Mass Effect Retrospective 4: Why is Therum Gone?

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jul 26, 2015

Filed under: Mass Effect 210 comments

These first few entries might be a little dry. We’ll get to the good stuff eventually, but we have groundwork to lay before we can cover that.


Yuck. I've played 8-bit games with more colors than this. Heck, I've played 8-bit games with more shades of RED than this.
Yuck. I've played 8-bit games with more colors than this. Heck, I've played 8-bit games with more shades of RED than this.

Even though I do this planet first, it feels like a bad place to start exploring this particular universe. It’s short on expensive content like characters, dialog, cutscenes, and detailed environments. The combat can be kind of newbie-unfriendly at low levels, and the mission ends with a fight against a Krogan that can be ridiculously hard for some classesOh, you’re an infiltrator that specializes in sniping at a distance? Well enjoy being locked in a confined space with a charging Krogan that can kill you in five seconds. Also enjoy the fifteen seconds of un-skippable cutscene leading up to the fight.. The brown rocky landscape is monotonous the moment you lay eyes on it, and it only gets worse as the mission drags on. This is the kind of stuff developers usually save for that late-game slog.

On the other hand, the interface shows the the player’s squad is still one member short, and it’s natural to expect they will be eager to come here and complete the team. On the gripping hand, I’m not sure the player has enough information to know or guess that Liara will be the final squadmate. Basically, I’m really curious what the designer’s intention was, and how people responded. I can’t remember my first play-through. Did people understand Liara was going to join the team, and did they make a beeline for Therum to get her?

Meet Liara

Note how this being an underground facility explains why the Reapers didn't find it when they cleaned up the Prothean civilization.
Note how this being an underground facility explains why the Reapers didn't find it when they cleaned up the Prothean civilization.

I love how Mass Effect uses the ‘Star Trek’ approach to civilian clothing. Everyone wears tight jumpsuits with random geometric color patterns. I bet this sort of stuff will look as hilarious to the people of 2040 as the miniskirts of original Trek look to us today.

As far as I can tell from squinting at my monitor, almost all Asari use the same base model, which is basically a Barbie doll: A nude figure with no surface features. (I assume this is for budget reasons.) So you can’t have cuffs, popped collars, capes, hats, tails, loose trouser legs, or anything else that changes the shape of the character. You have to accomplish all of your costume design with bump maps and textures. From one model they managed to give us night club dancers, commandos, scientists, and civilians. I admire when artists can do good work under difficult constraints.

It’s a really interesting choice to enable the player to choose when they get Liara. She’s really important to the story. Unlike Garrus, Tali, and Wrex, she’s directly tied to the overall goal of learning about the Protheans, and she has a lot of dialog dedicated to the subject.

There’s special dialog if you happen to bring her along to fight and kill her insane / mind-controlled mother on Noveria. The developers created extra work for themselves, and created a lot of content you might miss. If you visit places in the order of Noveria, Feros, and then Therum, then you’ll miss most of her dialog and her interactions with her mother. It really does feel like you should get Liara as early as possible, but the writers allow you to delay it.

On the other hand, the writers have really pushed their luck with regards to linearity so far. Forcing the player to Therum directly after the Citadel probably would have felt smothering. Really, at that point they might as well make the entire game linear.

Lava level first? Who designed this progression of motifs? Everyone knows you start with jungle or city, and save lava levels for the end!
Note the bold art style on the Geth dropship. Compare this to later games, when we actually visit a Geth base and it looks like box rooms. Not only do the later games focus more on human vs. human fights, but the art style gets gradually more conventional.

Therum stands out as an oddball in our three locations. The other two locations begin with an initial site of talking and roleplaying, then there’s a Mako section to take you to the secondary site where you have another talky bit mixed in with some heavier combat. In contrast, Therum has basically no roleplaying or worldbuilding at all. Aside from Liara, there aren’t any locals to meet. There’s no dramatic arc. It’s just a long, combat-heavy Mako ride, followed by some shooting, followed by the most shallow puzzle in the gameAnd that’s saying something!, followed by a “everything suddenly explodes just as you fly away” finale.

The codex talks about Therum being an active human colony, but we don’t see a single worker. We see no living spaces. No mining equipment or vehicles. No place for supply ships to land and bring provisions to the colony, or carry away the minerals they’re supposedly digging up. At the very end we reach some mine entrances with some generic empty metal structures around, but that’s it. There’s not even an indication of where Liara was living. Presumably she wasn’t sleeping on the rock and digging with her hands, right?

When designers get lazyOr low on budget, or pressed for time… they usually half-ass it with some audio logs from the former residents, explaining to themselves why they’re no longer around. But Therum is barren, story-wise.

Since driving is such a big part of this mission, let’s talk about…

The Mako

This planet orbits a Class-F lens flare.
This planet orbits a Class-F lens flare.

Some people loved driving the Mako. Some people hated it. It handled like an inflatable bounce castle on wheels, it was prone to getting caught on trivial bits of scenery, and your targets always seemed to be about five degrees higher than the turret could reach. Love it or hate it, the Mako bits were certainly unique among videogame vehicle sections. I wasn’t really a fan, but the later games made me realize that the Mako fulfilled an important purpose in defining the world.

Mass Effect 1 places a lot of importance on visual continuity. You can walk from C-Sec, ride up the elevator of Eternal Time-Wasting, and arrive at the bay where you can see your vessel docked. You can then seamlessly transition to the inside of the ship, fly away, cross the galaxy, and exit the ship on a foreign world. You can make that entire journey without any spatial cuts. The camera might cut away for the jumping-through-the-relay cutscene, but when you take control again Shepard is standing right where you left him. I really appreciate this sense of continuity of movement. Yes, the loading screens disguised as elevators and bio-scanners were flow-breaking frustrations. There was certainly room for improvement. But the lack of teleporting loading screens was something that made the game more immersive.

The Mako was part of this. Feros is comprised of two major sites: The colony and the ruins. I suppose you could have a cutscene to move between the two, but then they would have felt disconnected and unrelated. It would have deprived the player of a sense of scale and distance. They could also have allowed you to make the journey on foot, but then you need to move the sites very close together (which contradicts the events of the story) or you need to walk a long distance.

This is actually a shot from Feros, which we'll cover next time.
This is actually a shot from Feros, which we'll cover next time.

The best way to establish the distance between the two locations is to have the player jump in the Mako and make the drive themselves. In Mass Effect 2 and 3, there are parts of the game where you get in a vehicle and are taken to some other gameplay zone via a time cut. You’re deprived of a sense of distance, time, and scale. How long was the drive? How fast were we going? What did we see along the way? Paradoxically, removing the Mako made planets feel somehow smaller, even though the time-cuts could theoretically represent much larger distances.

Part of this might be an unfortunate side-effect of the conventions of cinema. In a movie, if the characters travel a long way the director will usually give us some sort of travel montage: The character driving. Long shot of the car driving into the distance. Shots of landmarks. A close-up of the driver’s face. Shot of the character stopping for food. Back on the road again. The sun goes down. The longer the montage, the longer the presumed journey in the minds of the audience.

The Mako gave the worlds a sense of scale. It wasn’t perfect and not everyone liked the driving mechanics, but removing it from the game deprived the designers of an important tool for making worlds seem large and diverse. Without the Mako, worlds are reduced to a single location.

The Hammerhead


If we could jump ahead to Mass Effect 2 for a bit, I want to talk about the Mako’s replacement, the Hammerhead.

While there are Mako fans out there, a non-trivial segment of the playerbase really hated the damn thing. So I understand why BioWare felt the need to “do something” about the Mako. Sadly, the Hammerhead feels a bit like curing the disease by killing the patient and then using a trebuchet to fling the corpse at the bereaved.

Someone at BioWare looked at the Mako and assumed it was in the game because this is a shooter and shooters need vehicle sections in the same way that Superman needs those little red underpants outside his costume. Which is to say: Not at all, but it’s always there anywayIt turns out that the “underpants on the outside” costume design is a holdover from the days when some characters appeared in black-and-white. People were worried that without the underpants, the character might look nude.. So the Hammerhead was designed to be a better vehicle section. However the more important function of providing a sense of scale and geographical continuity was completely lost. The Hammerhead is only used in locations designed specifically for it, and those locations feature no other gameplay. So while the vehicle itself might be more fun to driveYou mileage may vary. I didn’t enjoy it any more than the Mako. it was now completely disconnected from the rest of the game.

Case in point: The first time I played through the game, I didn’t download the Hammerhead DLC, and I didn’t miss it at all. I don’t mean I didn’t mind not having it, I mean I had no idea the DLC existed or that I was lacking anything.



[1] Oh, you’re an infiltrator that specializes in sniping at a distance? Well enjoy being locked in a confined space with a charging Krogan that can kill you in five seconds. Also enjoy the fifteen seconds of un-skippable cutscene leading up to the fight.

[2] And that’s saying something!

[3] Or low on budget, or pressed for time…

[4] It turns out that the “underpants on the outside” costume design is a holdover from the days when some characters appeared in black-and-white. People were worried that without the underpants, the character might look nude.

[5] You mileage may vary. I didn’t enjoy it any more than the Mako.

From The Archives:

210 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 4: Why is Therum Gone?

  1. Rory Porteous says:

    To elaborate further on the Mako, part of it’s brilliance is that it highlights something to the player that may not otherwise be obvious. Most of the worlds you visit are barren. Mountains, the occasional crashed probe and nothing living in sight. Which is what most planets would be. It reinforces that the galaxy is so huge and habitable worlds are so few that much of the galaxy is nearly untouched by it’s inhabitants. And this adds to the sense of wonder that Mass Effect 1 evokes, and the sequels lack. There IS a galaxy to go out and explore, much of it isn’t that interesting, but why would it be?

    The game still possesses side-missions, some of which take place on these barren worlds, but like you mention in your piece Shamus, having the player traverse the planet to reach those missions is an important part of what makes the game seem even bigger than it is.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And it also conveys the vastness and emptiness of the galaxy far better than probing for minerals.Though I guess probing does convey the tedium of exploring such a wast space better.

      1. Bruno M. Torres says:

        I always tought most of these planets were meant as scenarios for future DLC we never got.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Im not sure if hammerhead dlc is set on one of those you scan earlier,or if adds some new planets for it.Neither would surprise me.

    2. Lame Duck says:

      While I’ll agree that the Mako contributes heavily to the feeling of emptiness in the galaxy, I’m not sure I’d describe it as “brilliance”. It’s a big part of why I think the game is kind of awful; it has an absolutely huge map but you never, ever, ever get to visit anything even slightly interesting in it. I found it impossible to care whether the galaxy was destroyed by the Reapers because it felt like such a bland, boring, culturally-dead place. There was very rarely even any interesting landscapes because of that wretched terrain generator that they used.

      I think it could have worked for me if there was some better contrast to the empty parts of the galaxy, but none of the actual main story planets felt like somewhere worth visiting either. Far too much of the game ended up being concrete corridors and plastic shipping containers.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        There were a few interesting mako planets out there.Though mostly because of the sky,and not the ground.

        1. Rory Porteous says:

          Also the one with the space monkeys.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I liked the one with the beaches but thats it. The Mako was boring, miserable, hard to control (or it was the first time for me, bearing in mind this was early in my time as a PC gamer and I don’t seek out games with vehicles in them.) I ended up just using the console to give myself superspeed and dashing through those areas on foot. Frankly I cheated my way through a lot of ME1 because the gameplay sucked compared to its successors and I was there for the story I’d missed by playing ME2 first.

          The Hammerhead was definitely better. I don’t get the sense of spatial continuity from the Mako so I wouldn’t be missing anything.

