Mass Effect Retrospective 3: Eden Prime

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jul 23, 2015

Filed under: Mass Effect 254 comments

Last time I said that Mass Effect 1 missions feel like television episodes. I’m not saying these adventures would work as television scripts as we find them in the game. Some would be far too shortThe plot of Therum barely qualifies as a skit. and others would be far too longEven if you trimmed all the combat down to the essentials, Noveria is probably still movie-sized. but they still fit the overall pattern of American television where a cast of regular characters visit a new location, meet some locals, and have an adventure with one or more complete arcs. This is distinct from (say) something like Witcher 3, where the various arcs are all tangled together, nested, branching, meandering, and criss-crossing, and where the audience is dazzled with an ever-shifting cast of charactersEven the protagonist POV character shifts from time to time!. This is also different from something like Arkham City, where a half dozen (mostly unrelated, or barely related) plot threads are opened in the first hour or so, and then the player gradually closes them one at a time.

I really enjoy the Classic BioWare episodic style, and I’m not sure why it isn’t more popular. It seems like a good way to compartmentalize game development. It must be insane trying to coordinate something interconnected like Witcher 3, but in a game with lots of discrete locations you can probably hand each episode off to its own small team and let them work without worrying the teams will get in each other’s way. And as others have pointed out, it makes for a better safety net if you start to run out of time or budget. It’s easier to cut a location from the game and patch over the hole if the locations aren’t deeply interconnected.

Eden Prime

Note how the camera angle when cresting this hill naturally creates this spectacular view without needing to yank control away for a cutscene. Which is good, since we just exited a cutscene.
Note how the camera angle when cresting this hill naturally creates this spectacular view without needing to yank control away for a cutscene. Which is good, since we just exited a cutscene.

Right off the bat, Mass Effect 1 makes it clear that this is a Details First kind of story, to the point where the opening text crawl is spent not talking about the protagonist or current events, but talking about galactic history and the technology that makes this world possible – a technology so important that the whole series is named after it.

Our first episode gets all of the exposition out of the way. Nilus drives home the point that humans are a small species in a big universe, and we’re fighting to hold our place in it. We also learn that Nilus is here to observe Shepard as a possible candidate for the Spectres.

Fridge logic: How would things have gone if the Geth hadn’t attacked? Shepard would go down to the planet, shake hands with the locals, load the beacon onto the ship, and fly back to the Citadel. I can only imagine the report Nilus would have filed:

“I have no idea if the subject is qualified to be a SPECTRE, but if you need to move into a new apartment he’s definitely qualified to handle the transition. Could even be trusted to transport large appliances.”

To be fair, Nilus does say this is supposed to be the first of several missions. One imagines the subsequent missions would be jobs that couldn’t be subcontracted to a couple of burly guys and a dolly.

The flow of this episode isn’t complex, which is good because there’s a lot of exposition that needs to be done and the last thing we need is a complicated plot for the player to worry about. Shepard is sent down to recover the Prothean beacon. He lands on the planet and follows a linear path that tells the story of what’s been happening to the artifact. The path goes through the dig site where it was dug up. Then it passes by some of the colony housing so we can hear what the locals think. Then we reach the train station where the beacon was transported. The mission ends at the platform where the Geth are holding it.

Along the way we see Sovereign, we fight the Geth, we learn that Saren is leading the Geth, and we encounter the body horror of the husks. We get our gameplay tutorials out of the way and Jenkins, son of TraskIn BioWare’s earlier game KOTOR, the player is given a tutorial buddy (Trask) to teach them gameplay mechanics, and then this character is killed to raise the stakes. Here in Mass Effect 1, Jenkins acts as our sacrificial stakes-establishing buddy., dies. We meet Ashley, talk to some of the locals, and get a little of the Geth backstory. Most importantly, the beacon gets blown up. Shepard sees the vision, and we’re left with no further clues. The only choice is to go back to the Citadel and attempt to have Saren brought to justice, so that we can learn what he’s up to. We know he wanted the beacon, but we don’t know why.

That’s a lot of pieces to put on the board at once, and the game manages to pull it off without clogging things up. The codex is a beautiful tool for making this work, and helps us enjoy our light fluffy Drama while giving the Details folks something to bite down on.


Robo space zombies!
Robo space zombies!

Someone at BioWare really enjoyed their stories about monsters that arise from bodily transformation. In KOTOR, there was the Rakghoul sub-plot, where a disease turned people into feral monsters. In Jade Empire, we had the Mother plot where cannibalism turned people into flesh-eating goblins. Here in Mass Effect we have two different flavors of space-zombies: The Geth turn people into husks, and the Thorian on Feros turns people into creepers.

I appreciate the gameplay need for Geth husks – a melee attacker keeps fights interesting, and it would be out of character for the Geth to just run up to you and start punching. Sending your own dead back at you as cannon fodder works great as both a tactical distraction and a shock tactic.

On the other hand, the actual transformation always struck me as a little odd. Okay, so the Geth completely encase the victim in electronic parts, and evidently destroy their mind in the process. The resulting husk looks kinda like a techno skeleton. But what I never understood was what they needed the bodies for. Like, if you just took all the machinery you use to cover the dead body, then it could presumably move and operate on its own, right? I assume you’re not actually using the brain and muscles of the corpse. What is it on the bodies that’s valuable? The skeleton? Nervous system? The muscle mass? Can’t you just make 100% synthetic “husk bots” so you don’t have to gather up bodies and wait for the incubation to complete?

Yes, I fully admit I’m over-thinking this one. If they actually answered any of my questions it would make husks a lot less interesting and scary. And they have the magic wand of “REAPER TECH” to wave at objections like this. But for whatever reason, I wonder about this every time I see a husk. (And not, strangely enough, when I see a Thorian creeper.)


I get that food isn't a problem, but I do wonder what they do with sewage.
I get that food isn't a problem, but I do wonder what they do with sewage.

Yeah, this episode drags on. Overall, it’s pretty simple: We go to the Council and accuse Saren of attacking Eden Prime, without offering any evidence to support these accusations. We can’t even personally place him at the crime scene. The Council understandably refuses to act. We meet Garrus, Tali, and Wrex. Tali gives us the proof we need to show the Council that Saren was indeed behind the attack. The Council makes Shepard a Spectre and sends him off to stop Saren.

In concept it’s short and easy, but in practice it feels alternately plodding and rushed. We get bogged down in some organized crime stuff between Fist and the Shadow Broker, and while all of that was interesting, it felt a little too much like the “sub-sub-sub-subquest” problem I mentioned last time. I wouldn’t blame the player if they shot their way to the back room of the dance club to capture the local crime lord and found themselves thinking, “Wait. How is this related to the attack on Eden Prime?”

During this adventure, we learn that the Citadel is a massive place, and critical to how the galaxy is governed. It also drives home the point that even though our protagonist is human, humans are a small part of a big galaxy. Humans are new here, and they’re very much sitting at the kid’s tableIs this an American idiom? I’ve always understood it to originate with the practice of putting all the kids at the same table during a family gathering like Thanksgiving, so the adults can socialize in peace. from a political perspective. They’ve only participated in one war, which they lost. This is one of the things that draws me to the game: You just don’t see videogames frame humanity this way.

Be excellent to each other.
Be excellent to each other.

It loses me when we put Saren on trial with no evidence, and the player dialog indicates we’re supposed to be indignant that this doesn’t work. Then later we manage to convict Saren not just in absentia, but without letting him know he’s being accused or allowing him to defend himself at all. Worse, we do so using a tiny voice sample provided by a Quarian teenager, supposedly taken from a dead Geth. That has to be the sketchiest trail of evidence I’ve ever seen, and that’s ignoring the fact that faking a voice sample that short would be do-able even in today’s worldBy re-cutting other conversations, or hiring an impressionist., much less in a world with super-technology like this one.

On one hand, this investigation wasn’t particularly fun or interesting and anecdotally I get the impression most players were chafing to escape the Citadel and get on with the adventure already. So I’m not saying the story would have been improved if we spent another hour gathering up even more evidence. I know this is a sci-fi and not a procedural crime drama, but having the will of the entire galactic council turn against their most prized agent on this 10 second sound file feels embarrassingly weak. I think if nothing else, making it a video file would have helped.

The Citadel really shows that BioWare’s vision was a little too ambitious for the engine they were using. The shape and scale of the Citadel is spectacular, but also marred by loading-screen elevators, long empty box corridors, and (now brief) hard loading screen hotspots. This part of the game is just crying for an engine that can handle open-world content.

Spoiler: We're standing where the Mako will eventually be destroyed. Which is kind of funny when you think about it.
Spoiler: We're standing where the Mako will eventually be destroyed. Which is kind of funny when you think about it.

The “Statue” of the Mass Relay is supposed to be a setup for the finale. Plot Twist! It’s not a statue, it’s the receiver for a real relay! It’s the receiving end of the conduit everyone was looking for! That’s a fun twist, but for my first play-through it didn’t have a lot of payoff because the statue is a bit out-of-the-way and I never really noticed itI can’t recall for sure, but I’m reasonably sure I thought it was unreachable background decoration in my first play-through.. It’s on the far end of the playable area, and there’s no reason for the player to approach it except for curiosity. The player has to deliberately eschew the fast travel system in favor crossing all that open space on foot. I’m sure a lot of people missed the relay, and thus the payoff at the end. Ideally I think it could have been moved a little closer to the center of the zone, or perhaps a quest-relevant NPC could have been placed beside it.

The Spectres

Remember Shepard, Spectres represent an ideal: That power without oversight or accountability is pretty damn awesome.
Remember Shepard, Spectres represent an ideal: That power without oversight or accountability is pretty damn awesome.

The Spectres are clearly a system designed to facilitate RPG style stories: You’re given an overall goal from the council, but they don’t control you directly. This is ideal for that open-world feel that keeps games free and exploratory. Shepard’s status as a Spectre gives the writers lots of wiggle room: Being a Spectre can bestow access to crime scenes, battlefields, and research areas where normal people aren’t allowed to go, but it’s not supreme power. The writers can give the player as much or as little power needed to justify the current quest, and it nicely sidesteps the, “If I’m working for the king then why do I have to put up with this pissant obstructionist guard?” problem that plagues so many quest-driven games.

Obviously the player can’t actually be autonomous in a story-driven game like this. You need to go to the given planets and do the scripted quests to get to the scripted ending. But the game tries to create an illusion of freedom. The Council doesn’t order you around; they offer “suggestions” and “intel”. If you reply, “I’ll get on it right now!” they even make a point of saying they’re just making you aware of your options. Anderson does the same thing. If you jump on one of his suggestions, he backpedals and insists it’s up to you. The game is constantly trying to bolster the notion that the player is in charge.

It helps that this is a quest for knowledge. In a story where you’re after (say) a super-weapon, the player loses a little bit of agency. It creates the feeling that you didn’t beat the bad guy, someone else beat the bad guy when they made the weapon, and you just acted as the delivery mechanism for the solution. That’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as a situation where it feels like you’re forging your own victory. In a knowledge quest, both the player and the player character learn new things together, and it feels like you’re creating the road to victory instead of just following the in-game GPS to victory.

Once they’re free of the Citadel, the player is allowed to tackle the next three major locations in any orderOr even fly off and do sidequest stuff.. I prefer them in this order: Therum, Feros, then Noveria. I usually start with Therum so I can get Liara, and do Noveria last because some of the dialog checks are pretty high and I enjoy being able to hit them all. For my own convenience, I’m going to discuss them in this order.



[1] The plot of Therum barely qualifies as a skit.

[2] Even if you trimmed all the combat down to the essentials, Noveria is probably still movie-sized.

[3] Even the protagonist POV character shifts from time to time!

[4] In BioWare’s earlier game KOTOR, the player is given a tutorial buddy (Trask) to teach them gameplay mechanics, and then this character is killed to raise the stakes. Here in Mass Effect 1, Jenkins acts as our sacrificial stakes-establishing buddy.

[5] Is this an American idiom? I’ve always understood it to originate with the practice of putting all the kids at the same table during a family gathering like Thanksgiving, so the adults can socialize in peace.

[6] By re-cutting other conversations, or hiring an impressionist.

[7] I can’t recall for sure, but I’m reasonably sure I thought it was unreachable background decoration in my first play-through.

[8] Or even fly off and do sidequest stuff.

From The Archives:

254 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 3: Eden Prime

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The whole husk thing:
    Sure,you could build robots instead of infecting people.But this would require you to have mines for the materials,then the factory to assemble them,then the ship to transport them to the field.But with the husk,you just get these spires that use the materials already in the body,merge them with eezo(I guess its eezo,because every piece of reaper tech is eezo)right there where you need them.No need to mine materials,no need to assemble them in one place then send them to the next.Plus,the incubation for husks seems to be really fast.

    Also,there is the whole theme of reapers trying to conserve stuff.They try to stave off the heat death of the universe,so just killing your enemies and then letting the bodies to rot is wasteful when you can convert those bodies into something else.Reapers are very eco friendly like that.

    1. Hydralysk says:

      I don’t really remember anything about Reapers and the heat death of the universe…

      Are you sure that wasn’t one of the endings Drew Karpyshyn came up with that got scrapped in favor of Starbrat’s technophobic agenda?

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I could have gone for “Heat Death of the universe.” as an explanation. It would have been wonderfully alien and wonderfully in keeping with the scale of perspective of a race of two mile tall millions of years old civilization of Avatar-Hivecolonies of entire extinct races. It would seem stupid to us but you could at least imagine how such an old race that thinks in such huge and ponderous ways, who’s consciousness is like the undertow of the ocean, might see things differently from you.

        Like maybe they’re trying to preserve all this low entropy while preventing the species its harvested from from wasting resources, accelerating heat death. Maybe they’ve calculated that an critical mass of low entropy could permanently stabilize their corner of the universe or something.

        Maybe they’ve calculated that civilizations evolve into the kind you see in Lensman where they have the capacity to use up way more energy than we do and thus the rate of entropy increases due to technological singularity.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          This would also jive with the Citadel. If they build it, that means we don’t have to build it, which means we don’t pursue research of construction on that scale, and since the Keepers guard that knowledge, we can’t reverse engineer it. Similar idea with the Mass Relays. We don’t ever take the time to build even larger even faster ships because its not cost efficient vs just using the relays.

          And yes I know they do that so that they know where we are to make Reaping efficient but it could also be a stop gap against technological development, slowing certain kinds of research long enough so the Reapers don’t have to worry about checking in more often.

          1. topazwolf says:

            It also works with why they built the Mass Relays. Since the relays seem to be mega efficient devices, it can be believed that they were built in order to keep the younger races from sinking incredible amounts of resources into space exploration since they can just relay to new places at low cost. It also negates the need for world ships and other long distance vessels … and I just worked out why everyone hates the Quarians. Everything they do opposes the enforced galactic norm. Wow. Now I know for sure this was supposed to be a thing.

            Also I believe (though I have no evidence for this) that the Reapers are supposed to be gigantic databases of minds in a digital reality. Entire species kept alive in a manner that uses almost no resources or space. So the physical galaxy could be used as a kind of incubator for young races while the old ones develop new technologies and strive to transcend the limits of existence.

            Imagine how awesome it would have been if the Starchild had turned to Shepard and told her that she was a monster that killed an entire species. That she was the very plague the reapers wanted to stop. It would have been a Revan level of amazing three games in the making. But no, we got stupid colors instead.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              That could work in some fashion too. Many like to say a theme of the Mass Effect series is unity. If they had done what you suggest, it would put the Reapers in a position of achieving a perhaps warped concept of unity through force, making them not all that different from the Protheans.

              And it kind of gets into “you wouldn’t understand.” Its not that our minds can’t imagine or grasp what they’re doing, its that we’d never be willing to accept it till we experienced it, and they’ve been down that road enough times to know not to bother. “We’ll reap them now and they’ll thank us later.”

              Or it could tie into how the Reapers are worshipped as gods. Heaven then becomes a place where your mind is stored digitally in a virtual colony within a Reaper of your species to be persisted forever. People could be drawn to that as much as to Indoctrination. Or that could be part of the Indoctrination.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Sory,that was me projecting.They are described as conserving energy,hence why they are in stasis for so long.But if you are conserving energy when you have all this crazy shit that draws energy practically from nothing,the only reason I can think of is it speeds up the death of the galaxy and further the universe.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Wasn’t the idea originally that use of the mass effect was accelerating entropy? And maxed-out entropy = heat death of Universe. And the Reapers wanted to stop that. So you were right, and so is Hydralysk.

