more on diplomacy and smaller, more concentrated forces: asari commandos and the STG, rather than mass armies and fleets. The turians were brought into partnership specifically to be the Citadel’s muscle, and have served that role since the Krogan Rebellions. (Fleet actions are invoked by Kirrahe as part of the salarians’ history, not their current practice.) And there are hints throughout the first game that the older species’ support of our rise (like voting to make Shepard a Spectre) is in part intentionally to be counterweight to the turians.

            None of which necessarily matters when it comes to the Reapers. But our space forces in Sol system (and at our main base at Arcturus) lose to the Reapers on day one. We just keep a guerilla action going because they don’t want to glass the place. The turians are the only ones who really manage to slow them down, possibly with krogan assistance.

            (We don’t know if the asari manage to maintain a comparable resistance, because we don’t check in with the planet after Thessia falls. And Sur’Kesh isn’t attacked during the game as far as I recall.)

          3. MetalSeagull says:

            I think they could have sold “lets unite to save Earth” if they hadn’t tried to hook interest at the beginning of ME3 by having reapers attack Earth. Instead, have then closing in toward Earth, attacking the other civilizations’ planets one by one. You could experience that happening as you navigate the galaxy. Trying to save the one occupied planet that’s still intact makes way more sense than trying to pry one particular planet back from Reaper control.

      2. poiumty says:

        Because Shepard. He killed Harbinger at the end of Mass Effect 1 and the reapers saw how pro he was through Saren.

        Not the best explanation, but it’s workable.

      3. Jakob says:

        My reasoning is this: Reapers have had +1000 years to study and understand the other species. How their society functions, how their biology is, how their military operates. The reapers seems to favor planning for a long time, before they strike. But they have only had around 30 years to get a sense of how the humans operate. Since no military likes suprises, they simply attempt to neutralize their largest unknown, hence the massive pressence at Earth.

        Once they learn that the citadel races have built a giant “Kill all Reapers” gun and this guns only has to be hooked up to the citadel to be completed, they naturally want to protect it. Hence, take the citadel under heavy guard, which means at earth since it has the largest reaper fleet prensent.

        How ever, I can’t understand why the just don’t shut down the relay network once they have the citadel. Bam, the reapers now have all the time they want.

      4. Tom says:

        Whoever took that writing decision clearly wasn’t familiar with how traditional science fiction actually works. Any of the great authors from the Golden Age, (although, harking back to space operas and the pulp era, Mass Effect might technically predate the golden age in style and tone, which would explain a lot) Asimov for example, would have made the insignificance of humans an interesting virtue, rather than rejecting it because it’s unflattering and doesn’t stroke our collective ego. If the reapers weren’t as interested in us as in the other more galactically established races, that at least gives us comparative stealth, more time to plan (easily explaining away Earth’s survival while Shepard is off visiting other dying homeworlds), and a bunch of other advantages.

        Suppose even that the final battle was valiant but lost, the reaper cycle completed, and when the dust clears and the reapers vanish without trace, several entire galactic civilisations have been wiped out all but for a few pockets of refugees and what precious shreds of their culture and history they carry with them *but* the human worlds and a few others (Krogan, Vorcha, Yahg, etc) were still standing, because for all our much vaunted development, and the arrogance with which we assumed we would be targeted despite knowing all along that only species above a certain level get reaped, we’re still a bunch of primitives, children on the galactic stage. If you want an “artistic” ending, not necessarily a happy one, or a Pyrric victory, one of the sort you might expect from, say, Lem or the Strugatskys, or at least something you could get a decent Kirk or Picard closing speech out of, there’s just one possible option.

        (This would at least be entirely in keeping with the plot of ME1 – even when Sovereign attacks a human colony right at the start of the game, it has no interest whatsoever in the humans that happen to be there, just the artifact they unwittingly dug up.)

    3. Shamus says:

      You’re missing the point of the list. These are all points where someone was ejected from the story. If I didn’t list them, then someone else would jump in with “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DIDN’T LIST X!”

      1. ehlijen says:

        I can’t believe you didn’t list “Gunning down innocent civilians isn’t Cerberus’s usual MO…”


        But yeah, everyone’s capacity to suspend disbelief is different, so everyone will be ejected from the story at a different point, some not even at all.

        But it is a long list of the writers displaying clear lack of understanding of what they’re writing and what the problems with their work so far are.

        That is, incidentally, why I loved the Citadel DLC so much. It was even stupider than the rest of ME3, but the writers finally showed awareness of their shortcomings and had a laugh at their own expense. To me it felt like an apology for ME3, and one I was willing to accept (though it didn’t make ME3 good or me interested in ME4).

        1. Hitch says:

          My favorite is “Every encounter we ever had with Cerberus was just a ‘rogue cell.'”

        2. Not that I’d devote time to it, but maybe it’s possible to play a game where Cerberus mowing down civilians isn’t their usual M.O.:

          1. Could you avoid any sidequests in ME1 and/or 2 that add to Cerberus’ evil reputation? I wonder if that’s possible to do and still finish the game, where all you saw was Cerberus being hired mercs (by Udina) or misguided science teams.

          2. I’d have to check, but maybe mowing down civilians isn’t their M.O. because they’re too busy blowing them up and/or turning them into monsters. :)

          1. Mike S. says:

            It’s pretty possible. I did d a Paragon pro-Cerberus playthrough like that– Shepard never had a chance to follow up the Cerberus clues in ME1, so knows only that it’s got a bad rep. (And as far as I know, Admiral Kahoku stayed on the phone in the Citadel tower till the geth showed up.)

            Shepard then took what he was told by the SR-2 crew at face value, accepted that TIM is ruthless but basically has humanity’s interest at heart. (Not unlike the Alliance, which sent the Virmire survivor to paint a target on Horizon without providing any backup.) Shepard never got around to the sidequests that reveal Cerberus’s sinister side, and of course let TIM the Collector base.

            (Oddly, even Miranda shows concern about that, despite the fact that Shepard gave her no real reason for her to move beyond basic Cerberus cheerleader mode.)

            Then, as counterpoint, I played a Sole Survivor who learned what Cerberus did to his unit in ME1, and never forgave anyone who voluntarily signed up with Cerberus. (Karin Chakwas, how could you?!?)

            The only member of the Normandy crew to survive that ME2 playthrough was Joker, and that only because the game gives no choice. (Leather seats, Joker? Seriously?)

      2. Michael R. says:

        Oh, that makes more sense. Sorry. (Not sarcasm)

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Any story will collapse if you do that.”

      No,it wont.A plot hole doesnt have to destroy your story.For example,lets take one of the most famos plot holes in citizen kane.It doesnt ruin that stroy because…actually,let me just link this explanation instead of repeating it.

  7. poiumty says:

    Re: where the series fell apart for me, I’ll go with #18. I’m one of those people who liked ME2 way more than they liked ME1, and liked ME3 about as much as they liked 2. I never really liked the universe itself, thought it was boring and the aliens were too humanified (seriously, did Asari also evolve from apes?). I think the worst offender was Alvina’s large amount of boring exposition back in ME1. That’s probably where the series “fell apart” for me, only to pick itself back up when they dealt with all the superfluous and tiresome mechanics of 1 and threw them out of the window for ME2.

    The Starchild was, however, too strong of a ripple in the writing pool. And everything that followed, of course. They could never fix the ending because retconning isn’t seen as good practice, so the extended DLC was about as much as they could do.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      About the same point for me, though I wouldn’t say I was disinterested in the world at large. I guess I wasn’t so crazy about it as some people (I left the codex woefully untouched, after all) but I did enjoy going through all available dialog and learning about individuals I came across.

      I think ultimately I glossed over a lot of plot holes because they weren’t that important to the experience for me. Heck, I even went through the ending the first time halfway okay (though I couldn’t say I liked it at the time either). It was only on looking back that I can see all the problems (and properly see why the ending was so flawed).

      But then, I suspect it’s not difficult for me to get and stay immersed sometimes.

    2. aldowyn says:

      18’s pretty much the point where I went ‘so THIS is what everyone hates’. And I also hated it. it’s.. better now, between the Extended Cut and Leviathan, but the starchild is still the absolute worst thing.

  8. One thing that frustrates me about this discussion is when people frame it as, “Well, yeah, action game fans might like Mass Effect 2, but those weren’t the original fans of the series.”

    I played Mass Effect 1 when it came out in 2007. I liked it a lot. I liked the story enough to forgive the bad gunplay and worse driving. I was really wrapped up in the stories of Shepard and his crewmates and I was ready to continue the series.

    Then Mass Effect 2 came along, and I liked it much, much more. I liked the characters more, I liked the gameplay more, and I liked the presentation more. It felt like a much better game in nearly every respect.

    When you assert that fans of Mass Effect 2 probably didn’t play the first or hated it, that bugs me because I liked the first, and I thought they improved upon it a lot in its sequel.

    When did the series fall apart for me? It fell apart when my brother sold his 360 and I lost my files for Mass Effect 1 and 2. This meant that to play 3 properly I’d have to go back and replay the first two games again to have fresh save files, and I couldn’t stand Mass Effect 1 anymore. It was that bad in retrospect. That’s why I never played 3, even though I wanted to and still want to.

    1. Kian says:

      If you are still interested, there are plenty of sites in the internet where you can download saves for ME3 (also for ME2). You just go there, select the choices you made, love interest, etc, and get the file that matches. Or get a save editor and make the save yourself.

      One such site: http://masseffect2saves.com/

      Probably easier to do import them on PC than console. Just thought it might help.

      1. aldowyn says:

        I think even the console versions you should be able to get the DLC that they made for the PS3 version of ME2 that lets you pick options from ME1 in playing ME2. And most of the important decisions as far as ME3 is concerned happen in ME1. (Mostly in Tali, Mordin, and maybe Legion’s loyalty missions)

        I am also in the camp of preferring ME2 to ME1, although not to the extent that I ‘can’t stand’ ME1. Roughly once a year (sometimes twice) I play through the entire series.

    2. So you thought (like me) that the series improved from ME to ME2, and others (like Shamus, I am guessing) thought that it was getting worse. So you are essentially coming to the discussion from opposite points of view, thus making said discussion confusing, which I think is kinds the point that Shamus is making.

      In any case, don’t let the lack of saves stop you from playing ME3. As it turns out, those ‘decisions’ you thought you were making in ME 1&2 actually amounted to very little in the grand scheme of things…

      1. Michael R. says:

        Well, the only way you can save both the geth and the quarians is if you made the proper choices in the second game, so they do have some impact. The war assets also change significantly depending on your previous choices.
        Personally, I found the war asset system interesting. Instead of designing the hundreds of permutations created by choices in previous games, the developers abstracted down in order to make it easier. IMO, it’s a good compromise. All the choices still have some impact, even if its impersonal.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “When you assert that fans of Mass Effect 2 probably didn't play the first or hated it, that bugs me because I liked the first, and I thought they improved upon it a lot in its sequel.”

      Yeah,but you dont count,because you have already established that you hate old things.

      Joking aside,I somewhat agree with you.Yes,the gameplay overall improved in 2.But,that doesnt mean it was better on all accounts(the awesome button,for example).The characters in 2 were solid overall.But,that doesnt mean that all of them were better(ashley bitch,for example).The main story took a nose die.But,that doesnt mean it was worse on all…Hmmm…Ok,maybe it was.

      Wait,wait,I said joking aside.Anyway,my point is that it took some steps forward and some steps backwards.As for which of the two was more prevalent,that depends on which part of the game you cared most for.

      1. evileeyore says:

        I too felt that the gameplay, some of the party interactions, and the plots improved in 2.

        What fell apart for me in 2 were the whole Cerberus nonsense and the lack of Wrex. My FemShep and Wrex had developed a serious bromance in ME1 and to lose him in 2 ensaddened me. In fact I was so ensadded that I spent 75% of the game not wanting to play with Cousin Oliver… err Grunt on the team and only spoke with him because I felt I “had to” for story’s sake.

        Indeed I was actually so bloody impressed by the Lair of the Shadowlord dlc (and the way my combat radically altered and the game seemed to adjust to it (little did I know I was just finally playing the Sentinel “properly”)) that was almost completely willing to overlook the terrible Cerberus nonsense.

        Then 3 happened. Yeah, the Cerebus nonsense was nonsense and shall never be forgiven.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          – Shepard.
          – Wrex.
          – Grunt.

    4. Zekiel says:

      I’m sorta in your camp. Kinda liked ME1. *Loved* ME2. It’s still one of my favourite games. Thing is, almost everything Shamus lists as problems with ME2 I completely agree with. About-face for Cerberus. Random tangent to established main stop-the-Reapers-returning plot. Unintelligible overall plan for actually dealing with Collectors. Stupid final decision.

      But I loved it because Bioware finally built a game that completely revolved around my favourite part of all their previous games – recruiting party members and then interacting them. That’s what 75% of the game is. (Depending how much planet scanning and optional missions you do of course)

      And they did that well cutting away a lot of the cruft that I found really tiresome in ME1 (shopping with a stupid shopping interface being a major offender) AND making the combat a lot, lot better.

      When did the Mass Effect trilogy jump the shark for me? Probably actually right at the end. I didn’t even see the original ending, just the improved one, but it was still stupid.

      1. Mike S. says:

        I loved them all, and it wasn’t a result of any distance between the games. I bought ME1 on sale when ME2 was getting great reviews, played it, and liked it so much that I played it through again immediately. Then I bought ME2 (which I’d been planning to wait to drop in price) and thought it was great.

        There were all sorts of ME2 choices I didn’t like, from the forced Cerberus recruitment to the walking back of much of the end of ME1 (remember when the Council and Earth were united on facing the Reaper threat?). But they weren’t dealbreakers.

        And sure, the final boss was silly. But it was silly in a way I’d accepted from the first game: no matter how large the scale of events, the critical action will somehow depend on one super-soldier, plus two and only two of her nearly as awesome friends. So in Mass Effect 1, it makes no sense that the result of fighting teleoperated Saren (who also looked pretty silly, hopping from wall to wall like a hyperactive insect) affects the outcome of the space battle, but it does. In Mass Effect 2, the idea that a proto-Reaper is just active and dangerous enough to provide a boss fight rather than being inert or overwhelming is convenient, and the look and feel isn’t what I’d have liked, but I still found it a tense fight that I felt triumph and relief when I won.

        And while I disliked the substance of the ME3 ending, I was actually impressed and pleased when I realized that it wasn’t going to be an arbitrary standard boss fight. They didn’t make the right choices overall, not by a longshot. But the basic idea of not hinging the resolution of the enemy with a billion year perfect win-loss record on Shepard’s personal fighting skills was an unexpectedly good starting point.

        1. aldowyn says:

          that’s a good point about ME3 not having a boss fight at the end.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            It would have been “too videogamey.” :D

            Personally, and with the obvious benefit of hindsight, I’d have taken a QTE where you shove an omniblade right into Harbinger’s face over what we did get! :p

            1. aldowyn says:

              I actually kind of liked the QTE finishing off Kai Leng. ‘This is for Thane’ kind of thing :D

              1. MichaelGC says:

                Aye, that worked fine for me too. I’ll admit to barely noticing Kai Leng during my first (and only) playthrough. For me he just meant Thane didn’t die of some illness, nor whilst acting as someone else’s “knife.”

  9. James says:

    Oh I had problems with 2 but it really fell apart at the terminator boss. It wasn’t intimidating, it didn’t make sense, and was just kinda weird. I mean I literally spent most of the fight laughing my ass off and making Schwarzenegger movie quotes. Did no one else who play-tested that boss think “god this is silly”.
    As for 3 the moment it started to fall apart was Kai Leng and his bullshit plot contrivance abilities. I managed to keep playing to the end if only because I really did love most of the characters (seriously Bioware keep the writers for the characters, the guys who made the plots though, they can go).
    Finally we get to the ending. It ruined the entire franchise for me. I can not get excited for any games set in this universe past present or future useless they retcon that sucker somehow.

    1. Rob says:

      3 fell apart with Kai Leng for me as well. Which is weird, because it’s Bioware, writing a cyborg ninja. How the hell did they manage to make him the least interesting character in the entire trilogy?

      His boss fight at Thessia was atrociously handled. I played a damage-specced Infiltrator, and due to my rifle’s time dilation effect I was one-shotting Kai Leng literally within a fraction of a second of his bullshit invincibility expiring, only for the final cutscene to trigger and make Shepard heroically snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

      That marked the point where I lost interest in the game. I’ve never seen a more blatant override of player actions in my life, and it’s especially unforgivable in a series based around player choice.

      1. Taellosse says:

        That’s because Kai Leng has never been a character. Seriously, he’s not, at all. From his first introduction to every appearance he makes in ME3 (I don’t know how he’s portrayed in the Foundation comics – haven’t read those, but that’s absolutely all he is in Retribution and from what I understand in Deception -as bad as it is in every other way – as well), he’s a plot contrivance and nothing more – Mac Walters’ personal crutch.

        1. swenson says:

          Kai Leng is just so boring. There is literally nothing interesting about him at all. He’s supposed to be a major villain and he barely even passes the Sexy Lamp test.

          1. Kian says:

            I never hated Kai Leng. I played a damage specced infiltrator as well, packing a black widow, and the fight on Thessia was probably the easiest fight in the game. Fight starts, headshot, he goes to recharge. Repeat three times. I felt sorry that he had this massive inferiority complex, and annoyed that the writers wanted me to think he was awesome so badly. And his design was stupid. Those goggles just look so silly! And that ponytail? And I’m supposed to take him seriously?

      2. ehlijen says:

        How does one manage to make [cool word] [other cool word] boring?

        Easy. By relying on only those attributes to carry the whole thing without actually adding anything that engages the audience.

        A cyborg ninja isn’t cool or interesting. He needs to do something cool or interesting. If you start with the right concept it may be easier, but it is never a replacement for actual creative effort.

    2. Vermander says:

      Kai Leng wasn’t a game breaker for me like he was for most people, but his presence in the game made me realize that games need to move beyond the concept of “boss fights”. I feel like designers are forced to come up with increasing implausible reasons why you can’t kill a particular person by shooting or stabbing them in the face (including the ridiculous “this guy did a ton of drugs so he doesn’t feel pain!”). I’m totally alright with killing the big bad in a cut scene after battling my way through waves of his minions.

      Also, they really messed with the structure and hierarchy of Cerberus between ME2 and 3. I know she’s not the most popular character around these parts, but I feel like Miranda should have played a bigger part in ME3. To me, she seemed like one of the Illusive man’s most competent and valuable lieutenants. Her father could have played a bigger role as well, I always imagined him as one of the organizations major financers. Having all the characters be killable in ME2 was a mistake.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        I think it’s less about removing boss fights and more about either A) designing them better or B) knowing when or when not to have them. Also with a dash of understanding WHY we have boss fights in the first place.

        1. krellen says:

          No, first you start by removing the boss fights altogether, to cleanse the industry of this idea that boss fights are some golden goose that must exist. Only after that can you begin to reintroduce the idea in appropriate places, because they aren’t going to learn if you give them the leeway to remain unchanged.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            No need for scorched earth policies,really.We already have games with no boss fights and games with good boss fights,so some people get it.Just give money to them instead of these guys.

          2. syal says:

            Probably best to tie that in with the year of no physical combat, crafting systems or leveling mechanics in games, that we’ll be doing for the same reason.

          3. Taellosse says:

            Right, and you do that how, exactly?

            1. krellen says:

              Tear down the whole industry and start from scratch, because fuck what we have now.

      2. aldowyn says:

        That last point is a big one, and I’d have to say I agree. The deaths in ME3 were all for a very deliberate reason, and it hits a lot harder than ‘oh no I sent the wrong person through the vent and then they got shot, oops’ (garrus….)

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Nothing in any game has hit me harder than Mordin dying because I left him holding the line.

          Actually, that’s not true. Nothing’s hit me harder than walking into his laboratory after completing the mission. His empty laboratory…

          What? No, I’m fine – just something in my eye.

          So actually you’re completely right! Carry on; sorry.

          1. aldowyn says:

            those empty spots are pretty powerful sometimes :D

        2. krellen says:

          I picked Jack to lead the fire team because I clicked wrong, and there was no “oops, go back” option. (I’d meant to pick Jacob.) So Jack died because the game’s UI was designed by a moron.

  10. Gabriel Mobius says:

    #2 for me, cap’n.

    I actually had a massive argument with two of my friends about why everything after Mass Effect 1 fell apart, and it was pretty close to pulling teeth. The worst part is that it got so bad that it didn’t stop, not even after explaining to them how losing trust in a writer and plot collapse can ruin a game for me. After that point the conversation switched to ‘why Mass Effect 2 and 3 are objectively good and you are wrong’, and that’s never a direction you want to take a discussion with friends.

  11. Wilcroft says:

    IMHO, I consider the “end” of ME3 to be when Shep and Anderson lie dying on the Crucible. Alternatively, the “Rejection” ending that was added in the Extended Cut also works well, where the Reapers are defeated by the next generation, using what you’ve learned in the series via Liara’s time capsule thing. (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it on YouTube).

    Yes, both of the leave the fates of the characters somewhat unresolved, but it ignores the whole “choice” issue. Additionally, a bunch of the missions do serve as goodbyes for the characters (Mordin, Garrus) so if you wanted to, you could get your chance to say goodbye.

    1. swenson says:

      Yeah. If I ever replay ME3 (and I do, on rare occasions), I end the game at that point. It’s a good ending! It’s a nice one. Bittersweet, which is fine by me. I just pretend the last ten minutes don’t happen.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I have to say I like this point – I remember someone else saying that if you switch off the game after Shepard and Anderson lie dying then you get to miss the entire stupid Star Child bit and it makes a reasonably good ending.

      Choosing the Rejection ending just seems a bit annoying though – you still have to go through all the nonsense with the Star Child that makes me want to shout at the screen. :-(

      1. Mike S. says:

        I ran into the Rejection ending entirely unwarned and by accident, after playing straight through till 2AM: inspired by Tasteful Understated Nerdrage, I’d fallen into the habit of shooting at the Catalyst hologram before heading off to make a choice, which triggers the Harbinger-voiced “So be it.” I can testify that it has a huge impact under those circumstances. :-)

        I then reloaded and had that Shepard choose the green ending, as she had in the pre-Extended Cut playthrough. And I actually like her having a Lady or the Tiger dual outcome like that. She was my most Paragon Shepard, and the two endings represent the question of whether the most important element was that she not compromise her morals (whether by making common cause with mass murderers to the Nth power, or sacrificing her loyal allies to destroy them), even if it means that we follow the Protheans in sacrificing our whole civilization to ensure that unknown future others have better choices; or that she takes a leap of faith against all reason, like the stainless hero she is, to create a utopian future in which nobody else dies.

        1. aldowyn says:

          I really dislike synthesis. it’s just too creepy.

          Anyways, I don’t think the *concept* of the trinary choice is totally flawed, but the execution was completely botched.

          1. Mike S. says:

            I agree re synthesis. I took it first time through since it was being obviously presented as the Best Option, but the more I think about it the more offensive it strikes me to make that choice for every living thing in the galaxy.

            (That’s separate from the fact that even given the magic space tech previously established, the idea that it’s possible disintegrates my disbelief threshold as it passes through at relativistic speeds. There’s measurable-speed FTL and strong AI and dark energy and element zero… and then there’s “instantaneously transform everything at once”. It’s likewise distinct from trusting a galactic-scale serial speciescide who operates through mind control on, well, anything.)

            1. aldowyn says:

              My impression was that it wasn’t ‘at once’. It was at light speed and through the relay system. Still space magic though.

          2. Zekiel says:

            Absolutely agree. Synthesis is both offensively stupid AND disturbingly creepy. And its apparently the “best” ending. Well done Bioware.

