Mass Effect Retrospective 30: Suicide Mission

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jan 14, 2016

Filed under: Mass Effect 275 comments

I’ve spent most of this series complaining about aspects of Mass Effect 2 that a majority of fansCompletely anecdotal. I have no idea what the “real” consensus is out there. don’t see is a problem. So let me briefly be a contrarian in the other direction and defend something everyone complains about: I think the Suicide Mission was a really interesting idea. I think it was a thematically appropriate way to wrap up a game that focused so much on preparation and team-building. It was the first time the series really did anything with the concept of Shepard being a military commander aside from him always leading 3-person teams into gunfights. It justified the large team size and it gave you an in-game reward for doing all those loyalty missions.

Sure, there are problems with how the suicide mission plays out. But unlike the problems with the plot, premise, and dialog, these aren’t baffling failures at basic tasks. The suicide mission was a new idea not just to BioWare but to AAA RPGs in general. It was challenging, it was different, and so its shortcomings are a lot more understandable in a game design sense.

The Suicide Mission

BUT WHAT DO THEY EAT? I'm joking. I don't care.
BUT WHAT DO THEY EAT? I'm joking. I don't care.

The Normandy goes through the Omega-4 relay to the collector base. There’s a little space battle that reacts to the decisions you’ve made regarding your ship. If you’ve been doing the research, talking to allies, gathering resources, and paying for the upgrades, then the characters will respond. “Gosh! Good thing we upgraded the anti-decombobulator!” If you haven’t, then the bad guys blow holes in the Normandy and maybe some squad members might die.

After that the Normandy lands on the Collector base and you get to divide your people into teams and tasks. If a job calls for someone with technical skills, then you can select anyone with any technical knowledge. This, combined with whether or not you did their loyalty mission, determines if they survive performing the task.

I think the major cause of complaints here is that the cutscenes don’t connect the cause and effect. At one point Garrus gets shot in the chest. If he’s loyal, he just staggers for a second and recovers. If he isn’t, he drops dead. You can try to justify this by saying, “Well, Garrus was distracted, and so during the previous off-screen fights he took more hits, which depleted his shields. Which means that shot to the chest went all the way through.”

That works as an after-the-fact excuse, but it doesn’t really make the moment work in a dramatic sense. When Garrus drops dead it feels random, and not a consequence of his unresolved grudge against Sidonus or your failure to properly lead him. From within the story, you can’t see the cause and effect. If you put in the work and your team survives, then it feels like the game is rewarding you. But if you skip some of the sidequests, then the failures don’t really feel like proper thematic consequences, and they usually don’t work as a story. It feels like a major character died the death of a Star Trek redshirt.

Like I said above, this isn’t some horrible failure. It’s just something that understandably bugged a lot of people. I think the suicide mission was a solid concept, and it would be worth iterating on itNot just Mass Effect, but any developer / franchise. to see how these problems could be solved or mitigated. I think it would be worth trying it again and looking for different ways to make the failures and deaths more understandable and acceptable to the audience. I suppose the holy grail of this idea would be for a mission where each character realizes the conclusion of their character arc, either through survival or death. That would be a really ambitious blend of gameplay and story, and I’m not suggesting Mass Effect 2 needed to do that. But it’s a fun idea to play with, and something worth considering for future RPG’s with teams of companions.

Having said all that: It’s a shame the suicide mission idea was used here, because it’s actually better suited for the end of the third game than the end of the second.

Mating Call of Cthulhu

Does anyone remember where we parked?
Does anyone remember where we parked?

Shepard and company blast their way to the heart of the Collector base. EDI scans their databanks. We see the Collectors turning kidnapped colonists into grey goo, which is then fed through pipes, building a giant robotic humanoid with three(?) glowing red eyes and a mouth-laser. Shepard comes to the horrible conclusion that they’re building… “A human Reaper!” EDI agrees, and suggests that this is how Reapers reproduce.

As I’ve said before, there’s a certain tension in the story of Mass Effect. On the Cthulhu side we want the Reapers to remain mysterious and terrifying. On the sci-fi side we want the Reapers to have some interesting explanation that represents an answer to a problem or idea posed in the story itself. If the writer wants to favor the Cthulhu idea, then they shouldn’t explain anything. If the writer wants to favor the sci-fi idea, then the Reaper mystery needs to be resolved in a final reveal. Sooner or later, the writer was going to have to choose which of these two masters they were going to serve.

But the Mass Effect 2 ending manages to fail both. When faced with the choice of preserving or resolving the mystery, their solution was to introduce a new mystery that’s too on-the-nose to work for Cthulhu and too action schlock to work for sci-fi, and which contradicts ideas presented in the first game. You could argue that it’s replacing the Cthulhu idea with more of an H. R. Giger style story of bio-mechanical body horror, but that’s completely ruined by the unintentional comedy of a MOUTH LASERShooting a Baby Reaper Robot in its test tubes to make it fall down is also kind of slapstick.. The sense of mystery is gone, but we’re also denied having a satisfying explanation for their actions because the story doesn’t really give you a proper sci-fi styled explanation.

So now the writer has painted themselves into an even smaller corner. Not only does Mass Effect 3 need to explain why Reapers kill everyone every 50k years, but now they also need to explain why the Reapers would do… this. So the writer has killed both the Cthulhu and sci-fi aspects of the story, while simultaneously burning all the bridges to Mass Effect 3 so that no future installment could ever make sense of this. The Reapers can’t be a mystery, but they also can’t build to some final reveal where everything falls into place.

This will never not look hilarious.
This will never not look hilarious.

Why would you need grey organic goo to build a metal robot? Why would the resulting robot have three eyes? Is that a mistake? What caused it to have a mouth-laser? What could possibly connect this Reaper to the others we’ve seen? And how could building this thing right now possibly advance their cause of conquering the galaxy? Even if this new Reaper was mature, how would it help them? Fine, they’ll have a Reaper. That would take us back to the start of Mass Effect 1, where there was a lone Reaper and a galaxy of people that didn’t believe in it.

It’s not that you can’t come up with answers to these questions, it’s that the story seems to create these questions without realizing it. This is supposed to be the moment of big revelation, and it just introduces a bunch of head-scratching nonsense. Worse, our main characters don’t seem to notice how goofy this is. In fact, they seem to think this is a brilliant twist that makes sense.

Shepard: A human Reaper!

EDI: Precisely.

They also don’t seem to notice that this doesn’t mesh with existing lore. Vigil never mentioned this. We see at the end of the game that all the other Reapers look like Robo-Cthulhu, so there’s no explanation for why this particular one would look like a personI know there’s an explanation somewhere that this robot would climb inside a Reaper-ship. That question really needed to be addressed / acknowledged in this conversation.. It doesn’t fit with what Sovereign said in Mass Effect 1, and it doesn’t flow from the visions. “Sovereign could have been lying” is the handy excuse, although that effectively negates one of the big reveals and central questions of Mass Effect 1. It’s bad enough the writer capped off Mass Effect 2 with a Big Dumb Reveal, but they’re ruining some of the best scenes of Mass Effect 1 to do it.

There’s not even a line of lampshading dialog from Shepard like, “Everything we thought we knew about Reaper behavior was wrong. So why did Sovereign feel the need to lie to us?” Instead the Sovereign and Vigil conversations are basically dismissed as a side-effect of this new reveal, and the writer didn’t even seem to notice.

The writer’s job had three parts:

  1. Build naturally and seamlessly on what came before.
  2. Come up with an interesting story for now.
  3. Set up the groundwork for later.

I understand that doing all three of those is tough, and I might be more forgiving if they had sacrificed one to benefit the other two. Sure, retcon the Sovereign conversation so it’s all a bunch of dumb lies from a neurotic space monster. As long as the resulting story is satisfying, then people will tend to go along with it. Or if Mass Effect 2 suffered because the writer spent lots of time laying groundwork to build a bridge between Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 3, that might be understandable.

But the writer failed at all three. They took the small number of established facts about the Reapers and swept them away. Then they used the resulting freedom to tell a dumb story that went nowhere. Then they burned any possible bridges that might be useful in Mass Effect 3.

And for what? A boss fight?

Guessing Game

So EDI, what does the Mass Effect Wiki say about this?
So EDI, what does the Mass Effect Wiki say about this?

Note that all of this is revealed in a dialog with EDI. This is the closest thing we get to the talk with Vigil at the end of Mass Effect 1. This is supposed to be where the questions are answered and mysteries are solved. Only instead of answers from an authoritative source, we have EDI scanning the Collectors with space magic and extrapolating. Even if this wasn’t drivel, it wouldn’t be satisfying because it’s all guesswork. I’m sure she’s right and what she’s saying really is how the author has decided it works, but it still feels lame and directionless. Imagine if the Vigil VI had been removed from Mass Effect 1 and instead Garrus and Liara had just sat down at a Prothean computer and took turns guessing at what they were seeing. That lacks a certain revelatory punch.

It’s crap. It’s stupid, infantile, lazy, sophomoric crap. This is exactly how we got the ending of Mass Effect 3: The writer explained something that didn’t need to be explained, and their explanation was so mind-numbingly stupid that it launched people back into the Primary World and slammed the door behind them. It’s not like the writer failed to make this hold together; they didn’t even try. The writer couldn’t see any further than their immediate goal of “Make a boss fight” and didn’t think it needed to mesh with existing information or leave a path open for the future.

There wasn’t an uproarOr at least, not a large one. Journalists weren’t writing think-pieces about it and it didn’t seem to impact reviews. over the end of Mass Effect 2, so there was never any reason for the writer to question their desultory approach to storytelling. If the peasants will praise you for serving them shit, why bake them a soufflé?

Next week: The conclusion to Mass Effect 2!



[1] Completely anecdotal. I have no idea what the “real” consensus is out there.

[2] Not just Mass Effect, but any developer / franchise.

[3] Shooting a Baby Reaper Robot in its test tubes to make it fall down is also kind of slapstick.

[4] I know there’s an explanation somewhere that this robot would climb inside a Reaper-ship. That question really needed to be addressed / acknowledged in this conversation.

[5] Or at least, not a large one. Journalists weren’t writing think-pieces about it and it didn’t seem to impact reviews.

From The Archives:

275 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 30: Suicide Mission

  1. NoneCallMeTim says:

    I think the thing feels like a first draft of an idea which needed to be iterated on. They had some basic plot points, but then didn’t iterate the design enough to follow through properly.

    Also: I am not sure if it is a symptom of the plot degenerating, but the way Shepard is written degenerated:

    “Shapard: A human Reaper!

    lampshading dialog from Sheaprd like”

    Also: “It's bad enough the writer capped of Mass Effect 2 “

  2. Richard says:

    Personally, while I didn’t necessarily like the human reaper or the general lower quality of the ME 2 ending, I recall mostly being miffed that I never got to have a chat with Harbinger. I figured that they were reserving conversations with him, and him being the ultimate antagonist of the series, for ME 3.

    Then, because we can’t have gameplay in our games, instead of fighting him I had to talk to TIM and the Star Child.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      You do chat with him in Arrival. It’s pretty decent I think. Too bad Shamus won’t be covering DLC…

      1. Poncho says:

        Except, like everything else that happens in Arrival, the conversation is completely circular and doesn’t add value to the plot or the characters. It basically goes like this:

        Harbinger: “Curses! You’ve delayed us for the last time, you insignificant mote of dust. Prepare to get owned when we finally show up!”

        Shepard: “I’m gonna fight you because that’s what humans do!”


        1. Aldowyn says:

          yep. Arrival is shit.

          Honestly, though, it should have been a much larger portion of the game. All of ME2 is ultimately pointless. (well, except for the gathering crew mates, stuff, but the main story is.) It’s not even a delaying action, since the Collectors are irrelelvant on the scale of the Reaper threat.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      What are you talking about?Harbinger says so much to you.THIS HURTS YOU

      1. Attercap says:

        That’s pretty one note. I mean, the really interesting thing about Harbi–ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL

    3. o_e_p says:

      I actually really disliked the chats with Harbinger. The reapers are supposed to be this galaxy spanning threat that are beyond understanding. Chatting just seemed a bit prosaic. Does the exterminator chat and explain to the roaches why he’s spraying them? It just turns the threat level way down.

  3. Zekiel says:

    The ending of the ME2 (which Shamus will presumable mention next week) is where we discover that the Collector General is really just being possessed by Harbinger. All the way through the rest of the game, you don’t know that Harbinger is a Reaper.

    I thought this was actually quite a cool idea (since it is consistent with ME1 where Sovereign possesses Saren’s corpse at the end). But, like the Human Reaper reveal here it is handled poorly so its not really obvious that this is the case. Also, it doesn’t culminate in some epic boss fight – it’s just “you know that guy you kicked the ass of a dozen times? Turns out he’s actually possessed by a Reaper!”

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      In addition to the problem you mentioned, it was undermined by Harbginer’s nature being incredibly obvious. I assumed from the instant I met him that Mr. Assuming Direct Control was a Reaper (he possesses bodies, he’s named Harbinger which fits with Reaper naming conventions, he’s the leader of a faction that’s on the side of the Reapers…), so learning that he was possessed by a Reaper wasn’t dramatic, and was kind of overelaborate. “Turns out the body-possessing Collector dude you were fighting wasn’t a Reaper, he was a Collector who was in turn possessed by a Reaper!”

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Getting ahead a bit but the moment Harbinger relinquishes control the “Collector General” is the one scene with Collectors that I actually like. I wonder if anyone else got the same vibe, as it’s a very short shot and it’s quite possible I’m reading too much into it, but to me the Collector there looks so… abandoned.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Absolutely. I felt sorry for him– it may be the first time in his life that he’s not being dominated by an ancient horror, and he barely has time to take that in before he’s killed in an explosion.

        2. Deager says:

          Yup, I loved that scene. I just saw it about a week ago and it still makes me feel a little empty inside.

        3. guy says:

          I sort of read it as him realizing he had his freedom and then bowing in despair at his impending death.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            Canonically, I’m pretty sure the collectors lack enough independence for that. But the general might be an exception. (That would make sense if they had a hive mind, especially, but I don’t think anything ever even hints at that other than their general appearance, and Javik certainly refutes it)

            1. Taellosse says:

              I don’t know that Javik’s nature necessarily says a whole lot about the nature of the Collectors. They basically share a common genetic ancestor (it’s pretty hard to draw a lot of firm conclusions about rhesus monkeys from the capabilities of humans, as a parallel) – Javik lived during the last days of the Prothean species, long after their civilization had collapsed under Reaper attack, so he bears mostly just a superficial resemblance to the Protheans that created the beacons, Vigil, and the Conduit – he’s genetically a Prothean, but culturally and intellectually he’s altogether different from those that built the Prothean civilization – sort of like comparing a Dark Ages Italian to a First Century Roman Senator.

              For their part, the Collectors are so extensively modified by Reaper technology and genetic modification that they’re a completely different species – bearing about as much resemblance to Protheans as Husks do to humans – which is to say, a certain visual similarity, but almost nothing about their behavior or capabilities is comparable.

          2. Gruhunchously says:

            I read it more as the Collector General suddenly realizing that it has free will for the first time in it’s life, and then spending it’s last moments in terrified, miserable confusion.

            But yeah, it’s a good scene. The only scene, in fact, that gives any of the Collectors any kind of motivation or sympathetic qualities, something sorely lacking from the rest of the game.

          3. Tom says:

            Agreed, it’s a great moment (though it could have been made far more powerful if we’d in any way actually explored the the collectors’ enslavement prior to it) Not least because it’s of a type that’s quite rarely done, although it’s probably still on tvtropes somewhere. The criminally-ignored game Cryostasis (beautiful writing, palpable atmosphere, superb characterisation & mocap, inefficient-as-hell super-unoptimised game engine) does a particularly good one – one simple line stays with me, though I can’t get the wretched thing to run any more: “What’s the matter? Don’t you like your freedom?”

            PS Please please please do a Spoiler Warning of Cryostasis.

  4. Zekiel says:

    In my opinion, the way the Suicide Mission works out is one of the best gameplay sequences Bioware has ever done. Shamus’ points about deaths feeling arbitrary are entirely valid, but (as he also says) the structure does a lot of things well – potentially gives everybody a chance to shine, creates genuine consequences for your actions in the game, and gives Shepard (and the player) the opportunity to make genuine leadership decisions. Analysing all the possible outcomes is fantastically complicated.

    I can’t think of anything to add about the Human Reaper except to heartily agree with Shamus that (a) it is profoundly stupid and (b) its profound stupidity retrospectively damages Mass Effect 1. Oh, and as far as I can recall is never even referenced, in any way, in Mass Effect 3.

    1. Mike S. says:

      The Human-Reaper’s skeleton is at Cerberus Headquarters in ME3. (And you get a war asset, its brain or its heart, depending whether you destroyed the Collector Base in ME2.)

      1. Zekiel says:

        Oh yeah. There is that. Oops.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Arent those just remains of the collector base actually?Since they are there even if you blew it up(and left it to be shredded by all the black holes).

