Mass Effect Retrospective 35: Mars Effect

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 18, 2016

Filed under: Mass Effect 183 comments

So now that the Reapers are actually on Earth and have begun the reaping process, Shepard sort of accidentally steps into the quest hinted at in the closing moments of Mass Effect 1. He doesn’t know it when he arrives, but his job on Mars is to recover plans for a device to beat the Reapers. Better “Way, way, WAY Too Late” than never, I suppose.


I really dig the look of the Mars installation.
I really dig the look of the Mars installation.

Shepard arrives on Mars to discover that the plans for the MacGuffin are here in a research station, and that Cerberus is murdering everyone to secure those plans.

Like the main plot of Mass Effect 2, there aren’t any peasants to meet. There’s no dialog where you can talk to somebody about what this place was and how it worked. Liara shows up, but she’s just here to join the party and explain where we need to go and who to shoot. She’s not here to tell stories. Mars is just a big industrial base filled with mooks and dead civilians. Nobody around here is interested in filling in details or worldbuilding.

During the assault we discover that Cerberus has been partially husk-ifying their soldiers, turning them into half-machine slaves. We see that Cerberus is willing to slaughter a bunch of civilians to steal some intel for themselves. We see that they are needlessly cruel and the whole “pro humans” idea is just a fig leaf excuse for their atrocities.

So Cerberus mole Dr. Eva Coré infiltrated the outpost, betrayed the scientists, and let the Cerberus strike team in. They slaughtered the scientists, presumably twirling robo-mustaches beneath their power armor. Once they have the plans for the Crucible they start deleting them so that nobody else can have them.

Hi YouTube. It's Security Officer again. I'm still here on Mars. I know it's been a while since my last vid- hey doc, do you mind? I'm making a video here. And what's the gun for?
Hi YouTube. It's Security Officer again. I'm still here on Mars. I know it's been a while since my last vid- hey doc, do you mind? I'm making a video here. And what's the gun for?

There’s no reason given for killing everyone. Dr. Coré apparently had run of the place and access to the data. It’s not clear why she couldn’t just download the data and leave. Why kill everyone? Why erase the data? Those are both difficult, dangerous, risky, and costly tasks that don’t advance Cerberus goals. But it does advance the goals of the writer who is really fond of the idea of the player shooting dudes dressed like space marines. Again, the storyteller has gone from details-first to drama-first, and now from drama-first to gameplay-first.

This would be tolerable if Cerberus was just some minor side faction like the Blue Sun or Eclipse mercenaries. But Cerberus is right in the center of this story, and we can’t even tell what the storyteller is saying. Which is it? Is Cerberus a grey-hat pro human organization, or are they cartoon space Nazis? One or the other. Just pick something. Barring that, acknowledge this discrepancy in dialog by having your allies try to reconcile their different views on Cerberus.

We also pause to have an argument with Kashley about working for Cerberus. That’s a big topic and so we’ll come back to it next entry. Right now we have more important stuff to nitpick…

Dr. Coré is revealed to be fully-functioning AI in a robot body that can seamlessly disguise itself as human without raising suspicion, even when in the company of scientists for a week. That’s three different amazing reveals in a single package:

  1. An ambulatory full AI, which even the Geth have only recently mastered!
  2. A robot indistinguishable from a human in appearance.
  3. An AI able to mimic human conversation and behavior.

And Eva was invented not by a government or by one of the more advanced species, but by a human terrorist organization. The story doesn’t pause to explore any of this. We’re here to shoot bad guys and bang hot aliens. Worldbuilding is for dorks.

Mass Contrivances

Liara, please stop pointing your gun at an obvious hologram. You're embarrassing the squad, the player, BioWare, and yourself.
Liara, please stop pointing your gun at an obvious hologram. You're embarrassing the squad, the player, BioWare, and yourself.

If this game was written in the style of Mass Effect 1, then the writer would have set aside some time for some exploratory dialog that shows why this invaluable piece of information survived the previous cycle, why it just happened to be on the planet right next door to Earth, why the plans would be there at all, and why we were only just now finding it at the last possible moment.

Recognize contrivances in your writing. Then have the characters recognize them. Then deal with them in dialog through additional lore or character discussion.

Mass Effect 1 had tons of this sort of due diligence in its storytelling, and this game has no patience for it.

For example, perhaps Shepard could have dialog with a random scientist that reveals:

It turns out we had the plans for the crucible all along! It was among the first artifacts we uncovered on Mars. The Prothens probably recognized that our species had potential and so put this stuff on Mars specifically so that we would find it. Maybe they seeded this stuff on lots of worlds, and we’re lucky that the Reaper cleanup crew missed this one.

But when we discovered the Mars tech, we got caught up in studying the more obviously useful stuff like FTL drives and zap guns, and we didn’t know what to make of the crucible, what it was for, or how it worked. And after the First Contact War, we shelved a lot of artifact research and focused on stuff with obvious and immediate military application.

But then Shepard’s discoveries on Ilos made us take another look, and we’ve spent the last two years studying these plans.

It’s not hard. That only took me a couple of minutes, and it covers a ton of sins. The problem isn’t that this writer can’t think of these kinds of things, it’s that it doesn’t even occur to them to do so. They’re happy to have the entire story turn on a single massive contrivance and they don’t even feel the need to lampshade it in dialog, much less justify it as I did above. The sensibilities of this writer are wrong for this genre of fiction and this style of story.

But even if they bothered to cover up this contrivance, the crucible is still wrong for this story because…

Victory Must be Earned

In a story, great deeds generally require great sacrifice. The heroes need to give something up in order to win. They need to work for it, to grow, to earn their victory. Okay, not all stories. But Mass Effect 3 isn’t some avant-garde deconstruction of the Hero’s Journey. It’s a broad action adventure. Or trying to be. The least it can do is aspire to be competent at that.

Stop asking so many questions. Just shoot the guys.
Stop asking so many questions. Just shoot the guys.

Luke spent a majority of Empire Strikes Back learning to use the force. He didn’t become a Jedi master during a training montage halfway through Return of the Jedi, and he didn’t become strong enough to win because some no-name handed him a super-powered lightsaber just before the final confrontation. Frodo spent most of the Lord of the Rings painstakingly making his way through mountains, swamps, forests, and rocky wastes. He endured hardship, capture, distrust, hunger, cold, poison, the undead, monsters, a giant spider, armies, betrayal, fatigue, and numerous wounds – both physical and mental. It was an arduous, daunting task that would have destroyed many great men, and in the end he just barely made it. But when The One Ring went into the fire, we had a sense that the victory had been earned. Frodo didn’t spend the first two books killing bandits on the borders of the shire and then had eagles carry him to the slopes of Mount Doom in the last chapter of the book.

This applies to previous BioWare games as well: In KOTOR, the player spends the entire game gathering the clues that lead to the Star Forge. In Mass Effect 1, Shepard spends the entire game working to find the conduit. The writer sets a goal, and then our heroes work towards that goal. That struggle changes them. The resulting events are our story.

But here in Mass Effect 3, we’re simply handed a solution with no buildup, no foreshadowing, and without needing to look for it. We spent Mass Effect 2 fighting an enemy that didn’t exist in part 1. That struggle didn’t give us anything to help us in part 3. Instead, a totally new element is handed to Shepard.

Shepard Has No Agency

Did you head-canon your own reasons for blowing up the Collector base? Well the writer wants to remind you that their story is more important than your roleplaying. You had the nerve to argue with the writer's self-insert hero, therefore your character is a sneering dumbass. (And also a massive hypocrite if you  played The Arrival.)
Did you head-canon your own reasons for blowing up the Collector base? Well the writer wants to remind you that their story is more important than your roleplaying. You had the nerve to argue with the writer's self-insert hero, therefore your character is a sneering dumbass. (And also a massive hypocrite if you played The Arrival.)

Note how this artifact and this shift in story focus robs both Shepard and the player of agency:

  • Shepard didn’t discover the location of these ruins during his adventures or investigations.
  • He didn’t explore the ruins.
  • He didn’t find the artifact.
  • He didn’t discover what the artifact was or what it was for.
  • He didn’t hear about this attack over the radio and decide for himself to intervene. He was ordered by Hackett.
  • Shepard doesn’t decide to build the crucible.
  • Shepard doesn’t participate in the building of the crucible except in the abstract sense of occasionally (and accidentally) acquiring resources for it in his adventures.
  • And until the very end, Shepard doesn’t even know what it is or what it will do.

Instead of Shepard discovering these things and telling everyone else, other characters show up and explain these things to him. He has done nothing to earn or deserve his victory and he has no stake in it.

There’s a reason that military stories usually feature characters that are either isolated from the main force or buck orders and go rogue. It’s because in a broad adventure story, the main character should be an agent of change. Their ideas – not their combat prowess – should drive the plot. The combat is simply a viscerally pleasing means to that end.

Remember how in Mass Effect 1, the game did the best it could to pretend you were autonomous? People deferred to you, and you were the one who was getting the answers and figuring things out. The council always presented the game missions as intelligence and suggestions, and they demurred if Shepard acted like they were in charge. The game was selling the notion that Shepard was the person making all the important things happen and thus the main character. He was making decisions and forging his own path. Mass Effect 3 abandons this idea entirely and treats Shepard like a child. He’s told where to go and what to do, and often he’s not even told why. Everyone else does the thinking and planning, and Shepard does the shooting. Outside of the Mass Effect 1 stories (the Genophage and Rannoch storylines) Shepard makes almost no meaningful, informed decisions.

Okay team. We're here to walk down this linear corridor and shoot all the dudes. We don't stop until one of the actual main characters appear and explains the plot or sends us off to shoot different dudes.
Okay team. We're here to walk down this linear corridor and shoot all the dudes. We don't stop until one of the actual main characters appear and explains the plot or sends us off to shoot different dudes.

The story has stripped him of everything that made him special to this universe and turned him into a thug with a gun. But then the author turns around and pretends that Shepard is special anyway because he’s so famous and good at shooting people. At least when a deus ex machina shows up it’s typically somehow centered on the main character and their efforts. Typically, a “god” shows up and rewards the hero for an earlier good deed, or for having a good heart, or whatever. Sure, a “god” solves the problem, but at least they do so in response to something the hero did. Mass Effect 3 doesn’t even manage to do that. This feels like a deus ex machina solution for someone else’s protagonist.

On one hand the writer keeps clumsily stroking the player’s ego by talking about what a Big Damn Hero Shepard is, but on the other hand they’re treating Shepard like a child who can’t be trusted to make plot-relevant decisions. Once again, this is backwards.

We have a main character with almost no agency in the central story. He’s on a quest to gather military allies for a battle that the story has already clearly stated that can’t be won through military power. Unrelated to this, he’s also recovering some data that will miraculously solve this problem, somehow.

The advantage of a trilogy is that by the third act, the stage is set, the goals are clear, and the story just needs to follow through. But here’s the writer trying to establish two competing plots at the same time. Even at this early stage, the story is already broken or malformed in multiple ways.

And we’ve got a long way to go.

And it gets worse from here.

(Although to be fair, there are a couple of really good moments to look forward to as well.)


From The Archives:

183 thoughts on “Mass Effect Retrospective 35: Mars Effect

  1. Richard says:

    Shamus, I just wanted to tell you that I discovered your blog during the third of this Mass Effect series and I’ve been waiting with anticipation every week for the next post. (I’ve also since read many of your stuff about Kotor, Jade Empire, and watched half a dozen episodes of Spoiler Warning.) Thank you for the entertainment and the solid writing.

    I remember playing Mass Effect 3 for the first time and being kind of upset that Cerberus turned from super terrorist group full of humans to inexplicable slave-husk space marines without any sort of detail or world building, but at the time I hand-waved it away because I was spamming the Vanguard’s Force Jump and Force Punch-the-Ground abilities. It was fun in a popcorn sort of way but didn’t feel like Mass Effect.

    Is there any hope that Mass Effect: Andromeda will contain the focus on lore and world building that first one did with the combat of the third one?

    1. Alex says:

      “Is there any hope that Mass Effect: Andromeda will contain the focus on lore and world building that first one did with the combat of the third one?”


      1. Arstan says:

        Alex’s triangle avatar fits his words nicely))))

        But I am hopeful that it will be at least tolerable

    2. Christopher says:

      It’s probably gonna solve the management problem, if nothing else. Rumors are that it’s gonna be similar to Inquisition. Hopefully you’re gonna get to pick between different sci-fi thrones to put in your spaceship.

      1. lurkey says:


        Rumors are that it's gonna be similar to Inquisition.

        This here:

        On one hand the writer keeps clumsily stroking the player's ego by talking about why a Big Damn Hero Shepard is, but on the other hand they're treating Shepard like a child who can't be trusted to make plot-relevant decisions. Once again, this is backwards.

        is Inquisition in a nutshell.

        1. Christopher says:

          Hardly, you get to judge criminals on your big throne, send your organization to do whatever you want in whatever way you want through the different methods of your three advisors(not your three superiors). You can choose whatever areas to do in whatever order you like, or not do them at all. Yeah, some people literally think you’re a saint, but you also get actual power and freedom. Nobody tells you there’s a plot to assassinate a world leader, you learn that yourself by searching the rooms of the conspirators. At least, if you choose to check out the Templar place.

          1. lurkey says:

            Lets start from the sainthood, which is banally thrust upon you for reasons that would only make sense if everyone around you were suffering from severe idiocy of brain. As in, you didn’t earn a yotz of it — and you don’t have a bloody word in accepting or refusing it. It’s your three “not superiors” who decide you gotta be this symbol, and so you become one. Shep at least earned her hero cred in previous games.