  12. Vermander says:

    Unlike many other readers of this site I actually liked Mass Effect 2 more than the first one, so for me the problems started very late. I was annoyed that Cerberus switched back to being full on enemies of Shepherd in game 3 (I justified working for them as an “enemy of my enemy” type thing) and I disliked how most of the cast of ME2 was relegated to supporting roles in 3 (the “anyone can die” thing seemed like a bad design decision in hindsight), but I was willing to overlook that.

    It was the whole Star Child thing that ruined the final game for me. It had never occurred to me that the nature of organic vs. synthetic life was the “theme” of the games. To me it was the saga of Shepherd, ultra-badass superhero and his merry band of alien rogues. I was okay with Shepherd dying, but I hated how the final minutes played out, and how little impact our choices had on the final outcome.

    I should add that even though I was angry about the ending of Mass Effect it certainly didn’t “ruin” Bioware for me. I still love their games, and I don’t know of any other game studio that does a better job of creating characters that I actually liked spending time with.

    I loved the Citadel DLC and I wish future Bioware games would follow that model. Just let me hang out and have adventures with my awesome alien friends and don’t make me pretend to care about any central conflict between synthetics and organics or mages and templars or whatever.

    1. LassLisa says:

      This is the same problem my partner had when he played through it (just finished last week). There are two different stories being told, one in the ‘story’ and one in the gameplay. And in the gameplay, no matter how much they hype up the impossible choices and trade-offs and say you can’t have everything you want, if you do everything perfectly you actually can. (The one exception is choosing between Ashley and Kaidan back in game 1, and… it’s been a while since then).

      “Will you save the Geth or the Quarians?” “I’ll persuade them to give peace a chance, and it will work out terrifically, because I’m Commander Shepard.”

      “This is a suicide mission!” “No, I know my people’s skills and they are tremendously loyal. We will all survive this mission and it will go flawlessly, because I’m Commander Shepard.”

      And then the final choice – “Which of these really depressing outcomes do you want?” “I’ll snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, because I’m Commander Shepard!” “No. You can’t. Pick one of the ones I said.”

      It’s very jarring. Especially coming out of the Citadel DLC, which was light and charming and sweet.

      The extended cut makes it a lot better in some ways, compared to the original (the relays don’t look like they explode, just damaged; it shows that interstellar transport must have been reestablished because Wrex is home; it shows some of the effects of your choices; your crew takes off from the planet rather than being crash-landed). So it at least looks like you’ve succeeded in saving something. But it was still a major downer and not the triumphant victory that he had expected for the end of the series.

      1. Mike S. says:

        In particular:

        In Mass Effect, Shepard converses with an incalculably ancient, powerful being, who explains the inevitable future that awaits the peoples of Citadel space. Shepard spits in its eye, undertakes an impossible mission, and teaches it a few things about inevitability.

        In Mass Effect 2, Shepard is repeatedly taunted by an incalculably ancient, powerful being, who explains the inevitable future that awaits the peoples of Citadel space. Shepard spits in its eye, undertakes an impossible mission, and teaches it a few things about inevitability.

        So at the end of Mass Effect 3, Shepard encounters an incalculably ancient, powerful being, who explains the inevitable future that awaits the peoples of Citadel space. And Shepard… takes his word for it. Wait, what?

      2. Ranamar says:

        I *think* that the synthesis option was *supposed* to be the win against the impossible choice… except that it’s an option granted by the star child, so nope. In the end, I guess that leaves “The cycle continues.”

        In the defense of the ending’s themes, the question of organics and synthetics had been, IMO, a running undertone in the entire series. Brokering a peace deal between the Geth and the Quarrians honestly felt to me like one of the biggest wins in Mass Effect 3, at least for me.

        On the other hand, at the end, you meet the Star Child, and he’s like, “I, a synthetic intelligence, was created to figure out how to get organic and synthetic sapients to get along, but I couldn’t figure it out, so I reverted to type and killed them all LOL” That was utterly infuriating for me and did a huge amount of damage to the fact that I had been greatly enjoying that they fixed a lot of the reasons I thought Mass Effect 2 (particularly the shooting and equipment, actually) was worse than the original.

  13. 1. was when I gave up. When it “fell apart” for me was actually in the middle of the first game during the quest on the Citadel where the computer becomes sentient and demands transportation or it’s going to blow itself up. That quest really drove home for me how stupid and arbitrary the whole “organics v. synthetics” line of the plot was. I can deal with a single dumb plot line, but it was like a big warning flag of “their treatment of the Reapers is going to be stupid, because it’s founded on a poorly-thought-out construct that is also stupid”.

    Then came ME2 starting with the Resurrection of Shepard, Space Jesus. And I was like, no, this ain’t happening.

    1. Rob says:

      Mass Effect 1 treated artificial intelligence terribly. I don’t remember a single non-malevolent AI in the entire game (remember, the whole “Geth are actually peaceful and willing to negotiate, you’ve just been fighting a rogue cell” was a retcon for 2).

      That said, the sidequest you mentioned actually makes sense in-universe. The AI ban is one of the most important and strictly enforced parts of Citadel law, right up there with the ban on activating dormant mass relays.

      A new AI (stuck in an immobile body no less) would quickly realize upon hooking into the Extranet that, given the ban and prejudice against AIs due to the Geth uprising, there’s absolutely no way they would survive their inevitable exposure. I could easily see a cornered and desperate sentient being taking hostages to secure their escape. It happens often enough in real life, after all.

      1. Kian says:

        Regarding the Geth, I didn’t see it as much of a retcon. Tali herself tells you that the war started when the Quarians decided that the Geth being intelligent would probably lead to an uprising, seeing how they were being used, and decided to deactivate them (instead of say, extending some kind of right to them? They were losing their labor force either way). She also says that the Geth just want to be left alone, that they never chased after the Quarians after expelling them.

        So the Geth leaving the Veil and attacking was already out of character for them in the original. They probably changed a few things as development progressed in 2, but I don’t think it was a straight up retcon.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Extending rights to the geth is a really hard choice given the series background.

          1) The geth being AIs at all is hugely illegal in the first place, and acknowledging that is probably equivalent to a non-Great Power already on thin ice openly admitting to building nukes. (And giving the geth autonomy is like selling the nukes to a broker– you may not have bombed anyone, but you don’t know where they’ll end up or what they’ll do, and you’re responsible for that.)

          2) The reason AI is hugely illegal is, by strong implication, that they always become dangerous or inimical. Now, this could well be a chicken-and-egg problem where it’s the result of them always being ill-treated. But are you willing to bet your entire civilization on that, and on the geth being forgiving of their slavery up to this point?

          Suddenly realizing that your toaster and your Roomba and the smoke detector and the car are self-willed, might have reason to resent you, and are fully capable of choosing to hurt you if they wished would tend to make one understandably paranoid. One option is denial, and another is to recognize the injustice but not be willing to die for it just yet.

          3) While the geth talk a good game about being more sinned against than sinning, the very first thing they do on rebelling is kill everyone on a planet. We’re told later that anyone who got to space was deliberately spared. But even that’s true, that’s a lot of schools and nursing homes and amusement parks full of quarians who mysteriously didn’t survive. (Legion’s propaganda video in ME3 indicates that’s because they just wouldn’t stop fighting till they were all dead– and that there were geth sympathizers, but the anti-geth quarians managed to kill every single one. But really? Even the kids? All the adults, even after they’d already taken incalculable losses? The extinction of a planetary population isn’t something that just happens.) The fate of Rannoch suggests that the quarians weren’t wrong to be terrified of the possible outcome.

          My sympathy is still largely with the geth, who didn’t ask to be created, whom the quarians continued to try to enslave at every opportunity, and who at least in the later games really seemed to want peaceful coexistence. But I can also see how the quarians would come to make the choices they did.

          1. Kian says:

            Granting the Geth rights would have been a difficult choice to make. They went with deactivation because they thought they could get away with it and it would be less trouble for them. I’m just saying, the Geth weren’t given the chance to rebel.

            How the war progressed is a matter that isn’t detailed, nor is how they lost all their colonies as well. Or why there aren’t Quarians that had emigrated to non-Quarian colonies before the war who should have retained a stronger immune system and thus could still walk without a mask.

            We don’t really know how many Quarians were alive initially, or how many managed to evacuate, and how they reached their current seventeen million number at the start of ME. Although their policy of one child per family would imply that they halve their population every generation (it would take two children per family to remain stable). Even if they relax the rule every so often, the rule itself means there are fewer Quarians now than when they escaped.

            Once they saw how the war was going, I would have expected the Quarians to evacuate non-combatants. I doubt the other races unanimously chose to refuse to harbor refugees. Even if they shut down the Quarian embassy, there would have been humanitarian aid. Over time all those refugees might have been brought back to the fleet, perhaps as their one child policy opened up space in the flotilla? Until you reach the current state of affairs.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      A ban on AIs doesn’t seem so weird to me, especially not after listening to this:

      I actually think the guy in the interview is wrong because the first thing people will do with AIs as soon as possible will be letting them make business decisions. They’ll run companies (possibly governments too?) even before they become superhuman, so they’ll pretty much be in charge from day one, except if AIs either never become as good as one might imagine or there are some pretty strict rules governing their use.
      — but the point still stands: AI that is superhuman in every aspect would spell desaster for mankind.
      (I haven’t got the details of the ME1 story in my head anymore though, so maybe there’s some other sillyness?

      1. Kian says:

        Well, AI already runs stock markets. It’s just not self-aware AI.

        I doubt sapient AI will ever exist outside of a lab. There’s just no practical application for it. Now, systems that can interact with the environment and make decisions, sure. But they don’t need to have opinions to do that, and I don’t think you could make an AI by accident. That’s just a crutch sci-fi uses, like an industrial accident granting people super powers and not chemical burns.

        1. Mike S. says:

          The lack of practical applications just slows things down, assuming it’s possible. People will try to create it because it would be an impressive thing to achieve, or to study some aspect of how human brains work, or just because it’s cool. For comparison, the first self-replicating computer worms didn’t have any practical use either; they were a proof of concept. Which unintentionally created problems, despite the maker having no particular expectation of gain or intent to do damage.

          (I was on one of the affected campuses at the time. It was, as far as I recall, the first time I saw the Internet mentioned by anyone other than the people I was on it with, and certainly the first newspaper reference I’d seen.)

          1. Funny this should come up now. From what I’ve gathered, the way A.I. could truly go “wrong” is by being what we’d call (in a human) relentless. This video kind of goes into that (and is frightening for the future of just being a human), Humans Need Not Apply.

            The stock market is a good example. We have bots (if you want to call that rudimentary A.I.) that know how to trade stocks and have done so by “learning” from other bots who are also largely self-taught. The result is non-humans trading to maximize profits via trillions of micro-trades. It’s like Richard Pryor in Superman III getting rich by grabbing all the 1/2 cents on the ends of some fiscal transactions. The sheer volume of trades done by computers makes this feasible (though it’s also a bit of a problem for the markets).

            These A.I.’s aren’t trading based on how much they like a company, how good its owners are, what products or services it offers, or anything else that most people would value in a corporate entity. They’re trading purely based on their initial instructions and will continue to do so for as long as they can. One can see the effect this has already had, in that whole firms rely on these automated trading programs. It can be argued that this also reduces actual investment for the reasons one usually invests (though opportunism in humans obviously still happens). It could be the case that someday this is the basis for nearly all trading. Corporations would have to appeal to the programs and their trading algorithms if they wanted investment dollars, and that “appeal” will probably have to be created by other algorithms. It’s kind of hard to see where humans would actually come into the decision-making process at some point.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              Yikes. You’re not wrong. I think this calls for a relevant xkcd:


  14. TMTVL says:

    I saw the completely different aesthetics for ME2 and basically went “welp, this is a different series now”.

    That being said, I loved ME1, including the gameplay (finally, a shooter where I don’t have to ration ammo), and tolerated ME2, but I didn’t get ME3 because I wanted ME1 the series, not ME2 the series.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      On the ammo bit – I also like games that don’t limit ammo much, but the problem I had in ME1 was that stuff had so much health to compensate (I guess). As much as managing thermal clips in 2 was annoying, at least shooting stuff felt a heck of a lot better (things are actually dying!).

      Could just be a design thing, though. I don’t see why they couldn’t have unlimited ammo with squishier enemies, provided it’s designed well enough. I also wonder if some of my problems with ME1’s combat came from lack of observable response to shooting things (half the time, you couldn’t see the targets well).

      But then, I still did like ME1’s gameplay.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Although I don’t remember it being too bad on Normal, that was a huge problem on higher difficulties.

        It seemed like the designers didn’t really know how to make enemies more challenging on higher difficulties other than giving them more health and immunities, and making them deal more damage. This is a solution that scales really, really poorly.

        In ME1, my main character was a soldier. By the time I was at max level, with the best armor, upgrades, and skill ranks, I was practically immortal. With Immunity activated, even on Insanity difficulty, I don’t think there was any fight in the game short of a Colossus that could out-damage my health regeneration.

        But at the same time, even though all of my weapons were top-ranked Master Spectre weapons with perfect mods, and max skill ranks in them, killing even basic enemies still took absolutely forever.

        This would lead to ridiculous, in which I would run out into the middle of an encounter, oblivious to enemy gunfire, and shotgun some dumb mook enemy directly in the face. The physical force is so high that he’s flung across the room, but the shot only actually takes off about a fifth of his health. So, I chase his flailing body across the room, and fire off another one, and the process starts over. So every single encounter becomes the spectacle of an escadrille of terrified spectators pouring an infinite stream of bullets and rockets into an invincible golfer, as he drives their screaming counterparts all over the fairway, one at a time, until the encounter is finally concluded.

        Then you go into the next room and it starts all over again.

        1. Kian says:

          I don’t remember it being so bad, even on Insanity. Played an infiltrator, though, and by the end I think my rifle caused more damage than the Mako’s cannon, and could fire continuously.

        2. krellen says:

          Something I think very few people realised was that Mass Effect 1’s “Insanity” difficulty was never intended to be played on your first playthrough (seriously, what the hell is with gamers and this need to play on the hardest difficulty all the time?) Insanity was designed and intended to be the “New Game+” mode – import your level 50 Shepard, turn the difficulty up to Insanity, and enjoy a well-balanced game and XP awards that will get you to level 60.

          You weren’t supposed to play Mass Effect only once.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            He did say at max level.Besides,you cant even access insanity in 1 without beating the game at least once before.

            1. The Rocketeer says:

              Yeah, man, I only played through Insanity after I was already as strong as you can become, which was the point: even if you’re basically an unkillable demigod, Insanity takes forever to slog through because of how poorly the scaling works.

              1. aldowyn says:

                I’ve never played Insanity, but I’ve played the next one down and I don’t recall it being THAT much of a slog. Hmm. I’ll have to pay attention next time.

                1. The Rocketeer says:

                  Well, it’s been a long time now, so I might just be remembering the parts of the game that were worst about this.

                  Or it might be that, when you can’t actually lose because you’re Wolverine AND Colossus, every enemy is a waste of your time, regardless of how long they take to die.

                  Fighting Colossi on foot was always fun, though, just for novelty. And I had a bizarre trigger regarding Geth Primes: whenever I saw one, I would abandon all reason, sprint up to it, and attempt to melee it to death. This… didn’t always work out. But when you manage to bash a pearly-white three meter killbot to the ground and stomp it into circuits, that lets the other robots know who’s boss. I don’t remember ever trying to melee a colossus to death, but I think they knock you over if you touch them, and if not, they just have way, way, way too much health.

          2. Kian says:

            Obviously, you play in Insanity because there’s an achievement for beating the game in Insanity :P

        3. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Um,how was that better in 2?On insanity you need two stealthed headshots with boosted ammo to take down a single husk.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            I don’t remember how 2 was. I know I played it on the highest difficulty, but I also thought the enemies had way too much health on Normal difficulty. Which I guess supports my idea that the devs don’t really know how to make combat more difficult except to bulk up health, damage, and immunities.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Well,lets face it,aside from F.E.A.R.,and to an extent half life 2,no one making a shooter knows what makes combat difficult but not tedious.

              1. Kian says:

                The annoying thing about Insanity in 2 and 3 is the health gating. No matter how upgraded you were, if someone had more than one defense (health, shields, armor), a single shot would blow one defense away and leave the lower one untouched, even if you had dealt enough damage to one-shot them. This wouldn’t have been an issue, if not for the added ammo scarcity. On the other hand, it at least required careful use of your allies’ powers. I generally ignored whatever weapon damage my squad mates did and focused on upping their power damage so they would help deal with the defenses. Or switched weapons.

                In hardcore, I could kill Marauders at full health and shields with one head shot. In insanity I would have to take the shields down first.

                1. aldowyn says:

                  the single biggest thing that makes hardcore tougher than veteran (I think that’s right) in ME2 is giving husks and other mooks a defense instead of just health. It’s so annoying.

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    It’s especially hard on Adepts, since their powers don’t work through most defenses.

                    1. The Rocketeer says:

                      Which is just brilliant design: your class powers are irrelevant against anything that couldn’t have just been shot to death without issue.

                    2. Mike S. says:

                      Yeah. I think I see the design intent, that you were supposed to use combos and Singularities at chokepoints (where it would stop them from advancing even if it didn’t damage them) instead of just flinging everyone all over the battlefield.

                      But in practice the effects were too small, and the recharge times too long. They did fix both to some extent in ME3, but in ME2 I found myself using my gun over my powers a lot more than I’d have preferred for my element zero-powered telekinetic.

      2. ehlijen says:

        I think what limited ammo does for a game is to force the player to keep moving at a steady pace, which also necessitates rapidly dispatchable foes.

        If the player has infinite ammo, why not camp? (A problem exacerbated by ME1’s tendency to have every sidequest be a single big room with a single large enemy mob; you always had to camp at the entrance and take on the rushing mooks.)

        ME2 and 3 were better shooters. Still not good shooters and if you didn’t want a shooter that’s not an improvement, but as shooters, they were better.

        1. aldowyn says:

          and ME3 was miles better than ME2, possibly actually good – that multiplayer mode would not have worked in ME2

  15. Kamica says:

    I played all the games, but there was so much time between individual games, that I somehow managed to lose my safe file every single time.

    As such, going into Mass Effect 3 (which I played on the PS3, while the other games I played on the PC) there were two points that bothered me, one could have been avoided by keeping save files and playing on PC again, the other… possibly not?

    Anyway. The first is Legion, or rather, not Legion because you never met him before, so you never had the opportunity to call him Legion.
    Now, this was a great disappointment to me, Legion is one of my favourite characters of one of my favourite races (Tali and Legion are my favourite characters and the Quarians and Geth are my favourite races) Which brings me to point two…

    The Geth-Quarian war… I went in, feeling like I made all the right decisions, except failed maybe once, I had heard you needed a high paragon or renegade for it, so I raised that up to significant levels, and I was convinced I could make peace between the two, but then at the last minute the game throws crap in my face, telling me that I have to make a choice. In the end I chose for the Quarians, partially because Legion wasn’t Legion, and because I could comfort myself believing that not ALL the Geth were dead…
    After making that decision, I put down the controller, and walked away never to return to the game again.
    Making me choose between my two favourite races, and then not allowing me to make a compromise between exterminating one or the other will result in me stopping apparently =P.

    1. Twisted_Ellipses says:

      If it’s any consolation, Legion wouldn’t have survived even if you had your old saves, though a compromise would have been achievable.

      I personally like a system that rewards you the more of the game you play and makes ‘EVERYONE WINS!’ scenarios possible, but hard to get. I like tough decisions such as those in The Witcher or The Walking Dead.

      On a different topic, one of the lesser criticisms of the ME3 ending was that you couldn’t refuse to make a choice, so an extra choice was added in with the extended cut. It was basically the ‘rocks fall – everyone dies’ ending. They have a sense of humour at least…

    2. Geebs says:

      That was the bit that killed the series for me, too. In my case though, it wasn’t just that it was impossible to reach a compromise for literally no reason, it was because the whole thing was so stupid. Like, for example, the Quarians live in a big space fleet. Space fleeting is what they do. So they somehow manage to get all of their colony ships caught up in the frontlines of a big space battle with literally all of the Geth, because all of their generals are incompetent? Meanwhile the Geth want to kill all the Quarians because they want the Quarian homeworld because it’s not like the Geth are already on a zillion other planets in ME1? So, okay, by that point I would be happy with both wiping each other out because they all clearly suck, but then why is the game playing all of this dramatic music at me like I should care.

      The whole nonsense where it has to be organics vs. synthetics and things can only be solved by putting the two together was just the final blow; I honestly think that they made that some kind of universal truth just so Joker could get some.

      Then again, I much preferred the combat in ME1 so what do I know :D

      (Speaking of music: the music was so much better in the first one than in either of the other two)

      1. MichaelGC says:

        I’ve not actually played ME1 but if you reckon the combat & music is better then I’m going to give it a try!

        PS “So Joker could get some” probably represents more nuanced & developed thinking than was ever actually applied to the concept of ‘organics vs. synthetics’ concept at any stage.

        1. MichaelGC says:


        2. Ranamar says:

          ME1’s combat is good in a different way from ME3’s. (ME2 is just bad, IMO.) The things to look out for, though, are that there are no hitboxes (so no headshots), and there are a lot of *really* open environments where you can use long-range shots to interesting effect. (I might actually have a sniper rifle problem in ME1… it’s just too entertaining to put a couple levels in sniper rifle and clean off all the enemies in the area before they even wake up. As a result, I have not played with very many different bonus powers.) I’d say it’s fun before you figure out how to cheese it, and also afterwards, but fun in different ways. I’m afraid that the original Immunity, when maxed out, is maximum cheese, though. Incidentally, Infiltrators make really amazing pistol shooters in a sort of guns-akimbo way, if you want to do that.

    3. Khizan says:

      See, I honestly wish they -hadn’t- included a compromise between them.

      One of my biggest complaints about Bioware games is that they will set up this huge meaningful choice between two factions where neither side is right and where you have to choose the lesser of two evils.

      A good example of this is the Redcliffe Keep in Dragon Age: Origins. Do you kill the child to banish the demon possessing him or do you kill the mother to fuel the spell that lets you banish the demon without killing the child? This is a great choice; it really serves to drive home the dangers of uncontrolled magery, and it’s incredibly gray.

      The child is an innocent, but he’s horrifyingly dangerous and the only way to save him is to allow an untrustworthy renegade mage and poisoner to sacrifice a human to fuel a blood magic ritual. The mother is the root of this problem, by hiding her son’s magery, but again, punishing her involves something incredibly risky. What do you do? Both choices suck, but which sucks less?

      And then all that is ruined because there is a third option in which you get the Mage’s Circle to come solve the problem with no consequences whatsoever. Suddenly, all the weight of the choice is removed because you’re no longer choosing who lives and who dies, you’re just choosing whether or not you’re a colossal dick and that’s a much less weighty choice.

      This is why I think my favorite thing about ME3 was Tuchanka, because there is no way to save everybody.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        I wonder how many people like that sort of decision? My guess would be that it’s a minority taste. “Do you want to do this horrible thing, this other horrible thing, or would you rather stop playing?”

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          It comes down to tone. There’s a fine line between a dark gritty setting where the hero can still offer a ray of hope once in a while, and one where you’re choosing between two crappy options.

          Personally, I liked the resolutions of the Orzammar questline in DA:O. Mechanically, they’re no different–you get dwarven allies in your battle against the Archdemon no matter which decisions you make. But it’s the only major quest with no third-option. You can put the noble, honourable Harrowmount on the throne, but he’s a hidebound traditionalist who will isolate the dwarves from Thedas and speed their civilization’s decline. Or you can put the treacherous, fratricidal, Machiavellian Bhelen on the throne, but his more progressive policies will grant more rights to the casteless and build stronger ties with the surface nations, giving Orzammar a longer lease on life. That was a pretty interesting choice: Should you bring an evil man to some kind of justice, or are you condemning a once-great civilization and its people to extinction?