        1. Mike S. says:

          The companions comment specifically on it being the Reaper corpse, with one saying “the head is largely intact” (at least in the version I found on YouTube: ) I also recall it being visually recognizable, though a quick google doesn’t find a picture that shows that.

          The wiki claims there’s more left if you didn’t destroy the base, though I haven’t been able to independently verify that.

      3. Chauzuvoy says:

        That’s true, but it’s a single line of dialogue, a different War Asset entry, and a difference of 10 EMS.

    2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      It’s referenced by the plot of 3 and the Leviathan DLC. Basically, the goal of the cycle is to make a Reaper. Why do they all look like space shrimp then? Well, their creators did, so there’s some kind of twisted robot logic to that being the outer shell… you’d guess. Shamus is right that they never explain the Twix layers of the Reapers, possibly because of how much the human Reaper boss fight was mocked?

      1. Decus says:

        Naw, it’s just laziness. Easier to copy and paste one art asset multiple times over than to design multiple ancient races and model them into unique reapers. Even if everybody loved the baby human reaper I doubt they’d have actually explained or changed the fact that everything looks like space shrimp despite the multiple instances of dialogue claiming otherwise.

        Their easiest way out of it all would’ve been “Reapers only look like space shrimp to you as a courtesy–it’d shatter your mind to see their real forms! And, uh, they don’t want to instantly shatter your minds! They want to do…evil things first.” Baby Human Reaper was just a dumb piss-babby so it was neither eldritch horror enough yet nor smart enough to conceal its form. Is the twix explanation even offered up in-game or is it just dumb fan defense? If not, that’s an entire other level of laziness–they were too lazy to even explain away their laziness.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Leviathan codex entries definitely offer up the Twix theory as an idea, but state that there’s no way to be sure exactly how this works. As I recall, at least.

          1. Decus says:

            I half-suspected that if it was there it’d be in DLC. Still not quite sure how I feel about that as a practice, the context of “in bioware games” aside. On the one hand, it almost feels wrong to offer up a potential answer to a potentially grating mystery via additional payed content, but on the other books and movies do just that all the time.

            If I had to guess, the difference is probably in the division itself. If the entirety of ME3 were sold $15 at a time and each portion was both relatively equal and seemed worth the $15 I’d probably be less against even more $15 story things. But selling a $60 story thing and then a much smaller than 1/4 value story thing for $15 feels wrong. It becomes hilariously wrong once you consider that nowadays you can buy ME3 for like $4 but the DLC is still $15 or whatever it was at release. Even if in total I’d end up paying way more than $60 for the base game if it’s sold in smaller portions, I don’t think I’d mind it as much–the $60 price is part of the problem in many ways I think.

            1. guy says:

              I am entirely fine with DLC as a story continuation but get annoyed by BioWare’s habit of putting very important things in DLC, especially if it should then come up in the game. Like in Inquisition where major plot points are religion, Chantry-Mage relations, and elf-Orlesian relations, and then the Jaws Of Hakkon DLC introduces the objectively correct surviving religion, since it’s outright confirmed in Tresspasser that the Elven Gods were actually extremely powerful mages, and the Avvar religion has draconic gods in the Fade that pretty much definitely include Mythaal and may be connected to the Old Gods and one actually put on a personal appearance in response to prayers. Also you find the first Inquisitor, close personal friend of the Orlesian founder and an elven mage.

              While it’s extremely high-level content, it’s still unlocked prior to endgame and cannot be completed after Trespasser, and apparently you just never speak of it again.

              1. BeCeejed says:

                Arguing that Avvar beliefs are objectively valid is a little bit of a stretch though. The Avvar believe ANY Spirit is a ‘god’, though there are some higher-level spirits, and the draconic gods you speak of are not actually dragons at all in actual Avvar lore (The Sky Mother is I believe but the Mountain Father is commonly viewed as a bear and several of their other major gods are different animals), the Hakkonite’s have just historically tried to summon Hakkon into the body of an ice dragon because Winter War God looks cool as an icy apex predator. While there are interesting parallels between the Elvhen Creators and the Avvar pantheon, there are similar parallels between the Creators and the Tevinter Dragon Gods and there are also similar parallels between the Avvar Pantheon and the Tevinter Dragon Gods. Avvar gods die, like spirits we have seen can die, and Avvar gods can be prayed back to rebirth, probably similarly to how Solas comments that the Spirit of Wisdom he was friends with died and where she grew in the fade may once again grow another Spirit of Wisdom.

                One might argue that none of these beliefs are objectively factual. One might even make some interesting parallels that all of them originate from the same source material: Powerful Spirits. We know as an objective fact that Tevinter Gods were powerful Spirits sommoned into or possessing the bodies of Dragons. They could speak and were intelligent, as was Hakkon. The Blight, at least the version that infects the races of man and destroys living entities, infected them through their priests, the 5 priests who assaulted the Fade and of which Corypheus was one. They became Archdemons, which cannot die because the powerful and twisted spirit in the body of the dragon will simply move through the Blight to any other Blighted creature, possess it, and magically reform its dragon body, so a Grey Warden has to become Blighted but not dominated and take possession of the spirit in such a way as to ensure their mutual destruction. The spirit who perpetuated Zathrien’s curse in Origins was a nigh unkillable powerful spirit summoned into the body of a wolf and basically worshipped by the werewolves as a Goddess, and there is a possessed Oak in the forest that has slowly regained its sapience and ceased to be a rampant killing machine, instead protecting certain areas of the forest as its own.

                We know that something of Mythal, specifically part of her aspect as the Creator’s Goddess of Justice, survived her death and came to possess the body of a wronged human aristocrat whose life was significantly lengthened and who perpetuates her existance by moving the spirit into a new host whenever she can no longer sustain her body, and she is capable of surviving and reforming even in the case of being killed if she can safely get the spirit or a part of it away (the amulet she gives Hawke and the quest on Sundermount, to counter Morrigan’s possible attempt on her life). But this is not viewed as All of Mythal as Solas speaks of her as both having died and having persisted, and her death spurred him to war.

                In this way there are parallels between all the polytheistic religions of Thedas, even though they may not technically have anything to do with one another. And specifically speaking, it is not beyond reason to suggest the Maker was a powerful spirit, perhaps the actual maker of the world but also maybe just a powerful spirit who embodied the idea of Making and Creating, and Andraste his mortal host, in such a way that she could be the Maker’s Bride but also still have a mortal husband and a mortal lover, and why it took the might of several Magisters and a public execution that was proooobably part magic ritual to kill her, and why the ashes of her body retain a certain level of power beyond the grave, and why it is still a valid theory that she did come back as a dragon.

                My favorite part of this theory is of course that Anders is therefore the closest thing to a God the world of Thedas really has at the moment. We know he gets stabbed in the heart when leaving the Wardens to flee to Kirkwall but lives, and is capable of surviving much damage, disease, and physical ailments. We also know he DOES die if Hawke stabs him but in that case he was willing to die and even partially believed it to be the right thing to have happen which is probably why it sticks in that case. However Wynne persists through much trial even when the human side of herself expects to die because the Spirit of Faith side refuses so Wynne, and now Evangeline, are also like unto the gods of old. Also because abominations possessed by demons rather than virtues are also similar, except that demonic spirits tend to seek to destroy the host personality and dominate the body whereas Justice seeks accord with Anders, even when they disagree and argue about what that means, and Faith seeks to protect/support Wynne and now Evangeline, even when the humans don’t necessarily understand why. This may possibly explain why the Elvhen Pantheon could be horrible slavers and murderers who regularly devalued life but still could be viewed as better than the Forgotten Ones, Evanuris representative of hateful aspects of livings minds the same way demons are, and why Solas, who appears to be possessed of many virtues and also willing to discard them if he views it as necessary, could move in the circles of both the Forgotten Ones and the Creators who each ‘viewed him as one of their own.’

                Although by the statement of each religion, the Avvar are the only ones that still have beings they can call on. The Elvhen know the Creators are imprisoned and have no idea how to free them, the Chantry states specifically the Maker has buggered off until the world gets pretty again, the Tevinter gods are all Blighted and trying to eat the world, and the Qunari do not call on any higher power but believe in a doctrine of community as an organism to which each member contributes health and value. In the DLC the Avvar can be seen to call on numerous spirits, which often provide benefits on request, and all people from the mages to the lowliest hunters interact with them. So in a way I understand your point. The Avvar religion is the only one that is presently tangible and responsive.

                BioWare does some annoying things with their DLC though so I understand where you are coming from. I am bothered by: Arrival, Legacy, and Tresspasser. Jaws of Hakkon, Leviathan, The Descent, etc are all basically Lore dumps. They are things that help you understand the world better as a player but technically, if someone skips it, they simply lack that bit of meta-knowledge. Arrival is the source of your imprisonment at the beginning of ME3, Legacy introduces you to Corypheus and the events in it have a significant impact in how Hawke and Varric are portrayed in Inquisition, Tresspasser is just personally shattering in many cases. Things that give the player a new perspective are kind of okay as DLC, things that actually shape the next story I feel really should have been part of the main game.

                Instead of Trespasser being Solas’ big reveal for the Inquisitor, that confrontation should have happened after the end-game party…perhaps the player wakes up and catches Solas sneaking out and they have a whole conversation that works similarly to Trespasser’s end convo where he later says he’ll be coming back for the Mark, softly if friendly or romanced and letting you know it will eventually kill you if he doesn’t, firmly and threateningly if you have low approval. And if you call for the guards or anything like that *poof* he’s gone suddenly…off to consolidate his power and prepare for his world-ending plan. Trespasser is basically him coming for the mark then and one more chance to call him a dick or try to reason with him, but if somebody skips trespasser the Inquisitor’s missing hand could be hand-waved away and they should know plenty about their relationship and why the Inquisitor is there doing whatever they are going to be doing in DA4 Legacy should have easily been part of the main plot, it fits in the game’s theme of Magic Ruins Hawke’s Life At Every Opportunity, Especially If They Are A Mage as it further puts the Blight front and center as the result of Blood Magic, so magic took Hawke’s Father, one or possibly both of their siblings or one of them is driven away by Joining or the Mage/Templar Conflict, and magic will later take away Leandra.. Also Varric talks about it numerous times in Inquisition and Hawke does too so it really should have been main game content.

                Basically things that involve lots of character development or plot moving content should always be main game and there’s basically one DLC that BioWare releases that does that as some sort of between-game tie in and its kinda dumb.

                1. guy says:

                  The Avvar worship Fade spirits and seem to have an accurate idea of their properties. They believe their gods can be prayed into existence and the evidence suggests that it is possible to create Fade spirits that way. Their belief system entirely aligns with Mythaal’s case; Mythaal presently possesses attributes that can reasonably be ascribed to a powerful Fade spirit. The fact that they call all spirits gods does not make them wrong, it makes them polytheistic and animistic. If all the other people’s gods are based off the actions of powerful Fade spirits, then the Avvar are entirely correct.

                  The Elven gods are based on actual people, but ones who didn’t possess all the divine attributes associated with them; significantly there is no reason to believe their powers would be unattainable by mortals not descended from them if the Veil hadn’t been created.

                  The Chantry worship a non-interventionist deity who of course could potentially exist as described, but the specific major religious claim during the game that the Inquisitor was rescued from the Fade by Andraste herself in person is proven definitively false. The Tevinter Old Gods definitely exist, seeing as the Hero of Ferelden killed one, but it is not clear what attributes they may have possessed and whether or not they are in fact in line with Avvar beliefs. It is believed in-universe that they are spirits summoned through the Veil, but it’s also possible they’re some presently-unknown breed of magic dragon. They’re not really a surviving religion, which is why I added the qualifier. We don’t really know enough about them to assess their accuracy.

            2. Zekiel says:

              I’m have mixed feeligns about DLC offering big story revelations. What I am sure about is that it is really poor form to have DLC offer far bigger story revelations than those in the main game – as happens in ME2 where from the point of view of the overall plot of the trilogy, the only important thing that happens in the ENTIRE GAME is in the Arrival DLC. Which I haven’t played because its overpriced and apparently rubbish.

              1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Untrue. The discovery of the (prototype) Krogan cure in Mordin’s loyalty mission and Legion’s loyalty mission turn out to have extremely important effects to the main campaign of 3. And Cerberus turns out to be the major antagonist of 3, so establishing them as a force in the galaxy turns out to have been rather important. Finally, Liara’s role as the Shadow Broker that she earns (with your help) in 2 informs all of the plot actions she takes in 3.

                There’s a difference between justified complaining (the Collectors turn out to be a plot cul-de-sac) and just misrepresenting things so they sound worse…

                1. Scimitar says:

                  Liara only becomes the Shadow Broker in her own DLC, otherwise in the main game the plot ends at you uncovering her assistant as the Broker’s spy.

        2. Radkatsu says:

          What I wouldn’t have minded seeing (instead of the silly Human-Reaper) is a cavernous shipyard kind of arrangement with a partially-complete Reaper, and as you get closer and begin exploring or whatever, it’s revealed that the organic component is more like blood flowing through its godlike veins (ie, human paste lol. The whole gestalt consciousness deal). So you’d SEE that imposing silhouette and immediately know it’s a Reaper as you get closer, you’d see a bit of how they’re made and why they harvest (assuming you want to go with that as the reason for the cycle of destruction), and also avoid such a ridiculous boss fight.

          Something that’s always bugged me: How wantonly destructive the Reapers are. Their stated goal is preservation of an entire species, so why do they spend so much time vaporising said species with their RED LAZOR BEAMS. Military stuff, fine, but in the visions you get while working on acquiring Javik clearly indicate them destroying all sorts, same as when they invade in 3. You’d think they’d take more care to avoid collateral damage if they want to preserve the race.

          1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

            In 3, we learn that Reapers can be killed simply by shooting them with enough large missiles. With this in mind, it makes sense that they would efficiently wipe out any and all military resistance, while taking a more delicate tack with civilian population centers.

    3. Ringwraith says:

      Seconding the gameplay design of the suicide mission being pretty damn good.
      Although Miranda is given some plot armour early on as she’s the only person who has a significant chunk of dialogue and isn’t Shepard, after she’s said that piece she’s fair game, though.
      Well, except the arbitrary boss fight, because that silly. Even if it did give you an excuse to use the Cain, finally.

      1. guy says:

        Grunt’s loyalty mission was a perfectly good excuse to use the Cain.

      2. Slothfulcobra says:

        Everything is an excuse to use the Cain.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Yep. Just as long as you don’t mind reloading afterwards when the blast radius kills you. I never could get the hang of it.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            The end of that one loyalty mission (I forget whose) where you fight two YMIR mechs in the giant cargo bay was a good spot.

    4. Aldowyn says:

      I really disliked how most of the deaths feel interchangeable, and it does have a severe case of guide-dang-it with some of the choices (Garrus is an infiltration specialist whyyy couldn’t he do the vents!?) but I agree the overall structure is pretty solid.

    5. SPCTRE says:

      I’d go so far as to say the Human Reaper as a concept is the low point of the whole franchise so far – even lower than the most problematic aspects of the ME3 ending.

    6. ated and ma says:

      I think the suicide mission fails mechanically. Play it after doing no upgrades and no loyalty missions. Suddenly it’s this heroic fight, everything falling apart, people dying left and right and you, somehow, pull through. Memorable stuff.
      If you just do everything, which means more quality gameplay, more power (via upgrades, exp, etc), it’s not suicide, it’s a stroll in the park. Everybody get’s home safely, no hard choices to make.

      Essentially, by playing the game right, you lose out on the drama.

  5. Phantos says:

    If the writer wants to favor the Cthulhu idea, then they shouldn't explain anything.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say they shouldn’t explain anything. Even Mass Effect gave us Vigil to spell things out, just in case there was any confusion or if we weren’t paying attention. And that just made the Reapers MORE interesting.

    I mean, we all saw what happened when Bloodborne tried the “explain and contextualize absolutely nothing” shtick. There is something to be said for occasionally throwing the audience a bone.

    1. Xeorm says:

      Even then, the beauty of the conversation with Vigil is his lack of talking about the reapers themselves. As far as the talk deals with reapers, it can be summed up as “They destroyed our civilization and if they get to the magic button they’ll open up a portal to summon more of them”. There’s no explanation of who or what the reapers are, but instead you hear about the effects of their coming.

      Which is great. Let me fear them because they are strong, mighty, and mysterious. Even in the Cthulu mythos, you learn that they’ll kill you and/or drive you insane.

    2. Axehurdle says:

      This is true. Explaining actually nothing is basically not having a story. If you read a Lovecraft story he does spell out almost exactly what’s happening. The important thing though is he leaves out HOW and/or WHY these things happened. You learn that R’lyeh exists and there’s a description of Cthulhu and that he came from space but it’s never explained what he wants, how he’s still alive, how R’lyeh rises, how he psychically influences people’s dreams, or anything about him except what he looks like and what he physically does.