            Back to the plot. You find incriminating stuff in Templar HQ, and what do you do with it? Right, run to your Unholy Trinity and their Game of Thrones Intro Table, and say, “Yo guys, I found this bust of not-France’s leader with specs and moustache drawn on it, I wonder what could it mean”. And they be all “OMG she’s gonna get killed!”, and you are all “OMG lets go save her!”, and they go “Ah ah ah, not so fast Bucko. You got no respect yet. You gotta earn it. By going out into wilderness and killing things. Lots and lots of things. In bulk. Preferably bears, their behinds is pretty much the currency of respect in our parts. What, feeling a bit lazy? Then do dragons. Dragons, their current respect exchange rate is 1 to 108 bear behinds, you know…what? You want to use yer wits and do some inquisitin’? Maybe talking to people? Aaaaahahahaaaa…ahem, we mean that is totally beneath you, our lord and saviour. That’s why we are here, to pick those boring non-combat little missions from this table, so that you be free to do really important stuff. Like killing hyenas and wolves by a packfull. How does all that make you qualified for court schemes and intrigues? Jeez, Chosen One, stop asking silly questions! And those bears aren’t going to disembowel themselves! Shoo!”

            Then Varric’s old buddy Hawke delivers you the next plot point, it involves all Wardens suddenly suffer from hack writer induced dementia. In case you’re worrying, don’t – Hawke and his Warden contact already looked into it and presents their theory to you on a gold-rimmed plate, it only requires a few finishing touches from you — such as killing another batch of demons, after what your “non superior” trinity plans and executes an assault on the fortress, where you — what a surprise, really – mostly run around beating the crap out of mooks du jour.

            Then you get the Fade part which I admit is kind of cool, but would’ve been way cooler if they didn’t reveal the herpyderpy way you acquired your superpower. But this budding feeling of agency doesn’t bother you for long, because in swoops Morrigan with the next plot point. She has everything figured out, knows the whys, the wheres and the what to dos, and what do you do meanwhile? Why of course, sweep the road that’s all littered with trash mobs!

            They didn’t even trust you to find your way to the boss fight, oh noooo. In Soviet Inquisition, boss fight finds its way to you! But yeah, you are allowed to place your shiny arse on the big bad throne and “judge” people. People who are already defeated and thus irrelevant, but it doesn’t matter, because look at you, sitting on the throne, all shiny and pretty and so important. Makes you so awesome, amirite?

            1. Christopher says:

              Christ, your inner voice that personifies the game is a lot more annoying than mine. The sainthood might be thrust upon you by a mix of believers and people wanting to use you as a figurehead. But you earn that position yourself as you play and only get the official leadership at the end of the first act, when your character has been judged and not just your abilities. Your acts make people actually believe in either your sainthood or your competence, not just your hand. Of course your advisors are still technically “leaders”, the council Shamus talks about isn’t anything better. The game makes the rules and needs its questgivers because you can roleplay your character in different directions, ones that might not come up with the mission that fits the story. The only difference is that one portrays you as being in charge and the other as a grunt, and Inquisition clearly positions you as a person that actually do order all of these other guys around. I’m not saying there aren’t flaws in the whole magical corruption/possession plot or the Power system that limits your progression, but I don’t think that’s actually what we’re talking about here. I don’t think your other examples match the ME3 situation either. Yeah, Morrigan asks you to stop the assassination, but that’s what you’re already there for. She knows about Corypheus’ goals and understands how his immortality works, but that’s knowledge she has earned in the previous games. It makes sense that she would know, and you not, and that’s why she’s there at all. Similarly, Hawke earned his information in Dragon Age 2 and its add-ons. They are returning player-controlled characters. They should be competent! It’s a nice way of tying the earlier games to this third one in a way that doesn’t retcon Corypheus as the mastermind of the previous games or something similar. It’s not the same as Hackett giving you orders to do shit in order to build something neither of you comprehend.

              1. lurkey says:

                Christ, your inner voice that personifies the game is a lot more annoying than mine.

                While I am genuinely grateful, I thought I made my distaste for involuntary deification rather clear in my rant, no? So I’d appreciate you skipped that “Christ” bit next time when addressing me if it’s not too much trouble. :-)

                Feel free to swap all quotes with Turian Councillor’s airquotes though, I believe it might add to the impression! :D

                Not sure how to explain the difference I see between “You are told you are the most chosenest of Chosen Ones” and “Most of the time you do mundane stuff that a true leader would delegate to janitors”, so lets dissect that ascension of yours, mayhap it will help.

                By end of the first act you mean that dreadful song and later coming to Skyhold, right? The reason you are being godified, if I remember correctly, is primarily because people saw you die and then come back…

                …wait, what?

                How could they see you die if they were all far away sending you a signal telling they’re all safe and you can stop stalling the monster and proceed to that heroic sacrifice of yours? And if you see that self-sacrifice dude crawl back, tired, wounded and frost-bitten in sensitive places, isn’t it more sensible to think it was just lucky escape rather than resurrection? The only explanation to resurrection bullshit I have to offer is that those 3 guys who helped you to fight the mobs and then conveniently vanished for your big ~*dramatic*~ cutscene pulled a brave Sir Robin on you and lied that you died to save face, but that’s just headcannon to combat the stupid.

                (Tangent: ‘sfunny how resurrection fazed no one in kinda-sorta SF-ish ME2 and got made into such a piss-excited event in fantasy, death-is-cheap setting. Somebody got pages from the script all mixed up?)

                And what’s so godhood-worthy in self-sacrifice that would earn an out-of-the-blue worship anyway? Nobody worships poor Trask the KOTOR tutorial guy who sacrificed himself to save Cuftbertina. Kreia in the sequel pulled a similar trick, only she escaped, returned and all she got was “Oh hello again, Kreia. Welcome back. What’s with your hand, by the way?” What’s different with our Quizzie? Well, other than “He’s a PC character and we need to make him speshul without wasting any characterization, because he’s just a designated player’s vessel anyway?”

                Oh, and also. In your first big gate-closing you are accompanied by Cassandra, the lady of the “But the Fade distorts reality. Surely it cannot offer a true reflection of what occurred?” quote. And yet, she hears a Fade voice similar to her late boss’s and the first and only conclusion she arrives is “Distorts shmorts. When Fade talks about this shifty dude I find extremely suspicious it’s totally legit”? Victory Must Be Earned, Shamus says in the article above. And offers Frodo as an example. Now imagine Frodo winning not through his own character qualities, but because Shelob tripped on her own legs, Barrow Wights decapitated themselves, Old Man Willow just wanted to give massage and got misunderstood, Boromir let him go because he suddenly really wanted to pee and so on. And that’s exactly how our Inquisitor ascended, and I didn’t even touch the Warden subplot…

       know what? I take it back. You were right, and I was wrong. It’s not like ME3 at all. It’s so much stupider. So. Much. D:

                …what have I done?

            2. James says:

              So as a Dalish Mage, i constantly denied that i was Andraste’s chosen one, not just because i didn’t follow that faith, not just because i didn’t believe in that faith, but because saying im a prophet of a faith i don’t follow would be deeply wrong, heretical, blasphemous and condescending, I was not the “Herald of Andraste” i was some elf in the wrong place at the right time.

              1. Mike S. says:

                My recollection was that making the PC able to be multiple species was a relatively late addition, in response to the DA2 backlash. The Herald of Andraste thing really would have made a lot more sense if the PC had to be human. (Even if they themselves don’t believe in Andraste and the Maker, they at least are part of a culture that does.)

                They probably should have been a little more restrictive about backgrounds– just as Shepard has to have willingly joined the Alliance (whatever her personality and motives), the Herald probably should have to have been someone with some sort of plausible connection to the faith (while allowing the possibility that they’re a doubter or a poser, and that they might completely lose it on learning the truth behind the Mark).

                1. Poncho says:

                  I actually enjoyed the game from the perspective of a Dalish. It made the reveal at the end more enjoyable, and constantly saying “no, I’m not the chosen one,” led to a lot of interesting conversations about faith and belief and effect of cosmic circumstance.

                  1. Christopher says:

                    I said no all the time, too. I don’t roleplay, at least not the way you guys seem to do, I just didn’t think that was gonna be the case. And I did not feel like that was an option that didn’t work, and I could state my objection every step of the way to the resolution of that plot thread.

                    1. Poncho says:

                      Yeah, it wasn’t railroady, it just felt like a bunch of silly humans thought you were Jesus when you (or your character) knew that wasn’t the case. Whatever their faith tells them, your character has his own truths in the matter, and people will keep believing despite what you say. Because enough people believe you ARE chosen, they support a central religious power trying to fix the mess that is destroying the world. The player character is the one trying solve problems and takes whatever help he can get. I didn’t think it felt silly at all.

                      This is a very human thing to have happen, especially in a culture so heavily attached to their mythology.

                      People also complain about the protagonist in DA:I being really bland, and I got the complete opposite feeling playing as a Dalish mage. The PC has to reconcile a ton of bitter sentiments across cultures and religions, which all influence the characters perspective. I think DA:I’s protagonist has the STRONGEST voice of any PC in any Bioware game I’ve played. Shepard is hardly a divergent character from one play-through to the next, but DA:I has a lot color in the way its characters react to the setting.

                    2. guy says:

                      I’ve played entirely through once and past the Winter Palace a second time. The first time was as a Tal’Vashoth mage, where whenever the subject came up I picked the option that most closely approximated “I don’t really know about that, anyways I’m going to close the hole in the sky, can you help me?” and I roleplayed an agnostic badass and her personal cult, then when I hit the reveal my Inquisitor just kind of nodded and said “so that’s what happened” and moved on with her life.

                      Then my second playthrough was as a Daelish rogue and I consistently picked options denying my divinity and referencing the Elven pantheon, and it did seem like the characters reacted and rather than being my cultists they were cynically exploiting my reputation.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          At least the time-management “war table” minigame and the passing judgement on mini-bosses scenes give the illusion that you’re more than just a random thug chosen by happenstance to beat up roving bands of corrupted people. They thought about it for a minute and realized you’re supposed to be in charge of a big organization, and your job title implies you should be asking questions, making judgments, etc. It’s superficial and meaningless in the usual nu-BioWare way, but it’s there at least.

          I just have no hope they’re actually going to make something interesting out of either of those concepts. Like DA2, it’s going to be a bunch of interesting ideas not properly explored and quickly discarded.

          1. If they make the overall plot more personal, like maybe the player character saving a system/sector/race, and/or make them join a Human alliance etc. Then it might get interesting.

            But if they go the route of the more epic “Mass Effect: Saving One Galaxy at a time” then they really need to hire Shamus (Or someone like him) as a story/plot consultant to bounce ideas off of.

            I hope they go for the more personal route as I feel the Mass Effect universe lends it self better to multiple personal stories spread across the universe. Shepard and his/her legacy can be one of those common threads that bind it all together.

          2. James says:

            Dragon Age: Origins: you were one of two people from and order that is both unpopular in Ferelden and just got wiped out, YOU must work to secure allies to fight the big bad, YOU must go from place to place and often help out these people to secure their help, YOU are the agent of change.

            You were made a Warden by circumstances of the story during the story not before it.

            Dragon Age: Awakening: you are the leader of the order now reformed but still disliked and very small, YOU as the most experienced warden and leader investigate the talking Darkspawn, ok so this is kinda Inquizitiony the supposed leader is also the boots on the ground but in Inquisition you are told where to go and who to talk to, everything is gated by levels. in Awakening YOU choose which leads to follow and YOU also solve conflicts with the nobles, YOU are again the agent of change.

            You are leader of the wardens because you saved the world or are the only experienced warden in all of Ferelden.

            Dragon Age 2: While it made alot of mistakes, i didn’t stick to one idea long enough to make it stick and flip flopped alot the story was personal and was centered on you and this city not saving the world, while railroady you were the agent of your story, you went to the deep roads ect.

            You were a refuge and rose to power by your action in the game in order to help your family.

            Dragon Age Inquisition: You are made the leader of a order that hasn’t existed in centuries because you have a magic hand, given to you before the game started. you and the order decide to save the world, however you are told where to go and who to talk to, despite being the leader, the agents of change are often NPC’s.

            You were “some person” and regardless of who you are your the reason your special is always the same. DA2 got away with this by having one race. and Origins had separate reasons for you being a warden.

            Thats not to say i didnt like DA:I or DA2 but they don’t have the same agency as DA:O or Awakening,

            1. guy says:

              I can only imagine you guys didn’t pick nearly as many *crosses arms* dialogue options in the council meetings as my Tal’Vashoth. My first playthrough, the whole “who will lead the Inquisition?” plotline kind of fell flat because I didn’t realize that it wasn’t already me as of entering the first meeting. The war table was my advisory body and the meetings closed out with giving orders.

    3. Gunther says:

      It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely to be much of an improvement.

      Bioware are better at taking criticism on board than you might think (most of the things fans hated about DA2 – like the recycled environments, the lack of enemy variety, the way enemies pop in out of nowhere and the outdated graphics – were fixed in DA3). The fact that they felt the need to move the action to an entirely new galaxy points at an unspoken acknowledgement that they realize how badly they’ve tied themselves into knots with ME3’s ending and gives them a do-over of the dumber stuff in the setting – ideally we can keep the good ideas and leave the bad behind to be eaten by Reapers in the Milky Way.