          1. Classic says:

            I really wanted to slap Bhelen in the face when the camera did the “MADMAN TWIRL” around him and he ordered Harrowmont’s execution. And be all like: “You fool! He is your most faithful retainer! What are you doing!?”

        2. Flock of Panthers says:

          Well that’s basically the good parts of the Walking Dead, isn’t it? Do you tell this little girl her parents are dead, or do you encourage her delusion? There isn’t a third option, because you aren’t Commander Shephard, and difficult choices (feel like they) matter.

          I agree with you a little, but I wouldn’t call it a minority taste. I’d say ‘acquired’ taste, in that once you get used to what you’re experiencing, you might quickly find the alternatives saccharine, simplistic and shallow.
          “You can have bubblegum, or cotton candy. Or black coffee ”

          Mind you, some people just can’t stand coffee, and that’s not a failure of character, just a preference in beverages.

        3. Mike S. says:

          I think those sorts of choices are best used sparingly. Virmire was a gut-punch, but if every choice were like that then it’s just a depressing crapsack world. (Not that there’s anything artistically wrong with that. But it’s not generally to my taste. And eventually it fatigues to the point of “oh, this again” and starting not to make connections with people you know you’ll probably have to betray.)

          And I make no bones about liking the idea of the earned happy ending. The geth/quarian conflict uses that well, I think: you can achieve peace only if you put a lot of work into it over the course of two games. If you took shortcuts or had bad luck– sold Legion, lost his loyalty, lost him; allowed Tali to get convicted or let her die– then the problem has no good solutions and you’re back to the terrible dilemma.

          1. Flock of Panthers says:

            That’s a fair point on earning it, I suppose my problem is that I didn’t feel a whole lot of ownership over Shephard in that game, because so few choices were real choices.
            I’m not talking about whether or not my decision rocked the game world, I’m talking about whether there was a difficult choice or just “am I gonna be reasonable, or act like a bag of dicks”
            The squabbling between the companions in ME2 is what I’m talking about, where I have the option of siding with Tali or Legion, which is rendered pointless by how easily I can take a third option. Pissing one of them off when all I have to do is press a blue button to make nice with both of them.

            The genophage was handled well in 2. Legions loyalty mission was handled well.
            But so many of the Third Options didn’t feel like I’d earnt them, and they invalidated any meaningful choice.
            I’d have liked the choice of whether I prioritise evacuating the Asari civilians or the military assets. That’s too binary renegade/paragon, but it’s the sort of choices I’d have felt like I made.

            1. Flock of Panthers says:

              I don’t know about virmire being a gut punch. Once, on a mission against overwhelming opposition, with limited resources and the potential fate of the galaxy at stake, your military commander character who may have a sole survivor or ruthless as their background… Lost a single man in an operation that ultimately succeeded.

              That wasn’t nothing, but it that’s the scene from the entire series that was a gutpunch?

              It ain’t Duck’s last scene. It’s only really notable because there are barely two places in the whole series that don’t give you a third option.

              To make things a bit less personal, it’s not third options I don’t like, it’s that I felt like I was given them instead of earning them. It wasn’t actually hard to win Tali’s court case, so it was just whether I bothered to do it. I had to kill geth and choose the only option that was highlighted Blue for Win for me.
              The court case in Kotor? Pretty sure I messed that up on both of my first play throughs. Talking down people in Human Revolution? Felt like I earned my peaceful resolutions when they happened. I felt like I managed to talk Zeke down, not like I pressed the “save hostages” button when the game paused and asked me about it.

              1. Mike S. says:

                How my Shepards responded to it varied. But for me, it was losing one of the half-dozen people I’d gotten to know well in that world (and at least the first time, my PC’s love interest), and I hadn’t seen it coming. I also thought it was well-staged, with the animation of the character’s last stand, followed by the brief but affecting period of mourning on the ship.

                (I don’t know who Duck is, so I can’t compare that.)

                I don’t imagine I’m unique, or Virmire wouldn’t loom so large in discussions of the series seven years later.

                1. Flock Of Panthers says:

                  I agree it was a good scene, but with the series covering the near extinction of life in the galaxy, it’s a bit sad there wasn’t a gutpunch bigger than one of your soldiers getting a glorious last stand that one time two games ago.
                  Not a criticism of Virmire, more of the lack of anything else in that vein.

                  For my playthrough, I lost Carth Alistair, which didn’t mean much to me personally.

                  Duck is a character from the telltale Walking Dead game. If you don’t know it I wont spoil it. Suffice to say it’s a terrible decision to have to make, clearly telegraphed and foreshadowed, in keeping with the tone and theme of the game, and the fact that there isn’t a third option is the entire point. Sometimes you can’t fix it, and what you do when you can’t is interesting.

                  On Third Options, I’ll completely admit that I’m being a bit bitter in hindsight. I might be looking at what should be old-styled space opera [James T(he) Kirk], and thinking Meaningful Decision Avoided [Janeway].

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    Though Kirk got most of his Meaningful Decisions reversed anyway: Spock’s back in the next movie, and the Enterprise Kirk traded for him is replaced with another one just as good.

                    Arguably the last hard decision by Kirk that actually stuck was the one to let Edith Keeler die, and he’d known her for about a week.

                  2. Mike S. says:

                    Back to ME, I actually found a lot of the larger scale tragedies pretty affecting. The letter from Horizon talking about what having a third of the population carried off actually meant. (“The children are the worst. Empty desks at the schools, winter clothes that never got worn.”) And I hoped throughout the game that there’d be a chance of rescuing some of them… but no. Or going to Thessia to get the key to victory, only to be present for the fall of one of the most important worlds in the galaxy, while none of your efforts so much as delay that. (Watching or hearing as every single person who helps you out is killed.) And, of course, the last conversation with Anderson.

                    Granted, those are all terrible or sad moments, but not terrible decisions. But I’m okay with that. The unavoidable no-win choice is an important piece of the narrative toolkit, but I’m not necessarily looking for its presence in every story. To some extent, I think it only keeps its impact if it’s rare.

                    (Just as I’ve gotten fatigued by save-the-world plots not because saving the world isn’t a big deal– it’s where I keep all my stuff!– but because they’re so constantly overdone by now.)

                    Not that such a decision would be out of place in ME3– but in some ways the disaster is so overwhelming that it makes some sense that there are no bargains (even devil’s bargains) to be made. Most of the places you’re trying to save just can’t be saved, even at some arbitrarily great cost.

                    And then there are some that are too terrible for me to face. Because, you know, there’s a pretty good argument that curing the genophage is very likely to be sowing the seeds for future disaster. (The alternative requires two indispensible krogan to change an entire culture. Universally and permanently.)

                    But except in very narrow circumstances (which I did arrange in one playthrough), the choice to sabotage the cure means that you wind up having to shoot both Mordin and Wrex. And that… well, I could barely watch the YouTube video.

      2. aldowyn says:

        I think Bann Teagan or someone hints that you might not have time to go to the mages, which if that actually DID have ramifications would probably have been the worst option. So my first run, I did the blood magic ritual and sacrificed the mom.. and later learned that there actually IS a ‘everyone is fine’ option. Which, yeah, is pretty irritating.

  16. GTRichey says:

    ME2 killed it for me. The collapse was during the suicide mission when after making choices that should’ve worked Mordin got a rocket to the face because apparently using non core (new copy dlc chars) for any important task instantly fails even if every character is loyal (seriously wtf, a guy that led an entire merc outfit is completely reasonable to lead a small fire team). I may have stilled played three (trying to go through the whole series after picking it up for cheap on ps3) but the marketing focusing on earth really killed my interest.

    ME2 and ME3 might’ve been fine if I wasn’t sold so well on the promise of the first game (seriously love that game despite poor combat, awful driving sections, horrible random terrain generation on all but the core levels, some moments of hammy dialogue… hmmm just goes to show how much I really want more great sci-fi games).

    1. Rob says:

      Did you notice that most of Zaeed’s war stories end with him as the only survivor? The man may be a good fighter, but he has the tactical leadership skills of a brick.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Indeed. His loyalty mission is about him being a reckless idiot too boot.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Dead on. If I had two tasks to assign, one to assault an impenetrable fortress, alone and unarmed, and the second to take donations for sick kids in front of a shoestore, I’d expect Zaeed to return from both jobs with the exact same results: hundreds of grisly deaths, and he as the only surviving witness.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            I think you do Zaeed a great disservice!

            In the latter scenario he’d have returned with a couple of singed & mismatched little shoes…

    2. aldowyn says:

      There are very specific people who you are supposed to give each job to. Tali and Legion can do the vents, Jack and Samara can do the biotic shield, and Miranda, Jacob, and Garrus can lead the fireteams. If everyone’s loyal, and you follow that, no one dies. (I’m not sure how it works if everyone’s NOT loyal)

      1. Mike S. says:

        You’ll be unsurprised that top geeks experimentally determined every factor going into the outcomes, and produced both a flowchart and a calculator program.

        (For my Cerberus-loyal Paragon, I worked out how to kill off Jack (and only Jack), whose loyalty mission he hadn’t gotten around to doing yet, in order to preserve his ignorance of Cerberus’s MO. For my Cerberus-hating Sole Survivor, Jacob and Miranda were tragic casualties.)

        It’s definitely possible to have everyone survive with some nonloyal companions. (If they’re all nonloyal, then a large number of deaths are assured, though you can still succeed in the mission.)

        1. aldowyn says:

          I’ve heard it’s possible to succeed the mission but not get out, so it’s actually a suicide mission? Maybe not.. definitely possible to get everyone killed by Joker?

          I’ve never managed to bring myself to not do a completionist run, so I don’t know myself.

          1. Mike S. says:

            I’ve never done it, but yes– it’s possible to make it back to the leap to the ship, and not have anyone there to pull Shepard up, so Shepard dies and Joker makes the final report to TIM and looks at the (presumably symbolic rather than full) coffins.

            There were actually questions about whether you’d be able to import that ending into ME3, which, obviously not.

            (Though it’s not completely crazy– Dragon Age Awakening let you import your Ultimate Sacrifice save state, and either play a new Orlesian Warden, or else just play the Warden who died without explanation.)

  17. Pyradox says:

    This is a tough question, because I had a lot of problems with Mass Effect 2 and wrote a lot of words about those problems and how much I wish they weren’t present. At the same time, I think I was still really hoping that ME3 could redeem it, but honestly I had probably lost the majority of my emotional investment in the series during that time.

    I remember playing the ME3 demo and hearing the line “Cerberus is capable of anything” and just rolling my eyes because this clearly wasn’t the series I wanted it to be any more.

    The reason that this is a tough question though is because I still wasn’t prepared for just how much I would dislike parts of Mass Effect 3.

    “We fight or we die.” was if not the first sign this wasn’t going to be my game, at least the most obvious one starting out. I was hoping for a strategy – that when pushed into a corner and forced into action the people of the galaxy would be able to come together and devise an ingenious solution to the Reaper threat.

    When the Most Important Artifact was found on Mars, that pretty much sank any hopes of the kind of story I was after.

    Stuff that failed to hit the right emotional beats like Kai Leng and the dream sequences were pretty much salt in the wounds, though I’ve never hated a video game enemy as much as I did Kai Leng. Everything about him, and how my Shepard was too stupid to kill him any of the myriad times they had the chance irritated me on a fundamental level. At that point I just wanted to know how it would end.

    Then everything post Anderson’s death was not only irritating but actively insulting. As much as my suspension of disbelief was hanging on by a thread earlier, I could not maintain for a second that my or any Shepard would ever make any of those choices. That was the point at which the series as a fiction was over for me, because it was presenting me with things that were not just implausible but actually impossible for me to accept.

    A hero, even an anti-hero does not destroy the galaxy. I know the galaxy would be destroyed because that was the point of Arrival, so if the game, in cutscenes that my character could never have witnessed is telling me otherwise, they must be lying.

    1. Mike S. says:

      I’m willing to believe that “throw an asteroid into a relay” and “hypercharge a relay with a reality-altering energy pulse” result in different modes of destruction. (Just as some substances will violently explode from a detonator’s electric spark, but merely burn if you set fire to them.)

      Not least because in the second case, we know where all that solar system-destroying energy is going instead: to kill all the Reapers, husks, and AIs in the Milky Way, or to cyborgify every single living creature in the galaxy. (If you choose Blue, the relays aren’t destroyed.)

      It’s still a civilization-destroying event pre-Extended Cut, since everyone’s too spread out for mere FTL to reunite them. (Though Wrex’s lifespan might allow him to do a variant on the Odyssey working his way back to Tuchanka.) But post-EC it’s handwaved that the damage is reparable, which, okay.

  18. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Since I started with ME2 (and seriously, I don’t want the attitude this time, I couldn’t get ME1 to work at first and gave up on it and started with ME2 and didn’t revisit it for months), I went in just assuming I had to accept a certain level of silliness. To compound it, when I finally did get around to ME1, I found the gameplay so aggravating that I didn’t really pay close enough attention to the story to see how it differed from the tone of ME2. I didn’t even encounter Cerberus on my playthrough I think.

    Shepard’s resurrection post orbital reentry was my introduction to the franchise. Cerberus was whatever ME2 told me it was. I just got the vibe that these were competent rogues of ambiguous morality (you have to be pretty competent to put someone back together after reentry after all). The Virmire survivor’s attitude problem was obviously just part of who that character was. Terminator Boss? Sure whatever. This is pulp sci fi.

    Going into ME3, I’d heard the ending sucked. So I was expecting that. I didn’t care for the bro shooter shift, that did bug me. But when that kid showed up I was like “thats it? Thats what they’re complaining about? Thats whats inspiring death threats and petitions and all that? Why are they taking this series that seriously?”

    Honestly, it didn’t really sink in till my first replay. I realized that until DLC content came out, there just wasn’t much point in playing ME3 twice.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I was much much more pissed about the existence of the tacked on multiplayer. That was criminal. The ending was peanuts compared to that for me.

    1. Taellosse says:

      You raise a fair point there. For those of us who were able to play the series in order (not judging you, promise), the shift in tone is marked from ME1 to 2, but if you start from 2 and go back, you view everything in the first game through the lens of the second one – you can’t see Cerberus as a bumbling terrorist group of hardly any importance, because you already KNOW they’re terrifically (impossibly) well-funded and have their fingers in the deepest corners of galactic politics. But that’s very much not how they were presented in the first game – they aren’t even mentioned in a single main story mission in the first game, they ONLY appear in side quests, and most of them are brief ones where they’ve been stealing Husks or Thorian Creepers or Rachni drones to experiment on and they get loose and kill all the Cerberus people, so you have to wipe out the infestation – the two exceptions being the quest line introduced by Admiral Kohoku, where you find his spec-ops team dead, and he finds out Cerberus killed them and then Cerberus kills him for knowing too much; and the quest that ties to the Sole Survivor background if you took it (and is still present even if you didn’t), where you learn it was a Cerberus operation to study thresher maws that got your team killed and you tortured.

      To someone that played ME1 first, going into ME2, Cerberus is an ambitious but stupid fringe group of little real importance. Then, all of a sudden, it’s the most well-financed terrorist organization in history, has managed to cheat death by resurrecting you from the dead, and is the only group in the galaxy that takes the Reaper threat seriously. It’s quite a transformation.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Yeah, I gather (and I may revisit ME1 soon to reestablish) that ME1 was harder sci-fi. I can see how pretty much the rest of the series would be a disappointment after that. Its kind of like watching Voyager after Next Generation (then again, I’m not sure Voyager works even in isolation.)

        Shamus’s recount of the lore leading into the Krogan Salarian situation made me realize just how much depth there was.

        I still defend ME2 though. It was one of the early games I played upon returning to gaming after over a decade off and it really opened my eyes to why gamers now care about story and characters in video games and how cinematic storytelling might actually work in a game. (And I had the same thought as the Diecast about the loyalty/recruitment missions being like episodes of a scifi series.)

        When I left, outside of jrpg’s, the story was a garnish that gave a little bit of context to the gameplay. Now, Zelda has lore? WTF!! Mortal Kombat has a storyline? People actually take the continuity of Street Fighter seriously? When did that happen?

        . . . was my reaction.

        1. Taellosse says:

          Totally an understandable reaction. And the bulk of the writing and characterization in ME2 is actually really good, since about 80% of the game is those companion missions (both acquiring them on your team and gong through their loyalty quests). Nearly all of the problems with ME2 are in that last 20%, because that’s all the stuff that ties in (badly) with the larger narrative established from the first game. The complaints some have (including, at least to a degree, me) with the game mechanics are mostly fairly minor, generally, and if that’s all that was wrong they’d be legitimate nitpicks, rather than substantive issues.

          That’s why a part of me is sorry they decided to set out to tell a “trilogy” – that is, a singular story in 3 parts. Because Bioware has never been all that great at plot – their strength has always been in characterization. ME2 really showed that off, to a degree neither of the other games does (though ME3 is good more often than it isn’t on that front, and even ME1 does a credible job at it). If they’d just made an open-ended series of games, where the overarching narrative took a consistent second-seat to the characters inhabiting it, I think Mass Effect would have been a better series to date. As a side effect, an open-ended story about characters would have also provided a better opportunity to showcase the setting, which was, as you say (in the first game at least) something approaching harder sci-fi than the series ended up being in the latter games. In that respect, I kind of wish Mass Effect were more like Dragon Age – the Reapers are narratively equivalent to the Darkspawn, but while that was the focus of the first game, they were a footnote in the second, and promise to be in the third as well – each game in DA has told a much more self-contained story, and I think it’s the better for it (despite the flaws of DA2, which are the fault of a ridiculously tightened development schedule, not structural problems with its design or narrative arc).

          1. Vermander says:

            Would it be possible to make a game that mimicked the structure of a procedural TV series to some degree? Maybe there is no big bad or overarching threat. Maybe the entire game is “loyalty missions” or side quests where you solve a series of smaller, most unrelated problems and in the process learn more about your individual crew members.

            The final mission could be something like the Citadel DLC, where you bring everyone back together for one last mini adventure and then have a big party to say goodbye to the cast we’ve (hopefully) come to love.

            1. Taellosse says:

              Probably, but I suspect that’d work better as an episodic game, a la Wolf Among Us, rather than a 40-80 hour deal. That said, I bet they could do something structured (at least loosely) along the lines of a season of Buffy or Angel, where there’s a mixture of longer-form story and smaller missions (that’s sort of what historical Bioware games are, after all) in each game in the series, but that overarching story pretty much concludes with the end of that game, and a mostly new plot is introduced for the sequel. Again, this is basically what Dragon Age does.

              I think Mass Effects core structural problem is an attempt to tell a choice-based interactive story across 3 games: they’re forced to either make the choices you make not actually mean much or are faced with an unwieldy mess by the time they get to the finale – real choices have consequences, and showing those consequences across a single narrative, especially when they start stacking on top of each other, would quickly become impossible to do. Even providing real impact across the rest of the series for the minimal number of real decisions introduced in ME1 was hard for them to manage: your love interest (regardless of who it was) from the first game is almost entirely cut from the second one (and can be replaced with a new one without consequence, or romanced anew in 3 if you want), the Rachni are entirely off-screen in the second if they lived (and back again in the third game even if they didn’t), the Virmire survivor is also largely gone (whether they were your love interest or not) from 2 and the last to actually join you in 3, the Council is barely in 2 and interchangeable in 3 with stand-ins (and keeps flipping around its composition nonsensically if you favored humans at the end of 1), and your choice of human Councilor is rendered meaningless by plot (unless you chose Udina).

              There are actually far more decisions of apparent consequence in 2 than 1, but they’re almost all rendered moot by the structure of 3 (by design): with the exception of whether to save or destroy the Collector base at the end (which is rendered meaningless in another way), all of the choices that matter in 2 are about whether your squad-mates survived (because nothing else of consequence actually happens in 2), and virtually all of them are turned into bit characters in 3, with generic stand-ins to fill their minimal story role if they didn’t make it. The only decisions from 2 that end up having weight are how you handled Tali and Legion’s loyalty (and secondarily whether they both lived), whether Garrus lives (and that only because he can’t join your party in 3 if he died in 2), and to a lesser extent how you handled Mordin’s loyalty mission.

              Imagine for a moment that they’d tried to make all those decisions carry weight, though – they’d have had to essentially create 2 games’ worth of content for ME2 to account for all the variations in 1, and something on the order of 8 games’ worth of content in 3 to account for each of those multiplied by all the variations of 2. Madness. Which forced them to actually make nearly all the choices shallow and empty instead. Thus why I think a multi-game narrative intended to include meangingful player choice is very nearly functionally impossible to do, given the nature of modern game development. Far better for each game to be largely self-contained, and have the next game deal with different issues (and probably mostly different characters, too, including the protagonist) even if its set in the same world.

            2. GiantRaven says:

              I have spent years telling people that this is how Mass Effect should have been. It’s nice to see somebody else suggest it.

              1. Taellosse says:

                I’m hoping that’s what ME4 will be. From what we’ve been told so far, it’s going to be more exploratory (the Mako, or something like it, is back), it can’t be as galaxy-shakingly-epic (it appears to be taking place roughly concurrent with Shepard’s story), and it’s probably going to be designed to have a multi-player component from the start (it’s being developed by the team that made the ME3 multiplayer). All of which suggests to me something that’ll be more open-ended and episodic.

                1. aldowyn says:

                  I am really, really curious to see where they’re going with the next mass effect. (It’s not Mass Effect 4, dammit)

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    My guess is that “where” is the key: somewhere so far away that the ultimate resolution of the original trilogy has no practical effect.

                    Which, given the scale of the events, is… far

                    1. aldowyn says:

                      It’s going to be in a contemporary time period, I believe.

                    2. Taellosse says:

                      The early word indicates it’ll be contemporary with the Shepard trilogy, and will again feature a human protagonist (who apparently is also an N7). That’s about all we know at the moment, aside from the fact that the Mako, or something like it, will be a major feature.

                    3. Mike S. says:

                      I’ve seen the shots of the N7 suit and the Mako, but is there a link to where they stated the time period?

                      (The changed Mako design implied a different vehicle generation to me, though of course it could just be an art style change, or the difference between the 2180 and 2183 model year.)

                    4. Taellosse says:

                      Turns out I was inferring (given the wide disparity of the implications of each of the major endings, I don’t see how an immediate sequel is possible, myself), rather than remembering about the time frame. There’s been nothing definitive about that as yet after all.

                    5. Mike S. says:

                      My hypothesis is that you’re lost on the wrong side of a one-way relay far away from Citadel space (maybe outside the Milky Way), somewhere near the end of the Reaper war. That way you can go forward, without the events of the ending having any local effect.

                      (And if it’s some sort of Bermuda Triangle of relays, maybe there are planets settled by lost members of the familiar species over the course of the last few millennia along with new ones to meet. There could even be rachni, or krogan without the genophage, or quarians and geth who have come to a modus vivendi, or isolationist asari who think cross-species messing around is perverse.)

                      But of course that’s pure speculation– all I know is what I read in the gaming news.

                  2. Taellosse says:

                    I know it’s not ME4. But since they haven’t given us a title to use instead, I’m going to keep using that as shorthand until they do. ;-)

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            I’d be on board with that. Especially in the Mass Effect setting. Nice little character focus pieces with a little Star Trek or Twilight Zone style hook/twist that connects to the character story.

            Actually, I have to admit, I like the suicide mission. Its cheesy but that operatic music as we were flying to and from the Collector Base cinches it for me.

            1. Taellosse says:

              The Suicide Mission is great so long as your brain is turned off while it goes on. It’s the capstone to a nonsense main plot, though, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Very stirring and all, but also very dumb.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                My one problem is one that Shamus mentioned: That they could have been using the main mission to set up elements for the third game so that they would pay off better.

                They could have made us really care about Conrad Verner and then kill him off in the ME3 opening and have him be the Catalyst. I would have loved that.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “People actually take the continuity of Street Fighter seriously?”

          Wait,they do?Whhyyyy?

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Somebody does. You go to the right place and someone will argue that the lore is rich and it matters.