          Also didn’t care for the navigation at the time. I think there’s something you get built up over time in terms of ability to remember where stuff is in video games* and I didn’t have it. As a result, I got lost frequently in the Citadel and ended up ditching a lot of side quests because once i found something I didn’t want to get lost again.

          I don’t think I’d have quite as much trouble now.

          *Think about it, you’re getting a 2D representation of a 3D world, possibly with stereo, possibly not. Your real body is not rotating, you don’t know the setting, you’re getting nothing but visual sensory input. I think most gamers have been gaming so long they’ve forgotten how easy it is to get lost. What little info the minimap gave was terrible.

          1. Merlin says:

            It’s weird to me that there aren’t really many “exploration” quests in the Mako. You think about a fantasy RPG, and you’re going to take your airship/chocobo/whatever to the far reaches of the world to find the ultimate badass sword, or fight the super powerful optional boss, or whatever. And yeah, that doesn’t map directly to sci-fi, but it seems like all you ever do in the Mako is go to pre-fab shipping containers or crashed probes – there doesn’t appear to be anything of particular value on any of the planets you visit. All of which amounts to the (disappointing) implication that space exploration is pointless and terrible, because you aren’t discovering new science, materials, organisms, or ecosystems. It’s just a bunch of empty… space.

            1. I’m one of those Mako fans. It actually reminded me of an older game that I liked a lot. I was hoping that there would be more TO the Mako–that you’d get puzzles where you’d drive until you ran out of room, then you’d do a walking section to open a gate or something, then you’d drive some more, etc. So I quite enjoyed the bouncy tank. I’d even drive up to the top of a mountain so I could launch the Mako off it, it was delightful.

              But, yeah, most of the planets felt pretty monotonous. I didn’t mind so much, but I’m the type of gamer who explores things because they are there. Driving the Mako never got super-boring to me, but oy the combat sure did. Friggin chest-high walls haunted me after that game.

            2. Cedric says:

              ‘You aren't discovering new science, materials, organisms, or ecosystems.’

              You make it sound like you skipped a lot of content after seeing just a few barren worlds. I remember finding lots of materials, organisms, and ecosystems in my admittedly obsessive exploration. The monkey planet, centaur planet, crab planet, The moon with the planet overhead with constant shifting patterns of bioluminescent plankton fleeing from the sun that should have been TIM’s base. The planet where you find a Prothean sphere for the first time was very cool, if hard to traverse. Though throughout the game that was the whole point of the bouncy lightness of the Mako to me. Not a lot of roads on unexplored planets.

              1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                That’s still on Bioware. If they had planets like that, they should have ditched the boring empty brown ones and made sure that the first random planet (or even the first two or three) are visually interesting and have cool things to discover. I had no reason to believe that Bioware had put any effort into anything off the beaten path because even the story planets were kind of boring and/or frustrating whenever you got in the Mako.

                They should also have noticed that the Mako doesn’t handle well. Really it kind of mystifies me that they went with a land craft when Mass Effect tech should make hovercraft like the Hammerhead practical for exploration. There are going to be surfaces you don’t want to use wheels on. Using a hovercraft (with emergency wheels) limits your variables. The shuttlecrafts seen in later installments make it even dumber.

                There’s also the story problem of Joker, the most awesome pilot in the fleet, being unable to drop you anywhere near your target (as Shamus has pointed out and even immortalized in Stolen Pixels).

                1. LadyTL says:

                  I find that to be a thematic choice though. Their previous games did the same thing of sticking interesting things off the beaten path. ME1 was focused more on Exploring then having “interesting” things brought to you on a silver platter. I find that them doing that in ME2 and ME3 actually made the games boring for me. Those two games might as well be a corridor shooter for all you got to explore. ME1 gave you the choice to spend time exploring their world. I found that to be true of Dragon Age 1 and not true of Dragon Age 2, though DA: Inqusition seems to be going back to the old style of exploring.

                  1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                    DAI did that one aspect right. There’s enough visual interest in any given landscape to drive exploration. And they could have done that with Mass Effect. Ice crystal worlds, rainbow gases. Strange flora. There was too much bleakness. It reminds me of Morrowind when you get late in the quest and you get to that bleak ashen section you spend a lot of time in.

              2. Merlin says:

                I’m pretty sure I 100%ed Mass Effect (and ME2), though I didn’t buy any DLC for either. I remember the monkeys, and the Prothean sphere is ringing a bell, but everything else I’m drawing a blank on. Oh, and driving around on Earth’s moon was cool, though at this point I’d rather use Kerbal Space Program for that.

                Getting back to the point, the crux of my issue is that nothing in the Mako ever feels vital, even when it’s novel to see once. The Prothean sphere is a perfect example – you run around opening crates for a bit, find the sphere, and get a “vision” (described in text only) that reveals the Protheans interacted with Cro-Magnon humans. And that’s it, quest over, no implications ever again. It’s a total narrative dead end.

                (Though looking at the wiki, the sphere is also a great example of why trilogies are as much a sucker’s bet as pre-ordering is. Visiting the beacon is noted as a flag in ME1 save games, but never affects anything later. As much as Bioware loved to push the “Your choices matter!” angle throughout the series, they continuously put off delivering on setup in favor of kicking the can down the road. ME2, much as I enjoyed playing it, should have been a huge red flag when the main plot accomplished literally nothing and all of your ME choices were reflected via friendly emails stating “Hey thanks for doing that thing you did.” That ME3 was a total narrative botch job should have been no surprise to anyone.)

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Thats because of poor planning.Its like they said they were doing a trilogy,but never expected to actually have to deliver on that promise,so instead they made a self contained game.

        3. NotSteve says:

          I found the Mako planets interesting just because of the codex entries. After a lot of space opera where every planet has a breathable atmosphere and a biosphere, it was really cool to be driving around on planets that actually were too cold or hot for life, or with non-breathable atmospheres. It made the universe feel more realistic.

    3. Dev Null says:

      The brilliance of the Mako was that it was – finally! – the landing craft from Starflight, but in 3D.

    4. Zaxares says:

      I feel exactly the same way as you and Shamus! The Mako sections helped add a sense of scale to the world (and it really drove home the fact that you were driving around a TANK when you could just run over geth and even Geth Armatures/Colossi, making encounters amusingly trivial when you know you’d be struggling to overcome them on foot), and it also reminded players that space in general is vast, empty and very, VERY hostile to life. That atmosphere was lost in ME2 and ME3; those games felt more like shooters set in space.

      As to the Hammerhead, I will say that the Hammerhead section of the Overlord DLC was spectacularly done. Beautiful vistas, the same sense of scale that ME1 delivered, and its presence made sense. The Mako sections on the primary missions also delivered the same feeling; it was just the clunky controls and relative boring-ness of the random planets that made driving it around a chore.

      1. BenD says:

        I didn’t mind the (tolerable) Mako controls or the (exploitable) Mako combat, but I found the planetside exploration/discovery to be the real draw. In ME2 I am constantly disappointed in all landable planets: No big sweeping vistas? No real sense of what the described ecology or geology actually looks like on the ground? No proper skyboxes?!? I was ready to let go of the Mako, but only to substitute something else in its place. I’d have accepted walking or riding the local transit/wildlife or renting a crap vehicle or whatever. But the loss of planetside spaces for the player to experience is a huge downgrade.

    5. Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think my main problem with those exploration elements was that you never met anyone. Any settlement you came across was ether long ago destroyed, or was pirates. Or was long ago destroyed by Pirates.
      In his Morrowind LP Rutskarn describes coming across a couple of miners and talking to them about their job. It’s boring and doesn’t relate to any quest, but it helps sell the world as real and breathing.
      I think Mass Effect needed a little of that. Just running into a few settlements or mining installations where people were just going about their day would have mead the galaxy feel more real and alive.

      Also yes the Prothean sphere was awesome. However being able to access it was predicated on doing an earlier completely unrelated quest in a very specific way, and if you didn’t do that then you were left with a pretty bauble that had no use.

    6. natureguy85 says:

      That’s an interesting point. The emptiness of the planets was my one complaint. I liked the mako and exploring, but I wish there was more to find. I did like the backstory behind the Salarians you could find on the planets. However, your way of seeing it is very valid and makes sense.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So,if this one reaches over 200 comments,we can safely conclude that there is a mass effect effect.

    1. Kian says:

      And considering it affects a lot of people, we could even say it’s a mass Mass Effect effect.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Uuuuu,thats even better!

        1. Andy says:

          Yes, but is it massively better?

          1. MichaelGC says:

            Effectively, massively better. But there could be ramifications. We don’t know yet what will be the mass Mass Effect effect effect.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Mentioning the mass mass effect effect in the comments and thus causing people to post in droves in order to make it happen.

  3. Gruhunchously says:

    Speaking of attention to detail, if you save Therum for the very end, after completing Feros, Noveria and Virmire…well, this happens.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Poor liara.

      But one key question is never answered if you pick that path:What did she eat?

      1. Ringwraith says:

        Stasis thing maybe?
        Dead prisoners trapped in your security system mean you can’t interrogate them!
        Or something.

      2. Slothfulcobra says:

        She biotically retrieves sandwiches from her lunch box back in her camp.

    2. Neko says:

      That is really cool.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        I went out of my way to do this once just to see what happened.
        I was not disappointed.

        She also does all of her plot relevant stuff at once which means she gets very confused and remarks at having an information overload.

    3. Shamus says:

      That seems strangely familiar. Either I’ve watched in on YouTube before, or this happened to me on my first playthrough.

      Stupid memory.

      1. Dev Null says:

        Is it live? Or is it youTube?

        And does anyone even remember what product Memorex sold?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Is it live? Or is it youTube?

          Caught in the streaming,no escape from buffering.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            Open your tabs, look out to the web and seeeeeeeee…

            1. TMC_Sherpa says:

              I’m just a flaaash aaaad. Please won’t you click on me.

              1. SKD says:

                Brilliant. I never cease to be amazed by the quality of Shamus’ commenters.

              2. Grudgeal says:

                Because I’m ez-income, bitrate-slow
                Little spy, adblock now
                Any way the spam flows, doesn’t really matter to meeeeee…
                To me

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Browser,just closed a tab,
                  put the mouse over the x in the corner,
                  left clicked and now its gone.
                  Browser,download had just begun,
                  but now Ive gone and thrown it in the recycle bin.

                  1. TMC_Sherpa says:

                    Popup, ooooh,
                    Close one there’s always more,
                    Clear it up before the boss gets back tomorrow,
                    Click bait links, click bait links as if no one can resist them.

        2. Zeta Kai says:

          I’m old, so I can answer this: audio & video recording tape. The “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” ad tagline was meant to imply that their tape was of such high quality & fidelity that it could somehow fool the senses into thinking that a recording was actually the real thing.

    4. lurkey says:

      There’s also additional fun of “Well, doc, about that research of yours…”, when you lay in front of her how the mystery she dedicated her lifetime to research was solved in the very time she was floating in that thing. Never gets old. :D

      As for beeline, there is Asari-shaped silhouette on your squaddie list, and Udina mentions the scientist is Asari, so I kinda suspected. Nevertheless, I always picked her last on every subsequent play-through. Nothing like crushing the dreams of a young scientist for teh lulz!

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I went straight for Liara on the grounds that “scientist we can talk to, who might know something, but who we haven’t heard from in some time” seemed more urgent than “colony that wouldn’t know anything, but is under geth attack” and “research labs that aren’t going anywhere.”

