Mass Effect Retrospective 39: Cerberus Set Up Us The Bomb

By Shamus
on Mar 17, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

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?

Robomantic Comedy

So Dr. Eva Coré had a solid plastic shell instead of hair and nobody noticed?

So Dr. Eva Coré had a solid plastic shell instead of hair and nobody noticed?

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.

Benning

Hackett, did you miss Mars? Maybe you should read the codex or look it up on YouTube or something, because you are WAY out of the loop here.

Hackett, did you miss Mars? Maybe you should read the codex or look it up on YouTube or something, because you are WAY out of the loop here.

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

How did the Turians secretly bury this massive structure, in a populated area, on the homeworld of their enemy, at the end of a massive war?

How did the Turians secretly bury this massive structure, in a populated area, on the homeworld of their enemy, at the end of a massive war?

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?

No EDI, it was UNDERGROUND. That`s the OPPOSITE of maximum yield. Unless it was buried under a heavily populated area, which would only create even MORE unanswered questions.

No EDI, it was UNDERGROUND. That`s the OPPOSITE of maximum yield. Unless it was buried under a heavily populated area, which would only create even MORE unanswered questions.

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:

  1. Has some relevance to the main plot by virtue of being the son of a Turian leader.
  2. Gets a great – albeit brief – character arc.

It’s not much, but I’ll take it.

Curing the Genophage

Great framing. Our heroes in the foreground. A Reaper looming over them. The shroud - their goal - in the distance. Too bad some vandal RUINED it with a color filter that flattened the whole thing into a narrow band of hues and sucked out the contrast.

Great framing. Our heroes in the foreground. A Reaper looming over them. The shroud - their goal - in the distance. Too bad some vandal RUINED it with a color filter that flattened the whole thing into a narrow band of hues and sucked out the contrast.

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.

They may be advanced beyond our comprehension, but not even the Reapers can shoot through cover.

They may be advanced beyond our comprehension, but not even the Reapers can shoot through cover.

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.

Really? We`re sticking with the beige color filter even after the cure is released? Not even going to switch over to some other filter to reflect and underscore the sweeping transformation we just caused? Dude, do you even understand what a color filter is FOR?

Really? We`re sticking with the beige color filter even after the cure is released? Not even going to switch over to some other filter to reflect and underscore the sweeping transformation we just caused? Dude, do you even understand what a color filter is FOR?

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.

The Citadel

This tiny parking lot must be REALLY important to the Cerberus assault, because they dropped off 4 dudes and a mech, and it looks like they`re stuck there.

This tiny parking lot must be REALLY important to the Cerberus assault, because they dropped off 4 dudes and a mech, and it looks like they`re stuck there.

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.

He stopped being useful when he stopped being alive, you dumbass. That`s the thing about sleeper agents. They continue to be useful even when they`re not opening a door, because you never know if you might need them to open some other door at some point in the future.

He stopped being useful when he stopped being alive, you dumbass. That`s the thing about sleeper agents. They continue to be useful even when they`re not opening a door, because you never know if you might need them to open some other door at some point in the future.

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?

Hey Hackett, you have any guess what might have killed these guys? I`m thinking they maybe slipped on the wet floor?

Hey Hackett, you have any guess what might have killed these guys? I`m thinking they maybe slipped on the wet floor?

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.

  1. Invading the Citadel doesn’t advance the overall Cerberus goal of taking control of the Reapers.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Even if they had the firepower, they shouldn’t have any way to infiltrate the Citadel with a force this large.
  5. 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?

Technically you`re right, but this is a goofy line of reasoning. Are you suggesting that the only time people get shot in the back of the head is when they`re betrayed? This writer makes me bonkers. They literally can`t drop in ONE line of simple exposition without spiking it with dumb nonsense.

Technically you`re right, but this is a goofy line of reasoning. Are you suggesting that the only time people get shot in the back of the head is when they`re betrayed? This writer makes me bonkers. They literally can`t drop in ONE line of simple exposition without spiking it with dumb nonsense.

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.

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Footnotes:

[1] Anecdotally, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one.

[2] But nominally sound, from a pulp-sci standpoint. This wasn’t a Cerberus operation.

[3] 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.



A Hundred!A Hundred!204224 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    You did the thing where the entire post is on the front page.

  2. CliveHowlitzer says:

    I really hate Cerberus. I wanted to fight Reapers not dudes in armor. It is ALWAYS dudes in armor.
    It is also crazy how hard you have to turn off your brain through parts of this game to avoid suffering some kind of mental breakdown. ME3 really does read like fanfiction. The writer is so proud of their mega-awesome spy group.

    As an aside, I agree with you totally on the romance thing. I’ve been watching my GF play through ME1-3 with FemShep(Something I never did). She really wants the D in these games. I swear every line you pick even when trying to be friendly, she just throws herself at every penis(Alien or otherwise) that she can….and they are all doing it right back at her! My GF was horrified how almost every single squadmate wanted to get into her pants just because she was trying to be friendly.

    I miss the days when dialogue was dialogue and there wasn’t a “THIS IS THE ROMANCE” dialogue option that you just kept picking until you got rewarded with a PG-13 sex scene. Give me Planescape: Torment any day.

    • Daimbert says:

      I miss the days when dialogue was dialogue and there wasn’t a “THIS IS THE ROMANCE” dialogue option that you just kept picking until you got rewarded with a PG-13 sex scene. Give me Planescape: Torment any day.

      It seems to me that your problem, rather, is that there ISN’T one of those aimed specifically at that — and clearly identified as such — and then other options for a more platonic friendship result. If they made it clear which was the “Friendly” and which was the “Flirting” option, then you wouldn’t have this problem.

      TOR is better at this, with explicit flirt options that are usually accompanied by a friendlier and a more hostile response.

      • CliveHowlitzer says:

        Actually. I always preferred when it was just natural dialogue. Nothing was designed to just lead to a particular outcome. It was just a conversation and interaction. If it led to something, okay cool, if not, also cool. The problem is that nowadays its all so clearly labeled as particular things.
        I actually prefer a more nebulous approach. I also don’t think every RPG needs to have romances shoved into them. That is my main gripe. Characters are written to be romance options; so its kind of shoved in your face because Bioware is all about their little dating sim. This was less noticable in DAO from what I can recall but it has been awhile.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          DA1 was a lot better at organic romances, or at least is was with Alistair who I remember. If you get his affection high enough (platonic or otherwise), the next time you make camp you’ll trigger a scene where he makes a romantic gesture at you. Unlike the ME games, it’s very clear that he doesn’t think you’re dating now, this is him having a crush on you and asking if you want to go out. From there you can shoot him down or accept him, triggering further scenes in the Alistair romance plot.

          It’s all very clear, but having the other character make a move that felt natural, instead of the player pushing the “Romance now” button made it feel way better than every other Bioware romance.

          • Lachlan the Mad says:

            Dragon Age 2 & Inquisition also did better than Mass Effect on the romance front, due to slightly more responsible use of the conversation wheel. The wheel shows a heart in the middle when you select the romance dialogue, and the romance button is usually at top left with the nice option at top right.

          • Grimwear says:

            All I can remember from DA1 is with the elf dude where I got put in that position where I was trying to raise everyone’s affection and the elf was all hey I like you do you like me? To which I responded sorry I just want to be friends and then he hated me for the remainder of the game. While Origins definitely had MORE in terms of building relationships it held the inklings of the “you only raise affection if you want to try and bone them”.

          • bionicOnion says:

            I think that part of the reason that this worked for Dragon Age in a way that it doesn’t work for Mass Effect is that Dragon Age already had a mechanic for tracking party opinion of you. Sure, it was a pretty abstracted, obvious, and exploitable system, but it also meant that there was a clear system largely separated from individual dialogue choices to handle the romance/rivalry system: in the Mass Effect (and later Dragon Age) games, romance means playing a ‘choose your own adventure’ game and selecting the flirtation options; in DA:O, it means living your whole life in a way that another character finds inherently attractive.

            The reason that these other games had a ‘romance now’ buttons was tied to the fact that they had no other way to encode player/character opinions of one another. As simplistic as the one-dimensional opinion system in Origins was, its interplay with the rest of the systems in the game was what gave it its power for role-playing expressiveness. Each of the characters were defined–and systemized–not only by their combat prowess, but also by some of their deep-seated beliefs. Later BioWare games have set up sandbox worlds in which the player can do more or less whatever they want to without sacrificing their version of the ‘good’ outcome (i.e. as far as I know Paragon and Renegade standing has no effect on romance options), but Dragon Age represented a time when players were expected to find their place within an established world with reactive characters.

            This is starting to veer dangerously off course, but I think that that represents a paradigm shift not just at BioWare, but across the industry as a whole: RPGs are decreasingly about playing a role–establishing yourself in a world that’s actually paying attention to your decisions and determining what that means about you as a character–and increasingly about offering all available content to any player that wants to play it. The first time that I played Dragon Age: Origins, I killed Zevran without realizing that I was cutting myself off from recruiting a party member, and Wynn ended up dying in the mage’s tower, and it was only on a subsequent time playing the game that I got to see all of the content that I missed by making the choices that led me there (and let’s not even get into the Witcher franchise’s habit of dramatically altering what you’re able to do based on who you’ve allied yourself with). These experiences feel increasingly like outliers, though, as more games seem to focus on allowing players to experience as much of the content as possible in a single sitting.

            Now that I’ve completely lost track of whatever point I was trying to make when I started writing this, I think that it’s time to cut it off there. There’s been some promising critical and commercial response to games which offer more subtly reactive worlds in recent years, so maybe that style of role-playing is poised for a comeback, but that remains to be seen.

            • CliveHowlitzer says:

              The first time I played DAO I didn’t recruit Leliana because I never went into the inn before Lothering was destroyed. I also killed Wynne at the tower because she was pissed I had an apostate with me. I definitely enjoy when developers aren’t terrified of us missing content they created and let us cut it off based on our decisions.

          • The “organic/natural” method pisses people off. A lot. There’s really a no-win scenario here.

            1. If they do the organic/natural method, people bitch because the NPC’s do things that the player didn’t want. (Such as Anders trying to kiss the PC in DA2.)

            2. If they explicitly warn you in advance, people bitch because that’s “artificial” and “limiting”.

            3. If they keep the list of options tight, people bitch because that’s “not inclusive” and they “hate all the options”.

            4. If they open up a wide variety, people bitch because it’s making the game a “romance sim”.

            I quite like the romances–even when I’m not a fan of any *particular* romance option as in Dragon Age: Origins. People cannot hang out on a regular basis without having romances form. Having a long-term adventure where everyone mysteriously acts like monks just boggles me–especially when there’s the omnipresent brothel where you can go have sex with strangers. Every RPG I’ve ever played where you have actual relationships with other characters but CANNOT have a romance of any kind just feels SUPREMELY unnatural to me. I understand why they did it with Pillars, but it felt weird, esp. since the personal quests of a lot of the NPC’s are VERY personal. If it was just “go here, beat up the bad guy, brofists all around!” that’d be different. And, yes, there was ONE quest pretty much like that.

            Romance is like humor–it’s highly personal and thus anyone trying to write one is going to be hit-or-miss. I figure the only thing to do is to enjoy them when they work for you and say “eh, maybe next time” if they don’t. If you’re going to nitpick, it’s probably best aimed at the games and stories where the romance really was shoehorned in and makes no bloody sense. “You’ve been treating me like crap all game and now we’re in love?! WTF.”

        • Daimbert says:

          I actually really like romances — and have since KotOR — so what I think works best is to give people the choice of what they want to do, and build characters with good friend, romance, and rivalry/hostile dialogue. But if you give the choice, you need to make it clear what each choice means, and I see the recent “Pick a general disposition phrased as a statement and we’ll translate it!” causes the issue because it isn’t clear what you’re actually saying when you select it. I think they should either go back to either a general disposition or back to saying what you’ve selected.

    • Zekiel says:

      One of the reasons I enjoyed ME3 in spite of all the plot stupidity was that I actually enjoyed fighting Cereberus more than the Reapers. The Reapers are more interestingly varied forces, but I also found them much more irritating to fight – they don’t really suit the cover-based-shooter mechanics of Mass Effect since you have husks rushing you, Banshees insta-killing you and those stupid rachni thingies that just aren’t satisfying to kill.

      • natureguy85 says:

        I agree and I am not sure if that’s a symptom or cause of the writing problems. Either way, it seems to be a result of the writing and gameplay teams not working closely enough together. Where we differ is that I found Cerberus more varied and interesting, even if they were just variations of Space Marine. Did they make Cerberus more interesting to fight because the writer shoved them in everywhere? Or were they told “put in more Cerberus” because they were more fun to fight.

        I didn’t

        • ehlijen says:

          I think to some degree it’s the colour scheme and armour shape. The reaper ground forces were all weird. Their shapes and colour schemes didn’t often complement each other well, which means when you looked at them, you could never quickly get a grasp of what it is you were fighting.
          You had all dark coloured turian-ish guys, which were nearly indistinguishable from the other ones (cannibals?). All brown brutes. Beige-blue rocket rachni that looked nothing like rachni when facing you. I think the banshee was the only reaper enemy that actually looked like something at first glance.

          Yes, cerberus were all humans in blocky armour, but the familiar shape with a striking black/white/yellow colour scheme helped give the player a much better idea of just what they were fighting.

          I think that had they made more graphically interesting reapers overall and turned the cerberus soldier types into reapers (no real reason they couldn’t have), they wouldn’t have needed cerberus at all.

          • natureguy85 says:

            They also had a bit more variety in combat style. You had your generic trooper but he had grenades and each other enemy had something to bring to the fight. You had guys with smoke grenades, guys with shields, cloaking phantoms that closed to melee, engineers who could drop a turret and move elsewhere to shoot at you, and big fat mechs. Cannibals, Marauders, Rachni, and Harvesters all just shoot at you a bit differently. Brutes and Bashees changed it up a bit.