      It’s easy to buy Great Old Ones alien intelligence because they do basic things (Kill, drive people insane, walk around, smash stuff, cry for their father, kidnap people, etc.) but in Mass Effect they’re trying to make their Cthulhu things do stuff like build robots out of human goo, that’s the kind of thing that you can’t write off as easily as “oh well, they’re unfathomable and mysterious.” because it’s totally crazy, it doesn’t jive with how humans think so we either want an explanation or just categorize it as camp.

      1. Poncho says:

        I think the audience is trained by modern fiction to expect the villain to have a complex motivation that ties the character to the universe. The more incredible your villain is, the more powerful he is, the better the motivation needs to be. It needs to follow some sort of rational logic for the audience to buy, and a villain with a strong motivation makes the story more complex and potentially more gratifying. It grounds them in the universe, makes them something plausible, rather than fantastical.

        With the Reapers, though, the entire story is focused on *stopping* them, not figuring out why they enjoy Reaping everything. If motivation could have been tied back into how to stop the Reapers in a more meaningful way, we probably could have praised the story for bringing us full circle and shedding light on an incredibly mysterious villain. The execution, though, is just ridiculously inept in that regard. It betrays its own canon by explaining things later in the story that should have influenced characters earlier, multiple times. Like, why would Sovereign be so gung-ho about attacking the Citadel if his buddies were like a couple years away. The baby Reaper does the same thing by explaining motivation that should have been evident in a character earlier in the story.

        Trying to explain the Reapers de-mystifies them because our goal as the player isn’t tied to the villain’s motivations. If the Reapers’ primary goal was to reproduce and we, the player, found a way in the game to convince the Reapers that we weren’t fit for harvesting, then it could have strengthened the story. As it was executed, though, none of that matter and it all feels contrived.

    3. Darren says:

      Bloodborne provides enough information that the player can piece together the basic narrative. There are (intentional) gaps and ambiguities, but unlike Mass Effect 2 a close analysis of what’s presented doesn’t make things less clear than they were to begin with.

  6. Xedo says:

    The funny thing is, ME1 does establish at least a small foundation towards why reapers would make new reapers out of organic creatures. We see a thematic precedent with individuals being turned into husks, so we know they aren’t above using and integrating organic creatures. Sovereign describes the reapers as each being a nation unto themselves – like a legion of individuals that had somehow been distilled into a single being. And the rachni mission showed that the rachni queen was able to learn all about her race and her history while just an egg through some sort of mental process.

    Put all that together, and the idea of reapers gathering up a few million humans and sacrificing them to create some sort of avatar representing the twisted apex of what it means to be humankind isn’t completely out of left field, at least if you know where the franchise is going. The grey goo is a headscratch-inducing mechanism since the final creation is fully technological and not organic, the design is just terrible, and the whole feel of the suicide mission is tonally in line with b-movie pulp rather than intelligent sci-fi or cthulhu mythos, but they could have at least tried to reference ME1 to make this twist come a little less out of left field.

    1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Sovereign mentions in the first game that “we are each a nation to ourselves” and the major weapon of the reapers is indoctrination -a process that takes people with individual lives and minds and forces them all to think the same way -but not in consensus. Thus, the human reaper makes a certain amount of sense -take the individuals of humanity and use indoctrination and mass effect fields to convert them into a reaper, thus ending the chaos humans bring to the galaxy.

      The grey goo is the part that doesn’t make much sense.

      1. Dork Angel says:

        I found the grey goo was the only bit that did make sense. Breaking down humanity into its component DNA is kind of a way of preserving them in a twisted biological sense and makes all reapers a hybrid of biological and synthetic. The human reaper hybrid makes less sense though since it looks different from all the other reapers. Unless it wasn’t actually a reaper but more like the human version of the collector ship (which was the promethean hybrid ship flown by promethean husks) but I’m grasping at straws there…

        1. Mike S. says:

          The problem is that DNA is trivial. We can already take a small amount and amplify it to arbitrary quantities at our tech level. If they’re just trying to preserve that information content, they could take blood samples. (“Every fifty thousand years, skyscraper-sized spaceships appear in the heavens and drop an army of scary tech zombies, who proceed to jab everyone on every planet with a needle, and then leave. No one knows why.”)

          Conversely if they need something specific to individuals– say all the knowledge in our brains– then reducing people to liquid isn’t a plausible way to retrieve and preserve it. You could still do a horror scenario (everyone’s decapitated and then the brain structure is read, destructively, by some sort of nightmare of rays and wires). But it’s hard to see how the particular method they choose could work even in principle.

          1. Dork Angel says:

            They’re not just preserving though, they’re also destroying. Perhaps the pods scan the brains (nurture) then the body is gooped (nature). Who knows what more is undiscovered in our cells that their advanced sciencey whimy tech can uncover. Or maybe they’re just bonkers…

          2. Sartharina says:

            We have no idea how the goop works. It could very well be converting the info of the body (The physical form) into a readable fluid form (The liquid form), with all data intact.

            1. BenD says:

              This is biologically implausible but in the interest of not allowing my OWN brain to become gray goo and seep out my ears while I was trying to wrap up playing the game, I pretty much went with this.

    2. Lachlan the Mad says:

      Except that none of this works when compared to Sovereign’s utter disdain for organic life and his belief in the fundamental disposability of his organic agents. If Sovereign is actually a bunch of organic beings who’ve been liquefied, mind-melded, and then put into a crab suit, you’d expect him to be more charitable towards humanity — perhaps with a speech more along the lines of “we are the final stage of your evolution” rather than “you exist because we allow it, and you will die because we demand it”. Is Sovereign just in denial about his organic roots?

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Kylo Ren: “He is nothing to me.

      2. Mike S. says:

        Suppose organic species are the equivalent of Reaper gametes, produced in quantity so that a very few will become new life of their kind after a long development process (in which it becomes something unrecognizably different, with nothing in common with the former lifestyle of the tiny units that went into producing it). Humans don’t exactly cherish the equivalent in our own life cycle.

  7. SyrusRayne says:

    It boggles the mind how thoroughly they managed to fail. The skelereaper isn’t just a boss fight, it’s a bad, boring boss fight. They destroyed so much for something that’s not even fucking fun to play! How did they manage to do that??

    1. Christopher says:

      I realize this is a seriously low bar, but at the time I personally I thought it was the best Bioware boss battle I have played. Compared to Saren it’s amazing. And I don’t think there’s a way to win this. I thought the Shadow Broker was even better. In a game that’s half action, I appreciate a good action climax. But I’m sure loads of people were pissed because he wasn’t a computer.

      1. SyrusRayne says:

        I’ve thought about it for a while, and no “good” Bioware boss fights come to mind. I did enjoy Shadow Broker a bit, but I think that was mostly when taken in context with the storyline with Liara. Divorced from that, I guess it’s still passable.

        1. Christopher says:

          I think the first dragon in Inquisition is good. It’s a real big setpiece fight, with several areas specifically designed for that battle, new minion enemies and a dragon that bombards the area before attacking personally, and lands at different spots of the map.

          But it’s hard to remember that when every other optional dragon is the same, except with only a different arena. They even reused it for the final and semifinal boss.

          I kinda like the spectre fight in Lair of the Shadow Broker too. It’s mostly just, she always teleports away with vanguard abilities. So because I’m a vanguard, I could instantly teleport to where she teleported to and smash into her. That was a funny chase.

          1. SyrusRayne says:

            Actually yeah, those dragon fights in general did feel pretty fun.

            1. Lachlan the Mad says:

              The thing which breaks the dragon fights for me is their cyclone attack. They can beat their wings to yank every character into melee with them, and every time you get yanked you take fairly hefty damage. If you try to run away, you get yanked in over and over and can die pretty easily, which is particularly annoying for people like me who only brought one melee character to the fight. The extremely unintuitive solution is to have all your characters charge right up next to the dragon, into the eye of the storm as it were, and just sit there until the dragon is done, at which point you immediately order your ranged attackers to run away.

              1. Christopher says:

                That attack really threw me for a loop.

                1. guy says:

                  Honestly I kind of like that idea. It forces you to break from having your ranged guys hang back and plink away at the dragon while your melee guys tank. If you don’t have to switch up your tactics in some way then the dragon is just a giant monotonous wall of HP. There’s a reason WoW raid bosses often have a similar “threaten the DPS” special.

          2. Aldowyn says:

            Skyrim did the same thing about a dozen times over. There are only, what, 11 dragons in all of the 100 hour game, and several of them are in an area you probably won’t even GO to unless you’re at least somewhat completionist?

            But yeah, giant reaper baby >>> Saren, as far as the fight itself goes, but the shadow broker was better than either.

            Interestingly, I don’t remember any single boss fight in ME3. There’s a few scenes against reapers, but those are more akin to QTEs, really. The analog for the end boss fight is the huge firefight at the end, guarding the missiles. (and I loved it, unlike a ton of people who thought it was a slog.)

            1. Zekiel says:

              You are lucky then. I definitely remember the first fight against Kai Leng, and not in a good way.

            2. guy says:

              I think the Inquisition boss fights in general are mostly pretty good. Granted, playing as a Knight-Enchanter every fight before a patch some point after Jaws Of Hakkon consisted of casting barrier, rushing up close, and pounding the mind-sword button until your enemy fell over. It hit moderately hard, had a short cooldown, used a good damage type, and regenerates your barrier.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Hordes of the underdark has an excellent boss battle(mephistopheles,one of the arch devils).Its tough as nails,has freaking strong magic,he even can turn your companions against you if you werent careful,but at the same time you can completely skip him if you did something before.The best boss bioware ever made.

          1. SyrusRayne says:

            Fair point. That was some pretty good pay-off for being thorough in the last chapter.

          2. John says:

            I do so love Mehpistopheles’ attempts to suborn Deekin. So much flattery to so little effect.

            “DEEKIN NOT LIKES YOU!”

      2. Grudgeal says:

        The last boss battle of Ascension, the ‘Director’s Cut’ of Throne of Bhaal (it’s made by David Gaider but it wasn’t included in the release version) is my contender for the title.

        It’s a marathon of practically every boss battle you’ve had up to that point with a cherry of the actual final boss on top. It’s hard as rock nails, but if you manage to claw your way through it it feels *really* accomplishing. You’ve just battled your way through almost everything Throne of Bhaal could throw at you, at the same time, and succeeded.

  8. MrGuy says:

    My favorite comparison to the Suicide Mission actually comes from Final Fantasy VI.

    There’s a moment at the Act 1 climax of the game where Shadow (an assassin) effectively sacrifices himself to let the rest of the team escape the crumbling Floating Continent after the bad guy moves around some statues and thereby destroys the world (because Final Fantasy). Shadow (in effectively a cutscene) basically throws himself at the pursuers and yells “run!”

    There rest of the team runs to the escape point in an explicitly timed escape sequence, and it’s tense to make it. After running frantically to (and hopefully reaching) the exit on time, you’re supposed to make an escape, but there’s a “wait for Shadow!” option. Everything about the sequence drives you towards “get the hell out of here!” Even if you wait, the timer advances and he doesn’t show up. Hey, I tried!

    But if you wait until (literally) the last second, Shadow shows up and escapes with you. Then your party all gets separated. Act 2 is consumed by reassembling the team.

    If you waited until the last second for Shadow, he’ll rejoin the team in Act 2. If you didn’t, he’s gone forever.

    I love this because it doesn’t feel like the game is cheating. If he’s dead, it feels like it’s because he was supposed to die. He was a guy who did bad things who died to redeem himself. If he’s still alive, it’s because you risked all your lives to save him, and he’s been redeemed by his friends and the mission to make things right. Either way, it feels “right.”

    1. Christopher says:

      That’s a cool detail I never heard about.

    2. Decius says:

      Doing something like that, but based in part on events that happened before the dangerous scene; if completing Shadow’s loyalty mission gave him a grappling hook and the outcome of waiting until the last second was that he got close enough to use that hook to escape (whether or not he had it!), that would be a major narrative payoff.

  9. boota says:

    what they eat?

    omega-4 enriched fish

    1. MrGuy says:

      I pity Omega-4’s. Because nobody cares about what they do.

    2. Gruhunchously says:

      Omega-4 fatty acids are good for your heart.

      1. boota says:

        that’s not all.
        studies show omega-4 fatty acids can cure the genophage, and help rogue sentient machines reach consensus with their creators

  10. Dreadjaws says:

    I have nothing to say about the game, I just want to say: R.I.P. Alan Rickman. He will be sorely missed. :(

    1. Bas L. says:

      I’ll just leave this here:
      “When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair,
      I’ll be reading Harry Potter.
      And my family will say to me:
      ‘After all this time?’
      And I will say, ‘Always'”

      He must be reading HP somewhere else now. RIP.

      1. SyrusRayne says:

        The real shame is, he never said that.

        1. Gruhunchously says:

          And the even greater shame is that he never will.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      Mr. Rickman won’t be joining us, for the rest of our lives.

      I feel, somehow, a sense of loss from it.

      1. Felblood says:

        It’s strange how mass media changed our relationships with public figures.

        Here is man loved an mourned by millions, all over the world, most of whom he never met or even heard of.

        –and the meat of the thing is, he was one of those celebrities who really got that, the truly great ones. He was the kind of celebrity that loved his fans back in the abstract, because he couldn’t love them individually or personally, but he knew of and acknowledged that bond of love. So, there was a sense about him that the respect was somewhat mutual, if not still lopsided.

  11. Darren says:

    The only thing about the suicide mission that bothered me is that it’s not always clear about who would do well in what situation. The most egregious was during my second playthrough, where a fully Loyal Miranda utterly failed to maintain the biotic shield. She’s presented as an exceptional biotic and really should be on par with the other options for the purpose of that sequence, but no, she fails. Don’t build up a character’s abilities for an entire game only for them to fail when those abilities are finally plot-relevant, developers!

    1. Vermander says:

      I know she’s not very popular around here, but I really think that Miranda should have been the one unkillable member of your squad.

      It always bothered me that she played almost no role in the events of the third game. She’s arguably the most important Cerberus defector of all time and should have played a bigger role in helping us take them down. I felt like it was particularly galling that she played no part in the assault on Cerberus’ headquarters or in the Citadel DLC where the main villain is basically her evil counterpart.

      I think the writers really painted themselves into a corner with the whole “everyone can die” thing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to play ME 3 without at least Garrus and Tali alive.

      1. Merlin says:

        An acquaintance of mine actually did that a little while ago. I’m forgetting whether the no-allies-survive run was the same as his pure-neutrality run (wherein he avoided using Paragon or Renegade options whenever possible) but both aspects resulted in a real downer of a story. The latter was definitely funnier to hear about though, because not using the aligned choices basically gives you the worst outcome for every quest. His words on the finale:

        My Neutral playthrough of Mass Effect 3 has come to an end. As some of you predicted, it ended with Shepard unable to choose how to use the Crucible, and victory was delayed until the following cycle.

        What’s striking about this weak ending is that it still ends with a coda where an older person is praising Shepard as a hero to their child. Such is the power of the heroic myth that even the story of someone who rejects the call of destiny is forced into its mold. Even if Shepard didn’t actively subvert her Heroic Destiny, she at least went about it in a half-assed manner. Shepard’s obstinate neutrality allowed trillions of people to die senselessly. Yet in spite of her blowing the chance to end the Reaper harvest, Shepard is posthumously deified. The Universe decided that Shepard was going to be a hero, and nothing she could do was going to change that.

        1. Mike S. says:

          While I can’t speak to the writer’s specific story arc, I think the Refuse ending can be part of a heroic story. Shepard is literally taken up to a high place where she can see all the kingdoms of the world by the lord of the primordial, superhuman beings who rebelled and became monsters before the dawn of recorded history. Does this remind you of anything?

          Letting King Reaper define your choices for you and demand that you pick one is, plausibly, a deep con, reminiscent of three card monte or a shell game, where the mark’s error isn’t failing to find the right choice out of three options but in participating in the game at all. And the fact that when you refuse, the Catalyst effectively removes the mask and speaks to you for the first time in Harbinger’s voice only confirms that the child guise was psychological manipulation.

          Taking Refuse means that Shepard is a hero the way the Protheans of Ilos were heroes, foregoing hope for their own people to provide a chance to the next ones down the line. It’s a choice with near-infinite costs: but it’s the one that doesn’t require Shepard to take an active hand in genocide against an ally (if the geth are still around for the Red ending), to engage in the Illusive Man’s hubris or worse (“Even without my body, I’ll totally be able to keep the Reapers under control and doing the right thing! Forever!”), or to physically and neurologically mutilate every living thing in the galaxy without their knowledge or consent.

          (Of course, in practice, all the choices work, at least assuming your war readiness is high enough that you don’t just kill everyone to no purpose. But Shepard and the other people in a given future don’t know what would have happened if a different choice had been made.)

          1. Mike S. says:

            (Too late to edit, but that “shell game” link should have been to: .)

            1. Poncho says:

              Order of the Stick is one of the greatest webcomics ever realized. I wish I could pull half as good of a story out of my tabletop games.