          1. MrGuy says:

            That’s great from a handwavy perspective (and, let’s face it, faster-than-light portals that work “somehow” is already deeply into handwave territory already).

            But the explanation makes no sense without some idea of HOW the mass relays increase the entropy of the universe. Do they produce tremendous local amounts of heat or a burst of radiation every time they’re used (which is something the game definitely does NOT show)? Do they somehow break up some theoretical highly ordered substructure of the universe that’s held together since the dawn of time? What, exactly, do they DO?

            Entropy is disorder. Spraying Shepherd and the Normandy across the universe in a billion pieces is entropy. Delivering them intact to a destination is not.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Well its been shown that(and I think the codex supports it)that mass relays work by opening wormholes between them.If these dont close fully after each jump,theres your entropy right there.

              1. The Rocketeer says:

                Mass relays don’t work that way. They work the same as all eezo tech: by altering mass. Specifically, mass relays create a channel of nigh-massless space between themselves and their partnered relay, then propel the transiting vessel along that channel.

                Mass effect guns work about the same way, naturally, except instead of being paired with another gun, they’re paired with all Blue Sun mercs, everywhere.

              2. Wide And Nerdy says:

                The real question is why we can’t create our own wormholes with this technology. It would seem like this is the necessary exotic matter.

                1. Zeta Kai says:

                  Why would an advanced civilization bother to do such a thing? If I understand what you are asking, you are proposing that someone dismantle a mass effect relay so as to build a wormhole with the eezo inside said relay. Which is basically like asking “Why don’t I take this car that Dad gave me as a graduation gift, take it apart, & built a bitchin’ bike with it?” It would take a long time, tremendous resources, & in the end you might get an inferior means of transportation out of the deal. It’s just not worth it to try, even assuming that the other galactic civilizations would allow you to vandalize one of these irreplaceable artifacts so that you can try to do something like this, which could possibly blow up your local solar system.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Why would an advanced civilization bother to do such a thing?

                    In order to understand how it works so that they can:
                    – Repair one if it breaks
                    – Produce new ones that suit them better
                    – Advance the technology even further

                    1. Jarenth says:

                      – Because wormholes are way rad
                      – Because screw you, dad, I make my own way around the universe
                      – Drunken bet

                  2. Wide And Nerdy says:

                    What I’m saying is, based on my admittedly limited understanding of where that research is now, I believe our scientists could make a wormhole if they had access to a substance like Eezo. They wouldn’t need to reverse engineer the Mass Effect Relays. If nothing else they could use micro wormholes instead of quantum entanglement for communications with the Illusive Man in ME2.

            2. Joe Informatico says:

              No, the relays causing entropy isn’t the best explanation, especially if the earlier implication that the Reapers a) created the relay network and b) “encourage” civilizations hitting a certain level of development to make use of it and find the Citadel. But if the heat-death was the notion that as massive, interstellar civilizations grow and spread out, they increase the overall heat of the galaxy (through respiration, the exhaust and fumes of the technology, etc.), as theorized in Larry Niven’s Ringworld books, then maybe purging the galaxy of advanced civilizations every 50,000 years is the way the Reapers try to prevent that.

            3. MichaelGC says:

              But the explanation makes no sense without some idea of HOW the mass relays increase the entropy of the universe.

              Aye – the explanation was going to be “‘cos of dark energy.” In some fashion. Given everything we currently know* about dark energy, that’s pretty much exactly equivalent to saying it’s “‘cos of SPEYSS MAGIC!!”

              In fairness, I gather that they hadn’t actually figured out a detailed explanation, and then obviously ended up never getting the chance. So, whether or not they’d have been able to cobble together something satisfying … well, who knows? (Although something more-satisfying than Stargit wouldn’t have been a big ask…)

              *Essentially: there seems to be rather a lot of it. Whatever ‘it’ is.

        2. I can’t remember where I heard this, but there is a story that the entropy thing was planned as the original ending to ME3, but the script was leaked so they wrote a completely new end to the game. Is this rumor true? It certainly explains why the ending we got seems so out of place.

    2. Mintskittle says:

      I always thought the husks were supposed to be a terror weapon, since it isn’t just a shambling mech that wants to beat you with its robofists, but also the corpses of your friends and loved ones brought back to fight against you.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well yes,thats one of the reasons for them.But why would you develop a terror weapon when some species in the galaxy will be rachni or krogan who wont give two shits about you trying to scare them?It has to serve at least some other purpose,and seeing how not that well in combat they are,their mobility (spikes are really easy to transport)and on the site assembly are their best features.

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          Actualy I bet it would work on most races as a terror weapon since most races have a drive to protect thair fellow sentients and especially to protect their young. Also we could assume that it’s often that societies have taboos about what you do with your dead and how do you “put them to rest” even if it is to eat them or reprocess their bodies into base materials. And the of enemy not only killing their people but then doing horrible things to their bodies and sending them to fight you wold have an impact on most races.

          And as you said they probably do minor replacements and mostly replace sensors and computing elements of the body so it can better detect targets and engage only non Reapers.

        2. Disc says:

          They’re (relatively) cheap shock troops and cannon fodder. You could deploy them en masse to wear out a smaller but entrenched enemy through attrition or paired with other, more durable and/or co-ordinated elements, distracting the enemy so that the real damage dealers can get an opportunity to break their formations.

          They’re basically zerglings, just lacking in the speed department. The terror effect is a bonus.

        3. Jeff says:

          rachni or krogan

          Husks are just human-versions of the Reaper-assimilation thing, and (in keeping with the humans-are-puny theme) actually the weakest version, with corrupted rachni and krogan being mini-bosses.

    3. Sartharina says:

      I was always under the impression that the Reapers were just farmers (It’s even in their name!), who, as of ME2, needed to harvest sentient species to make more of each other, after setting the seeds of growth. Mass Effect is just Farming Simulator, except suddenly all your crops rebel and murder you.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You just don't see videogames frame humanity this way

    Which is sad.Especially since both me2 and 3 disregard this as well,and humans become increasingly dominant,to ridiculous proportions.

    1. One of my favorite parts in ME1 was in the council chamber. There are two guys discussing the possibility of humans getting on the council and the political advantages of that. It was those details and bits that made ME1 such an amazing experience, and wholly absent from ME3.

      Edit: I also loved the Volus and Elcor ambassadors. I always thught those two characters would make for a great sitcom.

      1. Orillion says:

        Studio Audience: “Over-excited applause”
        Elcor Ambassador: “Cautious Optimism: Jeryl, I have a new get rich quick scheme.”

    2. INH5 says:

      This actually starts at the end of ME1, or even earlier, where not only is the human fleet able to rescue the council, destroy Sovereign, and save the galaxy when none of the other races could, but if the council gets killed we’re supposed to believe that this allows the humans to just take over the entire galaxy. Which is like the US President getting assassinated while a foreign leader is visiting the White House, and that person deciding that he can just appoint one of his own citizens as the new President and expect America to go along with it. I’m actually perfectly okay with ME3 retconning this choice away because there is no way it can be made not stupid.

      Even if you save the Council, the fact that the humans are allowed onto the Council after a few decades of contact when plenty of other races who have been in contact for centuries aren’t seems kind of implausible.

      And in general, the backstory of how the humans got powerful enough in a matter of decades to challenge races that have been spacefaring for millenia can’t help but stretch my suspension of disbelief. Maybe it could have been justified if the Prothean ruins on Mars had contained technological secrets that none of the other races had access to, but no, the game goes out of its way to say that every race got its tech from the Protheans and the humans aren’t special in this regard.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats true.But its also something that couldve been explored in depth in the sequels.Yet most you get is a random npc or two commenting on how humans are now in charge and that sucks.The hostile takeover of the council at the end of 1 would not have been weird if it was addressed better in 2.And lets not go into the stupidity of 3 with cerberus(which already is stupid in 2).

      2. krellen says:

        Apparently humans did contribute something to galactic technology, in that no other species utilised fighters before humans came along. I don’t remember fighters being important at any point in the story, but I do remember the Codex pointing out the innovation.

        I suspect this must mean the planets of all the other species in the galaxy are probably not mostly water, and thus aircraft carriers would never have occurred to them.

        1. INH5 says:

          I suspect this must mean the planets of all the other species in the galaxy are probably not mostly water, and thus aircraft carriers would never have occurred to them.

          That would be an astonishing coincidence, but even if we accept it for the sake of argument I still don’t buy it. It’s very hard to imagine a technological species inventing space travel without also inventing small aircraft and then small spacecraft (IE the lunar lander and the space shuttle). And once you have small spacecraft that can be carried by larger spacecraft, the idea that nobody ever thought to put weapons on those small spacecraft and use them in battle over thousands of years, not even during multiple galaxy wide wars (the Rachni war and the Krogan Rebellion being the two biggest examples), is absurd. This is just another way of saying that humans are special because everyone else is dumb.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Not necessarily.Asari would probably not waste their lives by flying a fighter into the defense grid,turians rely on their big guns,salarians are all about infiltration so any form of warfare is not that important to them,and krogans didnt invent this stuff themselves,but were given the technology.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              But if they didn’t invent it because they didn’t need it then why would anybody appreciate the innovation? Especially given the nature of the mass effect which has long since probably made boosting stuff into orbit way easier than it is for us. What advantage would it have in space combat? Higher distribution of guns per resources?

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Plenty of stuff are found out to be needed only after their invention.Camera on your phone,for example,is not needed.And then you find out you are in a car crash and need to quickly photograph the scene and move the wreck because its a busy road.

                1. SharpeRifle says:

                  More importantly Shamus actually get s this slightly wrong…the humans in ME didn’t lose the First Contact War. It goes Turians took Shanxi, Humans took Shanxi back, both sides prep for more games, Council says “Stopit!”. War over. Oh and we then have minor slap fights with the Batarians over the verge or something I think… which results in the Batarians withdrawing from the Citadel.

                  If I recall correctly the fact that we responded so well to the Turians militarily is why the fighters get more attention since it aided in humans taking back Shanxi . Up to that point apparenly they were all obsessed with battle wagons….kinda like our admirals before WWII.

                  1. Richard H says:

                    The battlewagons versus carriers point is a big one. Part of the reason battleship admirals were still there was the advantage of failing conventionally, but part of it was also that, until the late 30s, honestly, airplanes couldn’t carry a payload that was very effective against armored ships, and, furthermore, launching them off a large ship was more than a little dodgy. It’s entirely possible that the disruptor torpedo that fighters need to be able to threaten capital ships was as much of an innovation as having the doctrine to use them.

                    Also, I hadn’t remembered the humans had taken back Shanxi, but I do remember that a significant part of the ground forces managed to mount an extremely successful guerrilla campaign after the loss of the orbitals, and it took reprisal strikes on civilian population centers to get them to surrender. (It also bogged things down enough for the humans to mount a counterattack.)

            2. Grimwear says:

              That doesn’t make much sense for the Salarians. If they plan on doing infiltration would it not be smarter to land on the planet with a small ship in order to reduce detection chance as opposed to a huge one? Now arguably you can say they infiltrate via civilian transporters or whatnot but at some point they must have needed to do stealth insertions with a small combat squad such as on Virmire. No fighter sized ships for that? I can’t buy it.

              1. INH5 says:

                Not to mention the Rachni. Their ground combat strategy seems to mostly consist of rushing the enemy with a bunch of disposable drones, so space fighters would be right up their alley. And yes, I’ve checked and the Rachni did have space ships before encountering the Council races, they just didn’t have FTL until they captured a Salarian ship and reverse engineered its propulsion systems.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  A single infiltration ship is not the same as a squadron of fighters launched from a carrier.Same goes for suicide drones which are nothing more than a manned torpedo.

                2. 4th Dimension says:

                  It’s not really the same thing to use a flyer as transport and to arm them and develop tactics for effective usage of them against enemy ships. Remember in WWI all sides had planes at the start of the war, but it took some time for them to realise that there might be some fighting between planes in air and that they need effective weapons, and that pilots need training for that. And in space with it’s nearly unobscured “terrain” there is no need for single pilot sized crafts for anything that couldn’t be done better by a normal sized ship.* And frankly to someone standing on a bridge of a dreadnought the idea that anything other than another dreadnought could harm such a big battlewagon would have been proposteous.
                  Oh and for fighter/bomber tactics you need when you are a swarm of bees attacking a man with a flamethrower, you need a kind of mentality that can walk the line between being recless about danger and calculating about preservation of your resources.

                  * And other races are right, there is nothing a bomber or a fighter can do that can not be done cheaper or with less loss of your sides life by point defences, drones and missiles. But ME wanted space fighters like many other settings like them so they but them in.

          2. krellen says:

            While the innovations of small craft and likely small craft with weapons probably are largely inevitable, I’m not sure the innovation that a Carrier is a supreme weapon of war is. Really the only reason we know how powerful Carriers are is because the Japanese sunk almost all the American Battleships at Pearl Harbour (the naval equivalent to Dreadnoughts), and the US was forced to fight them mostly with their then-experimental Carrier fleet because it’s all they had left.

            Without a similar historical event, other species might never had gotten their “carrier” idea past the experimental phase. (This also helps explain Human success, because if space fighters are as good as atmospheric fighters, Humans might actually have an advantage of experience over the other species here.)

            1. newplan says:

              It’s acceptable in ME but it really doesn’t make sense.

              Carriers have an edge over battleships because strike aircraft are a standoff weapon that can spot the enemy far beyond the sensor range of a surface only fleet. This edge really only exists for a short period of technological development – when you can build aircraft and land them on ships but you can’t launch satellites into space to spot surface ships and hammer them with ballistic missiles (nuclear tipped or not).

              In the ME universe space strike aircraft don’t extend the sensor range of the large ships that carry them nor are they even going to be equipped with weapon systems that the dreadnoughts can’t defeat. If they did have such weapons there would still be no huge edge in putting a pilot in the mobile weapons platform.

              Hell, logically the space combat would be amazingly boring – guns that fire mass effect propelled ammo would be unbeatable. Drop the mass of the slug with a ME field generator, accelerate it to greater than lightspeed then have it stop generating the field the moment before the impact. Fight over. First ship to fire wins.

              1. Mephane says:

                Hell, logically the space combat would be amazingly boring ““ guns that fire mass effect propelled ammo would be unbeatable. Drop the mass of the slug with a ME field generator, accelerate it to greater than lightspeed then have it stop generating the field the moment before the impact. Fight over. First ship to fire wins.

                Yeah realistically, space battles would be exactly like that. Detect the enemy first and take them out in a single strike from as long range as possible.

              2. 4th Dimension says:

                Correct to a point.
                I don’t agree that battles would be won by a single salvo. Combat ranges would simply move back to maximum range at which you can fire so you can minimize the possibility of enemy fire hitting your ship. Also these are projectile weapons, they don’t have guidance, so the range will simply be extended enough so that evasive manouvers coupled with lightspeed lag would make predicting target’s position at the time of impact difficult.

                1. newplan says:

                  If you can fire a slug at FTL speeds and slow it down right before impact there would be literally zero time when the slug could be detected. Collisions of that mass and velocity would have enough energy to shatter planets – never mind ships.

                  Even if the firing gave off enough radiation of some kind to make your ship immediately detected it would be too late – all that EM would move at light speed – in other words after the projectile arrived. There wouldn’t be evasive maneuvers because the detection would be after the impact.

                  1. guy says:

                    Except that by that same logic, you aren’t seeing where the ship is, you’re seeing where it was several seconds ago. During the time it takes for light to reach the firing ship, the target could have moved hundreds of kilometers. Even at one g of accleration it could change its position by its entire length, and Mass Effect ships have much, much higher acceleration.

                  2. 4th Dimension says:

                    You don’t start doging only when you know you are being fired upon, you start doging as soon as there is any chance of enemy action.

                    This is space, you can spot incoming attackers at Astronomicall distances. You can not engage them then since, even asuming light speed weapons, due to the light speed lag at long distances the popint where your enemy might be creates a clout of possible locations limited by the strength and manuverability of the enemy.