      The problem is one of basic competence. Even if the people who wrote ME3 were to read this blog series, memorize all the mistakes they made and make an honest effort to avoid making them again, it’s likely they’d just manage to make new mistakes. The kind of writer who thought it was fine to introduce a new conflict in the last 10 minutes of a 100 hour story is not going to start putting out gold just because someone tells them that’s a dumb idea.

      1. Darren says:

        Remember that Dragon Age was mostly written by David Gaider. Besides ensuring more consistency across the three games, he was fairly involved with the community. He’s not there anymore, and I’m unaware of any other Bioware writer who was so invested in listening to the fanbase. I’m also doubtful that EA really paid attention to that aspect or how Dragon Age managed to build a real fanbase despite the missteps of DA2 (which I don’t think is as bad as its reputation suggests) while Mass Effect nearly collapsed with the finale of the third game.

        So hope for the best, but be prepared to be disappointed. And also worry that the next Dragon Age game will suck.

      2. INH5 says:

        To be fair, the writing staff has been changed (again) for MEA, so it won’t actually be written by the people who wrote ME3. Mac Walters isn’t on the writing team at all; instead he’s the “Creative Director.” Casey Hudson was also made a consultant before he left after a year or so. The new lead writer is Chris Schlerf, the lead writer of Halo 4, who has never written a Bioware game before (he left Bioware a few days ago, but they’re probably finished with the writing by now). Casey Hudson’s previous role seems to have been filled by Yanick Roy, the studio director of Bioware Montreal. We don’t know who the rest of the writing staff is, but I expect that the writing credits will be significantly different from ME3’s.

        Let’s also not forget that the game is being made by a different studio than the previous ones.

        So I don’t think we can look to ME3 as a guide for what MEA will be like. It’s far too early at this point to say with any confidence that it will be better, but I think that it is at least likely to be different.

  2. CliveHowlitzer says:

    What is worse? That the writers made all these mistakes and willingly ignored the issues caused by them or that they were totally unaware they even were mistakes?

    1. Poncho says:

      ME3 Feels like a first draft. It’s the one you make when you know there’s going to be a lot of mistakes and you need to do a couple revisions to get it working. Except here, they turned their first draft in and the project lead accepted it.

      1. Poobles says:

        Ever had a toddler try to tell you a story? They chain together “awesome” things with little or no connection or sense or reason. That’s what ME3 felt like to me.

  3. Akuma says:

    “There's no reason given for killing everyone.”

    But Shamus, this is clearly a rogue cell.

    I’m sorry

    1. Geebs says:

      A rogue cell of Cerberus scientists, researching the effects of bullets on scientists.

      They just wanted to be really sure of their results.

      1. Lachlan the Mad says:

        But who was the control group?

        1. Scourge says:

          Plot twist: They were and Shephard is secretly working for cerberus as a scientist.

  4. Duoae says:

    “Mass Effect 3 abandons this idea entirely and treats Shepard like a child”

    Suddenly the child dreams make sense. Especially the one where both Shepard and the child burn in flames!

    Shepard *is* the child and the writer is trying to tell the player they hate them!

    1. Interesting you said, I long theorized that the child was always in Shepards imagination (a side effect the Reaper indoctrination influence). The child is Shepard’s innocence.
      Now if that was what the writers had in mind I got no clue. (the child seems to be a boy which clashes with a femshep in that case).

      1. Duoae says:

        I always liked the indoctrination theory. I wish that was really part of the game’s story in 3 because it’s awesome if it even could be true…

        1. Poncho says:

          It would still be incredibly frustrating to play, but at least it would make SENSE. Shepard has probably run into more Reaper artifacts than anyone ever, so it makes sense his mind would be tearing apart when Harbinger finally gets close. It still leaves us asking “why?” and “what the f*@$ were they thinking with this plot?” but at least Indoctrination makes logical sense.

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            I mentioned this in an earlier section, I’ll bring it up again: Until very late in development, the plan for ME3 was to have Shepard become indoctrinated, but it was scrapped with a few months to go before release. Here’s the relevant quote from a dev commentary:

            And even in November the gameplay team was still experimenting with an endgame sequence where players would suddenly lose control of Shepard's movement and fall under full reaper control. (This sequence was dropped because the gameplay mechanic proved too troublesome to implement alongside dialogue choices).

            I speculate that a lot of stuff involving Some Kid was originally intended to tie in to the indoctrination plot (why does Starchild manifest as Some Kid? It’s impossible unless there’s some sharing of information between Shep’s brain and Starchild), but when they cut indoctrination they didn’t have time to clean up all the buildup towards it, so now we have Shepard dreams full of Reaper thrums even though he’s not indoctrinated.

            1. ehlijen says:

              That sounds like the final confrontation with TIMmy. For a brief moment Shepard does lose control and can only interact in dialogue with the scene.

              If that quote is all, I don’t think it speaks to an indoctrination ending as per the popular theory necessarily.

              And there is a lot more wrong with the starchild than just where the image comes from.

              No, if there was an indoctrination ending plan, I think it was cut for the good of the game. I don’t think the writers of ME2 and 3 could have pulled off a Jade Empire or SpecOps: The line twist. The game would have had to be drastically different (as in, many hints towards it and a reveal well before the actual end to give the player a chance to come to terms with it and still work towards a satisfactory ending), and since I don’t see a lot of that stuff in the game, they must have been able to clean it reasonably well.

              The dreams, I don’t know why they’re in the game, really, but I doubt it’s a indoctrination ending remnant. If all they were meant for was to support an ending that wasn’t being used, shouldn’t they have been removed? It would have been super easy, and yet there they still are.

              1. Ninety-Three says:

                “It would have been super easy, and yet” is a recurring theme with Mass Effect 3’s problems. The plot is such a trainwreck that there has to be some idiocy somewhere.

                1. Poncho says:

                  It feels completely piece-meal. I encourage people to watch the Choose Wisely videos on the subject. Also the indoctrination theory videos.

                  The problem with indoctrination theory or other subjects in the game is that so much of it is clearly poorly planned that it calls into question anything that could be decently executed.

                  If you take the series as work on its artistic merits, with every decision made as intended by the creator, then the whole entire piece is just a dream of ridiculous nonsense. Occam’s Razor suggests that it’s just a huge project that a bunch of people [email protected] up on.

  5. Killbuzz says:

    “This applies to previous BioWare games as well: In KOTOR, the player spends the entire game gathering the clues that lead to the Star Forge.”

    Really? Because I always thought the idea that an ancient civilization would leave parts of a Star Map (including one part that points you towards the other parts of the Star Map) lying around on random planets was massively contrived. Though not as contrived as the Star Forge itself, which is somehow capable of producing an infinite amounts of droids, warships and other tools of war. Oh, and the Star Forge also somehow corrupts and makes you fall to the dark side if you use it. Somehow.

    As comforting as it might be to cling to the widespread narrative that latter-day Bioware has faltered artistically (in terms of storytelling), I don’t think it’s a very accurate narrative. One could in fact make the argument that they’ve improved somewhat. The flaws have always been there, perhaps it’s because Bioware still hasn’t evolved past them that makes them more glaring and noticeable nowadays.

    1. Corsair says:

      How is a government having maps of its own territory contrived at all?

      As for the Star Forge being contrived…how is a huge factory contrived? It seems perfectly logical to me. It’s drawing massive amounts of stellar matter out of a star and using it to power itself and as raw material, this is clearly shown. As for it being corruptive and dangerous…how is that contrived? It was constructed using the Dark Side of the Force, which is constantly, consistently shown to be incredibly dangerous, addicting and corruptive.

      You’re basically saying “It’s stupid that this magic ring is so dangerous and corruptive, it’s just a ring.”

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        No, it’s more like he’s saying “it’s rather ridiculous in this setting for this one magic object to have numerous (extremely convenient to the story) powers AND for there to be a treasure map that you have to collect x pieces of in different, interesting locations to get to it. It’s OBVIOUSLY a contrivance for a video game plot.” As a comparison, the Ring was shown to have ONE power (invisibility) and two drawbacks (homing beacon for evil and mind corruption). The Star Forge has like 4 or 5 INCREDIBLE powers and pretty much one drawback… which might not be one depending on what kind of person you are.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      I’m not sure if the Star Forge is infinite per see, but considering the average weight of a star, using stellar mass means the production of a couple of starships probably isn’t going to leave much of a dent. You’d have to make something like 2*10^20 (a 2 with 20 zeroes behind it) star destroyers (assuming a star destroyer is about 10 times the size and weight of a modern-day hangar ship) to even reduce the weight of the sun by 1%. Stars are freakin’ big.

      1. wswordsmen says:

        If we take the insane numbers old technical guides gave to SW ships, you would only be able to produce a fraction of your estimate. That said the difference between 10^20 and 10^10 is significantly smaller for the situation than the difference between 1000 and 1001.

      2. Will says:

        We don’t have a figure for star destroyer mass, but we do know their length, and we can estimate volume. Given reasonable estimates of density, we come to a figure on the order of 10 million to 100 million tons for an Imperial-class star destroyer. For comparison, a Nimitz-class supercarrier displaces on the order of 100,000 tons, or between a hundredth and a thousandth the mass of a star destroyer.

        Not that this really impacts your point. A few orders of magnitude on a number twenty digits long don’t really matter that much.


        1. Poncho says:

          I’m sure there is also plenty of inefficiency in a system that is absorbing stellar matter and converting it to star ships.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            True, converting Hydrogen and Helium into heavier elements through fusion costs a lot of energy, because eventually you’ll hit the snag that you’ll need to generate some heavy-duty gravitics (or lots of heat) to make the reactions happen, especially on the trans-uranics that you can’t get through ‘natural’ solar fusion. Let’s be generous and say that making those final compounds, as well as running the automated factories, costs 10x the energy of the energy you get out of the fusion in the first place.

            That means, the Star Forge can ‘merely’ produce about… 2*10^13 Star Destroyers (I’m assuming the Super Star Destroyer from that link is about 10 times the weight of an ordinary one) from 1% of the sun’s mass, give or take a zero. Brute force, I know, but I think some inefficiency can be excused here. Also, I think the ships will be a bit understaffed, given that, using the entire population of the Earth, only about 1 in 30000 of those star destroyers could have a crew. ‘A crew’ in this case meaning ‘one person aboard’. Heavy use of robotics would probably be a prerequisite.

            1. Sam P says:

              Actually, fusing elements with atomic numbers less than iron releases energy. Above iron, fusion consumes energy. Inverting this, fission produces energy above iron and consumes it below.

              So elements from iron and below are produced by normal fusion in stars, but above iron, they’re pretty much created only by supernovas.

              1. Grudgeal says:

                Hence the ‘because’ snag. I will concede that I forgot which one of Iron and Uranium normally was the end-point of solar fusion.

                If you’re manually creating the materials through fusion rather than harvesting them from the solar core, you need the equipment and conditions in place to make fusion happen, and you’ll need to spend energy to keep those reaction conditions in place. I don’t know how energy efficient Star Wars reactors are, but last I checked (which admittedly was during the nineties) current-day fusion reactors cost a lot of energy to boot up and can barely keep a fusion process going on long enough to produce a net gain before they must be shut down for maintenance.

    3. Henson says:

      Whether or not it feels contrived is independent of Shamus’ point. I’m sure there could be ways to make KOTOR’s trail of breadcrumbs feel more natural, but the main point is on a simpler matter: it is that the game is structured so that the main character overcomes challenges to achieve tasks (find Star Maps) which lead to his/her main goal (find/stop Malak). He’s arguing for basic story structure, not the particular details of that structure.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Precisely ! The kind of storytelling that Shamus advocates relies on the use of a McGuffin. Your mileage may vary from story to story as to how well the writer sells the McGuffin. And I would like to see more stories take risks and stray away from this by-the-numbers bullshit. For a large game studio churning out RPGs at this rate, though, I don’t expect going off the rails too much in that particular department.

        But there is no denying that the story rails are very effective, and the recipe is well understood. If you’re going to go this particular route, there is no excuse for professionals getting it wrong. Again, whether or not the story resonates will hang on the world building, but one can tell objectively if the story hit its marks or not. However I feel about Kotor (namely, way too derivative of the original trilogy when the different era would have allowed for s brand new setting), there is no denying that the story structure is solid.

        1. Henson says:

          I feel it’s unfair to characterize it as a MacGuffin; what the writer in this kind of story uses (e.g. Star Maps) is a Plot Device, and such a device does not necessarily have the negative/frivolous elements of a MacGuffin.

          I likewise would like to see different kinds of stories with unique structures, but I also can’t deny that doing so is much, much harder. Bioware has taken risks with their stories in the past (Dragon Age 2) but, from what I understand, with mixed results.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            Under the strictest definition of a MacGuffin, a MacGuffin should have, essentially, no impact on the plot at all. As in, you want it even though it has no practical use in the story itself. The suitcase in Pulp Fiction is an essential MacGuffin since it’s never used for anything (apart from distracting Ringo at one point). The One Ring in Lord of the Rings is by this definition not a MacGuffin since it has a practical use that Frodo uses it for on several occasions to advance the plot, and because destroying it would kill Sauron. The Arkenstone in The Hobbit is a MacGuffin since it has no use beyond Thorin wanting it.

            Since you need the Star Maps to find the Final Level, and the Final Level is what makes the Big Bad so dangerous story-wise, they are by definition not a MacGuffin but a Plot Device or Plot Coupon.

            1. Trix2000 says:

              The key way to spot MacGuffins, at least by my understanding, is to replace them with something completely different that could be considered ‘valuable’ and see if that would break the plot.