            I dunno, I was just trying to come up with examples off the top of my head but I know when Unskippable dryly commented of Mortal Kombat “Because there’s a plot now !?” The first comments I saw on that video were along the lines of “Of course there’s a plot, Mortal Kombat has always had a plot. Firp Dirp FWTHWWIRP!!!”

            And I suppose technically thats correct in the loosest sense. It served about the same purpose that it does in a porno but it was there.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I think thats still the case.There is a plot,but its just there because.It may be good in the sense that its funny,or dramatic,or engaging,but its definitely not important.Its more like an interesting vignette than a story.

              Same goes for street fighter.And while there sure is someone who cares about the continuity of it(there will always be someone who cares about something),I dont think thats true for the majority of people.

          2. syal says:

            “People actually take the continuity of Street Fighter seriously?”

            Of Course!

            “When did that happen?”

            …it was Tuesday.

    2. aldowyn says:

      The MP was actually pretty good, though, and mostly developed at a different studio, so while it may have made the game cost more, I doubt it made any significant impact at all on the writing and such.

  19. Parkhorse says:

    I… I liked Mass Effect 1 the most. Except for the inventory system and the Mako. The more RPG-ish combat, though? That was more fun for me than “yet another cover shooter!”

    1. Kian says:

      The MAKO was the best :) I miss it.

      1. Taellosse says:

        Early word is they’re bringing it back for the new Mass Effect. Hopefully the places you can go with it are more interesting this time around – my problem wasn’t the Mako, per se, but the fact that the uncharted worlds were all so samey.

    2. Taellosse says:

      I didn’t mind the shooting in ME1 that much, even though it wasn’t that great, because I’ve never been a huge fan of cover-based shooters anyway. I dislike FPS games in general (I don’t like the interface of “looking out of the player character’s eyes” while having no peripheral vision and being usually unable to see my character’s body when looking down – bugs me) so I mostly only play games in third person, and there are far fewer of those that are shooters. To add to that, I’m also not into multi-player, so most of the ones that are left (Gears of War, for example) don’t interest me much. So I didn’t have years and years of expectations for how a shooter works going into Mass Effect. Plus, I tended to favor biotics over shooting anyway, so how janky the gun stuff was really didn’t seem that important to me.

      I liked the Mako okay (though I originally played on Xbox. Having recently started playing on PC, I suddenly understand the Mako-hate a bit better – the controls are MUCH worse with a keyboard than an analog stick). I mostly minded the same-ness of the uncharted worlds. They were all full of jagged mountains, minimal life forms (plant or animal), never had water, and were dotted with occasional handfuls of the same repetitive features – mine tunnels, pre-fab trailer-huts, pre-fab warehouses, and pre-fab bunkers, all with the same 4 layouts and adjustments in lighting and shipping containers to try to make them somewhat distinct. I’d have been happy to have kept the exploratory aspect the Mako brought to the table if they’d just put some more effort into making the various places you could visit more distinctive.

      The inventory system was legit terrible, though. It’s moderately less awful in the PC version, but even there, it’s not great.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I liked cover based shooters -I am quite fond of Gears of War, for example -but I never got the dislike for the shooting mechanics of ME. They are… exactly the same as in the later series, the only difference is that in ME 2 and 3 you have to buy a special modification which makes your assault rifle not bounce like crazy and more closely groups your shotgun spread -rather than leveling up a skill. And rather than getting interesting weapon mods that gave you special ammo, you had to level up skills.

        Meanwhile, you lost a lot of really interesting skills like sabotage or singularity (until Liara brought it back in with the DLC).

        1. Taellosse says:

          Singularity was still available in ME2, it was just restricted to those playing as Adepts.

          I think what bugged people about the shooting in ME1 was that, because accuracy was partly tied to stats, not just player aiming, sometimes people would miss, even when the targeting reticle was exactly where it should be to hit. I never cared that much, because I like the spells – I mean biotics and tech skills – better anyway.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Liara did bring back Stasis, which helped slightly pacify my Shepard’s grudge against Miranda for bringing her back wrong. (Her biotics had been able to take on geth Colossi! Now everything was immune to them until you shot them a bit first.)

            1. aldowyn says:

              Most of the active skills still exist in ME2, I believe, they’re just a lot more restricted by class.

              1. Mike S. says:

                Most of the skills are there (Stasis was an exception till LotSB added it as a bonus power). They’re just a lot less powerful. (Albeit with bonuses like combo explosions added.) And I made an RP choice to take notice of the difference and blame Cerberus for it.

                Whether the change a salutary return to game balance or unjustified nerfing varies, as always, based on what classes one likes to play and how one likes to play them. But having played all but one of the classes, ME2 Adept certainly felt the weakest. (Where ME1 Adept was ridiculously powerful at high levels.)

                1. Taellosse says:

                  I found ME2 Adepts to be super-easy to play. Especially if you brought along a second biotic in your squad – the explosive bonus for combining Lift or Singularity with Warp chewed through enemies quite effectively. The only thing that ever posed that much challenge was stuff with armor, and having someone that could cut through that quickly (equipping inferno ammo, for example) took care of that weakness pretty well.

  20. Twisted_Ellipses says:

    I made it all the way to 18, though 12, 13 & 15 were off-putting. I could buy the explanation for the reapers as flawed logic (confirmed in hindsight with the Leviathan DLC [The series has great DLC, but often at the expense of the main game]), but the fact it was in the form of that child bothered me.

    If no.1-8 were widely accepted as big deals, there would have been big outcries at the time. There wasn’t. No.3 particularly falls flat because it was the best aspect of Mass Effect 2 (who doesn’t like heist movie tropes?) and I distinctly remember Spoiler Warning complaining about the strength-of-arms approach in ME3 with the preparedness level stuff.

    1. Taellosse says:

      There were big outcries at the time for 1-8, just not amongst the majority of ME2’s player base – because, as Shamus said, most of the people that played ME2 hadn’t already played the first game. Those were all HUGE complaints for many of those of us that had been eagerly awaiting a sequel to Mass Effect, because those are all representative of the dramatic shift in tone and direction from the first to second game in the series. I, personally, clearly remember my unhappiness and vocal complaints about all of those aspects (with the possible exception of #2. I had more of a problem with “the Collectors” themselves, because I felt they were mostly a distraction from the real arc of the series than with the structure of the mission to take them on), and I remember a fair number of people agreeing with me – including, I’ll note, the cast of Spoiler Warning when they did Mass Effect 2.

      1. Twisted_Ellipses says:

        All I really heard at the time was complaints about the increased shooter mechanics and relief about the lack of inventory problems & Mako.

        The collectors were a way of avoiding the Halo 2 problem of being the middle game in a trilogy (check that game out for a different example of a bad ending). Like The Banner Saga or an Assassin’s Creed game, it gives you an enemy and an objective that can be wrapped-up while the over-arcing story continues.

        1. Taellosse says:

          I know why they were introduced. It was just a bad decision to introduce them that way (or, I contend, at all, really). They were a function of the fact that there was no coherent plan for an overarching narrative in the series. ME2 was narrative filler because they didn’t know how to actually up the stakes without going straight to the conclusion (of course, an easy way to fix that would have been to essentially invert the main plots of ME2 and 3 and everything would have been much better, but oh well).

          But trust me, there was also plenty of bitching about being forced to work for Cerberus (especially from everyone that had chosen the Sole Survivor background in ME1), about Shepard being killed in the first 5 minutes just to justify a new visit to the character creation screen, about the entire galaxy STILL thinking the Reapers were a myth even after one was fought off at the Citadel itself, about how ridiculous the “Reapers reproduce by turning a bunch of organics into slurry and pumping it into a robot shell shaped kind of like a giant version of that species, then sticking that thing inside a spaceship-body” thing was, about how Cerberus was suddenly absurdly well-financed and super-important when they were barely a footnote in the last game, about how most of the missions were turned into corridor-shooter-fests and almost all sense of real exploration was lost, and more. Trust me, there were no shortage of other complaints. You could find them here, you could find them at the Bioware forums at the time, you could find them at gaming news sites.

  21. MichaelGC says:

    I’ve seen a range of views on Unrest: mostly very positive, some a bit negative. However, I’ve seen nothing but effusive praise for the writing. I think you might be onto something with that Adam DeCamp fellow!

    Whoever the hell he is.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      He is just some kid that survived.

  22. Taellosse says:

    For me it was a slow collapse, right from the start of ME2. I hung on, though, because, while the overarching plot of that game was brain-numblingly stupid, I really liked the PARTS of the game that were its focus: all those new characters were really cool, and many of the scenarios we get to play through with them were fun. Even the characters I didn’t like as much (Jacob, Miranda, Zaeed) had their moments where I appreciated them and liked them a bit better once I got past their surfaces. I didn’t like where the arc of the narrative was going, but I loved the depth of characterization I was getting. I didn’t appreciate the burgeoning lack of attention to events from the first game (it bugged me all out of proportion with his significance that the Conrad Verner scene was bugged, for example. I also really didn’t like that the only hint of the Rachni were some second-hand reports, and a brief conversation with some random woman who supposedly represented them saying, essentially, “thanks bunches for not killing me”).

    Still, I rather liked parts of ME3 – I thought several of the major missions were really great – Tuchanka and Rannoch, in particular, I mostly quite enjoyed. I also appreciated the meeting-in-the-middle nature of the mechanics in ME3 – they had much more nuance and complexity than ME2, but weren’t so fiddly and counter-intuitive as ME1 (though still imperfect, they were overall pretty decent). But its overarching plot was almost as dumb as ME2’s, and the ending was such a dissonance from even the latter two games (never mind what attracted me to the series in the first place – I, like you Shamus, really wanted to do more of the exploration, discovery, and sci-fi roleplaying stuff hinted at in the first game – I wasn’t on board for the shooty stuff and yet another heroes journey plot) that it all really fell apart. I felt like the bulk of ME3 had taped together the torn up affection I’d had for the series, only to set it on fire.

    The Extended Cut put out the flames for me, but it didn’t really repair what had been ruined – just kept it from continuing to turn to ash. I still love what Mass Effect could have been (and I do hold out a small measure of hope that maybe it will be something closer to that in the future, since the early word seems to suggest something a bit more open-ended and exploratory), and I still like elements from the whole series. But my affection is tempered now.

  23. The_Zoobler says:

    I’m gonna be completely honest. The game never really fell apart for me.

    There are some massive flaws with it. Mass Effect 2 tried WAY too hard to be edgy; so much so that it felt artificial. The human-Terminator-Reaper is the single stupidest twist of all time, even with the various interviews and explanations that have come out for it so far (apparently, the humanoid reaper was meant to reside at the core of a traditional squid-Reaper, as an immortalized record of the human race. Yeah… whatever. Still dumb). It’s absolutely repugnant that vital story information is DLC only instead of included in the base game (Javik, Leviathan, and The Citadel DLC). Being forced to support Cerberus was stupid as hell, and the game suddenly being so human-centric felt all too close to that revolting, self-centered thing that extremist patriotism becomes. The original ending was awful.

    But you know what? I loved the characters to death. Every single one of them. Well, maybe not James. But every OTHER character was incredible, and even James introduced some texture to the crew… at least. I loved following them on their journey, bonding with them, and partying one last time at the Citadel. Even though the Reapers had a stupid motivation, I found the ending interesting and their origins compelling. All around, I liked these games, and still hold the entire trilogy as my favorite series of all time.

    1. aldowyn says:

      … what vital information is in Citadel? that entire DLC is a joke. An amazing, hilarious joke, but one with no plot significance.

      From Ashes is arguable. He makes a big difference tonally I feel but I don’t know that he adds much concrete, and the DLC was free with new copies anyway.

      As for Leviathan, that absolutely IS vital story information… but unless they were supposed to give that one out for free too, I don’t know what you expected them to do?

    2. Cinebeast says:

      Yeah, I’m with The_Zoobler here. If I had to pick a “fall apart” moment it would be 20 — the final cutscene. But even on my first playthrough of ME3 I never resented it. I only started to hate the thing afterward, and now replaying the series gives me a huge dose of bittersweetness.

      But it’s still one of my favorite series. For me, even the third game has enough good stuff to outweigh the bad.

      And like Shamus said, where else am I supposed to go to get my fix? For all Mass Effect’s problems, it’s the only series I’m aware of that tackles science fiction through an RPG lens.

  24. Hale Burns says:

    I was very invested in Mass Effect until I saw the marketing for 3. While I knew I wanted to get the game and finish off the series, I was sorely disappointed in their focus on Humans and Earth in particular. In addition, I didn’t spot many of the faults in the games until I watched Spoiler Warning. Your show manages to be very enlightening for me and sometimes lowers my opinion of games I’ve played since I tend not to be very critical of what I play.

    When I did get my hands on the game, I still enjoyed the hell out of it. I was invested in the side characters, in the character I made, and loved the improvements on the combat from 2. My first time through 3, I nearly cried when I realized the decisions I made on Rannoch lead to Tali’s death. The rushed nature of the game did shine through not long after though, when I still got her romance cutscene with her later in the game. At the time I was willing to give the game the benefit of the doubt of that scene being more of a fever dream for an exhausted and depressed Shepard.

    Anyway, to conclude this before I talk more, I was invested in the story and characters from 1-3 and forgave the game for a lot of its’ faults even though I recognized they were there.

  25. Mormegil says:

    The kid. The dreams. ME3 ending. The stupid meatsack bro guy companion from ME3.

    Everything else I can forgive or ignore but those things killed ME3 for me.

    1. Ringwraith says:

      James Vega only looks like that from first impressions.
      He’s actually got a solid character, it’s a far better executed version of the sort of “level-headed soldier” Jacob was aiming for.

      1. Mormegil says:

        I gave him a chance. His story seems to culminate with him being invited into the N7 program. Seriously – your species faces extinction and you care what badge is on your tunic during the final battle?

        1. Ringwraith says:

          Well, it’s about him getting over the fact he lost all his men in what turned out to be a fruitless endeavour.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Its part of a larger theme that works in the game, how do you deal with impending existential terror. Some people are freaking out. Some are in denial (particularly on the Citadel where its possible to be somewhat sheltered from the reality.) Some are making confessions of love and/or getting it on one last time. Some are cracking jokes and/or partying. Joker comments on this if you go to the club, the shift towards people partying with abandon, dancing their asses off no longer worried if it looks stupid.

          Vega is thinking about his career because its something to thinking about besides the galaxy being torn apart by Reapers. If we ever end up in a situation like this, we’d be well served doing the same.

      2. Cinebeast says:

        Yeah, sorry man, I’m a Vega fan too. He’s cool.

  26. Lame Duck says:

    Well, if nothing else, dredging this crap up again got me to go back and reread some of your old articles on the topic and they are absolutely hilarious. Thank you for the evening’s entertainment, Shamus.

  27. lurkey says:

    Beginning of ME2, when I gradually found out it was going to be, a)stupid, as resurrection and joining Cerberus indicated, b)a shooter, c)a completely over the top, cheesed up to 11 wish fulfillment power fantasy. I can tolerate either a or b or even a and b combined, but c I loathe with the passion of ten thousands of Illusive man’s office wallpapers, and the combination of all three made for thoroughly annoying experience.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like when a game fellates my ego like any other gamer, but — since it is a very private thing after all — I’d rather have it done subtly, personally, without insulting my intelligence and maybe even with the game pretending to like and respect me somewhat, like ME1 did. As opposed to ME2’s overblown delivery with fanfares, firecrackers, cheering crowds of admirers, giant glowing pointy arrows prodding the fourth wall, wink winks, nudge nudges and barely concealed feeling that it was totally faking it.

  28. Rob says:

    Half-Life 2 had a disappointing ending? Usually people agree that the finale (post-confiscation field) is one of the best parts of the entire game. It’s certainly miles better than Xen was in Half-Life.

    Or are you referring to the last 30 seconds or so with the G-Man? I would argue that it’s the perfect ending to the game. Pointing out that the One Free Man – at this point the savior of humanity and the Vortigaunts twice over – is nothing but a slave to yet another (potentially) alien superpower is brilliant irony.

    1. Twisted_Ellipses says:

      He might have meant Half Life 2 Episode 2? Since that abrupt downer ending currently stands as the conclusion to the series…

    2. Hydralysk says:

      Am I the only one who actually liked Xen? Aside from the last boss I thought it was a really cool part of the game, platforming and all, but I only ever hear people complain about it.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I liked most of xen too.Theres a bunch of great lore hidden in there.

        But the platforming was crap.

    3. Zekiel says:

      I think Shamus means the last 30 seconds. My understanding is its quite a controversial ending since it takes away your feeling of accomplishment and (apparently) kills over your companion in a rather unfair way.

      I don’t share that evaluation (I don’t even know if Shamus does) but then that probably has something to do with knowing the ending was unpopular with some people before I played it.

  29. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I think the biggest thing that made it such a controversy was Bioware’s response. Their response to critics was conceited, passive-aggressive, self-important BS that turned an artistic blunder into a company-defiling fiasco. At least Chris Avelone isn’t defending KOTOR II’s ending as his true artistic vision.

    1. aldowyn says:

      I seem to remember that being asshole fans defending Bioware, not bioware themselves. Buuut I’ve probably blocked most of that rather traumatic month or two from my memory.

      If it WAS supposed to be their ‘true artistic vision’, they compromised the hell out of their ‘artistic integrity’. That just doesn’t sound like Bioware.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I was one of those “assholes” as you so non-assholishly put it mainly because I resent it when peer pressure is used to get people to change. The fandom was acting a little too much like bullies (especially when they filed grievance with the better business bureau) and I’ve always hated that.

        Its not because we thought this was a visionary gem, but because the creator should have the freedom to create without being badgered.

        The reason Shamus missed that it won’t die for me is because of the Better Business Bureau action (and the fans who defend that action) and the “Retake Mass Effect” movement as if you owned something that someone else created. Also, talk of “we put in all this hard work” where playing a video game constitutes “hard work” all of a sudden. Its these things that lead defenders to call the detractors “entitled.”

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “I was one of those “assholes” as you so non-assholishly put it mainly because I resent it when peer pressure is used to get people to change. The fandom was acting a little too much like bullies (especially when they filed grievance with the better business bureau) and I've always hated that.

          Its not because we thought this was a visionary gem, but because the creator should have the freedom to create without being badgered.”

          I would agree with you if it werent for one fact:
          Part of the marketing was bioware specifically saying that the ending wont be “just push a button,and get a different colored ending”.But the end they gave was in actually “just push a button,and get a different colored ending”.Those that payed for the game have every right to complain about this blatant marketing lie and ask that it either gets changed,or get their money back.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Can you point to that? Because I’m pretty sure what they said was that the end would reflect your choices and it does. From the EMS score, to the team members who are present before your make your final ground assault to who’s in the ship when it crashes. And this game gives closure on a lot of things throughout.

            Maybe its not as much as we hoped for but its certainly not to the level of warranting legal action and creating a movement.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              “Because I'm pretty sure what they said was that the end would reflect your choices and it does.”

              Arguably the extended ending does.Arguably.You still get the same 3 colors after you push a button(technically 6 (slightly) different animations).

              And that wasnt the only lie on their part either.Now some of those were,more or less,rectified with the extended cut.Most werent(like the rachni thing).

              Now granted,you can say that press conferences are technically not advertisment,but lets leave that to legal experts,shall we.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                And now the filter decides to kick in.But all those times that I deliberately tried to trigger it,it snubbed me.

                You know,I think its actually alive and is taunting me.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  The better business bureau siding with a consumer complaint says nothing. If there’s even the slightest shred of a case, they go for it because all they’re doing most of the time is keeping records.

                  Or did you miss the part at the beginning of your Forbes article where lawyers said the complaint didn’t have a leg to stand on, and that it was legal puffery.

                  Lets look at those quotes:

                  “Experience the beginning, middle, and end of an emotional story unlike any other, where the decisions you make completely shape your experience and outcome.”

                  Emotional story? Typical subjective claim and it certainly was emotional in genuine ways in some parts (I think Tali’s death got a genuine reaction out of Rutskarn if I recall correctly). Unlike any other? Typical claim and technically its true. Really the only sticking point is the word “completely” and how completely is completely. You certainly can make a lot of choices and they can have a variety of effects on the game.

                  “Along the way, your choices drive powerful outcomes, including relationships with key characters, the fate of entire civilizations, and even radically different ending scenarios.”

                  Powerful outcomes with relationships with key characters? Check. Entire civilizations? Yes, the Krogan, Quarians and Geth can all live or die (or flounder in the case of the Krogan) on your decisions.Radically different ending scenarios? Yes. I don’t care if the cutscenes basically looked the same in the original ending, the Destroy, Control and Synthesis endings are radically different outcomes as described. The text on that is correct. Just not the way we would have hoped.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Funny how you decided to focus completely on the link that Ive used to point out that legality is moot even amongst those that deal in law(I guess you are a lawyer,so you know better),and disregard the rest.

                    And no,no matter how you try to spin it,the original colored endings are not different.You get the same animation in 3 different colors .

                    But if you think those are radically different outcomes,that does explain why you have trouble with the nixon analogy.

                    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      They aren’t visually much different but the description and implication are radically different

      2. MichaelGC says:

        No, it was BioWare. I don’t doubt asshole-fandism didn’t help, and who knows what the hell FILM CRIT HULK thought needed defending via a HULK SMASH, but it was BioWare. Here’s an e.g:


        Also – W and N: the fact that some folk acted like assholes doesn’t obviate legitimate grievances. And the notion that multi-million-dollar companies can be “bullied” is a notion I think should be resisted.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          This is the only instance I can think of when fan outcry rises to a level I would call bullying but I think it does apply here. They took advantage of the creators connectedness with the community and savaged individual creators. Casey Hudson may deserve some flack for his actions but he is a human being, not a multi million dollar corporation and yet he’s targeted.

          When fans create a movement to try to seize someone else’s creation and bend it to their will, I call that bullying. Because it is bullying.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Huh.So I guess Nixon was bullied out of the office because he got so much backlash for his lies as well.I mean he is just a human being,he is not some faceless government and yet he was targeted.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              You’re making my point for me about the overly dramatic soured fans who made way too big a deal about this if you seriously think Nixon and Hudson are in anyway comparable.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Because everyone knows that only the things that are same in scale are comparable.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  They’re not even the same in kind.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Right,because constituent is nothing alike the consumer.

                    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      Right, because making your own inference from what I said in a sarcastic fashion is the same as a rebuttal.

                      Nixon had coercive power. His responsibility to the people was far greater and his violation was far greater. Hudson spoiled a game for some people with his ending (I say ‘some’ instead of ‘most’ because some people liked the ending or were ok with it and some of the people who hated the ending still felt like the rest of the game was worthwhile, its a minority that feel that the ending ruins the game forever and I’ll bet even some of those were at least enjoying the game till they got to that point). People can choose whether to buy the product and can wait for reviews. They wouldn’t have had to wait long to hear about this. A few days or a week at most.

                      And sometimes a difference in scale is all that matters to make a comparison break down. Shooting someone with a Nerf gun is different in scale from shooting them with a .45 Magnum. The two acts are not generally comparable.

  30. Grudgeal says:

    I think the single moment that really, *really* killed Mass Effect for me was the beginning of ME2 when they reveal Cerberus had rebuilt the Normandy from scratch. Really, the entire ME2 “kill Shepard and join Cerberus” part was the punch to my common sense that ultimately killed the series to me, but the moment the realisation actually set in came when TIM just unveiled that “oh and incidentally we rebuilt your spaceship for you and re-hired Joker to fly it have fun going on space trips” and I basically went “what was the point of going through all that death and timeskip hoo-hah if you’re just going to put me in the exact same position I was in before the death and timeskip?!”