        But I liked that you could make the case, “archeologist will be fine -who’s going to attack a dig site? On the other hand, Saren could already be torching the Noveria labs of all relevant information, and the Feros colony is under attack now.”

        1. Zanfib says:

          That was my logic too.

      2. venatus says:

        I feel like your shepard is the explanation for how she went from an optimistic young scientist, to a shady information broker and eventually the shadow broker herself.

    5. Abnaxis says:

      So…uh…it’s different if you do the Liara mission first?

      That’s completely news to me, because I always did Liara’s mission last, on multiple play-throughs. It was actually kind of a revelation while reading the article, that you could do it in other ways without missing stuff…

      ME1 was my first Bioware game, and every other RPG I’ve played has trained me to always do my best to save the “story advancement” quest for last, lest precious XP get locked behind a one-way plot barrier.

      Given the choice between puttering around looking for clues, and seeking out the obviously-a-party-member scientist who has all the secret forgotten voodoo knowledge I need for my goal, I assumed Liara was the “one-way plot door” quest. And the funny thing is, I never understood it to be any other way–after all, whenever I got her the plot advanced!

      1. Cinebeast says:

        Wait, really? So you missed out on all the unique scenes you get between her and her mother?

        1. Abnaxis says:


          I understood Liara was joining the team, then did a beeline away from her because other games taught me that’s how you metagame. “Sidequests first, then main quest so you don’t miss the extra stuff” is too ingrained in me by now.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            The key to true munchkinism is to recognize when the main story goes past the point of no return,and do all the side missions only one step before you reach that point.

            1. Mike S. says:

              Bioware is generally good these days at brightly flagging the endgame gate, though not necessarily earlier important transition points (like Horizon in ME2). But it’s a tradeoff, since there’s more of an emotional punch if a routine mission turns out to be a Big Deal.

            2. SKD says:

              Although if you attempt to use that strategy in ME 2 you either end up with Legion just long enough to do a handful of random missions including his loyalty mission or you lose half or all of your crew to the Reaper Slushie machine.

              1. Khizan says:

                The mission that gets Legion is the point of no return. The ‘point of no return’ is not the point where becomes impossible to do sidequests, it’s the point where you’re no longer able to safely ignore the main quest.

    6. Dusk says:

      Spectre stands for Special Tactics And Recon? Did not remember that at all.

      Feels oddly familiar…

      At least your Nemesis in the sequels doesn’t call you out by name.

  4. wswordsmen says:

    I did (made a bee line for Liara the first time through), although I didn’t know it was Therum, so I looked at basically the entire Artemus Tau cluster first (I think I hit every planet before Therum in system and it was the last star I checked). Personally I think the devs expected you to hit at least a few of the planets before getting to her, because if they wanted you to go straight there they could have just told you “dig on Therum” rather than “in the Artemus Tau Cluster”.

    1. SKD says:

      Somehow I always manage to hit the Liara planet first no matter how hard I try to hit the others in the cluster. The only exception is the one time I managed to hit the Thresher Maw introduction planet first….

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well,the toughness of that fight against the krogan with the infiltrator depends on two things:
    1)The lead up to it is quite a good place to grind up some infiltrator xp,as long as you realize that fighting out of mako gives you more xp than in the mako,and that its only the last hit that counts towards the xp gain.
    2)Your ability to open up with a boosted sniper rifle then quickly switching to boosted pistols.And of course,the fact that you boosted those two skills asap.
    Also,key factor is how willing you are to pause and issue orders to your companions,which is a bit of a pain in the first game.

    So if you do have foreknowledge,whether by playing the game before or by reading a guide before playing(basically,if you are a munchkin),this planet is ideal to quickly boost up your infiltrator levels.

    1. Orillion says:

      It’s also lovely on the second playthrough, because your Infiltrator can potentially have the assault rifles talent available, leaving the pistol only necessary as far as you need to level it to get to sniper rifles.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        True,but I prefer pistols to rifles.With marksman,you get way more rof with way more precision.And of course,its my backup weapon,so that short burst of power is more than enough.

        Though I still prefer mass effect 2 infiltrator,where your pistol is your tertiary weapon,and your fireball is the backup you rely on while your cloak is charging up.

        1. Ringwraith says:

          Pistols are all you need. Marksman is a room clearer! Who needs assault rifles?
          Throwing fireballs in 2 is kinda fun though too.

      2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I don’t recall having any problem taking the krogan with an infiltrator on my first playthrough. I might have taken him with the pistol rather than the rifle, or I may have just let the team take him down while I nailed him with disrupt and the other infiltrator tech skills.

        One thing I really liked about the first game was that meter at the team select screen, that let you know how your combat, tech, and biotic balance looked. It was easy to create teams that could pretty well cover all your bases.

    2. Mephane says:

      I’ll just throw this out there: I utterly hated how fighting in the Mako gave you less XP than on foot. Similarly, I hate how in Deux Ex Human Revolution, you get more XP for certain kinds of takedowns. These games have non-respawning enemies and a predefined number of locations and therefore a finite amount of total XP that you could ever collect. This means, at least for me, that the game punishes the player for playing a certain way (in our examples, it is Mako kills and lethal and non-stealthy takedowns) without providing an open-ended method of making up for the lost XP.

      Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that Deus Ex HR tries to encourage to not just shoot to kill all the time, but I prefer such things to be conveyed through the story and worldbuilding, not the very metric which decides when or wether at all I can get the next ability or access to some piece of equipment.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Yeah,deus ex would definitely be better if it gave you xp at the end of a section for passing it,regardless of your approach.Then they could award you for being unseen and raising no alarms,which wouldnt impact your choice of lethality of takedowns.Also it wouldnt force you to take down everyone and instead encourage avoiding the enemies completely.

        1. Gruhunchously says:

          The original Deus Ex does exactly that, while only granting you bonus XP for finding hidden areas, and works just fine. One of my main objections towards the Shifter mod was the way that it messed around with that system, granting you extra XP per kill/takedown, ala HR

      2. Tom says:

        I prefer the original Deus Ex’s (take a drink!) approach to non-lethal takedowns, in that it makes sure from the first dialogue of the game that you know they’re an option, and while it doesn’t exactly make them especially more difficult in shot-by-shot execution, it does make it much more difficult to consistently play the whole game non-lethally as opposed to any form of lethal play, in that all the non-lethal weapons have very small magazine sizes, take a good bit of time to reload, and a chronic shortage of ammo supplies that get ever more sparse, as one would expect, as you progress further into the game and into more heavily militarised areas and away from civil, policed ones, and headquarters becomes unavailable to you. However – and this is the ingenious bit – they counterbalance this considerable incentive not to play non-lethally with both considerable disapproval from several key NPCs in dialogue choices, and approval from at least two NPCs who subsequently become your nemeses. There are no explicit game achievements (they hadn’t even been invented yet, for that class of game at least), but they managed just to make it feel SO good to really play all the way to the end as the good guy with principles in an increasingly amoral world, and really earn the respect of the good guys, without ANY explicit incentives like a paragon-renegade meter or an achievement medal. Alternatively, it allows for that wonderful dramatic moment part-way through the game, as your opponents change from angry civilians and low-level, basically innocent and ignorant pawns to become increasingly clearly and knowingly evil dudes, when you finally, albeit reluctantly, decide to put the non-lethal weapons away, because THESE guys don’t deserve it. Just try doing that in a game with a visible karma meter or an achievement. The metagame of wanting to max out your meter one way or the other, or get the total-pacifist or genocide achievement or whatever, yanks you out of the game proper and actually interferes with role-playing.

        This is something that I greatly admire certain late 90s games for – they were sufficiently emergent and presented sufficient inherent dilemmas during play that their communities of fans, WITHOUT ANY PROMPTING WHATSOEVER, devised for themselves certain challenging ways to play and replay the games; speed runs, ghost runs, pacifist runs, etc. They did these things for no other reason than the inherently satisfying feeling it gave. Practically all modern games fail utterly to do this, and their failure is implicitly conceded by the invention of explicit achievement systems. Fans are no longer expected to devise their own ways of playing or talk about them, and modern games are so lacking in emergence and gameplay depth that it would be very difficult for them to do so anyway, so the whole thing is artificially induced via explicit achievements – and again, with so little emergent gameplay, and also the need to limit these achievements to something an in-game script can understand, not what a community of human peers can *feel*, these achievements are so often pathetically crude, unimaginative and unengaging. Kill N mooks with just one weapon. Kill N mooks using this particular upgrade. Run N kilometres in game. Pick up all the collectible Item Xs in the game. Find the mandatory easter eggs. Boring, and made even more so by explicitly acknowledging it. Time was, an easter egg was something you got because you tried doing something fun or silly in-game FOR ITS OWN SAKE, and it just so happened that one of the designers also tried it once and left a little present for anyone else who happened to think like him or her and also did it. This gave you a human sense of connection, realising you and one of the guys behind the game shared a private thought and were maybe in some way kindred spirits, in a way that modern, planned, “official” easter eggs do not.

        I guess the take-home lesson, getting back to your point about the Mako-fight XP problem, is that, to really be a master designer of engaging and dramatic gameplay, you’ve got to have at least *two* balanced and opposing incentives for behaviour. Most lesser games, including Mass Effect, suffer from what one might call “one-itis” and make pretty much every gameplay decision predicated on only one factor, which makes them all boring no-brainers. Without a minimum of at least two conflicting factors, a dilemma cannot arise, and dilemmas are core to both drama and detail. There’s no in-game reason to get out of the Mako and fight on foot; the dilemma that arises there is because of the need for XP, which is instead metagaming and hence breaking suspension of disbelief.

        Mass Effect DOES have dilemmas, of course, and they’re some of the biggest and best bits in the games, even the third one, but they are all scripted setpieces; no dilemmas arise during gameplay itself except during conversations. These are, arguably, actually the true core gameplay mechanic of Mass Effect; unfortunately, the Mass Effect conversation system as implemented does not allow emergent gameplay effects within itself (although with a little more effort, it could). You can’t talk yourself into a corner or get trapped in a lie, or trap someone else in one, or confuse somebody with conflicting information, or deduce something you didn’t know before within the framework of the conversation itself; those things can only happen if the scriptwriter wanted them to, in which case they unavoidably will and at best you’ll have a pseudo-choice deciding in what manner they will happen. For a while it looked as if all the stacking conversational options during the first game would naturally give rise to emergence in the sequels as the intersecting choices branched out into more and more possible game states, but that was too much work for the studio so they clipped those spreading trees right back by hitting the reset button at the start of each sequel and, notoriously, at the end of the third game as well, so your choices change nothing. The endgame of Mass Effect 3 was the very antithesis of emergent gameplay.

      3. Merlin says:

        I utterly hated how fighting in the Mako gave you less XP than on foot.

        This is a fantastic lesson for aspiring designers or GMs. If you’re applying arbitrary penalties like this to your players for approaching danger intelligently, you aren’t “balancing” anything, you’re just being dumb. Cut it out.

      4. Taellosse says:

        Yeah, but killing in the Mako is MUCH easier than with any of your other weapons – you can target enemies from vastly farther away, you’re massively more resistant to damage, and the main cannon does a huge amount more damage. If you didn’t earn less XP for using it, it’d make all the parts of the game where you can use it too easy – as it is, since XP is awarded based on the weapon that kills a given enemy, rather than what did most of the damage, it still does that.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          Well, unless you’re an Infiltrator and drive the Mako to the top of the ridge overlooking the next mission area, then get out. Then you can snipe any geth guards–even if they’re Armatures–to death at your leisure without drawing aggro or enemy fire. It will take a long time, but it can be done.