          2. Duoae says:

            Of course, ‘refuse’ is only an option in the ‘fixed’ ending. I don’t think you can count the fixed ending as being part of the intention of the narrative.

            Just in case people don’t remember:

          3. guy says:

            Honestly, while I can see refusing to play along with any of their options, it seems pointless to me to question that they’re actually being offered as described. If the Catalyst isn’t actually offering the options for you to pick between, I don’t see any reason why it’d even bring you. It could just unilaterally pick and execute its favorite.

            1. Mike S. says:

              By the same token, its explanations of why it’s allowing/asking you to aren’t especially convincing. (“We’ve casually murdered a number of sapients that requires scientific notation to properly express for a billion years. But we’re really impressed that you got to this particular part of the Citadel– well, almost, since you were unconscious and we had to levitate you here. And fortunately we’ve got three galaxy-transforming devices already set up for just this development!”)

              Obviously the writers didn’t intend that it be a con: all three colored endings do what they say, and work at least to the extent of ending the Cycles. (Will Red lead to AI apocalypse? Who knows? Not before Buzz Aldrin can tell the legend of Shepard, anyway.)

              But I think it’s a legitimate interpretation of the data, given that every. single. Reaper artifact ever is a trap, from the obvious and instant (colony finds spikes, colony gets turned into husks) to the subtle and long term (using mass relays and the Citadel=serving your civilization up to the next Reaper wave). Insofar as this one isn’t, it’s an unexpected violation of a pattern that’s been in place since before Earth had multicellular life.

              1. guy says:

                The Catalyst’s reason is okay; with the completion of the Crucible it is no longer confident it can maintain the cycle and had previously anticipated its failure but (assuming your War Assets are high enough) is unwilling to select a specific alternative on its own and chooses to defer the decision to the organic responsible for defeating the cycle.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  Why isn’t it, though? We built the Crucible, brought all those species together, and still lost. Minus the Catalyst’s intervention, Shepard bleeds out on the Citadel deck despite everything. Get rid of the Illusive Man and his gun, and Shepard still can’t reach the Catalyst’s devices unless permitted (assuming the door to the chamber is made of the same all-resistant stuff as the Ward arms).

                  And if the Catalyst just blows up those devices (or doesn’t build them!), then the Crucible is a big battery with no known application. Organics haven’t the slightest idea how to channel the Crucible energies through the mass relays. And once the Crucible has been brought to the Citadel, the Reapers know what to look for and worry about and counter. Worse case, start the reaping process earlier, or leave ten vanguard Reapers instead of one, or build another Citadel with uncompromised Keepers so that they aren’t delayed next time. Or anything, really, except surrendering to one Marine with a fatal gunshot wound.

                  Spending a billion years engaging in omnicide only to freely offer doors #1, #2, and #3 to the first lucky contestant who (almost!) makes it to the stage is, at the very least, really weird and hard to fathom behavior. Trolling Shepard for sick amusement is, by comparison, at least comprehensible for a bored immortal with a hate-on for organics.

        2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

          “And then Shepard strangely chose that moment to pointlessly blow off some steam. Thus worlds fell and the cycle began anew because Shepard forgot he was the leader of a united fleet in a desperate gambit to save the galaxy and started acting like a gamer pissed off over a stupid plot point.”

          Sorry, but I love the epic fail ending. Its my favorite. It lets gamers blow off steam but then holds them responsible. I laugh anytime I see someone get pissed off over it.

          1. Poncho says:

            It’s thematically appropriate, too.

            “Fuck this ending! I refuse to be apart of your garbage plot any longer!”

            1. Gruhunchously says:

              And then you can go on to head-cannon that the next cycle actually dealt with both the threat and their available resources in a more intelligent manner then ours did, and that the final defeat of the Reapers actually had something to do with the unity of a galaxy and not the single choice of an individual with the power bestowed on them by their enemy for dubious reasons.

              1. Merlin says:

                I thought that this article about the human reaper was quite clear that head-cannons are a bad idea all around.

                1. Gruhunchously says:

                  Like most weapons, head-cannons are not inherently good or evil. It’s all about how they are applied. Giving a head cannon to a baby Human Reaper is unjustifiable. Giving one to Gunther Hermann may be less so, depending on circumstances.

              2. INH5 says:

                The Refuse ending deliberately included a portion of Liara’s message to the next cycle saying that the Crucible didn’t work, so I think that it’s a pretty safe assumption that in that ending, the next cycle’s solution to the Reaper problem did not involve the Crucible.

                And yes, I know some Bioware mod on their official forums said differently, but I trust what is in the actual game over the word of some guy who probably never worked on the game.

          2. Raygereio says:

            Sorry, but I love the epic fail ending. Its my favorite. It lets gamers blow off steam but then holds them responsible. I laugh anytime I see someone get pissed off over it.

            The way Bioware presented that ending was pretty stupid though. Remember that it wasn’t in the original game. It was later added by the Extended Cut DLC. More importantly: during the interval between the release of ME3 and the Extended Cut there were countless videos of people shooting the starchild in anger. Literally shooting the messenger that delivered the stupid plot. The Bioware forums were full of them.

            And then the “Rocks fall, everyone dies. Some real hero in the distant future will do what you didn’t”-ending added by the DLC triggers of shooting starchild and a booming “SO BE IT” voice clip plays? Yeah, I don’t blame people for thinking that came across as petty.

            1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

              Petty? The fan outcry was grade A pettiness. Better Business Bureau filings? Retake Mass Effect movement? After seeing how the fans reacted to all of this, I’m more inclined to side with Bioware. No, the Refuse ending, if it was intended to troll the fans, was an appropriate and proportional response. And very funny.

              And Valve for that matter, after paid mods. Gabe Newell comes onto an AMA to field questions and address complaints. Lets hit him with fat jokes, why not?

              The community is it’s own worst enemy.

              (Note: I said “The community” not “This community.” We have a pretty good thing here.)

              1. Raygereio says:

                After seeing how the fans reacted to all of this, I'm more inclined to side with Bioware.

                I like think the sensible and correct thing to do was sit on sidelines with a bag of popcorn and laugh at everyone involved. The way Bioware acted during the whole DA2 & ME3 debacle was filled plenty of grade A pettiness as well.
                Which is what really the problem with the Refuse ending was. Maybe some devs intended to troll the fans. Who knows. But with what Bioware’s PR was doing at the time, it just came across as more silly “You don’t appreciate my art? Well screw you!”-style flailing about.

                1. Aldowyn says:

                  I don’t remember that at /all/, but I don’t (or didn’t, maybe) actually follow what Bioware was saying very closely and I was very busy defending the rest of the game from the likes of most of y’all :P

                  So yeah, I thought it was hilarious, but I can see the argument that it was petty on their part as well.

                2. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Just don’t forget that this troll ending came as part of a free DLC that expanded the other endings to give many of the fans what they wanted (granted they couldn’t make everybody happy, but they satisfied a lot of people)

                  For people who actually wanted to salvage their experience and reinvest in the game, they were given something to help them do that. For those who just wanted to give the middle finger to Bioware, they were allowed to do just that.

                  And when that failed to satisfy some, they made good with Leviathan which provided further explanation and a pretty good monster mystery that took Mass Effect back to feeling a bit more sci fi.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Piling more shit on top of a shit pile isnt a way to fix it.Thats why both the extended cut and leviathan failed,but citadel triumphed.

              2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Yes,how dare those insufferable assholes be angry when they were lied* to for years just so they would shill out their money on a preorder(and a bunch of dlc).Stupid entitled fans asking for quality in their entertainment.

                *Literally lied to.Never forget the “We wont give you a push of a button leading to just a different colored ending”.

            2. Mike S. says:

              I discovered that consequence on my first playthrough entirely unwarned, playing through the endgame at 2AM. Inspired by the TUN videos, I went to fire some pointless shots before heading off to do a “real” ending. When I saw the result I almost fell out of my chair.

              I actually thought it was kind of awesome. Sure, you can feel the designer frustration, but it still left Shepard’s efforts as the reason the next Cycle made it through. (Where if they really had wanted to be jerks, they could have had them talking about how the Shepard muffed it, but fortunately we didn’t waste our chance to push the awesome button.) As I mentioned elsewhere, this made me feel some continuity with the Protheans and Vigil.

              And then I reloaded and picked a colored ending to see how it was handled in the new Extended Cut. So my first Shepard has something of a Lady or the Tiger ending to her story: she was a Paragon, who was all about saving as many people as possible with a minimum of moral compromise. In the end, does she save the most people by making a deal with the devil, or does she stand fast to principle in the face of Armageddon, trusting that it’s the right thing to do? Well, she did both.

            3. guy says:

              Honestly they should probably have had the option to begin with. A choice to reject the Reaper’s answers. Okay, sure, it’s doomed and futile, but it makes for a final stand on principle.

    2. krellen says:

      The suicide mission had another problem: there was no way to back out of your squad choices. My playthrough was almost perfect – everyone got out alive except Jack. But Jack didn’t die for any good reason; Jack died because I accidentally clicked on her instead of Jacob to lead the second fire team and there was no chance for an “oops, that’s not what I meant to do” to go back and change it.

      So Jack died because I misclicked something that I should have had all the time in the world to consider.

      1. Raygereio says:

        So Jack died because I misclicked something that I should have had all the time in the world to consider.

        You had all the time. There was no timer in the selection menu.
        Also you had to select the squad mate you wanted. Which brought up a huge picture of said squadmate. And then press a separate button to confirm it.

        1. krellen says:

          Apparently not in the original console release that I played. It most definitely did not bring up a huge picture of anyone. It was just a list of names.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Bioware didn’t create separate UIs for PC/console, nor was that ever patched in. If you actually had no squadmate picture show up, then that was a glitch.
            However: The selected squadmate’s name was highlighted, you had all the time in the world to make your choice and there was a separate confirmation button.

            ME2 had a lot of faults. But Bioware did make it so you could not misclick and select the wrong squadmate by accident.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Pc player here,it was just a list of names with no confirmation dialogue.So it definitely was patched in later.He is not wrong.

              1. Raygereio says:

                There’s no confirmation dialogue. But you had to select a squadmate (which highlighted the name and produced a picture and little description of said squadmate) and then press a different button to confirm that you wanted to select that squadmate.

                I played the game at launch and I got that. I couldn’t find a video of the suicide mission on youtube with an upload date of before the 1.01 patch release, but it’s not mentioned anywhere in the patchnotes.
                So *shrug*

            2. krellen says:

              They did, because I did just that. Please stop accusing me of not knowing my own personal story of what happened to me.

              All they needed to do was add a “go back” option. Let me X back the choice I just made, which is a standard UI feature that has existed for literally decades.

    3. Mike S. says:

      I think Miranda not being quite as good a biotic as she thinks she is is fair. The people who are able to do the bubble without casualties are a) an asari who’s stated to be comparable to a matriarch in her power level; b) her vampire daughter who’s demonstrated to be her equal; and c) the product of a depraved research program designed to expend as many children as necessary to create an ultimate human biotic beyond the known limits of what’s been done.

      By contrast, Miranda is “merely” a top human biotic– probably in the same class as Kaidan or a biotic Shepard. Which is very good, and after all she is able to complete the mission. But Jack should be something extra-special to justify having her along at all.

      (This is, of course, complicated by the fact that she only has her “solo three YMIR mechs” power level in cutscenes, and isn’t obviously uber-powerful in actual gameplay.)

      Though another case where I think people are justly misled is the vent. Tali and Legion are good choices (and honestly, Legion should have an advantage here. Electronics may not love heat, but a platform designed for combat and not limited by biology should be able to handle it for longer). But a lot of people justly observe that Thane is an infiltration specialist you met after he used the vent system to get through extensive defenses and reach his goal. His not being optimal for this mission feels as if they’re not laying the clues right.

      Conversely, I love that Zaeed is a lousy fire-team leader, because despite his military experience all his stories end with everyone else dead. (Though of course Garrus is also the sole survivor of his one major effort at leadership, and he’s a perfectly good choice.)

      1. Mintskittle says:

        The difference between Zaeed and Garrus is that Zaeed’s squads all died while he was leading them, while Garrus had to be separated from his squadmates before they could all be killed. They were doing fine before Sidonus’ betrayal.

      2. swenson says:

        This is what I actually quite like about the Suicide Mission. At several points, there’s people who are almost, but not quite, good choices for each task. If you carefully think things through, the correct answers are pretty obvious, but if you only paid enough attention to get the broad strokes (“Zaeed used to be in charge of the Blue Suns”, “Miranda’s biotics are special”, etc.), you could easily be mislead.

        While a lot of people have complained about this (mostly, I suspect, because they didn’t pay attention to the characters), I love it. Actual consequences to the player not having paid attention to the story (or at least googled the right answers)! Actual failure! What a concept.

      3. guy says:

        I would say that the pre-vent dialogue makes it pretty clear that it’s a job for a tech specialist. Thane’s an assassin, not an engineer.

        What got me with the seeker swarm thing is that Jacob muffs it. Okay, he’s not an exceptionally powerful biotic. But his loyalty power, the thing he gets for completing the quest usually required to survive their job, is Barrier. His loyalty power is specifically directly applicable to the job. And he can’t do it.

    4. Weimer says:

      The gameplay designers didn’t get the writer’s “glorify cerberus, especially miranda” memo, perhaps.

      That could’ve been a nice moment of humility for ms. perfect, but no time to focus on characters in our space shooter.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        Yeah, except Jacob DOES work just fine as a fireteam leader, despite showing basically no hint of leadership anywhere. I’m pretty sure no one can succeed optimally at more than one job.

  12. Rymdsmurfen says:

    I had such high hopes for ME2. The first one was so good, and I imagined the sequel would be just the same, only more. Instead it was a very different game, with the good things from ME1 replaced with stupid and silly. And of all the stupid and silly, the boss fight at the end was by a wide margin the worst offender. It was like ending the game with having Nelson Muntz laugh at you.

    Anyway, thanks for putting all the frustrations I had with this game into words! It feels a little better now… =)

    1. krellen says:

      This is why Mass Effect 2 is the one and only game I have or will ever preorder. I loved Mass Effect 1. I wanted more of that. And instead I got Mass Effect 2.

      Lesson learned.

      (I’ve played Dune and Dune 2. I should have known better.)

      1. John says:

        Dune and Dune 2 are very different games, so I can see how you might be disappointed going from the original to the sequel. Nevertheless, Dune 2 is a really good game.

      2. Bubble181 says:

        At least Dune 2 was a good game.

        Completely and totally different from the first, but still fun.

        1. Zekiel says:

          Mass Effect 2 is one of my all-time favourite games. And I agree with pretty much all of Shamus’ criticisms of it. Go figure!

          (I suspect its because the flaws are not things that bother me that much, while the triumphs – such as entertaining characterisations and a significantly improved shooting system* compared to ME1 – are things I do care about a lot)


          1. Christopher says:

            Yeah, that’s what it comes down to for me as well. It’s not at all one of my all-time favorites, but it is my Bioware favorite.

            I went back to listen to some of the GOTY talks about Mass Effect 2 at the bigger outlets I follow, and people weren’t going “Fuck yeah, those main story missions were awesome! Feed me shit instead of soufflé!” They were praising all of those loyalty missions(and actually the suicide mission), gameplay improvements and characters. Then they made fun of the baby reaper’s looks.

            1. SlothfulCobra says:

              Really, the thing about ME2 is that while the central plotline is full of all sorts of holes and inconsistencies, it never has that much pretense that it’s anything more than what it is, an action movie. Within the broader framework, there’s room for all sorts of fun characters, along with little vignettes, and the gameplay is straight fun.

              It’s not a comprehensively and exhaustively excellent game, but it’s a pretty good and fun experience, and at the end of the day, that’s what most people want out of a video game. It’s great.

              1. Aldowyn says:

                Yeah, but all of these are *very* different from what Mass Effect 1 was. Some people (particularly many of those here) got burned. A few people, like me, were lucky enough to adore both. Most seem to have never even played the first.

                (and, of course, I’m in an even smaller minority because Mass Effect 3 is my favorite of any of them… I saw a survey once on PC Gamer asking which was their favorite. The ratio was something like 60/30/10 2/1/3. Maybe more parity between the first two.)

                1. Zekiel says:

                  Yeah. Conversely one of the reasons I loved ME2 so much was that it fixed a lot of things that annoyed by about ME1 such as the rubbish shooting and the unbearable inventory system (which I was entirely happy they jettisoned entirely).

                  But note I totally understand why many prefer ME1 to its sequels since I can see it did many things better. I was in the mood for a streamlined action-RPG with an sci-fi-action-movie vibe and that’s exactly what I got with ME2.

      3. Grudgeal says:

        You too, huh?

      4. djw says:

        I learned that lesson on Dragon Age 2. I pre-ordered that, and my anger over it’s release in an obviously unfinished state is the reason that I did not finally get around to buying and playing ME3 until 2 months ago.