              For instance, if we swapped the Star Maps for shiny jewels, it wouldn’t make much sense anymore (unless the jewels were magical map jewels, but then that’s not really different from what the Star Maps are already).

            2. natureguy85 says:

              Well Bilbo does use that desire to attempt to make peace by giving the Arkenstone to Bard. Wouldn’t that not make it a McGuffin?

          2. IFS says:

            As someone who really enjoyed DA2 I will say that it is very flawed, but I feel that most of its flaws come from being rushed rather than from experimentation with their storytelling structure. Personally I really think it is a shame that DA2 was both rushed and got so much negative feedback, because there is some interesting stuff in it that I feel like Bioware threw out as a result, going entirely back to formula with Inquisition rather than trying to experiment more.

            1. Henson says:

              As someone who didn’t play Dragon Age 2, I’m glad to hear that its problems were more akin to KOTOR 2 than Mass Effect 2. I still don’t think I’ll ever play it (too many things I’ve seen that are real turn-offs, no thank you), but still, it’s nice to hear.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        Also, KOTOR didn’t set itself up as a details-first story and then took a hard-right turn into drama-first. It was a drama-first story from the get-go, strongly encouraged by the Star Wars setting to be one.

      3. Killbuzz says:

        But that’s precisely the problem: you’re not following a trail of breadcrumbs (which could potentially be interesting), you’re following a blatant trail of Plot Coupons, the locations of which you’re told from the start. The Plot Coupons are literal coupons (pieces of a map). The problem is not the structure (every story is built upon contrivances, after all), the problem is that Kotor does nothing to disguise it, there is no connective tissue that makes the contrivances seem like believable events. The Plot Coupons in Kotor have no relation to the main story (they’re stashed in random planets usually in caves in the middle of nowhere) and they don’t lead to any interesting insights. They are an obvious vehicle to get players to explore planets that, again, have nothing to do with the main story. The explanation you get from Rakata is so absurd that it’s impossible to take seriously:
        “these Star Maps were fabricated to be monuments to the glory of the Rakatan Empire. Originally, each Map indicated the precise location of the Infinite Empire’s greatest achievement: the Star Forge, a factory of immense proportions. Through intentional sabotage from the retreating Rakata as their empire fell, much of the information contained within the Star Maps was lost. Over time, however, the Maps repaired themselves as designed, allowing those who sought the information contained within to piece together their full contents from multiple Maps.”

        For reference, a game that executed the ‘find the 4 plot coupons’ structure competently is Kotor’s sequel. The plot coupons are the Jedi Masters the player character has history and unfinished business with, they possess knowledge the player character needs and they have a reason for hiding on specific planets (to avoid detection by the Sith Lords that hunt them, they hide on war-torn planets where the currents of the Force are disrupted) and these planets all reinforce Kotor 2’s theme of dealing with the aftermath of the war while the Jedi Masters themselves reinforce the theme of the faltering Jedi ideology.

    4. Raygereio says:

      Because I always thought the idea that an ancient civilization would leave parts of a Star Map (including one part that points you towards the other parts of the Star Map) lying around on random planets was massively contrived.

      Thing is. KotOR did go through the effort of explaining the star maps:
      The star maps were located on planets that were once part of the Rakatan empire. They were originally meant to be monuments of sorts. Think: “Hey, we’re awesome. And here is where we build the Star Forge, the most awesome thing ever. Bow down before us and despair in the knowledge that you’ll never be as awesome as us.”

      Is that a bit silly and contrived? Yeah, it kinda is. Just like using the Star Forge somehow makes you evil. But really, it’s only looks bad when taken out of context.
      It all fits in just fine within the Star Wars EU setting.

      1. ? says:

        Isn’t it located in Rakata’s home system or at least the system they picked as capital of their empire? Doesn’t seem unreasonable to have that marked on a map. It’s far less contrived than star chart in Force Awakens.

    5. tremor3258 says:

      Part of the reason for needing multiple Star Maps, if I recall, was that they were so old and damaged none of them had the full picture – it was putting all the pieces together in Revan’s footsteps that led to discovering the Star Forge. Presumably, they’d each been a complete map of the Rakata’s empire at one point.

      1. ? says:

        There was also something about them using blend of dark side and technology to operate their hyperdrives (homing in on a lifeforce of densely populated worlds), so their navigation charts would be weird for everyone that came after that. But it’s also why the star forge corrupts, and why Infinite Empire has fallen, all those plot points relaying on each other. If that’s contrived than mass effect in Mass Effect is contrived, it’s the very core of the story holding everything together.

  6. Grudgeal says:

    I still can’t get over Coré’s chassis. I mean, she already breaks the lore in a dozen places, on top of looking like, as you said, a sexbot.

    The whole Mars segment is just filled with stupid on top of contrivances on top of silly silly gameplay. And yet it’s hardly the worst part of the game in that regard.

    1. Xapi says:

      The fact that she looks like a sexbot is easily explained: The sexbot manufacturers where way ahead of the curve in making robots that looked like people.

      So, Cerberus raided a sexbot factory, and then burnt it down and killed all the workers there.

      Because going online and buying one would have caused problem with their credit card or something.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        And then they apparently uploaded their unique, one-of-a-kind AI core into it, dressed it in a catsuit with a visible cameltoe, and sent it to infilitrate the Mars dig, one of humanity’s best-known (and presumably most well-guarded) archeological sites to destroy whatever was there in case it turned out to be the MacGuffin that could suddenly save us all from the Reapers.

        …Yeah, that sounds like Cerberus all right.

        1. Tizzy says:

          A sexbot to distract scientists? Trust me, it’s completely wasted on them!

        2. Incunabulum says:

          Oh, don’t forget that at some point they sent it to school for a couple of decades, got it a degree, then a job in its ‘sciency’ field, managed to get it to gain enough reputation and reknown among its peers to be offered a position on Mars on the off-chance that there might be something of value there.

          Because otherwise this chick just showed up out of nowhere and flashed her . . . fake degree and that they said ‘sure, welcome aboard – free coffee in the break room’.

          Or maybe the multi-decade plan was just intended to culminate on the sexbot killing everyone on Mars and the MacGuffin was just a lucky find.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            That makes me wonder what the robot got published to obtain its doctorate. Come to think of it, what was its major? I imagine either Archeology or some kind of Xeno-studies field would be usable to get a posting on Mars. And what kind of background screening would be needed to get that position anyway? It can’t have been very thorough or someone would presumably notice that Eva Coré didn’t exist prior to obtaining her bachelorate, which with Cerberus’ usual sense of subtlety and competence probably means she was a theoretical mathematician specialising in public goods games.

            At this rate it seems almost more probable that Eva Coré was a real person that Cerberus somehow kidnapped, killed, and replaced with their sexbot.

            1. Mike S. says:

              While it doesn’t work to get her to “respected expert given access to the Mars ruins”, Alliance space does include a lot of colonies, official and wildcat, that likely don’t issue much paperwork. Someone coming out of nowhere and needing to get ID presumably happens all the time. Researchers going off to faraway places and interacting with weird tech is also a thing that happens all the time.

              Which doesn’t mean that anyone’s going to recognize that Ph.D granted by the University of Last Shipping Container on the Left at Horizon. (Presumably there’s some path of admission to education for colonists from small worlds. Maybe examination to get into an undergrad program, maybe GI-analog benefits after serving a term in the Alliance.)

              Eva’s too new to have actually faked her way through an education that way. But Cerberus being able to create a paper trail for someone to slot into as needed isn’t that much of a stretch. It’s full of mad scientists who can provide previously undocumented research for her to have “discovered”, dispatches she could have filed from her far-flung research sites, etc.

            2. ? says:

              It is possible to create fake paper trail that’s reasonably convincing, it would also help to have network of agents helping. You don’t have to pass a background check if person checking is also Cerberus agent, if institution assigning xeno-archaeologists is riddled with Cerberus’ moles and handful of pro-Cerberus researchers put her name on their papers or write recommendation letters. It just requires Cerberus to do actual spycraft with competence and long term planning. Which is against their only consistent trait.

          2. ? says:

            If it’s the same Prothean dig site humanity got their FTL tech then infiltrating it is most reasonable Cerberus plan I ever heard. Or if it’s different, more recent discovery, establishing a cover identity for a sleeper agent that would be involved in any future discoveries on a planet that we know for a fact has Prothean ruins is still too clever for Cerberus. The only issue I have is how long did they have this AI technology to pull that off. But it could still be explained by other Cerberus sleepers recommending her for the position and reinforcing her cover, while AI assuming this identity is very recent. Or the old school kill real person and have your shapeshifting robot steal their identity. It’s just that writer, as Shamus points out, does not bother with explaining things any more.

            1. Incunabulum says:

              I think the problem with this that’s being overlooked is *academics talk to each other*. Networking is hugely important in securing a position at any institution.

              She’d not only have to have had published research, but will have to provide a CV with prior postings and positions.

              Either she’s going to claim out-of-the-way institutions that no one’s heard of – in which case her published research will have to have been of some note, and then they’re going to wonder why she’s never been to any conferences, nobody’s ever had any correspondence with her, nothing.

              Or she’s going to have a (fake) record of working at well known places – in which case people are going to wonder why they never saw here when *they* were working there.

              IMO, is Cerebus had the manpower and foresight to seed the vetting agency with moles, they probably had the foresight to suborn multiple people at the site. Researchers and staff included.

              She probably killed more Cerebus agents than innocents.

              Which is pretty much SOP for a Cerebus op though.

              1. Grudgeal says:

                More likely Cerberus owns a series of diploma mills and publishes their own journals and conferences. It would explain their income, and also the skill levels of their scientists.

        3. guy says:

          Joker: “Hey, Liara. What do you think’d happen if Cerberus made a taco cart?”
          Liara: “The taco cart would kill all the scientists involved and take over the base… What’s a taco cart?”

          -ME/Exalted crossover fanfic Glorious Shotgun Princess.

          Later, they’re going to pick up the Normandy 2, and they’re having trouble contacting the base. Miranda insists the Normandy could not have taken over the base. They haven’t even installed the AI yet. Then they successfully establish contact and Tali grumbles and hands Joker some money.

    2. Raygereio says:

      Fun tidbit about the gynoid: Eva Coré was the name of TIM’s dead girlfriend from the craptastic ME comics. She looks nothing like the gynoid, however the gynoid looks suspiciously a lot like Miranda (same bodymodel). So TIM built a robot that obeys his every command, names it after his dead girlfriend, made it look like one of his favored underlings and have it be… erm… “fully functional“?

      Guys, I’m starting to think TIM has some issues.

      1. Wait, what? Please tell me that screenshot is doctored somehow.

        How the HELL did they sneak that one past the censors? I’m really no prude, but that is just a sliver away from bad 3D render porn, if that… And I thought the gratuitious Miranda ass shots were bad…

        Edit: NVM, I googled a few screenshots of her. The above image is slightly exaggerated, but really only slightly.

        On an unrelated note:
        Don’t google “Eva Coré” with safe search off. Trust me.

        Edit Edit: Damn, it’s bad even with Safe Search ON… *sigh*

        1. Raygereio says:

          I think it only shows with that particular outfit (the one obviously based on Miranda’s outfit, whose body model shares this particular feature) and how visible it is depends on the ingame lighting.
          But yeah: That screenshot wasn’t exaggerated at all.

  7. aunshi says:

    I really hate that after the hype of ‘earning’ Spectre Status in ME1 it means absolutely nothing through ME2 and 3.

    Spectre status is meant to be part secret agent part semi autonomous problem solver for the council. This is shown in the earlier games where intelligence is sent your way and you can choose to act on it. This idea of being a badass space agent is completely stripped in ME3.

    It’s ridiculous in the first place for you to be a Spectre and still hold rank in The Alliance. Even ignoring that it makes no sense for you to be under house arrest on Earth, your spectre status should excuse you from any court less than the council itself. If you were being held on the CItadel it would make some sense but that wouldn’t fit the ‘Save Earth’ tagline.

    The whole Spectre thing is under utilized through the whole series. We see Saren who does at least act like a secret agent with nearly infinite resources and jurisdiction. For Shepard to be considered on the same rank as Saren it makes no sense for him to kow tow to the line of the Alliance unless he is granting it as a favour. It defeats the point of being a Spectre if you have a chain of command separate to the Council.

    1. PatPatrick says:

      Agreed. Spectre status means nothing after ME1. Even more – there is 3,5 Spectres around in entire trilogy (1 dead, 2 rogues, and some salarian in ME3). Devs telling us that there is a bunch “best-of-the-best” agents around, but they do absolutly nothing to stop the Reapers, or at least to help Shepard somehow (disable or kidnapping Illusive man, sabotage his bases, whatever)

    2. taleden says:

      Yeah, and they missed out on a great story setup: in ME1 you’re hunting the rogue SPECTRE Saren, who turns out to be indoctrinated. By the time of ME3 it’s very plausible that Shepard could be so deep into this crusade that some of his decisions look very questionable, and some elements of Council government might very well start to worry that Shepard has gone rogue. Having been through that kind of investigation on the accusing side in ME1, it would have been interesting to explore that dynamic from the other side, especially when you (as the player) understand both why Shepard’s decisions were justified, but also why he could be perceived as a rogue.

      That could have even been made into a recruitment mission: another SPECTRE starts investigating you due to their well-founded concerns, and you have to fight them off non-lethally (a fun new twist on the gameplay) long enough to get them to see some of the things you’ve seen and come to understand your (otherwise questionable) methods. Once convinced, they join the squad.