          1. swenson says:

            Honestly, you can do it with any class if you’re patient enough. Although I’ve learned to turn off my squaddies (or at least switch them to slower-firing sniper rifles) because them firing near you can actually throw off your aim.

            Armatures are easy enough if there’s only one of them, though, because they’re small enough that you can just park the Mako on top of them and shoot them at their leisure–when they try to get back up again, they’ll just fall down again uselessly. You can sometimes do it with Colossi too, but they’re harder, most of the time they just shove the Mako off and stand up.

            Then again, the game doesn’t actually care how much damage you do on foot vs. the Mako, it just cares how you kill enemies, so you can always shoot Colossi with the Mako down to a sliver of health, then finish them off on foot with a couple of shots.

            I am nothing if not an expert at Mass Effect loopholes.

        2. wswordsmen says:

          Not true in the slightest. On my veteran play though I constantly got out of the Mako to attack things on foot because after level 50 or so you are more powerful than the Mako. The only thing it has on you is that it moves faster and can take more damage (at the price of taking forever and a day to repair).

          And I was playing and Adapt (pure biotic).

          1. Taellosse says:

            “Not true in the slightest.”

            I like how you say this for dramatic effect, then describe the edge case of playing on NG+ with a character over level 50.

        3. Daniel Corey says:

          Still a bad design choice. Mostly as it promotes behavior that is not fun, intuitive, or meaningful. See, better choices would have been more like basing the experience on if they were part of the Mako section, rather than the work around where killing them with the mako rewarding less experience.

          That way, you don’t have the player getting out to finish off targets, or worry about the player penalizing themselves by clever play involving killing non-intended targets with the mako.

        4. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But thats like saying that your unleveled weapons should grant you less xp because they are harder to use.If you think fights in a mako are too easy for the player,balance them in other ways.Which they actually do,by pitting mako against thresher maws and big geth platforms.

        5. ehlijen says:

          If the Mako makes things too easy…why did the designers give it guns? If the player isn’t meant to use it, don’t give it to the player. If the player is meant to use it, don’t penalise them/reward them less for doing so.

          But giving them the obvious solution on a platter but then secretly cutting their XP rewards down for actually using it is just poor form (the game doesn’t advertise that using the Mako guns lower your XP).

  6. Orillion says:

    Personally I loved the Mako and hated the Hammerhead. What I didn’t like as much were the procedurally generated planet terrains. I feel like the level designers could have given most of those a once-over to cull some of the ridiculous jaggedness, or decrease the overall size (the playable area /was/ unnecessarily big) and increase the resolution to smooth out some of the edges. Similarly, they could have chosen kinder starting positions for the player. I get that they want you to have to drive for a bit, but if you’re using a map to hit locations on the planet one by one, you can spend upwards of a half hour just driving on some of those planets due to the sheer vertical cliffs between where you start and where you need to go.
    The Hammerhead, on the other hand, was made of glass and the sections that used it didn’t even feel like exploration so much as busywork.

    1. Neko says:

      I liked the Mako too. But there could have been a few more things to do on the various planets you explore. I mean, I get that most of them should be barren with perhaps some mineral deposits or archaeological finds, but it would have been nice to find a few little outposts down there, people you could talk to, that kind of thing.

      What was that one set-piece Mako section? With all the lush vegetation and water? I really liked driving around there and wished some of the other planets could be similar.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        It was the Krigan clonning planet secret base. Virmire?

      2. Christopher says:

        I liked driving around Virmire on the Mako, too. Maybe I would have felt different if the regular shooting was better, but I felt more comfortable driving into enemies and shooting at them from the Mako than on foot. Liked Ilos too. That final drive was real urgent.

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          Ooooh I hated that last run for the beacon, where you are limited by the time and you essentially need to run a gaunglet of enemies and hope some of them miss so you can hit the beacon before you die. That was the part that gave me most trouble in the entire game I think.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Really?I thought that part was designed to let you beeline without being hit much because it never troubled me,no matter the difficulty.

            1. 4th Dimension says:

              Maybe I was trying to hard with swerving and stuff, thus enemy kept shooting me full of holes, but I clearly remember dieing a LOT untill I finally managed to clear that section on n-th time.
              Also I’m bad at aiming and I remember that I could tehnically kill one of the armatures as I was running towards them, but I wasn’t precise enough to even acomplish it.

              1. Christopher says:

                Guess it all depends on how well you’re doing. I also just drove pretty much straight at it and did it in one, so for me it was an exciting final mako section and not a tough, frustrating part.

                1. venatus says:

                  yeah me to. just floored it and went in a straight line. I think I took some damage but once you make it to the conduit it doesn’t really matter.

      3. Taellosse says:

        That was Virmire. Most of the plot-centric worlds had better Mako sections than the uncharted worlds did, though – at least they looked more interesting. Although every one of them had much more linear maps – essentially disguised corridors with little branching, while the uncharted worlds were nominally more open-ended.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I like how big the empty worlds are.But yes,the ridiculousness of the cliffs shouldve been tweaked.And the mako itself couldve used some work.But its still a great atmospheric tool(pun intended).

      The hammerhead….at least it was a replacement of sorts,unlike probing,so theres that.And it really was a tissue thin vehicle,especially on the highest difficulty.That,coupled with the fact that you could only do two things with it(shoot and jump),instead of getting out and using your powers like with the mako,made the whole experiment worse.

    3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I mostly agree with this.

      I liked the Mako. Driving around on the planets reminded me of the best parts of, say, Star Wars: Galaxies. There’s something enjoyable about trying to climb a mountain just to see the view, and trying to find a method to scale the cliffs with the Mako was a big part of that fun.

      On the other hand, you often had to drive to all four corners of the map to get everything on the planet, and sometimes it wasn’t anything you cared about (ie, not one of the collectables).

      This was something I liked the sensor probes for. I think a good compromise would have been “for the collectibles, you can find them with sensors, or you can go down to look personally. For quests, there is one place you have to go in person.” Since most planetary drops had a mission, you would still need to drop on the planet, but you could just go do the mission and return, without all the faffing about and pathfinding.

      Also, while on the subject of collectibles -while I liked the collectibles, and I thought it was cute how they brought a whole bunch of them together for the Conrad quest in the third game, Elkoss Combine being the key ingredient really ticks me off. Elkoss Combine was cheap equipment, and most of my playthroughs, by the time I was buying licenses, I could afford better gear. Only my completion playthroughs have EC. I still can’t decide if BioWare made it EC to spite players like me, or if it was because they thought “oh, it’s cheap and early -everyone will have it!”

    4. Taellosse says:

      Yeah, the Mako itself needed some minor tweaking – slightly better handling, a bit less bounce, that sort of thing – but it was the uncharted worlds themselves that were the most frustrating, and I agree they needed to adjust them, not get rid of them.

      And definitely, the Hammerhead was not a satisfying replacement at all. If it had been a little bit more durable, and was used in a manner more similar to the Mako, I think it could’ve worked, though.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Not only is liara important to the story,but she is also the one companion you can achieve the most with throughout the series.The friendship you can establish with her gives you far more interactions than any other,and the romance with her ends up being something way more than just awkward sex followed by token dialogue.And yet,you can completely skip all of that from the very start.Weeeiiiiird.

    You know,people often say “Oh bioware is crappy,cd projekt give you way more options”,but you have to look at just this one character to realize that its not true.Yes,witcher is better written,but mass effect gives you more non-linearity.Of course,Im always for quality over quantity,but still this deserves at least a mention.

  8. 4th Dimension says:

    First time I tried playing Mass Effect I went to Neia first and messed up quite a fiew dialogue choices. I think that playthrough got abandoned, in favour of the second one which used a guide to tell me the prefered planet order. I learned from other BIOWARE games that ussually there is a prefered order in which the location need to be acomplished.

    Mako was another thing I learned was hated besides elevators. For me Mako was interesting. It was a bit clunky but I liked that you got those jets with which you could fly, which showed an interesting but logicall development of APC (Mako is not a tank but an APC) tech married with Mass Effect fields.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Class f lens flare” made me do a spit take.Damn it Shamoose,stop posting these when Im eating!

    1. Kian says:

      Had to go back and check the alt text for the last two chapters of this. Forgot Shamus does that.

  10. wswordsmen says:

    The Mako was very poorly used for story missions. I hated Mako sections on Feros, Therum, Novaria and Virmire. Ilos actually worked IMO for the same reasons that the other didn’t, because the tension was so high you had to rush, where you were going was right in the enemy path because you were following them.

    Where the Mako really was a blast was killing Thresher Maws on open terrain. My favorite part of the game is the first mission Rear Admiral Kohoku sends you to check on a team of his that hadn’t reported in. You land in a valley/canyon thing (which you can escape from) not far away from the team’s last known location. You drive up to it and are ambushed by the Thresher.

    Keep in mind you get this quest before you become a Specter so this might be the first time you see one since it has a good chance of being the first thing you do.

    So you are fighting this thing that can 2 shot you in a wide open area with plenty of room to maneuver (which you need), while, probably, still getting used to the controls, against an enemy that can show up anywhere (including right underneath you which is BS). It was one of the biggest rushes I ever had playing a video game and still is.

    When you finally kill it you find an Alliance distress signal was placed there so Kohoku’s team landed right on top of the Thresher Maw. You head back to Kohoku and tell him, which hits a flag so he will contact you later with the name of the organization responsible, Cerberus.

    IMO the mission is the best part of the game and it seems like no one talks about it at all. Everyone says the side quests are all the same but that one has always felt very different to me.

    In conclusion, the Mako is awesome.

    1. Christopher says:

      Maybe people just missed it. I know I did. Never found it, just those three copypasted caves/storage rooms. So I had no idea who Cerberus were supposed to be.

      1. wswordsmen says:

        There wasn’t any inside to the mission, it takes place totally outside (one reason it feels different than the others).

        1. Christopher says:

          I meant, I never got that fun tresher maw missions, I got all those others with those rooms.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Probably no one mentions it because “Cerberus.”

      I liked this mission, too. After I started getting good at the game, we’d lure the thresher maw out and take turns plugging it with sniper rifles. Good times. (At range, it’s acid attack moves slow enough you can dodge it.)

      I missed it the first couple of playthroughs, though, because Kohoku is kind of over in a corner. I think I finally found him because someone else pointed me to him -though I can’t remember who it was.

      I think this aspect of the Mako is one of the reasons the game hints you should go to Therum first -it’s a relatively easy breaking in on the Mako controls, which you haven’t used previously.

    3. Taellosse says:

      The primary Cerberus side-quest line is one of the better crafted side missions in the original game, I’ll certainly agree to that, even if the rest of it does mostly take place in pretty generic places against enemies you fight plenty of elsewhere, it had more of a real plot than a lot of the others, which tended to boil down to fetch quests.

      1. wswordsmen says:

        Everyone has brown-tinted glasses about Cerberus because of ME 2&3 but they were an awesome world building villain in ME1.

        1. swenson says:

          I very much liked how they weren’t a part of the main story, they were just kind of there off to the side, fleshing out the world a bit more. Like that crime boss lady who tried to get you to bump off her competitors, hunting down Dr. “Heart” with Garrus, that one planet where you have to help defend against waves of rachni… little stuff that had nothing to do with the “real” story of the Reapers, but made the world feel big. You had your huge important quest–but all around you, other people were just living their lives, dealing with their own problems, doing their own thing.

          Some parts of ME2 were OK with this, and I guess I can forgive ME3 for being so focused on the Reapers because who wouldn’t be at that point, but I really love that part of ME1.

