EDI, the Normandy’s self-aware unshackled AI core, is scanning the inert robo-body of Dr. Coré when the robot comes to life and fights back. EDI wins, and downloads herself into the body. She emerges from the smoke of the conflict, swinging her new hips and effortlessly sauntering around in her high-heel… feet?
Remember that Dr. Eva Coré was a robot that posed as a human. Now we’re seeing her metallic innards with with her clothes and fleshy exterior burned away. You might expect she would be shaped like a terminator, since the writer seems to like that design so much, and also because that’s what human beings look like with the fleshy parts removed. But no. As luck would have it, EDI’s insides just happen to look like a fashion mannequin.
Which means the body of Dr. Eva Coré was deliberately designed so that her skeleton had built-in high heels. Which implies that she wouldn’t be able to take off her shoes without blowing her human cover, and she’d need to wear custom-made shoes that could accommodate her unusual feet. They went to all the trouble to make her look 100% human and then they gave her sexy built-in robo-heels?
Whatever. It’s just dumb schlock. This entire character was obviously designed fanservice-first. Don’t think about it too hard. The writer obviously didn’t. We’re a far cry from the seriousness of Mass Effect 1 with regards to the taboos, regulations, and limitations of AI. It’s pretty schlocky and filled with obvious fanservice. Over the course of the rest of the game, robo-EDI will form a romance with Joker.
While I resent the more lowbrow, trope-ish approach to AI, I like the romance story anyway. Their banter is fun, and it gives Joker a chance to get fleshed out as a character. I think romance between crew members are inherently more interesting and less creepy than romances between the crew and the player / commander. There’s more room for misunderstanding and character-revealing interpersonal conflict, and so overall I really enjoyed this story. I’d personally love to see BioWare do more of this “matchmaking” type of romance and a little less of the dating sim thing they’ve been doingAnecdotally, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one..
On the downside, this pairing of EDI and Joker massively undercuts the revelations at the end of the game. But we’ll talk about that when the time comes.
On Benning, Cerberus is kidnapping civilians. Well, they’re actually running around shooting people, but the game claims they’re on an abduction mission. I guess it’s hard to make your orders clear when your entire army is made up of mindless husks.
At the end of the mission Admiral Hackett acts like this move is out-of-character for Cerberus. The game keeps telling us that Cerberus is a competent yet morally compromised black-ops fringe group, but showing us that they’re an empire of stormtrooper space-Nazis crossed with a couple of C-list Batman villains. The writer keeps sidelining the Reapers in favor of Cerberus, but they can’t figure out what Cerberus is or what kind of story they’re trying to tell.
It’s not like Cerberus villainy is relegated to side-missions. Hackett claims that murdering civilians isn’t their M.O., but the first mission of the game the took place on Mars where they explicitly did That Very Thing. And Hackett is the one who sent us there.
Somebody Set Us Up The Bomb
Shepard heads to Tuchanka, the Krogan homeworld. Right about the time the Krogan rebellions ended, the Turians buried a massive bomb on the surface. The idea is that if the Krogan got out of hand again, the Turians could set off the bomb to knock the Krogan back down.
Paragon Shepard gets the vapors over this. Oh, what meanies! But of course the Krogan were killing the galaxy. You know, kind of like the Reapers are now. Everyone was in a desperate struggle to survive. The Krogan rebellions had killed billions. I don’t have The Arrival DLC, but I’m willing to bet nobody points out that Shepard has no right to be self-righteous about this, since he’s the only one in the room to kill a whole star system.
Picture it this way: The Turians could have simply set off the bomb hundreds of years ago, right? That would have been fair. That’s how war works. But they didn’t. They were trying to beat the Krogan without exterminating them. Getting mad at the Turians from centuries ago because they took these precautions is arrogant. Shepard takes this attitude of “I would have found another way.” That would work for another character, but coming from the mouth of the guy who worked for Cerberus in the previous game (and maybe blew up a star system in Arrival) this comes off as outrageously hypocritical. Shepard seems to operate under the moral code of, “Nobody is allowed to commit mass-murdering atrocities but ME!” The events of the previous game have turned the standard Paragon / Renegade system into nonsense.
Oh, and speaking of Cerberus… Guess who is sending troops here, trying to set off the bomb?