                    Fleets would spot each other at planetary distances, move closer in formations where the spacing is measuring in hundreds of kilometers. While the fleet is moving all ships are constantly flying eratically around their point in the fleet. Due to the spacing they can easily move off from their position by kilometers.
                    At some point one of the sides becomes resonably confident that if they put out enough firepower downrange by focusing on significant targets they will hit something and they begin firing. From then on the fleets try to mantain the optimum distance for their weapons while trying to keep the distance from the enemy to reduce the effectivness of their fire. Also this ships don’t only have sensors and weapons there is probably a lot of ways they will try to confuse the enemy computers tracking their ships by dropping Space Equivalnet of chaff and such.
                    Even if the capital ship is hit the hit might not be deadly because in ME they are not naked, but have barriers which can take quite a lot of punishment. So no unless somehow one fleet surprises another fleet and ambushes them (difficult in open space, and with the use of recon drones to cout before you), the combat wouild be a dance of two fleet commanders trying to one up each other.

                    The main problem with this way of using the ships is that in ME they put their main armament spinally so you need to be driving towards the enemy to fire at him which is a bit silly. But with stron enough RCS thruisters they should be able to turn the ship for seconds at time to fire at the enemy.

                    As for FTL-ing your shots right on top of the enemy, FTL drive seems to be precise enough to move you between planets but it’s not really 100% precise, so considering that you would need to run the engine for nanoseconds I don’t think you could plot precise enough jumps for your ordinance so on exit they hit the target.

              3. guy says:

                They specifically do have a weapon that is good for them and not dreadnoughts. The disruptor torpedo becomes super-massive when launched in order to overwhelm kinetic barriers. If fired at long range, the target ship will easily destroy it with laser point defense. The lasers are also pretty good at taking out fighters, which is why no one used them before. Carrier wings are large enough that they can overwhelm point defense.

                The codex does leave the questions of why the disruptor torpedoes can’t reduce their mass until the final impact (I’d go with “generating large positive and negative fields in a missile is technically difficult”) and why fighters are manned (probably the poor state of AI technology and limited FTL communication).

                1. 4th Dimension says:

                  They are using fighters because space fighters are cool, if realistically completly impracticall. Now smaller torpedo boat class ships might work because they could actually pack a big enough weapon, but single seat fighters and bombers are simply too small.

        2. They specifically state that? Holy crow, did this series ever rip off Babylon-5.

          In the B-5 universe, not only are we one of the newbie or “child” races (sound familiar, Mass Effect?), but our success (at least initially) as a military power is by having our fighter craft, the Starfury, designed for non-atmospheric combat only, making them far more maneuverable and effective in orbital and 0-g engagements. Our rapid growth compared to other races has some likening humanity to cockroaches and how they infest areas quickly.

          1. krellen says:

            There are so many parallels between Mass Effect and Babylon 5. We’ve basically got Minbari, Centauri and Norns, we’ve got the psychics, and a major space station as a centrepiece. There’s even Vorlons and Shadows, albeit slightly recast.

            The Salarians (and the unique designs of some of the species) might be the most original things in the series.

            1. Grudgeal says:

              Salarians original? I’ll have you know many Bothans (who were well fleshed-out in the EU by the nineties) died to bring Bioware that inspiration.

          2. Joe Informatico says:

            I think that’s the key here. In B5, Earth earned its spot in the top five by a) winning the Dilgar War, b) holding out against the Minbari for two years and making a ballsy last stand before the Minbari surrender to them, and c) coming up with the idea of the Babylon Council in the first place.

            In ME, the Council races have the most powerful militaries. In just over a decade on the scene, the Systems Alliance stands toe-to-toe with the taurians and isn’t wiped out. However important or lengthy the contributions of the volus and elcor to Citadel space are, they’re not military powers. The humans have proven they are.

        3. 4th Dimension says:

          There is also mention that our ground tactics were interesting because we relied a LOT on drones to help us wage wars and improve the firepower of squads. Which on second thought makes sense that other races don’t like having anything resembling droids on the battlefield considering galaxy wide taboo on AI and the existance of Geth who considered a monstrosity.

        4. Muelnet says:

          If I remember correctly it wasn’t fighters that humans invented it was the carrier. From what I understood fighters existed, but the tactics and deployment were different before humans. Mainly in that they were less common.

        5. guy says:

          IIRC, the actual in-universe explanation was that the laser defense systems were good enough that other races didn’t think fighters or their primary anti-capital weapon (which makes itself incredibly massive to overwhelm barriers) were particularly viable in fleet actions and they never put particularly much effort into making them. Humans demonstrated that carriers could deploy large enough wings to saturate point defenses.

        6. Joe Informatico says:

          And this reminds me I wanted BioWare to make a space combat sim set in the ME setting as one of those $15-20 spin-off games you see on Steam, PSN, and XBLA. Halo and ME were two prominent game franchises for many years, both had compelling space opera settings, and yet no one thought of doing anything but manshoots with them. What a lost opportunity.

        7. Florian the Mediocre says:

          If I remember correctly, the invention of carriers was mostly an exercise in rules lawyering – there is a treaty that allows no species (except the Turians, who get twice as many) to own more than a dozen dreadnoughts. When humanity had built theirs, they kept making similarly sized ships, except instead of putting in a huge main gun they crammed them full of fighters.
          That way they could get away with owning more capital ships than they’re supposed to have without pissing of the council.

          I don’t think that was ever mentioned outside of the codex, though – a shame, really, I think it’s a pretty clever way of characterizing humanities relationship with the council races.

          1. 4th Dimension says:

            It also mirrors what happened IRL when Washington treaty limited the amount and displacement of Batleships that great powers can own, but since it was signed after WWI it didn’t include limitations on carriers.

            1. guy says:

              The Washington Naval Treaty did include some limits on carriers (which were invented during WWI but were mostly for reconnaissance) but the limits on carriers were for more carriers than people had while the battleship limits required them to scrap ships in production.

              The tonnage limits on carriers actually impacted what people built; nations were allowed a few conversions that had higher tonnage limits, so Japan turned some of the ships they weren’t allowed to finish into carriers.

        8. Orillion says:

          Sure, fighters, whatever.

          Humans invented Medigel, end of story. Sirta Foundation is a human biomedical corporation.

      3. Syal says:

        It’s more like taking over the local water supply. They can take over the galaxy because they control movement through the galaxy now. Assuming the relays can be turned off, anyway. I think they can, can’t they?

        But the points about humans not really qualifying to be there are valid.

        1. INH5 says:

          Vigil does say that the relays can be turned on and off by some machine on the Citadel, but the fact that the Council didn’t use that functionality to stop the Rachni or the Krogan suggests that they aren’t aware of this. That plot point did always seem strange to me; Vigil brings that up at the end but it’s never mentioned before, and nobody seems surprised by it. It almost feels like it was just tacked on as a justification for the choice at the end (otherwise the Alliance ships would intervene to save the Council ASAP).

          Regardless, the humans taking over still doesn’t make sense because there are millions of Asari, Turians, and Salarians already on the Citadel, they must greatly outnumber the humans on the Citadel, and there is no way they would just sit back and let the humans walk in and take over their government.

          1. guy says:

            It’s pretty clear that no one knew it could shut down the relays and Shepard first finds out when she talks to Vigil. It’s just part of such a big conga-line of shocking revelations that it doesn’t stand out much.

            1. INH5 says:

              Though that makes one wonder why when Shepard contacts Joker and Hackett from the Citadel, they calmly ask him to unlock the relay instead of saying something along the lines of, “We’ve been trying to get to the Citadel for a while, but the relay isn’t working. Do you have any idea how that could have happened?”

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              They probably knew the relays can be shut down.I mean they had to turn them on,meaning that at one point they were shut down by someone.What they didnt know is how to do it.

              1. INH5 says:

                That’s true (assuming that dormant relays are deactivated instead of just relays that have never been used), but encountering previously active relay that is not only now deactivated but cannot be turned back would absolutely be a new and scary experience.

    3. MrGuy says:

      Say what you will about the Illusive Man, but at least his existence and the rise of Cerberus gives the strong galactic influence of humans some level of plausibility in ME2.

      There’s no real reason for humanity to have a “we’re the most important ones in the whole universe!” level of influence in ME3, especially since in ME3 you’re not really working for Cerberus anymore.

    4. 4th Dimension says:

      Yeah, agreed. ME1 presented a much more realistic potrayal of what would be like for a newly arrived species to break out to big scene in a galaxy. On the other hand it’s still not real enough because the reality would likely be kind of depressing.
      It’s much more likely that humanity would be like one of the African, Pacific or other Third World nations that simply arrived on the global scene waaay too late. They simply don’t have the resources nor the population, knowledge or anything else to pull themselves up from the gutter. The rules are simply too stacked against them.

      And because other races and cultures are so much more powerfull there would be a great pressure for humanity to conform to the standard culture of the galaxy for better or for worse. The aliens wouldn’t be citing Earth philosophers or movies and such since they have their own milenia old cultures. It’s more likely that our own would start adopting Asari ot Turian sensibilities to better fit in. While changes in the culture are inevitable because people are people slowly the human history and culture will be swept under the rug and kind of forgotten, because it’s old, dusty and boring and it’s not what their cyber Elcor/Assari/Turrian friends are talking about.

      As I said bit depressing. On teh other hand while we would never amount to much in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean the standard of living (I forgot the proper prhase) wouldn’t jump through the roof and humans would get all new gadgets to play with and it would be great to be alive. And from time to time one of your sportist, players or other would rise to galactic fame in his area (but not general galactic fame) and you would clebrate his achievment like the achievment of the entire race.

      Now for a more contraversial point I’m going to try to make.

      I think that this view of inevitable human superiority stems from two things. First is of course that it would be boring if our protagonist isn’t involved in high galactic stakes and a human is an obvious protagonist since he is closest to us. And because we want him that high the status of humanity begins to be a question and the simplest answer is to be optimistic and have us be good at something and renowed for it.

      The second one stems from teh fact that most today well known SF space opera comes form US or at least anglophone world, so it’s influenced by it’s innate thinking about how history works, as a progression of your tribe becoming stronger and stronger, because you are able and willing and hard working and you will obviosly be rewarded in the end by becoming a superpower nation, and will be able to dictate the events of your universe. Which stems from their history, and since they struck the jackpot it will obviosly allways happen. Which is frankly naive.

      On the other hand it’s much better than grim dark approaches that try to scare us form exploration by trying to beat our expectation into grim darkness where we’ll allways be destroyed by unknown.

      What I would like, no matter how much I like the scenarios of humanity beating on other races because we are somewhat special, is more scenarios where it’s like 1000 years (or long enough that things have stabilized) after first conatact and humanity is an equal in a galaxy of thousands of races. We are not doing badly but we aren’t a superpower. We fight wars form time to time with our neighbours and suffer wins and defeats. But general culture of the galaxy is generally cosmopolitan so it’s not surprising if the action is taking place on planets far away from Earth and we don’t have to deal with political status of Earth.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Or if you want a post first contact story, don’t make the stakes galactic. Stay local in our own cluster of stars, because it’s more believable that somehow we are able to sucessfully break out in some backwater of the galaxy than to fight the premier military of the galaxy and somehow win. Allthough if I remember correctly that victory came from them underestimating us.

      2. INH5 says:

        You make some very good points here. I actually wouldn’t mind playing a game where humans and Earth are the equivalent of some third world backwater country. If nothing else, it would be something fresh and new. The only franchise that I can think of that has done anything like that is Men in Black, where the justification for all the aliens running around is that Earth is a sort of galactic neutral zone that alien fugitives and asylum seekers flee to.

        Though I’m not sure if I agree with you about cultural diffusion happening similarly to the way it has between powerful and weaker nations in human history. I think the fact that the aliens are of a different species would impose considerable barriers to that, even if they were all Star Trek style rubber forehead aliens.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          You have to dig into literary SF to find good examples of those kinds of stories, outside of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, anyway.

          I really like the first book of Alan Dean Foster’s The Damned trilogy, A Call to Arms. A galactic federation of anthropomorphic animal races are losing a war against an empire of spider-like aliens. A scouting party crashes on Earth, and surprises an ordinary dude (he’s a musician) just chilling on his houseboat in Louisiana. In his fright, he lightly slaps the member of cat warrior-race, jumps off his boat and swims away. The aliens are horrified, as he’s the strongest, fastest creature they’ve ever encountered in the galaxy–and he’s just an ordinary schlub of a guy! They’re further horrified when they learn of our concepts of total warfare: even the evil spider-guys aren’t that brutal in war. But in desperation, the federation recruits humanity for their war. It’s basically an ME-like space opera where the humans are the krogan.

          Also, the Strugatsky Brothers’ Roadside Picnic, the inspiration for the STALKER film and games. At some point in the past, aliens landed in a half-dozen places around the planet. No one in or near the Visitation Zones saw or experienced the aliens or their means of travel, but the Zones now have phenomena completely unfathomable to physics, and occasionally alien artifacts are found. They demonstrate almost supernatural effets, some innocuous, some possibly useful if anyone could ever study and reverse-engineer them, some extremely dangerous. A class of raiders called stalkers sneak into the Zones despite government censure, and steal artifacts for collectors, but many of them go missing or mad. It’s a great Lovecraftian depiction of First Contact where we’re nothing to the aliens but ants–not worthy of consideration, killed without even being noticed, and possibly endangered by the trash they left behind (this is the metaphor of the title).

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          For the purposes of my thought experiment I was thinking in terms of a galaxy populated mostly by humanoid mass effect/Star Trek races, who while wierd are quite similar to us.

          Of course considering the possibilities of development IRL it’s quite likely that we would expirience first contact and not realize that the other things are sentients. Or even find any effective ways of communicating other than blasting each other in confusion.

    5. Tom says:

      Yeah, this is perhaps what really broke the series for me more than anything else (except the idiotic ending, of course), because it’s a complete about-turn on a fundamental aspect of the entire setting, with no justification at all. The second game is bad enough in that it just expects Shepard to suddenly start acting as if humans are more important than everyone else in the galaxy, regardless of whether s/he did or didn’t in the first game, either because s/he actually believes this or because the Illusive Man, Lord of Mooks, railroads her/him into it; the third is worse still because now the game actually expects the player to go along with the narcissistic idea that humans are the be-all and end-all as well. Any U-turn like that is bad, but when it’s a U-turn on, as Samus rightly remarked, a relatively rare and interesting conceit in favour of one that is long played-out and pretty damn arrogant to boot…

    6. Eruanno says:

      Totally agree! This annoys me a little bit in ME2 and A LOT in ME3. We go from “humans are at the kids table and need to find their place in a world greater than themselves” to “HUMANS SAVE EARTH, EARTH IS IN TROUBLE, FUCK EVERYONE ELSE, HUMANS HUMANS HUMANS”

    7. Grudgeal says:

      Pretty much came down here to say the same thing, and what has already been said about the series breaking its own themes by the end of ME1. Humans got too important.

      The only thing that could have avoided this was if it was implicit in the setting that humanity by sheer chance found a mother-lode of Progenitor technology on Mars and had been independently developing an interstellar empire in a ‘forbidden’ area of the universe for centuries before they chanced upon the Turians, Salarians and Asari, which is an event without precedent in our prior history, so instead we just stuck to the ‘Manifest Destiny’ creed of the 18th century U.S. instead. In the industrial era it’s not unusual that certain states’ fortunes waxed and waned (see: Britain, China and the Russian Empire), but all of these states still had the innate advantages of an Eurasian foundation in terms of guns, germs and steel in relation to each other. On a galactic scale, meanwhile, that doesn’t really work — humanity sprung onto the scene isolated from a pan-galactic society with centuries of head start. Only a cataclysmic event like a civil war or a recent Reaping would have allowed this kind of rapid shift in politics.

      Putting the ME universe in Real World themes, this story looks like if the Aztecs invented guns and muskets and crossed the Atlantic in the 1450s and becoming one of the prime signatories of the Treaty of Westphalia. IN SPACE.