    • Raygereio says:

      I miss the days when dialogue was dialogue and there wasn’t a “THIS IS THE ROMANCE” dialogue option that you just kept picking until you got rewarded with a PG-13 sex scene. Give me Planescape: Torment any day.

      The problem is that unless it’s clearly marked, Bioware will have you start the romance just because you give the NPC a friendly compliment. See ME1:
      “What do you’re declaring your undying love to me, Liara?”
      “We have a connection Sheppard!”
      “… all we had were two conversations about the Asari race, you crazy woman-looking-thing.”
      Basically

      My GF was horrified how almost every single squadmate wanted to get into her pants just because she was trying to be friendly.

      the problem your GF had.

      There was also the reverse problem in DA:O where people who wanted the romance had to follow a guide and carefully maneuver through the dialogue.
      (Which is really an extension of the problem with companion-influence in that game, but that’s besides the point here).

      DA2 solved both problems by clearly labeling the start of the romance dialogue branch. And until Bioware can write something resembling an actual relationship, that builds naturally, can support people being friends as opposed to wanting to hump groins together and isn’t just wish-fulfillment. I’d rather have the clearly marked “This loads to the crappy romance”-dialogue branch so that I can avoid it at all times.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        And to be fair DA2 marked every branch. This was romance, this was joking, this was steadfast… It’s not bad in the sense of showing your character’s intentions not just a short summary. A separate topic is how the protagonist can effectively seduce anyone but then that’s part of the playercentric world (also since the protagonist is largely blank it’s hard to say who they could and couldn’t romance by default).

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          DA2 wasn’t that good about it. I distinctly remember that strange sense when Anders, Merril, and Isabella all came on to my Hawke within a couple scenes of each other.

          DA2 marked the “break off the relationship” conversation, but you could still inadvertently end up in a relationship. DAI is the one that actually had the “this is flirting” options.

          And the symbol of this great annoyance in ME3 is the reporter coming up to Shepard’s office. She very clearly flirts with Shepard, so much so that you can start a little mini-romance with her the second time. The game only gives you the option of shutting her down hard, leading to the “oh, that wasn’t what I meant” line -when it was totally what she meant. It was like the Council in the first game always deciding what you were doing was wrong, whatever it was you did.

          • Raygereio says:

            DA2 marked the “break off the relationship” conversation, but you could still inadvertently end up in a relationship.

            Not true. Anders has a “I like you” conversation and you can then either start the romance, or shut it down. But the romance doesn’t start on its own.

            I don’t remember the same happening for Isabelle or Merril. You had to pick a dialogue option with a romance-heart for them to approach you.

          • Taellosse says:

            You may be misremembering – DA2 had a heart icon for dialogue choices that would result in Hawke saying something flirty or romantic. These were always used to initiate or advance a romance subplot (though there were also characters who would shoot you down if you tried them).

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        There was also the reverse problem in DA:O where people who wanted the romance had to follow a guide and carefully maneuver through the dialogue.

        Ah yes,the problem of old rpgs where you had to work for rewards,instead of getting everything served to you on the platter.

        • Daimbert says:

          Is the romance a reward, or a way to shape the world and story of your character?

          You definitely shouldn’t have to work for the latter, and that’s how I think of the romances.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Um,why shouldnt you have to work for the later?Having your character accomplish the desired story is most definitely a reward.Doubly so for shaping the world around them.

            • Daimbert says:

              Since this is all personal, how is it a reward? Getting your main character into a romance isn’t inherently any better than having your main character be stoically above any romantic attachments, if that’s who your character is. Your character in Dragon Age, for example, could take Wynn’s criticism to heart … or adopt it themselves long before that. Or they could want to have a bright and cheerful romantic interest to shift them from their own rather bitter and cynical mindset (my DA character was attracted to Leiliana for exactly that reason … and by the end of the game it made her a better person. If that was made “challenging”, that lovely story-based experience might not have happened). Or they could fall for the wrong person. Or whatever.

              Ultimately, you’d have to be saying that the game is holding out “Play as your character in the world and let your character act as they should” as a reward. And then I’d have to question what you think a story or character based RPG IS.

              • galacticplumber says:

                There’s the fact that romance isn’t just some matter of preference or the personality of the protagonist. It’s an active endeavor wherein a person who wants a relationship with another person takes steps to make that desire known and, assuming the other person hasn’t been quietly smitten the entire time, win the affection of their intended partner. It is in no way equivalent to he amount of work involved in deciding how you want to act to someone. One is entirely your decision. The other is your decision, plus attempting to interest your partner.

                • Daimbert says:

                  Sure. But that’s selecting the right options, and there’s no real reason that the PLAYER has to work that out as if that’s a puzzle they need to solve. It should be the dialogue that builds that, not the gameplay.

                  • galacticplumber says:

                    If it’s interactive in any way it IS gameplay. Do you want a relationship with this girl and know such things are possible in this game? Fine. Think very carefully about what to say. If you’re interested in the actual character and not just their body you should have some concept of what they’d be interested in especially given a limited list of options.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      If it’s interactive in any way it IS gameplay.

                      I’ve had this argument elsewhere over what exactly counts as gameplay, and so really don’t want to get into it again [grin].

                      Besides, I’m not sure it’s relevant here, anyway, since whatever you call it we’re dealing with how much of a “puzzle” that should be.

                      Do you want a relationship with this girl and know such things are possible in this game? Fine. Think very carefully about what to say.

                      I’m not arguing against that. I’m saying that it should be clear what my actions are going to be and what I’m going to say, and what impact that can have. Given, however, how vague the “select an attitude” notion can be, sometimes I don’t know WHAT I’ll be saying before I say it, and so given that using icons or something to tell me whether I’m flirting, having a friendly conversation or insulting them is REALLY useful, and even having icons that tell me if this is something that will increase or decrease their affection is a good thing. Ideally, it’d all be done in world … but we don’t have an ideal situation here, and for some people romances are important enough that they don’t want to ruin one because you have to say only the precisely perfect things every time and at one point in the game they select the wrong option because they didn’t realize what that would actually mean because the game misled them through ambiguity.

                      Thus, don’t make the romance options that hard to get, and use other options to make the player aware what will increase or decrease affection in case they miss, have forgotten, or you haven’t told them what would do that in these cases.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                Are you arguing that you shouldn’t have to work for a romance? You just walk up to a character, say “I want to romance you”, and they say “Okay”? As much as the “Earn your romance” implementation is creepy for the way it tends to characterize dating as an arcade game whose jackpot is sex, the alternative is being able to bang anyone you want at any time, and that’s even creepier.

                I’m not saying that romance needs to be Dark Souls, but there should be an element of compatibility, it should be possible to “fail” and have the other person say “No, I don’t like you that way.” Getting rejected (or, as it’s usually presented in games, simply not having the option to initiate romance because your affection bar is too low) is just as valid an experience as entering a relationship or choosing to remain chaste, and games are cutting that out if they let the player just romance whoever they want with no checks or balances.

                Ultimately, you’d have to be saying that the game is holding out “Play as your character in the world and let your character act as they should” as a reward.

                It’s not preventing your character from acting as they should, it’s preventing your character from getting what they want. Not letting you romance Leliana because she hates you for murdering all those puppies is no different from not letting you save Mordin on Tuchanka because of what you’ve done in previous games. The game let you act however you wanted, and now you’re facing the consequences of those actions.

                • Daimbert says:

                  Are you arguing that you shouldn’t have to work for a romance? You just walk up to a character, say “I want to romance you”, and they say “Okay”?

                  No, I’m saying that the player should be able to figure out what actions will do what — and the game should display that — without turning it into a puzzle for the PLAYER to solve.

                  To take your puppy example, it’s perfectly fine for the game to give you choices where the affection of a character — even one you’re romancing — might be impacted negatively. But the game ought to make it clear that that’s the effect of selecting that action or that dialogue option, and by that allow the PLAYER to decide if they’d rather take that action or alter it to get the extra affection, and then justify that based on what their CHARACTER would do. Ideally, the game would let me act as my character would and then we can see how it all shakes out, but it still needs to be clear what each action means and what the impact is, especially since we don’t have as much access to the NPCs as we would to a person in real life; we can spend lots of time with them doing little more than talking over coffee, which would generally be massively BORING in a game.

                  I’d LOVE a choice where I can either do an option that my character would prefer but that they know will upset their loved one, and so can make the choice based on what matters more to that character, as my City Elf did with Leliana. But in the context of existing games, that means that the game needs to flag the actions as doing that, especially for the more ambiguous ones. This makes it less work for the player to get the romances since they can see the outcomes before they select the option … but I don’t see anything wrong with that.

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    it still needs to be clear what each action means and what the impact is

                    So you don’t want do do away with all consequences, just unforeseen ones? Do you want the Genophage plot in ME2-3 to pop up a warning that says “If you choose to destroy this research on the cure you will initiate a chain of events that ultimately leads to Mordin’s tragic, unavoidable death”?

                    • Daimbert says:

                      How do you get to that Genophage comment replying to something that was specifically about romances?

                      At any rate, I also pointed out that in these cases the game needs to make it clear for romances because in a game we don’t have the ability to learn as much about the NPC characters as we would in real-life. In context, the character ought to know more about them than we do, and so the game needs to ensure that the player, who has less information, knows enough to make the right choices.

                      So, now, onto the general case. Let’s start from the basic idea of an RPG where you, the player, makes choices that matter and change how things work in the game, even if that’s simply as little as deciding who you romance. If an RPG starts from this premise, then the basic idea is that you will be able to tell what the consequences of your actions are and decide which ones you prefer, within reason. Thus, there shouldn’t BE any consequences that are unforeseeable and unavoidable. If the controlling power — be it a DM or a story-writer — decides to make there be such consequences, they need to have that really pay off, and have to be open and admit that, yes, once you decided that we were going to have these consequences, and we were doing it to make the story or the character progression better (and preferably wonderful). And some people will STILL complain about being railroaded.

                      Thus, in a game where I’m supposed to determine how things end up, the game needs to make sure that it gives me enough information to know what the consequences of may actions are, which leads to my having real and meaningful choices, because I know what each choice really means in the world. If that’s hidden from me, then it looks like I’m being suckered … and if the outcome isn’t what I wanted, then I might — rightly — be upset by getting an outcome that I didn’t want simply because the game hid what the outcome would be from me. This is what leads to following a walkthrough in so many of these games.

                      And you don’t need this to be with some kind of pop-up. You can do it through world building … something that, as Shamus has pointed out, ME3 lacks. But I cannot fathom why you think that not making it clear what the consequences of your actions — even in dialogue — are is a bad thing … however that’s done.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      At any rate, I also pointed out that in these cases the game needs to make it clear for romances because in a game we don’t have the ability to learn as much about the NPC characters as we would in real-life. In context, the character ought to know more about them than we do, and so the game needs to ensure that the player, who has less information, knows enough to make the right choices.

                      Same can be said about genophage.Or anything in universe.

                      And thats why the codex was created,and why in me1 shepard was smart enough to form players questions in the form of her own answer.Example:

                      Wheel:Genophage?
                      Shepard:Isnt that the sterility plague used to keep krogan in check?

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      If an RPG starts from this premise, then the basic idea is that you will be able to tell what the consequences of your actions are and decide which ones you prefer, within reason. Thus, there shouldn’t BE any consequences that are unforeseeable and unavoidable.

                      In a game about choosing things, you want to never mess up a choice because you failed to properly consider it. You’re asking for the removal of failure. That’s like asking for an aimbot because in a game about shooting things you never want to miss.

                      Of course consequences shouldn’t be insane and unknowable (for instance, The Witcher 1 gives you a radically different bossfight two chapters later, based on the choice of defending the castle gate or the lab, neither of which you know anything about), because that means your choice might as well be random. But if the game outright tells you exactly what will happen, you’re no longer choosing your character’s actions, you’re choosing events and consequences, and that’s not how roleplaying games work.

                      There is a middle ground between “I might as well make my choices based on coinflips for all the ability I have to get my desired outcome” and “Give me a storytelling aimbot” and that’s where a lot of interesting events lie. If you take away unforeseen consequences and the ability to be wrong, you’ll end up with a game that never surprises you. “Oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t anticipate that” you won’t say, as the game shows you what happened because of the choices you made.

                      The Tuchanka plot was one of the best parts of Mass Effect 3, and it would not have gotten better if it did what you were arguing for and outright told you all its consequences (destroying the research will make it impossible to save Mordin, sabotaging the cure will lead to a confrontation with Wrex, and so on).

                    • Daimbert says:

                      Damien Lucifer,

                      Same can be said about genophage.Or anything in universe.

                      Sure, but there are two big differences between those sorts of things and romances:

                      1) If the game is doing enough world-building to make the choices meaningful, most of the time you WILL have enough information to know what the consequences are, which isn’t always true of romances.

                      2) There’s less benefit to story-telling or character-building to have unforeseen and unintentional consequences for romancing a character. At the very least, there’s no real benefit to making those sorts of consequences unavoidable for romances — ie that you offend them into breaking off the relationship or accidentally flirt them into one when you didn’t intend it — than there is for the storyline quests.

                      And thats why the codex was created,and why in me1 shepard was smart enough to form players questions in the form of her own answer.

                      Being able to ask questions — as long as that can be done without looking like an idiot in-universe by asking about things the character ought to already know — is good. The codex isn’t, because if the codex information isn’t always relevant people won’t know when they have to look at it, and if there’s enough lore you end up having to read a ton of stuff in the hopes that it tells you what you need to now. The best solution for that is a link in the dialogue that directs the player to the relevant codex if they care and want to know more, so that they can make a better decision.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      Ninety-Three,

                      In a game about choosing things, you want to never mess up a choice because you failed to properly consider it. You’re asking for the removal of failure. That’s like asking for an aimbot because in a game about shooting things you never want to miss.