How did TIM learn about this bomb, which would have been one of the most closely guarded secrets in the Turian military? Why did Cerberus fly all these forces halfway across the galaxy to set it off? Are they trying to scuttle the treaty you brokered on the Normandy, or are they just trying to murder billions of Krogan for the lulz? How did Cerberus get all these forces to this planet and excavate a skyscraper-sized bomb without anyone noticing and without being killed by the local Krogans, local wildlife, or the Reapers? Why bother excavating the bomb at all, since I’m pretty sure it was designed so it could be detonated by the Turians without them needing to dig it up first? Where does Cerberus get all these soldiers and drop ships from?
It’s Sur’Kesh all over again: Cerberus is staging a mission that doesn’t advance their core goals, by attacking a secret asset they shouldn’t know about, using forces they shouldn’t have.
Note that you could fix nearly all of this if you simply replaced Cerberus with the Reapers in this mission. The Reapers are already here on Tuchanka. The only reason this is a vortex of stupidity and plot holes is because the writer insisted on using their pet bad guys instead of the actual, established villains of the series.
Shut up and shoot the space marines. Worldbuilding is for dorks.
The one nice thing I can say about this part is that you team up with Victus, a Turian who:
- Has some relevance to the main plot by virtue of being the son of a Turian leader.
- Gets a great – albeit brief – character arc.
It’s not much, but I’ll take it.
Curing the Genophage
With the help of Mordin and the fertile Krogan female, Shepard sets out to cure the genophage. They have to use the Shroud facility – a gargantuan atmosphere-altering tower that the writer just suddenly decided existed – to spread the cure.
I don’t mind the abrupt reveal that, “Oh, by the way, this hugely important thing that you’ve never heard of? It exists somehow!” That’s fine, although how much cooler would this have been if the shroud had been established in Mass Effect 2? If the writer had thrown in a couple of lines of flavor dialog about it, and if it had been on the horizon during Grunt’s loyalty mission, then this sequence would have been a satisfying payoff.
I agree with Mr. Btongue, this entire mission is overall pretty great. As the man says: This is a challenging mission for the writer. The two central characters are Mordin and Wrex. But Mordin could have died on the Collector Base in Mass Effect 2 and Wrex possibly died on Virmire in Mass Effect 1. In the previous game you tracked down Maelon, the rogue Salarian scientist who was trying to cure the genophage using unethicalBut nominally sound, from a pulp-sci standpoint. This wasn’t a Cerberus operation. methods. In the previous game you could have preserved his data, or you might have erased it. You might have killed him, or you might have let him live. Or you might have passed on both of those choices by skipping that mission entirely. This mission on Tuchanka accounts for all of these possibilities.
The game then offers additional layers of choices. You can betray the Krogan in return for the help of the Salarian military. If you do this, it’s possible to gain the support of both the Krogan and the Salarians. You get the best of all outcomes for yourself, at the cost of knowing you betrayed Wrex.
There are actually even more complex triggers down the line. If Thane is alive, then he saves the life of an important Salarian for you and you can get some Salarian support that way. If you let the council die at the end of Mass Effect 1, then the new Salarian leader is more open to sending you help.
It’s wonderfully complex and doesn’t seem to favor paragon or renegade, but instead feels like a few dozen decisions and events being allowed to play out naturally.
On top of this, the writer brings this mission to a wonderful dramatic conclusion. You get to see a Reaper fight a thresher mawBecause the Reaper was stupid and forgot it could fly. We’ll talk more about the cutscene stupidity of Reapers a little later in the series.. The Salarian scientist (either Mordin or his hasty replacement) has to ascend the tower at the end to make sure the cure works. You’ve got epic fights, great musical cues, smart dialog, and at the end the spectacle of the “cure” falling down like snow.
Is it bombastic and a little over-the-top? Sure. Maybe it’s not quite the details-first sci-fi of Mass Effect 1, but at least it works on its own terms as broad action adventure. Things flow naturally, and not from contrivances. Your choices matter, the dialog rings true, and it nicely wraps up a story that’s been building in importance since Mass Effect 1 and that’s woven into the fabric of the setting. As a bonus, we don’t have Cerberus cluttering things up and poking plot holes in everything. The fight is focused on the Reapers.