        1. somebodys_kid says:

          Pssh! Amateurs with your preorder disappointments!
          I preordered Aliens: Colonial Marines.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            Oh, god. I am so, so sorry. Even DA2 has its defenders!

            1. djw says:

              There are features of DA2 that I actually like. Part of my anger over that game is that it could have been so much better if they had just taken the time to design a few more caves (and come up with a better mechanic than “falling men” for adds to a fight).

          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            And yet you all* still preorder digital things.If people arent gonna learn from their own mistakes,they deserve to be burned multiple times.

            *Ok not literally all,but majority.

      5. GloatingSwine says:

        Dune and Dune II were by completely different companies though. (Cryo Interactive and Westwood).

        They were also in development at the same time* and, as far as I can tell, Dune II maybe even came out first (Jan 1 1992 whereas I can’t find a release date for Dune but the earliest review I can find is March 1992).

        * Sort of. Dune was actually officially cancelled in 1990 but Cryo kept making it anyway and convinced Virgin to release it.

  13. GloatingSwine says:

    I think the reason that the Mass Effect 2 ending’s stupid bits didn’t receive the same level of opprobium that ME3 did was how well it integrated all the squad members into the final mission. Even if some of the possible deaths were a bit confusing, all the squad members were present to the end and it felt like the player was making decisions what they would each do.

    It wasn’t perfect, it doesn’t affect the overall Mass Effect narrative at all, but it was a reasonable capstone to the game where you hung out with your space mates doing cool space shooting.

    1. Decus says:

      To me your last line there is the funniest part of the entire thing. A lot of people spent a decent amount of time and effort making a variety of save files only to find that in ME3 missing squad members are replaced, in large part, with letters or other elements to fuel the exact same plot with the only long-term difference being less ending choices or maybe not having to see/hear somebody you don’t like.

      It’s still very surreal/fun to play through ME3 with most everybody dead beyond some one-off+Morinth but not because it’s really cool/interesting–it’s surreal and fun because it’s hilariously bad, comically stupid, entirely lazy, etc.

      1. Sartharina says:

        I’m trying to figure out what it’ll take to get only Tali and Morinth to survive Mass Effect 2’s ending, so that I can have an “Everybody’s dead” game end (Destroy ending is necessary to finish off the Geth, who killed all the Quarians, and EDI). MAXIMUM GENOCIDE!

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          In that case you can also have Legion, Mordin (unless you don’t want to shoot him), Samara (just let her commit suicide) and Jack (don’t do the Biotic Academy sidequest) survive ME2.

          Actually, thinking about it, I think Garrus is the only non-DLC character from ME2 who doesn’t have a way to get killed in 3.

  14. Bas L. says:

    The main problem with the Suicide Mission is that it would have been perfect for the final mission in Mass Effect 3. I am not talking about the Human Reaper of course, but a similar type of mission. You could assign roles to the various Hammer forces for example and each of your squadmates could potentially die.

    So while the concept is very interesting, the writers shot themselves in the foot by doing this in ME2. It ultimately resulted in every ME2 squad member receiving a rather minor role / cameo in ME3 because for a lot of people these characters could be dead, after all. You simply get too many variables and branches that you have to take into account. That’s why you only want to do this at the end of a game / series.

    Having said all that, apart from all the problems I have with ME2, I must actually applaud them for having the ambition to make the SM work and I think they did a pretty good job. It was a bit too short, the enemies were a bit too weak (no Praetorians) and of course the Human Reaper was terrible, but other than that it was pretty ambitious and a cinematic experience (the excellent, bombastic soundtrack helps a lot here).

    1. Mike S. says:

      I was surprised and disappointed that they didn’t do an expanded version of the Suicide Mission for ME3. I was sort of expecting that you’d be allocating all those war assets you collected, deciding whether to use a krogan strike team now or save it for later, have the geth or the quarians doing cyberwarfare tasks, deploy Kirrahe’s STG squad at a critical moment (if you have it), etc. That felt like a missed opportunity to use something they’d already baked into the game.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        yeah, the war assets feel entirely underused. Some combination of them and the war table from Inquisition could have been genuinely great.

  15. kdansky says:

    It never made sense to me that people complained about the ending of ME3, when the ending to ME2 was orders of magnitudes more stupid. A giant metal terminator made from human biomass so we can have a mediocre boss fight? I’d wager 90% of humanity could come with a better idea, for example: Giant terminator made out of biomass. That’s already an improvement.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But me2 ending gave you interactions with your companions.It made each and every one of them have a role in it.It gave you a resolution on that front.Me3 simply stuck them on some planet somewhere because….reasons.Thats why me2 has a superior ending.

    2. Daimbert says:

      I think it’s pretty clear, or at least it is to me, that nobody really cared about the plot of ME2, since that was basically just an excuse to recruit all the characters. The suicide mission is the culmination of that all that, as it’s about keeping those characters alive — or not — and seeing how they impact the overall mission with their talents and abilities. The end battle, then, is nothing more than something to tie up the plot — in a somewhat ludicrous way — so the game can end.

      ME3 really is supposed to be an overarching plot, and it’s supposed to wrap up the entire series. Throughout ME3, we wrap up the character plot points and then move onto the ending to end the main plot. The main plot in ME3 is both an inadequate ending to the main plot AND, at least in the original version, can actually wipe out the wonderful character plot endings that you tried to hard to achieve. Yeah, it’s no WONDER that people hate it more than the ME2 ending, which is bad but at least can be mostly ignored.

    3. INH5 says:

      That’s because while ME2’s ending has a number of logical problems, it still works thematically and emotionally. Yes, the Human Reaper is dumb, but you get to shoot it in its dumb face, blow up the bad guys, save the galaxy, and narrowly escape the exploding base in your awesome ship with your surviving friends.

      If ME3’s ending had presented the Starchild with all of its dialogue identical to how it was in the original release, but instead of forcing Shepard to make one of the Starchild’s offered choices, had Shepard fight some sort of battle to defy the Starchild and press a button that blew up all of the Reapers, there would have been far less of an outcry even though 90% of the logical problems would have still been there. That’s why you don’t hear nearly as many complaints about the final confrontation with TIM in ME3, even though that sequence is full of nonsensical dialogue and bizarre contrivances. As poorly set up as that scene is, the basic conflict and story themes remain intact, and for a significant portion of the audience that’s enough to keep them tuned in.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        I still think the base themes and plot points of ME3 are mostly functional, just incredibly badly executed. Even the Crucible and (maaaaaaybe) the starchild.

        It IS true that most of the emotional heft is associated with the characters, not with the story (since ME2 squandered any hope of that), and that is resolved through the rest of the game, leaving little to none left after Anderson dies. That character focus is also why Citadel was so well received by what fans the series had left.

      2. Zekiel says:

        That is remarkably insightful!

    4. Gruhunchously says:

      It’s my experience that people will excuse the silliest of plots as long as there’s something else to keep them invested, whether it be good characters, atmosphere, set dressing, music, thematic subtext, ect. For many, it didn’t matter that the final fight and decision of ME2 was highly questionable, because the tension of keeping all their favorite characters alive was a sufficient distraction. The ultimate crime of the ME3 ending wasn’t that it was dumb, there had been stuff before that had been just as dumb if not dumber, it’s that it stripped away everything that people liked about the series in exchange for a dry, senseless exposition dump and a series of choices disconnected from everything that had happened previously. It’s why the extended cut was so successful, even if it didn’t actually fix any of the biggest logical holes and introduced a few new ones of it’s own. People didn’t want a logically airtight explanation, they just wanted closure.

    5. guy says:

      I think lots of people simply assumed that the writers were going somewhere that made sense with that and it’d all be explained in the third game.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Yeah you can go a long way with a sense of mystery and “well maybe the writer has some clever explanation that will be satisfying”. Of course adding that weight of expectation only makes the eventual rubbish explanation (or non-explanation) more frustrating.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          I think that explains why ME3 got so much more hate than ME2. ME2 had problems, but everyone assumed there was an explanation coming, so ME3 got hated for its problems, and then it got hated more for not explaining ME2’s problems.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Absolutely. As long as a long form serial continues, it holds out the hope that it will stick the landing in an awesome ending. Once the ending happens, all of the “IOU one explanation/resolution” tokens come due at once. Laying and complicating plot elements is easy by comparison, and everyone can imagine (and argue over) the great ending over the horizon. Once the wave function has collapsed to one ending written by one or more fallible humans, that anticipation is gone and the time for recriminations has come.

            I have a sneaking suspicion that this may at least be contributing to George R.R. Martin’s difficulties meeting his deadlines. Any frustrations his fans have at the delays are as nothing compared to the backlash if the ending isn’t everything they’ve built up in their heads over twenty-odd years. Which, of course, it can’t be, not least because they all have differing standards of what would constitute an awesomely worthy ending. Best case is probably a “well, that didn’t suck” consensus with some common criticisms and a lot of loud outliers. (E.g., “Return of the Jedi”.) Worst case his name becomes a hissing and byword for dashed expectations (albeit with some loyal, vocal defenders). (E.g., “Lost”.)
            I wouldn’t entirely blame him if he decided to run out the clock and let Brandon Sanderson or someone write the last book after he’s gone. (Whoever does it accrues less blame, since after all they’re just doing their best and of course it would have been better if only the author had been able to see it through.)

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I too like the suicide mission.Even its current execution is fine.The only thing I wouldve improved is adding elements of it to previous gameplay.Meaning,I wouldve liked if you could do something with the rest of your companions even before that last mission.

  17. The Rocketeer says:

    When Garrus drops dead it feels random, and not a consequence of his unresolved grudge against Sidonus or your failure to properly lead him. From within the story, you can't see the cause and effect. If you put in the work and your team survives, then it feels like the game is rewarding you. But if you skip some of the sidequests, then the failures don't really feel like proper thematic consequences, and they usually don't work as a story. It feels like a major character died the death of a Star Trek redshirt.

    Like I said above, this isn't some horrible failure.

    For a game whose overriding rejoinder in defense became, “It’s actually about the characters,” I’d argue it is a pretty meaningful failure. Or at least, this small part is fairly representative of the character writing over the course of the series, which never rose above this level.

    I’ll give the Mass Effect series credit for doing the one thing that BioWare games simply can’t seem to screw up: building a large cast of strong, diverse personalities for people to pick and choose their bishies from. But personalities represent potential, a starting point. A tautology: characterization creates characters. A character, rather than a static icon, is made by the game’s use of this potential for better or worse.

    But then, despite that reflexive mantra, no one actually cared about the characters, did they? Only the personalities, the potential long since wasted. That’s how, in defiance of everything he said, did, or was, we got the meme of Garrus as Space Batman. Mass Effect always squandered its characters, either through misuse or disuse. BioWare’s actual characterization of its cast never qualitatively diverged from its writing of any other aspect of the latter two games.

    I know Shamus is deliberately avoiding focusing on the characters in this analysis, both because it would practically double his already titanic workload and because not even he has the patience for the shitwreck it would spark. But, as this series has often illustrated, while people often tend to be so bad at talking about narrative or themes, I think there’s a strong case to be made that people tend to be even worse at talking about anything character-centric, for all the same reasons and more. The glossary necessary to discuss them is simply too unfamiliar, and they simply lie too close to the heart to invite or sustain a prolonged and sober discussion- and never more when there are serious criticisms to be made.

    However, I won’t be the one to make that case. I know it is cowardly, or at least lazy, to ring the bell and then wander away from the belfry before anyone arrives, but the fact is that my willingness to pen out or apologize the incredible heap of things I still seem to have left to say about Mass Effect was long ago overpowered by how fucking done I am caring about it. Even this, a brief outline of my conclusion, has set in that oh-so Sisyphean soreness in my wrists, and in that dutiful ganglion in my head that correlates effort and reward. For me, it is enough simply to glower and let the series be lost to selection bias.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Summary: Oh you think the characters are good? Well actually they’re bad, you just lack the “necessary glossary” to understand why. I would explain, but that would be too hard. So yeah… enjoy my opinion and so on.

      Really dude? If you end your point with a paragraph about how cowardly and unfair your own writing is… maybe just hit the delete key.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Let me phrase it another way.

        A mere disagreement may not stand firmly on its own. But just because you’d predictably want or expect an argument to develop doesn’t mean I have to give you one.

        So yeah, enjoy my opinion or don’t.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          I enjoyed it. And I would argue that Mordin (and quite possibly only Mordin) rose above the level of a Space Batman – to the point where I don’t like what he did but I understand why he did it.

          I would argue … but I also understand your done-ness! :D (Or if not understand, at least sympathise with. So no worries – maybe another day; maybe not; ‘s all good.)

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      Well, in a way the whole mechanic of characters who you haven’t earned the loyalty of dying is a neat little way of choosing “acceptable targets” who the player probably won’t miss as much, to kill off. Much in the same way that DC likes to dredge up obscure characters that they haven’t used in forever to kill in their crossover events to prove that things are serious. It gets rid of people the player doesn’t like, and may even improve the player’s opinion of the character in the same way that people normally don’t speak ill of the dead.

      It’s a despicable narrative technique, but an established one.

      1. Zekiel says:

        I guess you’re right, but its not generally a good thing to do. In Mass Effect 1 I barely talked to Ashley at all in my first play-through (preferring to concentrate on Kaiden, Liara and Garrus, and explore her and Tali’s dialogue trees in a second playthrough). When it came to choosing whether to save Kaiden or Ashley you would think the choice would be obvious. But actually I felt incredibly conflicted – for all the wrong reasons. I knew that sacrificing Ashley wouldn’t mean much to me, because I’d never really spoken to her, so it wouldn’t be a satisfying plot point for me. Whereas sacrificing Kaiden would have been really difficult and sad, and thus actually made for a better story.

        TLDR: sacrificing characters the player/reader/viewer doesn’t care about lacks emotional weight.

    3. Gruhunchously says:

      This might be a discussion for another day, but perhaps my biggest dissapointment in the Mass Effect series isn’t the plot, or the Reapers, or the Illusive Man (maybe, just screw that guy), but rather how static the character development is. I think Bioware could have at least made more of an effort to actually allow Shepard some actual influence in how her compatriots grow, and we get to see the ghost of that idea in the loyalty mission, but it rarely pays off. Garrus will always be the Space Punisher. Jack will ways be a reformed convict. Miranda will always betray Cerberus (though honestly, why wouldn’t she), and Mordin will always end up trying to reverse the Genophage. They either follow their pre-set character arcs or they die.

      If they had focused on that, and allowed the player to see some real differences in how their companions react to them, I think they could have feigned twice as much reactivity in the world with half the effort. That’s how Alpha Protocol did it, and I thought it was amazing, even if it flubbed virtually everything else gameplay wise.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Well, on the one hand giving Shepard more influence there makes the world even more playercentric, and I think we all know how this is something of an issue with many games. On the other I liked how you could influence some of the companions in Dragon Age, there is certainly a degree of calculation but it’s also one of the channels to allow player to roleplay and not only shape the companion but also fill up the blank slate player character. On the gripping hand they’d probably integrate it into the paragon-renegade system, which, knowing Bioware and looking at some of the series writing, would make players lead companions down certain paths for precious paragade points. This is already true for most decisions but I think it would be more annoying if it had a persistent effect on companions deepest beliefs and ideologies.

      2. Aldowyn says:

        I adore Garrus, but it is /incredibly/ irritating to me how you can DO THIS in ME1, and then he goes off and ignores it and goes Renegade, literally, in between ME1 and ME2.

        That said, it’s a fine line to walk between a too player-centric world and characters that stand on their own. True narrative divergence is still somewhere between incredibly difficult and impossible for your standard story-based video game.

    4. Bas L. says:

      One problem with analyzing characters is: how do you judge them? People often include game design choices that have nothing to do with the actual characters / writing. For example, they say Jack is a bad character because of her cutscene where she kills 3 YMIR Mechs but is actually pretty weak in normal combat. However, this has more to do with gameplay than writing.

      Another point, which I brought up before, is that with all the dialogue branches it’s unavoidable that every player experiences a (slightly) different take on a character. That’s why people who say “Ashley is a space racist” and “Ashley is not a racist” are both right. There’s a big difference if you romance her or not and even more so if you let her die on Virmire yes or no.

      So you have to take all this into account if you want to provide some critical analysis of the characters, which, as you say, will make it a lot of work.

      I kind of agree that the characters receive more praise than they deserve. Mordin is a likeable fellow and his song was good, but it’s not like we haven’t seen the “scientist for the greater good” trope before. Grunt only became good in ME3 and was basically a bad replacement of Wrex. Miranda only becomes decent if you romance her but even then I think she of all people would not have casual sex with Shepard in the engine room. Her romance should’ve been the same as the one with Jack where she finally loses her independence a bit and learns to lean on Shepard.

      Garrus is mostly good if you made him more Renegade in ME1, otherwise his actions don’t make much sense. If you don’t romance him he has a VERY limited amount of dialogue in ME2, which of course lead to all the “calibration” memes.