          Anyway, the point is that it was kinda disappointing to take something that had been a cool side story in ME1 and turn it into THE WHOLE POINT of ME2 and ME3. I think it’d have been neat if Cerberus had permanently been that annoying, elusive group off to the side that you kept running into.

          1. Mike S. says:

            In ME3, Cerberus also could have been like Balak, or the Mafia in World War II: SOBs but people with whom you can find common interests when the alternative is genocidal monsters. (If they want to drop on a Reaper world with a hold full of, e.g., Thorian creepers and see how it works out, no reason to stop them.)

          2. SlothfulCobra says:

            It all goes down to the fact that either ME2 was done by a different creative team who the last creative didn’t leave any notes for, or the people who wrote ME1 had no idea for what should happen next now that the Reapers were thwarted.

            They had to browse through all the loose plot threads from ME1 anyways to write bits and pieces to reference what the player did last game (the background newsfeeds must seem so empty to people who didn’t play the first game), they just chose one of them to be Shepard’s new boss after the council forsakes him.

        2. Taellosse says:

          Agreed. It’s part of why ME2 was so frustrating to me – I felt like it over-inflated Cerberus’ importance (much like we do with terrorist organizations in real life…hey, woah, cutting commentary, Bioware!) by turning them into the central plot point (which required breaking them narratively in the process – now they’re somehow possessed of infinite funds and intelligence, can perform technological miracles beyond the reach of galactic governments, and are also the only group in the galaxy that isn’t run by morons. Meanwhile, they have to spend all their time explaining away their endless stupidity from the last game, plus all the new stupidities introduced in the current game), and railroading us into playing a Shepard that works for them, even though easily 2/3 of the Shepard’s people had played in the first game wouldn’t do that for any reason.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah,I liked cerberus in me1,it was great.But you know what,you could still have that cerberus in me2 and have everyone still work for them with just some minor tweaking:Instead of tim directly talking to shepard revealing to her who he is and all his plans,they shouldve had miranda be the one who interacts with you and only about half way through the game you find out that she was working for cerberus,yet have it be too late to just switch sides(urgency of the threat,council still being too stubborn to help,etc).

            Of course,that would solve only a fraction of the problem,because practically everyone else was just as ruined in that game.

            1. Mike S. says:

              My pet fix for ME2 is to reverse Cerberus and the geth. The geth put Shepard back together and set him to doing the investigation among organics they they can’t. They could easily have information about Reaper backup plans that are plausibly compelling enough to get Shepard to work for them. It’s likewise plausible that no one in Citadel space quite trusts Shepard once she’s full up with support systems of unknown functionality from the killbots who just invaded the Citadel, and that there’s an emergency imminent enough that Shepard can’t just turn herself in.)

              Cerberus is represented by a late-game companion who tries to persuade Shepard of its hidden depths and all that stuff in the first game was heretics^Wa rogue cell, which Shepard can either buy or not and act accordingly.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Uuuu,that would mean you would get legion first.Nice,I like it.

            2. Taellosse says:

              Unless she spends half the game lying to you about what organization she’s working for, it retains the same problem – there’s basically no Paragon Shepard (and several versions of Renegade Shepard) that would willingly throw in with Cerberus after their showing in ME1 (even assuming your particular Shepard doesn’t have the Sole Survivor background, which a fair number of people did). And it’d take some pretty hard-to-maintain gyrations to maintain a lie like that in front of Shepard once s/he is out and about again – because it’s only association with Cerberus that explains why the Alliance and Council don’t immediately take Shepard back on board when s/he turns up again, and if their involvement is obfuscated for Shepard, it either gets revealed immediately by those parties once s/he contacts them again, or they are also in the dark about who brought Shepard back, and so wouldn’t be so reluctant to take such a major hero back into their fold.

              TIM is annoying as a character (though honestly I minded him, personally, a lot less in 2 than 3), but he’s not the core problem with the plot of ME2 – the organization he runs being Shepard’s employer is. Who the point of contact for Cerberus is doesn’t really matter that much.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Her lying to you for half the game is basically what I was saying.She could just tell you “Im a genetically engineered billionaire with my own empire,and I am the only one who noticed this threat,because I am so smart”.The alliance taking you back wouldnt be an issue,because they would still refuse to allocate resources to the collector threat.

                1. Taellosse says:

                  I’ve certainly heard worse ideas. And handled well, it’d have the advantage of having a big reveal scene later in the game, where Shepard discovers s/he’s been working for Cerberus this whole time, and gives the player the option to freak out or shrug – then conclude they’re in too deep now to be able to back out. At least that way the railroading wouldn’t feel quite so forced.

          2. SlothfulCobra says:

            I don’t know, they’re still pretty unimportant so far as the greater politics of the galaxy go, it just so happens they’re the only ones crazy enough to bring someone back from the dead and go through a mass relay to certain death.

            Bringing you back from the dead is a crazy reach, but then again, you probably pick up a few things when you’re an organization full of evil scientists. I wouldn’t be that surprised if most of Shepard’s organs were replaced with ones that were unscrupulously acquired from unwilling donors.

            The way in which the Illusive Man and Miranda claim that everything is a rogue cell rings pretty untrue as well. It may have just been a combination of reflexively lying to Shepard and maintaining enough separation from their cells to provide plausible deniability.

            The budget though is just straight up ridiculous.

            1. Mike S. says:

              The rogue cells story is somewhat reinforced by the fact that pretty much every Cerberus op in three games winds up going out of control and mostly killing Cerberus personnel. Including, of course, EDI and Shepard.

              (After repeatedly making that observation, it pleased me to no end to have Joker point it out explicitly in the Citadel DLC.)

            2. Taellosse says:

              It’s made pretty clear in ME2 that the project to resurrect Shepard costs a stupidly-huge amount of money, and that the project to rebuild and refit the Normandy is almost as costly (the two projects combined supposedly almost bankrupted Cerberus’ near-infinite secret funding sources. Which is then ignored in ME3 when Cerberus is apparently capable of building multiple secret facilities dedicated to manufacturing a huge private army and fielding them across the galaxy with extremely high-end tech).

          3. Mike S. says:

            I did enjoy having my Akuze-survivor Shepard arrange matters so that no one who’d voluntarily signed up with Cerberus survived the suicide mission. (Sorry, Karen, but what were you thinking?) Except for Joker, who’s alas harder to kill than Shepard.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              His voice gives him immortality.

    4. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I hated Mako with a passion though in large it was my own fault as I would spend minutes trying to negotiate some approach that I wasn’t really supposed to take. Also it was not until the very final Mako drive that I discovered that while the bounciness was a feature the “handles like underwater” thing wasn’t. To elaborate: so you remember by the very end of the game there is that drive to the relay that is timed? Some players found it impossible (or very near so) without a few tricks because apparently Mako sections are kinda resource intense compared to a lot of the other stuff (and ME was a cutting edge game at the time of it’s release) and that timer? It is tied to your system clock. So if you experienced some framerate drop or other slowdown the clock kept ticking at its own pace… I was one of those players. I tried many times and eventually I googled for help which resulted in “wait… so it’s not supposed to handle like that?!”

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The mako is highlighting the biggest problem of this whole series.Lets look at the transition from me2 to me3*:When something didnt work quite well(for example people standing around the ship doing nothing,or you weapons loadout),they tweaked it in order to improve it.This is what you should do with a sequel:Tweak the stuff thats bad,and keep the good intact unless you can improve it.And you can do this because youve been working on that thing for a long time now,so you know it inside out and you know how certain changes will impact it.

    Now lets look at the transition from me1 to me2:When something didnt work(like the mako),they completely removed it and added in something radically different to fill in the void.This is a very risky thing to do,because if you get lucky,you get something that would be somewhat better,but still lacking a lot(like the combat),or if you are unlucky you get something worse(like the probing).This is not how you do a sequel.

    *Note Im ignoring the general buginess of the third game here because thats not the issue here.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Damn you Shamoose!I am barely making my will saving throws vs playing mass effect again!And Im right in the middle of a long play through the witcher 3,so I dont have time to do this thing(because I know that once I start it,I will definitely play it 3 times in order to go through all the difficulties once again).Stop tempting me!

  13. SpiritBearr says:

    My cousin started playing through the game (my copy) around when you announced this series. He played an infiltrator and then he went for Therum first. When I asked about if it was hard (either the krogan or the walker you fight on foot) he said it was easy.

  14. Aaron Nowack says:

    Did people understand Liara was going to join the team, and did they make a beeline for Therum to get her?

    Anecdotally, I certainly did, and my first attempt at playing through Mass Effect died shortly thereafter because a) Therum was dull and had one particular fight that gave me endless trouble – I don’t think the Krogan you mention, but I remember it as being a really tough battle against Geth right after an arbitrary narrow pass made you get out of the Mako, and b) after doing it I went on an ill-advised attempt to burn through the often staggeringly dull sidequests. That combined convinced me that the rest of the game was going to be a long, boring grind.

    All the other main story quests are so much better than Therum that it is really curious that it exists in the form it does.

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      As I recall, the third main quest world was supposed to be the planet Caleston, a much larger area equivocal to Feros and Noveria, but it was cut for time. They took all the Caleston assets they had already completed, scraped them together and redressed them in order to create Therum. Caleston was supposed to have a large underground mining town/complex with lots of NPCs and minor quests and the like, so Theurm ended up as a smaller mining complex with no one in sight other than enemies.

      1. Tom says:

        Gosh, it would be so nice if, when an upstart new game becomes an unexpected smash hit and spawns colossal sequels, they went back and salvaged some of the stuff they originally scrapped for budget and time constraints.

      2. Mike S. says:

        The Caleston hub space was eventually recycled as the scene of the climactic fight in the Bring Down the Sky DLC. (Which meant that for once we weren’t fighting in one of the same handful of prefabs.)

        1. Cinebeast says:

          Yes, I was waiting for someone to bring this up. It’s a decent little DLC quest, but it would have been even better if it served as the build-up to freeing Liara.

    2. Dt3r says:

      I didn’t catch that line, so I ended up doing Therum last. Oops.

    3. Mortuorum says:

      Therum seemed like a natural first stop, so on my first play-through (and every subsequent play-through), I went there first. My first Shepard was an Infiltrator (it sounded cool, right?) and I remember the krogan battle being an awful, frustrating experience. Every fight up to that point is comparatively easy. I must have had to watch that same damned unskippable cut scene over a half-dozen times before I finally beat that krogan and his allies!

      It still didn’t fill me with the same white-hot rage that Kai Leng did on the Thessia mission in ME3, but that’s a whole other rant.

  15. INH5 says:

    I have to say that I’m not a big fan of either the Mako or the Hammerhead. I get what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. When you were only driving around the story maps, it was fine (especially on Feros, where the skybridges were a pretty unique environment), but once combat started it quickly became tedious and frustrating. Meanwhile, the procedurally generated terrain in the side missions is so poorly done that just driving around is tedious and frustrating.

    Andromeda is bringing the Mako back in a game engine that was specifically designed for large, open environments with driveable vehicles, so maybe they’ll get it right this time.

    With regards to visual continuity: the walk out from the Citadel to the Normandy was pretty cool the first time I did it. After that it just became tedious. One of the things that Fallout 3 and New Vegas did right was requiring you to walk to any given location first, but then letting you fast travel to any place you’ve been to before.


    Shamus, will this retrospective cover the Citadel DLC? I ask not just because it is my favorite thing to come out of the series, but because you’re writing a lot about tone and feel and I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on something that deliberately takes on a very different tone from the game that it adds on to.

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      Citadel DLC went and showed how Mass Effect 3 would look if it didn’t insist on taking itself so guddam seriously all the time, and was probably much better for it.