Well, it couldn’t be fun and awesome forever. Our next stop is to visit the Citadel and speak with the Salarian councilor. When we get there, Cerberus has taken control of the entire station. This is something that it took an army of Geth to accomplish in Mass Effect 1. And security was increased after that event. And I imagine security was increased again once the Reapers invaded.
Right. Inside man. Cerberus had an “inside man”. Who they immediately executed, because of course they did. They’re Cerberus, and double agents in positions of power aren’t some precious resource to be guarded, they’re just more people to shoot.
The game apparently doesn’t feel the need to explain how they keep getting these inside agents when they’re crazy assholes who murder everyone, including the people who work for them. No, especially the people who work for them.
But Shamus! The sleeper agents might have been blackmailed! Or indoctrinated! Or mind controlled! Or maybe he’s an alien-hating Human supremacist!
Yes indeed. All of those things are possible things that could go in the story. But none of them did. Coming up with explanations for why things happen is literally the storyteller’s entire job. You have characters that make decisions, and their actions result in drama that we call a “story”. But this writer doesn’t want to write a story. They want to play with their Cerberus action figures, and they want you to watch.
In any case, the fact that Cerberus had an “inside man” doesn’t even begin to explain how they got hundreds of mooks in full Cerberus gear onto the station, along with a few towering combat mechs. Did he prop open the back door of the Citadel with a brick and Cerberus slipped in after dark?
The idea that a “terrorist organization” could take control of the Galactic seat of power in the middle of a war is so absurd it’s like the writer did it just to spite the audience. “Oh, you like a universe built on rules, do you? WHERE ARE YOUR LORE GODS NOW, NERD?” The layers of nonsense exist on so many levels that I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time documenting them than the writer spent creating them. This sequence is a fever dream of barely-connected events.
- Invading the Citadel doesn’t advance the overall Cerberus goal of taking control of the Reapers.
- We might hand-wave and say they’re trying to help humanity by assassinating the council, except there’s no way that killing the council would do that.
- But even if we ignore that, Cerberus shouldn’t have the firepower to stage a full-blown assault on the seat of galactic power in the middle of a war.
- Even if they had the firepower, they shouldn’t have any way to infiltrate the Citadel with a force this large.
- Setting that aside, these guys aren’t even working towards their stated goal! They’re just running around blowing shit up and shooting people all over the station. They even attacked the mall. The MALL. Just… what?
Shamus, don’t you pay attention? The game says that Cerberus has Reaper Tech™.
Yes, the writer keeps waving the “Reaper Tech” excuse around as if it frees them from having to write a coherent story. The most generous reading of the game is that TIM is indoctrinated, all the Cerberus forces are mind-controlled, Cerberus knows what all the other forces are doing because they’re somehow even better at spying than the Salarians, and they have magical technology that lets them make anything at any time for no cost.
Which means you have a bad guy with infinite power, who knows everything, and who runs entirely on contrivances and crazy.
This is the writer giving up and admitting they have no idea how to do this job, so they’re going to just stuff the story full of their shitty Marty Stu character (TIM) and give up on this whole “worldbuilding” thing.
Next time we’re going to take a break from Mass Effect and talk about worldbuilding. I want to illustrate that even if you swallow the lazy excuse 4-pack of “crazy”, “best spy ever”, “indoctrinated”, and “Reaper Tech™”, Cerberus is still a pile of sophomoric trash.
 Anecdotally, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one.
 But nominally sound, from a pulp-sci standpoint. This wasn’t a Cerberus operation.
 Because the Reaper was stupid and forgot it could fly. We’ll talk more about the cutscene stupidity of Reapers a little later in the series.
The Opportunity Crunch
No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.
The Terrible New Thing
Fidget spinners are ruining education! We need to... oh, never mind the fad is over. This is not the first time we've had a dumb moral panic.
The Gradient of Plot Holes
Most stories have plot holes. The failure isn't that they exist, it's when you notice them while immersed in the story.
Shamus Plays LOTRO
As someone who loves Tolkein lore and despises silly MMO quests, this game left me deeply conflicted.
A look at the main Borderlands games. What works, what doesn't, and where the series can go from here.