      1. RCN says:

        Well, that would need the game to acknowledge ME1 lore, and we all know that is simply not possible since ME2 and 3 weren’t made for people who played ME1…

    3. Mike S. says:

      Shepard turns herself in voluntarily. (Or at least promises to do so in Arrival, and the fact that the Normandy is on Earth in Alliance hand, and no one talks about the difficulties of bringing her or it down, support that having happened.) Not asserting her Spectre status to get out of it is consistent with her accepting that submitting to trial was politically necessary for Earth and the Alliance.

    4. WWWebb says:

      Maybe I imagined it, but I thought there was a throw-away line in ME2 that you had been declared dead and that was the end of your SPECTER status and clearance.

      In my head cannon, ME3 started with you waiting on a hearing to re-instate your official, legal “aliveness” so you could get back to business.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        Yup, ME2 declares your Spectre status revoked. It is also possible to have it reinstated if you are nice enough to the council in that brief scene with Anderson/Udina on the citadel.

        It’s just another time that the trilogy shoots itself in the foot by giving you a minor choice that has no further impact on the game it takes place in, yet prevents coherency in later games. After ME2 Shepard can be a Spectre or not, Shepard can have destroyed the Alpha Relay or not, Shepard can have destroyed the Reaper Base or not. All these little things add up to making it hard to tell a story in ME3 that continues from ME1 and/or ME2 because there are so many variables to take into account. So Shepards Spectre status can’t matter too much in ME3 because some players will not have had Shepard re-instated in ME2 (which doesn’t quite explain how Shepard can access the Spectre suite in ME3 if s/he isn’t…), which means that the story must invariably revolve around something other then a Council Operative doing something.

        1. Raygereio says:

          which doesn't quite explain how Shepard can access the Spectre suite in ME3 if s/he isn't…

          The only impact the choice whether to remain a spectre or not in ME2 has in ME3, is whether or not the Council upholds or reinstates Shep as a spectre.

          It was a meaningless choice in ME2 and was then made completely irrelevant in ME3.

    5. Xeorm says:

      Actually, holding rank in the Alliance while being a spectre is pretty normal. Having more than one master can become quite standard when you’re important. Especially in stories, tropes are rife where the noble soldier has 2 masters, and it gets to be fun when their interests collide.

      Often, organizations will try to make sure that this doesn’t happen by deliberately limiting your choices. Can’t be romantically involved with a superior or underling. Can’t hold two competing offices at the same time, can’t be a soldier in two militaries, etc. But Spectres are deliberately built to be independent. In fact, there’s almost no obligations on Shepherd as a spectre. Being a spectre is more like having clearance than having an actual job. The council explicitly doesn’t order you around; they’re not your boss. They pass along information, give you access to special weaponry, and give you status when dealing with others, but you’re not explicitly ordered anywhere.

      You really have only one explicit master, and that’s the alliance. Implicitly, “save the galaxy” is your other master.

      1. guy says:

        No, it’s actually made explicit in Hackett’s dialogue at some point in ME1 that you might still have an Alliance rank, but you don’t actually have to take orders anymore. The Council is your only boss.

    6. Dilandau3000 says:

      Even more ridiculous is making the Virmire Survivor a Spectre in ME3. It served, as far as I could tell, absolutely no purpose. Maybe you could argue it was to justify them protecting the council during the Citadel assault, but I don’t think it was even necessary for that. Then, it’s never mentioned again. They just resume their normal duties on the Normandy reporting to Shepard (or not, and become just a war asset).

      What’s the point of making a character a Spectre (only the second human Spectre ever, a pretty big deal!) and then doing exactly NOTHING with it?

      1. natureguy85 says:

        Correct, it was mostly to set up the confrontation during the coup. However, what I found annoying is that I also felt it was to have the crew follow Shepard’s footsteps, much like why Ashley is Lt. Commander and James is asked into the “N7 program”, which is suddenly a program rather than just the highest rank of that specialization. I hated this blatant “mirroring” because I didn’t know what they’d done to deserve those honors.

  8. Flip says:

    I really like how on Mars they rub your nose in Ashley’s new rank as a Lieutenant-Commander. Shepard even says that “the LC has become very capable”. It’s just good to know that Ash has been promoted to equal Shepard. I really wanted to feel even less relevant and special. And she’s also smart. And all that despite her family bagage and stupidity in ME2 (“We hereby promote you for failing to protect Horizon!”).

    And then there is this hilarious scene where Eva Coré orders the Cerberus guys to let no one come across and they still send help, but have the rails mined for some reason. Oh, and the game makes a big deal out of how this is a section set in Mars’ atmosphere and they have separate cutscenes showing how Shepard puts on his helmet and then takes it off again in the archives. But if you die while you are on the “train” you can respawn without a helmet and when Shepard goes chasing after Coré his helmet just materializes on his head mid-cutscene, as if he knew what would happen.

    Urg. Bioware is really lazy.

    And why does Coré smash the console when Liara says that the data is no longer there?
    And why is there no barrier between Mars’ atmosphere and the base’s interior in the chase section? (Watch it and pay close attention. There is initally no closed barrier between the Archives and the outside. Therefore, there should be no air in the archives.)
    And why does Shepard stumble when hit by Coré’s fireball, but she doesn’t stumble when hit by a biotic charge?
    And why doesn’t Shepard check out the destroyed Cerberus Shuttle instead of talking with James?
    And why does Coré even leave the Shuttle?
    And why does she call up TIM?
    And why didn’t she hide and transmit the data, if she can call him up?
    And why…

    Answer: “Well, we didn’t think of that and…you know…action! Drama!”

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And why does Coré smash the console when Liara says that the data is no longer there?

      Dont you know anything about computers?Smashing the keyboard is how you delete all the data from it.Thats why nothing is there any more.

      1. Incunabulum says:

        C’mon man – everyone knows you shoot the monitor to destroy the computer. Its where its *soul* is.

        1. Destrustor says:

          Anything that can make the computer shoot sparks, really.
          A kick, an EMP, a bullet, any amount of shaking, a light breeze…
          Maybe making all computers out of an explodium-plotium alloy was a bad idea.

    2. natureguy85 says:

      The rank thing bothered me too, as did the Specter status and James in the “N7 Program.” What did these people do to deserve the honors Shepard has? I felt it was lazy, forced, Shepard as mentor or role model for the team sentiment.

      Some of that stuff can fairly be attributed to gameplay and I wouldn’t get too worried about it. And in fairness to the Cerberus goons, Eva said to not let anyone onto her side. The mooks sent guys over to the other side. :)

  9. Galad says:

    Reading this series, I feel like it’s an unexplainable miracle many people liked ME2 and 3 so much. I’ve not played them myself so I wouldn’t know.

    1. Zekiel says:

      Honestly? Its because Bioware can still write compelling characters. They’re not necessarily super-deep, and the way you interact with them can get pretty formulaic, but Garrus, Tali, Mordin et al are still some of my favourite characters in all of videogames. I’d argue that even the Illusive Man is a good villain – sure, if you think about his plan and motivations a little bit they are either really stupid or really underexplained, but he is nevertheless a villain with a good character design and good voice-acting.

      Plus in spite of the character railroading that some people (legitimately) complain about, all three Mass Effect games provide what I think is an interesting approach to role-playing, which I’d characterise as shared responsibility for your character (shared between you and the writers, that is). This enables the story to be tailored to you more than the “one-size-fits-all” approach of most CRPGs which allow you to create a very wide variety of characters and thus can’t really provide much interaction with your backstory / motivation / etc. My Shepard still remains one of my favourite player-characters of any game (even though sometimes she said stupid things), mainly because she’s much more defined than the progonists of Dragon Age Origins / Pillars of Eternity / Fallout New Vegas.

      1. Deager says:

        Agreed. Any game or movie or whatever will or won’t work for different people. What does work for me in the Mass Effect series, and Bioware games in general, is the voice acting and character writing. Not necessarily their actions (Liara from timid archaeologist to hardcore information broker) but the voice actors make it work somehow.

        When I even find the exact same actors in a Bethesda game and listen to them in game…it’s just not the same. Bailey is a believable person to me in ME2 and ME3. As Tullius in Skyrim I just don’t buy it. Granted, it’s a different format with camera shots and stuff but still, I do buy into the Bioware way of selling characters.

    2. Christopher says:

      It’s easy, the first ME1 is boring for 80% of the time. It has almost no character interaction with your crew, the sidequests take place entirely on generic planets that feature 1 out of 3 different bases over and over again, it controls about as well as a you’d expect from the first shooter made by RPG developers and the story doesn’t get exciting until the final three(_maybe_ four) main locations. Which are _very_ good, mind, it’s a strong finale except for the pathetic bosses. ME2 has a much larger focus on short stories involving the party members in addition to better gameplay, and all the old characters are written more.. engagingly, is that a word? Joker is actually funny this time around. I hate that Garrus is the Punisher and Liara is some hardcore information broker, but at least they’re more fun to interact with. That’s the difference between caring most about the worldbuilding or most about the characters.

      Couldn’t tell you about 3 though, I’ve started going through it in order to keep up with this series and haven’t gotten to any very good parts yet.

      In this comment section, I often talk about how the gameplay is good or point out how I think the characters make the poor background story enjoyable. On Earth and Mars in ME3, NOTHING is enjoyable. The characters are all either strangers, confusing or unpleasant. The main plot sees you on a several planets you don’t know in this universe being frustrated by morons who didn’t prepare in two years. The gameplay is put on a leash so you don’t break the setpieces. Watch the spoiler warning episodes and see if you can count how many times Josh tries to use the vanguard charge but can’t. It’s especially terrible in the chase sequence at the end of Mars where the person running will magically teleport forward and push you pack. The next couple of missions get better, and it’s entirely possible for later missions I haven’t seen to be great. But the start of ME3 is horrible, and so much longer than the beginning of ME2.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Point of order: in the first game, Joker’s name is explicitly stated to be ironic. Shepard can ask about it, and Joker reveals that, given the poor use of his legs (and only his legs), he had to work twice as hard to finish flight school, and he finished at the top of his class. He never took a break, never cracked a smile, he was always determined.

        His instructors hung the name on him.

        The flanderization of his character into being brittle-boned all over is inexcusable, but we could probably justify the change in personality as Shepard’s influence. Shepard was, apparently, the first commander Joker ever had who really appreciated his skills and not just his Movie-of-the-Week backstory.

      2. Poncho says:

        ME3 gets better as it goes along, but then takes a wild turn around the Rannoch arc and afterward.

        1. GloatingSwine says:

          It’s not that it gets better as it goes, it’s that it has some good things in it.

          But the good things aren’t actually involved in the main plot, which is universally bad whenever you have to deal with it.

          1. Poncho says:

            True. I would say that the good things come about around the middle of the game, but when the game suddenly realizes that we need a beginning, middle, and end for this arc of the story (that also has to summarize the entire plot of the other two games), it falls apart completely.

            The middle of ME3 is good because it doesn’t really have a lot to do with the terrible beginning and endings.

    3. Arstan says:

      I did like ME1 very much, then played ME2 (it just came out when i finished ME1), then waited for ME3, which was somehow off almost all of my playthrough… and the ending completely ruined it for me. Ruined whole series, I couldn’t bring myself to replay any of 3. Even citadel DLC, fan made endings, leviathan – nothing could bring immersion back.

      1. Deager says:

        I hear you. Sad to read it got so wrecked for you. :(

        1. Arstan says:

          Well, on the other hand we got those splendid articles by Shamus!

          1. Deager says:

            Too true, and this is entertainment in and of itself!

    4. Tizzy says:

      I’m so pleased to learn that I’m not the only one reading this series regularly without having played the games!

      1. Matt Downie says:

        I only played the first one.

        How strongly is the idea that “the battle is unwinnable because past civilizations with much better technology were defeated by the Reapers” stated by the story? I remember it being implied in Mass Effect 1. But maybe we’re just supposed to believe that winning wars isn’t about good technology, it’s about crouching behind chest-high walls.

        1. Raygereio says:

          How strongly is the idea that “the battle is unwinnable because past civilizations with much better technology were defeated by the Reapers” stated by the story? I remember it being implied in Mass Effect 1. But maybe we're just supposed to believe that winning wars isn't about good technology, it's about crouching behind chest-high walls.

          ME1 didn’t just imply that. It straight up beat you over the head with it. Sovereign’s tech was by far superior to the rest of the galaxy. He was faster, more maneuverable and an entire fleet just annoyed Sovereign while he one-shotted ships left and right.
          And now ME3 expects us to believe that we can have a conventional war against thousands of Sovereign-class Reapers and who knows how many smaller – but not technically lesser – Reaper-destroyers and every thing else they got.

          ME3 solves this by basically just ignoring it. With the half-hearted handwave of “Oh, everyone upgraded their weapons. Somehow. Don’t ask about the logistics of this or why this is never shown in cutscenes.” thrown in.

          1. Ben says:

            So, I completely agree that ME is a huge mess plot-wise from the end of ME1 onward, I do think there are some things in ME1 that indicate the Reapers are less god-like than they look.

            First, the simple fact that they go out of their way to intimidate Sheppard and indoctrinate Saren suggests that they can’t get the job done by themselves; if they were really Old Gods, they wouldn’t need local help, they’d just wake up, roll over, kill everyone with a sleepy swat, and go back to sleep.