    Realising that ME2 was an irrelevant tangent to the storyline and that everything I did in it (outside in some DLC I never bought) basically didn’t matter to the overall story was basically the topping on the crap sandwich, but the sandwich itself was already long made in that first hour of story basically retconning everything about the first game. In retrospect, ME2 might have done some things differently after that first hour that would partially redeem itself but it would always have been a ‘partially’ deal to me. ME3 was always irredeemable to me and the “Save Earth from Reaper Invasion!” angle just made me double down.

  31. Kian says:

    One reason you didn’t bring up in the article about why the argument refuses to die, I think, is the sense of ownership everyone has over Shepard. At least amongst my friends and the sites I’ve frequented, everyone refers to Shepard as “my Shepard” when describing the choices they made. I can’t recall any other game where this is so. I didn’t refer to Jensen on DX:HR as “my Jensen” for example.

    As for when it all came crashing for me, I’d say it was at the very end. I mean, there were things that didn’t sit well with me in all three games.

    I didn’t like the choice of letting the Rachni queen go free or kill her, I’d have liked to take her into my custody for example. I’m a Spectre, I can do whatever I want, and if I want to harbor the last member of a race that put the galactic community against the ropes, I will. A rachni squadmate would have been badass (not sold on a rachni love interest though).

    ME2 and ME3 had terrible beginnings. Killing you only to resurrect you a minute later is the dumbest plot contrivance I’ve ever seen in any form of media. And in ME3, making Shepard so invested in saving Earth felt wrong for my Spacer War Hero Shepard. He never even wonders about the fate of his mother until a throwaway line with Hackett some time into the game. Not to mention that throwing you in prison is dumb. There’s just so many things wrong with that, even if you played Arrival.

    I understand why you took the blame. The Alliance couldn’t afford war with the Batarians, so they needed to pin the blame on you and not on the Alliance operatives that set up the asteroid. Everyone was even certain you were working for Cerberus, so yeah, a terrorist organization blew up a relay. Sounds plausible.

    But why would the Alliance intervene? Neither the Council nor the Alliance have jurisdiction over Batarian space, nor extradition treaties, so they have no right to incarcerate you over crimes committed there. You already were a terrorist for them, and in any case you are a Spectre, you are above the law. You never bothered to get reinstated as Alliance military after your death, so there’s not even that for them to hold over you. So long as you can justify yourself to the Council and keep from having your status revoked, you would be in the clear. And yet, they ground you and steal your ship (bad Anderson! Get your own Normandy!)

    And still I could keep up with all these flaws. I don’t mind that the main plot is so bad so long as the character interactions keep being cool and the main plot only surfaces occasionally while I’m being awesome around the galaxy. What ruined it for me was really the colored endings. I played the game when it first came out, so I didn’t even have the extended cut to soften the blow. At that point I couldn’t just keep hoping that they’d fix their mistakes later, or would somehow manage to wrap things up properly in the future. So I just sat there stunned and disappointed.

    1. Vermander says:

      Totally agree on the “my Shepherd” thing. I can’t think of any other game where I feel like my customized version of the protagonist is a distinct and separate character from everyone else’s.

      Compare to Skyrim for example, where I feel like the Dragonborn is the same character no matter what, even if they are a different gender or even species.

      1. Mike S. says:

        Definitely. Or often “my Shepards”, because the game lends itself to using the different backgrounds and moral choices to define a personality. Sure, the practicalities of keeping the plot on track means that a lot of that gets defined in the blank space. (Though I was often surprised at Shepard saying exactly what I thought he or she should about something, or getting to solve a tech problem my other Shepards couldn’t because he is after all an Engineer.)

        But it’s that, the actual role-playing aspect (not to be confused with the inventory and skill customization that seem to define RPGs in the video game world) that kept me coming back with different takes: Jane, the Paragon to the point of paladinhood; her forked version who was turned into a Vanguard by Miranda and spent two games working through the resultant identity crisis and disillusion; Mal, the angry corner-cutter with a deeply-buried sense of responsibility; Cal, who never saw Cerberus’s human experimentation and thinks they’re humanity’s best hope against the Reaper threat; Vic, the geeky engineer who really mostly just wants to talk ship drives with Tali, but keeps getting drawn into larger events.

        Even though they’re going through the same story beats, it never feels to me like the same story.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Which is weird because, of all the Bioware games I can think of, no character has ever been less your character than this game. Shepard is specific, voiced, has pretty well defined character traits and the possibilities for what he will and won’t do are narrower. Shepard may be a dick or a nice guy but he does the job in a more or less professional manner and inspires his team one way or another. He’s not going to become drunk on his own power and try to conquer the galaxy (well, until the ME3 ending, the very thing we’re complaining about. This is actually where his choices are by far the most diverse out of the entire series if you can get over your pallette swap complaint and pay attention to the description.)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            “Shepard is specific, voiced, has pretty well defined character traits and the possibilities for what he will and won't do are narrower

            Except thats not true.It just seems like that because you get the voice thing,but in the end,shepard is more of an empty brick than some earlier characters bioware has.You can pick practically any option practically any time you want,especially in 3 where paragon and renegade have merged,doing full 180 turns on a whim.Try that in,for example,NWN,where alignment is restricting you much more severely,and you wont succeed.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Its all within the space of his character though. The paragon renegade thing comes down to how far has Shepard’s patience been pushed that day. It feels like even the choices not taken are part of his character. He may want to kick the merc out the window. He may feel like the merc probably deserves it, but he’s going to be a better man than that, today.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Oh you mean like when you pick colonist sole survivor and then get a completely different dialogue when talking with cerberus,the guys that slaughtered your whole team,and completely different emotions about earth,the place youve never seen in your life.Oh,wait,that never happens.Because shepard is an empty brick.

                Meanwhile,your generic hordes of the underdark character,defined only by his alignment,requires gradual shift on that scale before you get even the option to say something completely opposite to it.Its not perfect,I admit,but its way more granular than this empty shepbrick,when it shouldve been the other way around.

  32. Grudgeal says:

    Also, just to get this thing Shamus wrote in the article off my chest…

    The first Mass Effect was a slow-paced, high-concept sci-fi opera. It was about world building. The game started at a human colony, and then used that as a launching point to bring the player into a strange new universe full of exotic aliens and fantastic technology. The humans seemed kind of small and unimportant in comparison. It has a very episodic structure, where each planet had a mystery for the heroes to unravel.

    By the third game, all of that had changed. It was no longer a story about a scary new universe. It was now a story of the MOST IMPORTANT [WO]MAN IN THE GALAXY. (…) These two kinds of fiction are really different in terms of audience. Think Star Trek and Babylon 5 versus Star Wars and The Fifth Element.

    I feel should be “Star Trek and Babylon 5 first and second season versus Star Wars and Babylon 5 later seasons”. Maybe it’s just me but the ‘great men of history’ and Sheridan becoming Captain Space of the White Star, Defender of the Universe aspects *really* started to grate on me by season 3.

    1. Hydralysk says:

      I can understand you not liking Sheridan becoming a sort of galactic centerpiece, even though I don’t personally agree with it. Putting season 1 on there though… that’s something I just don’t get. Season one can be a chore, since every character stays at their starting point, the main plot is only hinted at, and you have to deal with Michael O’Hare who’s far more boring than Sheridan.

      Side note: I totally geeked out when I heard Bruce Boxleitner voicing Konrad in Spec Ops, it made it impossible for me to hate him.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        Season 1 was a lot of hit-and-miss, and more of the latter than the former. But it is still a better example of “world building (…) a launching point to bring the player into a strange new universe full of exotic aliens and fantastic technology.” than any of its subsequent seasons, perhaps exactly because the main plot was still in its foreshadowing stage. Sure, humanity never seemed “small and unimportant by comparison” because close to 80% of the recurring cast were human, babylon 5 itself was a human construct, and well over 50% of the episodes involved human affairs, but at least humans weren’t yet the messiah species they became later. “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” actually made me feel vaguely insulted.

        Also, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the only Babylon 5 watcher who actually *liked* Sinclair. Boxleitner was a better actor than O’Hare and Sheridan was a much more heroic figure, but somehow I can’t help but shake the feeling that that only helped escalate how the latter seasons turned out.

        1. Mike S. says:

          I liked Sinclair too. I thought O’Hare did a decent job of showing how his quiet demeanor masked a PTSD-fueled death wish (though Garibaldi helpfully pointed it out as well). But the replacement was more understandable in the wake of the revelations about his mental health struggles during the series.

          (Man, way too many of the principals from that show have died, given that it’s only been two decades.)

          1. Hydralysk says:

            To clarify, O’Hare’s Sinclair was fine when his scenes required a quiet or restrained attitude. If he was admonishing someone or having a heart to heart talk I think he did fine. I just felt he couldn’t really project extreme emotion all that well. Every time he was supposed to be really angry, excited or scared it just felt kind of stilted. Luckily those moments were rare thanks to the nature of the show, but they really stood out for me.

            That being said I’d never heard about the new revelations after his death, and now I feel like I’m picking on him. I at least liked him better than Keffer.

  33. Daemian Lucifer says:

    For me,it was the conversation with the ashley bitch on virmire.The previous stuff in 2 irked me somewhat,but not much.I was enjoying myself and glossing over the majority of crap with an occasional “Wait,why this?Oh nevermind”.But that conversation,that whole “Why didnt you call,wah,wah!” just killed it for me.Oh I did slog trough afterwards,and I did replay it once more later,to see if maybe I would enjoy it more after I cooled off.Nope,I just got more annoyed knowing whats to come,and it just increased my annoyance with the rest of the stuff.

    3 was just….ugh,I loathe that game from the very first text.

  34. M. says:

    I actually played all the way to the end of ME3 and didn’t have any problem with it at all; I thought all the nerd rage was absurd. But then I actually read one of the more thoughtful deconstructions and I was all “hey, wait a minute — the nerds are right! None of this makes any sense! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO PULL, BIOWARE.” Retrospectively the entire superstructure of ME3 and ME2 fell apart for me, and now I’m in the camp of people who look longingly back at ME1, warts and all, and think about what might have been.

    I suppose I’d be a happier person if I’d never bothered with the thoughtful analysis. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. But what the heck, nitpicking is fun too.

  35. ehlijen says:

    To me, playing the ME trilogy is like peddling for gold in a river of industrial waste. I can see the gold (story in ME1, some characters in ME2 and 3), but to get it I have to put my hands in icky, nasty stuff (story in ME2 and 3, gameplay in ME1). So I’m sitting at the river bank trying to estimate whether the gold will be enough cover the medical bills I’d get from the caustic burns. (And I’m not sure that last bit is still metaphor…)

    Without the gold, I’d walk away. Without the waste, I’d grab the gold and ??? profit. But it’s both. It’s just enough gold to make me hate the waste for taunting me and just enough waste that I curse the gold for tempting me.

  36. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I think the reason it refuses to die is because its so big and critically acclaimed,was hyped over and over as this grand trilogy,and then failed to deliver.We didnt have any such behemoths before,and this one had so much potential in it,that squandering it just left a huge mark on everyone.

    1. Mike S. says:

      It’s not just the critics. It has a huge fanbase, which was divided among people who thought the ending was a betrayal and those who thought it was fine, both of whom (as usual on the Internet) tended to be most represented by their loudest and most uncompromising voices.

      (If the consensus were that the game died at the beginning of ME2, no one would have cared if ME3 had a bad ending.)

      Though the ME3 controversy was, if anything, marked for the prominence of reasonable (though still passionate) criticism, most notably the Tasteful Understated Nerdrage videos. The fact that the story could support and was worth that sort of analysis is testimony to how much players were getting out of it.

      If it had just been hype failure, I think it would have burned out or become a general joke far sooner, a la Duke Nukem Forever.

  37. DIN aDN says:

    Ohhhhhhhh, so that is why some people got so upset about the sequels.

    See, for me, the point where I stopped taking the plot of Mass Effect seriously was when I found out the ultimate antagonists were giant ancient death robots from outer space, whose motivations ‘are beyond the ken of mortal man’, and who can only be stopped by one guy who is enough of a one-liner-deliverin’ gun-shootin’ boss-sassin’ alien-bonkin’ snarkdude with a magic plot device in his head. Which incidentally made Meer’s deadpan delivery actually really enjoyable for me.

    I enjoyed the games, but it was never for the plot. The story, sure, but never the plot.

  38. Shirdal says:

    It seems to me that for most people here the Mass Effect series only fell apart from the second game forward. Maybe that’s fair: you have to like some part of the series for it to fall apart in the first place. But for me Mass Effect fell apart during the first game. For all its promise and ambition at creating a high-concept science fiction world and story, I found that the game lacked a lot in its execution and had little depth to offer beneath the surface.

    What upsets me about the series as a whole is not that I felt disappointed or betrayed by it. I did not have enough investment in it to be either of those things. What upsets me is that the series often seems to be held as a high-bar for video game storytelling, and I have this (probably unjustified) fear that this is the best most other developers will aspire to. But games can do so, so much better than Mass Effect, even the first Mass Effect.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “But games can do so, so much better than Mass Effect, even the first Mass Effect.”

      That bugs me too.I dont care if people enjoy mass effects.Heck,I enjoy a lot of trash myself.What annoys me is when they say its such a great story that should be emulated by others.Noooo,its not,it really shouldnt be.*sigh*

      1. Cinebeast says:

        Wow, you’re very caustic.

        I am interested in what you consider good storytelling in games, though. As far as I’ve seen, Mass Effect is the best of the bunch. Even the second game is head-and-shoulders above most other games I’ve played. Am I missing out on something obvious or what?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Am I missing out on something obvious or what?”

          Yes,consistency.While Ill agree that on its own,the overall story of me2 is ok to good,when coupled with me1,its just bad.The two work as separate entities,but fail when considered a whole.

          As for which games have better (main) stories,off the top of my head:
          Planescape:torment,baldurs gate 2,original fallout*drink*,fallout new vegas,half lives,spec ops:the line,the walking dead,bastion,starcraft,heroes of might and magic 3 and 4,kotor,hordes of the underdark,monkey island,second sight,…

          And a bunch of others that I couldnt remember at the moment.Also,keep in mind that Im purely a pc player,so a bunch of games that others consider to be stellar(some final fantasies,some silent hills,chrono trigger,some zeldas,paper mario,last of us,etc),Ive never played.

          1. Cinebeast says:

            Fair enough. Thanks for responding.

            I would still rank Mass Effect, as a series, over most of the games you listed, but I’ve only played about half of them. It’s totally possible I’m missing out on some great stories.

        2. Shirdal says:

          I have trouble with vague qualitative terms like good and bad, especially when they apply to something as personal and subjective as a story. The delivery of the story, however, and from my perspective, is a more technical and less subjective aspect than the story itself, and this is where I find the greatest faults in the game.

          Poor world building with generic or absent visual design, over-reliance on exposition to deliver plot information and lore, and inorganic/formulaic story progression (go to planet, talk to crew, repeat), are some general examples I can think of for what I consider to be poor story delivery. It is up to the individual to decide how much such flaws hurt the experience, but they are flaws.

          For the story itself, rather than call it good or bad, I am much more inclined to describe it as mostly generic and shallow. The game had left me with no impression of any strong and unique ideas nor of a core theme or themes that appeared in any appreciable way nor of any significant character arcs.

          All of this left me with an overwhelming feeling of mediocrity: a lack of strong ideas and a strong delivery. Either one of those things on its own could have made for a more engaging and meaningful experience.

          I do not think that Mass Effect is bad in any sense of the word (although it certainly has bad bits in it), and I can see that there stuff there for people to like, but any claim that it is the best around, or even among the best, is quite distressing to me. I can only hope that there is talent out there that maintains higher standards for game stories and an audience for such stories.

          Note that I only refer to the first Mass Effect here, since that is the only one I have first-hand experience with. My second-hand impression of the other two games is that their main stories are pretty much a pile of rubbish (to put it kindly) that I find no merit in whatsoever. The side stories of those games, such as companion stories, are up for debate, but one that sadly I cannot meaningfully contribute to.

    2. evileeyore says:

      Oh no. It started falling apart in 1 with the slow build up of “Meat vs Machine” nonsense.

      For me it really was a slow build, the stupid kept piling on but I was willing to shoulder it, and shoulder it, and shoulder… and then Starchild and 3-button ending and stupid palette swap endings.

      And I collapsed under the weight of all the stupid and retroactively hated the stupid starting all the way back in one.

      Would I “accept” a reboot of the franchise? Maybe… If the writting was solid and they had someone in charge with a firm hand all the way through.

    3. lurkey says:

      What upsets me is that the series often seems to be held as a high-bar for video game storytelling[…]

      Bloody yes, and ongoing fawning and gushing about this pile of dumb, mediocrity, and few gems in between never stops baffling me. I mean, look at the other mediums – say, TV. There was this big, really big, cult series with huge following, “Lost”. Then, its creators fucked up its ending, which ruined the series. It also stuck, so that one of the guys behind it had to delete his Twitter because even years after the fiasco whenever some series ended strong, people would flood his Twitter with “Look how it’s done!” Even George Martin made fun of that ending, that far the ripples went.

      Back to ME trilogy, nearly everyone still heartfarts about how brilliant a masterpiece it is. Granted, endings are a bit (insert Turian Councilor’s airquotes here) controversial, according to minority of bitter, stupid, ungrateful nerds, but that doesn’t change anything, right? Maaasterpiece!

      Thank goodness for blogs like this, where people who can see that the Emperor is, in fact, sans clothes, can gather and collectively make fun of his naked arse.

    4. Lame Duck says:

      Yeah, Mass Effect 1 failed to get me invested in the series because the galaxy as depicted felt like an empty, culturally dead wasteland. Nowhere we got to go to was interesting, it was all copy-pasted shipping container buildings or concrete tunnels with half a dozen people in them. The only half-decent location was the Citadel and the only thing going on there seemed to be gambling, pole dancers and one psychotherapist/prostitute. Maybe the effect wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t made such a big galaxy map with so many places to go and so very little to see.

      It seems like they improved on that in Mass Effect 2, but then I heard about all these problems with the writing and I decided that I just wasn’t interested enough to give it a try.

      1. Shirdal says:

        The “show, don’t tell” technique is something that I find lacking in a lot of games, and in Mass Effect in particular. The world we are being told about in the game (or games) is often quite different from the world we are being shown. Presentation matters a lot to me, especially when a game aims for greater fidelity which leaves less room for the imagination. That is not the only problem I find in Mass Effect, but it is a very big one.

  39. Cuthalion says:

    I think the second reason you name was the most interesting to me, and I enjoyed that part of the writeup very much. Can’t say whether it’s true for me though, as I’ve never played the games.

  40. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I don’t see a similar comment, so I’ll make a new one: Mass Effect died for me when the Catalyst didn’t fire the first time. That was the moment I felt my chain was being jerked. Murry the Starchild made things worse, and the three color-coded endings were the cherry on the cake -but it was the moment that my victory over the Illusive Man was stripped out that I felt really betrayed.

    What followed caused a chain reaction stretching all the way back to the beginning of ME3, and possibly all the way back to ME2. As I read my comments from back in 2011, I was willing to give a lot of slack to the story on the condition they eventually pay off the promises they were making and work it out in game. I could accept Cerberus as being much larger than EDI said (the Illusive Man lied -anyone doubts this?) I could accept Cerberus being much better armed than anyone believed (Cerberus started as an Alliance operation before the Illusive Man broke off with it). I could accept the binary ending of ME2 as thematically appropriate (the previous loyalty missions had binary endings, loyalty itself was binary in the game, and the Suicide Mission represented Shepard’s loyalty mission: to Cerberus’ anything goes rules, or to the Alliance ideals and Shepard’s own desire to destroy the Collectors and Reapers). I could even accept the Human Reaper as -basically -a desperation play. Sovereign having failed, build a new reaper to try again. Humans were the obvious target (or at least, Terminus Systems residents) because who is going to miss them? They’re not part of the Alliance or the Council -they’re claim jumpers. I think there are ways it could have been done better, but I was willing to give them a chance to play it where it lay.

    I said that the themes of the game seemed more varied than just synthetics vs. organics, or a more general free-will vs determinism. I thought the game itself had interesting things to say about choice -that even though great social and political trends had determined much of the universe, Shepard’s choices still mattered -to Shepard, to his crew, and to the galaxy. The choices of 50 nameless Prothean Scientists mattered even more (I so wanted that to come back and matter at the end).

    The elevator made it clear that wasn’t going to happen.

    I remember screaming at the screen during the Starchild’s thing “I would like to play!”

    I played ME 12 times. ME 2 got 9 plays, including all DLC. ME 3? Twice. The second time just to see if the extended cut was worth it.

    I have since played right up to the assault on earth -and just can’t go any further.

  41. swenson says:

    I dunno. Maybe I’m just a fan in the sense of “fanatic”, but it actually took me right up to Starchild and the complete and utter lack of closure at the end of ME3 before it truly lost me. Everything else, I could overlook or handwave or just set aside, but that was the point where I was just like, nope, can’t take it anymore, I’ve reached my limit.

    The whole forcible joining Cerberus thing, though, that was where I started to get annoyed. It’s so clear from the writing that they knew it made no sense, but it had to happen, so they half-heartedly tried to convince you and then just never gave you the option to do anything else.

    Cerberus gaining stature between the games actually didn’t bother me as much because I could handwave it away, but the change from 2 to 3 was beyond my capacity to handwave.

    Moooostly everything else I could deal with, even if I wasn’t exactly a fan of it. After all this time, though, I’m still angry that Starchild was the dumb kid from the intro, and not the squadmate who died on Virmire. Come ON, people! Talk about missed opportunities! I guarantee if it was Ashley (or a thing masquerading as Ashley) standing there chewing me out, I would’ve been a great deal more upset than with the kid. Might’ve even been enough to distract me from the stupidity.

  42. Victor McKnight says:

    I managed to last until the very end of ME2. The bad writing surrounding Shepard working with Cerberus I was able to get through because, well, I’ve read a lot of military and intelligence history. A cynical alliance of convenience between elite agents/special forces and a known terrorist organization are things that happen often. They could even happen in a space opera, if written better. So I took a deep breath and kept playing.

    But the false choice at the end of ME2 was too hard. The third choice of giving the Collector base to the Council was too obviously missing. From that point on, no matter how fun Vanguard Charging things was, the Mass Effect experience couldn’t be salvaged. There were parts of ME3 that were fun, but the magic was gone.

  43. Disc says:

    The Kid. The dreams. The whole EARTH/HUMANITY IS THE NEW CENTER OF UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING. Kai “Motherfucking” Leng. Illusive “Writer’s Pet” Man. Omnipotent and -present Cerberus.

    Also some of the new tacked on crew mates to a lesser extent. That shuttle pilot guy could realistically be counted as a liability and sent away to get some proper therapy/help. It was fucking awkward and annoying as hell when I didn’t want to be a dick to him yet I felt like he should get the hell out of my ship. So I become a freaking field therapist against my will because hey, I guess it was too important to have a gay guy in the crew or something. Didn’t help that he becomes a borderline-creepy Shepard fanboy when you do help him out.

    Edit: Suppose I should add Shepard becoming the Messiah and Chosen One of the entire galaxy. ME2 is almost straight from the Bible with the 12 companions and the loyalty system. Everyone who believes in Shepard shall not perish.

  44. Tychoxi says:

    I’ll have to go with 2 and 4. #1 turned out to be completely lacking in narrative sense or reason but it didn’t mean much to me. Now, the whole #2 “you must join Cerberus because you must (even if you are the lone survivor)” was unacceptable and only rivaled by #4 the Reapers going from incomprehensible Lovecraftian creatures to petty beings that wanted to create a giant terminator. By the time in ME3 with that whole nonsensical “We fight or we die” council or when you literally kill reapers while *on foot*, I was beyond caring one bit.

    Also, Mr. Decamp can count with my support again.

  45. James says:

    The series broke for me at the end of ME2, and while i played ME3, i wanted to see if it could recover the old scope, i finally did some thinking and concluded it broke when i met the terminator and he Collectors plans were revealed.