      Legion was great. I liked Thane. Samara was boring, Jack was okay only if you romance her as Paragon Shep. Tali always felt like fanservice to me and I liked her more in ME1 (and she should have never been romanceable imho).

      Actually the most realistic character and romance in ME2 is by far Kelly Chambers.

  18. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    I don’t think “everyone” complains about the Suicide Mission. In fact, on every Mass Effect fan board I’ve ever seen (or any time it comes up really), it’s by FAR the MOST popular part of the entire series. It’s like Shamus is taking the unpopular, contrarian step of defending the “misunderstood, less popular” Star Wars movie: Empire Strikes Back.

    I mean, I’m glad he has nice things to say, it is in fact, my favorite part of the series as well. Expanding on this idea for the finale of 3 would have been the best possible idea, too bad they went with an underwhelming ground mission followed by a TERRIBLE cutscene chain instead…

    1. Aldowyn says:

      Secretly, Shamus actually knew he had no idea what he was talking about there :P (“Completely anecdotal. I have no idea what the “real” consensus is out there.”

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I will always defend the idea of reapers actually being cyborgs.Its a neat idea,and it meshes well with the rest of the lore.Especially with what mordin has to say about the collectors.

    But dear god the execution!It boggles the mind how stupid theyve done it.Having everyone be fed alive to a blender is so pointlessly cruel for no reason.Then pumping it all into a giant terminator through shoulder tubes.WHaaa??Then have the tubes randomly open and close.Da fuck????And the mouth lazor……

    1. Mike S. says:

      Making a Reaper out of human slurry is scientifically dumb, and it’s horror for the sake of horror. But both have been the Reapers’ MO since we first learned about husks in Mass Effect. Shoving a corpse onto a spike and making a glowy technozombie never made sense either as a weapon of war or as a thing that could plausibly be done– it’s firmly in the “nanotech=magic” segment of the genre.

      Making the process of creating a Reaper essentially the same thing on a massive scale isn’t the most original thing in the world, but it’s not a total departure. And quantity has a quality all its own: once you know about husks, the idea that each reaper is the husk of an entire species does have a certain grandeur. Despite the visuals and mechanism being hard to take seriously.

      1. Disc says:

        Producing husks on a massive scale could work as a source of expendable cannon fodder, like zerglings (Conquering planets and turning the survivors into husk would give them a near endless supply). They’re relatively weak but can cause real havoc if you let too many in melee range. While they’re not too quick on foot, they do seem like very good climbers. There’s also the psychological effect of knowing you’re fighting something that used to a be person, though it’s more limited in value. In straight infantry combat they could also act as a distraction for some other unit to take advantage of.

    2. Pyrrhic Gades says:

      Well, The laser had to come out somewhere…

      And from a evolutionary standpoint, having the laser as close to the brain as possible would reduce the lag between choosing to fire it and firing it. Kind of like how 4 out of 5 sensory inputs: eyes, ears, tongue and nose are all in the head.

      1. ehlijen says:

        But why does it have a human head? Without the need to breath or eat, there is no need for the lower half of the face. So why does it have a face at all?

        It has three eyes, so obviously its sensory needs are not those of a human. So why is its face human shaped?

        It needed a laser cannon? Sure, why not. I like lasers. But why put it in the mouth? It doesn’t need a mouth. Why not built a properly robotic head?

        The only reason it’s human shaped is for body horror reasons, and it fails at being horrible due to the ridiculous mouth gun. Everything that went into shaping the human form doesn’t apply to this thing. It’s badly designed, both in and out of universe.

        It’s not a dragon, it didn’t need fire coming out of its mouth.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Since body horror is part of the Reapers’ shtick, presumably as psychological warfare, it could even make some sense on that level. If the human skeleton weren’t destined to be encased in a generic squid hull.

          1. John says:

            The Reapers have an invincible fleet. What possible need do they have for horror? What purpose does it serve?

            1. SharpeRifle says:

              Well everybody needs a hobby….

            2. Mike S. says:

              Got me– no doubt for some reason that transcends our very understanding. But the whole husk thing is nothing but intentional horror, since mindless mooks with no tactics, and no combat abilities beyond melee range made from the enemy dead aren’t the sort of thing you’d expect a fleet of genocidal dreadnoughts with mind-control powers to bother with.

              You’d think an unstoppable fleet that can slice every interstellar power into bite-sized chunks that can’t reach or talk to one another, nuke every planet from orbit, and turn their most trusted figures against them would be a sufficient morale blow, if for some reason the Reapers cared about ants’ morale. But evidently they felt the need for zombies too. So horror is something they care about inspiring beyond any rational need for it..

              1. John says:

                Well, you’ve got me there. It’s clear that the writers want the Reapers to be horrifying.

                I can sort of see where they’re coming from. A distant but invincible fleet is only scary in an abstract sort of way. (And once it does arrive, there’s not much of a game left since the fleet is, you know, invincible.) So the body horror stuff exists to make the Reapers scary now, before the fleet shows up.

                In Master of Orion 2 (and also Galactic Civilization 2, which copies shamelessly from it) the player is confronted with the return of a malevolent precursor species. But that species has almost no characterization and could only be considered scary in that their ships are much tougher than the player’s or anyone else’s . . . in the early and middle phases of the game, anyway. So they are scary to the extent that the player fears losing. (I fear losing. Experienced players play on the hardest difficulty and give themselves absurd handicaps and still stomp all over those guys.) But they aren’t intrinsically scary. Mass Effect is clearly going for intrinsic scariness.

                But the body horror stuff still serves no practical purpose and there’s no reason for the Reapers to do it unless they’re a bunch of cruel jerks–which I guess they are. Huh.

                1. Mike S. says:

                  Plotwise, they could have done “horrifying in their overwhelming power and indifference” by doing more with Indoctrination. ME3 touches on what it’s like to be literally unable to trust anyone, and to have loyal friends betray you without warning, but only in Javik’s backstory and to a lesser extent Aethyta’s filling in Benezia’s story. Otherwise pretty much everyone who’s Indoctrinated is a known antagonist or a stranger.

                  (Imagine if, say, Garrus wound up having been Indoctrinated during one of the gaps in your acquaintance. There’s no treatment, no cure, and all you can do is imprison him or kill him, and who knows which is kinder? I’d have hated it, but it would certainly matter in a way that Saren’s and Benezia’s tragic falls didn’t.)

                  But while that provides potential horror in the role-playing part of the game, it doesn’t really give you anyone to shoot. Or it does, but it doesn’t matter: all the Cerberus mooks in ME3 are Indoctrinated, and you even get text evidence showing what a horrific process it is. But in combat, shooting them doesn’t feel different from shooting mercs.

                  (It feels as if it should. Occasionally I remember that basically everyone you shoot, explode, set on fire, etc. is a prisoner in his or her own body being enslaved through the machinations of a cosmic horror. But the game doesn’t go out of its way to remind you of this. And that may be just as well, since it’s much more horrible than zombified corpses.)

              2. ehlijen says:

                But the husks actually work. They’re scary in game because they are impaled corpses of former fellow humans returned to life to fight for an uncaring foe.
                Impaling is scary, it was done in history precisely because of that.
                Corpses coming back to life is scary.
                People being robbed of their minds and turned to vile purposes is scary.

                They are also scary to the player because they are relentless, quick and explode (ME1) if they get too close.

                While possessed of a certain bizarreness, overall they worked well enough at being scary.

                But roboreaper?
                Sure, being trapped in a pod and dissolved is scary.
                But having that goop smeared into a giant robot form? The audience is already disconnected from the goop; it no longer holds properties of the human source anymore without technobabble (and technobabble alone is never scary). It’s just goop. The human is dead and the roboreaper had no qualities of undeath about it. Goop is not human enough to add corpse mutilation aspects. (Note how cremation ash mishaps are a comedy thing, not a horror thing, in general media.)
                The robot being human shaped? That’s only there because point two disconnects it from the horror of point one and the writers tried to fix that without changing point two. And it doesn’t do a good job because it’s a terrible design for a SPACESHIP (ME2 doesn’t mention the idea of it only being the pilot, which is in itself dumb for a sentient ROBOT SPACESHIP).
                Mouth laser? A dragon is scary and breathes fire. But it can also fly and claw and bite, and sometimes cast spells. Dragons can breath fire and be scary because, being lizard like, they are very inhuman. Protip: things coming out of a human mouth are more likely to be funny than scary in general.

                So what exactly is so scary about a legless humanoid robot space warship that belches lasers that the enemy needs to be told about is made of goopyfied humans. (It sure isn’t obvious from looking at it, and like jokes, scaryness is incompatible with the need for explanation).
                That goes double if the roboreaper goes inside another reaper ship hull. It’s not scary if it can’t be seen.

                And out of game, it’s a dumb boss. It’s not body horror as the goop and anatomical nonsense destroy the mental connection between this thing and the dying people. It’s not gameplay horror as it’s not all that scary (Praetorians are way way scarier, if you set your graphics high enough to actually notice they’re carrying huge bags of skulls…). It’s not even just story horror as it suggests the evil space elder gods are cluelessly tinkering rather than having an actual plan.

                I’m all for reapers being horrifying. But Roboreaper was not.

  20. Duoae says:

    The human reaper was the stupidest part of the ending for me. I just get the feeling that somehow the writers for that sequence had no idea about Ai manifestations, chemistry, materials science or physics.

    Now, fair enough – that’s a tall order for anyone, but if you’re going to write about science fiction stuff them you should have some sort of background or large body of research in the fields you are entering into.

    It’s funny because they handled the geth well enough about their ‘frames’ and ships etc.

    It reminds me of those skits of an English comedy duo that tore apart medical drama’s written by “drama first” people.

    1. djw says:

      I agree.

      Turning humans into goey paste for “reasons” works very well for a Lovecraftian ending to Mass Effect 2, but we got Human Reaper instead.

      It makes absolutely no damn sense that pureed human makes giant mechanical terminator with a laser mouth.

  21. SlothfulCobra says:

    I liked the suicide mission too. I like every time that Bioware makes you utilize your spare party members for something interesting, instead of them just standing around dispensing dialogue while freeloading on your ship. Getting use out of everyone perfectly caps off that “preparing a team” garbage that the game was going on about for the rest of the game. If there’s any complaint I can make about the suicide mission, it’s just that I want more.

    The idea of Reapers needing to harvest sentient species to make more reapers doesn’t sound that bad to me, although it definitely could’ve been implemented better. There’s some kind of horrible bullshit explanation of how they somehow utilize the sentience while reducing the individuals to reaper-goo, but it’s still dumb, and the space skeleton will never not be silly, but there’s some merit in the general concept. The idea that our entire galaxy is just a farm for reaper-chow that they harvest regularly is in itself, an interesting, weird, and creepy idea, even if it boils down to turning people into a slurry to feed a giant skeleton. Then the idea sort of fails even further in ME3 where the writers are totally at a loss when it comes to really conveying the horror of being harvested because they’re also trying to maintain the idea that anything the mere mortals do is useful, but that’s a matter for another time further on in this analysis.

  22. EricF says:

    I know nothing about this game other than what Shamus has posted.

    Simple tweak to make the whole thing hang together:

    Change Cerberus to the Alliance. You can keep all the same characters and dialog, but Shepard is just working for a Section 34 style black ops arm of the Alliance.

    Then, big reveal at the end is that Cerberus has been behind the abductions / absurd robot / etc. They used the threat of Reapers to promote their own agenda.

    No change in plot / mechanics needed, just a few superficial art changes, and a couple of changed dialog lines.

    1. swenson says:

      I know you’re coming at this from an outsider’s perspective, but I really don’t think this would solve any problems. It’d just have different ones.

      First, while it’s at least plausible that the Collectors could kidnap entire colonies without anyone noticing (given that they’re alien and have advanced technology), it seems a lot less likely that a purely human organization could run around doing it without anyone noticing.

      Second, what’s Cerberus’ theoretical motivation here? Why would they need a giant robot? In ME3, Cerberus is doing some abduction of people, but it’s specifically to do research into the huskification process and indoctrination, with the intent of figuring out how to control the Reapers.

      Third, while ME2’s story is not ultimately all that important in the grand arc of things, at least it ties tightly to the overarching plot of the imminent Reaper invasion. This hypothetical Cerberus story… would not.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        First, while it's at least plausible that the Collectors could kidnap entire colonies without anyone noticing

        As long as you discard the bigass crater their sip leaves after liftoff,and all the footage you recover of them abducting people.Having cerberus do this would be just as plausible.

        Second, what's Cerberus' theoretical motivation here?


        at least it ties tightly to the overarching plot of the imminent Reaper invasion.

        No,it really doesnt.Which can be see by its weak “OMG!We forgot to make it about the reapers!Quick,make some bullshit about collectors being protheans!” reveal.The scenes that tie me2 to me1 and me3 are so pathetic that youd think someone made them on their lunch breaks.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      That wouldnt really make the main story any good,but at least it would remove two major annoyances:One being “Why would shepard ever work for cerberus?” and the other “why are these never before seen insects of any import?”.

  23. Phantos says:

    I think maybe the reason why I was so willing to overlook the stupidity of ME2’s plot is because of how much I enjoy the Suicide Mission. I’m not big on games that are alright up until a totally disappointing, stupid conclusion. This one is mostly stupid, but builds up to a thing that I really look forward to.

    I guess I favour the destination more than the journey.

    Also, I always figured Skelereaper was just the bad guys going “Yeah?! Well, we’ll make our OWN Shepard! With blackjack, and hookers!”

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      In fact,forget the shepard!

    2. Aldowyn says:

      I may have issues with the Suicide Mission, but if nothing else it (IMO) shows the advantages of Bioware’s new increased resources and cinematic focus better than anything else in Bioware’s transition into being one of EA’s banner devs. It’s a hell of a ride from the Omega-4 Relay to the Collector base.

  24. SlothfulCobra says:

    Oh yeah, and the single worst part about the suicide mission? Miranda. She breaks all the rules that the suicide mission tries to maintain, if she gets put in a job that she can’t do, or she isn’t loyal, it’s not her that dies, it’s somebody else on your team. The only place where she can die is if she isn’t loyal and you bring her to the final fight.

    And of course, worst of all, she gives you bad advice. Everything she tells you to do in the suicide mission is wrong. I sort of appreciate the game trying to tempt you down the wrong path, but it’s the icing on the cake for all of her failings as a character. After it was her great idea to totally abandon the Normandy to leave it vulnerable to the Collectors, she tries to get all the squadmates you like killed. Miranda is terrible.

    Jacob gives bad advice too, but he only imperils himself.

    1. Mike S. says:

      There are other cases where making the wrong choice means someone else dies: if you pick the wrong fire team leader during the vent section, the vent specialist dies. Likewise choosing one of the other biotics (Jacob, Thane, etc.) to do the bubble kills a different party member.

      But yeah, the fact that she gives you bad advice is odd given that the mechanics imply that she really is an effective team administrator. (E.g., her passive ability giving other people bonuses because she’s so good at inspiring them. Even Jack.) I wonder if there were conflicting opinions about her in the writers’ room.

      It would have been cool if she gave better advice if loyal: her head is in the game, and she’s acting for the team rather than just spending people for Cerberus.

      1. guy says:

        I don’t remember any point where someone unrelated actually gets killed, but I do recall that during the Seeker run if you have her in your party rather than providing the barrier she overrides the normal rule that non-loyal members die in preference to loyal ones.

      2. Aldowyn says:

        oooh, I really like that last idea.

    2. Gruhunchously says:

      Let’s see…

      -Shoots Wilson before he can be interrogated, therefore leaving his employers and motivations a mystery.
      -Is unnecessarily confrontational and outright antagonistic towards Jack, even though doing so risks the integrity of the team and the mission.
      -Suggests the stupid idea of shuttling all combatants off the ship (and blames Joker for what happens afterwards.)
      -Does nothing to endear herself to her fellow crewmembers and team-mates (seriously, there’s no indication that anyone other than possibly Shepard trusts her by the final mission)
      -Gives bad advice during the Suicide Mission.

      You could give all of her duties on the ship to Garrus and probably get better results. I desperately want to like her character, but when it’s difficult to tolerate someone who is both impersonal AND incompetent to this degree, not unless they’re being played for laughs.

  25. INH5 says:

    And how could building this thing right now possibly advance their cause of conquering the galaxy? Even if this new Reaper was mature, how would it help them? Fine, they'll have a Reaper. That would take us back to the start of Mass Effect 1, where there was a lone Reaper and a galaxy of people that didn't believe in it.

    This is obviously only speculation, but I think that the Human Reaper reveal was supposed to set up the fabled Dark Energy ending of ME3. If we take that ending’s premise as given, in particular the idea that a Human Reaper could save the galaxy from an apocalypse (and I know that’s a big thing to swallow, but go with it for the sake of argument), then the actions of the Collectors in ME2 make a lot of sense. It also goes a long way towards answering the niggling question of “why did Sovereign go to so much trouble to re-open the Citadel relay when the entire Reaper fleet can just fly in and invade a few years later?” that has been present ever since the hairpin plot turn at the end of ME1.