      1. krellen says:

        So, Crusader Kings II’s Sunset Invasion DLC.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          Well I wasn’t going to say that…

          Out loud.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    but also marred by loading-screen elevators

    I must admit,I never got the elevator hate.I like interesting loading screens like that much more than the generic ones in 2.Not only are they something interesting to see(and often hear,with the added elevator banter),but it makes the world seem connected and much larger than 2s set of disjointed rooms.

    1. venatus says:

      I’m with you. loading screens are never ideal, but they’re pretty much hear to stay. getting some character banter and news bits means your getting better content then a little tool tip in addition to helping the world feel connected.

      1. Tobias says:

        It’s a fine line, really. Shamus himself has pointed out one key problem with this kind of loading transition at several occasions: A traditional loading screen profits from improvements in tech – faster disk read times, larger and faster RAM, things like that. Gameplay transitions, conversely, don’t profit from these improvements at all: The evelator dialog takes as a long as the lines of dialog take to play out, period.

        But personally, I agree with you – it’s not a problem per se, just in the way Bioware implemented it on the Citadel. There’s a lot of routes through the Citadel which trigger several minute-long elavator-ride-loading times in the space of minutes. For some quests, it seems you spend more time in an elevator than actually playing the game.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          While its true that new improvements shorten classic load times,its not a negative for these elevator rides because:
          1)They too get shortened with hardware improvements
          2)They still provide additional detail for the world.Complaining about that is akin to complaining about the sky of a planet because no one looks at it,and power used to render it would be better spent to do something else.

          1. Shamus says:

            You’re making it sound like the elevator rides are this rich source of lore. The news reports come out of nowhere, instead of pretending this is part of an ongoing broadcast. They take only a fraction of the ride, so for the rest of the time you have nothing to listen to. You lose all interactivity, so you can’t even walk around the elevator or fidget with your weapons or whatever. And they’re really shallow.

            It’s a good IDEA for a feature, but this implementation has way too much dead time for too little content.

            1. Ranneko says:

              Yeah, simply allowing the player to just move around the lifts would make them feel less jarring. It feels really strange that the characters just lock in place in the middle of the lift and that no one else is ever in the things.

              1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                The elevators in the Citadel didn’t bother me. First, having everyone locked down meant it was a good time to get a good, close look at my companions’ armor without them walking away. (Yes, I play with dolls in my RPGs.)

                Second, the elevators gave a sense of scale and scope. Rising up the council tower, you can look out and see the presidium fading into the distance, and the length of the ride tells you the tower is super-tall, without having to climb a bunch of stairs. And if, like me, you have a drink or a snack handy while you play, it was a good time to munch.

                No, the elevator ride that ticked me off was the one in the Normandy. It should not take that long to go one freaking deck. And, furthermore, there should be stairs. In an emergency, would you want to take this long to get to the armory?

                1. Henson says:

                  No, the elevators that annoyed me were the ones on Noveria. Far too short to feel necessary; like, why didn’t we just take the stairs? By contrast, I loved the Citadel elevators, even though they were much longer, because they had a purpose. (actually, multiple purposes)

                  Strangely, I was OK with Normandy elevator. Short, yes, but how much room does a compact ship like that have for stairways, anyway? We were probably lucky to get the one going down to the mess hall.

                  1. Alexander The 1st says:

                    “No, the elevators that annoyed me were the ones on Noveria. Far too short to feel necessary; like, why didn't we just take the stairs?”

                    My first though would be security – you can’t prevent someone from being able to go up stairs, but you can halt an elevator if needed.

                    And this *is* Noveria, where privacy is pretty much the whole reason for companies to use the planet.

                    1. Henson says:

                      I guess I could see that for the one to get into Noveria proper. And for the one going to Synthetic Insights. But the one going to the bar? C’mon, I didn’t need a pass to use that thing, and I’m armed to the teeth!

                      But if your explanation is true, I suppose that means that at least I was getting annoyed in character.

              2. Merlin says:

                Imagine stepping into an elevator with a fully armed and armoured soldier who begins running in circles during the ride, and tell me that would be less awkward. That’s like saying Half Life 2’s most engrossing moments are when you hop on tables and hurl objects at Eli Vance during his scientific explanations.

                1. Ranneko says:

                  The ability to move freely in those scenes in Half-Life 2 is what makes them less frustrating, especially on repeated play.

                  And many of these lifts are used multiple times. I doubt people would just run in circles the whole time, but I don’t get into a lift, walk into the centre and then lock intro place until the lift reaches its destination either.

                  1. Merlin says:

                    Totally disagree. They’re long, unskippable cutscenes, and although you can act during them, they’re still completely non-interactive. They’re fantastically frustrating, and almost unquestionably the worst part of repeat playthroughs.

            2. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Good ideas with botched implementation is practically the Bioware brand at this point.

              Example, the ending. I embraced it initially because the third game was so much more space marine than the prior ones that I wanted something that felt sci fi to punch out on (Hence I also strongly resist people who want to cut the ending off at Anderson’s “You done good son” moment. That just couldn’t be more the military cliche.)

          2. Primogenitor says:

            The elevators just bring up more questions for me: what’s on the floors we’re speeding past? why is no-one else trying to get on and off? just how big is this thing anyway? how do all these elevators relate to each other? why does this one not got to that floor?

            If it was an out-of-character menu and load screen I could ignore it as technical meta stuff, but because its in-world my brain tries to build it into the world, and then fails. Sort of a world-building uncanny valley.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Well, a lot of the areas have really high ceilings (which suits a video game nicely) probably to accommodate different sized species.

            2. Daemian Lucifer says:

              And why arent we seeing millions of people going around,why can we cross this massive cruiser of ours in a few seconds,why dont we land in other places of these planets……What Im saying is that its pointless to ask questions about scale in a video game.Its a simulation,and a couple of people here and there usually mean “theres more around,but we cant really display all of them”.Same goes for floors and whatever.

              1. 4th Dimension says:

                Let’s see if I can answer handweave some of those questions. ;)

                And why arent we seeing millions of people going around
                Because there is not enough room to pack milions into the rooms we see on the Citadel. Also we don’t venture much into the arms proper but stay in Presidium and higher posh levels, which we can guess are frequented mostly by bigwigs diplomants and people working in embassys.

                why can we cross this massive cruiser of ours in a few seconds
                Because it’s nor really that massive, it’s a frigatte smallest class of combad crafts. Also the rest could quite likely be occupied by boring machinery fuel and more cargo bays, so what we see is a small part of the ship that is actually pressurized.

                why dont we land in other places of these planets
                Because those places don’t have any significant points of interest. Planets are huge, but galaxies have countless of them. So if you want to hide, you can easily find an inhospitable planet where you will be all alone, and the only reason/area anyone is likely to visit.

                What Im saying is that its pointless to ask questions about scale in a video game. Its a simulation,and a couple of people here and there usually mean “theres more around,but we cant really display all of them”.Same goes for floors and whatever.
                And I agree with this too.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      Yeah, it’s same for me. Only when I went online did I find out that elevator hate was a thing. Also wasn’t the major reason for it the fact that many played on consoles that had significantlly less resources and on them loding times were massivly longer than on PC. That wuld explain why they didn’t bother me much more than having to traverse any other big structure several times to get ot the shops.

  4. Christopher says:

    I used the same sequence of missions for my playthrough. Frustratingly, it meant I had to shoot a guy on Theros because my paragon points weren’t high enough. Suppose it would be even more frustrating not to be able to spare the beetle queen at Noveria, if that was the dialog check there.

    1. RCN says:

      If Mass Effect sequels taught us anything, it is that sparing the Queen, annihilating the Queen and scrubbing off even any DNA vestige, it’s all the same, it doesn’t change the future of the Rachni one yotta.

      1. Christopher says:

        Yep. It mattered to me in ME1, and I felt good about sparing her, but when ME2 did nothing with it(except a cameo) or any other things I had done in ME1(acting like the council might as well have died even though I saved them and Garrus becoming an even worse cop hellbent on even more revenge after I taught him that was a bad idea) I knew what was up. You can level a lot of complaints at ME3, but anyone that played ME1 and ME2 and have the slightest sense of pattern recognition should have known your choices wouldn’t matter at all in ME3.

        Actually, if I’m gonna talk about ME3 like I’ve played it, I have to go back and play more than the missions on Earth and Mars. I can make it before Shamus gets there, and I’m sure theres SOME stuff I haven’t been spoiled yet by internet osmosis.

      2. Ant says:

        This is wrong. If you want the Rachni to survive, you have to save the queen. If you don’t want to, it doesn’t change much (you kill their last chance at being a free race in ME1 and kill the rachni slave in ME3, or you simply kill them in ME3), but it does change something.

  5. “The Spectres are clearly a system designed to facilitate RPG style stories”

    It really is one of the best ideas in the series, which makes Mass Effect 2 so baffling. They have this perfect narrative device for a game in the Specters, but run away from it because……reasons. Sometimes it feels like ME2 & 3 were made by people who didn’t like the first game.

    1. TMC_Sherpa says:

      I’m going to use movie making logic for a sec, I hope that’s alright.

      I think it was FILM CRIT HULK who pointed out that movies are overreactions to the previous film.

      RedLetterMedia likes to point out that movie sequels are basically remakes of the first film with a twist.

      The Citadel is boooorrriiinnngggg and the combat sucks = We need more combat and better gun play.

      We can’t have Sheppard join Spectre again so he’ll team up with TIM… that was the second one right? It’s been ages since I’ve watched ME2 and 3 on Spoiler Warning (In my defense not vomiting ranks pretty highly on my list of things to do everyday and watching Josh play anything more taxing than a match 3 game puts that at risk).

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I posted below (before refreshing to see a ton of posts). The Grey Wardens serve the same function. Dwarves normally can’t go to the surface (or rather if they do its a one way trip) or travel much between different districts. Elves must either live in ghettos, in tribes or in the Circle of Magi . . . along with all other mages. Humans aren’t welcome among the Dalish and aren’t seen at all among Dwarves.

      They clearly wanted to explore the baggage that comes with classes, nationalism, various other factions, and racial tension but they had to give the player a means to cut through all of that.

    3. Merlin says:

      I love that 2’s approach to dealing with this was basically the council having terrible IT Security practices. “Nobody deactivated your Spectre account or credentials when you died, so you still have them. Also, no one will revoke them now that you’re working for someone else, because reasons.”

      Although that also makes you wonder what it takes to confirm that someone is a Spectre. Sheperd never flashes a badge or anything, people just immediately recognize him. He’s like an even worse James Bond.

      1. Keeshhound says:

        I will never understand why they didn’t just have a brief conversation option when you met with the council where they accuse you of working for Cerberus, you say “But I don’t want to work for Cerberus.” And then they say “Ok, spy on them for us.” And everything else proceeds as it already did. That’s really all it would have taken to assuage most people’s distaste for TIM and his organization, especially since it would let players who didn’t like him feel like they were pulling the wool over his eyes.

        1. Felblood says:

          This right here is completely solid.

          Not only would it have cost basically nothing, but the altered context would have even made the ending slightly less shitty.

          It would have also come in handy for explaining why Sheppard is accepted as a good guy again in ME3. — you know, if you wanted to make an ME3 that was good.

        2. Tom says:

          By the combined powers of Roleplaying and Furious Denial, my Shepard WAS a spy on Cerberus for the entirety of Mass Effect 2, lack of conversation options acknowledging this fact be damned. If the council were too stupid to make use of a willing and loyal spy in the heart of the biggest terrorist organisation in the galaxy who didn’t even ask to get paid for the verifiably good intel she was providing, more fool them.

          She would have been a saboteur too, but you really do need gameplay options for that. Plus, sabotaging Cerberus would be kinda redundant. If you want to see Cerberus fail, you don’t need to do anything except pick a safe vantage point and sit down with some sandwiches.

        3. Joe Informatico says:

          I have no idea why they didn’t do this, except that they were so in love with their Villain Sue. They could have followed it up with regular reports to the Council, e.g. “This guy has no control over his own organization, I keep running into rogue cells–maybe the next time he’s on a date with a celebrity, just send a couple SPECTRES to grab him, I don’t think he has the muscle to stop us” or “This guy thinks I’m so stupid, he keeps passing off his evil shenanigans as rogue cells”.

    4. INH5 says:

      Granted, ME2 takes place mostly in the Terminus systems, where Spectre status doesn’t carry any weight.

    5. 4th Dimension says:

      Hell on second thought I would have prefered if we kind of dropped this whole “I, ONE MAN will somehow save the galaxy from the Space Chutulu in a WAR with them”.

      Once the Reaper problem escalated into open space battles your status becomes kind of obsolete since the idea that you as one dude mac shooterson can somehow meaningfully influence outcome of a space battle is silly. But they went this way and suffered from it.

      I think Spectre statisu would be better used for kind of episodic gameplay where you are given a vide variety of missions for the Council. Some of them diplomatic. Some of them military, some investigative etc. A sort of Space Inquisitor? And at the end and during each you cna have quite a bit a of choices how you approach any situation with plenty dialogue with your retinue how to proceed, where they can offer genuine solutions based on which characters are in it.

      These ideal episodic Spectre mission would be a bit similar to selfcontained Star Trek episodes. a sorto of Star Mass Effective Trek.

  6. kunedog says:

    But what I never understood was what they needed the bodies for. Like, if you just took all the machinery you use to cover the dead body, then it could presumably move and operate on its own, right?

    The John Connor terminator in the new film suffers horribly from this. The techno-babble is that his body has been replaced by magnetic “machine phase matter” on a “cellular level.” Wow, that sounds like a pretty basic fucking level, yet he apparently does still have organic “human” substance (enough to use the terminator-style time machine) and later he “loses” that human substance, revealing a mass of pure magnetic whatever.

    So we have no intuitive idea what the John Connor terminator is made of or what his capabilities are, specifically how they differ from the well-known (i.e. much better explained and demonstrated) T-1000. His one unique ability appears to be phasing through (or around?) objects, but he never seems to use that. He always tears a hole in things first, and always wastes the element of surprise.

    The magnetic terminator mechanism is explained in detail (at least by AAA action film standards), rather than (as you say) kept mysterious like the husks. The writers seem to be shoving in your face the fact that they reserve the right to let this terminator do anything he wants at random (except when he randomly decides not to).

    Yeah anyway, the husks are indeed vulnerable to fridge logic but they could have been worse.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      He always tears a hole in things first, and always wastes the element of surprise

      To be fair to him,it is said that all the other humans went insane during the conversion.So he shouldnt be that different from all the rest.

  7. Mersadeon says:

    Concerning the “kid’s table” thing: while the practice seems international (we do it in Germany) and it has the same name, it isn’t used as a metaphor in German, at least. Seems like an American thing.

    1. Tobias says:

      But there’s the “Katzentisch” (cats’ table) – the worst tables at a restaurant. Say, next to the restrooms. I think those are used metaphorically to mean the same thing as kids’ table – a bit meaner, perhaps, but still.

      1. Corpital says:

        Huh, thanks for teaching me something new. Never heard Katzentisch before, but then again I rarely go to restaurants.

      2. Taellosse says:

        I’m inferring from context, rather than familiarity with the idiom myself, but I’m not sure they match up so well. The American idiom of “the kids table” doesn’t mean being stuck in an undesirable spot – it means being treated as a juvenile when one is trying to be part of a group – particularly when used in reference to politics, when one party is being “put at the kids table” it’s a way of saying they’re being “allowed to participate” but in a condescending, diminishing fashion. The implied assumption when the phrase is used is that the person being put at the kids table is too old or mature to be treated that way, and deserves to sit with the grown-ups, but those making such decisions haven’t accorded said person the respect they ought to be getting.

        1. wswordsmen says:

          It really means that the person being put at the kids table wants to be with the adults, but for whatever reason the adults don’t want them there. It doesn’t say anything about what they deserve or don’t deserve.

          1. JAB says:

            On a purely concrete level, what often happens is that at Thanksgiving families try to get together, so you might have a bunch of people all eating at once, and your main dining table can’t fit them all. So you set up another table.

            The sitcom version of this would have all the kids sitting together, so you have 5 year olds throwing food at the “I’m too cool for this” teenagers. In real life, in my family anyway, people spread out more, so parents could make sure their kids ate and behaved, or whatever. There’s also the American “don’t give non-adults alcoholic drinks” thing going on, so in the sitcom version the grownup table might get wine, the kids table would get milk.