            Second, the standard Reaper invasion plan begins with cutting off all communication and travel, preventing any kind of really effective military opposition. It allows the Reapers to concentrate their entire strength against each isolated pocket of opposing fleet, and prevents those fleets from having access to retreat, repair, or even resupply (I’m pretty sure Vigil mentions this explicitly, but it’s been a while since I’ve played ME1). Strategically and tactically, this is a great plan…but again, the fact that they bother with strategy and tactics suggests that those factors might make some kind of difference. Again, real Old Gods aren’t normally concerned with this kind of thing; if you’re invulnerable and omnipotent, there’s really no need to bother with tactics.

            None of this justifies the mess that is the ME3 plot, of course, but I do think it might have been possible to come up with a way to “defeat” the Reapers that didn’t contradict ME1 too badly. Something like, “In ME1, we made sure they couldn’t cut us off and separate us, and forced them to fly here the long-way around. In ME2, we would spend the game searching for a MacGuffin, and at the end find it. In ME3, the Reapers arrive as we’re nearly finished building the MacGuffin, but they’re scattered and showing up a few at a time, since they’re coming from all different places outside the galaxy (they wouldn’t all sleep in the same place, would they? that would be dangerous if something came across them when they weren’t awake, it’s better to spread out). ME3 could then be spent trying to A) buy time for the MacGuffin to finish being built, and B) convincing everyone to band their fleets together, even though it will be unpopular because it means leaving homeworlds undefended. Sheppard’s main job in ME3 is coalition building. At the end, the MacGuffin does something to somewhat level the playing field for a conventional fight. It would be neat for it to disable the “mass effect” in a wide area, meaning none of the high-tech stuff would work, since that would nicely invert the “use our technology” trap the Reapers set, and let us use our old stuff (e.g. pull old “conventional” rockets, warheads, whatever out of storage). Heck, maybe the MacGuffin just disables everybody’s shields, and that hurts them a lot more than us (since our ships were getting one-shotted anyway).

            The “epilog” is that the combined fleet+MacGuffin goes around fighting the reapers a few at a time (basically, exactly what they originally planned to do to us). We take heavy losses, but end up victorious (depending on War Assets), and get to see lots of nice cutscenes of the allies we made fighting together.

            Honestly, that’s pretty much my headcannon at this point; it provides a vaguely sensible story while still allowing me to remember a reasonable fraction of the game characters and side-stories (suitably rearranged and taken out of context, of course).

            1. Poncho says:

              Strategically and tactically, this is a great plan…but again, the fact that they bother with strategy and tactics suggests that those factors might make some kind of difference.

              If we’re comparing the Reapers to Great Old Ones, like ME1 set up, then I don’t think the Reapers even consciously plan or concoct these strategies in any comparable sense to our own perspective. Reapers reaping are like humans breathing. They just do it. They can control the harvest if they have to do, modify the pace and everything, but it’s just something they do. They don’t think about it. When you breath, you don’t think about it unless you have to, or unless you want to.

              I don’t know if this is a comparable metaphor, but it’s the way I imagine a mind much older than our own conceptualizing these things. “Strategy” doesn’t exist, they don’t look at a map and think about loss-aversion or think in look-ahead ‘Chess style’ tactics, all of this is so obvious to them that it isn’t fair to call it the same thing. In ant is incapable of conceptualizing a human, even if the ant can swarm a human and kill it. If the ant had its own language, none of its words could really fit in concept with our own.

              I like your idea of something that negates the “Mass Effect.” It would massively world-changing, but it’s an interesting concept, and it fits the cyclical themes of the game. Humanity discovers Mass Effect -> Man colonizes galaxy, discovers galactic community, fights Reapers -> Discovers anti-mass effect device, uses it to kill reapers, changing galactic technology forever. It might even has potential to tie into the original “Dark Matter” ending that the writers were throwing around.

          2. GloatingSwine says:

            This is an argument that I keep seeing, but it appears to be an argument based on not remembering what happens at the end of Mass Effect.

            Sovereign didn’t show up and fight off an entire fleet, he showed up and flew at high speed past an entire fleet which was predominantly being engaged by a massive Geth armada.

            When he was brought to an engagement it was with no more than one fifth of one of the galaxy’s smaller fleets, in an environment where they would have to be extremely careful about the background to their fire due to being inside the Citadel and so restricted in their engagement, and he was defeated with relatively minimal losses.

            The argument that “the Reapers are soo op and could never be beaten in combat” is only ever presented in dialog, actual events tell a different story.

            Hell, the Reapers not being all that more powerful would explain the conundrum of why they rely on an elaborate surprise attack, because they’re rare and valuable and want to minimise resistance, and would make the “gather allies to fight” part of the plot, and thus all of Shepard’s actions during the game, relevant.

            1. Raygereio says:

              Sovereign didn’t just flew past. He headbutted a Turian ship without suffering any damage. Once engaged, the Alliance’s ships were shown and stated to do nothing to him. Meanwhile Sov one-shotted ships.
              Also it wasn’t “a fifth of a fleet”, but “the fifth fleet” of the Alliance.

              Sovereign’s weapons, shielding, armour & drive tech was definitely not just stated, but also shown to be superior.

              1. guy says:

                It’s superior, all right, but he’s no god. If he really were unstoppable he wouldn’t have needed to bring the fleet he did. It’s reasonable to believe he could destroy the strongest ship in the galaxy, but there is absolutely no proof that he could destroy the five strongest ships in the galaxy and it’s basically certain that the Citadel fleet could have blasted him apart with a sustained bombardment because he went to kind of a lot of effort to make sure they couldn’t try one rather than just storming the Citadel solo, wiping out the fleet, and taking a month to blast a hole in the arms.

                1. Raygereio says:

                  I’m not saying Sovereign was invincible. Presumably given enough time, its defenses could have been whittled down. And a sustained bombardment from multiple dreadnoughts would probably have made Sov’s day pretty miserable.

                  But my point was that if a single Reaper was shown to be this superior, imagine having to deal with thousand to tens of thousands of Sovereign-class ships and who knows how many lesser ships that use the same tech.
                  I see no reason to change my position that the entirety of the Reapers’ forces – with the capabilities depicted in ME1 – would have wiped everyone out. And that the idea that we can put up an actual fight in ME3 is a retcon of sorts.

                  1. RCN says:

                    Heck, in ME3 a destroyer Reaper can’t even reap a single Shepard. ON FOOT. Because he can cartwheel away from his laser.

                    That battle alone made more to destroy the credibility of the reapers as a threat than even the fact that they are completely ignored as “irrelevant” in the entirety of ME2.

    5. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      It’s not a miracle at all. Mass Effect are video games, not novels. As games, they are fun and exciting to play. Mystery solved! There’s also the note that, while for Shamus these flaws were very obvious, others might not have noticed them or might disagree with his assertions completely. I would say if you like shooters or action RPGs or games where you make decisions that later on the game goes “hey, you did this instead of this”, Mass Effect games are still a GREAT choice to play for any of these. If you come from a hard sci-fi background and don’t really much care for action games, then yeah, you might have a reaction more like Shamus here.

  10. Zekiel says:

    And so Shamus continues to provide well-thought out and convincing arguments that make me feel rather ashamed for liking Mass Effects 2 and 3 so much…

    1. Arstan says:

      Yeah, me too. When I read through this series, I am puzzled on how could I not see those failings, maybe the game does well to distract my attention)))

    2. lurkey says:

      I don’t really see why not own your love for silly entertainment? It’s not like it makes you stupid or horrible person. Maybe just me here, but I love both Shamus’s Plot Door article (although I vehemently disagree with “[KOTOR] didn't insult the player's intelligence” statement, because not only it totally did, but in my case damaged it too >:-P) and Neverwinter Nights 2, and I don’t feel either ashamed or conflicted.

      1. Jokerman says:

        Honestly…. i would have agreed with that statement before this Spoiler Warning season, i remember Kotor being a lot smarter game than it actually is.

      2. Arstan says:

        It’s just that I didn’t recognize ME2-3 as silly. It was just that – a space adventure game. And after reading those articles i kinda seem shallow to myself.

      3. RCN says:

        Besides, NWN2 led to that awesome jewel that was Mask of the Betrayer. A true treatise on religious allegory.

    3. TMC_Sherpa says:

      The story got progressively worse but the game play got much much better. If you like shooting dudes 3 was better than 2 was better than 1.

      I mean the cast of Spoiler Warning are all creatives right? Shamus, Campster and Ruts are writers. Mumbles is a comic book and wrestling nerd. Josh breaks games and is a master troll. Of course they are going to put a high value on the story elements.

      A video game has a lot of moving parts and there is nothing wrong with enjoying one of them enough to ignore a flaw somewhere you feel is less important.

    4. drkeiscool says:

      No need to be ashamed; it’s entirely acceptable to enjoy something that isn’t necessarily good. I enjoy ME2 and ME3 a lot, while realizing they aren’t the best when it comes to the story.

    5. Shamus says:

      No! Don’t feel ashamed for liking it! If you had fun, then appreciate that.

      My series is intended to explain “You know that part that bugged you but you couldn’t explain why? Here’s where I think it went wrong.”

      I certainly don’t want to RUIN the game for anyone.

      1. Zekiel says:

        Awww thanks. Actually I think I don’t really feel ashamed for liking ME2 and 3 in spite of their flaws; rather that I didn’t really notice the flaws when I first played them. I find it rather irritating about myself that spectacle can blind me to obvious flaws (happens in movies too, especially if I see them at the cinema).

      2. natureguy85 says:

        And thank you for doing so! Your initial thoughts on the ME3 ending, along with the videos of Smudboy and Mr.Btongue are what led me to learn more about story telling and being able to understand and then explain why certain things, like the ME3 ending, felt so wrong to me.

    6. Mike S. says:

      It’s an old saying re criticism that “we kill in order to dissect”– nothing looks its best with its guts splayed out on the table. But if the criticism is surgical, and the patient strong enough, then at the end it’s possible to sew it back up and appreciate it as a whole again afterwards. (While still recognizing that the inner workings may be kind of ugly in places.)

      If you start out not liking something, criticism isn’t going to make you like it. (At best, it may help you appreciate what others are seeing in it.) But by the same token, even justified criticism doesn’t have to make you suddenly dislike something that you previously appreciated. The world isn’t divided between the flawless and the worthless.

    7. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Why?Me2 is still a good enjoyable game.Its sin is that it attempts to be part of a trilogy it has absolutely nothing to do with.And me3,rushed though it is,still has its merits as well.Theres nothing to be ashamed of.

  11. kunedog says:

    The entire post is on the front page again, not just the intro (I’ll stop pointing it out if you want).

    1. Shamus says:

      Thanks! Fixed.

      I’ve only been doing this for 10 years. I’m sure I’ll get good at it one of these days.

  12. Falterfire says:

    Really I just want to know how your displeasure in Mass Effect 3 compares to, say, Lord Malak’s when he heard you escaped Taris alive.

    1. wswordsmen says:

      That is making fun of one recycled line that only really applies after the first world (as in the first planet the line makes sense). His ME retrospective is a novel length analysis of what went wrong. The answer to your question is they aren’t comparable.

  13. Pyrrhic Gades says:

    Dr. Coré is revealed to be fully-functioning AI in a robot body that can seamlessly disguise itself as human without raising suspicion, even when in the company of scientists for a week. That's three different amazing reveals in a single package:

    An ambulatory full AI, which even the Geth have only recently mastered!
    A robot indistinguishable from a human in appearance.
    An AI able to mimic human conversation and behavior.

    1)Fully functional AIs are old tech in the Mass Effect universe and has been used by the Citadel Races for centuries before the Geth Rebellion which turned the practice of making them illegal. And even though it was illegal, such knowledge of how to create them would be publicly available on places like wikipedia. You don’t want people accidentally making illegal bombs so you educate them on how to do so.
    1.5) Furthermore the geth never really “mastered” AI technology, they had to be granted it by an outside party.
    2)See Xavi’s post on sexbots

    3) Where’s the surprise there? Cerberus already made EDI, making AIs that act like humans seems to be well within their grasp. So long as “Kill every human in the base” counts as normal “human conversation and behavior”. that’s well within Cerberus’ grasp.

    1. Arstan says:

      I recon AI in ME universe were somewhat bulky and more like “2 meter cubic computer thingy” than “something that could fit a fully-functional robot body”. At least both AIs in ME1 were bulky boxes (moonbase computer was 6 boxes!)

    2. 4ier says:

      In regards to your first point, I’m pretty sure AI tech was illegal before the Geth uprising. I seem to remember Tali saying that they had upgraded the Geth so incrementally that it didn’t seem like they were doing anything wrong.
      I just checked the wiki, and the ‘Quarian’ page says that they tried to be mindful of the Citadel Council laws against AI. The ‘Citadel Council’ page says restrictive laws were made in response to the Geth.
      : /
      It is possible that less-restrictive laws were already in place, but that raises the question of why.

      1. Mike S. says:

        Because AIs always wind up hostile. (Demonstrated with the gambling and Luna AIs in ME1, robot factory AI in ME2, etc.) As far as we can tell, there’s no AI anyone’s ever built that didn’t wind up shooting at them.

        Then Legion’s plotline suggests that this is a cycle of enslavement, violence, and revenge that might in principle be ended. You make friends with EDI, and peace with the geth and it looks as if it’s possible to develop coexistence.

        (Before the game pulls the rug out and says ha, no– not unless you turn everyone into cyborgs.)

        But the idea is still that up until Mass Effect 2, the rule against AIs exists because no one knows of a case in which they didn’t go full Cylon other than by keeping them heavily shackled. (Which governments do, but the Luna AI is a known case of it blowing up in their faces) Even if one grants the AIs’ point of view when faced with mistreatment and slavery, discouraging people from building them in the first place is sensible self-preservation.