    The idea is probably something like this: because the Prothean sabotage delayed the return of the Reapers, the galaxy ends up getting really close to a Dark Energy Apocalypse, so Sovereign tries to re-open the Citadel Relay to get the Reaper fleet back a few years early, because they are running out of time. Then sometime after Sovereign is destroyed, the experiments of the Collectors determine that a Human Reaper might be the key to stopping the Dark Energy Apocalypse, so Harbinger orders the Collectors to get a head start on making it. Then in ME3 the Reaper fleet finally arrives and, because Shepard has kept messing up their head starts, they have to start again from scratch.

    Of course, the above ideas close a few plot holes but open up a whole other can of worms in terms of questions, implausibilities, and general weirdness. They don’t even attempt to address the other persistent plot hole of why Shepard (sometimes) thinks the Reapers are coming despite no in-universe reason to think that. They also don’t address many other problems with the Human Reaper, particularly its ridiculous visual design (I maintain that ME2’s big reveal could have been greatly improved simply by using this concept art design instead of the giant 3-eyed terminator thing).

    But it may well be that ME2’s ending did lay some groundwork for ME3. It’s just that the groundwork was for a different ME3 than the one that ended up getting made.

  26. Abnaxis says:

    The ‘footnotes’ start at 2. Is this a known issue?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      It tends to happen when there’s a really early note, but I haven’t the foggiest idea why.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        And neither does Shamus.Which is worse.

      2. Phill says:

        It happens when there’s a note that appears in the paragraph on the front page of the blog. You can see note [1] on the main page before you click in to the article. Then inside the article itself, the same note appears in the same place as note [2].

        I’d guess that if Shamus stuck 2 notes in the first paragraph, they’d appear as [3] and [4] in the actual article page. Or maybe everything would just crash instead.

        1. BenD says:

          Rats. I was hoping to find a secret footnote. Moar content! *munch munch*

          1. MichaelGC says:


            Aye – it’s weird, though, because it usually happens when [1] appears on the main page, but it doesn’t always happen when that’s so. (I spent a bit of fruitless time looking into it a short while ago…) Where’s Roger when you need him? :D

  27. Tonich says:

    I might have missed the explanation somewhere in the game, but was that space battle after the Omega-4 jump even necessary? With both the Reaper IFF installed and Normandy being a stealth ship, the latter should have been either invisible or marked as a friendly for the automated defense systems that initiate the attack.

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      The IFF was only said to reconfigure the navigation systems of the relay, not disguise the Normandy as a Collector Ship. And it had already been established during the intro that the Collectors could see through the Normandy’s stealth system using their alien technology. I don’t think it’s that egregious that the Collectors could VID the Normandy once it had actually arrived in their space.

      1. ehlijen says:

        They did choose to call the IFF ‘IFF’ though, and implies that it can disguise the ship. That’s what an IFF does: it tells other ships/stations what side you’re on and if you’re using a reaper one, you should look like a reaper to a cursory scan. If it’d just supposed to be a key for the relay, they could have named it the navcom cypher or something.

        It is absolutely reasonable for the collectors to go ‘wait what? there aren’t any of those in this galaxy! something’s wrong!’, of course, so there is no problem with the events as presented.

        1. guy says:

          There’s really no way the IFF would fool them more than momentarily. IFFs broadcast a code, but the Normandy is self-evidently not a Reaper.

          1. Tonich says:

            True, but wasn’t it explained in the first game that visual contact in space is hardly ever relied on? So unless someone is constantly surveiling the orbit via cameras (which is not impossible with Harbinger though, I guess), the IFF should have fooled the automated defense systems until Normandy was trying to dock the base.
            But if the function of the IFF is different altogether, then I guess I’m okay with this – although I agree, calling it IFF is quite a stretch in this case.

            1. guy says:

              The third game establishes that it does function as an IFF. But all that does is broadcast an “I’m a Reaper” message, not create the thermal and other emissions associated with a Reaper. The Normandy’s stealth systems can hide it, but not fake the presence of a Reaper. If the Collectors have any sort of sensor system (which they obviously do, given the debris field) they would see that they’re receiving an IFF code identified with a 2-km long capital ship and that there is no 2-km capital ship present. Visual contact isn’t relied on, but radar and IR are.

              The Normandy could shut off the IFF after transiting and rely on the stealth systems to avoid being detected at all, but given the conditions and the swarms of drones in the debris field that probably wouldn’t have worked too well.

          2. ehlijen says:

            Visual contact in a debris field is not easy to achieve, at least not nearly as easily as broadcasting or recieving an IFF.

            Again, the IFF disguise not working because it tries to claim something patently impossible is fine, but it is still a disguise.

            The reason the IFF didn’t fool anyone is that, as far as we know, the collectors knew the only ships that should know how to broadcast that signal are either docked in the station already or outside the galaxy. Whatever the Normandy disguised itself as, with that little traffic at that station, they would have suspected something either way.

            Had this been a reaper fleet base with lots of ships coming and going, they might just have made it a lot closer before discovery.

        2. ? says:

          Mass Relay is as much Reaper tool as Collector Base, it’s navigation systems work fine, it just launches everything that isn’t a Reaper or a Reaper puppet into a black hole. So Normandy needs to identify itself as a friend of Reapers to get launched into stable area around the base. Collector defences aren’t even necessarily linked to IFF system used by the Relays, since any visiting Reaper can assume direct control and turn them off. It’s only needed to fool a mindless chunk of metal and element zero.

      2. Tonich says:

        Ah, indeed, seems that I’ve overlooked both of these points completely… Thank you!

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      We need an epic space battle in the end,god damn it,and we are gonna have it whether it makes sense or not!

      1. ehlijen says:

        The story, such as it was, actually demanded a space battle. The normandy I was destroyed by the baddies, and the II barely escaped them twice. The audience was going to want to see some payback, and it’s not like it wasn’t telegraphed by the inclusion of ship upgrades.

        1. Tonich says:

          Oh, absolutely, from that point of view the battle was both needed and appreciated.

    3. Slothfulcobra says:

      It’s there to provide a cathartic retribution upon the closest thing the collectors have to a personal threat to Shepard.

  28. Mattias42 says:

    I’m not sure I could find the right sources anymore even if I had the time, but I remember quite a few reviews with lines in this vain in many reviews when ME2 was new:

    “It’s very, very good with many interesting places and characters! And the combat is far more fun!”

    With an almost begrudging admittance that:

    “…A pity we learn so little about the on-going plot and just what our choices in the first game has actually done, but as long as Bioware learns and moves forward ME3 is set to be a glorious cap-stone.”

    Yeah… In hind-sight, it’s near wince worthy. I’m a bit surprised so few seem to remember that, even, but the warning signs for the fifty-car pile-up that was ME3 was clearly there already.

  29. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Not meant as a critique but did I miss or did you not cover the “clock is ticking” mechanics on rescuing the kidnapped Normandy crew? I thought it would get a paragraph or two seeing how it goes so much against what most games have taught players.

    1. Poncho says:

      I thought it played into how most players approach these games, in a sense:

      If you avoid plot missions until you have all the characters and loyalty stuff out of the way, you’ll have one final mission left on your map.

      If you left any side quests undone before trying to tackle the story, you’ll find that your team isn’t as ready as they could be or your ship might not have all its upgrades.

      If you try to do any of the quests between these two points, you’ll lose crew members, if you care about that sort of thing.

      1. guy says:

        What bugs me about it is that it’s triggered by Legion’s recruitment mission, so if you want to put off triggering it you don’t get much use out of Legion.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          You get the sense from the pre-release trailers that Legion originally had a larger part in the game and they shuffled things to get to the release version. Which is a shame, he’s a cool guy.

          1. Mike S. says:

            There’s recorded dialog for Legion in earlier missions, (and IIRC there’s a mod that will let you have it for those missions). My recollection is that Legion being moved to late in the game was an artifact of splitting the game into two discs on consoles, though I may be misremembering.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I just find it interesting because except for a few rare cases games have basically taught players that “impending doom! we must hurry!” situations aren’t really pressing. In fact it’s rushing through story missions that tends to lock content out so when the game is telling you that speed is of the essence most players read it as “now’s the time to do all the sidequests and explore”.

        I know this raised a few eyebrows. Some people even saw it as a “gotcha” at the player’s expense because the mechanics weren’t clearly communicated and even if the player became aware that the clock was, uncharacteristically, ticking they could easily get caught off-guard during their first playthrough and couldn’t do a “perfect run” because the weren’t prepared enough for a non-death suicide mission*.

        *Just as a disclaimer I didn’t mind because I enjoyed having Legion in the party and didn’t care much about most of the crew. Literally the only two people I cared about survive anyway (Joker and Chakwas).

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          What I find hilarious is that some people get outraged when a game that tells them to hurry up actually does expect them to hurry up.

          1. ehlijen says:

            Given how often games use ‘hurry up’ as code for ‘sidequests first’, I don’t blame anyone who gets mad at invisible ticking clocks.

            If players are trained to disregard anything but an actual, visible countdown, no blame falls on them if the game suddenly decides to invisibly change the rules.

          2. Flip says:

            I strongly disagree. A lot of games tell the player to hurry up, but if you actually do, they punish you by locking out sidequests or messing with the game world.

            Mass Effect 1? You should hurry to catch Saren, but if you do, you won’t be able to complete any side quests.
            Mass Effect 3? You should hurry to stop the reapers, but the game actually punishes you for doing so because you don’t get as many war assets.
            Dragon Age: Origins? You should hurry to stop the blight, but the game punishes you for doing so by withholding items and xp from all of the sidequests you missed.
            Oblivion? You should hurry to get to Kvatch, but if you do, Oblivion Gates will appear everywhere and annoy you on your adventures.
            Skyrim? You should hurry to stop the dragons, but if you do, dragons appear everywhere, annoy you and may kill NPCs. I actually had to use the console to revive a few.

            If RPGs have taught me one thing, it’s that you should never advance the main quest because bad things will happen if you do. Therefore, I think people are completely right to be outraged when a game does the opposite and forgets to tell you.

            1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

              It’s not though. If you pause the main quest before the IFF, you will suffer no consequences. It’s only hurrying to the IFF and THEN pausing that hurts you. Noticeably, you have no choice but to rush to Freedom’s Progress and Horizon when they’re available. You get a call from the Illusive Man and BAM, you leave right then. But the Reaper IFF, you can go whenever you’re ready… that should be something of a tell for most players.

  30. Jacksmash says:

    I may have remembered incorrectly but I’m sure during ME2 it was mentioned (if not explained) that the whole human reaper project was due to the reapers defeat in citadel space at the hands of the human lead fleet and Shepard’s confrontation and ultimate destruction of Saren. I wish I could cite where I saw this because it makes sense if you take what ME3 set up about newly created reapers having the collective knowledge of the entities that have been used to create it. If it was humans that destroyed Sovereign and they may be the biggest threat to the reaper invasion then making a new reaper which would have a great understanding of human tactics and thought processes would be an obvious move to ensure their success. I imagine that if Garrus was commander of the Normandy that handed Sovereign his ass that we’d have a Turian reaper in ME2

    I don’t think this was clear in the games and some how I have a feeling that my mind has filled in the gaps so it all makes sense. I loved the concept of ME2 but the execution of it was lazy and this mission wasn’t much different than the lead up to it. Cool idea but piss poor follow through.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And that explanation makes the collectors even stupider.”Hey,that truck is way powerful,it can go through a house!So this is what Ill do,Ill make my house the exact shape and color of that truck!And it will be made completely from biodegradable plastic,because Im green,and Ill remove all the pointless stuff that truck has inside it because who needs an engine for a house,…Itll be the strongest house in the world!”

      1. Sartharina says:

        That fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of the Reapers. They’re not houses. They’re gamers/games that reproduce by backing sealing and backing up their saves.

      2. 4ier says:


    2. John says:

      How would harvesting humans from small, remote colonies give the Reapers insight into Alliance military doctrine and technology?

      1. ? says:

        They dodged a bullet not grabbing that one guy on Horizon who hates the Alliance and the very idea of their military being on his planet.

    3. Sleeping Dragon says:

      The problem is that this concept of Reaper creation is hardly explored. How much of an assimilated species is actually left? If the Reaper also somehow simulates the way of thinking of that species why do they all immediately join in the cycle and there are no Reaper outliers or renegades? What is this horrible truth that convinces everyone? Or iof they are “indoctrinated” than this effectively ruins any benefit of preserving the mind in the first place. Maybe the squidlike “shells” are driving the whole thing and the harvested species is trapped within in a kind of “I have no mouth and I must scream” endless torture as the Reapers siphon the perspective, knowledge, cultural persepective etc. of the species? Also, remember that every single Reaper destroyed in ME3 is the destruction of an archive of a species that dominated the galaxy for millennia, would be interesting if they did something anything with it. The big reveal in ME2 is not only handled in a tacky, borderline cartoony way, it has virtually no effect on ME3.

  31. Retsam says:

    The soundtrack here is pretty phenomenal, at least: Suicide Mission

    In seriousness, I think the presentation of the Mass Effect 2 plot, goes along way to make up for it’s nonsensical content. You can say completely baseless technobable, but if you say it with dramatic cinematography and that soundtrack playing in the background, a fair number people are going to call it “epic”.

    The soundtrack and cinematography create an emotional connection to the game, over a logical one; which is why it may fall flat for, shall we say, more “Vulcan-like” individuals.

    1. Deager says:

      I was just going to joke, “Suicide Mission!” Give me believable acting and good music and I’m a chump for any other garbage thrown my way.

  32. Mersadeon says:

    I tended to deliberately overlook a lot of faults in ME2 while I was playing it, but seeing this Reaper Larva bullshit really broke it all for me. I couldn’t even pretend it was making sense at all. I just yelled “oh fuck you, it’s Andross”.

  33. Akuma says:

    This is it. This is the exact moment I checked out.

    “There making a Reaper out of PEOPLE!”

    I’ve seen some bad writing in my time, and for the most past I can deal with it. What I cannot deal with is good writing retroactively turned into bad writing. The sheer departure from Mass Effect 1 culminated in this one scene and I found I could no longer care. I didn’t care what happened in 3, because I already knew it was going to be stupid.

    But your right to bring up that the mission in structure was not a bad idea. Heck I got confused when people complained they lost some characters because they put them in the wrong task, even though the majority of those were incredibly obvious who you should be using.

    I don’t know how I'd feel about the deaths if they thematically fitted in their arc, but there existed an ending where they could live. Even if the death was the most perfect thing ever there's always a yearning to continue with a character. You had fun times with them, why would you give them up? It's why an audience can't be trusted with that decision, they'll hang onto a character long after they should have left.

    I'm reminded of Shadow Hearts, where spoilers, there are two endings where a main character dies in one or lives in the other. A Good Ending and a Bad Ending. The good ending is harder to get, hence why it's used as a reward. But the bad ending is much better, and in the sequel became the canon ending.

    I feel like, partially as a writer, I would not want to give control of the life of a character that can exist in a sequel to a player. It's frankly not very practical, those kind of choices come at the end of a game or series for a reason. It's a huge pain the ass to write and Bioware used some short hand tricks to make it work, which makes the loss of characters not carry the gravity that they should.

    So… I have mixed feelings about attempting something like this in the context of a middle game.

    1. guy says:

      Actually Shadow Hearts is more complicated. Technically the canon is apparently Bad Ending of Shadow Hearts, Good Ending of Shadow Hearts Covenant, Good Ending of Shadow Hearts.

  34. Sartharina says:

    I actually liked the Reapers turning humans into a Human Reaper. But that’s because it fit my headcanon. The final Terminator Baby thing was stupid, but I actually found it answered the question “What are the reapers doing?”

    They’re farmers. They harvest life every 50,000 years to build a new one. They’re also gamers, sort of. They create the universe, seed it with life a la Civilization, Spore, or Dwarf Fortress, then, once they get bored of the world 50,000 years later, they come in destroy everything “Create new world!” and save the most interesting results of the cycle (Humans being a very intriguing surprise). Sucking people up into grey goo is their way of ‘saving’ those people’s states and putting them into the new body, memories, personalities, etc. intact, to study, replay, or have fun with later… and reaper-indoctrinate them so the Human Reaper gets in on the fun of Super Galaxy Maker Simulator 50,000 and join the cycle of harvesting life. It also kind of justifies why the reapers didn’t invade immediately after Sovereign, and instead went about using the collectors: Essentially, the Reapers sent Little Jimmy-Bob Sovereign in to start the seasonal harvest, and instead, it killed him. The reapers lost a kid, a friend, and one of their favorite save games all in one fell blow. So Harbinger decided to get information on the species that was most pivotal in doing him in (Had it not been for Shepard and Humanity… had the Asari succeeded in keeping the galaxy complacent, the harvest would have gone off without a hitch). I kind of want to elaborate more on the role the Asari had in helping the reapers (Inadvertently, and completely predictably), but then they retconned Protheans from ALSO being Tentacle-faced monsters like the Asari and the Reapers. Mass Effect 3 wan’t a typical harvest in any sense… this was the Reapers losing their collective shit that they lost Sovereign, failed to study humanity, and were running out of time if they wanted to keep the Galaxy ready to be harvested for the next cycle. The savegame got corrupted, and was threatening to brick the whole damn system. They had to end it hard.