    Thinking on an ending,

    I would have been perfectly happy if everyone died, if we looked for a way to win and lost. a story of a tragic loss against insurmountable odds would have been fine.

    I would have been o.k. if the reapers got defeated, a super doomsday weapon is found but the cost of using it is loosing the Sol system or something like that a “ultimate sacrifice” or “at what cost” victory akin to ME 1 where half the citadel fleet is lost to kill Sovereign as is one of your crew.

    What i didn’t want was the reapers reason to be revealed, they were in my mind supposed to be lovecraftian unknown horrors for the void, they don’t need a reason. what i didn’t want was a plot that on one hand says blowing up mass relays kills a solar system then BLOWS ALL OF THEM UP, that moves from having a plot not centered on the player and humanity and then make it ALL ABOUT SHEPARD WHO IS ALSO NOW LITERATELY JESUS!.

    My friends don’t get why i hate Mass Effect 3, its not the game i hate not really it has some wonderful moments and overall the game play is the best the series has ever had though there was just so much of it. i hate it because it was the culmination of a tonal and storytelling shift.

    at the end of the column Shamus wonders what Drew Karpyshyn is doing, well he retired from writing for games to write more books, and i wish him all the luck in the world, ive got his first book in the “Chaos Born” series and i’ve read a bit of it and am enjoying it alot.

  46. straymute says:

    It fell apart with ME2 in general for me. ME1 only had 3 major choices. You save or kill the Rachni, you save or kill the council, and you choose Kaiden or Ashley.

    These are the only real threads that needed to be allowed to run their course from the first game to last and it was pretty smart to limit it to three and not allow things to get too bloated. These choices are also smart in that along with the Geth/Quarian conflict and the Genophage you basically have everything you need to fill out the last 2 games.

    The suicide mission, the team recruitment, the entire Cerberus plot, the collectors. That was all unnecessary. The Council decision and the arrival of the first reaper had enough implications to carry the main plot of ME2. For some reason though Bioware decided to take the most impractical and illogical route. Instead of spending all that time and money making sure these 3 threads paid off they decided to just create more and more plot threads with ME2. Ones they couldn’t possibly deliver on.

    The Arrival DLC was the cherry on it all. We were now so off track that Bioware had to go back and add in an entire storyline just to give the game a point. ME3 showed that you don’t come back from a mess like that, you have to have focus and vision with a project this big.

  47. I only discovered where I think the ME series set itself up for failure in retrospect. Basically, when we discover what the “big idea” is: Organics vs. Synthetics.

    Let’s put aside the idea of a kind of Singularity-type future for organic races, where it’s hard to tell where biology ends and synthetic systems begin. That’s where a lot of tech (both real and that in sci-fi) is trending, from medical research to cyberpunk. Why anyone would put some big ol’ division between the two like a pair of nations with religions hostile to each other makes little sense to me without some form of believable justification (i.e. BSG’s war with the Cylons necessitating no complicated computer networks on warships, for example).

    Sovereign said, and I quote: “My kind transcends your very understanding. We are each a nation – independent, free of all weakness. You cannot grasp the nature of our existence.”

    I suspected the game could never deliver on that concept, and I was right. It set up a sci-fi version of cosmic horror, a fate for sentient life that was going to be terrible but not understood, which would have made it even worse. At best, we should have been given an idea of what would happen to us (pick a Lovecraftian fate: body horror, brains used as spare parts while their users are still alive, bodies used as hosts for alien machinations, etc.) but not a true understanding of why it would happen. That was what Sovereign said he was by definition.

    In short, Cthulhu is scary because he’s going to drive humanity mad and devour the world. He’s even scarier because we really don’t know to what purpose he wants to do this.

    Once the cycle was explained along with the human sludge-Reaper, it seemed awfully understandable and pretty much beneath something that was supposed to be the pinnacle of evolution. By making the threat so simplistic and uninteresting, it robbed the threat of any real terror.

    1. Kian says:

      This is something that always bothered me too. Sovereign’s reveal in the original was great for me. They wanted to set up an enemy far beyond anything we could imagine, and Sovereign sells it. The trick to having something like that, however, is not explaining it. You’ll never measure up to what the audience imagines. You’ve set up expectations beyond what you can possibly deliver, because if it’s something as trivial as reproduction, or even gardening on a galactic scale, that’s something you can understand. And by understanding it, it stops being a cosmic horror.

      Which is one reason I dislike ME2 and the Starchild. They try so hard to explain everything, when the best they could have done was give us a way to stop them, keep them at bay, without ever explaining it. It’s like how Star Wars Episode One ruined the force by introducing midiclorians. No one wanted to know how the force worked, being a mystical energy was what made it interesting.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Cthulu plus Borg always seemed a quite reasonable villain for the Reapers, especially if they had stuck with the more free-will/deterministic themes present in the first game.

      The nations of the Citadel are fractious and competitive -even with the Reaper’s attempts to guide them into harmony through the creation of the Citadel and the Mass Effect Relays. So the Reapers came up with a better solution: indoctrination. Using EM radiation and mass effect fields -perhaps even build into the Mass Relays this stuff -they subtly bring the many people of the galaxy together -forcing them to behave as one. Alas, minor side effects include craziness and liquification of the flesh, so they come up with another patch: take all the races, form each of them into various reapers -each a Nation to Itself. And then the reapers use indoctrination to keep each of the nations agreeing as well, and agreeing that the Reapers were correct from the start.

      Body horror, replacement part, going mad, and “Resistance is Futile.”

      Of course, if anyone gets out of the indoctrination fields -like a couple of Prothean scientists or human marine (or really any of the humans with their habit of bucking conventions and lateral thinking -partly brought about by their late entrance to the Citadel) then the plan fails, and the massive weight of a Reaper Invasion can -in fact -be blunted by massing the Citadel Species, getting them to come together and strike back at one point -even if it means temporarily abandoning a world.

      You know, Earth Alliance Strategic Doctrine as explained in the first game as it relates to Xianxi.

      That’s why the game is so annoying. It doesn’t take a lot of work to piece together a coherent ending. They just whiffed it totally.

    3. Taellosse says:

      You know, reading your comment, something occurred to me. I bet there WAS a way the Reapers could have been both explained AND stayed horrifying, and it wouldn’t even have taken much of a change. Rather than them being the enforcers of some sort of bizarre synthetic/organic dichotomy (while being themselves, essentially, a proof of that dichotomy’s fallacy, since they are both), instead their purpose simply IS: this is how they reproduce. Leave their actual origins unexplained, I think (it is so far in the past that no record exists any longer save in the oldest of the Reapers themselves, and they choose not to share it), but the rest is what we saw, more or less – each Reaper is the best of an entire sentient species, forcibly melded into a single being. The process (which, incidentally, should NOT have involved liquefying individuals and running the resulting slurry like a blood transfusion into giant robots) transforms them into something that is, from our perspective, wholly mad, but in their view is the apotheosis of sentient awareness. They harvest the galaxy for sentience as a way to propagate – to them, we are not an infection to be cleansed, but their idiot children, to be elevated into the ranks of the truly conscious once they have judged us ready. They have, and need, no other reason beyond that to do what they do.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        This is basically what I would prefer too.And mordins comment in the collector ship nicely ties to this:perfect cloning leads to stagnation and essentially spiritual death.No art,no science,no progress,only the same thing as always,repeated ad nauseam.It makes sense then that an advance machine race would search a way to add evolution and a bit of mutation into themselves,and what better way to do that than to seed a bunch of worlds with organic material,give it some time to mutate,then harvest the results.

        Also,sapience,not sentience.

    4. Grudgeal says:

      During an earlier discussion on this site long ago someone linked to how one of Mass Effect’s writers said the Reapers were inspired by the Shivans, which when discussing Sovereign makes a lot of sense. The Shivans were scary exactly because their motivations and mystery were never revealed, much like the monsters of Lovecraft’s writings.

      Clearly, someone didn’t remember that design philosophy going into the sequel and just turned them into generic doomsday villains.

  48. Humanoid says:

    For me it was the Spoiler Warning season of ME2. :P I kid, mostly, but there’s a little truth in there.

    I’m mostly commented out having had most of the discussion in the Diecast thread, so I won’t elaborate, but I will say that that unlike some of the opinions stated, who mourn the downfall or some great series or some great game developer, I will disagree. There was no greatness, just one very good game in Baldur’s Gate 2, and some decent titles thereafter.

    I might be accused of sounding a bit revisionist, but my subsequent experiences with their titles:

    – I went back and played the original Baldur’s Gate. I couldn’t stand it, and got not much more than an hour or two in. I’m not singling it out as such, but it was pretty much in the same bucket as the rest of that type of 80s-90s RPG that I dislike: games like the Gold Box games, Might and Magic, Wizardry, I didn’t care for any of them.

    – NWN was a total loss. I probably played it longer than I should have, but money was tight (no avoiding the Australia tax back then), and I tried to go on to try to get my money’s worth, which never happened.

    – KoTOR was okay, despite being a Star Wars game. This opinion is coloured by my dislike in general of Star Wars, I might have found it a bit better if I didn’t find the setting so intensely silly, but I do, and I find the game to be one of the most overrated of all time (despite, as I said, it being a decent game in its own right).

    – Dragon Age 1 I couldn’t get through. An earnest attempt but it had burned me out by halfway. Ignored the expansion and sequel.

    1. Sleepy the Bear says:

      Have you ever tried Jade Empire? That stands as my favourite Bioware game. It a more action oriented RPG, within a more Oriental fantasy setting. I loved the story deeply, particularly the way the ending can play out. Shamus has a write-up here

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “NWN was a total loss.”

      NWN was basically mass effect in small.Dull main story,but engaging companions and npcs.Its only saving grace was the aurora toolkit.

      BUT,the expansions to it were good.Especially hordes of the underdark which is a pure gem.

      1. Tizzy says:

        The way I remember it, when NWN was discussed prior to release, it was always about the new tech, the toolkit, and the dungeon mastering. The story or setting was never discussed, and that totally failed to arouse my interest. I was content with picking it up in the bargain bin years later.

    3. Humanoid says:

      To answer both questions, I never got around to trying either NWN expansion, or to JE. (Though I’ve seen the latter running, in weirdly distorted widescreen, on a PC.)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You really should try nwn expansions(if you dont mind a bit dated graphics and gameplay).You get a kobold bard companion(and others are fun as well,if not as cute).You get prestige classes,which really do wonders for gameplay by giving a bunch of abilities to everyone(though I remained pure mage,and just screamed like a banshee till everything died).In hordes,you get to manipulate people into all sorts of shit.You get to deal with mind flayers.You get an epic boss battle against a huge devil(which can be humiliated in such a great fashion once dispatched),and you can even skip it with a conversation if you do some things right before.

    4. Tizzy says:

      It’s funny that you mention the Bioware that never was. I never played ME, so I am enjoying reading the comments without feeling any of the same bile.

      But then you go and mention DA1, and I feel not quite the same strong feelings of rage, but rather a sense of loss and sadness over a missed opportinity. Here was a high fantasy setting that really tried to be original, and, in its opening, set us up for some potentially fantastic payoffs.

      And then it more or less did nothing with it. Except for one truly spectacular and emotionally-charged reveal that occurs near the end of the Deep Roads (a punishing slugfest of a neverending dungeon), it was as if all of the interesting ideas seeded by the setting’s back story had been forgotten when it came time to write the game.

      So, yeah, a Bioware that never was.

      1. aldowyn says:

        DA2 is SO much more interesting than Origins. It has its issues, but being generic is not one of them

        1. Tizzy says:

          I wouldn’t accuse DA1 of being generic, but of setting up interesting concepts and then failing to see them throug to a satisfactory payoff. Or, even worse, forgetting about them altogether.

  49. Ofermod says:

    For me, it was the demo to ME3. I got through ME2 solely on the strength of (some of) the characters, figuring that they were worth dealing with Cerberus and the genetic slushy idiocy. The game had down points, but it also had good. But then I downloaded the ME3 demo, hoping that it would be good… and I got “We fight or we die!” and “Cerberus is executing a surprise attack on a top-secret lab on the homeworld of the race known for being really good at intelligence/espionage!”

    And from then on, I pretty much knew there was no hope for redemption for the game. It still had some good moments (Tuchanka), but the bad far outweighed them.

  50. JoCommando says:

    On the very same day: my favorite blogger revisits Mass Effect and one of my favorite YouTubers posts his ME series overview/review. There’s probably some reason for this cosmic confluence of common conversation I’ve yet to comprehend; until I do, I’ll just assume it’s my lucky day.

  51. Dreadjaws says:

    The beginning of Mass Effect 3 did it for me. Yes, I was supremely annoyed by a bunch of things on ME2 (the constant barrage of inmersion-killing pop-ups, the brand new extreme emphasis on action, the excess of love for Shepard, etc.), but I was one of those who hadn’t played the DLC, so when I started the game I was in a situation I had no explanation for and the game liked to pretend I was supposed to.

    Then it all went downhill from there. All the other points you mention only added fuel to the fire (specially Kai F***ing Leng). The main problem I had was that while I got angry once in a while at the previous games when I lost, either because of me playing bad or because of the game doing something unfair, in ME3 I constantly got furious at the parts of the game I wasn’t playing. I hated how the game wanted a precise outcome and they took control away from me to force it. Constantly.

    Seriously, the endings were terrible in every sense (tone, lack of closure, laziness, ripping off other games, etc.), but they were just the last drop, because the entire darn game had me furious. Yes, it had some good parts, regarding side-quests but everything pertaining to the main storyline was a horrible mess.

    I recently replayed the trilogy again, and I have to say, it’s really hard to care for these characters again once you know how everything is going to turn out.

  52. Hydralysk says:

    For me the ending itself was what set me into full rage mode, but it was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    When they switched genre’s and everything about the main plot of ME2 went crazy I was at least able to fall back on liking the characters. The end of ME2 was stupid beyond belief, but I was hopeful they could just still fix it with the third game.

    Then ME3 started and the main plot got back on track, but still managed to be just as stupid as ME2’s plot. Bits of the Tuchanka and Rannoch missions along with the some of the character moments kept the hope alive though. It wasn’t until Earth mission, when I realized the climax was actually boring me, that I realized there was no hope of it getting better. Even then I would’ve just been profoundly disappointed rather than angry, but then the Starchild showed up and I turned completely livid.

    In the end, my experience with Mass Effect just reminds me of that scene from the Simpsons where Homer is chasing his pig roast as it goes through the sewer yelling “It’s just a little dirty! It’s still good! It’s still good”.

  53. Phantos says:

    I used to think Mass Effect 3’s ending was the worst example of human writing and direction. Worse than “The Room”. Worse than “Repercussions Of Evil”. Worse than that erotic fan-fiction of Severus Snape and the Teletubbies.

    Until I played The Walking Dead: Season Two. Now I kind of want to go easy on Casey Hudson.

    One of these days I’ll learn my lesson, that things can always get worse.

    1. Talby says:

      What happened with TWD season 2? I admit I lost interest before the end of the very first episode despite loving the first one, so I never got far enough to see it fall apart.

      1. Phantos says:

        Have you seen that Bob Chipman review of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”? The one where he said that after watching it, he just wanted to give up on movies and popular culture forever and live off the grid? I’m not sure I agree with him, but I understand now what he was feeling.

        Without spoiling anything, I will say that episode 4, “Amid The Ruins” is the one that made me stop caring about video games. It made me hate all of the time I’ve devoted to a hobby that I used to love. I’ve been disappointed and angry at video games before, but this is the first time I’ve truly felt like somebody murdered the potential for an entire art-form. I really don’t think there’s any going back from this.

        Like the Mass Effect 3 ending, it’s not because it was “too sad” or anything like that. Hell, at least Mass Effect 3 let you choose the colour of the ending cutscene. Imagine if it gave you the Destroy, Control and Synthesis options, and you picked Synthesis, but then BioWare slapped you on the wrist and said:

        “No! Don’t pick that one! Pick Control! I like that one the best! THIS IS MY MOVIE!!!”

        1. aldowyn says:

          I’d heard that Season 2 was going pretty well, but this isn’t the first I’ve heard of a problem with episode 4. I’ll have to figure that out at some point…

          1. Phantos says:

            The frustrating thing is that, out of respect for not spoiling it for others, you can’t really talk in-depth about it. And if you try, people will just ignore it just in case it spoils it for them. But I say this game was rotten before it hit the shelves.

            Which is why a few DieCasts a while ago, Rutskarn mentioned how nobody was talking about it, even though everyone couldn’t shut up about the first season. Maybe it’s that there’s nothing worth talking about. Maybe talking about it in-depth gives it attention it doesn’t deserve. Maybe it’s better to just let it fall into obscurity.

            I tell ya, I never thought there’d come a day where Survival Instinct and the Facebook TWD game were the least embarrassing parts of this franchise.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              I haven’t played either season, but I was a little intrigued as to why things seemed so quiet regarding Season 2! Not asking you to spoil anything – I’m sure it’ll all come out in the wash. My only experience with recent Telltale is The Wolf Among Us: I waited until it’d all been released, then played through it all in one go.

              I say ‘in one go.’ I got to the end of episode 4, and just deleted it. It was such a chore to force through Ep. 4 that not even my OCD any longer gave a damn who killed whom or really WTF. Just my personal experience! – but if you’re ever planning to give them a second chance then I wouldn’t start with Wolf…

              1. Disc says:

                I’ve personally found the whole season to be a little confusing as to what kind of story it’s trying to tell this time around and where it’s trying to go at times. At the outset it’s Clementine trying to figure out how to grow up and survive in a crapsack world, but it’s not always clear what the message/lesson was, if there ever was any to begin with (Looking at you episode 3. Clem’s already seen more than enough crazy assholes taking things too far in Season 1 alone, so I wasn’t sure what the point really was.)

                The Episode 4 ending is really abrupt and somewhat railroady. Maybe the excuse is Clem being a kid, but you’ve got only two options and you know neither is going to end up well. . There’s also about five character arcs in the episode that get aborted for good again at points where it really felt like yet more wasted effort at trying to make choices only for them to be invalidated later on. I don’t mind that they obviously wanted to break up the group but I’d have appreciated a chance to get some better closure, especially with Nick and Sarah, if only for all the effort I went through to stick up for them and help them.

                I don’t know if I should hope for somekind of payoff in the last episode, but so far the story’s been pretty freaking depressing overall.

                1. Phantos says:

                  Compare that to the first big choice in the first season.

                  If Carly and Doug had been in season 2, Carly would die regardless of whether you choose to save her or not, and then Doug would die offscreen at the start of the next episode one of two ways, and they wouldn’t even bother bringing back his voice actor.

                  It really feels like the lead writer only just started watching Game of Thrones. “Killing 1 character was shocking, so if I kill off nine million characters, it will be nine million times gooder! I AM SUCH A GENIUS!!!”

  54. TheLurkerAbove says:

    4. was the first sign, then 9 (plus making the last, terrible ME2 DLC meaningless), 10, a GIANT dose of 12, 13-15, 18-20.

    Not listed (and most important to me): ME3 insisting over and over again that rather than fighting the Reapers because the galaxy is threatened and they want to kill everything what I REALLY should care about is just saving EARTH?!?!?

  55. Duoae says:

    The point in ME3 when I was pissed off was in the first five minutes when I was railroaded into being a monster for killing all those Batarians that I didn’t kill in that DLC that I didn’t buy.

    I was much less annoyed with the shadowbroker DLC main story additions but still I think Bioware’s recent tendency to put the player’s actions and other important story bits in optional paid-for content is despicable. Wrong on every level…

    It’s even worse when they fail to fully explain what the hell went on in those events so that the result just pops up during your play-through of the following game.

    “Oh, hey, yeah… Now Liara is the shadow broker, has this massive information network and you’re a mass murderer. Have fun!”

    1. Taellosse says:

      I thought if you imported a save from a game where Arrival wasn’t played (or if you went with a default save) then you were imprisoned and on trial for working with Cerberus, not for destroying the Batarian world. Not that it makes a ton of sense, mind, but I’m pretty sure the events of Arrival aren’t mentioned if you didn’t play it. Shadowbroker is still a thing, yeah, but not Arrival, I don’t think.

      1. Duoae says:

        Then my experience makes even less sense because I was railroaded for working for cerberus, saving countless human colonies and outposts that were afflicted by Rogue cells in ME2 when I’m a spectre and above the law as long as the outcome of my job is positive – which it was.

        I could have sworn that Anderson gives you a lecture in that first conversation about all those lives you killed/took. I assumed that was about the Arrival DLC because – I didn’t kill anyone except mercenaries in ME2!

        1. Taellosse says:

          I’m not sure exactly what happens – I’ve never played a version of ME3 without the Arrival import, except when they released the demo. I remember there was added dialogue from that that directly referenced Arrival, but I can’t remember now exactly what was said without it. I just know it doesn’t talk about Arrival if you didn’t play it (how well it avoids the subject, I don’t recall).

      2. Mike S. says:

        The events of Arrival are referenced in the War Assets, IIRC: if you didn’t do it, Hackett sent a Marine unit to do the mission, which succeeded but was lost in the process. (So that Alliance asset is worth fewer points as a result.)

      3. Kian says:

        They’re oblique references, but I’m pretty sure that even if you don’t play Arrival that’s what you are on trial for. Remember, you handed yourself over, and it wouldn’t have made sense for you to hand yourself over about being with Cerberus when the Council itself okays it.

        Hmm. Quick check on YouTube at the beginning only offers as explanation “The shit you’ve done? Any other soldier would have been court martialed”. So they decide to not make it clear why you chose to waste six months? The Alliance doesn’t even have authority over you.

  56. Greg says:

    For me, I think it was Harbinger, and every revelation about the Reapers in ME2. So #4 on that list, really.

    Cerberus resurrection was stupid, and contrived, and made no sense with the lore of the first game … but I rolled with it because I was hooked on this force of Mecha-Cthulhus from beyond the stars that was rolling in to destroy reality as we know it for no knowable reason.

    Seriously, the Sovereign conversation from ME1 was where Mass Effect really, truly reeled me in. It was this force that didn’t care about you, that had killed or enslaved thousands of species like you, that you hadn’t even been able to recognize as an entity until it deigned to answer you, and that had apparently seeded the galaxy with life and technology for its own amusement. “You exist because we allow it. And you will end because we demand it.” It was basically like the best themes of Prometheus: you met God, and found out that God wanted you dead. What do you do about that?!

    Then Harbinger is just this incredibly ineffective a-hole who sucks at FPSes and can’t shut his dumb mouth about how superior he is despite consistently losing horribly, and Reapers reap in order to turn people into soylent which they could have just cloned themselves, and Reapers are now just another species who have stupid plans and can’t adapt at all, and all the mystique is gone. With the driving force of the series relegated to stupidity, all the other rampant stupidity (mostly Cerberus related) just falls through. Even though, of course, I still bought and played ME3, hoping for a little of that old magic.

  57. Dragomok says:

    There’s a typo in the tag title on the Escapist: “Change of Genre, Moderization is Why Mass Effect 3 Debate Won’t Die | Experienced Points | The Escapist”.

    I read the article just right after it was posted and was hoping to post that as soon as Shamus’ blogpost went up so it wouldn’t be buried beneath lots of comments and, well, that didn’t work out.

  58. Tapkoh says:

    Pretty much all of those things bugged me, but I wanted to see it through to the end. I put up with the stupidity of ME 2 so I could go on missions with the likes of Mordin. I put up with all the warning signs of 3 so I could see how everything ended.

    I played and liked NWN and its expansions, KotOR, ME 1, and Dragon Age. I had hoped that ME 3 wouldn’t ruin an entire trilogy and that BioWare was better than that, but that was naive in retrospect. I can’t even bring myself to play the first game again, knowing how the story turns out.

    This seems to be the new BioWare though. Focus all effort on how things play (even though that’s obviously not their forte), which NPCs you can “romance,” and screw trying to make sense.

  59. Karthik says:

    The variety of responses in this thread pretty much confirms your theory for why this debate just won’t die, Shamus.