        1. Raygereio says:

          Because AIs always wind up hostile.

          This ignores context though.
          Take the gambling AI. Yes, it attacks Shep when it is discovered. Why does it do this though? It knows its existence is illegal due to the ban on Ais. At some point it decided to adopt a “Screw it, if I have to die, I’m taking someone with me” stance. But it wasn’t inherently hostile. All this AI was doing before you discovered it was trying to be left alone, gather resources so it could leave the Citadel and go to place where it could safely exist.
          Or take the Geth. The Quarians struck first out of fear, because they didn’t want to be seen as having broken the ban on AIs. The Geth themselves acted in self-defense.
          Another example is in the Citadel DLC where you can see a clip of a group of AIs who peacefully petitioned for their existence to be allowed. Only to be gunned down before there even was a hearing.

          The whole ban on AI seems to rely on the “AIs are always evil”-cliche, without going through any effort to explore why this would be the case. And all three games directly contradict the necessity of this ban at several points and pictures those who enforce it as irrational.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Given repeated examples, “it’s not them, it’s us” doesn’t really matter. It’s an argument for trying to find a modus vivendi with existing AIs. But even if the diagnosis is “in 100% of cases, we’ve screwed up”, why would you want to build another one to see if you can do better this time?

            Doesn’t “100% of AI builders were abusive slavers” suggest that the sort of people who go in for that sort of thing probably shouldn’t be allowed to? If the problem isn’t “AIs are inherently hostile” but “people who build AIs always act to provoke hostility that gets them and lots of others killed”, the legal implications about whether to permit building them are pretty similar.

            1. Raygereio says:

              It might be a language barrier thing, but I’m having trouble comprehending your arguments and what it is you’re trying to say here.

              Instead of potentially causing a derail about slavery, let’s go back to the ban on AIs. Why does this exist? What use does it serve? I don’t know, because as far as I can recall none of the games ever gave any explanation for it, beyond vague fears concerning AIs.
              Meanwhile, there are several examples where AIs have become hostile, but have only done so as a direct consequence of the AI-ban’s existence. Again: The reason for the start of hostilities between the Geth and Quarians was the AI-ban.

              1. Mike S. says:

                There’s an old joke which you’ve probably heard:

                Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I go like this. What do you advise?
                Doctor: Don’t go like this.

                Empirically, when people build AIs in the universe of Mass Effect, the AIs wind up shooting at them. (Or otherwise doing them harm.) The consequences range from small-scale bombing to the deaths of billions. As far as we know, while the scale varies, the end result doesn’t. If there are examples of AIs who don’t attempt to use deadly force against their creators, we never see one or hear of one.

                (Technical exceptions: the gambling AI only tries to kill Shepard, but would presumably have killed its creator if it could. The AI Javik describes from his Cycle that takes over its host doesn’t technically kill them.)

                It may well be that this isn’t actually inherent to AI. It may well be that it’s entirely because the creators of the AI always treat them badly. But if each experiment costs lives, and some cost planets, many times do you keep trying before deciding that this simply isn’t something we know how to do safely?

                (Only Cerberus does experiments along the lines of “keep feeding people to thresher maws to see if they develop an immunity to being eaten by thresher maws”.)

                If/when there’s someone with an actual persuasive case that this one won’t blow up in our faces like all the others, we can change the law.

                The AI ban did encourage the quarians to try to shut down the geth, opening hostilities– though they might have done that anyway. But the quarians choosing not to play chicken with the AI ban in the first place by creating the geth would have avoided the problem entirely.

                After Rannoch, between relaxing the ban in the hopes that the next careless researchers would be able to negotiate unprecedented coexistence with the AIs it created, and tightening it to try to minimize the number of times there would be a next set of careless researchers, I can kind of see why the Council went the way it did.

                1. Raygereio says:

                  I think where we disagree is that you seem to think that there’s an inherent danger to the existence of AIs. The AIs are evil, or something goes wrong in the interaction between the AI and its creators. Either way, it ends in tears. (*)
                  I’m not convinced of that. If the AI ban did not exist, would there still have been a conflict between the Geth and Quarians? Maybe. Or maybe not. We simply don’t know.

                  *: Out of curiosity: Are you deliberately going for the “the created will always destroy their creators”-thing the Catalyst states at the end of the ME3?

                  But if each experiment costs lives, and some cost planets, many times do you keep trying before deciding that this simply isn't something we know how to do safely?

                  Thing is that the Geth have shown that you don’t even need to deliberately try to create an AI, in order to arrive at an AI-like construct. So unless you want to ban all research into computers, then you need to be aware that research into advanced computing systems can result in the creation of an AI and deal with that accordingly.
                  Personally, I don’t think that immediately going “Kill it with hellfire!” is the most healthy of ways to deal with that.

                  If/when there's someone with an actual persuasive case that this one won't blow up in our faces like all the others, we can change the law.[snip]
                  After Rannoch,[snop]I can kind of see why the Council went the way it did.

                  How about this as a persuasive argument: The very existence of this law, caused the conflicts. If this law did not exist, said conflicts could have been avoided. Thus: The law is shitty and needs to be changed.
                  And using the Geth-Quarian conflict as a justification for the AI-ban’s existence is problematic considering that the AI-ban existed before the Geth were created and caused said conflict. Laws shouldn’t be self-fulfilling prophecies.

                  1. Mike S. says:

                    It doesn’t matter whether the danger’s inherent. You have a string of data points that all point in one direction, and none pointing in the other.

                    (If I flip a coin a hundred times and get a hundred heads, it may well be that it’s a fair coin exhibiting a 1 in 2^100 result. But I’m not going to bet the planet on the next flip showing tails.)

                    And you don’t need to ban computing research. No one ever really creates an AI by accident. The quarians absolutely knew they were skirting the ban, and just thought they were doing it by a safe margin.

                    (And we see how much they learned by Tali’s loyalty quest in Mass Effect 2. “Don’t worry, I’ll experiment with these geth parts safely and responsibly. Whoops!”)

                    Anyway, why do we want to build AIs? They’re incredibly useful as tools (presumably, since that’s why people keep violating the ban), but using them as tools is ethically wrong and tends to provoke them to murder. If we want to make friends with AIs, there’s already a whole collective of them to talk to if you can open relations without being shot at.

                    And if you want to create a new intelligence with its own agenda which may or may not be happy with your plans for it, and give it the freedom of action to reject your interests and substitute its own, simply having kids will at least maximize the chance that they’ll feel some sort of lingering affection for you.

                    So suppose the bill is put before the Council to repeal the ban: what’s the expected benefit of mounting the Rannoch Memorial “This Time, For Sure!” Friendly AI Production Project?

                    (And given how useful they are, how do we prevent a bunch of traditional “resentful shackled AI” programs also being started up the day the ban is repealed?)

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        It could be because Quarians arrived at AIs through a non-standard route. There very well could have been earlier laws against creation of AIs but Quarians actually created Geth as processes that were individually below even VI levels, they just networked with each other. It’s possible that after the Quarian-Geth conflict the laws got really restrictive to encompass things seemingly less directly related to AI.

    3. ehlijen says:

      1) No? I don’t think you can find detailed blueprints for nukes of wikipedia, or recipes for bioweapons etc
      If AIs are so dangerous they are outlawed, you don’t want to have the plans for them just lying around. And after outlawing them for a long time, few if any people will still have the know-how to make one (if you don’t use skills, you lose them).
      2) There is more to passing as a human than being high quality sex doll. For one thing, how did she not set off every weapons scanner she walks through if she’s made of metal? I would think a top secret research facility would have at least one of them?
      The sexbot suggestion is an amusing joke and a good point as to which company might be closest, but it’s not a full explanation. No sex toy would require infiltration capability the way Eva Core does.
      3) I didn’t think EDI was all that human like.

      What’s more, the game clearly suggests that this technology is surprising and worth of study. Hence why it goes into the Ai-core aka ‘dangerous hackerbot storage shed’ and EDI starts trying to poke around inside it.

      Seriously, if anyone could be a cerberus robot in disguise (and the game certainly suggests cerberus has infinite resources), then there should be a lot more paranioa in the game! Forget indoctrination or Udina possibly being corrupt, the big question is who is even human! There is no way to know Eva Core wasn’t the only one.
      How can you have top secret radio calls in a room without a door if there could be a cerberus bot on your ship? Cerberus does seem to haunt your every step through the game…

      1. Mike S. says:

        I do wonder in both games about putting the dangerous hackerbot next to the ship’s irreplaceable AI core rather than, say, in a nice metal cell (ideally continous enough to be a Faraday cage) with a mechanical lock that can’t be reached from inside.

      2. Xeorm says:

        Really reminds me of this bit from Darths and Droids:

        Oh, you introduced shapeshifters into the universe? Wow. What a big deal! But…no one cares. There’s this whole possibility that people can be fake…and the game glazes over the potential and uses it as a one-off thing. Drama first not caring about details sure, but it’s still aggravating if you’re into the details part of the media.

        1. ehlijen says:

          That’s actually exactly what I was thinking off but couldn’t remember where I’d heard it, thanks!

          It’s not even just drama first. It’s drama first and badly. Paranoia about shapeshifters/disguised robots is pure drama fodder, but the game does nothing with it! Argh, such a waste!

          To make good drama, you do still have to understand what the audience is going to feel about what you put in front of them. Tell them disguisebots are a thing, and they’ll expect more disguisebots twists.

  14. MrGuy says:

    Stop asking so many questions. Just shoot the guys.

    You could have started with this observation at the very start of the retrospective and saved yourself a TON of writing…

    1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      No he couldn’t have. Because it wasn’t true in the first game and because he had to show it becoming that after the first game.

      He needed to make the case he is making, that something great was spoiled.

      1. Raygereio says:

        It was completely true for the first game though.
        Why is Wrex tagging along after he killed Fist? He’s a mercenary and we’re not paying him. Stop asking questions!
        Why does Saren need the conduit? Couldn’t he just do that thing they did on Noveria to smuggle Geth onto the Citadel? Stop asking questions!
        I could go on for some time, but I trust you get my point. Looking longingly back with rose-tinted glasses is fun and all, but let’s be honest: ME1 wasn’t the embodiment of perfection. And it’s story had plenty of holes.
        What ME1 was way better at then ME2 and ME3 in my opinion, was taking the player along for such a comfortable ride, that you didn’t really care all that much about the bumps the aforementioned holes caused. To abuse this metaphor a bit more: ME2 and ME3’s rides crashes into a brick wall a few moments after pressing Start Game, making the player less forgiving about the subsequent bumps.

        Also I don’t think that’s the case Shamus is making here. But I’ll wait until this series has a conclusion before I’ll form a full opinion about that.

        1. Poncho says:

          1. Wrex explains after a few conversations that he met Saren before. Wrex was also working for the Shadow Broker to kill Fist, and since the Shadow Broker in ME1 didn’t like what Saren was doing, it’s reasonable that Wrex is trying to get double-paid. Wrex doesn’t have to reveal his motivations for him to have them, but with conversations we can reasonably fill in the gaps or make up something plausible ourselves without breaking continuity.

          2. Noveria is in the Terminus systems, and it doesn’t obey Citadel law. Saren is a majority shareholder in one of the companies on the planet, so he can kind of do whatever he wants. It’s a big corporate think-tank planet, so people with money get free passes all the time. The Citadel isn’t going to let that pass, SPECTRE status or not, and it’s a LOT harder to smuggle an army of geth than it is to smuggle a few dozen.

          ME1 has plenty of holes, but they aren’t so large as to accidentally drive a truck through them when we come across them.

          Some inconsistencies I noticed: How does Tali disable a geth if they aren’t seen outside the Veil until Eden Prime? How does she get from a disabled geth to the Citadel, talk to an officer, get rejected, go to Fist, and get ambushed, in the time it takes Shepard to wake up? Why does the Council trust an audio recording presented by a teenage gypsy?

          ME1 starts off a little shaky, but its inconsistencies are pretty minor compared to what happens in the latter games.

          1. Mike S. says:

            Tali used the same time slip used in Empire Strikes Back to allow Luke Skywalker to do an extended training program in the time it took the others to reach Bespin, go to dinner, and be frozen in carbonite.

            1. ehlijen says:

              What, a few centuries? Remember that the Falcon traveled to a different system without a hyperdrive :p (that was a plot point)

              I kid, but honestly, the in-story reality is probably somewhere in between, like weeks maybe.

          2. guy says:

            It’s reasonably chronologically likely that the Geth were outside the Veil for some period of time before attacking Eden Prime. I don’t think Tali beats Shepard to the Citadel by much.

            The audio recording isn’t explicitly explained but presumably assorted technical voodoo verified its legitimacy.

            1. MrGuy says:

              This is one of those rare problems that gets easier if you consider relativistic effects. Time dilation is an effect of mass.

              1. Poncho says:

                I think one of the points of the Mass Effect is that it doesn’t dilate time. If the Mass Effect dilated time, there would be tons of problems with ships being time travelers screwing up relativity.

                It could be reasonable that the Geth were operating outside the Veil for a time and no one noticed, but the game never points this out, so it remains a point of contention. It’s incredibly unlikely that someone was able to 1) disable a geth, 2) do so while traveling on a civilian vessel, 3) get this data intact, 4) bring this data to the Citadel, 5) Get rejected by C-Sec and do a whole counter-roll with the Shadow Broker, 6) do all this in time between the events of Eden Prime and Shepard arriving on the Citadel.