          2. Tobias says:

            I think so, too. That’s why I think the “Katzentisch” matches up kinda neatly: Whether you sit at the kid’s table or the “undesirable table”, someone (adults or waiters) are snubbing you because they’re not really taking you seriously.

    2. LCF says:

      French here, and reporting the same situation. We do have the practice of setting a smaller table for the young during huge family gatherings, but there is no special saying around it – though I do understand the idea of condescension.

    3. Blake says:

      Australia chiming in:
      The expression is certainly well known here, might be a product of all the American media we consume, or it might be a bit more universal (I imagine family gatherings in all countries would often end with a similar situation with kids eating in one spot, adults in another).

  8. Annikai says:

    I was wondering if maybe you or your readers could do a favor for me and check your save files for the Mass Effect games if you have them on PC. I want to know if it saves a career as a single file or if it shows multiple files for each career.

    For some context I have Mass Effect 3 on the PS3 and was playing the game when a power outage happened. I think it might have been saving at a check point but either way when I came back to the game it deleted all of my saves. So I restarted the game, after hurling a bombardment of expletives at it, and after a few hours decided it would be a good idea to make a back up on my thumb drive. Well imagine my surprise when I went in to the save file area on the PS3 to find that while the setting had it’s own save file, all my separate save files for my play through were condensed into one file. I checked Mass Effect 2 and saw that it did the same thing. I haven’t checked 1 yet because I need to hook up the 360 but I did check the Dragon Age series and it didn’t do that. I also checked Jade Empire and KOTOR on the PC and neither did it either.

    So the reason I want to see if it was different with PC Mass Effects is that I want to know if maybe this was a weird thing that they did for consoles early on to save space and that it might have been grandfathered in or something. Also if anyone has Xboxes with KOTOR and Jade Empire saves and is willing to look at them that would be a big help too.

    1. Taellosse says:

      Mass Effect 1, at least, records each save as a separate file. The character name is part of the file name, so you can tell which career they’re from, and they’re numbered sequentially from oldest to newest (quicksaves and autosaves are also labeled as such).

      I haven’t managed to play all the way through ME1 on PC yet, so I can’t tell you if ME2 and 3 use the same method for sure, but I think they do, except that each career gets it’s own subfolder in the Saves folder.

      I’d tell you about KotOR and Jade Empire as well, as I’m sure I’ve got old saves on the hard drive of my original XBox, but that thing hasn’t been hooked up for years and years, and digging it out would be too much trouble. I can tell you each save has its own folder on the PC, though, for both games.

      1. Annikai says:

        I understand, and thank you. I actually just hooked up my 360 and saw that Mass Effect 1 on that treats each save as a separate file. It’s really weird that thus far the only Bioware games that I have found that do this are Mass Effect 2 and 3. I mean it would make sense if this was something they did before and just stuck to it for the series but no this seems to be something they started doing and only did it with these 2 games (I don’t know about 1 on the PS3 it might be the same). It’s kind of bizarre.

        1. Taellosse says:

          I wonder if it was done to discourage cheating or modding on consoles. I think the PC version of ME1 was similar enough to the 360 that it wasn’t too hard to extract the saves and mess with them on a computer, then reload them onto the 360. I can’t say for sure, as I never really looked into it, but I seem to remember reading something to that effect somewhere.

  9. Lalaland says:

    “..(I) do Noveria last because some of the dialog checks are pretty high and I enjoy being able to hit them all”

    I grew to really hate how the ME series tied dialogue checks to their morality system from ME2 on as if somehow selecting choices based on circumstance makes you less persuasive than selecting blue/red all the way through. When ME comes back in Andromeda my #1 wish is for them to return to ME1’s choice to make charm/intimidate a separate stat, it really hurt to have to ignore interrupt options to avoid damaging my chances of being high rank enough to pass dialogue checks.

    1. Raygereio says:

      ME2’s system was certainly pretty bad. It discouraged RP’ing and thinking about what you want your character to do and pushed you towards mindlessly clicking either the top or bottom choice.
      But ME1’s mechanic wasn’t exactly good either. Just like the Coercion skill from Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve always felt this was where the designer hadn’t really figured out yet how to do dialogue checks without DnD style speech skills.

      I actually thought ME3’s reputation mechanic was a good one and one that made sense from an ingame perspective. It allowed you the freedom to switch between Paragon & Renegade whenever and didn’t force you to spend talent points that could have gone into making your character more awesome in combat, on a speech skill.

      1. Thomas says:

        I agree, I think ME3’s was the best systematically, and ME2 was a horrible system that should be burnt to the ground.

        On the other hand, I have found that the games are actually better when you can’t always make the persuasion checks. They’re too much of a “win the quest” button

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well me2 was built on the assumption that youve finished me1 at least twice which maxes out both your paragon and renegade scales,and lets you start with a decent chunk of both in me2.It still isnt good,and the merged reputation in me3 is the best solution.

    2. m0j0l says:

      I actually feel the opposite… I really like that the morality effects your ‘charm’ stat. I always think of it like this in my head:

      Imagine youre a generic bad dude who Paragon Shep has caught doing bad-guy stuff. Paragon Shep has the option to just out-right kill you, but instead follows the option (over a series of dialogue choices) to try and talk you out of your life of crime. As Paragon Shep is talking, its not just his words that comes across… in his/her eyes you can see a real commitment to morality, and his voice conveys all the sacrifices he’s made in pursuit of his ethical philosophy. Also, the bad dude has heard of Shep and all the stuff he’s done… this mofo is just so damn earnest, and has the weight of real experience behind his words.

      Conversely, Renegade Shep just threatens the bad guy – give me all your credits, or I’ll kill you. The bad guy can tell he’s not bluffing… its easy to see that this guy has done a bunch of bad stuff in his life, and you can tell from his eyes that human life holds little value for him. Plus he’s heard rumours…

      I like it better than ‘generic speech stat that I raised by shooting a bunch of robots’.

      (None of this is in defence of some truly pants-on-head stupid applications of the morality system btw)

      1. Henson says:

        I’ve heard this interpretation before, and it would work really well. However, if the designers had this in mind, they did not commit to the idea at all. It’s very unclear what ‘Paragon’ and ‘Renegade’ mean, both in terms of their different approaches and in how they affect your persuasive abilities, and this only gets more muddied the further the series goes. Bioware really needed to lock this concept down so that all the writers were on the same page, so that during most persuasion checks the ‘reputation’ idea was clear.

        1. Merlin says:

          The best explanation I’ve seen for Paragon/Renegade is that it reflects what kind of story the player wants to experience. Paragon is for players who want to see a story where friendship and cooperation let you overcome all obstacles, and Renegade is for players who want a story about one loose cannon cop who breaks all the rules but gets results, damnit.

          This, of course, is a very nice way of saying that it’s a gigantic mess.

          1. RCN says:

            For me the greatest casualties of the sequels was the way they completely BOTCHED the Paragon/Renegade system. In ME 1 the Paragon/Renegade system wasn’t a simple Light vs Dark side choice, or good vs evil, or nice vs bastard. It was an ideological choice. One of Idealism vs Pragmatism.

            Paragon Shepard was one who believed that doing things the “right” way is the only way to save the galaxy that is worth taking, anything else cheapening all sapient species as a whole. Meanwhile Renegade Shepard was pragmatic, it doesn’t do much good asking extra nice with sugar on top when the fate of the galaxy is at stake, and saving civilization as we know it was more important than making sure you don’t hurt anyone’s feeling along the way. Paragon cared about the situation and the little guy, Renegade felt the big picture is more important than caring that “SOME KID DIED!”

            Unfortunately, they also botched it up a little in ME1, where the Paragon choices are consistently the ones that leads to the better outcomes possible. If there were cases where being idealistic cost Shepard something or bit him in the ass later, it would have painted their new approach to morality better. Instead, not even choosing to BURN DOWN THE RACHNI QUEEN and scrubbing any vestigial proof she ever existed will do a damn thing for the story, because even with that precaution the Rachni will still be used by the Reapers on ME3, the precise thing a Renegade Sheppard was trying to avoid with such a drastic choice…

            1. Merlin says:

              That’s kind of my point though, that it’s more a story decision than a character one. ME doesn’t give you much room to make truly “wrong” decisions – Sheperd is the blank-faced god-king of the universe no matter what you choose, Paragon/Renegade just contextualizes why you’re right.

            2. Raygereio says:

              For me the greatest casualties of the sequels was the way they completely BOTCHED the Paragon/Renegade system. In ME 1 the Paragon/Renegade system wasn't a simple Light vs Dark side choice, or good vs evil, or nice vs bastard. It was an ideological choice. One of Idealism vs Pragmatism.

              No, Paragon/Renegade was a pretty basic pet-kitten vs kick-kitten thing in ME1 as well.
              It was certainly hyped up to be an ideological choice of idealism vs pragmatism. Just like Jade Empire’s Open Palm vs Closed Fist was hyped up to be an philosofical choice of giving someone a fish vs teaching them to how to fish. But it never worked out that way.

              1. RCN says:

                Like I said, they even botched it in ME1, but the difference is that in ME1 the Renegade choices are PRESENTED to the player as the pragmatic thing to do because the idealistic thing to do is too naive to work… and then the Idealistic thing to do always end up working EVEN BETTER than the pragmatic choice at the pragmatic choice’s GOAL, turning a “kick the puppy because it is necessary” into “kicking the puppy because you’re a heartless bastard”.

                Beside the Rachni, another great example you have of it is at the end when you have the choice of pulling out a bit and divert some of the fleet to save the council. The pragmatic choice is that Sovereign is too great a threat to risk the fleet saving the council, the idealistic choice is that in the middle of all that chaos, making the effort to save the council, the de-facto rulers of the galactic rule, is worth taking. The difference between the two (ignoring the sequels that just make the choice completely null and void) is that without the council the Humans take over… somehow. The sovereign doesn’t prove to be a greater or lesser threat regardless of facing the entire Citadel Fleet or just part of it, so it just made the pragmatic Renegade choice look like a gigantic middle finger to the council and Galactic rule as a whole for no reason at ALL.

                One way they could have made this matter is so that, without the whole fleet to keep Sovereign busy, it has more chances to take pot shots at the Normandy, and in one lucky hit it kills important crew members and you’re later forced to work with subpar crew in the sequels (though I know that Seth Green is too great an asset and a money dump for them to risk a version of the game without him, but this was still doable).

                Another thing that can change would be that in the sequel, thanks to the fact that the Sovereign was less burdened, it completely destroys the entire fleet except for the Normandy, and then in the sequels the Council is in you debt for saving them, but the military and the common men all hate you for sacrificing the fleet for political fluff.

                1. INH5 says:

                  I think the root problem with the Paragon and Renegade system is that it is supposed to contrast between an idealistic hero like Luke Skywalker and an anti hero like Jack Bauer, but it ignores the reasons for those characters being the way that they are. Luke Skywalker is idealistic because he exists in a universe where good can win out. Jack Bauer is ruthlessly pragmatic because he exists in a universe where the only way to stop the bad guys is to do bad things.

                  If you create a universe where both paths are viable, then of course the idealistic way is better.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Not necessarily.First it depends on what is considered better?Saving more innocent lives by ruthlessly and efficiently dealing with criminals or being a benevolent leader and rehabilitating criminals while also not falsely accusing innocents?It depends on what your priority is,dealing with the problem quickly,or slowly but with more care?Of course,this is a huge oversimplification,but thats the nature morality systems anyway.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  While I agree with you,its not always that paragon works better.Though the only time when it works out worse is when its the dumb option:Letting out that obviously indoctrinated crazy salarian is the paragon option,even though it makes no sense.

          2. Zekiel says:

            That seems like a reasonable explanation to me, actually. There were some renegade options that were Dark Side kick-the-kitten, but there were also a lot that were just “I don’t have time to be diplomatic”. I quite happily played a mostly renegade character who wasn’t evil at all, just very direct.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        But what if shepard is a neutral dude,that gives everyone a second chance,and the outright kills them the second time they screw up?Thats also a reputation she would have,yet the way it is in me1 and me2,playing like this would make you fail a bunch of both renegade and paragon checks,which is stupid.

    3. Darren says:

      Since ME has “magic” in the form of Biotic abilities, they should just do what The Witcher III does and tie persuasion to an ability. Non-Biotic classes could perhaps get some kind of fancy technology or inspirational/intimidating warcry.

      1. Corpital says:

        Or arm-farting pheromones, like Jensen in Deus Ex HR.

    4. Taellosse says:

      While I liked that Charm and Intimidate were semi-separate from Paragon/Renegade, please remember there were some problems even in ME1 – for one, they weren’t truly distinct – your ability to rank each was limited by your current Paragon (for Charm) or Renegade (for Intimidate) score – you had to pass certain thresholds to unlock more of the bar. And for another, you had to devote skill points to them, when there already aren’t enough of those to go around in ME1 (Shepard always has several more skills than any of the companions, and while s/he gets more per level, it doesn’t balance out. Plus, if it’s a second playthrough, you can have a bonus skill outside your class to serve as an additional sink for points). For a third, it doesn’t make a ton of sense that you get better at talking to people because you shot a bunch of Geth and hacked a few electronic locks. At least with the other skills, they’re drawing from the pool of experience you’ve earned by using those same skills, but you seldom earn XP from simple conversation – the closest you get to that is mission completions that come from talking to someone, and occasionally you get a bonus from choosing a certain dialogue option there.

      Really, the whole binary morality notion, even with each bar being able to fill independently, is deeply problematic outside of Star Wars (where there’s a mystical force underlying the whole setting that justifies it), and shouldn’t have been used at all. Dragon Age had a better system, where NPC’s opinion of you shifts based on your actions, in keeping with their own personal views, not some arbitrary good/evil number.

  10. Neko says:

    He lands on the planet and follows a liner path

    Linear. Unless Shepard was planning to take a leisurely cruise to the beacon.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      It’s the Space Navy version of railroading?

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Also: “in absentina.” n – 1.

    3. Trix2000 says:

      So wait… the Geth WEREN’T serving drinks and handing out towels to everyone?

  11. Raygereio says:

    So I'm not saying the story would have been improved if we spent another hour gathering up even more evidence. I know this is a sci-fi and not a procedural crime drama, but having the will of the entire galactic council turn against their most prized agent on this 10 second sound file feels embarrassingly weak.

    I still think that it would have been a good idea if the evidence from Tali wasn’t enough to completely turn the council against Saren, but enough to convince them that this needs further investigation. The middle act would then be primarily about Shep investigation the places Saren has been recently and/or has involvement with and trying figure out what Saren is planning.

    As it one of the biggest problem in terms of story structure in ME1 is that after the introductory act is finished, you’re told to hunt down Saren. No time to waste! The quest even called “A race against time”. We need to stop Saren before he executes his evil plan which we know nothing about!
    And then you go fart around the galaxy and do sick jumps with the Mako of some fractal generated mountains for 40+ hours.

    1. newplan says:

      Why not have Shepard find some stronger evidence than a bootleg mp3? The strength of the evidence doesn’t have to be proportional to the amount of effort exerted to produce it so it doesn’t mean that Shepard has to spend a bunch of time playing space detective.

    2. Henson says:

      The potential problem I see with this approach is that it doesn’t really give a reluctant Council enough of a reason to give humanity its first Spectre. The imminent threat from Saren and proof of his guilt makes the decision a more natural reaction.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Does Shep have to start out as a Spectre?
        Since we’re fantasizing about a rewrite: Why not have the knighting ceremony be before the endgame when you present your evidence to the Council?
        Or even why not at the end of the ME1? This is a trilogy after all. No reason why you can’t leave a plot thread hanging and resolve it in the next installment.

        1. guy says:

          As Shamus explained in the article, Spectre status is critical to the plot because it is why Shepard gets to hop around the galaxy and barge in on secure facilities, police investigations, and whatever else. If it’s not going to come before all that happens, there’s no point in having it be a thing in the setting at all.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Becoming a spectre is critical to the plot of ME1 as it is now. At its core it’s the excuse the writers use to move the player’s character outside of the setting’s command structures.