    2. Shamus says:

      Sadly, that DLC isn’t for sale for money. You need to buy BioWare points and then use the BioWare points to trade with natives for beads and seashells, which can be exchanged for the required denarius according to the writings on the stone tablet. My Aramaic is too rusty to sort out the details. Also I have better things to do than reward EA for being massive idiots and running a hilariously shitty store.

      So… no DLC. :(

      1. INH5 says:

        That’s a shame.

        Still, I would recommend checking out an LP on Youtube at some point if you have time. The writing is actually pretty enjoyable. It’s like someone at Bioware read a decent parody fanfic and decided to turn it into an actual game.

        1. Mortuorum says:

          Citadel was nothing but fan service. I, of course, loved every minute of it.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            It relies heavily on you liking the characters though. There’s a level of presumption on that point that will be annoying to people who aren’t hard core fans of the entire series. A fair amount of backpatting in it too.

            Then again, I think they presumed correctly given that their audience is people willing to pay money for a DLC that’s mostly about hanging out with the squadmates*.

            I really liked Joker’s story about him vs Cerberus. But a lot of the humor felt cheesy to me and fell flat.

            *But what an accomplishment. As MrBTongue points out, they really achieved something special when you’re willing to read about the minutiae of your squadmates in the Shadow Broker DLC. And I think the same applies here. I’ll bet most of you can’t name more than 3 or 4 games where you’d be willing to pay for DLC thats mostly hanging out with squaddies. As much as I love Fallout New Vegas, I’d be really leery about a DLC for that game with that premise.

      2. Sorites says:


        Citadel, for me, was some of the best Mass Effect in the whole trilogy. It’s beaten only by Legion’s loyalty mission, which presented the only difficult moral choice in the story, and maybe gets tied by Mordin Solus’s character progression.

        If you’re adamantly against playing it, at least watch a playthrough on YouTube. It’s characterful and fantastic. A lot of fans think of it as the authors making a (successful!) saving throw vs emotionally unsatisfying ending.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        You should go to a torrent site and download that dlc.Then write a letter of apology for this addressed to ea and put it in an envelope together with the money for the dlc.Then put that letter into a glass bottle and toss it in the river.So you get to play their dlc,and they get to enjoy your money(eventually).Everyone will be happy.

      4. Slothfulcobra says:

        …and then the pirates just download it. I know people who downloaded all of Mass Effect’s DLC just because it’s so complicated to get. I know that I had a devil of a time getting the Cerberus Network to work, even though that content was supposed to be free to people who bought the game new like I did.

        Stop making it so complicated to give money to you, EA.

        1. Raygereio says:

          There wasn’t anything complicated about it though? The free DLC in particular: You just went to Bioware’s site (the URL of which was on the code-card that came with the game, put in the code and you could download the DLC.
          As for the DLC you that needed to buy with gooblidogook points: There was a completely unnecessary extra step involved certainly (in that you had buy points, and then buy the DLC with said points), but all that basically meant was that you had to go through two stores. It wasn’t exactly rocket science.

          Also I’m pretty sure I’ve brought this up before, but the whole Bioware Points thing was – as the name might suggest – Bioware’s own horrible creation. EA had nothing to do with. What is a bad move from EA is not putting the individual DLCs for Bioware’s pre-Origin games up on Origin.
          I do recal there being some trouble back when ME2 and DA2 launched with people not being able to use their codes to get the free DLC because the codes had already been used. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Bioware or EA if some clown at a brick & mortal store opens up a whole bunch of boxes and copies the codes to sell on ebay to the used-games crowd.

          That said: These days it is bit annoying to get the DLC for Bioware’s pre-Origin games as you need to go to what are basically defunct websites.

          @Shamus: I recall sending you an email with the URLs where you could buy the DLC when you brought it up on Twitter a while ago. I get if you simple don’t want to buy the DLC, but it’s not complex.

          1. Kian says:

            It’s not that it’s complicated. It’s that it is an unnecessary extra step. Also, they cheat because they sell points in fixed amounts. So you could buy $5 worth of points for something that only costs $3, leaving you with extra points you can’t spend until the next time you want to buy something.

            Why create the system in the first place? I can only imagine they needed to bypass some law or terms of service somewhere.

            1. Raygereio says:

              Also, they cheat because they sell points in fixed amounts. So you could buy $5 worth of points for something that only costs $3, leaving you with extra points you can't spend until the next time you want to buy something.

              Back when Bioware supported the Social Network you actually used to be able to buy the correct ammount of points. So if a DLC cost 160, you could purchase 160 points.
              The stupid thing was that for some mind-boggling reason Bioware made multiple store pages. One for DA:O, one for ME2 and one for DA2. And only the DA:O store had all the point amount choices. After Bioware abandoned the Social Network the DA:O store page was lost and now the lowest amount of point you can buy is 400.
              That said: Only the shitty itempack DLCs cost 320 and 160. So nothing of value will be lost by ignoring them.

              Why create the system in the first place?

              The intend with systems like this is to obfuscate how much money you’re going to spend. A similar tactic you will often see in stores is pricing something at 9,99 instead of 10,-.

              1. Tom says:

                Actually, that pricing tactic isn’t always used for that (although it frequently is, as if anybody would be stupid enough to fall for it. Anybody dumb enough to think a car labelled £9,995 car is significantly cheaper than £10,000 shouldn’t be trusted to operate one.) – sometimes, stores knock a penny or two off an item just as a way of storing extra information on the label (e.g., all the items ending in .98 are on such and such a promotion this week…). It’s an ingeniously ridiculous way to make up for the fact that your store’s label machine can only handle one data field, the numerical price.

          2. Shamus says:

            It’s not the complexity, it’s the hassle. The website will need me to re-enter all my info again, including payment info, and then I’ll have to do the math to figure out how many points I need to buy the DLCs I want, and then buy points, and then use the points to buy the DLC, and then hope the connection between these two unrelated systems works right so Origin downloads and activates the DLC.

            Sure, it’s “not hard” to shop at a store that has their parking lot half a mile from the front door, but I’m still not in any hurry to shop there. Particularly since when I’m done I’ll have (say) four and a half dollars of BioWare points left over that I’ll never be able to spend.

            1. Raygereio says:

              I fully agree that the system was shitty.
              But I think we’re just going to have to disagree how much of a hassle it really is.

            2. SlothfulCobra says:

              Windows has a similar point system, which led to these weird people who sell points at prices that don’t really line up to the ones that windows offers.

              It’s probably somehow illicit in nature, but from an outsider’s perspective it seems almost charming that there are people in the back alleys of the internet whispering, “Hey kid, wanna buy some points?

            3. Taellosse says:

              For what it’s worth, I believe you can buy point-packs pegged to the cost of the DLCs from Amazon (for some weird reason), even though they’re odd amounts.


              So, to at least remove the risk of ending up with a random surplus of points, just buy the point sets from Amazon labeled by the DLCs you want (you don’t actually HAVE to get those specific ones, since you’re really just buying “Bioware points” but it simplifies the need for math that way). If I recall, it gives you some of those tediously long code strings, like the ones you used to have to use to register a game to verify it was genuine during install, and you put those in on the Bioware site. Then you can use them to buy the DLCs you want.

              I don’t know if the process has changed at all since Bioware launched their new websites, but this is how I got my DLCs for ME2 and 3 on PC 18 months ago (I played the series on 360, but I was given the collected edition on PC as a Christmas gift a couple years back. The irritation of most of the DLCs from the latter two games not being included on that set is another discussion).

              I concur it’s a shitty system, and I can understand if you’re annoyed enough not to want to give them money to support it, but I thought I’d share a way to reduce the irritation a bit. Personally I’d like to hear what you have to say about some of the more substantive DLCs, such as Arrival and Citadel.

          3. SlothfulCobra says:

            It’s been a while, and I can’t really speak to the experience that other people had, but I remember that there was some kind of deadline that you had to use the code by, otherwise it would go dead and you wouldn’t get access to the content at all, which is in itself very alarming, especially if you take a look at the Cerberus Network card at first and decide, “I’ll deal with this later and start playing the game now.”

            Then you have to go to EA’s website and do the whole thing where you register the game and enter a long and annoying string of characters as your code so they’ll unlock the DLC for you.

            Then you have to do that at least two or three more times because it somehow didn’t work. Maybe the code was wrong, maybe the website is a piece of garbage and messed it up, I didn’t even know about stores messing with it, although that wasn’t an issue in my case since I got it off of amazon

            Then MAYBE all of that will have coalesced right so you can play the game. I will admit it’s a better treatment than what GFWL gave me when I bought the Harley DLC for Arkham City, where the main solution was “wait until GFWL dies so that whatever bug in it that stops it from acknowledging the DLC I bought on steam is no longer an issue.”

            1. Raygereio says:

              There was no deadline. The codes are still valid today.

              1. SlothfulCobra says:

                I dug up my copy of ME2, and the Cerberus Network card says that it expires in 2012. I don’t know what else to say.

        2. Blake says:

          Yeah that Cerberus Network effectively locked me out of the game when I first tried playing it (on a Win8 machine). Gave me about a 50% crash rate at the main menu, and I think wouldn’t let me play the game if it otherwise couldn’t connect.
          I think the answer to getting the game running was something like enabling some old .NET 3 HTTP features or something that weren’t enabled on Win8 by default.

          I was unhappy with their ‘feature’ and proceeded to buy $0 worth of ME2 DLC.

        3. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Argh, the Cerberus Network. I had to log into that every time I played ME2. No stored credential or anything.

      5. Zekiel says:

        I had three problems with the DLC (the first two of which are also why I never bought Lair of the Shadow Broker for ME2, which is apparently awesome):

        1) the stupidity of the buying system, which I’m loathe to reward
        2) the fact that – unlike the original games – its never on sale (as far as I can determine), and I’m loathe to spend as much on a 2-hour DLC as I did on a 40-hour game
        3) That by the time the Citadel DLC game out, I’d played ME3 through twice – in spite of not buying it at launch – and never felt the need to replay again, or to load up one of my old characters

        So in spite of there being some apparently fantastic DLC that Bioware presumably put a lot of effort into, which I’d probably have really enjoyed, I never felt motivated to buy it. Presumably there’s a lesson in there somewhere for marketers.

  16. Christopher says:

    Did people understand Liara was going to join the team, and did they make a beeline for Therum to get her?

    If this is a show of hands again, then yes, I did and I did. Might have absorbed the knowledge about her through osmosis, though. I didn’t play Mass Effect at launch.

    I ended up romancing Liara, but it was a decision made with the process of elimination. Like Shamus says, she’s the one who’s important to the story. One of the villains’ main lieutenants is related to her, she knows about the Protheans and she has cutscenes after missions looking at your hallucinations. Mass Effect 1 is not a game in which your party members have a lot of relationships to each other, a lot of companionship, a lot of cutscene presence. It’s not like, say, Tales of Vesperia or Persona 4, super long games in which you’re playing around with a group of friends that show up for pretty much every scene. It’s a (by rpg standards) short game in which your companions largely only talk to you, and split up when you vanish during the second installment instead of staying together. Liara was the only one approaching a friendship, so even if she’s sort of boring and I think her jumpsuit looks weird, it’s the one standout party member to me from ME1.

  17. Corpital says:

    In my first playthrough, I went for Therum last. Didn’t quite make the connection between this asari archeologist and the asari-shaped missing crewmember and…well, the other two planets sounded more interesting to me with giant abandoned cities and these super secret(ive) research facilities.

    After finishing them and most of the available side planets, I got more and more confused about the last squaddy still missing. Massive facepalm followed after Therum and every playthrough after that, I went with it first. Love me some Biotics.