                      What in the world could properly considering a choice mean if it ISN’T that you think about the expected consequences of your actions and decide which consequences you’d rather see? Thus, how can I possibly be considered to have “failed” if the consequences that result from my actions are ones that I couldn’t reasonably foresee and that I couldn’t have avoided once I’ve made that choice?

                      I don’t want an aimbot, but I want the game to tell me in some way that the enemy is immune to favourite weapon before I run it out of ammunition, hampering the rest of my game. Or, perhaps, I want the game to let me know that the enemy is immune and so I need to switch weapons, and not let me believe that the problem just IS with my aim.

                      But if the game outright tells you exactly what will happen, you’re no longer choosing your character’s actions, you’re choosing events and consequences, and that’s not how roleplaying games work.

                      And characters choose actions based on what consequences they expect to follow from those actions. To get or not get specific EVENTS is essentially walkthrough fodder, but in the ideal RPG all paths have equally interesting events so you really shouldn’t need to do that. But in the context of romances it’s not all that interesting to say that you can’t romance the character that you and your character really want to romance because you didn’t take them to the right dungeon.

                      There is a middle ground between “I might as well make my choices based on coinflips for all the ability I have to get my desired outcome” and “Give me a storytelling aimbot” and that’s where a lot of interesting events lie. If you take away unforeseen consequences and the ability to be wrong, you’ll end up with a game that never surprises you. “Oh, that’s interesting, I didn’t anticipate that” you won’t say, as the game shows you what happened because of the choices you made.

                      And how did you get that I wanted the latter from my comment ON things like that in the comment YOU REPLIED TO:

                      If the controlling power — be it a DM or a story-writer — decides to make there be such consequences, they need to have that really pay off, and have to be open and admit that, yes, once you decided that we were going to have these consequences, and we were doing it to make the story or the character progression better (and preferably wonderful).

                      You can have unforeseen and unavoidable consequences, but only when that really matters for the development of the story or the characters. Romance options RARELY require this, and it’s rarely desirable for them, but even THEN you can do that if it pays off. But the game has to acknowledge that they deliberately didn’t give you the information you needed, and deliberately didn’t let you avoid it. Thus, to return to your first comment, the game has to accept that you, the player, and you, the character DIDN’T FAIL, because there was no way for you to “properly consider the choice”, at least wrt that outcome.

                      There are better and worse ways to handle this. I haven’t gone through Mordin’s story when you destroy the cure, but if it follows naturally from choices that you can NOW see would lead to that outcome, it might work really well. For Wrex in ME3, the choice you can make is to lie to them and sabotage the cure, but you know that if Wrex finds out there will be trouble. Having Wrex find out down that line, then, IS foreseeable. And so on.

                      Let me compare how you can lose Leliana as a companion and Zevran as a companion in DA: O to highlight this. With Leliana, you can miss her if you don’t happen to go into the inn and leave Lothering without talking to her, which is how I missed her the first time. This was a BAD way to do that because it relied on you doing something that the game didn’t really suggest that you do, and it’s only if you insist on going through all interactions and buildings that you catch that (which, to be fair, is pretty much a given in RPG gameplay, so they can be excused a bit for assuming that most people will do it). What would have been better would have been that since the game, I think, forces you to go to the Chantry and Leliana is associated with the Chantry, have her show up there and give a little cutscene that says that she is singing in the inn if you want to see her. This hints that something interesting might happen there related to her, and so gives you a reason to go and interact with her. If you still choose not to, then you lose that companion but, as a player, it was your choice to skip that content.

                      For Zevran, if you don’t build up his affection enough before the Crows come looking for him, he sides with them against you and you have to kill him. But this makes sense as following from the actions that you decided to do; if you ignore him, what reason DOES he have for staying with you? Sure, you couldn’t really foresee that specific encounter, but when that encounter happens thinking “Yeah, I probably should have, you know, taken him with me and talked to him every so often if I wanted him to be loyal” is perfectly reasonable. In that sense, I “failed”, but, yeah, it’s not an unreasonable fail based on the deliberate actions that I took. And, as a plus, the players who will really be upset at having to kill Zevran likely DID associate with him enough to pass the loyalty check here.

                      I really think that you don’t really understand what I’m looking for here, so let me outline some specifics FOR ROMANCES that I want to see:

                      1) Dialogue options with companions labeled as “Flirt” or “Friendly” or whatever to make sure that you don’t accidentally start a romance with a character that you don’t want to, and that you know which options are, in fact, aimed at a relationship.

                      2) In addition, actions in the world possibly labeled with how that action will impact the affection levels of your companions (ie that Morrigan’s will decrease, Leliana’s will increase, etc).

                      3) Alternatively to 2), have either the ability to ask your companions their opinion or have them state it so you have a good idea before making the choice if they’ll like it or not.

                      4) No irreversible either entering into a committed relationship or cause one to “fail” without the game making it clear that this is irreversible.

                      5) No scripted relationship clashes — ie someone that you aren’t romancing at all in their dialogue acting jealous of the person you ARE romancing — as that makes no sense in context.

                      Please, disagree with any of these as you see fit.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      1) If the game is doing enough world-building to make the choices meaningful, most of the time you WILL have enough information to know what the consequences are, which isn’t always true of romances.

                      It is true if the characters were written well.Why should something like genophage get a pass because “it can provide you with enough information” but romance gets treated differently when it too CAN provide you with enough information?

                      There’s less benefit to story-telling or character-building to have unforeseen and unintentional consequences for romancing a character. At the very least, there’s no real benefit to making those sorts of consequences unavoidable for romances — ie that you offend them into breaking off the relationship or accidentally flirt them into one when you didn’t intend it — than there is for the storyline quests.

                      And what was the real benefit in accidentally getting wrex killed?Ive seen quite a few complaints about that.So why is accidentally boning ashley so much more important that it needs a label,but getting wrex killed isnt?If the dialogue was written/spoken badly,then its the dialogue that needs fixing,not the way its presented in the game.

                      As for the codex,you do get a notification whenever its updated.You can see if the info is relevant by reading its title.If it says “space combat” you can be sure it wont involve ground vehicles.But I agree that having it accessible from dialoge should be a thing.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    No, I’m saying that the player should be able to figure out what actions will do what — and the game should display that — without turning it into a puzzle for the PLAYER to solve.

                    Why?Wheres the nuance in all the npcs telling you as soon as you see them “Im a gentle soul deep inside,but I have a tough facade because I got hurt too many times.If you say gentle things to me,my walls will crumble and we will bond.But if you return my snark with your own snark,Ill remain cold towards you,and when it matters most,my loyalty will falter”?

                    • Daimbert says:

                      You don’t have to do it that way. You can, for example, make it clear through coloured text or an icon when you’re flirting and when you’re just being friendly, and for big actions in the world you can have each of your companions give their opinion and so make it clear what their thoughts on the matter are. These are in DA and are great things to have. I welcome chances to show that you really know a character in developing romances, but this means that they have to demonstrate that character enough for you to know that, and so some help in that regard definitely works best in a game.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Or,you can have the complete text displayed for you instead of a single word,and you can decide on your own how the sentence sounds and what it might imply.

                      Also,whats wrong with the companion misinterpreting your words and vice versa?Misunderstandings are a common thing when people are talking with each other.Especially if they are from different cultures.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      Damien Lucifer,

                      Also,whats wrong with the companion misinterpreting your words and vice versa?Misunderstandings are a common thing when people are talking with each other.Especially if they are from different cultures.

                      Nothing, as long as that doesn’t lock you into or out of their romance, but is instead just a situation that comes up. So if they misinterpret your friendliness as romantic interest, a way to point that you graciously is required, for example.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      as long as that doesn’t lock you into or out of their romance

                      I get wanting to always be able to terminate a romance,but why shouldnt you be locked out of one?If you act like a prick to someone,why should you be able to still bone them no matter what their character is?

                  • Ninety-Three says:

                    A further point:

                    allow the PLAYER to decide if they’d rather take that action or alter it to get the extra affection, and then justify that based on what their CHARACTER would do.

                    You are openly advocating for metagaming, where the player chooses things not because that’s what the character they’re roleplaying as would choose, but because the player has out-of-character knowledge which tells them their choice will have their prefered outcome.

                    The problem with metagaming is that it results in characters who don’t act consistently: You’ve been roleplaying a character who really hates puppies, and when the opportunity to murder some puppies came up they would have done it, since it fit their motivations and knowledge of the world, but you had your character act differently because you’ve, as Shamus puts it “Read the script” and know that not murdering the puppies will work out better for you. Basically, you’re cheating: undermining character motivation and consistency to get the outcome you want.

                    Encouraging the player to make decisions based on knowledge their character doesn’t have is the very opposite of how you should make a roleplaying game.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      You are openly advocating for metagaming, where the player chooses things not because that’s what the character they’re roleplaying as would choose, but because the player has out-of-character knowledge which tells them their choice will have their prefered outcome.

                      No, I’m openly advocating for the inverse: that the game tells me things that my CHARACTER would know but that the PLAYER might not. Like if you’re flirting or being friendly, given how vague those attitude options often are. Like things that my character would remember and would have noticed about the other person that the player, coming back after a week of doing other things, might not. And to make the consequences clear because my CHARACTER would know that, meaning in this case to make it clear that I can either kill the puppies and lose affection, or spare them to make their love interest happy, and then let the PLAYER decide which of those options the CHARACTER, knowing all this, would rather take. It is indeed possible — and, again, my DA: O character with Leliana explicitly did this — to have a character decide that even though they really want to do a certain action — good or evil — the fact that it would hurt the one they love is enough to get them to, instead, take another option. This led to my DA: O character becoming a better person through Leliana’s influence. This, to me, WAS A VERY GOOD THING. And without my knowing that the romance is possible and at least generally what she’d like — and trying to do what she liked to gain affection — it wouldn’t have happened.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  As much as the “Earn your romance” implementation is creepy for the way it tends to characterize dating as an arcade game whose jackpot is sex, the alternative is being able to bang anyone you want at any time, and that’s even creepier.

                  This right here,this is why Ive grown to loathe bioware romances.Romance =/= sex.

                  • swenson says:

                    On that note, I have to comment on something–it’s possible (I know because I did it once!) to start a romance in ME1 with Kaidan, never actually sleep with him, and the game will still reference it as if you had sex. It actually doesn’t seem to track that at all. It just assumes that if you were in a relationship, then you 100% MUST have slept with him, even though you actually have the option not to without cutting off the romance. (which I think they just forgot about later!)

                    I assume it probably does the same thing with Ashley and Liara, but I never tried it with them.

          • Peter H. Coffin says:

            “Romance as prize” is a road I’d rather we travel less often rather than more.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              I didnt mean romance per se.I meant you have a picture of how you would like your character to be,what actions they should take,how their friends and loved ones should act,etc.And if you achieve that by the end of the game,you have won a prize of fulfilling your desires for your characters.In that context,who your character is romantically involved with is a prize,but so are the skills you get,the equipment,your alignment,….

        • Raygereio says:

          I would not describe having to guess which of the responses awarded approval-points (or guess where dialogue with approval points for a companion could trigger so you’d take them with you) as “work”. Or rewarding gameplay for that matter.
          Basically approval points are often a pretty darn shitty system and DA:O was an excellent example of why. Only high approval had good things happen, So any dialogue where you got negative approval felt like a loss. The system drove you not towards thinking about what your character might say (and you know: roleplay), but instead towards gaming the system.
          It also turned your PC into a manipulative creep who only said what people wanted to here. Which added nice level of awful to the already awful romances.

          Off course you could circumvent most of the dialogue-approval by just pumping the companions full or presents. But that just provided it own particular brand of awfulness: “Okay, Leliana. I’ve given you a pair of shoes, some flowers and 5 golden rings. Just one more necklace and you’ll sleep with me.”

          Also is DA:O an “old RPG” already? It’s been 6 years. That’s a bit early to pull out the rose-tinted glasses.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            The system drove you not towards thinking about what your character might say (and you know: roleplay), but instead towards gaming the system.

            So your complaint is that you want to roleplay, but Leliana doesn’t like the kind of person you’re roleplaying? That’s the entire point of the system! You roleplay, and your party-members respond by liking or not liking what you’re doing.

            If your reaction to the system is “I want everyone to like me” then you’re going to have to make the sorts of decisions that everyone else likes, instead of the ones you want to make, because that’s how making people happy works.

            It also turned your PC into a manipulative creep who only said what people wanted to here.

            Only if you the player were a manipulative creep who only said what people wanted to hear. I wouldn’t characterize the PC reflecting the player’s intentions as a problem.

            • Raygereio says:

              No, that was not my complaint.

              That’s the entire point of the system! You roleplay, and your party-members respond by liking or not liking what you’re doing, sort of like actual people do.

              The problem was – as I said the above post – that only high approval gave you positive feedback. Both in the form of gameplay benefits like statboosts, but also additional dialogue branches such as romances.
              There was also the problem that it didn’t always made sense which response awarded approval points (leading towards having to follow a guide, or reload and try again). But really, I’d say the above was the biggest problem with DA:O’s approval system.

              A better designed system would also include positive feedback at the other end of the approval bar, so that the player doesn’t feel like they’re doing it wrong every time you pick a response that gives a minus to approval.

              • Daimbert says:

                DA2 did that, as at the other end you had rivalries that opened up other options. You also need something if you stay in the middle, though, although that would be mostly for the end game. In theory, if done well, a system like that could let you act towards them how the character would act, and then see what relationships formed. I mostly did that in DA2, although my character pursued Isabella a bit more strongly.

          • Daimbert says:

            Well, my character in DA started out as a cynical, bitter City Elf, but I, as the player, wanted to pair her up with Leliana. Since Leliana tended to be more sunny, the character had to act less bitter during the game. In game, this worked out as her gradually being brought out of that state and becoming a better person through her love for Leliana … while still being snarky and cynical at times. This then led to the best character development I think I’ve ever had in a computer RPG (with my playing as Corwin from the Amber series converting to the Dark Side at the end game in KotOR because he had been trying to stay out of the whole thing the whole game, but since they … just … won’t … leave … him … alone he says “Screw it; I’m taking over!”).