    And I’m going to pour some more fuel on the flame: The series fell apart for me when I saw the Terminator being created by liquefying humans and pumping in goo into a metal shell. It was utter and instant story collapse; every niggling problem with ME2 I had ignored suddenly lit up like a field of fireflies. I realized the writers didn’t care about their universe anymore, just Shepard & co. Every highlight ME3 had was a character moment, surrounded by a cavalcade of shoddy Mcguffins.

    I’m with you on Mass Effect being a rare treat by virtue of its focus on high concept sci-fi, by the way.

    EDIT: Good heavens, reading through the thread just has me depressed about what could have been if Bioware had followed through on the promise of Mass Effect 1. {sigh}

  60. Neko says:

    When did Mass Effect fall apart for you?

    All of the points you raise. From the very start. Also: failing to get Council aid because you’re with Cerberus and denial that Sovereign ever happened and neutering the choice you made at the end of ME1.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The worst thing about that:I was actually making excuses for the council in 2,saying they were just lying to shepard because cerberus.Makes sense,right?Why tell the truth to someone who is cerberus.But then in 3,nope,they really were just idiots about all the things.They actually acknowledge in one conversation that the idea of council lying crossed their minds,but they didnt go with that idea because…the writers are stupid,I guess.

  61. Vect says:

    On the “Key Info is DLC” thing, the Omega DLC actually explains why Cerberus took over Omega and what made it worth taking over.

    Evidently Aria had a massive stash of Eezo and resources and that is what was essentially used to fuel Cerberus’ campaign against the galaxy.

    If nothing, it’s a reason.

  62. Zaxares says:

    There were several points where I really shook my head at what the writers were doing (like Legion’s death. Seriously? What kind of digital data copy system requires you to destroy the existing copy to make new ones?), but for me, it didn’t really all fall apart until the very end where the Catalyst insisted that organics and synthetics could never live in peace.


    1. Yeah there are a lot of illogical things like that.
      Sure it makes for dramatic story telling, but it also makes you wonder if thew Geth where idiots at the same time to have designed themselves that way.

      That being said, the Mass Effect games are not the only ones at fault for this.
      There is a ton of AAAA (puke) and AAA and AA and A and B games that do this too.

      The same is true for movies that make you want to scream at the screen “No you moron, don’t go in there. OFFS you did didn’t you, idiot!”

      I’d love to see a movie or a game where the villain cackles
      Villain: “Hahahah! You walked straight into my trap, you heroes are so dumb! You must be so surprised!”
      Player Char: “I am not surprised, trigger your trap was the quickest way to get to you. And besides, I’m not a hero. (pulls out gun and mortally wounds the villain who look very surprised instead)”.

      Dark Helmet says it best “Good is dumb!”.

      1. It’s like a first set of writers take robots (and to a large degree, aliens) and have them and humans come to an understanding and even friendship. Then someone else comes along and writes said robots/aliens as if they were humans, including stupidity like Legion being able to “die” and so on.

    2. aldowyn says:

      you can bring up the geth/quarian compromise now, at least. I mean he just ignores you and say ‘it won’t last’ or something, but at least you can mention it.

    3. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Been trying to think of a way it could even be plausible. Maybe Legion needs to use an emergency burst transmitter to upload all that Reaper code in an adequate amount of time. But that transmitter is part of a Geth emergency protocol meant to salvage Geth data from a unit when the unit is compromised. As part of the protocol (based on the assumption that the unit is about to fall into enemy hands) the emergency transmitter is hard wired to wipe all the Geth’s local drives to prevent data from falling into enemy hands. Legion is the last casualty of Geth-Quarian paranoia.

      Still, they should have been able to restore Legion from all the fragments if “Legion is a part of us now.” So Legion would have had to state that he only has time to upload the Reaper code, not his personality or memories.

      Maybe later they could restore Legion from a copy of himself he uploaded into an MMO.

      1. Mike S. says:

        It would also have been plausible that the geth collective as a whole feels no need to reconstruct that particular assembly of 1183 runtimes (each of which is backed up or running elsewhere) because they don’t think of individual identity as being important that way. (Whether or not Legion as it was then constituted did.) But that would have ended things on a note of alienness and mutual incomprehension that would have been thematically jarring.

        On the other hand, it would support the thesis of the ending sequence– maybe they really are too different to live with long term– where at least two of the three resolutions to the quarian-geth conflict don’t.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          That would play perfectly into something EDI mentions, that the nature of the Geth leads them to value the whole over the individual too much. If they could have developed that theme more, they might have been able to sell the explanation.

          The only problem is that as I understood it, with the upgrades the Geth become more like individuals. Maybe I’m wrong. Still, the theme could work, the difference between the Geth and other synthetics is the Reaper tech (same with EDI) which ironically avoids the problem that the Reapers are trying to solve. They were blind to that solution.

          1. Mike S. says:

            As the game was written, my memory jibes with yours: the Reaper upgrades made the geth more individual. (And the Green ending even more so– my initial read was that it made them part organic too, but later I remember reading that it was supposed to give them something like free will. Which I thought EDI and Legion already had as much as anyone does, but what do I know.)

            I’m more speculating on taking that plotline in a direction that meshes better with what Legion and Tali told us about the geth, and that maintains them as classic Campbell aliens. (“Something that thinks as well as [or possibly better than] a human, but not like a human.”)

            One thing that I found sort of striking on reflection is that for organics, messing around with Reaper artifacts is a recipe for indoctrination. (Saren, Benezia, and their associates; the scientists turned into husks in the first game; the derelict Reaper researchers and the Arrival NPCs in the second, etc.)

            But EDI was literally built partly from Sovereign, and geth monomania (to the point of genocide) about keeping their Reaper upgrades seems as if it should be really ominous. (Especially since we were previously told that the entire point of disagreement between them and the heretics was that they wanted to advance on their own, rather than getting shortcuts from the Old Machines.)

            But they ask for Shepard’s trust, and if given it are entirely trustworthy– no last-minute discovery that both are a back door placed by a species whose billion-year-old strategy is all about back doors. It’s only plot-relevant in that it’s implicitly the reason that the Red ending kills them too.

            (This is especially odd, because it could have been used to make the Catalyst’s point: “See, these AIs you trusted, helped, and encouraged still couldn’t help but be tools for your destruction. QED: AIs and organics can’t be friends.”)

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              That would have made it much easier for many to accept the Destroy ending. I agree.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                I think Legion was functionally an AI but it thought of itself as a purpose built collection of hardware and software that, while capable of fully autonomous function, was still just an extension of the greater Geth whole. When it started out, it was simply carrying out a directive that required a platform with a self contained complex network of runtimes. Its distinct existence was only to serve that purpose and then reunite.

                It was only towards the end that it thought of itself as a truly singular being and not a fancy appendage, though the transition probably happened sooner than that (things like the revelation that Legion liked to play MMOs). It could be that he observed that humans like to deal with him as an individual and so adapted to facilitate interaction which then led to the emergence of a true identity.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  I think that’s plausible. Legion’s experience was, as far as we know, unique for the geth collective. All other geth are constantly in communion on a large scale– ideally, the entire collective all at once, which is why they were building the Dyson Sphere.[1] But even the heretics’ incursions beyond the veil were always large numbers of platforms backed up by (presumably server-carrying) dropships.

                  A single independent platform spending months diverging from the entire rest of the species is probably unprecedented. Never mind spending that time talking to organics. (And EDI, an AI built on an entirely different design philosophy.)

                  So Legion might well have developed a sense of itself that a constant, borderless communion of processes has no basis for relating to.

                  [1]Though the only reason to build the sphere in the Tikkun system is pure emotional attachment to their homeworld. But the game makes very clear that for all their denial, the geth are absolutely driven by emotion and sentiment, from Legion’s N7 souvenir, to the species’ pathetic desire to reconcile with the Creators, to the Heretics’ religious devotion to the Old Machines. Still, it’s one reason I also blamed the geth for the conflict in ME3 even though the quarians were the aggressors: they don’t even need garden worlds, which means there’s plenty of empty and undisputed space for their use. And if they’d built anywhere else then the war wouldn’t have happened.

  63. NMD says:

    I really recommend to everybody interested in Mass Effect to watch this video call: A Thorough Look at Mass Effect: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hct5WeBmsUM&feature=youtu.be;. I admit the video is two and a half hour long but it really does a great job at explaining what the series did right and what it did wrong. One of my favorite part is when he talk about Mass Effect 3 and why is so controversial. He really nail it when he said (I’m paraphrasing)”that Mass Effect 3 has incredible magnitude of both terrible moments and great moments in a way that you could make a case for being a great game or terrible one with neither being wrong. For example: The Rachni Queen mission in Mass Effect 3 will you remember that lackluster way the Rachni were handle or Grunt badass Last stand against the Rachni.” Only the player can decide which moment will resonate with them.

    T.L.D.R: You should watch A Thorough Look at Mass Effect.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I’m glad to see someone acknowledge the good in the game. I’ll take the criticism. It deserves it.


      Sorry, it just bugs me that the one part of the game that most bugs me doesn’t seem to bug anybody else.

      Annoyance annoyance.

      1. Mike S. says:

        I don’t know– my wife and I are the only ME players among our friends who aren’t still playing the multiplayer regularly. (Both because we don’t care to embarrass ourselves by demonstrating our ME combat skills without the pause button, and because our multiplayer friends are all on Xbox and we’re PC; multiplayer with friends is barely imaginable, but online gaming with strangers is alien to us.)

        So while I don’t have enough experience to really judge, I have observational evidence that it’s provided consistent fun to people I know for years now.

        1. Disc says:

          It’s fun enough, once you’ve unlocked some characters and weapons. I think I’ve clocked around 150 hours of it or so and the only things I’ve really grown to hate about it is the RNG behind the gear lottery and the AWESOME/space button being tied to everything which turns out isn’t always that ideal in hectic situations. Otherwise it’s pretty solid and the wide selection of different characters and weapons can keep it feeling fresh for a good while, assuming the RNG doesn’t hate you and lets you unlock new ones instead of drowning you in bazillion copies of the same old characters you unlocked ages ago or guns you never use. Though they at least have the benefit of upgrading the stats of the gun in question, but with character cards you only get additional armor paint options and some experience for the class it represents.

          If you’d rather just test it with your wife, you can set up a private lobby and play it as a duo. Beating bronze difficulty shouldn’t be too hard once you get familiar enough with the objectives and the map(s). Keeping at it, you’ll be able to solo bronze eventually.

          Getting started can generally speaking be a little painful, but it gets a bit easier as you gain levels on your classes and more gear.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Thanks. We tried that early on, and got through a few waves a few times, though never quite finished one. (Though it wasn’t really a fair test, since at the time we didn’t realize that it was possible to revive a teammate without medigel.)

            I’m guessing that we could get to the point of at least being able to complete Bronze, though I’m pretty sure that at the moment my wife isn’t all that motivated to go back to it. (These days she’s mostly playing SWTOR– as a solo game, except for trading what she crafts– and impatiently waiting for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Oh, and we’re both intermittently playing Unrest.)

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          It bothers me kind of the way Levi Dryden bothers DAO players who didn’t buy the ultimate edition. Sure, you don’t have to buy or play Warden’s Keep, it in no way affects the ending, and it is a pretty good adventure that adds lore to the world but he’s always there reminding you of it (and he himself sounds kind of like a used car salesman which I think doesn’t help.)

          Granted you don’t have to buy the Multiplayer but I never wanted to play it. Even though it gets to be fun, I’ll admit, once you do play. That’s not the point, the point is there is a number in the game and its sitting at 50% and it will always be at 50% unless you grind the multiplayer. And if you ever revisit the game (such as when a DLC is released) your number is back down to 50%. You have to grind it back up and then play at least once a day to keep it there.

          And as fun as the multiplayer can be, its a big gear shift from a story that has a narrative and characters and decisions and stuff like that to a game where you play a nameless faceless soldier in a squad of other nameless faceless soldiers where all remaining sci fi vestiges have been stripped in favor of pure meaningless bro shooter. Yes, I know, you’re playing one of the troops bonding together with others to help save the galaxy, blah blah blah, still feels meaningless. I didn’t come here to play a bro shooter. I came here to play Commander Shepard.

          Technically you don’t need the Galactic Readiness to get your EMS high enough for the best ending (and I absolutely do believe that Synthesis is the best ending and will defend it with my dying breath) but its still there buzzing at your ear like this little gnat.

          1. MichaelGC says:

            This is not to say that ‘you’re wrong’ or ‘you should like it’ or really anything like that, but thinking back, for me all the best/most memorable moments from the multiplayer involved reviving other players, being revived, and saving folks/being saved from banshees & phantoms & whatnot. Or the times when – completely without verbal communication – you’d get matched up with another biotic or tech user who was on the ball, and you’d go around setting off each other’s ‘splosions. Or you’d pull off a tricky objective wave when all seemed lost.

            I enjoyed the actual shooting, too, but that would be way down at the bottom of the list.

            Again – this is not to be critical of your opinion: if you didn’t like it, you didn’t like it! – it’s good that we all like different things, o’ course. Totally agree about the Galactic Readiness, too – I guess they needed some way to link together SP & MP, but the method chosen was certainly not a good idea.

          2. Mike S. says:

            You can also grind up your Galactic Readiness by playing Space Farmville on the website (formerly the iOS app), sending out fleets periodically to move the percentage up. It’s not riveting, but it’s pretty low effort– even knowing the numbers, I tend to paranoidly get it up to 100% before triggering the final mission in the main game.

            (The iOS ME: Infiltrator game also lets you upload “data packets” to do the same thing, but that was a bigger time investment.)

            The one time I tried the multiplayer I thought it was a salutary reminder of the experience of a typical non-Spectre/N7/galactic savior foot soldier in the war: surrounded by overwhelming numbers of superior foes, and rapidly out of ammo, out of hope, and out of the fight.

            (But I imagine the experience was a bit less depressing for those who stuck around and actually got good at it.)

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Gee it would be nice if that game had an accessible web app version. Or if, you know, they’d just included an internal mechanic within the game. Wish I had an iPhone (except I don’t because I don’t want to live by Apple’s prescriptive designs where they think they know whats best for me and f–k me if I complain). Or what about players like Shamus who don’t have smartphones?

              Its a single player franchise and we’re in the middle of a story arc. Thats my complaint. You want to do something like this, save it for the reboot.

              Its exploitation. EA wants you to drop bucks on randomized gear and its not enough to simply make a game like that and let people decide. They forcibly intrude upon a single player audience and put a gnat next to their ear. Suddenly it isn’t enough to play the game, you have to also play our multiplayer game you can’t pause and the enemies are harder and you’re not Shepard and there’s a store right there in the menu and if you don’t use that store that’s fine but you’re going to suck compared to everybody else. Suck even more that you already would have, that is because you like sci fi rpgs, not bro shooters.

              In protest after a while, I just decided to hang out in a corner away from the monsters and let the other three handle it because you still get your galactic readiness bump if they make it. If enough players did this and complaints were filed, someone might actually look into it, figure out that forcing your single player grognards to play a multiplayer game might have a negative effect on the multiplayer experience. I really wish there had been an organized movement for THIS. Where were you Retakers?

              (By the way, this hostility is not directed at you. Just venting. Your enjoyment of the multiplayer is valid. Its got good gameplay.)

              1. Mike S. says:

                Just to be clear, it’s only the Infiltrator game that’s iOS only anymore. Anyone can grind readiness by sending fleets out every N hours at http://social.bioware.com/n7hq/m/ (under Galaxy At War-> Galactic Readiness). (It’s basically the same mechanic as what used to be the iOS app, which was retired a bit over a year ago.)

                When the game debuted, it was a problem: the choice was between iOS and multiplayer, and the numeric thresholds were high enough that it mattered. It mostly stopped mattering a few months later, when the Extended Cut dropped the threshold numbers to the point that a reasonably complete playthrough could access any of the endings at 50% readiness. Now even getting the 100% readiness is a slightly tedious but minor chore. (Basically 30 seconds of poking a web page once or twice a day for a week or so.)

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Thank you. I didn’t know about that option.

                  On the plus side, now that I’ve unlocked a Volus, I have no need to ever look at the Booster packs ever again. I can just bounce around like an idiot and let others do the work of bumping my readiness for me.

  64. “When did Mass Effect fall apart for you?”

    Oh, boy! Um. let’s see.

    I fell off at #1, but was back on the horse once I got the new Normandy.
    (They really could have done the stats reset differently than they did).

    #7 was stupid. Sure Ceerberus was styupid but I could pretend all that Cerberus mess was a “sidequest” instead.

    #9 Was a tad odd, it was like there was a huge gap (storywise) between the end of ME2 and start of ME3.

    It seems both ME2 and ME3 suffer due to the way they try to accommodate the choices made when importing the old savefile, but they kind of ignore the potential this would give too.

    I agree with Kai Leng being stupid, they cold have removed him and the main direct antagonist could have been TIM instead.

    I do not have an issue with the dream sequences and indoctrination stuff, except the dream sequence was stupidly boring and “slow”.

    The Starchild/final choice stuff. I couldn’t care less about any of that.
    No choice would have been better (the war assets stuff was a huge mistake IMO).

    I like the extended ending, seeing the squad mates and their fates etc. Why the heck that was not in the design in the first place I do not understand.

    The farewell party “DLC” on the other hand, that was a truly heartwarming ending in a way, and something that should not be overlooked, that is something many games should strive to do.

    If ME3 had provided three endings.

    Ending #1. AKA a canon ending (I.e. the “RED” ending).

    Ending #2. The “evil” ending where Shepard takes over the galaxy.

    Ending #3. The “good” ending, now the good ending should have been the “farewell party DLC” stuff, fight, win, defeat the reapers and throw a celebration party with the “gang”, and take that final “photo of the gang” and roll credits, THE END.

    I mean in games like this where you can play a character as “good” and “evil” (or asshole). Then it would make sense to provide endings reflecting that. And in addition a canon ending (that any future stories in the same universe will assume happen).
    Now. old KoTOR only had a Good ending and a Evil ending with the Good being the canon one.

    I understand that BioWare wanted some ambiguity or melancholy or bittersweet conclusion about the end of ME3, which is why it should have been a triple ending. The canon ending of ME3 could have been the “Neutral” ending in a way.

    I have no idea how many would go for each of such three endings, but at least they would be three distinct endings (with many variations depending on your choices through the trilogy and which squadmates are alive.)

    Did they go over budget or get to ambitious? Did they run out of time? Is it possible they did plan stuff lie this but had to cut back to what was shipped? It feels like there was a change in direction at some point. Did they move the right people to the wrong places in BioWare? OR the Wrong people to the right places? With SWTOR and Dragon Age II going on at the time i can assume it was busy at BioWare.

    In my eyes the ME3 ending is not “bad”, it’s disappointing.
    Disappointing because it could have been so much better, how so? Because the trilogy itself is awesome. The idea of saves that carry over choices is awesome. The idea of exploring the universe is awesome. Befriending (or more) your squadmates and helping them on sidequests, that is classic BioWare RPG stuff right there.

    Imagine if the ending had been a little different (maybe more along the 3 ending idea I outlined further up), there would have been much less uproar about it, and the overbloated important “average scores” would have skyrocketed probably.

    I hope that ME4 has it’s ending planned properly form the start to reward the player for playing through it.
    And if ME4 is the first in a duology or trilogy and the saves will carry over, then I hope they keep that in mind then too.

    And here’s the thing. The ending can be the most unhappiest ending there is, provided I get at least 1 non-canon ending that I can call my own.
    That was what I wanted with the ME3 ending, but did not get, I (and many others) was led to believe we would.

    So for ME4, 1 canon ending for universe consistency, then 1 or 2 alternate endings that allow personal extremes (taking into account choices you made).

    Dragon Age I and II suffer some of the same issues as ME3. They only have 1 ending since it has to leave the state of the world such that the ext game makes sense. I have no issue with a canon ending.
    I just also want one alternate (or more) ending.
    Games has the ability to do this, movies do not (except for a very few special DVD releases with split endings).

    I’m not saying the ME3 wending is bad, I’m saying it could have been a lot better. (that the ME3 ending is better on average than most endings in other games does not excuse it from not being better).

    And I agree, lil’ Rutskie as Story Lead on a AAA game (budget) would be amazing.

  65. RTBones says:

    Two years on, this is still a fascinating discussion to watch…err, read.

    For me, the tonal shift from ME1 to ME2 was the beginning of the unraveling of the series. I enjoyed ME1 enough that I was able to overlook the mechanical flaws – the ones that I disliked the most were driving and inventory (mis)management. I wasn’t worried about shooter mechanics because that wasn’t why I played the game. I wanted more of the same, with some of the mechanical flaws smoothed out

    We got to ME2, and the unraveling began. Mechanics were much more refined, but the trend towards shooter and less RPG wasn’t to my liking. Space Jesus firmly entrenched the idea that Bioware had lost the plot. Having said that, I DID enjoy getting to know the crew through their various mission trees – I just wished that, well, EVERTYTHING ELSE, was better. I hated the ham-fisted railroading, Harbinger, and the direction they were taking the Reapers. The false choice and the end boss just had me shaking my head, as I was already convinced the series was coming off the rails. With all of the above, I still felt the series could be saved overall if ME3 was better than just good.

    And then ME3 happened….

    No distro on Steam (I realize that was likely driven by EA, but I still didn’t like it), SIGNIFICANT day one DLC (you can have a Prothean in your party?! Does Bioware know what that means?!?! With huge amounts of back story?!?! Oh wait, after paying $60 for the game, you need to spend $10 more? No thanks, someone will Lets Play it on YouTube) and as originally launched, forced multiplayer if you wanted all the endings (as a single player gamer, this REALLY ticked me off). And we haven’t even talked about the story, the writing, or really anything else.

    Where I went from, ‘this is just a bad game,’ to nerdrage, however, was Kai Leng. In the simplest terms I can think of, here is my take on that character:

    In Mass Effect 1, Saren was an antagonist for Shepard.
    In Mass Effect 3, Kai Leng was an antagonist for the player.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Oh, they knew. I’m certain they knew. If they did not, we can skip Hanlon’s Razor and go straight to Grey’s Law:

      Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

  66. Attercap says:

    I was able to put up with a lot of personal issues through the Mass Effect games. Even Kai Leng and the weird pre-DLC Starchild/non-epilogue ending. I’d played through ME1 twelve times and ME2 eleven times. Even on my first play of ME3 I was really disappointed that the bad-ass team I had saved in ME2 never really became teammates… but I let it slide. Then, on my second play-through of ME3 with a Shepard that had made diametrically opposing choices to my “main” Shep, I saw that none of my decisions had a resonating impact. If someone was killed in a prior game they were either replaced or brought back to life in some form or another. That was the nail in the coffin. The fact that the only time the choices really mattered and came together in the way I wanted only dealt with a minor side-quest with Conrad Verner–something that worked out awesomely, but that was what I wanted the whole game to be.

  67. Dork Angel says:

    Ooh, I wonder if my recent post on the forum sparked this debate again. Played Mass Effect 2 and 3 only recently without having played 1. I am currently watching the Spoiler Warning play-through to see if I can get a feel for what it was like. Combat looks clunky and the Mako looks like my old Bigtrak toy. It looks like everything scaled up with each series. You land to explore, then you scan from orbit until finally you scan as you fly past. Likewise Shepard and humanity’s role grows bigger each game. Gameplay wise I think they improved by removing the chaff (i.e. single planet scanning and hacking mini-games – though it interesting to see ME1 basically used Frogger…) and combat looks much better.

    Other disclaimers – I wasn’t influenced by the hype. It was a game series I hadn’t played and I’d been through Last Of Us, Dishonoured, Metro Last Light and Bioshock 1 and 3 and was looking something for something similar that I’d never bought at the time.

    I really enjoyed ME2 though the beginning was a strange way to start. Took 2 more play-throughs to save all my crew (Lost Legion and Mordin first time through and Miranda on the 2nd).