            But I don’t see it as a requirement for the player to go hoping around galaxy.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            You could put a Spectre in Shepard’s crew. Have it be Wrex or Tali. Not Garrus because that would be the third Turian Specter. Tali’s already got a good hook. Garrus gets us around the Citadel. I think Wrex’s link is the weakest. Making him a Spectre still allows us to have dealings with the Shadow Broker (which actually gives us a taste of just what a Spectre is willing to do to get things done). It sets him up as something special too. The right stuff for becoming the great reformer of the Krogan people.

            You could make it Liara but, well as long as we’re fantasizing, I’d sooner see her booted for a Samara type Asari Spectre if we’re going to go that route. Nothing about ME1 Liara says Spectre unless we want this to be some kind of nepotism.

            Actually, that could work. Liara technically has the authority but she’s really useless as a Specter (but useful in other ways, Prothean research her real interest, and she’s a good fighter just not an imposing Specter), so put her with the prospective Specter so Shepard can have access to the authority she needs while the Council gets to put off having to make a decision. Maybe she bonds psychically to Shepard to draw on some of her badassness so that she can be as imposing as a Specter during their missions when she needs to be (and some of that rubs off on her).

            Come to think of it, that would leave a problem. Shepard gets command of the Normandy because of her Spectre status (and because the Normandy is a join human turian project). So how do we get Anderson off the ship? Should we just say that Shepard was already the Captain?

            1. Joe Informatico says:

              If one of the squadmates is the Spectre instead of Shepard, does that mean that squadmate always has to be chosen as a party member? Or at least on main plot missions? Or maybe Shepard gets anointed Spectre halfway through for Reasons and you don’t need to bring that squadmate anymore?

              Why not just leave Anderson on the ship? If the Council makes it clear that the Normandy is at the Spectre’s disposal, then Anderson has to take it where the Spectre says. It’s like those Star Trek TOS episodes where the Enterprise is ferrying some ambassador on a diplomatic mission–on one of them, I remember the ambassador telling Kirk, “You command the ship, Captain, but I command the mission”. That kind of situation.

    3. Matt K says:

      I think this would work without even changing too much from the game. The Ice World was a place Saren was known to have connections, where we find Liara still works as getting more info on the beacon and so forth. It is kind of a shame that they pushed it like they did as they didn’t give much in the way of resources for this “race against time” and it under cuts side questing.

    4. Thomas says:

      I like this suggestion a lot.

      Before I heard it, my favourite idea was that Shepard and Saren should have had a face to face conversation instead of Shepard hearing about it from a cowardly (drunk?) smuggler. As it is there’s no reason why _Shepard_ should think Saren did it, never mind be indignant that the council won’t believe her.

    5. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Or how about both garrus and wrex having a piece of evidence themselves,and you presenting the council with 3 things instead of one.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Yours and newplan’s ideas don’t solve the problem I have with ME1’s story, which is that it tries to set things up way too fast.
        When you present Tali’s recording to the council, Shep & Co also blurt out that the Reapers are ancient machines that wiped out the protheans, that the Geth are worshipping them and that Saren is working with the Geth to bring them back.
        During all that I was staring dumbfounded at my screen wondering if I had a blackout and missed where the characters learned this information. There’s jumping to conclusions and theres adding 1 and 1 and somehow managing to end up with upside down pineapple.

        I think it would have been better if both the characters and the player would have learned this information during the middle act, during the investigation.
        Also I would have liked it if the player had a real reason to to the various non-mainquest planets. Now when you’re off bouncing around in the Mako, you’re essentially being an irresponsible idiot who’s wasting his time when there’s a quest called “A race against time” that needs doing.

  12. Nevermind says:

    Re: “sitting at the kid's table” – yeah it’s probably American. A Russian would say “Humans can still walk under the table” for example (-8

  13. Corpital says:

    Food isn’t a problem, but you wonder what they do with the sewage? Erm. There are several answers, but ‘fertilizer’ is by far the friendliest one. Did you know they developed a method of creating fake meat from sewage in (I think) Japan?

    There is also some talk, I think in Mass Effect 2, about ‘protein vats’ some missing person might have fallen into.

    Would eating fake meat from (human) sewage count as cannibalism? Will it be considered vegetarian? I *really* hope, I’ll never have to find out.

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m not sure if you’re seriously arguing with a throwaway joke, or if you’re just getting into the spirit of the hypotheticals.

      Food is obviously not a problem, You just import it. This is the head of the government, after all. I’m sure they don’t waste this precious space growing crops. But that means they must export sewage and trash. Sure, I bet they have technology to turn it into fertilizer. But then they’d have to export that. Or sell it. Or maybe just sell the shit and let someone haul it elsewhere to be processed. Do they need to keep different types of feces separated? Maybe Turian feces will make the ground (say) too alkaline for human crops but great for growing Turian food, so they have to encourage people to use species-specific toilets.

      It’s just a funny idea to think about.

      1. Hydralysk says:

        Alternatively they could just launch their waste directly into the sun, hopefully after giving the patrolling fleet a heads up.

        1. Taellosse says:

          I don’t think the Cidadel orbits a star. It’s floating in the middle of a nebula which, as others have mentioned, is apparently largely composed of atomized waste (excrement and trash both) from the Citadel over many, many millennia.

          1. INH5 says:

            No, it’s definitely orbiting a star, because you can see a sun in many of the Citadel skyboxes.

            1. Benjamin Hilton says:

              You can also see blue sky. I’m pretty sire it said somewhere that the “sky” was just a projected image.

              1. INH5 says:

                But you also see the sun in numerous shots outside the Citadel. For example, in the screenshots Shamus uses to illustrate the Citadel section above.

                1. Benjamin Hilton says:

                  yeah that’s not a star that’s the center of the nebula.. If that was a star the citadel would be so close that the heat would be unbearable.

                  EDIT: I recant. I consulted the wiki and there is in fact a star. Although the Citadel doesn’t actually orbit it.

      2. random dood says:

        Believe it or not, it was covered. You know that nebula thing surrounding the citadel? It was lampshaded that it should have dissipated over the time that it existed. So… That nice view you flew through? Yep – faeces! (Think there was a codex entry somewhere about the waste from the station being atomised and distributed into the surrounding nebula.)

      3. Primogenitor says:

        Some species would require separate toilets for logistical reasons anyway. But do they also separate by gender too? Or only for species where that’s a taboo? Do other species have other mixed toilet taboos such as class? And which taboos are soonest to go to expediency – “hey, the female Quarian toilet has a long queue – I’ll just pop to the Volus cubicle instead”.

      4. Michael says:

        It’s mentioned that they just dump it into space. The Serpent Nebula- the purple stuff around the Citadel- is actually millions of years worth of accumulated trash, pulverized into dust by the solar wind. It’s also mentioned that it poses a hazard to shipping.

      5. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Asari poop can be used to fertilize farmland for any kind of plant, and every other species wants as much of it as possible.

      6. ? says:

        It’s not a problem because it’s a plot point that Reapers engineered Citadel to be too good to be true technological marvel that is perfect center of galactic government. The keepers actively tailor it to the needs of station inhabitants, interfering with them causes them to self destruct and nobody really knows or understands inner workings of the station. Asari never had to wander around looking for trash compactor because all janitorial work is done by the keepers, because creators of Citadel don’t want anybody poking around their trap. “Where the poop goes?” is as much of a question in universe as it is out of it. Are they using it as fertilizer for the park? Maybe they break it down to basic elements and use it as raw materials? Are keepers made of poop?

      7. Corpital says:

        Just find the topic of poop in space (and in general) rather interesting and could not have found a better note to bring it up. My ‘But how do they poop?’, if you will.

        Will try to make my non-serious intent more clear next time.

      8. Veylon says:

        I’d assume that the same ships delivering food can take waste/garbage back with them. What’s going out is going to be roughly the same as what’s coming in and if they weren’t taking it back, then they’d be going home empty. It’s not like Citadel produces trade goods to barter for the food or anything.

        Or at least this would make sense if Citadel was an ordinary Metropolitan Galactic Capital Space Station.

      9. 4th Dimension says:

        It’s a space station. As every spacer knows you don’t really want to know where your meals are coming from because it’s quite likely that the road from your waste to your food is a LOT shorter than it is on earth.

        And why not grow food in hydrophonically? Now ambasador fancy Assari probably doen’t wanto to eat the gray brooth rations, but Citadell also has a huge population and you have to feed all those, let’s call them proles, in the arms somehow and that’s a LOT of foodstufs necessary. So I expect all the waste is semimagically transformed back into drinkable water, fertilizer, burned for power or reprocessed as resources. Probably most of the reprocessing is done automatically by the Keepers, since it would have been a bad idea by the Reapers to give the future races a center of goverment they will have a problem feeding.

  14. Taellosse says:

    Minor nitpick: the Thorian doesn’t turn people into creepers. It emits spores that allow it to manipulate the pain centers in the brains of most intelligent (and presumably other animals as well) species to force them to behave the way that it wants (and presumably also gives it some measure of access to their awareness and thoughts, so as to direct their activities). It can ALSO create both copies of animals it has taken into itself (hence the Asari you fight over and over while killing the Thorian), and generic humanoid attack-dogs – the creepers. But it can’t transform other lifeforms into creepers the way the dragon’s teeth turn humans into husks. Whenever you encounter creepers in side missions away from Feros, they’ve been brought in by ExoGeni FROM Feros, or grown from samples taken from Feros, and gotten loose. There’s always lots of corpses around when you fight creepers, and never ANY corpses around when you fight husks (instead there’s always a bunch of dragon’s teeth devices scattered about).

  15. James says:

    the First Contact War was a nice little thing dropped in, the Turians referred to it as the Relay 314 Incident.

    The Humans were opening every relay they found in an effort to explore the galaxy, the Turians found them at Relay 314 and as this action was against council law as this is how they got the Rachni, the Turians instead of negotiating blew the small selection of human vessels up.

    A few small skirmishes happened with the Turians mostly destroying scout fleets, with a few small human victories as well, then the Siege of Shanxi happened, Shanxi fell as you cant defeat a orbital Siege from planet side.

    Then a large human force attacked and liberated Shanxi destroying the quiet sizable Turian occupation force. and both races mobilized for full scale war.

    The Council interjected and negotiated peace averting what would have been a long and bloody conflicted.

    A fun note to have is by the time of the Games the two largest and most capable militaries are the Turians and the Humans. (the Asari dont really build military because they prefer diplomacy, the Salarians are to short lived, and the remaining races are either too small or are the Krogan)

    1. guy says:

      No, humans are the fourth-strongest military due to arms limitation treaties. For every dreadnought non-council races are allowed to build, the Asari and Salarians have three and the Turians have five. Humans partially compensate with carriers, which aren’t subject to the treaties because humans invented them, but they don’t have enough.

      1. James says:

        But at the end of ME1 they join the council which grants them the ability to have 3 for every 5 Dreads that the Turians have.

        I think the game talks about how humans are special because of ingenuity, though that might have been more in the second and third game where humanity as suddenly super important and special.

      2. INH5 says:

        It’s stuff like this that makes it hard for me to buy ME1’s conceit that humans are the new kids on the block. Humans have had Mass Effect technology for only 35 years, and they’ve been in contact with the Council races for 26, but in that time they’ve built up a force capable of challenging the races that have basically ruled the galaxy for thousands of years, and have completely outpaced countless lesser races that have been spacefaring for a similar amount of time. ME1 may pay lip service to the idea of humans not being special, but it doesn’t do a very good job of showing that.

        I guess that some tension is inevitable when a story requires that humans to be simultaneously the new kids on the block that everyone looks down on and strong enough to save the entire galaxy when no one else can.

        1. Veylon says:

          I’d have to ask why the story requires that. Star Command 2 also involves a human protagonist wandering around the galaxy figuring stuff out to keep sentient life from being exterminated by (allegedly) emotionless alien destroyers, but it never required the humans – as a species – to be exceptionally powerful.

          I kind of feel like it would’ve been a nice touch for all those aliens that you helped out in Mass Effect 1 and 2 to show up to bail out humanity in the third one. Humanity can’t save the galaxy all by themselves, but they don’t have to because you racked up a million space karma points and established us humans as good guys that the other species will stick their necks out for.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            Basically the end of Babylon 5’s 4th season. Would have been better than what we got, that’s for sure.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      If the Council hadn’t interceded a single Turian dreadnought would have wiped the whole Systems Alliance Fleet in a nice and relaxing afternoon. We would have probably given him some scrapes but not anything significant.
      There is not reason for any other result. Council militaries have been using these tech for millenia to fight while humans never fought a war in space using this tech. We would have needed time to learn from our mistakes what to do and not to do and bloody our navy.

      Not to mention that I doubit much of the SA top was interested in building huge battleships, befor ethe contact war, when the humanity has never before needed them.

    3. Vorpal Kitten says:

      “the Asari dont really build military because they prefer diplomacy”

      See, that’s what they -say- but they keep a pretty huge fleet anyways, partly because diplomacy works a lot better when you carry a big stick, but also because the asari probably think of themselves as the highest amongst equals and want their own military capable of defending that position if needed.

      1. guy says:

        Yeah, their military is pretty substantial. The Destiny Ascension in particular; it could knock out the barriers on any human dreadnought with a single shot.

        That’s part of the reason I consider the Renegade choice in the ME1 ending really stupid; it seemed to me that the Destiny Ascension was the most plausible choice for killing a robot space Cthulhu.

  16. Dev Null says:

    Fridge logic: How would things have gone if the Geth hadn't attacked?

    Clearly the Spectres hired the Geth to attack as part of their entrance exam…

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      A serious answer might be: “subject went on the mission, kept his mouth shut about classified materials, hobknobbed amicably with local officials, and generally was a credit to the uniform. Local governor’s recommendation is positive and attached.”

      The SPECTRE’s job isn’t always shooting stuff. They do diplomatic and formal functions as well.

      1. Merlin says:

        Relatedly, this is one of the things that bugged me most about ME1. They make a big deal of you joining a group of broadly-talented special operatives of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, then (A) let you interact with only 2 of them (B) rarely (C) also the two that you do meet look almost exactly the same (D) also all three of you are predominantly defined by your ability to stand behind chest-high walls and shoot.

        It felt like the sort of thing that should have had such a natural arc to it, as you find your footing in your new role, build up skills and allies among the Spectres, and finally take down the top-dog-gone-rogue. But instead the game jumps immediately to “Wow player, you’re so cool and powerful, I want to have awkward PG-13 cutscene sex with you.”

  17. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’ve noticed Bioware tends to like to create systems that suggest rigid hierarchies, rules, classes, a civilization where most people wouldn’t be allowed to go running around like an adventurer does, then bestow upon you a status that allows you to break all of those rules.

    Most evident in Mass Effect and Dragon Age Origins. Your elven blood mage is only allowed to run around doing what he wants because of the Grey Warden status. Else it would be off to the Circle of Magi, or scrubbing floors if you could hide your magic. (Or running off with the Dalish but then you’d never be able to enter human or dwarven settlements).

    Jedi is less obvious but still has an outsider relationship with other factions.

    1. James says:

      This gets super super super noticeable in DA:I, where you can be a Tal’Vashoth Quanari Mage with unlimited power and jurisdiction, who dines with Empresses and holds a castle within Ferelden

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I think the Inquisitor was a miscalculation. You have the authority to bypass various strata of society but it comes with an implausible amount of responsibility.

        You’ve got this completely unique ability that is the only thing that can save Thedas from being overrun by demons but we’re also going to have you as a front line fighter (even a mage hanging back in the squad is too front line under the circumstances) and involving yourself directly in the management of the Inquisition, managing troop movements, supply lines, issuing judgments, giving input on construction and acquisitions, and gathering supplies* using your own two hands, one of which carries your gate closing power and thus is the single most important hand in all of Thedas.

        These roles all clash with each other badly. The Grey Warden by contrast is leading because he has no other choice and since all his troops come from alliances, their management is left to those allies. Plus the Grey Warden abilities require them to be in the field to be useful. Likewise, Spectres are mission focused.

        *And not a trivial amount of supplies. You gather so many supplies by your own hand that it increases the overall power and influence of your organization. The Inquisitor really shouldn’t be counted on as a key source of supplies within his own organization.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          But I guess that was your point James. I agree. My point reinforces yours. It so much more obvious in this game because of how badly it fits.