            The problem is seeing the romances as rewards, rather than as elements of the character. As elements of the character, romancing no one is fine, and even seeing if you get anyone is fine, and you can segregate the gameplay/story parts by noting that giving gifts to raise affection is a gameplay element, not a story element; they just start LIKING you in a perfectly organic way that has NOTHING to do with all the gifts you gave them. It’s when you think that scoring with Miranda is a reward that the system breaks down.

      • Guile says:

        I think I went into Mass Effect 2 planning to romance Tali, but somehow a couple hours into the game Commander Shepard was desperately boning Jack up against a bulkhead and I had no idea how I managed to make that happen.

        Tali was, uh… not pleased.

      • Jonathan says:

        ” And until Bioware can write something resembling an actual relationship, that builds naturally, can support people being friends as opposed to wanting to hump groins together and isn’t just wish-fulfillment.”

        Baldur’s Gate 2 does this well. Jaheira’s romance is a bit buggy (it’s very long and complicated with lots of triggers), but builds very naturally as long as you’re willing to overlook the time-acceleration aspect of the game (everything happens in about 1 month).

        Viconia and Aerie are both straightforward, but actually punish the wish-fulfillment/unrealistic behavior of “let’s jump in the sack at the first opportunity and every time thereafter” severely.

        Anomen (the only option for a female PC) is extremely straightforward, as long as you don’t screw up his entire life goal by encouraging him to do the “feels right, but is wrong” choice in about two different scenes. He was annoying as heck when I first played through, but as I’ve gotten older he’s gotten better. He’s got the best family scene in the whole game.

        • Anomen was one of my favorite BG2 characters. He starts off as rather a twit and if you’re reasonable at him, he actually yells at you. Then later he apologizes.

          He was one of the few characters who was genuinely trying to better himself and fight impulses he knew weren’t very good–in direct opposition to his jerk of a father. It was really touching.

        • Gruhunchously says:

          Wait…jumping in the sack at every opportunity is unrealistic wish fulfillment? Hmmm…

          Jokes aside, I agree that there should be more variety in structure for Bioware romances. However well or badly written they are, they never feel right because they all play out almost identically, usually with sex being the end goal and nothing progressing beyond that. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t bother to even let you talk with half your love interests after the sex scene; it’s really silly.

          Point is, I don’t see any reason why the sex can’t happen early in the relationship with the deeper connections and emotional bonding happening afterwards (and not get punished for it without good reason. Forcing your partner to go faster than they want is bad, agreeing with them to get things done quickly is just something that happens). That would at least make the sex seem more like an aspect of the relationship rather than the end goal of it. But also, making every romance in the game work like that would be just as artificial as it is now.

        • Joshua says:

          Yeah, this whole conversation here made me think of the Jaheira romance from BG2. It felt pretty natural to me, and not at all rushed or forced.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I really hate Cerberus. I wanted to fight Reapers not dudes in armor. It is ALWAYS dudes in armor.

      Whats weird is that in games like colonial marines you can say “well,its easier for them to model humans”.Here,they already established husks as a thing.Heck,they deliberately expand on the husks.So they cant even use that as an excuse for you not fighting reaper forces.

    • Taellosse says:

      I feel like some of the NPC interactions in the ME series handled the development of romance better than others. Kashley both felt reasonably organic in ME1, while Liara practically tries to jump Shepard’s bones when they first meet. Tali and Garrus in ME2, growing as they do from a friendship that is carried over from the first game, also felt fine to me, while Jacob and Miranda feel very forced and artificial (if you are playing the opposite gender of either of them, the only choices are apparently flirting or being an asshole towards them). The other romanceable characters in ME2 all seem to me to fall somewhere between those extremes to me.

      ME3’s continuing romances all seem pretty solid. None of the ones that start new in that game quite work (except the ones that don’t involve Shepard. I really like Joker/EDI, Garrus/Tali, and even Cortez/memory of Robert).

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      I really hate Cerberus. I wanted to fight Reapers not dudes in armor. It is ALWAYS dudes in armor.

      But that would be hard and people would have to actually work to make alien art assets. Dudes in armor is just sitting around and playing dressup with Poser. Don’t make the poor artists’ brains overheat!

    • TheVictorian says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who strongly dislikes BioWare’s ever-increasing focus on shallow, fanservice-y romances.

      It worked well enough in Baldur’s Gate 2, where the romantic dialogue was stretched out over the course of the game, and where there weren’t any obvious “THIS IS THE FLIRT OPTION – PRESS FOR ROMANCE” dialogue options. BG2 was an evolution of the RPG genre in that it presented party members with their own personalities, agendas, and opinions, and the possibility of romance was just an extension of that.

      Nowadays, it basically boils down to: “You can talk to me five times! Say the right thing three times and I’ll love you forever!” It was particularly bad in the first Mass Effect game; my Shepard tried to make friendly conversation with Ashley, and the game very quickly assumed the two were in a relationship. “Why else would you talk to her if you didn’t want to get her in the sack?” the game seemed to be saying. Later titles like DA2 tried to fix this problem by adding the “Flirt” icon to the dialogue, but this only served to highlight how shallow it all was.

      One telling remark by the developers, with regards to Dragon Age: Inquisition, was that “everyone can find someone to love” in the game. It was not “your player character can find someone to love,” but the players themselves. It made it quite obvious that the romance side-quests are no longer about character development, but in pandering to the segment of the audience who want virtual romantic partners. I suppose I can’t blame BioWare for focussing on that aspect, as a large portion of their fanbase expects it to be there, but as someone who finds romance to be a terribly dull subject, I find it extremely off-putting.

    • Strife says:

      Well that’s a reason why I left Kaiden solo on Virmire, he was really insistant even long after FemShep made it clear that she wasn’t romantically interested. Like “Boy, you’re really getting ideas when I was just being friendly. Even my high school self wasn’t as delusive.”.

      I don’t actually remember it that well, but I think I even banged him by inadvertence like, I play flirtatious for the platonic lulz and next thing I know we’re doing the thing in a cutscene, then I made clear it was a one time thing but he still throws a tantrum because I spoke friendly with Liara. Then I had to reject HER advances too.

      I liked Garrus take on the romance thing, basically:
      “- Hey Shep, wanna do it? No strings attached.
      – No thanks, but I’ll keep it in mind.
      – Oh ok, no problem.”
      *returns to his weapons maintenance*

      And Mordin was funny about it and understood the “I am just being friendly” without explaining twice :p

      I wonder if the fact that Tali is not romance-able (no way I’m giving in the Origin crap to play ME3) and just such an awesome BFF contributes to the fact so many players had a massive crush on her: Her conversations feel so natural with no contrived obligatory romance popping that I was actually surprised to not see the thing develop during ME2.

  3. Flip says:

    Are you planning on skipping the Rachni-mission? I kinda expected it before Tuchanka…

  4. Gunther says:

    Seeing Shamus rant at ME3 is so entertaining I kinda hope Mass Effect: Andromeda sucks so we can get another series.

    Anyhoo, I think on my first run through the game I assumed that seeing the husk-eyes on that one Cerberus trooper on Mars meant that the Reapers had at some point “assumed direct control” of all Cerberus members and that they were little more than husks. The first 80% or so of the game makes WAY more sense if you go in thinking that was what the writers intended, and it fixes numerous problems:

    1) Where the heck did Cerberus get a giant army from? the Reapers are making them, the same way they make husks

    2) Why does Cerberus keep attacking random places, often in ways orthogonal to their prior goals? those attacks all benefit the Reapers, who are giving the orders

    3) Why are they suddenly cartoonishly evil in spite of attempts to characterize them as otherwise? they’re brainwashed Reaper slaves

    4) How do they still have supporters and people working for them when they’re obviously cartoonishly evil? those people have all been indoctrinated

    …Granted they’re not great answers, but I accepted them in the moment. Then we get to Sanctuary and I remember being really, really confused that suddenly I was supposed to think Cerberus wasn’t just a bunch of Reaper finger puppets when everything up until that point only made sense if they were.

    • MarsLineman says:

      This. I assumed exactly the same and was merrily playing along until Sanctuary. That’s when I finally woke up to the crazy levels of stupid in this game.

      • Lionaire says:

        Wait. Wasnt the illusive man indoctrinated the whole time, but he thought he was doing his own goals?

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Apparently the comics establish that he’s been indoctrinated for years, but to my knowledge that massive plot point is never brought up within the games themselves. Given how often the later games tend to ignore even the canon of ME1, I’m happy to call the comics non-canon if the games ignore them.

          • RCN says:

            Also, it is established that Indoctrination hampers higher brain function. Even Saren does some mistakes because of his indoctrination.

            If TIM has been indoctrinated for THAT long, he should have been reduced to a potato by now. Of course, the answer will be that TIM is just really THAT awesome and had some much willpower he kept being awesome and outspying the Salarians with the power of the… writer. It is always the power of the writer.

          • Gruhunchously says:

            That would mean that TIM was indoctrinated throughout the entirety of Mass Effect 2. That either makes too much sense or no sense at all; the guy is so inconsistently written, it’s hard to say.

        • guy says:

          What really bugs me about it is that Shepard should have guessed that. But the game presents it as though it is supposed to be a surprise and thus implies that their previous actions should have seemed externally coherent and logical as something someone who wasn’t Indoctrinated would do.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      In the E3 demo about eight months before the game came out, Shep’s dialogue in the Mars mission had him knowing Cerberus was indoctrinated, but that line was cut in the final game.

      At this point “It makes more sense” isn’t much of a compelling argument for any particular interpretation, since a Markov text generator trained with the text of ME1 would make more sense than the plot of ME3, but as you outlined it it really does seem that Cerberus was meant to be indoctrinated. Then that plot element got cut, and I guess they forgot to rework all the missions where Cerberus acts indoctrinated.

      I can’t wait for a decade or two from now when the people who worked on this start retiring and are able to tell their stories. I don’t even care Who Killed Mass Effect, I just want to know how they messed up this badly.

    • CliveHowlitzer says:

      With how confusing the writing in ME3 is and one hand doesn’t seem to know what the other is doing. It is possible it was meant to be that way and then someone didn’t get the memo or consult the rest.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        Or someone figured that just boiling everything down to indoctrination would make for a boring set of antagonists. That, or they didn’t want their favourite superawesome to be just a bunch of indoctrinated puppets…

    • INH5 says:

      In addition to what Ninety-Three said about the E3 demo, the leaked files from November 2011 (which were apparently at least several months out of date at the time of the leak) contain dialogue suggesting that in a pre-release build of the game Sanctuary was a secret Reaper processing facility like the Collector Base. So it does seem like Cerberus was meant to be not just indoctrinated, but obviously indoctrinated and openly working with the Reapers from the start for much of the game’s production. The aforementioned leaked files suggest that in that version of the story Cerberus’s stated motivation was that they decided that being turned into a Reaper would be a good thing for humanity.

  5. Joshua says:

    Shepard seems to operate under the moral code of, “Nobody is allowed to commit mass-murdering atrocities but ME!”

    Protagonist Centered Morality

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Across the board the moral reasoning in this game doesn’t even rise to the level of College Freshman Intro Philosophy. Hence my all purpose crack: “who left Hegel on the coffee table when Casey Hudson came over?”

      EDI’s conversations in particular highlight this. She’s asking very good, very philosophic questions. Shepard’s answers are without exception, terrible. The amazing thing is that she still manages to come to more or less coherent conclusions.

    • Poncho says:

      Which, in itself, is not necessarily bad if the story goes on to point out the “We judge ourselves based on intentions and others based on their behavior” line, and the characters are aware of that, but Shepard is meant to be the avatar of the player. The avatar can’t betray the player’s willing suspension of disbelief without explanation.

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    Even the excuse “Cerberus knows everything because indoctrination!’ doesn’t work, because just having mind control doesn’t make them know everything. Have they been kidnapping politicians and spies at random and indoctrinating them until they got one that spilled the beans on the top secret bases? If they have, why hasn’t anyone noticed? Either connected figures are going missing and then top secret targets are being hit, or the politicians are all having crazy breakdowns because the game established that deep, rapid indoctrination will do that to you.

    And of course, the game doesn’t even hint that any of that is going on, let alone begin to explain how it could possibly work.

  7. Darren says:

    Agree with you on the matchmaking idea. Bioware did this in Dragon Age: Inquisition, in which Dorian and the Iron Bull become romantically linked if the player romances neither of them, and they did an even better job in the (perpetually underrated) Dragon Age 2, where there was a whole questline about setting up Aveline with a guy. It was her subordinate in the guards, so Bioware’s creepy fixation on unprofessional relationships with inherent power imbalances was on full display, but still.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      YES. Am I the only person creeped out by hitting on Traynor?

      (I give Kashley a pass because the relationship is kept at arm’s length until after the mutiny.)

    • Lachlan the Mad says:

      I disapprove of Dorian/Iron Bull, because IRON BULL IS MINE AND YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM *hsssss*

    • IFS says:

      If I remember right part of Aveline’s hesitance with regards to the relationship comes from the fact that she’s the superior of the guy she’s interested in. It’s not touched on too heavily but I think their relationship is handled quite well, better than some other Bioware relationships between characters of varying ranks.