    1. Somniorum says:

      I ended up the same – I went to Therum last, not realising that my last squadmate would be there.

      What’s worse is, I went and did the other main-story planets, AND explored every other freaking planet in the galaxy that was open from the start before I finally got Liara. I was pretty annoyed that I’d basically gone far past half way through the game without having my final teammate. … that, and because those optional planets are just so god-awfully boring, I just wanted to die by the time I was done with them.

      It took me quite some time before I actually started having *fun* in Mass Effect. I also wasn’t thrilled about the Citadel, either, as it was a big, relatively clean hub, and I’ve never really liked big, large hubs as I know I’ll be bogged down in them for an inordinate amount of time (because I get obsessive about doing everything in one place before continuing on). It’s this reason why I can never work up the heart to play Morrowind again – I know that, eventually, I’ll come across Vivec (city) and be stuck there for weeks.

      … but eventually things turned around. When I finally got around to the non-Citadel, non-non-optional planets I found myself liking things.

  18. Corpital says:

    Also, SGDQ just started, don’t miss it. Here’s the schedule

    1. Blake says:

      SGDQ has nothing to do with this post, but it is cool :P
      AGDQ at the start of this year was the first time I actually bothered to watch some speed runs and thoroughly enjoyed it.

      Last week I looked up more of them for the first time in nearly 6 months and found SGDQ was both a thing and a very imminent thing.
      I then went and watched a 3 hour any% tool assisted run of Majora’s Mask where the player was only allowed to pause twice throughout the whole thing, which meant only changing item sets that many times.
      Was very cool (link here for those interested: )

  19. Rich says:

    “I bet this sort of stuff will look as hilarious to the people of 2040 as the miniskirts of original Trek look to us today.”

    Speak for yourself, kid.

  20. Slothfulcobra says:

    The Hammerhead was on a technical level more “fun” than the Mako, but most of that was because the Hammerhead’s levels were actually crafted so that there could be some real gameplay, even if it was just subpar platforming. The Mako’s biggest problem was always that it didn’t fit into the rest of the world that well. Bumpmap planets aren’t particularly fun to explore, and the ludicrous terrain necessitated the Mako’s weird marshmallow moon physics in order to still be able to get around. Add to that the fact that there’s not really going to be any checkpoints, which makes any sort of difficulty in combat so much more frustrating.

    Personally, I only started really growing fond of the Mako once I learned that you could wrestle enemies with it rather than eternally circle strafing.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I never really enjoyed the Hammerhead. I didn’t download it on my first playthrough, and it was one of the things I was looking forward to on my second, and I was seriously disappointed. You’re ALWAYS fighting Geth for some reason, the missions never felt like they had any character to them, and platforming in a vehicle is stupid. Also (and related to that last point) the Hammerhead never felt as vehicle-y as the Mako. Frustrating as it was sometimes, the limitations of the Mako made it feel more like it was a real vehicle.

    2. swenson says:

      Yeah, the only feature of the Mako that I truly love is that when you got her pointed in the right direction and not bouncing off terrain, man, was it ever fun to run down geth. Especially the armatures. An armature collapsing and falling over, it’s kind of like watching a small puppy trip over grass, it’s pathetic and hilarious all at once.

      Anyway, personally I just felt the Hammerhead was inoffensive, and maybe that makes it worse than the Mako. At least I have strong feelings on the Mako. The Hamerhead, I guess I was never bored or actively disliking it, and it had some nifty locations, but… I forget it even existed, until I’m reminded of it.

  21. RCN says:

    I’m also on the “like the Mako” camp like many here seem to. And your analogy was too kind. It wasn’t just killing the patient to cure the disease. It was nuking a mosque on the center of New York to avoid terrorism. It was definitely a feature and all it really needed was a bit more polish and tweaking.

    Things like giving making the designers give a pass on the procedurally generated terrain to avoid logic failures (like you demonstrated a LONG time ago on a program that generated roads) and improving the air control of the damn thing (so that it doesn’t push you AWAY from your goal half the time, the idea of limited aerial control is great, it just needs to actually FEEL like control).

    1. Blake says:

      All this.

      The biggest problem with the mako was the super spiky hills it was made to drive over.
      If the terrain wasn’t so annoying (or had actual paths to drive up at times) then there wouldn’t really have been a problem.

      1. guy says:

        I actually found I could usually take almost a straight line to my destination. Between the bounciness and the jump jets, it can get over almost anything.

        Which just makes it worse that there were times when I had to give up and go around.

  22. MikhailBorg says:

    “I bet this sort of stuff will look as hilarious to the people of 2040 as the miniskirts of original Trek look to us today.”

    You know, I’m ready to give props to any sci-fi entertainment willing to give us space clothes nowadays. They may look a bit goofy sometimes, but they really help sell the idea of “not in Kansas any more”. I don’t think the audiences mind that as much as snarky social media posts would like everyone to think they do.

    These days, shows like the reboot Galactica and new Doctor Who just put everyone in early-21st-century-Western-civ no matter where in time in space we’re supposed to be, and I hate it. Sure it saves tons of money and gives an audience quick reference points, but it tends to throw me out of the story.

  23. SlothfulCobra says:

    The idea of the Mako, and later the planet scanning, is one of the first big things that makes Mass Effect really start to resemble Star Control. It’s a lot like the little scouting a planet minigame that SC2 had.

  24. Andy_Panthro says:

    I felt a little disappointed as soon as you get the companion choice screen. It shows the silhouettes of all the characters you are going to get to join you, and takes away a bit of the mystery.

    It was a limiting factor caused by a few decisions, but it ends up with you having a very restricted team by comparison to other games, and with no option to tell them to get lost either. Even the ones you never use are just sitting around, waiting.

    This was an issue for me in Neverwinter Nights 2 too, where you would meet people who always get added to your potential party list even if you know they’re not right or don’t fit in with how you’re approaching the game.

    Dragon Age: Origins did this much better, and although there weren’t many characters that I liked, at least there were times when I could make a definite choice to exclude (or kill!) certain potential party members.

    I never got on with Liara though, she was for exposition only. Most of the other characters were better than her, so she stayed on the Normandy for the majority of my playthrough. I can’t remember which order I did things in though, it’s been a bit too long since I played it.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Clearly every game needs an ian,who you can send with nothing but his fist into melee,just to fill him full of holes because FUCK YOU IAN,YOU FUCKING BACKSTABBER!

      1. Andy_Panthro says:

        Ian from Fallout 1?

        I never bothered with companions, the NPCs were terrible for shooting me in the back, and Dogmeat was a bullet-magnet.

        Shadowrun Dragonfall and Pillars of Eternity do a nice thing where you can get random hired goons to help you out, if you don’t like the story-based companions. Of course sometimes you are required to have certain NPCs tag along.

      2. RCN says:

        Fallout 2 was a HUGE improvement in that regard.

        Never, never or never?”

    2. guy says:

      What really gets to me in these games is the limited number of companions you can actually bring, particularly combined with avoiding the JRPG trope of having the companions who aren’t in the active party show up for dialogue anyway. I always find that there are more characters I’d want to bring than I have space for, and some of them just fall out of the rotation. Particularly anyone who doubles up on my character’s tactical role. Plus it can be hard to predict who will have stuff to say in an area. In NWN2:MotB, I used a console command because you get exactly one more character than fits.

      At least modern games share XP, so you can swap out people without worrying about keeping their levels matched up.

      1. Andy_Panthro says:

        I seem to recall Final Fantasy 7 having an issue with this. I had kept with the same three guys most of the way through (Cloud, Red 13 and Barrett), and then late in the game you have to control two separate parties for a little bit. That was tough!

    3. swenson says:

      Technically, you only have to recruit one of Garrus and Wrex, and if you recruit Wrex you can just kill him later on Virmire… but the other four are mandatory.

  25. Muelnet says:

    One of my favorite parts of base Mass Effect 3 (meaning not the Citadel DLC which was truly the best part of ME3) was when you go into the shuttle bay on the Normandy and Vega and Cortez are having an argument about which is better, the Mako or the Hammerhead.

    Cortez is all like “Uh the Mako handles like shit and bounces all over the place” and then Vega is like “But the hammerhead can’t take a hit.” They go back and forth until Cortez implies Vega likes sex with Grizzly Bears. I found it both hilarious and cathartic.

    Personally I hate driving the Mako, but I’ll take the Mako over any of the replacements any day. Mass Effect needed something like the Mako, but hopefully slightly better than the Mako. Then again, I’m someone who plays Skyrim with no fast travel, a cart mod that makes you sit in the cart as it travels (using the animations from the opening cutscene), and usually has the character toggled to walk rather than run. All of which makes me think I might have a higher tolerance for using distance, space and time for world building and what not than the average gamer.

  26. Kian says:

    I don’t really remember my first playthrough of the game. I must have played ME1 about six times (I kept losing the save file between games, so I had to replay everything again to have the right file).

    I think I went for Liara first, on the reasoning that she was the daughter of one of the enemy’s associates. Plus the suggestion from the council to hit Therum first. I try to follow what the designers intended generally, rather than set out to break games. I don’t recall if I thought she’d join me when I set out, though I did grow fond of her pretty quickly after meeting her.

    I think what sold me on her is the same thing that made Tali one of my favorite characters. They spout exposition constantly. Some people complain about how Tali talked about the Flotilla all the time, but I loved going by engineering after every mission to see if I unlocked some other bit of lore. I also read every codex entry. So put me down on the side of enjoying the world building.

    Which is why ME2 and ME3 disappointed me. ME2 started on the wrong foot with the dumb “kill the main character, then revive him in the same cutscene and never bring it up again” thing, and then made humanity special. ME3 doubled down on that. Now humanity wasn’t only special, but my character was also obsessed with saving Earth, even as every other world burned. Both games broke the story for me in the first mission.

    Thinking back on it, it’s funny that they both made up for it by giving me back Tali (in Freedom’s Progress) and Liara (in Mars) almost immediately (but witholding the other until near the end!).

  27. Don S. says:

    Ah, The Mako discussion again….

    I’ve noticed most people are either firmly in the “it’s fantastic” or “I cheered when it was totaled going through the Mu Relay” camps. I hated it on my first play-through. On rocky planets with steep valleys, it was downright comically bad.

    But I will admit that time has made the heart grow fonder in this case. Looking back at the series now, I can say that I wasn’t wholly appreciating the wonder of exploring a vast galaxy. It wasn’t until I returned to ME later after completing the trilogy –where I dropped down on an azure-tinged planet with no life in sight, greeted only by a colossal moon and stars that looked so close it seemed like the Normandy could touch them, did I appreciate what the developers were trying to evoke in me.

    So now, now the Mako isn’t so bad. It’s upgraded from painful annoyance to more like a light switch that you turn on to illuminate a beautiful fresco, and one out of three times the switch gives you a small electric shock.

  28. The Rocketeer says:

    Yet again I find myself learning questionable new vocabulary from these posts: what the hell is a “squatemate,” and where did this word come from?

    Googling shows no definition or origin, and gives only a tiny number of results (this post is invariably on the first page of results), but all from different sources, all connected to Mass Effect (and maybe Dragon Age), and can’t be a mere typo of “squadmate” given where the keys are on the keyboard. It’s definitely an established neologism birthed for this specific context, but I’ve never heard it before, and apparently neither has nearly anyone else. Although apparently everyone here has, since no one in this crowd of pedants and dorks has pointed it out. Well, until now, anyway.