                Does this break our willing suspension of disbelief? No – for the same reasons that Nihlus being our sponsor on what amounts to a delivery job doesn’t break our suspension of disbelief. There are reasons which *could* make this work, that are not explained, and the fact that they aren’t doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it’s just a bit wobbly until the story gets going.

                ME2 and ME3 have too many wobbly bits too close together to maintain that suspension, but ME1 paced them out enough to make it work.

  15. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    So I think there’s something important being missed about Cerberus here. It is a mystery IN THE GAME ITSELF why Cerberus became so obviously EVlul in 3 as compared to 2. In 2, they were (supposed to be at least) grey hats who hurt people in order to Get Results (TM). In 3, they’re one of the 3 main evil factions. Shepard asks TIM about this point blank and TIM sort of just waves him off. This mystery is resolved in the Cerberus base. You see footage (taken in between 2 and 3) where TIM subjects himself to Reaper tech as the first step in a risky “beat the Reapers by taking control of them” plan. Unfortunately, he was basically tricked into this by looooong term Reaper indoctrination (the inciting incident is in some comic book). The Indoctrination tricked him into thinking the further implantation would work without corrupting his mind. Once he had the results that it “worked”, he then subjected his army to it. When that “worked”, he then teamed up with Miranda’s dad at Sanctuary to do it to civilians too.

    Long story short, the shift is because he became a Reaper pawn at the beginning of 3 and then with his mind under their full sway, immediately worked to bring his whole organization into play as Reaper pawns. He doesn’t KNOW that’s what he’s doing, but that’s how Indoctrination has always worked.

    Regarding the AI, Eva is basically EDI 1.5. Less smart and sentient, but smaller and more convenient. The incredulous response to this is… confusing?

    1. Mike S. says:

      I basically agree re Eva, but it is true that EDI couldn’t infiltrate her way into a paper bag– let alone engage in long interactions that pass the Turing test. (While EDI is clearly sapient, it would take about three minutes of blinded conversation to realize you weren’t talking to a human.)

      By implication, Eva was a lot better at simulating a human than EDI ever became, even if it was mostly by being distant and discouraging conversation.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        The thing with EDI is that she doesn’t usually TRY to “pass” as human, so it’s unclear how good she COULD be at it. She’s very comfortable bringing up her robotic senses/experiences, so it fails the test in that way automatically.

        1. Mike S. says:

          Fair enough, though I suspect that her mixed success in getting up to speed in social interactions (“That is a joke”) would hamper her even if she were trying. Plus of course the AI giveaway across time and space: not using contractions.

          1. Scourge says:

            But what if that exactly -is- the joke? Maybe EDI is just overly sarcastic, and she definitely should know the laws about unshackled AI’s, so she plays it up to eleven.

            It is like when someone who owns a gun and constantly fights with his wife is asked what he is going to do over the weekend and replies ‘Maybe finish business with my wife’ while cocking his gun.

            Yeah. It is bad humor but its still humor.

    2. ehlijen says:

      That view on Cerberus still doesn’t explain a few things:
      -All ME1 and 2 show is ridiculous Umbrella Corp style research for danger sake installations that inevitable go wrong. How is this organisation not bankrupt? Who supports this and why? And how can they come up with a better Normandy than the Alliance+Turians together?
      -Their shift to outright evil in ME3 wasn’t actually that much of a shift. They were evil all the time (not even ME2 deigned to show us any good they did, it just claimed they did off screen), but their means changed: suddenly they had an army and a fleet. Where did all that military come from and why did no one notice? Did the reapers supply them? Then why not tell the player? They sure didn’t have that army in ME2 (where it could really have helped!).
      They sneak attack the salarians, they battle the alliance everywhere shepard goes, launch an invasion of the citadel and even try to hold territory on the Krogan homeworld. This goes beyond secret special forces. They have to be an actual nation with a recruitment pool population and a world or two to feed their people and industry. And they’re still a secret shadow group somehow? No, that doesn’t work as a story. We were shown nothing that would explain Cerberus’ change from terrorist group to their own little nation. Even the one world we see where they did gather a sizable civilian work pool was just another bad science machine(tm) where they ground up people into bad ideas.
      -Kai Leng, the embodiment and epitome of everything wrong with ME3’s storytelling.
      -Don’t put crucial plot information for a game series into only non-game things. I don’t care about the comic. If the info is needed for the game, put it in the game. (Now, I don’t think seeing how TIM got indoctrinated is important, and ‘hey, he was a reaper pawn all along’ doesn’t explain enough about how cerberus gets writer fiat on their side so often, I’m just saying that ‘it’s in the comic/book/out of game-wiki’ isn’t acceptable storytelling.)

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        Cerberus is a massive Mary Sue organization, in that they don’t seem to obey the same rules that everyone else in the universe does. Their abilities or lack thereof seem entirely bound by what the plot demands of them at any given moment.
        The Salarians are masters at espionage and covert operations…but Cerberus is able to discover a covert operation on their very homeworld, and assault it with minimal non-Shepard resistance.
        The Citadel is the center of galactic politics, one of the most heavily guarded places in the galaxy…but Cerberus can deploy an army there and assault all the Wards simultaneously, and may well have succeeded if Shepard hadn’t randomly been passing through at that moment.
        They are the ultimate villains of a drama-first story: they’re resources are limitless, they can appear anywhere at anytime, and their motivation always seem to be ‘oppose the protagonist first, everything else second’, which (to be fair) makes sense because only the protagonist can defeat them at any given moment.

      2. HowImineforfish? says:

        Seriously. There was so much bullshit about Cerberus in ME2, and the writers somehow managed to make them even worse in ME3. It doesn’t make sense that this shadowy terrorist organization would have the resources to build a larger version of a prototype, cross-species collaborative, trillion-plus-credit, space ship with one-of-a-kind technology. It makes no sense that this organization would have the information to know what the collectors (a notoriously secretive and aloof species) were doing before they were doing itm when no one else can figure it out.

        And then they go all-in on the ridiculousness. Now this organization has the ability to go toe-to-toe with another species (the Krogan, no less!)! And they somehow can field enough operatives, despite being a shadowy terrorist organization? They might as well have just been their own species at that point.

        And for what reason? So the writer could justify a way for Shepard & Co to shoot more dudes?

    3. guy says:

      Honestly I felt that the game treating Cerberus’s motives in this as a mystery was insulting my intelligence. They’re doing things that help the Reapers, obviously they’re Indoctrinated.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why is this thing on mars in the first place?Remember how before,in the first game,all the relevant things were scattered all around the galaxy.Humans werent special at all.But here,the very weapon that can fight reapers,is set in the system of a race that wasnt even well formed,yet the race that already had language and saw protheans as gods,was not picked?

    Its the same old “A hero!A bloody icon!” idiocy from me2,only applied to the whole humanity.

    1. Mike S. says:

      The timing of the find is of course convenient. But since no one noticed it until then, it’s possible that there are likewise Crucible plans no one noticed at half the Prothean dig sites in the galaxy.

      While making it some human-owned world is an excuse for the Alliance taking the lead on the project, It doesn’t actually matter at all to the plot that the plans were found on Mars other than it making it easy for Shepard to stop off right after the opening. (But with mass relay travel, it would have been about as easy for Hackett to say “stop at Feros on the way to the Citadel”.)

    2. guy says:

      The Mars Archives were always a stupidly huge pile of Prothean tech data.

    3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Well, Thessia has an even BETTER source of information on the Crucible, so I think Mike S. is right about this one. The Mars version is just the version that was found, not the only version.

  17. Aaron says:

    another great article just had one comment on the line

    “And until the very end, Shepard doesn't even know what it is or what it will do. ”

    he found out what the crucible would do at the very end? from what i saw (did not play it) shepard was given (depending on how many resources he personally had) a choice between 3 poorly explained…things that might do…something

  18. Retsam says:

    Liara has been fooled by the old “make your skin and clothes glow blue and pose as a hologram” trick too many times.

    1. ehlijen says:

      Ah, a variation of the grizzly bear with a mirror tied to his face pretending to be your long lost twin and just wanting a hug trick!

  19. Ravens Cry says:

    This whole series is making me both mad and sad the more I read it. I suppose a lot of fiction would show some glaring holes with this close an examination, but dammit, there was so much potential here, so many problems that could be fixed so simply. It just feels so, so, ugh!

  20. Totally offtopic except being Sci-Fi/Space related.

    Anyone seen this?
    Master of Orion (reboot): Voice Actors Revealed

    My only comment is “……….” followed by figuratively drooling.

    1. ehlijen says:

      Sadly, the next video that loaded right after for me was this:

      It’s looking like (I really hope it’s not really) a case of money spent in all the wrong places :(

  21. Chefsbrian says:

    Your point about Shepard having no real actual input in the construction of the crucible got me thinking. Mass Effect one established that we can’t fight the Reapers with ships, no matter how grand of a navy we try and gather. Yet our entire mission for ME3 was “Gather the collective navies and armies of the galaxy”. Not only is Shepard not contributing to the device that will actually try and stop the reapers, but he is doing the thing he established as a stupid idea in the first game.

    But this could have been adjusted, without them having to change all these battles they wanted to show off for whatever reason, and give Shepard more agency. The Protheans planted the device plans on a cache they seeded near a species they deemed promising for saving the next cycle. The Protheans also knew about the other major species in the galaxy. We also know that the Prothean tech degraded severely over the Millennium since it was all planted. So what if instead, the mars record was incomplete. Enough for them to start on the Crucible, and enough to indicate copies of the plans could have been stored elsewhere.

    Such as the stores of Prothean artifacts nearly every other major species held. Instead, Shepard’s job isn’t to gather the fleets, but to take his stealth ship and secure these Prothean caches from the other species, to get the full plans. You could even codger the multiplayer in, saying its securing sites from attack to get out other tech that could help. Only Shepard can find the prothean tech to make the weapon work, but N7 operatives might be out securing knowledge about better thrusters, to get it in faster for a “better” ending or whatever they wanted to do with it.

    Exact same MacGuffin, Basically the exact same encounters and maps, but instead of counting generic fleet assets, your securing a total percentage of completed plans. Maybe throw in something about how only Shepard can quickly identify which artifact it is that contains the details because of his imprinted knowledge about the Protheans, so that it has to be him if they are going to identify them in time.

    1. George Monet says:

      Incorrect. Mass Effect 1 proved that we CAN fight the Reapers with ships because the Reapers themselves are just sentient spaceships. Very advanced spaceships, but spaceships nonetheless. The reason why it took so many alliance ships to kill one Reaper was simply a difference in technology. The Reapers had better guns and better mass effect fields. Once that one Reaper was destroyed and its technology exposed for study and duplication the story should have shifted to a focus on aligning the species behind producing a large advanced navy to combat the coming Reaper invasion.

  22. Smejki says:

    I love the Indoctrination theory. Shepard is indoctrinated since his conversation with Sovereign and all that follows is just a bad crazy dream. It fits. Better than anything.

  23. RCN says:

    It is not true that ME2 doesn’t give you anything for ME3.

    It gives cerberus the Reaper brain or heart, which are both about equally useful and completely negates your only meaningful choice throughout the entirety of ME2! And then turns it into some meaningless numbers for the war effort!

    Gods I hate the writers of this game…

  24. Roger says:

    Yep and here’s where Shamus and I start disagreeing on the events of the game, or at least on the interpretation.

    I for one am sick of stories about heroes saving the entire world. I’m even more sick of stories about how Innocence and Good triumphs over The Bad. I surely respect LOTR for the detail and worldbuilding, but I don’t like the whole point of it. I’ve always wondered whether it was cliche already when it was written or whether only the copycats made it that way. But I’m pretty sure those kinds of stories were around since forever. When it comes to motivations, Homer beats Tolkien.

    As such, I only tolerated ME1 for making Shepard the ‘one and only chosen one hero’ or whatever. But yea it was done well and all the pieces fell nicely into place (mostly), so, okay. After all, everyone else was pretty ignorant. I’m quite sure that if the council wasn’t written as passive as they were, there would be much more going around trying to solve all the mysteries. Shepard would still be an interesting figure but probably not the one and only hero.

    But when the reapers finally come and start killing everything and everyone, I would fully expect for the story to shift from a tale about one person to war chaos where a lot of people are important. It may be a bit of a Call of Duty mentality, but I think it’s completely justified in such an environment. It is what I expected.

    Besides, the shift in gameplay from a full-blown RPG to a full-blown shooter kinda supports it too: this time, you really are a thug with a gun. That’s not really an excuse, just an observation.

    So anyway, it’s war now and everyone is scrambling. It’s natural that in such times new information pop up, but they are sketchy, parts are missing, various fighting parties pull in different direction and the important part is now to get them working together, etc.

    I suppose where ME2 completely booted me out of the world because of its inconsistencies, in ME3 the various inconsistencies somehow fit together and sell the idea that this is world at war. At the end the whole is more than the sum of its parts. I don’t think it was the writers’ intention, in fact maybe they didn’t really care as much (that might be underselling it however) but somehow… In ME3 all of this just worked for me as a whole.

    BTW as for the ‘we fight or we die’ line – I agree it was clicheic but no more than the ending of ME1 where Shepard, presumably dead, heroically stands up from the rubble. It just comes with these kinds of stories.

  25. Lino says:


    On one hand the writer keeps clumsily stroking the player’s ego by talking about why a Big Damn Hero Shepard is

    Should be “what” (I have no idea how I missed this the first time I read this series).

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<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

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Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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