  8. Xilizhra says:

    I haven’t posted in a while because I can’t really argue with a lot of what you’ve said about ME3, but I do want to point out a couple of things: EDI’s hair is actually explained in dialogue later on when you talk with her on the bridge, and while the heels are a silly design flaw, I strongly suspect they’re retractable (or at least, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t be if they were included to begin with). I also don’t think that the AI is any more tropey than it was in previous games (in ME1, it was KILL ALL ORGANICS, and was quite bland in general in ME2).
    And then there’s Arrival, in which the Reapers were literally under two hours away at the time. The Bahak system was doomed regardless; hell, Shepard gave them a much kinder and quicker death than they would have gotten if she hadn’t intervened.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      If the heels are retractable that just brings up the question of why she doesn’t retract them. Running in heels is inefficient, there’s a reason our feet evolved more or less flat. This just shifts the problem from “EDI’s designers were stupid and fanservicey” to “EDI herself is being stupid and fanservicey” because apparently now the robot is sacrificing her movement speed for the sake of fashion.

      • natureguy85 says:

        It was laziness, pure and simple. They reused Miranda’s assets. EVA looks like her, she had the same heels, and you can have the same costume option.

      • Zen Shrugs says:

        Late-to-the-party pedant post alert!

        Oh God, I can’t believe I’m about to jump into a year-old discussion to defend a high-heeled sexbot (especially when EDI was so much cooler with a spaceship for a body)… but… help… can’t… resist…

        It’s my understanding that most animals run–and indeed walk–on their toes and/or balls of the feet. The ‘heel’ equivalent is usually raised off the ground (roughly similar to what happens when you stand on tiptoes). Humans are unusual in that we walk on our heelbones. I’m not sure why this is, not being a biologist or indeed scientist of any description, but I think I read somewhere that it has something to do with balance. We’re weird as bipeds go, without even a counterbalancing tail to help us stay upright. Unlike those lucky birds and dinosaurs.

        If you try running barefoot you’ll likely find that you naturally land on the balls of your feet. I’ve read some speculation that wearing shoes in general, particularly the padded comfortable sneaker type, might be bad for us because we tend to land on our heels when wearing them, but I don’t know how well-accepted that is.

        That’s not to say that running in high heels is a good idea for humans. I haven’t tried it myself, but I hear it’s not much fun. The thing is, though, we don’t come with high heels built in. They make it hard to run, as well as being generally bad for our feet, because they’re an artificial add-on that puts stress and strain on our (odd by evolutionary standards) anatomy.

        If EDI’s heels are part of her actual structure, she should be fine. Possibly the actual ‘heel’ stiletto bit at the back could be retractable when she runs, so that it won’t get in the way. Think cheetah. Or possibly horse, given the hooflike shape of the ‘shoe’.

        Incidentally, this is one reason why humanoid aliens in sf (including Mass Effect) annoy me. Bipedal, sure, OK–that seems like a useful universal trait that’s evolved several times here on Earth alone. But where are all the alien Deinonychuses? (Yeah, I know… actors in costumes, animation rigging in games, etc. Oh well.)

        On that note, I always liked the fact that in the children’s book series Animorphs, some of the aliens were baffled and impressed by our ability to stay upright without toppling over. The author might have been an English major, but she clearly spent time researching real animals for the series, and applied it to the aliens with reasonable results.

        Now, Miranda running around in high heels, on the other hand…

  9. T.A. says:

    There was a (small) mention of the Shroud on Mass Effect 2, on the planetary info-screen you have when you either scan or land on a planet. If recall correctly, it was described to be a basically giant white sheet meant to inrease the albedo of the planet.

    • imaginary_matter says:

      Ya, it was a giant object in space that partly eclipsed the sun, stabilizing the planet’s temperature by blocking part of the sun’s light. If you look up at the sun in ME2 you can see it.

      It was one of those small details I appreciated.

  10. Raygereio says:

    I like the [EDI-Joker] romance story.

    I hated it. Instead of fleshing out Joker & EDI’s character, it just about ruined them for me. I’m pretty sure I’ve said the following multiple times, but I’ll just repeat it:
    We have on the one hand an being who is essentially a child, struggling with emotions that are all new. And on the other we have an adult whose sole interest in this child is sexual in nature.
    Creepy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    I honestly can’t recall a single conversation with Joker about EDI that didn’t revolve around Joker’s desires for EDI’s metal boobies. Even when Joker was concerned about EDI when you were about to assult TIM’s base, his concern was for the body.
    And as for EDI, her desire to become a real girl all of sudden was dumb enough in of itself. But what really annoyed me was how poorly Bioware treated the subject. “Shep, I don’t understand human behaviour” “Well, sometimes people do nice things” “Okay, I will program myself to be altruistic.” I have no clue what the writers were thinking there.

    People say Joker & EDI had a romance thing going on in ME2, but I never saw that. All I saw was Joker by the end of the game getting over his issues with EDI sharing control over *his* ship, the two becoming coworkers and developing a friendship. But I will say that perhaps there was room for a romance of sorts to grow.

    If there had to be a romance, I’d have scrapped the concept for EDI’s body entirely. And instead shamelessly rip of aspects of the movie “Her”. I’d have worked the idea that Joker as a pilot, loves his ship and that – given his brittle bone problem – he might have problems with physical intimacy.
    Have Joker start to consider the Normandy & EDI to be one and the same and have him become more and more enamoured by “his ship’s voice”. Throw in a failed attempt at sexy talk / phone sex for comedic effect. But overall have Joker & EDI develop an actual romantic attraction to each other that’s solely based on verbal communication.
    Then have EDI reveal to Shep that it doesn’t have any romantic feelings towards Joker. It is simply playing along because it thinks Joker needs to feel close to someone and this will help Joker not to crack under the stress he is under. What do you do then? Do you let Joker & EDI continue? Is it a bad thing when Joker seems happy?
    It practically writes itself!

    • natureguy85 says:

      I had similar thoughts. Just our luck, my post is right below yours!

    • Dreadjaws says:

      I absolutely agree.

      See, there’s this insane belief people have (and this is clearly due to fiction, because it happens all the time there) that when two people fight all the time they have to be in love with each other. This belief is nonsense and is so widespread that people will actually believe that Batman and his Joker have a romance.

      That’s probably why people think that Joker and EDI had a romance going on in ME2. Hell, it’s probably the reason why there’a a romance in ME3, as the writer must have reasoned the same. The problem is that there are no actual signs of it. The fighting is all there is, and it’s certainly not enough. So Joker ends up looking like a creep because he doesn’t care about EDI at all first, then he reluctantly accepts her presence, but the moment she gets a female body he’s all over her.

      But it seems like the writer just doesn’ get Joker at all. The first game made it clear that his nickname was ironic, because he was serious all the time. And now he’s actually making jokes every chance he gets. I guess I have to be glad that his ironic nickname was “Joker” and not “Molester”.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        There’s more to the trope than that. What are the characters fighting about exactly and how do they act around other characters. Two characters who feel REALLY STRONGLY about a topic but with the opposite viewpoint is usually how it’s done. They are aggravated by the other’s responses but are also interested because other people with those views haven’t articulated them as well. And eventually, they come to respect and trust that person DESPITE all their constant fighting because they see them as their opposite number on the other side of the argument. Eventually what may have started as actual anger is more like excitement. What kind of thing will this person say next, why can’t I get them to see it my way. And once you’re spending a ton of time thinking obsessively about someone else and waiting on their every word… it’s not hard to see how that + base physical attraction can lead to a romance.

        It’s a bit shallow to say “these people are arguing, therefore they hate each other” is my point.

      • Gruhunchously says:

        And on a lower key not, in Mass Effect 1 it’s fairly explicit (I thought) that his brittle bone disease only affected his legs. Come Mass Effect 2 it suddenly affects his whole body. It’s like the writer in the second game’s whole reference for him was a name and a two-sentence character sheet.

  11. natureguy85 says:

    Another great entry. I love this series a lot and have been spreading it on Bioware’s forums. I love the line about the writer making us watch him play with his Cerberus action figures.

    While you’re right that the Joker/EDI romance does have a nice “organic and synthetic getting along” story and undercuts the Catalyst at the end, I never really liked it. The main reason is Joker’s teenage excitement over EDI’s new sexbot body. I think it would have been a lot more compelling to their case if EDI had not had the body, had a non-sexy or even not so human body, like a Geth platform, or the body had been destroyed at some point. Basically, the story told me that Joker needed EDI to have a sexy, human female body for him to see her as a person worthy of romantic interest. Does this make psychological sense? Yes. Does it undercut the point of the romance to the theme that Synthetics are people too? Yes.

    I always laughingly gave Hackett some credit for his line about Cerberus. Killing civilians is definitely Cerberus’ MO, but they are far more creative than simply gunning them down. ME3 does show us otherwise with the Citadel. In fairness, I though the people on Mars were military. Maybe not all, I suppose.

    Cerberus built the structure around the bomb, didn’t they? While I generally agree about the overuse of the color filter, doesn’t it make some sense on Tuchanka? You are right that it diminishes those two pictures. The first is still cool but I can’t distinguish anything in the second.

    • silver Harloe says:

      “The main reason is Joker’s teenage excitement over EDI’s new sexbot body”

      Remember: to these writers romance isn’t about love. Romance literally means a PG-13 sex scene. She *has* to have a sexbot body to participate in their version of “romance.”

      • natureguy85 says:

        True, but this took it to an entire new level of creepy. I was just thinking of it in terms of how immature and creepy Joker already is. I hadn’t considered the EDI as a child angle Raygereio describes in his post right before mine. Also, we’re considering ways to actually make it good. :)

        • Ninety-Three says:

          You say that as though creepy and good are mutually exclusive, but I think it would’ve been fascinating if ME3 kept exactly the same creepy plot, and simply let some of the characters acknowledge that it was creepy. For all the robot ethics that sci-fi likes to explore, this is a neglected area, and it would be a great place to raise those questions.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Wait, EDI is the child in this metaphor? OK, now it makes sense…

          Obviously, I do not fully concur. EDI’s interest in Joker runs back at least to the second game, she has gone out of her way on numerous occasions -from lying to the Alliance to telling TIM to drop dead and yes, occupying EVA’s body -to help Joker. She lacks emotions entirely and is fully aware that she is simulating them -but she does have programmable preferences and several lifetimes of experience to draw on.

          Joker has, by this point, been flanderized into a weak manchild who only thinks with his lower half (in the first game he was a consummate professional with a chip on his shoulder for everyone giving him grief about his legs -and only his legs -being brittle). A sizable part of EDI’s relationship with Joker is her getting him to slightly grow up.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            If we’re talking about Joker’s Flanderization, don’t forget that in the first game, the nickname Joker was sarcastic, the product of other people giving him shit for being such a hard-working professional. They must have gotten a new writer for the character at some point, because someone saw the name Joker and wrote themselves a joker.

            • Syal says:

              Seth Green’s always been the voice though. I don’t think they would have had Seth Green be the voice of Joker if the name was supposed to be totally ironic.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              But Joker makes SEVERAL jokes in Mass Effect 1. In fact, the very first dialogue option you have with Joker involves how much shit you give him for making an inappropriate joke. I think this is not flanderization at all.

              • Poncho says:

                Yeah, he was just more abrasive in his humor in ME1. It was more sarcastic and less subtle, giving the Commander shit and the Commander optionally throwing it back. I really like the dialogue after Therum: “I should get an award for pulling you out of that volcano, Shepard.” “You sure, Joker? Award winners usually give speeches.” “Yeah, I guess I’ll pass.”

          • natureguy85 says:

            Interest, yes, but of what kind? I have long said that the reason EDI has Joker help her during the Collector attack on the Normandy was to save him, not because he was the most capable. There was nothing to suggest anything more than a friendship or close work bond.

            As to ME1 Joker, the interesting thing is that he never mentions anyone giving him grief about his legs, only about him never smiling. The chip on his shoulder is worry that people will think he was just given commendations and promotions out of pity.

    • Guile says:

      … Look guys, nobody in the entire game is as attracted to the Normandy as Joker is. His attachment to his ride flies way over the border of unhealthy and into the territory of obsession without a second glance.

      But speaking as a human who is sexually attracted to human-like things, if a romance was going to happen then I’m glad EDI got a body that can be romanced in a meaningful way. Romancing a Geth platform would be a hard, mostly physically unrewarding and almost entirely intellectual exercise. Trying to romance a ship would be even harder.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        mostly physically unrewarding and almost entirely intellectual exercise.

        Yes,and?Whats wrong with that?It didnt stop her from being made.

      • silver Harloe says:

        Think of it like a long-distance relationship. You can love someone you never see just by conversing with them regularly. And then it doesn’t matter what they look like.

        • Guile says:

          This is going to make me sound shallow, but here it goes:

          Long distance relationships can work – sort of – but physicality is a really important thing in a relationship. If you’re in a relationship you’re never going to consummate, then that relationship is never going to be nearly as deep as it should be. Even ignoring sex, all the little things you do with a lover in the flesh aren’t going to happen either; the little touches and casual meetings and arguments over stupid things, the little gestures get lost.

          Or at least, that’s my own opinion of it.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Nope,there is no sort of.They can work,period.

            Whats really important is the type of persons the two are.Some people prefer the physical,some prefer the intellectual.If they dont agree on that,no matter what type of relationship they try it will fail.

            • natureguy85 says:

              Preferring the intellectual doesn’t mean physical interaction (and as Guile said, this includes mundane things like actually seeing the person, not just sexual acts) isn’t important. That long distance relationships can and do work doesn’t mean they don’t come with extra problems and challenges that other relationships don’t have.

      • natureguy85 says:

        The player isn’t asked to do it; it’s another NPC. The point wasn’t about what is easy or hard but what reenforces the message of the games.

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus skipped over a major part of what makes EDI’s robot body so stupid. The last time EDI networked with a piece of unknown technology that she thought contained no viruses, the Normandy got hacked and 95% of the crew died. Apparently EDI was so eager to repeat the experience that when a robot body started unloading its payload of virsues at her, rather than disconnect it from the network and throw it out an airlock, EDI downloaded into the bot.

    It’s the same stupidity as in ME2, only worse because this time EDI knows the thing is full of hostile viruses. It’s like she has a deathwish. I wanted a button to blow up the robot, and my kamikaze AI with it.