    Have I lost the touch? Am I not hip with the kids anymore? Will I be able to understand anyone at all three, five years from now, even? Whatever. Ego sum rex Romanum et superior grammaticam. *sniff*

    1. Don S. says:

      “Squatemate” is a colloquial term for “gym buddy”. A friend who helps you stay motivated to work out and/or makes sure you’re okay when doing dangerous exercises.

      Shamus just had ME3 on the brain. There is an easter egg where James Vega becomes Shepard’s squatemate if you talk to him 850 times.

    2. Shamus says:

      In case you’re serious and not poking fun at my face-typing, squatemate is just a horrible mangled typo for “squadmate”.

      1. Epopisces says:

        This interaction had me laughing, so the typo was worth it, whether the response was serious, comical, snarky, or a combination :)

      2. The Rocketeer says:

        Wait, it WAS a typo? I was serious! Last time I joked about you using “vaguarities,” which is apparently real, or at least not QUITE fake enough to ridicule. But, but I checked this time, and, and there were other users, and, I thought Don S. was serious and I’d just missed the context? Or IS he right and it is just super-rare and you did a real obscure word by accident?

        I HATE LANGUAGE. From this moment I communicate ONLY IN INTERPRETIVE DANCE.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Ah,but which alignment of interpretive dance will it be?

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            *flailing spastically*

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I did not understand a word of that.

              1. Lachlan the Mad says:

                Of course you couldn’t, it was Chaotic Neutral interpretive dance.

        2. Don S. says:

          Me? Being serious?

          This might be the first time I’ve ever been legitimately offended on the internet. :)

          But now that I think about this: there might be some untapped potential here. Perhaps a Me themed “Wii Fit” like spin-off series where you collect squatemates? Perhaps the only way they can make BioWare romances worse is by only allowing players to complete them if they reach a certain BMI threshold? “I sorry, Shepard. The time just isn’t right. You’re still 15% body fat. Come back later and we’ll talk, okay?”

  29. Raygereio says:

    Re: Liara. I felt the post-main-planet-completed scenes actually flowed a bit better if you rescued Liara last. If you do her first, you get her do-mind-merge-then-faint-like-a-dainty-flower routine three times, which was a bit silly.
    That and the “We’ve got all the answers you spend decades searching for and by the way, I killed you mom” dialogue was kinda funny.

    As for the Mako: I’ve once heard from a former-Bioware dev that the reason all the side-quest planets were so shitty was because someone from marketing claimed in an interview that you could go to dozens of planets. Since it would look kinda bad to come up with a “Erm, he actually meant just three” rectification, the devteam just shrugged and proceeded to create dozens planet despite not really having the resources for that.
    I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it always amused me that the whole exploration feature that so many people look fondly back on (with rose-colored glasses firmly attached to their face) was apparently never really intended.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      (with rose-colored glasses firmly attached to their face)

      Not really.Practically every mako fan admits that it had problems that needed ironing out.And if this was their rush job,imagine what they wouldve achieved if they had more time to do it properly.

      1. Raygereio says:

        What I meant with that was that ME1 didn’t really have an exploration feature.
        That is: I don’t call driving a bouncy car over terrain that has no features or anything actually to explore or even look at (beyond the skyboxes that is), “exploration”.

        When I hear people reminiscing about how awesome it was to drop down on a planet and drive around to explore it, I kinda feel like they’re describing a completely different game. One that only exist in their head.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Sure,if you ignore all the pings you had to explore,all the geth and thresher maws,and the random resources you could find,then yes there was nothing to explore.

          This is the one criticism that I dont get.There were stuff to find on all of these barren worlds.Now those were GENERIC and uninteresting after the first time you found them,but still existed.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I remember a magazine advert for Mass Effect that was a huge starfield with little dialogue coming from dozens of stars, all saying variations of “distress beacon” or “signal lost”. I thought it sounded really cool.

      (Not quite sure what my point is – except that presumably by this stage at least someone had decided you can visit lots of places.)

  30. John Law says:

    I usually go to Feros before Therum, but otherwise the order is much the same. I’m not going to lose much sleep over not having Liara on hand for one mission, and I’d say Feros is the one that suffers least from not having her.

    Also, I reckon the Hammerhead could have done a good job replacing the Mako if it wasn’t about as durable as wet paper. At least it controlled decent. Come to think of it, there’s a whole miniature comedy routine in Mass Effect 3 that’s basically about that.

  31. Henson says:

    My first time through the game, I went to Noveria first. Because it was closest. Hey, we’re on a timetable, guys! Who knows how long it takes to jump mass relays?

    Sure, the game wants me to pick up Liara first, but my Shepard just didn’t think she could trust her. She’s daughter of the enemy. Suspicious!

    Oh, and there’s also no real evidence that she’s a solid lead, either. Just that she ‘knows them Protheans’. So we can wait. I’ve got real sightings to investigate.

  32. Blake says:

    “Case in point: The first time I played through the game, I didn't download the Hammerhead DLC, and I didn't miss it at all. I don't mean I didn't mind not having it, I mean I had no idea the DLC existed or that I was lacking anything.”

    I never played with any of the ME2 DLC. I also didn’t realise it had vehicle segments.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Well you didn’t miss anything with the Hammerhead! Zaaed on the other hand was an awesome character.

  33. Cinebeast says:

    I suppose this is as good a time as any to mention that when I first played Mass Effect, I played it in tandem with my mother and sister. After we left the Citadel and discovered we had three directions to go, it made sense to divide the three amongst ourselves. I went to Feros, and I’m pretty sure my mother went to Therum, leaving my sis to visit Noveria.

    Now, Therum is hella short, like you described, so my mom wrapped it up quick and added Liara to the crew. Meanwhile I eventually finished Feros and reached the Asari commando who’s enthralled by the Thorian. (Can’t remember her name, I think it was Shiala.)

    Because of this, and because the missing party member slot in the teammate screen is clearly shaped like an Asari, we figured this must mean you actually get to decide which Asari you induct into your squad. Liara or Shiala.

    We were all a little disappointed once we learned that you always got Liara, no matter which planet you visit first. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Liara, she grew on us, but we were really thrown for a loop there.)

    Just a silly memory. Playing ME with my family is easily one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had, so a lot of its cemented in my mind.

  34. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I just realized this is my opportunity to dust off my Mass Effect Superposition Fic

    ΣA(Ashley, Kaiden)| Ashley, Kaiden] + ΣA(Male, Fem)|Shep]

    Or something. I didn’t study quantum physics. But as can be seen above, it takes a while to write

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      It would essentially be bad quantum physic puns and whatever jokes I could wring out of what little notation I can make sense of “Shepard collapsed into his|her arms. It was an entanglement they would ever forget.”

      Would be scared to show a full draft to a bunch of hard sci fi nerds.

    2. Shamus says:

      This is the greatest|worst idea I’ve ever heard.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        That made|ruined my day. :)

        1. Mortuorum says:

          The Shepard/Ashley|Kaiden superposition is the culminating entry in the Shepard Kama Sutra.

          “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite position on the Citadel.”

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            You better believe there’s going to be something like that.

  35. General Karthos says:

    The problem I had with the Mako was that every single planet in the galaxy was a collection of jagged rocks and peaks that were possible to get over, but only slowly (and you fell all the way to the ground if you made a mistake) or incredibly time-consuming to get around. Not EVERY planet has the plate tectonics to make ridiculously massive mountain ranges, and not every single person on a planet is going to choose to live in among claustrophobic peaks.

    1. natureguy85 says:

      I agree. This was my issue even though I enjoyed the Mako itself.

  36. Dreadjaws says:

    Mmm… actually, the “underpants on the outside” thing is because Superman’s (and by extension, all superheroes that followed his dress pattern) costume was based on the ones from circus strongmen:
    Edit: OK, I don’t know how to insert Youtube videos.
    Edit 2 (the revenge): Nevermind, apparently I do know.

    Remember, Superman had that costume already on the comics, and those were full color when they started, so the black and white story doesn’t add up.

    Furthermore, the “underpants-on-the-outside-that-shouldn’t-actually-be-called-underpants-what-with-them-being-over-and-not-under-ahem…” help the leggings to stay better adjusted to the body.

    Anyway, I actually liked the Mako sections a lot. I understand why some people hated them, but I found them fun. Since handling enemies with the Mako was the exception rather than the norm, I wasn’t bothered by the way it controls.

    1. Mike S. says:

      Agreed on the circus strongman explanation for the trunks, and I’d never heard it attributed to anything to do with black and white. But Siegel and Shuster did originally intend Superman as a newspaper strip. (Original comics magazines being nonexistent when they devised him and a new experiment as of Action #1.) So it’s at least plausible that how he’d look in b&w daily strips was a design consideration.

  37. Duoae says:

    You know what? I really liked the Mako and I disliked the Hammerhead.

    I’m one of those people who love exploration – just for exploration’s sake. I don’t mind that I didn’t find a sword of awesomeness (like someone else suggested in the Final Fantasy theme of things) or that I didn’t fight any guys stationed around the planet… For some reason, I just like enjoying the game world.

    I remember my time in Mass Effect (I played on the 360 originally) and I remember slogging across all those worlds in the Mako. Sometimes I found things, sometimes I didn’t… but you know what? That was all optional stuff! I wasn’t required to complete the game or storyline. It was as much for the people who loved the world as those who read through all the codex entries (I also did that)…

    Having it stripped out of ME2 was, IMO a poor decision but also another casualty in the push for a change in intended audience: The people Bioware targeted in ME2 onwards were shooter fans rather than Sci-fi or world-building/exploring fans. The Hammerhead is just another off-shoot of this aspiration – it’s just another action sequence with a load of “oh cool: explosions, dead guys and cutscenes!” without the world-building, character shaping precision of the first game.

    It’s funny but I do appreciate both directions when they’re done well. For instance, I feel that Mass Effect 1 was done well (for the most part) but Dragon Age was not executed in the best way. It was too long, too obtuse and with too much emphasis on the wrong portions. Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age 2 were pretty much of a muchness – I liked both of them, though both are terribly flawed outside of their combat and squad-character missions. Mass Effect 3 went even further than ME2 but didn’t suffer as much an identity crisis as DA3 and so ended up being better (even though I have huge problems with it!) overall…

  38. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And mass mass effect effect is officially a thing.I called it!

  39. Phantos says:

    For me, it wasn’t the mako I hated, but the places where you have to drive it. It’s all vertical spires, and all of the points of interest are miles apart just to make the game seem “bigger” than it had to. If those parts didn’t take as long, I feel like the Mako wouldn’t have the ugly reputation it has. But because it’s so long, it just exacerbates all of the finicky annoyances of driving that thing. It gives you too much time to think about what’s so wrong about playing it.

  40. Xaos says:

    Why is Therum gone. Interesting title……

    Jack Sparrow: “But why is the rum gone?”

  41. natureguy85 says:

    I liked the Mako. What I didn’t like was having to drive so far and over some nasty terrain just to find the few points of interest. I liked what was there, be it the quest related areas, the collection points, or even the flavor spots like the giant skull on the planet described as a hunting ground or the dead mining crew. I wanted more of those.

  42. Royce Mumphry says:

    I always figured the place people lived in is that fortress-like structure compound where you fight a bunch of Geth on foot. I just think the Geth threw away anything they regarded as “worthless” and reycled anything they could, which is why the place is so empty.

  43. Ivan says:

    I played a soldier my first playthrough, and that Krogan still kicked me all the way into space. Over and over, and over again. With, as Shamus said, a lengthy unskippable cutscene before the fight. Like, I’m pretty sure it’s longer than the 15 seconds quoted here. That, right there, is utterly garbage game design. Just awful.

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