    I was more or less happy with ME3 up to the space elevator, star kid and ending. Incidentally the two endings that made most sense to me were shooting the Star-kid (refuse to choose) and Control the Reapers (sacrifice myself to make them leave without the consequences of the destroy ending). I can handle sad endings (Bioshock Infinite, especially the Under The Sea DLC) and bittersweet ones (Last Of Us and Dishonoured) but that ME3 one was a mess of WFT?

    All in all though, it didn’t spoil the series for me, just left a bad after-taste…

    1. Tizzy says:

      Let’s hear it for the bigtrak, though. Logo programming for kids… …with lasers!

      1. Dork Angel says:

        And you can now buy them again too… :)

  68. The Other Matt K says:

    For me, the only point it really fell apart was at step 19.

    The thing is, there was plenty up to that point that I wasn’t happy with. But there was also plenty that I did truly enjoy, even in ME2 and ME3. The side missions in ME2 were filled with character and depth. And in ME3, the chance to wrap up some of the ongoing storylines – Geth vs Quarians, the Genophage – was easily enough to keep me invested in the game, even if I found the main plot rather dumb.

    Which is why when you make that final choice, and seemingly make irrelevant all that you accomplished with those side plots… that was the moment I truly felt betrayed by the game. I was fine with it going in a different direction than I wanted it to. But when that core plot invalidated all the other truly meaningful choices I had made, that was when I lost all faith in the company and the franchise.

  69. SlothfulCobra says:

    Man, so many comments already.

    When people get really invested in something, and are denied some sort of satisfying conclusion, or if it just starts getting bad, when they turn their back on the series, they are left with all these complex, mixed emotions. They’ll be so caught up in it, that they’ll want to express their mixed feelings at every opportunity possible just to sort through them.

    I think comic books might be the worst for this sort of thing, since there’s barely ever going to be a real conclusion to a title, and they are notoriously subject to administrative mucking about. People went nuts about Mass Effect 3, but nobody ever took out paid advertisements.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      No paid adverts, perhaps – but we got close to a class-action lawsuit at one stage! :D

  70. Vermander says:

    My question is this: If we all agree that Mass Effect (and recent Bioware games in general) have some serious flaws, then what games/companies are doing a better job at creating the same type of experience? I feel like “Bioware” is practically a genre on to itself.

    I don’t know of any other recent games with a customizable protagonist, structure that emphasizes choice and genuinely engaging npcs. I can name a few games with better writing, but not many that at least created the illusion of having control over the story or characters.

    A lot of people point to Tell Tale’s Walking Dead Games, but those just didn’t do it for me. I felt like my choices mattered even less than in Mass Effect since I was ultimately unable to keep anyone from dying.

    1. Mike S. says:

      I have the same question– if there are games like Bioware’s but without the flaws, I really need to be playing them. But I haven’t found them yet. (And space opera in particular is a really underserved field these days.)

      1. Agreed on Space Opera. I’m hoping Fallout might change that, since it combines the FPS RPG setup with weapons and armor that aren’t straight out of Tolkien.

        I get the impression that devs think people who like space opera are more real-time strategy gamers who want to basically run a Dune or Warhammer-like empire rather than role-play down in the trenches.

        1. Mike S. says:

          If so, that’s inconvenient for me, since that’s not my style at all.

          Fallout is definitely on the list for the future. (I think I own all the games at this point through one sale or another.) But post-apocalypse isn’t my favorite future to explore, so the prospect of four long games in it is a bit intimidating.

    2. At the moment, I’d say it’s mostly BioWare vs. Bethesda for the FPS RPG.

      Overall, I prefer Bethesda if I’m on a PC. If I gamed on the console, it might be a toss-up.

      For all of Bethsoft’s flaws, the engine it uses lets modders practically rewrite the entire game if they so desire. Fallout 3’s immortal NPCs suck? There’s a mod to let you kill them. Skyrim’s quests stink? Someone wrote some new and better ones, and so on.

      ME3 seems to let some of that happen, but not to the same extent. I don’t know if their version of the GECK is more difficult or what, but ME3 has only 233 mod files on the Nexus (mostly textures and new outfits), though a few look to be ambitious re-toolings of the ending along with other plot bits.

      If I were to equate them to cars, Bethesda is an old semi-reliable clunker that most people have the tools to work on, while BioWare is a shinier car with fewer comfort features and requires custom wrenches to even change the air filter.

      1. Mike S. says:

        I’ve played Oblivion and Skyrim, and I’m sure I’ll play the next TES game when it comes out. (Not counting the MMO. I played SWTOR for a while as methadone for Mass Effect withdrawal, but the MMOness eventually made me give up on the often well-done Bioware-lite storylines.) But only once each– the lack of really memorable characters or stories that really made me care about them didn’t draw me back in for a replay.

        In Skyrim, I never resolved the Civil War plot, because my Breton mage never really found a reason to prefer either side. And while I know there’s plenty of lore (and read all the books I came across), the world just doesn’t grab me.

        I’m trying to think of a memorable character from Skyrim. (After just watching the SW series!) Maybe Paarthurnax?

      2. Vermander says:

        I mostly play these games on console so mods don’t really help.

        Bethesda games seem like they’re the opposite of Bioware in some ways, much more freedom to explore the world but it’s hard to make any kind of emotional connection with the characters, who are all quest dispensing robots or mindless drones. One or two of them had interesting backstories, but I never felt like any of them were my “friends”. There’s definately no equivalent of the “shooting bottles on top of the Presidium” scene.

        1. It seems there’s a trade-off for a more open world, in that you need to have more generic responses to player actions. Garrus and Shepard will never NOT be friends in Mass Effect, so that scene with shooting bottles can always take place. In a game like Fallout New Vegas, you can kind of have similar character development, but only if you pick certain dialog options and have companions present for certain conversations or take them to specific locations. It’s basically a kind of Loyalty Mission, but it comes off more like the companion is growing via self-discovery. Of course, that could also be due to the fact that any conversations you have are only voiced on one side. Say what you will about Shepard’s actual speech vs. what you picked for him/her to say, but more often than not, their spoken dialog adds to the perceived bonds with his crew.

          Oh, and if it were New Vegas, you could’ve killed Garrus any time you wanted. :)

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I don't know of any other recent games with a customizable protagonist, structure that emphasizes choice and genuinely engaging npcs.”

      Well,if you focus only on those 3,then alpha protocol is leagues above mass effect.Unfortunately,alpha protocol fails in other respects.

      That is the big problem with mass effect.Lots of other games offer way better parts of it,but almost none the whole set.Especially if you include space opera setting as part of the set.Kotor may be the only one,and that game is ooooooold.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Good story
        Interesting characters / good dialogue
        Meaningful choices
        Quality worldbuilding
        good combat mechanics
        interesting non-combat tasks (aka minigames)
        non-violent story options
        Interesting level-up

        Out of all these RPG features, we get to have how many, in a single game? Two? Three, if we’re really lucky?

        That’s part of the problem, right there: RPG is a very unforgiving genre…

        1. Bubble181 says:

          I’d say KotOR II gives 7 out of those 8 (though “good combat mechanics” is obviously a personal preference – I prefer that sort of action over twitch or cover shooters). It fails spectacularly as far as stability, bugs and story ending, but out of those, most are present.

  71. MelTorefas says:

    Mass Effect fell apart for me sometime during those 3 planets you have to visit at the start of the game. Basically right after fighting Matriarch Benezia or whatever her name was on Nova Prospect. I have NEVER gotten much past that point in the series, and I finally gave up on the game. Which is a shame because, as you mention in the article, the concept is really interesting and games never do the “world driven” stories.

    I never played ME2 or ME3. I am actually a fan of the Halo universe and might have enjoyed a shooter-centric experience more in this context (I am not generally a shooter fan, Halo and Half Life are the only exceptions). But I could not stomach the thought of playing games 2 and 3 without playing game 1.

  72. Nelly says:

    Mass Effect is kinda odd for me. I was hugely caught up in the story of my Shepard, her ongoing love affair with Liara, her friendships with Garrus and Wrex and Mordin, her affect on the galaxy. I was role playing her to a greater degree than most other characters in most other games – to the point that I chose the control ending over destroy, because despite my desire to see Shepard live and be reunited with her friends, My Shep just wouldn’t have taken to option that involved death of a whole people, and so sacrificed herself.

    I’ve not been back to ME3 since, having gone through one and two a couple of times with different characters I just can’t get excited about pressing the go button. The death and working with Cerberus bugs me significantly, but gets forgotten (not forgiven) to get to some awesome bits – not least, Mordins song! But for ME3, There’s a bunch of stuff holding me back. Firstly the enforced multiplayer – not because it’s enforced now, but because it was enforced then, and coloured my view on the game. The squad scattered, again. Kai Leng, oh how I hate thee. Starchild, why could you not stay in freaking KISS. The stupid war assets. Just so many little decisions mean it’s not worth it. On the positive side for it though, the main reason is that I got so connected to Shepard one, I don’t want to change the story to include a different one.

  73. dsa says:

    I think you named more than four reasons. :) Also, why discuss the few weak points of one of the most accomplished game trilogies ever made, instead of talking about the real affronts to gaming, many of which are bestsellers, such as, Call of Duty: MW, Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, Halo, Sniper Elite, Saints Row, Dead Island, and mass murder simulators passing for art, such as The Last of Us.

    1. Dork Angel says:

      Hey, in Last Of Us it was self defence… :P

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Well, Shamus did ask for column suggestions a few days ago!

      Also, as I read it, the column wasn’t so much focusing on weak points as discussing why – after all this time – people still want to talk about Mass Effect weak points.

      Although, given that this post is a comment ghost town – with tumbleweeds! – I think we can consider that notion conclusively disproved…

    3. Tizzy says:

      There s no reason to deride a game just because it is a best seller. Even if you don’t like it.

      On the other hand, I think players are perfectly justified to complain when they are being told that ME3 was exactly what they’d been asking for, when it fell short.

      The same way GTA fans would be perfectly justified to complain if GTA 6 turned out to be a non-violent art game about a pedestrian who likes long hikes in nature far from the urban crowds.

  74. jarppi says:

    I guess I have a different point of view to the subject matter as I played these games the first time only about six months ago and back to back. For me none of these points listed was really the point where it all came down. (Well, numbers 6 and 7 came close.) Being from the beginning aware about the terrible ending may had some effect.

    The first game was great fun even if the gameplay wasn’t too good and the side missions kind of sucked. So I didn’t play them and therefore wasn’t really paying attention to the whole Cerberus thing. Maybe that’s why and maybe because I kept a short break between ME1 and ME2 the railroad beginning of the second game didn’t bother me so much at the first play-through. Only the latter parts of the main missions got on my nerves, escalating to the last part which didn’t make any sense. But all in all, I was fine with that game at the time. The loyalty missions were good and so were the characters. I was thinking that the main story arc didn’t seem to move ahead too much but I wasn’t worrying.

    Then I moved on the ME3. The very first mission to Mars was where the game, and I mean the whole series, started to fell apart for me. Not because of the emphasis on Earth and not because the key to victory HAPPENED to be located very next to earth. It was a moment where I saw the writers realizing they didn’t do a thing to the main story arc in the second game and now they were hastily trying to come up with it. That feeling got stronger and stronger all the way to the ending, which in point I was already “wtf happened to this game” -attitude.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that Mass Effect series fell apart for me during the main missions of the second game, even if I was able realize it only later. Back in the spring there were some discussion in the Diecast regarding the best and the worst games covered in the Spoiler Warning. I would say the main missions of the ME2 form the worst game as it didn’t only suck it self, it also ruined the game after that. That is why I can’t generate much hate on the ending of the ME3, the series was already crippled when we got there.

  75. MeatShield says:

    There is one thing I’d also like to point out.
    As people go we have a hard time actually distinguishing what makes us feel the way we do about things.I think the last few encounters were fairly frustrating and I was pretty mad by the time I got through them.

    Remember Marauder Shields? I hope you played as a head-shotting pistol expert. I played as an armored up assault rifle ‘unload at the center of mass’ sort of guy. I imagine it would have been terrible if you played as a ‘I mostly kill with powers’ class. I died SOOOO Many times.

    Or how about waiting around for EDI to hack the something so you could kill the reaper with missiles. Turns out that’s one of a couple times where the button doesn’t take 10 seconds to push. In this one instance I was supposed to charge the button, while in every other one across the game I was supposed to kill everything.

    Also, for the record, the series fell apart for me in mass effect 1 when the council was 100% against me until I handed them a tape recording.

    It didn’t fall apart even as I saw ME2’s narrative contrivances. I feel lucky for that, that meant I REALLY got to enjoy ME2.

    It fell apart when I started ME3 and said “Who are you? Where am I? Why do I look so terrible? What happened to Anderson’s face?”

    It fell apart again on Mars.

    It fell apart again on Thessia. “Wait, did they just tell me that there’s a secret hidden boss?”

    It fell apart on the last mission when Admiral Hackett stole the dramatic speech to the fleet that I’d collected. I WANTED THAT SPEECH. I have all the speech skills. If there is a speech to be done, the #1 hero of the universe should do it.

    It fell apart in the last few encounters. The ending just followed in those footsteps.

    1. Kian says:

      Seriously, what is it with Admirals trying to rob shepard blind in ME3? First Anderson decides that the Normandy is going to be HIS mobile command center (over my dead body!), and then Hackett steals your spotlight. Hell, he even comes aboard the Normandy just to rub it in! Why couldn’t he do the speech from his ship? Was it because all the other fleets couldn’t care less about some human admiral, maybe, and were there because Shepard told them to?

  76. Zachtheperson says:

    I managed to make all the way until rather early into mass effect 3, when it seemed that absolutely every side quest was just “go to this random point in space, find some object, and bring it to somebody” that, and the fact that your quest journal wasn’t as good as the one in me2, where it actually told you what step you were one.

    I never knew where these dozens of random people where I had to give these objects to, or even if I had collected them yet! I kinda just said fuck it right there and stopped

    1. Mike S. says:

      To be fair, those were at least better explained and flagged than the collection quests from Mass Effect 1.

      (Quick, without checking the wiki, explain the League of One, and why I want their medallions. And the only thing that justified picking up Matriarch Dilinaga’s writings is the awesome payoff with Conrad Verner in ME3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5_DKScSMoOk#t=63 .)

      Granted, I did sort of wonder how I was finding religious books and unit banners with orbital scanning:

      “EDI, put sensors on a standard search pattern, calibrated for books above holiness threshold 700.”

      “Acknowledged, Shepard. Be advised, our stealth systems do not hide theonic radiations. The current estimate of Reaper detection range for a Thessia Theological Institute Standard Individual Prayer is thirty astronomical units.”

      “Understood– fire off a couple of drones with copies of the Bible, Koran, and Gita to slow them down, and be ready to bug out as soon as we’ve made pickup.”

  77. Mechaninja says:

    When I first heard that Bioware was going to make their own stuff, I worried, because new IP isn’t easy. I had faith in the doctors, but as things progressed, I was more right to be worried than not.

    Like I’ve said elsewise, I’m happy that Bioware has done well, but I wish they’d have made enjoyable games instead.

  78. Paul Spooner says:

    Glad I caught this before the comment count outstripped it. Delicious emergent irony as Shamus’ comment count tagline can’t help but add to the discussion. “Did somebody start a flame war?” indeed.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Is it really a flame war if almost everyone is saying the same thing?

  79. Alex says:

    For me, Mass Effect started to die at the end of ME1. The creators decided to fake out Shepard’s death and that took me out of the story – I wasn’t worried Shepard might be dead, I was swearing at the writers for their shitty writing. I then went straight to their forums and said “That was crap. Don’t do things like that, because it ruins my suspension of disbelief.”

    Then they did it again at the start of ME2, but worse. Assholes.

    1. Zekiel says:

      As Shamus has mentioned before, it is really really dumb that they do a “oh no Shepard’s dead – oh no he isn’t” think at the end of ME1 and then again at the beginning of ME2 – it really demonstrates the writers didn’t know what they were going to do in ME2 when they wrote ME1 of they would not have done that.

  80. GTB says:

    It fell apart for me when I realized that for some reason my guns had de-evolved technology-wise between 1 and 2 and I now needed to collect ammo. Oh I mean “heat sinks.”

    There was a lot of other things I hated about 2, mostly the less RPGish nature of it compared to 1 (yes im part of THAT crowd) but the heat sink thing really brought it home.

    1. Mike S. says:

      One thing I would have liked was more of a nod to their explanatory handwave in ME2. For example, on the planet where Jacob’s dad was marooned for a decade, have them only have guns that use the old overheating mechanism… which bounce harmlessly off Shepard and crew’s improved armor like so many Nerf darts, because the technology has escalated. Or at least have Shepard’s reloads be incredibly limited, because the enemy isn’t dropping heat sinks the way they normally do.

      (Instead, they were armed with tech that had been introduced in the time since they crashed. Oops.)

      In ME3, they did have a couple of guns that used the overheating mechanism for old time’s sake: the Collector Particle Rifle (from the mission that introduces Javik) and the M-7 Lancer (from Citadel, a literal museum piece that’s billed as the main weapon of the First Contact War).

      1. Disc says:

        For extra irony, a fully upgraded Lancer is one of the best, if not the best rapid fire assault rifle in the whole game, especially with the magazine upgrade mod. You can quickly dispatch soft targets at close to mid range and it works well enough even against shielded and armored targets, especially with the proper ammo mods, since you can easily keep firing for extended periods.

        Only thing you have to watch for is literally overheating.

  81. Jeff says:

    Keeping in mind that I also enjoyed the Modern Warfare series, given the time between ME games I wasn’t bothered at the change in genres because I actually play games in both genres. (I’m on Divinity Original Sin at the moment and actually thankful Wasteland 2 was delayed, so I have time to actually finish Divinity!)

    That said, the ME franchise only fell apart for me at the final choice. It effectively dumped on everything I had done prior. Careful replays to get the “perfect” outcome (including grinding the multiplayer in ME3) were discarded. Nothing you did mattered at all.

    In Modern Warfare, I shrug because the game is basically playing a role it assigns to you, like a movie where you play a part. ME was supposed to be about choice, about determining outcomes, so it was downright insulting.

  82. pearly says:

    For me, Mass Effect didn’t actually fall apart until the conversation with the Star Child. I was on-board, they totally had me, right up until then. But I rolled my eyes, muttered “whatever” and made my ending choice and…

    …and it was so jarring and bad and disappointing that it echoed backwards in time illegitimizing almost everything that came before it. I have to paper over everything I used to not even notice now with a “well maybe there’s more here that we just don’t see” or “well here’s where the budget failed” or “the one writer in charge of this section needs to sit down and think about their life.”

    These days, I’d have to say that it falls apart somewhere in ME1 where Saren appears before the council and I keep shouting at the screen, “HE HAS GETH PARTS. ON HIS FACE. GETH. PARTS.” Lot of copy-pasted scenery in that game. A LOT.

  83. Kingmob says:

    I too played ME2 right after ME1 (I bought my xbox very late). I loved ME1 for its corny setting, the world made sense to me and I read all the extra bits of info on how the mass effect works and how space-battles work and why ships are designed the way the are. The world had internal logic and I loved it.
    Playing ME2, at first I welcomed the end to all the bad game mechanics (horrible fighting mechanics and a lot of wasted time in that tank-thingy), but I quickly realised the story took the ‘wrong’ direction. I finished the game, but at the end my excitement for the universe they built was officially gone. The imo horrible good/bad decisions didn’t help either.
    I have only played the start of ME3, I couldn’t go on further…

    I think what ME2 needed was not better combat mechanics, but simply less combat. I would’ve thrown a space battle in there as well, in which you play a minor part. In hindsight ME is really a victim of required combat.

  84. Folket says:

    I loved the first game but was very unhappy with the second one. The reason was that there was no story at all in the second game.

    If the second had start with Cerberus giving you a crew of the best they could find. And then you play out a story and have the crew side missions that could have been great.

    Instead there where 3 short missions and a bunch that felt like side missions.

    The third game was an improvement unless you consider that the reapers built this huge weapon that other species can use without understanding it. That black hole of logic is horrible.

    But the thing I find best about the third game is that they explained the reapers. They had a logical background and reason for their acting.

    I have heard some people argue that the reapers do not need motivation. That would be like saying they are demons from hell and it does not fit well in a sci-fi setting. Other say that the motivation does not make sense and them I consider just to be wrong.

  85. Solf says:

    And this comments section demonstrates that the debate is alive and well!

  86. Ingrapu says:

    “Why The Mass Effect 3 Debate Refuses to Die”

    I can explain that with this comic:


    This troll is ALWAYS right and will battle to the death to prove it. There's no point in trying to fight her. If she can't back something up with reality, she'll make something up, just to show you how wrong you are.

    Pretty much sums up the majority of Bioware’s fanbase.

  87. INH5 says:

    This article is nearly a year old, but I feel like commenting anyway. I bought Mass Effect 2 on a whim in mid 2011 then played it with the Genesis DLC that gave a recap of the events of the first game and let me make some of the important decisions. I later bought and played Mass Effect 1 to get ready for the third game, then when I heard about the third game’s ending controversy I held off buying it until about 4 months after its release, when I played it largely so I could see what the fuss was about.

    I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed with the story laid out in the Genesis DLC (nor for that matter was I very impressed when I actually played ME1). I thought that the death and resurrection of Shepard was strange, but I didn’t have any preconceived notions on what the game would be like, so I just shrugged and moved on. The story recap had never mentioned Cerberus, so I had no preconceived notions of what they would be like either, and so 2 wasn’t an issue. I didn’t mind 3 because once I got into the recruitment and loyalty missions I was quickly hooked. No preconceived notions also meant that 4 and 5 didn’t bother me. 6 was annoying but for whatever reason it didn’t bother me much at the time and I quickly forgot it afterwards. 7 was definitely silly, but by that point I had accepted that this was a pulpy sci-fi story where stuff like that just happened. With 8, I was confused about what was going on with the overarching Reaper plot (were they the demons sealed away, were they the army of darkness approaching the town, and if they were the latter what timescale are we talking about?) so I couldn’t figure out what would be the best thing to do and I just picked a choice at random.

    Playing Mass Effect 3 for the first time was a weird experience. 9-14 all annoyed me in the moment, especially 12, but I kept going because after every dumb bit there would usually be a good character moment or a wrap up to a long established plot thread. Yet I still had a strange feeling of unease as I went through the game, a feeling that something about it just wasn’t right. Since, as I said before, I played it months after the ending controversy had subsided (without the Extended Cut installed because I wanted to experience exactly what had started the whole mess), I also had the thought at the back of my mind that at some point things were going to get weird. But 15 was the part that absolutely threw me for a loop. Something this big and this unexpected (since when can the Citadel move?) just happened off-screen, in the short span of time while I was on a mission, and nobody bothered to tell me about it? If I remember right, I believe I actually groaned out loud when this happened.

    After that, I mostly just tuned out. The Earth levels were generic and dull and made poor use of the usually solid combat mechanics. I knew the ending that everyone was talking about was going to come up any minute now, so I just kept waiting for something jarring to happen. When I went up through the beam and 17 happened, I was thinking, “wow this is really weird and nonsensical, but I don’t see why so many people would get pissed off about it.” Then 18-20 happened and I thought, “Huh, this really is as bad as everyone says it is. Seriously, WTF?” Then I put in the Extended Cut and found that, like people had said, it merely changed the ending from legendarily and almost incomprehensibly bad to the kind of bad that is all too common in the video game industry.

    After that, I looked back and realized that the series had a lot more problems than just this one thing. The closer I looked, the further back the cracks went to the point where I took a much dimmer view to the series as a whole. Though the Citadel DLC did bring some goodwill back because while it made little sense, at least it was fun.

  88. Omega3 says:

    Having read this I thought it was really enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time
    and energy to put this informative article together.

    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

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