    • natureguy85 says:

      Interestingly, in the goofy evac scene from the extended cut, Shepard acts like the body is important and EDI is the one to remind him that it is disposable.

      • Raygereio says:

        When the body was introduced it was made very clear that EDI was simply remote-controlling it. But then the writers just threw that in the bin and acted like the body was EDI.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if someone on the writing staff brought up the question of how EDI could still function as a squadmate if you lost contact with the Normandy during mission.
        And then everyone just shrugged and hoped that if they ignored it, so would everyone else.

        • guy says:

          EDI can come along on missions where you can’t talk to the Normandy via the magic of Ctrl-c Crtl-v. You can ask her about how it works.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            I exist primarily within the ship. For optimal control, this unit should remain within Normandy’s broadcast, or tight-beam range.

            • guy says:

              Yes. She has also copied herself into the robot, and it may run autonomously at reduced effectiveness.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                The game is strange for establishing that she should remain in range, then failing to show any consequences for breaking range. Hence Raygerio’s comment about the writer clearly establishing remote control, then throwing that idea in the bin.

                • ehlijen says:

                  There is also the brief scene in the Citadel DLC if you take her on the assault to retake the Normandy from your Evil Clone. When the connection to the ship is severed, she goes cross-eyed for a moment, and then reboots and all is fine. She acts separately from the ship from the on because the ship needs to be under McEvil’s control for the plot to progress.

                  So of course, that’s just a joke to lampshade how little sense the plot makes. That kind of self awareness is why the Citadel DLC is miles ahead of the main game in writing, even though it’s content wise even dumber.

      • Flip says:

        And in the Citadel DLC it’s the opposite because EDI loses access to the Normandy.

  13. silver Harloe says:

    I haven’t played the games, but I got the impression the Citadel was like several cities with millions of inhabitants each – the kind of thing that a few hundred dudes and a couple dozen mechs couldn’t take or hold from attrition alone, even if every single inhabitant was unarmed – unless they were doing a spec-ops/guerrilla war over the course of months and taking out only key objectives like life support. … the kinds of things were you find out a decent percentage of the inhabitants are not, in fact, unarmed, but trained military personnel with the job of guarding that stuff, in which case we’re back down to a few hundred dudes and a couple dozen mechs against an army.

    I’m sure there’s some trope about how things scale randomly depending on the plot demands. The Citadel is a massive collection of cities that can house billions… until you need to take it over. Then it’s five blocks.

    • natureguy85 says:

      They can sort of get away with this in the moment because they attack the Presidium, which is the small ring in the middle and the least populated. It’s also posh and soft compared to the rough and tumble wards. Your complaint certainly makes sense if they were trying to actually seize and hold the entire thing though.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Contrariwise, the Presidium is like Washington DC, it house the Space White House, so you’d expect it to be more heavily defended, but if I remember correctly, the only sign of security we see in the entire Citadel Attack section is Kashley escorting the Council.

        • natureguy85 says:

          You’d think so, but like you said, I don’t recall it ever being presented that way. Maybe because entry security is tight (except for Cerberus) the internal security is softer. Or maybe the security is only tight at the space white house itself. Who knows? I only mentioned it in regards to the consideration of the entire civilian population rising up and resisting.

          • Mike S. says:

            The Citadel has always been very secure against invasion. The ability to close the ward arms and stand off attack for long periods has been enough for thousands of years. Saren’s attack depended on being able to use the Conduit to invade from within.

            So not having lots of physical security within the Presidium isn’t crazy. Nothing’s supposed to be able to get that far, and anything that can probably isn’t going to be stopped by troops with small arms. And the demand for soldiers is higher elsewhere.

            But of course that leaves the question of how Cerberus managed to get an invasion force in without using something like the Conduit, inside man or not. It’s not as if it’s possible to fit an army in a diplomatic pouch.

            • Bas L. says:

              I’d still argue that heavy security (especially) at the Presidium should be expected. You have a population of millions, we can find countless examples in real-life of riots breaking out or people rebelling. I’d say the risks of this are even higher on the Citadel where decisions on a galactic scale are guaranteed to piss a lot of people off and it’s easy for lower-class citizens to become jealous of the rich folk living on the Presidium. You need protection against this.

              Even with the “arm closing” ability of the Citadel and a fleet outside, there is just no way that Cerberus is capable of making it this far into the Citadel. The only security we see are some dead bodies and Kashley. The mission would maybe begin to make sense if Cerberus only had a small strike team (say 4 assassins) but their current strike force should’ve never made it to the Citadel to begin with. Assuming that they somehow get there, they should alert every C-Sec officer even with communications down and be defeated/surrounded in no time.

              • guy says:

                Oh boy, no, things are actually even stupider than you think. Because you enter via the same general path to the Presidium you used in ME1. Remember those stupid double elevators between you and the Presidium? The ones that meant you had to go through the center of C-Sec HQ? Yeah, they haven’t extensively rearranged things; you have to shoot your way through Cerberus forces that have taken over C-Sec HQ.

              • Mike S. says:

                That would make a lot of sense. But we have the fact that the Citadel has light security (occasional C-Sec officers, not even in pairs) from ME1 on, which suggests it hasn’t been a problem in the Citadel’s long history. After the geth invasion, they increase entry checks and install weapon scanners at transit points, but that’s about it.

                Maybe they can close the doors to the Wards easily to hold off riots, so the only worry is either the lightly-populated Presidium (which can be controlled by C-Sec) or outside invasion (which they trust ward arm closure to prevent).

                • Bas L. says:

                  True enough, although we mostly judge based on what we saw in the game which is obviously limited by the engine.

                  However, even if the Citadel arms can be closed, and access to the wards sealed off, you’d think that after the events in ME1 they would never assume that the Presidium can’t be reached. And especially the Council would have more security than just one newb Spectre. Look at the defences of the White House. The Council would have combined defences from all four races (since they don’t want to completely trust each other) which, apart from their fleets of course, would definitely include personal bodyguards and security forces.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    The defenses around the US President are unusually high both by international and historical standards. Up through most of the 19th century, people could just wander through the White House, and much of the President’s time was taken up dealing with citizens who would show up and expect to be able to wait in line to meet with him, usually looking for a federal job. My understanding is that it’s not unusual for current European chief executives to likewise operate without personal security, armored vehicles, etc., any more than most corporate executives live in a security bubble.

                    Obviously that’s a product of how the US responded to specific historical events: four successful assassinations and many more attempts, the rise of terrorism, etc. I can imagine that the Citadel’s natural security, C-Sec’s general effectiveness in deterring mass violence, the development of the personal shield (obviously not proof against attack, but it means the first shots aren’t necessarily fatal), etc. plus a positive political choice not to look like a garrison (a plausible effect of being an asari-founded institution) led to the relatively light visible presence we see in the Presidium itself.

                    (And maybe Bailey has been arguing for tightening things up for years, and not gotten further than the weapons scanners and ban on personal arms. It’s not as if the Council being slow to budge isn’t reflected in all three games.)

                    I also wouldn’t rule out an invisible security layer managed largely by the salarians, which we don’t see because we’re not supposed to. Covert ops are their specialty, and may well be part of the reason that civic violence never makes it far enough to trouble the doorstep of the Presidium. For that matter, given that there are literal invisibility cloaks, there may well be sharpshooters or surveillance we’re not aware of. (Whose locations and patrol patterns were compromised by Cerberus’s inside source, making them easier than they should have been to neutralize.)

                    It goes without saying that this is all post hoc reasoning, to try to explain what we see.

                    • guy says:

                      Honestly the impression I got from the game was that the Presidium was actually very heavily defended and Cerberus brought a ludicrously huge army to overrun it. There’s fighting between Cerberus and C-Sec either ongoing or recently ended pretty much everywhere you look, and that’s even with the element of surprise and opening the attack by knocking out the command structure.

            • galacticplumber says:

              And for that matter, isn’t almost exactly this kind of bullshit the sort of thing they should be wary of after Saren went rogue and it was proven that even fully on the right side people could get taken? You’d expect some kind of increased security and lower individual power. Certainly no one near anything important alone ever. No not even then. Why, yes, politicians and generals do get escorts that will follow them everywhere, but into bathroon stalls or equivalent.

              • Mike S. says:

                All it takes for that not to happen is two Council members to not consider the efficiency cost and political fallout worth the benefit. I could easily see Udina and the turian Councillor vehemently demanding heightened security measures, with the salarian arguing that most of it would be security theater that would alienate lots of people and slow down their work without being able to stop an intelligent attacker, and the asari brokering a compromise of further study of options, and reconsideration of the question once that’s complete.

        • Caryl says:

          If you talk to Allers after the coup and you have Ashley (my Kaidan playthrough hasn’t gotten there yet), she mentions “the other Citadel guards”… as people who have died around Ashley. It would have been nice to see them.

      • silver Harloe says:

        Because taking control of the White House would give you control over the entire USA, of course :)

        Admittedly, this is a space station, so their space White House might also have the bridge, but then someone in engineering will just cut off the bridge and control the ship from elsewhere.

        Though perhaps the Reapers wanted the Citadel to be completely controllable from the bridge, to assist in their “usual” take over plan, so they wired it so the bridge is indispensable and not just a convenience… okay, I guess it makes a little more sense.

        Sorta. A little.

        I still think the writers have a flexible sense of scale based on plot needs.

  14. Deager says:

    I cannot wait for the breakdown on Cerberus. Could…not…stand…that in ME3.

    Kudos for pointing out the good work on Tuchanka. That always did and does strike me as well done. I’ve done many combinations and they make you know Shepard is going renegade big time if you pull the trigger on Mordin. Never mind if Wiks is there and how the dialogue changes and of course Wrex or Wreav changes is yet again…yeah, it goes on and on in a good way. They worked very hard on this part of the game. Is it perfect? Heh, is it ever? But I like it.

    Still, I can’t wait for Cerberus. I think the whole “I wanted a rainbows ending” that some people started clamoring for really comes from their conscious or sub-conscious disdain of how much the story from ME1 got screwed up and really culminated into completely nuts in ME3.

    Benning mission; I pretty much skip that every time now because I really do not like that line from Hackett. ;)

  15. I forget but didn’t EDI say she chose the “hair” on purpose. i.e. the body has some morphing abilities? (i.e. high heels can be controlled).

    • Raygereio says:

      Only the hair is “morphable”. It can form individual strands to look like actual hair, or can combine into the helmet EDI is rocking.
      The heels are simply there.

      Technically they’re there because Miranda had them in ME2 and Bioware reused Miranda’s assets for the sexbot.

  16. Fabrimuch says:

    I can’t believe I never noticed anything wromg with the storybon my first playthrough.

    Then again, I think I was 16 at the time

  17. Radkatsu says:

    You’re lucky MrBTongue’s video was even there to reference, Shamus. It had been copyright claimed for quite some time, I had no idea he’d managed to get it reinstated. *downloads video before it gets claimed again*

  18. Cedric says:

    I actually disliked the Victus arc. It started out interestingly enough based on the Turians unique culture. And then you meet Victus and suddenly the writer gives all the turians human culture values because drama. And Shepard ‘solves’ the conflict with human values instead of using their own. That was one of the things I liked about visiting Tuchanka in ME2, that Shepard could emulate Krogan values instead of their own and the Krogan respected you more for it.

    • RCN says:

      Seconded. I really would have liked if there were more moments like the meeting with the Krogans in ME2. At least the 3 citadel races should have had a moment where you have to show you really know them in order to be diplomatic and make things line up.

      The meeting with the Quarians was also very good, as you need to argue in favor of actions from the Quarians point of view.

      One thing that would have been great is if they managed to make something like it with the Geth, but they took major shortcuts in all your non-violent interactions with the Geth…

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    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.

    Heck,we are a far cry from mass effect 2 as well.In 2,your robot companion is clearly a robot,designed to function as a robot,wearing no clothes,and the only weird part of it is a “memento” that it admits is a weird part.In 3,your robot companion wears clothes so that we can see the contours of its pussy lips in an “erotic” fashion.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Well, they’re actually running around shooting people, but the game claims they’re on an abduction mission.

    A clear indication that they are more reapers than humans now.Because reapers too are running* around shooting people,yet the game claims theyre on an abduction mission.

    *Literally running,even though they can fly.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Nobody is allowed to commit mass-murdering atrocities but ME!”

    Anyone else read this in Chucks janeway voice?

    • Volvagia says:

      Yeah, I admit that voice flashed through my head too. I’d love to see a game with someone openly like that as a Starship Captain. Ooh, I’ve got it: Mandy And Grim in Space, A WB Interactive Game. That could be awesome.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That’s fine, although how much cooler would this have been if the shroud had been established in Mass Effect 2?

    And here you mention one of the worst failings of me2 and me3.You keep mentioning how the games shifted heavily into the drama first category,and how they keep doing so much just because its cool.But think about it,how likely is it for two crucial plot points,the thing you do in me2 and the shroud,to be so close to each other on this huge planet?Yet it would definitely be cool and a great payoff.So here,when the games have a way to make something nonsensical,yet cool,they dont do it.While they keep shoving in the nonsensical,yet lame,cerberus everywhere.Me2 and me3 fail at being drama first,despite all of their efforts.

    • Gethsemani says:

      They most certainly are drama first, they are just very badly written and thus it falls apart. Contrast ME2/ME3 with Breaking Bad, which is all about drama first but also gets writing and continuity right. Breaking Bad keeps the drama going constantly for five seasons and the only time it gets really bad is around seasons 3-4 when Skyler stops being a character and becomes a drama motor. In one episode she wants in on Walther’s drug business, in the next she hates him for it, then she wants him to involve her in the decision making, then she gets pissed when he tries too etc. The reason people hate Skyler (though most probably don’t realize it) is because she’s the only part of Breaking Bad where the writers forget the character and continuity in favor of letting a character propel all the drama in the show.