    Shepard et all are those guys screaming “Just one… More… TURN!” at the end of a playthrough of Civilization.

    Note: I have not played Mass Effect 3’s ending yet.

    1. Bas L. says:

      Actually, the Asari are one of the rare exceptions to this cycle that allowed them to (possibly) defeat the Reapers. The Asari received guidance from the Protheans and their unique method of reproducing and generally peaceful nature set the foundation for a galaxy with several united races instead of one empire (like the Protheans). This in turn makes it harder for the Reapers to shut down a central government (since there are multiple), to indoctrinate high-level officials (since there are so many), etcetera. Of course this still does not excuse the downright stupid move on the Reapers part to attack Earth instead of the Citadel in ME3 (which was also never explained by the writers, it was likely a marketing decision).

      1. Sartharina says:

        But they’re still complacent to the point that, had it not been for humans storming onto the scene at pretty much the last moment, the reapers would have won. Yeah, they were better than their predecessors, but were still too ‘trapped’ in the cycle, since defying the reapers effectively required leaving the comfortable Convenient Space Paradise the reapers had set for life to develop around.

        1. Bas L. says:

          Well ME2 and ME3 are quite different compared to ME1 here.
          When it comes to ME2 and ME3, I agree with you. Humans pretty much saved everyone. Only Shepard was awesome enough to unite every race and Earth is suddenly of such strategic value that the Reapers attack it first (instead of, you know, the galactic government). Had they attacked the Citadel humanity would be in a better position (economically) but galactic-wide communications would be mostly gone so there’s no way how Shepard could have united everyone. Basically ME3 with the Citadel being attacked first would be game over without some major deus ex machina (of course we needed one anyway).

          But in ME1 this was not the case at all. The Turians were much more powerful than the humans when it came to military power, the salarians were smarter and the Asari were, well, better at reproducing I guess. The only reason why Shepard was “special” was because of his (un)lucky encounter with the Prothean beacon that made him the only person, apart from Saren, who could understand the Protheans.

          Had ME2 and ME3 actually continued with ME1’s theme that humanity is not so important, the Reaper war would’ve looked completely different.

          1. Mike S. says:

            In ME1 humans are already storming onto the scene and impressing the hell out of everyone. We aren’t on the Council yet. But we gave the Turians a nasty military surprise, which was apparently sufficient to convince the other two Council races to intervene on our behalf to stop the conflict. Within years of discovering our very first mass relay, we’d politically leapfrogged pretty much everyone but the Council races, a development that provokes resentment (volus ambassador), philosophical acceptance (elcor ambassador), or withdrawal from Council governance and outright war (batarians)– which we win handily.

            The turians find our “carrier” ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to our newsletter, and are likewise keen on collaborating with us on an advanced stealth ship (where there’s no sign that they’ve otherwise entered into naval collaboration with anyone.) And the Council throws not one, but two Spectre opportunities at us– despite the angry opposition and active sabotage of both by their best and most trusted Spectre.

            And then over the course of ME1 itself, we discover a 50,000-year-old galactic threat no one else ever noticed, foil it, save the Citadel, and achieve a Council seat, all in less time than it took 19th/early 20th century Japan (the obvious model for Earth’s rise) to go from the Meiji Restoration to defeating a single European power in naval combat. Humans, who weren’t even a starfaring power five years before Shepard was born, are now 25% of the galactic government and the only reason the Reaper plan B (after plan A of remote-activating the Keepers failed) didn’t work.

            Even ignoring both other games, I’d say there’s plenty of evidence laid in ME1 alone that humans are a) really special, in the “unusually energetic and fast-advancing” manner long-familiar from any number of Golden Age science fiction stories, and b) highly worthy of added Reaper scrutiny.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Except that humans discovering the threat was a fluke,that wouldnt have happened if we werent following the breadcrumbs left (intentionally or not) by a turian,and if we didnt have a ship made with significant help from the turians.Humans saving the day was an accident,and we simply took it.That doesnt make humanity special,only veeery lucky.

              1. Mike S. says:

                Of course, we weren’t the only ones following breadcrumbs left by Saren. Let’s see how they did:

                Accomplished asari matriarch: Indoctrinated and turned. Managed to get useful data out only due to the timely appearance of a human. (Said human being able to organize the successful defeat of a matriarch, asari commando squad, and geth support with only two subordinates.)

                Salarian crack STG team: pinned down and utterly unable to either counter Saren or transmit their intelligence about him or escape the planet without human aid.

                Turian Spectre: shot in the back of the head by Saren immediately after choosing to act alone without human assistance.

                Quarian tech specialist: murdered in an alley after trusting the wrong contact, absent human intervention.

                Clearly these people need us!

            2. Bas L. says:

              You make some good points. I would say though that the events you describe make humanity the equals of the asari/turians/salarians by the end of ME1. That is fine by me. We got a seat of the council, hold 25% of the power and our military is impressing even the Turians (although we probably took a major hit by defending the Destiny Ascension).

              But I felt that in ME2/ME3 humanity suddenly becomes more powerful/important than the other council races combined. That is a change in the series that I did not like to see.

              Bioware probably only let the Reapers attack Earth for marketing reasons /awesomeness. I’m not convinced that they have a decent reason for it (and it’s certainly not explained).
              But suddenly this million years old race of the Reapers, who went after the Citadel for thousands of cycles, deem Earth more important than the Citadel. Why? Does Earth have super powerful nukes that could threaten the Reapers if they attack the Citadel first? Is there some kind of central government/communication hub? All Earth is to the humans is an economic powerhouse and a symbol. It makes no sense that the Reapers go after an economic target instead of communications / the galactic government. It might make sense for them to hit Arcturus Station and then the Citadel but not this.

              1. Mike S. says:

                To humans, Earth is more than that– to a first approximation it is humanity. Our very biggest colonies are numbered in the single digit millions, and I think there are something like three or four of those. (And honestly, that’s a really fast colonization effort given that we discovered the Charon relay only a generation ago.) Literally something like 99.9% (generously, maybe 99.8%) of humans live on Earth– its loss puts us better off than the quarians, but not wildly.

                (Especially since the Reapers are smashing smaller colonies like Beckenstein from space as an afterthought.)

                Galactically, it’s absolutely true that we reach about #4 officially, as the most junior Council species. (Though militarily maybe a bit better given that neither the asari nor the salarians are really well-equipped for mass slugfests.) But the slope of our curve is visibly steeper than anyone else ever in a politically important way.

                (And that’s just if we’re Paragon. Renegade, Council-sacrificing humanity takes over the galaxy at the end of Mass Effect 1. It’s the sequel that has to walk that back to something vaguely believable.)

                So once it’s determined that the Reapers are looking for a species to uplift, choosing humanity isn’t crazy. We’re #2 to the turians for overall military potential, #2 to the asari for biotics (a distant #2, but the turians and salarians are pretty low on biotics at all), and sand in the gears of the Reapers’ latest initiatives.

                Of course all of that is because Bioware is marketing a game to humans by flattering us. (An SF tradition that goes back a century or so at least.) And Earth’s a target because that’s easy to put into ads where the Citadel requires explanation, and has no emotional weight for new players.

                But still, the major difference between ME1 and its sequels is that in the first game it’s just sort of dawning on the galaxy how awesome we really are. As a species we’re Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, a simple ordinary species that just happens to be able to bullseye womp rats in our T-16 (er, give the most powerful military in the galaxy a black eye with our first interstellar ships ever), have a natural affinity to the Force (our best biotics are able to go toe to toe with asari commandos a generation after we discovered biotics existed), and wind up having a completely unlooked-for galaxy-saving destiny.

                That said, of course the Reapers shouldn’t have forgotten about the Citadel. (Even after they capture it in ME3, they forget what it’s for, since they don’t shut down the mass relay network and defeat us all in detail.)

                I wouldn’t mind seeing an SF game in which humanity really was an ordinary third-rank species in an old and settled galaxy. But even if we block out the sequels and examine only Mass Effect 1, that universe was never that. (And there seems to be a real temptation to give us some sort of edge– David Brin’s Uplift series sort of starts with us as a disadvantaged minority, but somehow we wind up punching way above our weight class anyway.)

    2. Blake says:

      This was pretty much how I saw it too.
      Reapers come along, make a permanent backup/tribute/perfect form of the biggest species, then wipe them out so that smaller civilisations have a chance next time around.
      One thing I found interesting about this was that each reaper was really the last remnant of an entire species which meant that killing Sovereign was actually taking an entire species out of the galaxy forever, something the reapers try to avoid (in their own twisted logic way).

      I found the giant terminator really strange though.
      If they had have mentioned somewhere that while analysing Sovreign they found a segment that looked like a giant Alien, then you could say that that’s part of how the Reapers remember a race, they make a giant giant robot one and encase it in a big reaper shell with actual space-DNA of that species flowing through it. That would be interesting/horrific and work just fine.
      Instead it was just weird surprise mouth lasers.

  35. Khazidhea says:

    Hey Shamus, just wanting to say how much I’ve been enjoying this series, it’s been something to look forward to on (my) Friday mornings (in addition to all your other weekly content of course, but for multiple reasons this one takes the cake). Now you might have in mind to end this series at some point, but no. No. Maybe come back to the idea in 50 years or so, but until then you should probably just keep at it.

  36. Jsor says:

    > Imagine if the Vigil VI had been removed from Mass Effect 1 and instead Garrus and Liara had just sat down at a Prothean computer and took turns guessing at what they were seeing. That lacks a certain revelatory punch.

    This would make a pretty great joke sequence to stick in the credits, though.

    Garrus: “Liara, what are those Protheans doing?”
    Liara: “I don’t know. I have to admit I’m not all that knowledgeable about Prothean biology and… oh… oh my.”
    Garrus: “I guess they needed something to do while trapped here all those years.”

  37. Aldowyn says:

    I’m half hoping your ME3 series is going to be somewhat more positive than some of this has been, or at least retroactively blaming ME2, but I am… not hopeful of that. Ah well. Once more into the breach, as they say.

    Not to say that many of your complaints aren’t valid, but even if ME2 is my least favorite of the series now, it’s still one of the first games I ever really fell in love with.

    1. Akuma says:

      I didn’t play Mass Effect 3, but I did follow the Spoiler Warning play of it.

      Basically it breaks down to two main things:

      The character stories, their arcs etc, A+ stuff. All the stuff we love Bioware for.

      The overall plot? The connecting details of the story? Garbage tier.

      1. Sartharina says:

        From what I’ve gathered, the beginning of Mass Effect 3 is ruined by Earth. The middle of Mass Effect 3 is ruined by Kai Leng, and the End of Mass Effect 3 is ruined by Starchild.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      It was a new experience for me as well.

      Shamus may have valid complaints but don’t let him take that from you. I’m sure he doesn’t want to take that from you at the end of the day.

      1. Deager says:

        I always go back to the end of the first post.

        “I don't know if you'll find it cathartic, informative, illuminating, or annoying, but I do promise you'll find this series to be exceptionally long.

        Buckle up.”

        For one, I like this retrospective and it doesn’t spoil the series for me. It helps me understand what’s been bugging me. And that does not stop me from playing it over and over. This weekend I’ll finish trilogy run number 18 and I still will play it again. It’s just nice to read good articles with good dialogue among people who aren’t raging at each other.

        EDIT: I should have replied to Aldowyn. Whoops.

  38. natureguy85 says:

    I agree that the Suicide Mission was a great concept. I didn’t like how easy it is to get everyone out alive, though I did lose Mordin holding the line the first time because I’d sent Grunt to escort the crew. I didn’t know it could be anyone loyal, so I sent someone I thought could handle himself alone. I can try and role play decisions, but now I feel as if I have to try to get someone killed if I don’t want a perfect run, and certainly if I want to try an ME3 game having lost certain characters.

    As for the failures not making sense, the worst one is how picking the wrong team leader makes the doors jam.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The doors jam no matter what. What changes is how quickly this unpredictable situation is handled. If the team leader hesitates, someone dies. That makes as much sense as any other death branch.

      1. natureguy85 says:

        While you’re right that the door does jam slightly, what I mean by “jam” is requiring the tech expert to start manually pushing them together, exposing their face. Why does this happen if the fire team leader isn’t good or loyal?

  39. Fictional Skill says:

    I remember giving the human reaper thing a pass at the time, despite it making absolutely no sense, because I had faith that the confusion was intentional and that Mass Effect 3 would make it all fit together and make perfect sense. And I think that is part of why I genuinely hated Mass Effect 3 when I played it. Because not only was it not as good as I had hoped with a load of its own problems, but it failed to make Mass Effect 2 make sense and so kind of retroactively ruined that for me as well.

  40. Flip says:

    You know what would’ve been really useful on a suicide mission with an unknown objective and scope? When holding the line while Shepard goes off to play with the human reaper. Guns with limitless ammo.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Dont be silly.Such technology could never work.

    2. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      According to ME3 multiplayer, so long as “the line” happened to have an ammo crate on it, they’d be perfectly fine for ammo for quite some time.

  41. Starker says:

    “But what do they eat?”

    Ambrosia. Duh. Either that or soylent green.

  42. MrFob says:

    This is my first post here and first of all, after reading this entire series to this point I want to say that it contains some excellent analysis and I agree with pretty much every single sentence (which is quite amazing given the length of the series and my naturally contrarian nature :)). So kudos to you!

    So here is one point where I am not quite following: How exactly does the human reaper fly in the face of the Sovereign conversation from ME1 or the established lore?
    Yes, there is the shell thing but that is easily explained (as you said). But the sovereign conversation? How is that impacted here? For all we know, this human reaper could still be “a nation, independent, free of all weakness” once it matures. It was only ME3 that took a sledgehammer to that concept.
    Also, Vigil’s dialogue is not impacted at all here because Vigil gives us a very limited prothean perspective of the reapers. He didn’t tell about any of this because he simply didn’t know any more about the reapers than the protheans on Illos could figure out.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not by far a fan of the whole human reaper thing (I mainly hated the goofy presentation) but in terms of contradictions to previous material, I don;t see much of a problem.

  43. GeorgeDM says:

    “You could argue that it's replacing the Cthulhu idea with more of an H. R. Giger style story of bio-mechanical body horror, but that's completely ruined by the unintentional comedy of a MOUTH LASER.”

    You’re also forgetting about the incredibly goofy peek-a-boo animation it has when it gets damaged too much. It shrinks down below the platform, but not far enough so it’s off screen. No, it ‘s right eye is just angrily staring at you and it makes a GRRRRR sound like a cartoon character menacingly looking around the corner at his rival who always makes him look bad.

  44. Sand says:

    > I think the suicide mission was a solid concept, and it would be worth iterating on it[3] to see how these problems could be solved or mitigated.

    Neverwinter Nights 2 had a similar loyalty-missions-matter finale, though it didn’t have the choose-who-to-send-for-each-task part.
    The cause-and-effect generally made a bit more sense — Neeshka can only overcome mind control through The Power of Friendship if you actually invested time in The Power of Friendship, and other NPCs are just straight-up disloyal if you didn’t make them, well, loyal.
    Of course, the downside is that the writers have to force the disloyal companions to still be *around* for the climax in order to manufacture the big dramatic scene, which as you noted,
    does not make a ton of sense from the perspective of either the PC or the NPC if they don’t like each other.

  45. LordMunchkin says:

    ME 2 made me quit ME. I did three full play-throughs of ME 1 and even preordered the collecter’s edition of ME 2. However, the plot was just terrible. I barely got through one run of the game before I put it away with disgust. Even then, I recognized that ME 2 wasn’t the ME I loved. At the same time, I was bewildered why people were saying this was the best ME game yet. It seems like people don’t care if a game has a good story anymore so long as they get their fanservice.

    ME 2 combined with DA 2 destroyed my faith in Bioware as a maker of roleplaying games. Mass Effect could have been one of the greatest scifi game series ever made…

  46. Mr. Wolf says:

    Normally, “investigate” is my favourite thing ever, but for the human reaper I said, “I don’t even want to know”. There was no possible explanation that would make this any less stupid.

  47. Wveth says:

    I was under the impression that people generally liked the Suicide Mission. I personally thought it was really good overall, aside from the dumb human Reaper. I can see some flaws, like how some of the deaths feel arbitrary, but I think it works well as a whole. It gives weight to your decisions and puts characters you care about in genuine danger, and it gives you a few choices you actually have to put some thought into (they’re not exactly MENSA riddles but at least the player can feel like they thought things through and are rewarded for not being stupid).

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