          Oh and way too many people totally embrace your Qunari TalVashoth Mage as annointed by Andraste. You should have started with negative power points for that and have to work twice as hard for power points (they only do anything mechanically with this at the Orlesian Ball, but its only the illusion of mechanical impact because you can’t fail and it doesn’t matter.)

          1. Cinebeast says:

            To be fair, you can fail in the Orlesian Ball. It nabs you a context-specific Game Over.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              I stand corrected. My evidence was anecdotal. But if you try at all, you won’t fail.

  18. Duoae says:

    – Kid’s table: I understand the reference but maybe that’s because US propaganda cultural influence is so ubiquitous in English-speaking circles. ;) Otherwise, as an Englishman, I never found our family gatherings relegated children to a separate table – 1) most of them can behave, 2) the ones that can’t need to be monitored and so it will mean that one or more parents/adults need to get up and physically go and sort out the situations that arise. Better to have everything together and send the children to bed at 7pm in order to socialise (aka, drink oneself stupid) in peace! :D

    – Regarding putting Saren on trial with no evidence or reason: all three games do this to various characters (including Shepard). In fact, the writers really go out of their way to try and make a dramatic point at many points in the story by doing this for reasons I cannot conceive other than that they might be poor writers!

    I mean, the whole opening to ME3 makes no sense for a non-arrival playing Shepard… and even WITH arrival it makes no sense.

    ME2 makes no sense from Shepard’s perspective but, hey! Cerberus has more resources than the Human Alliance!

    – Regarding the human’s losing the human-turian war: Did they? I thought, as James said, they never reached all-out conflict?

    – Regarding husks: They didn’t make any sense. The ME wiki says this:

    Over time the body’s organs, skin, and water content are converted into cybernetic materials;

    That means there is a HUGE amount of material implanted from the spikes/dragon’s teeth because humans do not comprise of very much metallic elements… and certainly not enough to turn our blood green which would imply a transition metal complex of something like copper or cobalt.

    1. Raygereio says:

      Regarding the human's losing the human-turian war: Did they? I thought, as James said, they never reached all-out conflict?

      Basically it went like this:
      – Humans are screwing around and opening up relays left and right
      – Turians eventually notice, decided on a police action and during the first confrontation opened fire on the humans’ exploration ships.
      – Things quickly escalate resulting in the Turians occupying the planet closest to the Relay they first made contact: Shanxi.
      – Thinking they just conquered the Humans’ homeworld, the Turians’ occupation force is caught with their pants down when a Human fleet arrives on the scene and kicks them of the planet.
      – As both sides started to gear up for an all out war (during which the Turian probably would have curb stomped the humans), the Council noticed what was going on and put a stop to it.

      So the Humans scored both a win and a loss during the conflict. However for most players the loss – meaning the occupation of Shanki – will be more memorable as Ashley had a major conversation about it in ME1.

  19. Thomas says:

    Yep, definitely 100% enjoying this series when I thought I was going to hate it. It’s nice to be reminded what Mass Effect was great at, and whilst I’ve lost my dislike of ME2, I think this is a cool positive way to express that opinion without even having to actually say it yet

  20. Dreadjaws says:

    Mass Effect could perfectly work as a TV series. Whenever a plot is too long just make it a two or three-parter, and for the short ones, make it an antology episode, or even a clip show with extra bits.

    As long as there’s a three-parter episode dedicated exclusively to Kai Leng getting the crap beaten out of him. Seriously, F**K Kai Leng.

  21. INH5 says:

    First, regarding the husks: To anyone out there who says that the first Mass Effect was a work of hard science fiction, or at least harder than the sequels, I would like to point out that less than 10 minutes into the game, you are shown robots turning human corpses into cyborg zombies by impaling them on big spikes. The fact that the Codex does some hand waving about nanomachines does nothing to change the fact that this aesthetic is straight up space fantasy of the sort you would expect to see in Warhammer 40k. And this is far from the only instance of this kind of thing in the game. Biotics are another example of blatant space magic that is introduced early on.

    It’s also interesting to look into how this came to be. The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3 says that the idea for husks came about when Casey Hudson said that the Geth weren’t scary enough and a concept artist met his challenge by sketching Geth sticking corpses on spikes and turning them into cyborg zombies. This wasn’t the result of careful worldbuilding, it was just “this idea looks cool, so let’s put it in the game.” Like i said in a comment on the last post, it really feels like there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen with different ideas on what they wanted to do with the game, without any central direction from above to guide them.


    A few more problems with the plot in these parts: First, if Saren doesn’t want anyone else to use the Beacon, as shown by how he flips out when he learns that some random human might have used it, why does he just leave it lying around, in the open, unguarded after he uses it? One might think it would be a good idea to load it onto a Geth ship and then take it away for further study, but if Saren wants it destroyed (as shown by how he leaves it close to the nukes) why doesn’t he just order one of the many Geth platforms with rocket launchers to destroy it immediately after he is done with it? This kicks off the whole plot, so you’d think the writers would put more effort into justifying it.

    Shamus already covered how dumb Anderson, Shepard, and the Council act during the Saren investigation. But I also find the plot point of Tali finding the voice recording in the first place to be rather contrived. Some random person who has been completely uninvolved with the plot before now kills a random Geth and steals a bit of its memory and out of all the Geth in the galaxy and all of the memories in this particular Geth’s banks, she just happens to pull out an audio recording that incriminates Saren. Then in less than 16 hours she happens to travel to the Citadel, the same place that Anderson and Shepard are heading to. “Lucky break” doesn’t begin to describe this. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with a way of implicating Saren without resorting to contrived plot coupons. And this doesn’t really accomplish anything gameplay wise besides having the player run through some generic cop show scenarios mostly taking place in uninteresting corridor environments.

    I’ll have more to say on the Conduit later, but since Shamus brought up its location on the Presidium, I’d like to point out the questions that this raises: there’s a giant statue smack in the middle of the Presidium that conspicuously hums all the time, and in the thousands of years that the Council races have been on the Citadel, no one has investigated it? Worse, we’re supposed to believe that the Reapers, who supposedly scour planets of all traces of evidence to their existence, didn’t bother to take a closer look at the new constructions that the Protheans added to the space station that is the most important part of their plan? Or alternatively, that the Reapers did take a look but weren’t able to recognize it as a mass relay even though they were the ones who invented mass relays?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      So everything bad is Casey Hudson’s fault after all?Anyway,Ive explained the deal with husks above,so on to the rest.

      Saren thing:
      First he did left guards,but your squad of three people managed to dispose of them,which is a pretty astonishing feat for them.But more importantly,if you examine his actions more closely,they dont really seem like the actions of a person who wants to do something in the darkness.He is a specter,and he did a bunch of things in secret that no one knew about,so why not be more stealthy now?Add to that the fact that he was researching indoctrination a lot,and the answer is clear:He was deliberately drawing attention to himself.He knew he wouldnt be able to fight indoctrination directly,so he attempted to do it in a subtle way.Which is why I consider saren a much bigger hero than shepard.

      As for tali finding the footage on a random geth,remember that they have shared consciousness.So its not impossible to find data gathered by one unit in some other unit that has nothing to do with the first.The rest of it,yeah its a bit contrived,I admit.

      As for the monument itself,I dont remember it humming.And as for reapers not noticing it,keep in mind that due to their size they dont personally do all of the scouring,but rather do it through husks and keeper like beings(yeah,yeah,assuming direct control).So we know they miss a bunch of things accidentally(namely prothean beacons).

      1. Corpital says:

        Don’t remember it actually humming, but several people mention it. Kaden even says he is getting a headache from it.

      2. INH5 says:

        I checked Final Hours again, and it turns out I was remembering wrong and it doesn’t actually say who, specifically, came up with the idea for the husks.

        The idea that Saren was deliberately screwing up in an attempt to resist the indoctrination would be a half-decent explanation (it would be a half-decent explanation for a number of other things in the game as well), if there was any indication at all of this in the game itself.

        Like Corpital says, several characters mention hearing the monument humming. Otherwise, the fact that Reapers are too big to do the clean-up directly doesn’t change the fact that they must have some sort of appropriately sized clean-up crew, and them missing something this obvious can’t help but undermine the idea of them being competent at their jobs. The beacons at least had the excuse that the warning wasn’t sent to them until after the Reapers left.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          So biotics can sense something when near the monument.Thats not really that strange for a huge station of that size where half the machinery is kept in the dark by the keepers.

          And yes,the reapers do have minions to do cleaning for them,but those minions arent really the most observant ones.And a single statue in this whole place is not really that obvious of a thing.

    2. krellen says:

      Speaking of 40k: do Spectres seem a lot like Rogue Traders to anyone else?

      1. guy says:

        They remind me much more of the Inquisition.

        1. krellen says:

          Yeah, they could definitely also be Inquisitors.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            Pretty much. I would call them the Secret Service IN SPACE, but then I remembered how Spectres apparently were supposed to individually buy their own equipment and build massive underground support networks like Saren and that lady in ME2 did, which is a lot closer to WH40Ks inquisitors.

            That system seems really open to abuse. I realize that Saren’s true loyalties end up overshadowing the whole “I have a private army” thing, but that stuff just seems like a *way* better plot hook for exploring political corruption and black ops in the ME universe than Cerberus. I mean, seriously, who thought that was a good idea? At least the Salarian STC was collectively government funded and had some oversight that way.

            1. 4th Dimension says:

              There is a sort of a oversight. They are overseen by the Citadel councill and their status can be revoked if the Council gets even a whif of something that is not in the interest of peace in the Citadel.

              And their and Inquisition’s function allmost makes sense. Find the best and brightest in the galaxy. Individualls that are 1 in a billion, than subject them to testing to determine their loyalty and determination to do right for the Citadel. Essentially find promissing paragons of all Citadel stands for. Then give this small number of people compared to the rest of the galactic popullation nearly limitless power so they can act quickly enough and shortcut the redtape when time is of the essence. And since there is not a lot of them you probably can monitor them better than a larger amount of auditors.

              1. Grudgeal says:

                The Inquisition sort of makes sense since WH40K is intentionally an overblown dystopian heckhole where most planets all but exists in a vacuum thanks to the unreliable FTL travel and communication. You couldn’t and shouldn’t expect to always get reinforcements, spaceships that can do FTL are one in a million and you can spend months working an investigation on some backwater planet in the middle of nowhere in a government with next to no centralization or oversight, which would at least make it reasonable for a single human to hold that much power in terms of material goods and followers. The point there is that inquisitors work on their own for years at a time and aren’t trained by or beholden to any central authority, barring that a consensus of their peers can judge them ‘heretical’ and hunt them down if they step out of line.

                Mass Effect has instant communication across the galaxy and a well-mapped network of FTL that any spaceship can get into, which means coordination and sharing of resources is much much easier. The Citadel Council provide a central alliance, if not direct government, similarly to the U.N. Their Specters seem to be all but exclusively drawn from the militaries of the member states of the Citadel from the beginning, which says to me they have compromised loyalties built in right there. Giving a special oversight committee/intsec like a Secret Service the ability to bypass red tape on a citadel and local level is one thing, but the whole “build your own resources” strikes me as easily abusable and stupid. It’s like encouraging the CIA’s agents to found its own corporations — not shell corporations, real corporations — for the purpose of making profit to fund CIA operations, and then openly hire PMCs to support their infrastructure, while protecting them from both U.S. and international law.

                If the best the citadel council can do is to give ‘rogue’ status to a multimillionaire with his own private army and years of black ops training from their own bureaucracy, who has not been forced to divulge or give up control over his funding sources or his frequent collaborators to the central committee, something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. That’s basically the plot of Alpha Protocol right there, taken to extremes.

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          Damn you my Internet failled last night just as I was about to mention the Inquisition which the Spectres totally are.

    3. Kamfrenchie says:

      The conduit was installed after the reapers departed by a few surviving protheans afair

      1. INH5 says:

        No, the surviving Protheans used the Conduit to get to the Citadel. Meaning that it must have been installed before the Reaper invasion.

    4. Joe Informatico says:

      Eh, from the examples I usually see cited, “hard SF” just means, “the math and physics are mostly plausible, barring a few miracle exemptions for FTL, and we don’t really care about biology or medicine or any other discipline so those can be magic for all we care.”

    5. Zekiel says:

      How was the Conduit supposed to work exactly? I understood it was just a (Prothean-built) mass relay with the receiving end inside the Citadel. But mass relays aren’t teleporters or wormholes – they move things from one mass relay to another, passing through the intervening space (albeit at vast speeds). So how can anything expect to move to the conduit exit in the Citadel without colliding with something part way through (e.g. the hull of the Citadel itself)?

      1. INH5 says:

        The writers fudged that detail. There’s no further explanation of it. They fudged a few other details too, as the Conduit raises a number of other questions about how it could work if it’s on the surface on a planet that is constantly spinning and orbiting a star that is itself orbiting the center of the galaxy.

        Things like this are why I never bought the idea that the first Mass Effect presented a consistent hard SF universe built by careful worldbuilders. Some parts were sort of like that, but other parts definitely were not.

  22. Pearly says:

    About Eden Prime: The dialogue Nihlus gives us is our first introduction to pretty much the most important thing we ever learn about Prothean technology, which is that most of the technology we have/see/use in that universe is based off of or outright stolen from them (the Protheans).

    So, basically, he is saying that this is a mission that Spectres need to be a part of because while they are essentially just moving a very large peice of furniture, it is also pretty much the galaxy’s most expensive and valuable piece of furniture.

    I imagine the prospect of violence in relation to the transport of this object is not outside the realm of reasonable supposition.

  23. Coffeecakes says:

    The whole “accuse Saren” plot is such a comedy of errors I was almost convinced Mass Effect was trying to be No More Heroes.

    The most aggravating thing about it is that it could actually be resolved competently!
    Saren’s already an infamous fucker and the Council are clearly interested in investigating his (even more) shadier dealings. And you do have evidence (circumstantial, but significant) connecting Saren to what happened on Eden Prime, with which you actually catch Saren in a lie: his flagship, Sovereign, (which is common enough knowledge the Codex has an entry on it) was recorded being present at Eden Prime well before Nihlus’s team even arrived(seriously, what the fuck was he thinking?!), which is really extremely suspicious on its own, but to top it off Saren later claims during his hearing that he only learned of the situation from Nihlus’s files.

    This is only circumstantial evidence and also arguing in bad faith – but we’re talking about the Council’s special service here, and underhanded subterfuge combined with completely ignoring due process is entirely in-line with that. In any case the information available is certainly enough to start the investigation. Just… handle it like it is: political manouvering instead of laughable “that’s terrible” sort of righteous outrage. BUT then the player might feel like a bad guy because they kind of are in many key ways. Oh well. So instead let’s have something daft.

  24. Sean Hagen says:

    I wonder if the Geth husk thing bothers you because they’re not saving anything by transforming dead bodies into husks:

    – they’ve got the capacity to make a device that can turn a dead body into a husk
    – they’ve got the logistics worked out so that they can get many of those devices to a planet that they’re attacking
    – why not just make small, smarter, close combat focused drones or something that can be deployed immediately instead of having to wait for the huskification to finish?

    Also, converting a human-size body can’t be that energy efficient; the process or the end result probably has a lot of waste associated with it. Either the process wastes matter/energy transforming the dead body, or the end result wastes energy by not being optimized for the task at hand ( ie, why does it still have hands, instead of a bladed or hammer-like weapon? why does it kind of lumber towards enemies instead of running or jumping? ).

    The biological husk makes more sense because it’s akin to a virus or something transforming the host, instead of a technological process that produces a dumb robot/cyborg/thing. Creepers make sense because they still need muscles and nervous systems and digestive systems ( theoretically ).

    Or maybe none of that makes sense. Just theorizin here.

    1. Corpital says:

      That energy blast the husks did, when…well *if* they reached you was terrifying and efficient enough for me, at least until Eden Prime was over. Brrr.
      Some variations would not have gone amiss though, fully agree there.