      Breaking Bad does it right by (almost) always grounding plots in previous drama and doing a measured escalation of the drama and the stakes (Tuco->Cartel->Fring->DEA/Neo-Nazis) and is essentially a testament to how incredibly effective Drama First can be. ME2 and ME3 is a testament to how Drama First can fall flat when the writers don’t seem to care about anything but moving the story along, even if it flies straight in the face of what came before or the established characters. ME2 and ME3’s biggest failing isn’t the switch to Drama First, it is the total inability to build a coherent story and frame it within the game world.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    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.

    What I love about this section is that you cannot get it all if you just play your cards right.If you save everyone,then you have to pick between salarian and krogan support,because trying to do the dirty trick works only if wrex is dead(also,why the hell would you even attempt to lie to wrex?He is your bro).Its beautiful.And also lonely in its excellence.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Yup, important to note which wasn’t mentioned in the main post is that if you betray Wrex, he eventually finds out and confronts you on the Citadel (where he’ll also mention if you did his personal mission for him in the first game), where you’re forced to kill him.
      Wreav, not being the brightest spark, doesn’t suspect anything.

      Additionally, if Wreav is in charge instead of Wrex, you can convince Mordin that curing the genophage is too risky, and he’ll fake his own death to work on the Crucible instead.
      Mordin’s replacement if he’s already dead is actually a nicely different character in his own right, and can also be convinced to not cure the genophage if Wreav is in charge, although he goes to retire onto a farm instead, so the secret dies with him.

      Basically, this chain is pretty great, and even Rannoch gets some of this later.

      Tangentially, you miss one of the funniest lines at STG base if you didn’t do Lair of the Shadow Broker, as Garrus will make a joke about an escaping yahg, much to Liara’s chagrin.
      It’s that kind of ridiculous detail which is great.

  24. I like to think someone taught the person in charge of design how to use a color filter at the beginning of designing this game, and now EVERYTHING NEEDS A FILTER! I’m just thankful no one’s taught them how to lens flare yet.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Personally,Id prefer bioware to drop romance completely.Its waaay better when your companions are just your friends.The friendships you can develop in mass effects are leagues above the relationships.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      This is like stating your opinion that Bethesda games should have less optional missions and focus more on the main storyline. Even if you had a point (which I wouldn’t agree with that), that’s the exact opposite of what the fans of the games want and what kind of content the designers want to produce, so it’s useless to say.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        This is like stating your opinion that Bethesda games should have less optional missions and focus more on the main storyline.

        Not even close,because bethesda sucks at main storylines,while bioware excels at friendships.

        that’s the exact opposite of what the fans of the games want

        Because it was so important to the fans of mass effect to have the game completely change focus,boobify everyone,put a visible pussy on every female(including monstrous ones),suddenly introduce kai leng,for shepard to die and get resurrected,for some kid to die,the ending to be literally deus ex machina,…….and I can go on for hours.

        Besides,the best works never go for full on fan pandering,which just leads to stupid flanderization.

        • Poncho says:

          It’s part of Bioware’s MO of trying to let the player have agency in the story.

          I think they were masters of this in games like Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age Origins. You could romance almost anyone, and the games’ stories took place over a long enough timeline that it makes sense for people to grow attached, and characters have actual reservations with their interest in your character, and other characters fight over your character if you try to romance multiple people, etc.

          Their formula, though, kind of falls apart with more linear storytelling of KotOR and ME, and fully VO’d work is more difficult to produce, so they increased the cast of characters in ME2 and gave you more options…. which works, sort of.

          I don’t think it’s appropriate for a military officer to be fraternizing with the crew, especially between dangerous missions. It might make sense for Shepard to romance someone between games, which would have been a nice addition (instead of finding out your LI completely changed while you were gone).

          But yeah, the audience loves this juvenile romance bullshit, so Bioware will keep putting it in their games.

          • Gethsemani says:

            Baldur’s Gate romance plots: None.
            Baldur’s Gate 2 romance plots: Viconia, Aerie, Jaheira for male PCs, Anomen for female PCs.
            Dragon Age: Origins romance plots: Morrigan for Male PC, Zevran and Leliana for both genders and Allister for female PC.

            What made the stories of the BGs and DA:O great was their consistently strong writing, not their allowance for player input (BG only did it when it came to finding the bandits where you had 3 or so options, BG2 had the choice between Saemon Havarian and the portal and DA:O had a choice at the end of each recruitment branch). Particularly, it was not the romance options which only appeared in BG2 and even then consisted of nothing but talking at pre-determined points over which the player had no input.

            Don’t get me wrong, I sort of like the ability to romance some NPCs and I think the intention behind making most companions potential LIs is good. The problem comes in the execution, where you will inevitably come across a flashing sign that goes “Push this button to start romance tree!”. That and the “sex is a reward for successful flirting”-thing Bioware has going. As such the problem is not the number of choices as far as I am concerned, but rather the hamfisted writing.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Was the fact that my made up on the spot opinion for you to make the analogy didn’t match your ACTUAL opinion really worth commenting on? Surely you could see what I meant instead of saying “No, I hate that thing too!”

          And what is that second paragraph even about? How is “there is dumb stuff in the game” a counterpoint to “the romances are easily some of the most popular content in the Bioware games, as everyone knows,” ??

          Finally, you see it as “fan pandering” the fans see it as “the good stuff, why I like the game at all.” Since it’s all just opinions, you’re no more right then they are.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Surely you could see what I meant instead of saying “No, I hate that thing too!”

            Yes.And its wrong.Because bioware friendships are better written than bioware romances.

            the romances are easily some of the most popular content in the Bioware games, as everyone knows

            Popular =/= good.Case in point.

            Finally,you say that romance is what people see as the good stuff.And thats not true.Tell me,what do people remember more:

            Kashley boning you just before the end game
            OR
            Shepard….Wrex

            Sexing up jacob
            OR
            Mordin singing the song

            Sexing up kashley again
            OR
            Shooting stuff with garrus/EMERGENCY INDUCTION PORT

            So no,people dont see romances as the good stuff,they see EVERY interaction with a good character as the good stuff.Whether its an awkward song,sharing a grievance,just chatting,sex,arguing,or actual fighting.

            But if you detach the two,examining friendships and relationships between the same characters(so tali friendship vs tali relationship,garrus friendship vs garrus relationship,…)instead of comparing the relationship with your most favorite character vs friendships with everyone else,friendships are clearly better written.Always were better written in any bioware game,with maybe bg2 as the exception.

            Not to mention that the relationships,if they can even be called that now,have gotten way worse than they were in earlier titles.

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Okay, this is a more reasonable view for sure, but I still disagree. Sure people care more about the relationships than JUST the romantic ones. There are more OF them in the game. I can’t date all 10 squaddies but I can be friends with them all at the same time. The thing is, for the people who get invested emotionally in the game, their partner that they choose is the MOST invested they get in any character. People REALLY liked dating Garrus or Tali or Liara or what have you. People were really excited to DATE Iron Bull, not just to meet him. If you introduced the new Bioware game with “this is a game about developing deep friendships, you can’t develop a romantic relationship in it” there would be RIOTS. It would be like Halo saying “there’s no multiplayer in Halo 6, this is a directed single player experience.”

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                First,wrong analogy again.But thats not important.

                Second,there are always riots when something changes.But change is not always bad.Nor are the developers always against the concept of change.I mean,they changed the focus of the series drastically from me1 to me2,and gameplay wise it turned out good,and even brought in more audience.

                • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                  Change isn’t necessarily bad AND the friendship game wouldn’t necessarily be bad either. However, I don’t think Bioware could “get away with” making that game. It’d be like Telltale announcing a new game where you didn’t get to pick the dialogue anymore. That’s the part people really like, despite other parts being questionable. Even if they replaced it with something great, there’d be serious sour grapes.

                  For my part, I DO quite like picking a romantic partner in Bioware games. It’s just not something you get to do in 90% of games and it feels a LOT more involved than “feed your favorite person strawberries every day, go to the festival with them, and then give them the wedding gift when the meter is maxed” present in Harvest Moon style games. I’d like to see the romance thing get more and more involved/complex/relatable/whatever, not ditch it because it’s the least favorite of non-fans (or perhaps fans of an era that hasn’t existed for over a decade).

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Bethesda got away with such a change.So did firaxis.And bioware.Of course some people wont like your choice no matter what you decide on.That should never stop you from doing something you are good at instead of something you suck at.

                    And while it may feel like theres some involvement in picking a romance in bioware games,there literally is none.From kotor onwards,I was able to pick a sex buddy with ease 100% of the time(in fact,sometimes its harder to NOT pick anyone).If you really want to see how actual effort looks like,go play bg2 or hordes of the underdark,to see how bioware actually made it tough for you to pick someone to actually romance.Or better yet,play alpha protocol,to see how actual involvement in speech looks like and how sex can be used as a weapon.

          • Syal says:

            I’m going to jump in here because I’ve been making poor life choices lately.

            Surely you could see what I meant instead of saying “No, I hate that thing too!”

            But your metaphor was describing Daemien’s position, so it isn’t about what you meant, it’s about what he meant. If you’re misinterpreting what he meant there’s every reason to say that.

            Even when you’re summing up your own position, metaphors are only as useful as they are interpretable, so it’s always good to bring up discrepancies just to make sure everyone’s getting the same meaning out of it.

  26. Hector says:

    I didn’t play this one. However, just to be clear: Core’ was an intelligent being, correct? And EDI erased her mind and stole her body? And this… isn’t treated as a bad thing?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      But she was an evil intelligent being, so is killing her even wrong?

      To asnwer seriously, yes. Core comprehensively passed the Turing Test, EDI admits that her body-hopping was due to “root access and able to repurpose it as I see fit”, and no one even brings up the question of “Uh, EDI, did you just murder someone?”

      • Hector says:

        Oh. Well… that’s the kind of thing usually ascribed to wicked spirits of the damned. Not the nominally good. I mean, I see this could have been a interesting starting point for a major debate between characters about what’s right or wrong. Why would EDI necessarily have a human view on this point, after all? But I take it that didn’t happen?

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Of course not. The only thing Shepard is concerned with when learning of how EDI took over the body is “Make sure there aren’t any more surprises in that thing”, so EDI runs literally two seconds of tests, and Shep is completely satisfied. Despite the fact that in ME2, EDI certified the Reaper IFF as good, right before it hacked the hell out of the ship and got 95% of the crew killed.

        • guy says:

          Why would it? You’d already tried to kill Eva Core, why object to EDI succeeding?

          • Ninety-Three says:

            Because there’s a slight difference between “combat” and “executing a prisoner then literally walking around in their corpse”. EDI had root access to the body, she didn’t have to kill Core.

            • Hector says:

              Admittedly I haven’t played the game. However, certainly my view would be that Eva Core is life, however one defines it, and deserves to be treated as such – but regardless this should be Shepherd’s decision. The issue of how to treat prisoners has Paragon/Renegade written all over it. Although, oddly, I don’t think that came up once in the entire series.

              Plus, in ME2 we had to deal with an AI created by Cerberus. That example proved that Cerberus does not have full control over them, and Core might be amenable to switching sides, especially as her/its information would quite valuable.

              • Mike S. says:

                This might all be anthropomorphism and imposing our organic perspective on a form of life that doesn’t share it. There’s a lot of indication that AIs don’t see murder the same way we do. The geth, for example: Legion (and the collective as a whole) is explicitly indifferent between brainwashing the Heretics and destroying them. (And we’re told that each server hub is the equivalent to a city. Odds are a Shepard who chose the destroy option killed more intelligences there than in Arrival.)

                And EDI in particular is a cyberwarfare suite. Interacting with enemy systems is probably designed to be inherently about taking over (dare I say, assuming direct control of?) hardware or or else being taken over. Empathy with the other system would probably constitute a design flaw. As I recall, she herself doesn’t have an emotional response to the prospect of her own extinction till relatively late in the game, and it’s a development tied to her observation of and integration with humans.

                Granted, it would be better if there were a conversation that offered the option of exploring the question. Or to not explore it, if Shepard thinks that AI is a really good simulation of intelligence but not actually people.

            • Mike S. says:

              It may not have been possible to get root access to the body other than by killing Core/deleting the Core personality. We don’t get a lot of detail.

              AIs don’t seem to emotionally connect to hardware the way we do bodies, so the “corpse” thing is probably projecting. EDI is at first surprised that organics treat her robot body as more “her” than anywhere else on the Normandy; it seems unlikely she’d have a disgust reaction to seeing any particular piece of hardware repurposed. Our disgust and fear relating to corpses presumably has straightforward evolutionary roots EDI doesn’t share.

              (They have self-preservation, and Core presumably didn’t want to be destroyed, but I don’t know we have any reason to think she’d care about her body’s fate beyond that. Geth are happy enough to hop between platforms, EDI never expresses nostalgia for her previous instantiation on Luna, etc.)

              Core was also, by design, made incapable of being freed the way EDI was. It’s at least possible that from EDI’s perspective this was like Shepard putting down hopelessly indoctrinated people in ME1.

              (Though again, actually exploring the question would have been better.)

            • galacticplumber says:

              Renegades regularly take the option to kill prisoners/other neutralized enemies ALL THE TIME. As for using the body? Waste not, want not. I’m pretty sure the only reason using the dead parts of your enemies didn’t become common only because most of those parts don’t have big, direct, utilitarian benefits outside of intimidating other enemies.

              • Mike S. says:

                “Vanquished Foe’s Skull Makes Surprisingly Bad Wine Goblet”

                In fact people coming off the Eurasian steppe made the skulls of their enemies into drinkware so regularly that it became a running joke in my college Byzantine history class, as the professor would say of one emperor or general after another “He became a drinking cup.” That was for intimidation purposes, of course– it’s unlikely that humans are ever going to be purely utilitarian about the bodies of the dead. (En masse. Individuals can do a pretty good job of being desenstitized given the right circumstances and personality.)