      I want to add a little cybernetic chestburster or a bomb that goes off after being moved inside a mostly normal looking corpse to the suggestions.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Not suggesting this was the intention, but I guess one way to look at it would be that huskifying beings in some way preserves them. So it’s a like a very limited version of preserving a species by … slaughtering them all and melting them down into a Reaper. (Although there I guess something is indeed preserved. Not, perhaps, the things which would be important to the preserved beings themselves, of course! But whadda we know – they’re operating ‘beyond our comprehension’ after all…)

  25. Traiden says:

    To be fair, you also missed the fact there was a giant robot in the middle of the base in Fallout 3. I think the fact that the Citadel was designed to facilitate exploration to fill up your codex would put you near enough to the Relay with Kaidan(One of your default party members with no real way to make an easy switch at this point) to give his foreshadowing line.

  26. Daimbert says:

    The main purpose of the husks might not be completely practical, but instead psychological. Sure, for similar resources the Geth might be able to build drones to attack, but the same reasons the husks scare you would be reasons why most biologicals — especially the Quarians — would find them creepy as well. That psychological edge would be worth it to the Geth, even if they didn’t find it somehow fitting. And Reaper tech would CERTAINLY want to convert biological to technological; it’s pretty much their raison d’etre.

  27. “That's a fun twist, but for my first play-through it didn't have a lot of payoff because the statue is a bit out-of-the-way and I never really noticed it”

    Fun side note ’bout that piece of shit. Turns out the PC version of the game had a funky glitch where the code that controlled the texture detail got reversed or some such thing, leading to shit like this. Such was the case when I lasted installed the game. Turned out there was a way to fix this. A fix which crashed the game instantly upon getting within a certain distance of that statue…and only that statue. Eventually I was able to find out a work around, but it was just so taxing to get this fucking game to work right I ended up uninstalling before I even got out of the Citedal.

    All cause of that goddamned statue…

  28. Jonathan says:

    By the way, who’s the bullet-headed lean MMA fighter in the title section? I get that the others are probably game characters, but the ugly human guy just doesn’t look like a face you’d want advertising your game. He’s got this blank, concerned expression with a distant stare that says “I am boring.”

    Yeah, I know, he’s probably this Shepherd guy who’s supposed to be the PC.

    1. Zekiel says:

      No, no, that’s “heroic” not boring. He’s got that expression because he has to Difficult Choices which the likes of you and me Just Wouldn’t Understand. It’s inspiring, it really is.

  29. “They've only participated in one war, which they lost. This is one of the things that draws me to the game: You just don't see videogames frame humanity this way.”

    Have you never watched Babylon-5, Shamus? If you can handle some fairly cheesy FX, it’s a really great series, at least through season 4. If you watch season 5, you have to keep in mind the writer thought they weren’t going to get a 5th season so his original 4 & 5 were crammed into 4. Anyway, if you watch it, I think you’ll see where this game series got a ton if it’s inspiration.

    In B-5, humans are “discovered” by a rather decadent species called the Centauri. After we get past some of their not-quite-honest information about the galaxy and we manage to buy hyperdrive tech from them, we start going out into the stars, and we even manage to win a war against another race. Then we have a small falling out with the Minbari, where one of their ships shows one of ours a sign of respect upon first contact (opening its gun ports) and our ship responds by opening fire. Added to this, that Minbari ship was carrying their spiritual leader who promptly dies, and a race that’s been in space for more than 1,000 years decides the shaved monkeys from Earth are gonna pay.

    The Minbari kick our asses all the way back to Earth, wiping out colony after colony. Finally, there’s what’s called “The Battle of the Line,” a last-ditch effort to hold off the Minbari fleet while a final evacuation of humans in whatever ships can be found makes its escape. At the last second, when humanity is about to be wiped out, the Minbari stop. They make peace. No one ever finds out why… unless you watch the TV show (and there is a very good reason they stop).

    But anyway, it’s strange if this is an unusual concept in video games, since humanity not being as advanced as other species in galactic empire settings isn’t all that unusual in novels or TV.

    1. Chris says:

      Love Babylon 5, it is very different fare from Star Trek, they never explain -why- something works for starters, but they do explain where the food comes from.
      When I was explaining Babylon 5 to someone it occurred to me that the show is so obviously a fantasy story set in space – you can explain its plot in D&D terms.
      But the parallel between the plague on Omega in Mass Effect -versus- the episode with a plague (season2, ep18) on Babylon 5 really shows just how much difference there is between when you trust a writer and when you do not. Not only does Babylon 5 give the plague a long-standing and tragic origin, but it allows for an entire range of feelings over the course of one episode. 1) You have the shame and fear of the race of aliens who are the first victims of the plague. 2) There is the constant dread of whether or not the plague will spread to a new species. 3) Then there is the fear of the people who are afraid to help the victims. 4) And there is the mob-mentality of some races (human included) wanting to get rid of the current victims as a solution to the plague, with the authorities having to keep the peace. 5) Culminating in an end scenario that is supremely heart-wrenching. 6) The last scene though, thats what sticks with me. It wasn’t the hopeful Trek response, but a pessimistic “People never change.” instead.
      Thats why Babylon 5 worked, it didn’t get bogged down in details it would have to explain, and it wasn’t afraid to go dark and end on a note that was both more sobering and human.

      1. I don’t think B-5 explained how tech worked if it wasn’t human tech. Human spaceships still needed rotating sections (think the Leonov from 2010) to have any places on board with gravity. The hyperdrive, gravity plating (when it arose), etc. were all alien tech that humanity had to buy. I think in-universe it was said that no race knew who invented the jumpgates or the hyperspace tech on which they were based. It was just something that was given to new “child” races like humans who incorporated it into their spaceships.

        I think leaving the fantasy tech to the aliens was the way to go, since Star Trek has gotten so bogged down in magical technology that it has to either be ignored from episode to episode, destroyed before the credits roll, or disabled along with all the other fantastic gizmos Starfleet has (taking half the episode and usually causing continuity problems later on when factor X disabled the transporters in one episode but not in another).

        And that’s also what bogs Star Trek down a lot of the time, is the concentration on the technology rather than the characters. Londo & G’Kar are still my favorite evolving character relationship of all time (thus far).

  30. Sean Riley says:

    My best guess on a ‘best case’ Nihlus report minus Geth.

    “Shepard handled a basic unusual artifact scenario with appropriate levels of curiosity and discretion. A number of reasonable questions were asked that would help provide enough intelligence for a full report to Council, with consideration for wider effects that may not be obvious. Inquiries were kept limited to previously informed subjects, with care to preventing gossip and further information spread. Shepard deferred to on-site experts for details on moving the artifact rather than assuming knowledge, appropriate in this case.”

    That said, yeah, surely this is the kind of stuff that you could gather from personnel files in N7. Maybe the Council has a series of testing layers that are needed in all cases, and the first is ‘basic competence’ or something.

    1. dp says:

      The assumption would be that the humans are talking Shepard up in her N7 files, because that’s what happened with all the other spectre candidates ever.

  31. Warstrike says:

    Moving to Colorado Springs. Enrolling my daughter in the Colorado Springs Early College charter school.

    Just realized with this series that means I’m sending my daughter to CSEC Academy.

  32. Khizan says:

    As to the fridge-logic about the Geth invasion and the Beacon:

    Prothean beacons are a huge deal. Prothean technology is the source of FTL travel, the mass effect field, and basically their entire society. They’re not sending Shepard out on a mission because he’s closer than Cousin Dave who has a space pickup and a dolly, they’re sending a Spectre candidate and examiner out to oversee the security and transport of an object of incredible value.

  33. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Saren’s trial isn’t as off as everyone seems to think. Initially the evidence for Sarin’s involvement is a questionable identification by the dockworker hiding behind the boxes, and he only identifies him because Nihlus named him.

    Additionally, Garrus has evidence of irregularities in Saren’s accounts that, given time, he could unravel.

    So we have one eye-witness of questionable evidence and a professional cop who can provide circumstantial evidence. Which doesn’t convince the council.

    Subsequently, Garrus finds evidence of assassins sent to kill Tali, hired by Fist, who confesses such to Garrus and Shepard. Then, Tali shows up with the geth memory core and Saren’s confession.

    So at that point, there is corroboration of the earlier witness, plus the additional evidence of things like the geth memory core and the evidence of the assassins hired by Saren that Garrus cooked up (and since we have the dead assassins attempting to whack Tali, we know he didn’t hire them for legitimate purposes).

    That’s seems adequate to strip his status and issue a warrant for his arrest, which is what the Council does. It’s not a conviction, just an indictment. That Saren then runs doesn’t help his case.

  34. WWWebb says:

    The story structure discussion reminded me of this post on Story Patterns in Choice Based Games. He is talking about choose-your-own-adventure stories…but it applies to video game adventures as well.

    I think it’s a particularly complex version of the branch-and-bottleneck structure.

  35. Dragmire says:

    “In Jade Empire, we had the Mother plot where cannibalism turned people into flesh-eating goblins.”

    Did that happen in Jade Empire? That sounds exactly like the Dragon Age: Origins quest at the end of the Deep Roads.

  36. Zaxares says:

    On the Husk transformation: In ME3, we learn that the Husk transformation is done by means of nanites that attach themselves to organic molecules (notably adrenaline) and spread throughout the body of the victim, whereupon they rapidly convert the organic tissue to synthetic/cybernetic parts. My guess is that the Reapers use this method because it creates functioning, deadly shock troops while still preserving the evolutionary methods that have worked so well for the creature on its native world. It also avoids the need to create chassis frameworks to build shock troops from scratch.

    On the First Contact War: Humanity didn’t actually lose that war. What happened was during the initial phases of human colonisation, human explorers would just activate any new relay they came across willy nilly. The Council races forbids that since that practice ended up unleashing the Rachni, who almost destroyed galactic civilisation before the Krogans were uplifted and stopped them. Thus, when human explorers from the colony of Shanxi opened a new relay, they went through and found the Turians on the other side, who pursued them back to Shanxi, conquered the colony (I’m sure the Turians probably just thought of it as “pacification”) after a very one-sided battle. It’s unknown whether the Turians at this point were planning on further conquest, or were just observing the humans to determine if they were going to be another threat like the Rachni.

    However, before that could happen, reinforcements from Arcturus Station came to Shanxi and liberated the planet. The Turians concluded that humanity was another threat and began gearing up for all out war before the rest of the Council stepped in and brokered peace.

  37. boota says:

    The citadel suffers from some horrible pacing issues. First it’s so important to get spectre status. And when you get it you’ve uncovered a plot to take down the whole known society. That’s when the game starts telling me I should start looking around to solve side quests. On my first playthrough I recruited neither garrus or wrex until they showed up at my door, and I skipped most side quests since the main quest was so much more pressing. (and to be honest the reasons the game gives to do these quests and recruiting these characters are weak at best. I’m a spectre on high priority council business. Why do I need a detective and a freelancer who can’t do their jobs on my team? The only character who proves their worth before joining is Ashley.)

    So in order to play the game the “right way” I must shut down all my intuition and stop thinking on my own.

  38. 4th Dimension says:

    Wouldn’t beacon inpriting Prothean warnings to Shepard still have happened even without Sarren?

    1. INH5 says:

      Not necessarily. It’s possible that someone else could have been the one to get pulled in by the beacon.

    2. guy says:

      i’m pretty sure that the original salvage plan called for the beacon to get carefully picked up and scanned rather than dumping its data into someone random and then exploding.

  39. paercebal says:

    On the other hand, the actual transformation always struck me as a little odd. Okay, so the Geth completely encase the victim in electronic parts,

    I swear I’ve read Electronic Arts, and was barely surprised, if a bit amused.


  40. Christopher says:

    I don’t think the next “Most commented articles on this blog” feature is gonna surprise anyone after this series, by the way.

  41. SiMianChuGe says:

    >That's a fun twist, but for my first play-through it didn't have a lot of payoff because the statue is a bit out-of-the-way and I never really noticed it.

    The way that Bioware worked around this was to have a fetch quest where you had to scan 21 Keepers spread throughout the Citadel. It was tedious but it was enough of an impetus for me to explore and learn about areas I would otherwise skip over.

  42. Catalogue of Unpleasantries says:

    I find it immensely enjoyable that the phrase “two burly guys and a dolly” takes on a whole new meaning if your Eden Prime team is MaleShep/Kaidan/Ashley.

    Yup, they definitely handled that mission OK.

  43. natureguy85 says:

    I do like the little Relay monument, which Kaidan will have an issue with, being something important. However, I don’t like that the Conduit just takes us to where we’d already been. With all the talk of the secret areas of the citadel that only Keepers can go, and knowing that the Protheans died on the Citadel, I expected the Conduit to take us somewhere special and was disappointed that the central control was just the Council chamber. It wasn’t a special enough function for the idea that the Council was “sitting on a gold mine or powder keg”. While they would have decomposed and probably been cleaned up by the keepers, it would have been cool to find the prothean corpses.

  44. Michael says:

    I don’t know if comments are even still read for an entry this “old”, but I wanted to get it off my chest nonetheless.

    For me, the problems of Mass Effect start at the very beginning of the game. Even before we see Shepard.

    Why do Anderson and Udina talk about Shepard “saving the universe”, before taking them on for observation by Nihlus? Isn’t that a bit too in-your-face, presumptuous foreshadowing? It’s kind of annoying.

    What’s with stick figure Shepard, who, in the game, has no idea about the universe, even if they have a N6-7 training, which – according to the codex – entails a seemingly vast array of lessons, including interaction with Aliens. It’s supposed to be REALLY tough, yet at the beginning of the game, Shep can’t even shoot straight.

    I know this is for the sake of RPG gameplay and storytelling technique. But, at the time, to me, it was jarring. Immediately after starting the game, I felt left behind, just by having been text-introduced to something that wasn’t there.

    I’m probably making a lot more out of this than I should, what with suspension of disbelief. But a talented writer, which seemed to be very much so present in ME1, should have been able to accommodate an already “strong” (so the game lacks generic health/mana RPG leveling) character. Tech and tactics or something should have been the RPG elements to level up.
    On the one hand, they could have banked on, sort of, pioneering a new generation RPG system. On the other hand, I can certainly understand going a safe route with a new IP.
    In the end, I guess I’m probably just lamenting what could have been.

  45. peacemon says:

    “It loses me when we put Saren on trial with no evidence, and the player dialog indicates we're supposed to be indignant that this doesn't work.”

    So true. I think of all things that happen in ME1, this is the one that irritated me most. At this point, I was so absorbed by this world, identified myself so much with Shepard, that this threatened to break everything. They ignored our accusations? Of course they did! Our accusations didn’t hold any water. That’s what I wanted to say in the dialogue, but wasn’t given the option. Instead it seemed I was supposed to be angry, for no good reason whatsoever.

    But A) the game did so much right that I could forgive it that lapse, and B) it seemed to show that the council aren’t fools, which was actually giving credibility to this world.

    Sadly, shortly after they are fools by taking a short audio sample as proof, but overall it feels like ME stumbled a bit here but didn’t fall down. Something I can’t say about the sequels.

    1. Clawclock says:

      Mandatory sorry for replying to such an old comment.

      By the way, we had a witness but the council dismissed it with something like “that’s just a frightened port worker, he was probably seeing things due to the shock”. In their place I would rather be like “How does this guy even know that a Turian who goes by Saren exists? Why is he trying to frame him?”

      On the other hand Shepard is kinda too adamantly sure that Saren is the culprit. We, as the player, saw that he killed Nilus in a cutscene, but Shepard didn’t. He wasn’t present at the scene.

  46. I feel like the answer to the Husk question is stupidly obvious. The Dragons Teeth are just doing in the field what the Collector pods in ME2 were doing to people. Its collecting the necessary ingredients from people, to turn those ingredients into a full blown reaper… and re-purposing what is left of them for troops.

    The Codex even specifically states that the Dragons Teeth actually save the materials from the person speared on it, they arent doing this to make troops, they are doing this as part of the larger process of making a reaper…

  47. Wide And Nerdy says:

    That has to be the sketchiest trail of evidence I’ve ever seen, and that’s ignoring the fact that faking a voice sample that short would be do-able even in today’s world[6]

    In fact its a plot point in the next game that Kasumi can fake Donovan Hock’s voice based on a voice sample to make him say a word we don’t even have a record of him saying (the password) to bypass a voice-password lock. And she did it on the fly in the space of mere minutes apparently using software on her omni-tool or something like that.

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