                But synthetics could easily not have the aversion in the first place– no evolutionary history, no reason to put it in deliberately, and there’s no obvious reason for it to arise as an emergent behavior. The AIs we see are focused on their software, with some hardware being critical (e.g., EDI’s bluebox), but most being easily replaceable. You certainly wouldn’t want a ship AI to see a refit as a series of amputations, or to be averse to used parts.

    • No, you see; murder is ok as long as you only do it to people you don’t like.

  27. Dragmire says:

    Heh, imagine if Cerberus got into the Citadel through the conduit on Ilos.

  28. BeamSplashX says:

    no the illusive man is a Marty Sheen character

  29. Shilfe says:

    I can actually accept that the inside man wasn’t useful anymore. He might have been caught, or maybe Cerberus decided his only use was getting them inside.

    But having Cerberus kill him just makes them come off as stupid, not evil. What is the issue with keeping him alive? This isn’t a story of finite resources like The Walking Dead, Cerberus seems to have infinite resources. And they aren’t some underground organization that is worried about leaked secrets. Even if they were, an inside man wouldn’t know much more than any average mook would.

  30. BurningHeron says:

    Mass Effect 3 uses Reaper tech the same way The Fairly Oddparents would use the Internet.

    Mom and Dad: “TIMmy! How did you recruit and arm so many followers willing to throw their lives away in a senseless interstellar war when you’re only ten years old?”

    TIMmy: “Uh… Internet?”

    Mom and Dad: “Well, we’re going to have a word with your– gasp! Where did this hideous cybernetic zombie that looks suspiciously like your babysitter come from?”

    TIMmy: “Also Internet?”

  31. PatPatrick says:

    But if Cerberus have Reaper Tech ™… why they not using it against Shepard?

    • Incunabulum says:

      Shepard has Plot Armor. Even Reaper tech is helpless against the ultimate power in the universe.

      • ehlijen says:

        And now I’m wondering how well the death-‘ultimate power in the universe’-star would have fared against the reapers. I mean, just think: the reapers would have landed and walked to the exhaust port, which was also ray shielded, so what are them laser faces gonna do? Stab it with their pincers?

        But no, all we got in our ancient dig sites are more crucible plans… :(

  32. Zaxares says:

    EDI: Aside from her heels (which I agree are totally ridiculous for the reasons mentioned), I actually thought her body design was feasible. A solid metallic body beneath cloned or synthetic skin would allow it to pass for human while maximising internal space for more components/batteries/weapons/servo motors/stealth systems etc. True, anyone groping Dr Eva would notice that her bone structure felt different, but it would be easy matter not to put the infiltration droid into a situation where that was likely to occur, particularly if social taboos on the treatment of women have improved in the future.

    There was actually an in-game explanation for EDI’s hair too, but I’m sure somebody has already talked about it above so I won’t go into it again.

    The Genophage Mission: This mission and the Rannoch mission are probably my two favourite parts of ME3. It’s so wonderfully complex and nuanced, as you said, accounting for all manner of decisions and gamestates that might have led up to this point. And again, the final choice of whether to sabotage the cure is not a simple Good/Evil choice; there are legitimate reasons why having a resurgent Krogan race could be a VERY bad thing. I, personally, trust Wrex and Bakara. But they’re only just two people. If Wrex/Bakara die, there’s no guarantee that their successors will be as level-headed and desiring of peace as they were. And Wrex himself is quite old for a Krogan; it’s unclear how much longer he’ll be able to hang on to power as the de facto leader of the Krogan clans.

    The best case scenario I can imagine is that Wrex takes Grunt under his wing and grooms him to be the same sort of Krogan he is. Grunt’s time with Shepard (plus the fact that he basically has a Daddy/Mommy complex with him/her) would have exposed him to ideals and philosophies that show there are benefits to compromise and the way other cultures do things. He can grow up to be another Wrex one day.

    Oh, and I’m not sure if you ever did this, Shamus, but if you betrayed Wrex… Well, how about you look up “Wrex genophage betrayal” on Youtube and see for yourself? ;)

    On a related note, betraying Wrex and failing to secure peace between the Quarians/Geth are the only two things I could never bring myself to do in this game. I had a playthrough setup where I had the absolute meanest, most violent, batarian-hating, take-no-prisoners, Renegade Shepard who was going to kill Mordin and sabotage the cure… But in the end, I couldn’t do it. I watched that cutscene of Mordin slow-walking away from Shepard towards the elevator, my gun pointed at his back, my finger hovering over the mouse… And I didn’t take the shot. I just couldn’t.

    And when Mordin turned around and gave me that little nod, as if to say “Thank you for changing your mind.”, I sat back in my chair and went, “This. This is why I play Bioware games.”

    Cerberus on the Citadel: The only way Cerberus’ action to attack the Citadel, with all the risks and costs and sacrifices it would entail, would make sense is if TIM knows at this point that the Citadel IS the Catalyst, and he’s trying to secure it for his own nefarious purposes. Trouble is, he shouldn’t know. He doesn’t have the data from Vendetta that spells this out. If TIM had already worked it out by this point, then why would he even need Vendetta’s data? He needn’t have sent Kai Leng to Thessia at all (which was right in the middle of a Reaper invasion and there was every chance Kai Leng might have gotten killed in the process).

    • Incunabulum says:

      “A solid metallic body beneath cloned or synthetic skin would allow it to pass for human while maximising internal space for more components/batteries/weapons/servo motors/stealth systems etc. ”

      That space is still there. In fact, putting a second layer of skin under the skin *reduces* the available volume (because now that volume is taken up by the second skin’s thickness) while increasing density. Better hope she’s made of ‘space-age polymers’ or never steps on a scale where anyone can see.

      Not to mention adding unneeded complexity to the design – now you have to have the underskin and skin bend and fold as she moves in such a way that they stay reasonably aligned and don’t buckle.

      I think the Doylist explanation is simply that they didn’t want to do another model for this one and so reused the same female model and reskinned it. Anything beyond that is them desperately trying to come up with a Watsonian explanation to justify this ‘out-of-universe’ decision.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Unlike some of the other seemingly thoughtless sexualizations in Mass Effect (ME3 Ashley criticizing Miranda for not wearing armour when Ashley now wears a skin-baring jacket instead of armour, or Samara, just everything about Samara), everyone from Chakwas to Vega offers unsolicited comments on EDI’s attractiveness.

        In the same way the game wants to pretend that killing civilians isn’t Cerberus’ MO, it seems to want to pretend that Ashley’s outfit is practical, but it is willing to admit that EDI looks like a sexbot. The most obvious explanation is still that Creepy Marketing Guy told them to put in a sexy lady robot because sex sells, but I think there’s something to looking for a Watsonian explanation when the game universe is at least willing to acknowledge what’s going on.

        Maybe EDI looks like that because her creator was a pervert. It’s a bit implausible that the entire engineering team that built her would put up with such an inefficient design in the name of perverted aesthetics, but handwaving issues of engineering and logistics is soft sci-fi 101, and even Mass Effect 1 has a history of doing it with things like biotics and Asari reproduction.

    • Mike S. says:

      A solid metallic body beneath cloned or synthetic skin would allow it to pass for human while maximising internal space for more components/batteries/weapons/servo motors/stealth systems etc. True, anyone groping Dr Eva would notice that her bone structure felt different, but it would be easy matter not to put the infiltration droid into a situation where that was likely to occur, particularly if social taboos on the treatment of women have improved in the future.

      “And so we thank Dr. Smith for uncovering… er, exposing… that is, detecting the Cerberus infiltration mech intended to kill all of us here at Mars Base and steal our highly sensitive research data.

      “On an unrelated note, Dr. Smith, you are scheduled for remedial training with HR, again, beginning Monday morning.”

  33. Skuvnar says:

    I love how the reaper on Tuchanka spends the entire mission camped in front of the building you need to get into. Does that mean it knows we want into that specific building?

    So why not blow the building up? Do the Turian fighters really do anything other than annoy it? I mean, what’s the thought process here? “I SHALL PARK MY ARSE IN FRONT OF THIS BUILDING, AND THEN GIVE THE PUNY HUMANS A SPORTING CHANCE.”

    I guess it’s not a thing we can comprehend.

  34. Disc says:

    One thing that rarely gets mentioned is the servo sounds the robot body makes when it walks. They would make successful infiltration highly unlikely without some elaborate background story. You could maybe get away with something like falsified records to prove you had to replace your legs or joints because of an accident or something, but of course the writer probably never even thought about it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Servo sounds are….weird in fiction.You will only hear them when a robot gets revealed as a robot,but never when they are disguised in a skin.Its a rule of cool,I guess.

  35. ehlijen says:

    Just an aside: EDI’s orange visor thing is pretty much an exact replica of a KOTOR piece of headwear (though one of the least silly ones).

  36. Andrew says:

    Confession: In a mostly Paragon playthrough with both Wrex and Eve alive, I shot Mordin in the back.
    I think the Krogans deserve to have the whole genophage situation looked at down the line, but taking the decision while under the immense pressure of the whole war against the Reapers might screw everything up down the line. That would be no better than what the salarians did with uplifting the krogan in the first place, short term goal solved with lots of problems down the line.
    Of course this led to Wrex getting angry and captain Bailey shooting him (I couldn’t bring myself to shoot Wrex, even in self defense.)
    I find this gives a lot of emotional depth to the scenes withEve after the cure is diseminated, and to Shepard’s continuing nightmares with the forest and then later, after all is said and done, Garrus kinda finds out and while he should be really disapointed, he doesn’t judge you.

    Edit: I forgot to mention that Jeniffer Hale’s line delivery really sells how conflicted Shepard is.

    • Poncho says:

      Yeah, Mordin is completely correct in his goals to uphold the genophage. The Krogan are just not ready for uninterrupted breeding when they have access to starships and the resources to support billions of their own population. They evolved on a planet where the life expectancy was the equivalent of human teenagers, so of course they needed to pump out lots of kids.

      Then they discovered the nuclear fission reaction and their people developed a society of clan-based warfare and violence. They nuked themselves back past the industrial age.

      One can make an argument for Wrex being ready for that burden, but he isn’t going to live forever. The genophage is a reaction to the Krogan uplifting; not the Krogan rebellions, they’re just coincided and seen as punishment. That’s not the case, and no scientist would make the case that the genophage was punishment, it was damage control for a prior mistake.

      But because Wrex is the one person who might have pulled it off, it makes that whole situation feel shitty in a good way. The characters really sell it. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the series, IMO.

  37. CosmoAC says:

    Shamus, whenever you talk about how Cerberus’s actions don’t make sense vs their stated goal of controlling the Reapers, do you take into account the conversation with the VI on Thessia, where it’s revealed that part of the Reapers’ MO is setting up an organization that on the surface opposes them but that they actually control through Indoctrination(TM), and that they did the same in the Prothean cycle?
    I think it’s pretty fair to assume that despite what he might think he’s doing, TIM has been, unknowingly working FOR the Reapers since maybe around the end of ME2?

    • ehlijen says:

      But then the game is still withholding that crucial info from the player until very late (too late) in the game.

      After ME2 and if faced with a nonsensical Marty Stu cerberus, are players going to assume that somewhere down the line there’ll be a working explanation, or that bioware is overselling their favourite clown villains again?
      Especially if the answer turns out to be ‘the moronic space crabs with no idea of how to do their own job made them do it’?

      A mystery has to be puzzling, sure. But it also must appear as though the at least tried to write a story that makes sense. Cerberus doesn’t, because the ME writing team failed to establish them as, well, anything serious prior to ME3.

      And what exactly was indoctrinated Tim doing on Sur’kesh, that then left the reapers not destroying the Shroud on Tuchanka the second that mission failed? Why did cerberus try to take over the citadel without anything short of a reaper fleet, at least as a backup?
      If cerberus can do all that and is indoctrinated, how come the reapers seemingly never get the memos on that info?

      If cerberus was an indoctrinated but unsupervised agent of chaos behind enemy lines, we’re back to them doing random shit because the writers need them to. They’re not even Nolan’s Joker at that point: they have no motivation (cause they’re indoctrinated), no goal (other than to thwart the player) and no grand strategy (because either the reapers don’t direct or support them or they would coordinate much better with the reapers).

      Indoctrination at that point fails to be horror or a threat: it’s just an excuse as to why cerberus is in the player’s way. Shepard never gets to do anything about it, nor reacts in any significant way (OMG the baddies are doing bad shit doesn’t offer much character insight).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even if we assume that tim was indoctrinated from the start,and his actions are just crazy,that still doesnt explain the most crucial thing:HOW?How did he gather such an army?How did he gather all of this secret intel?How did he get an agent into the most secretive of organizations?How is kai leng,the poser,able to do all of this crap and constantly avoid getting shot in his moronic face?
      .
      .
      .

    • Gethsemani says:

      The problem with Cerberus is that nothing about them in ME3 is explained. There’s no reveal about how they are indoctrinated (well, there sort of is but it raises more questions then it answers) or how they amassed an army (well, there sort of is but it raises more questions then it answers, again) or how they can know about all the secret plans and places that Shepard visits. To make any sense of Cerberus in ME3 you have to use Head Canon to fill in the gaps that the writers never bothered to fill. Gaps that aren’t small potholes on the narrative path, they are huge craters which the writer just seems to hope that we won’t notice or just didn’t bother to think about in the first place.

      “Cerberus is indoctrinated and forcefully indoctrinates people to become soldiers in their army” is about all we ever get and it is nowhere enough to start answering all the questions. Where’d the resources to outfit an army come from? Was all of Cerberus leadership indoctrinated? What about the rank and file? Why did no one question the use of reaper implants? Why does Cerberus do stupid shit that doesn’t align with their OR the Reaper’s goals? The entire use of Cerberus in game hinges on the supposition that the player never starts thinking about the hows and whys of Cerberus.

  38. Phantos says:

    “Coming up with explanations for why things happen is literally the storyteller’s entire job. “

    B-but Shamus! That can’t be true! It’s not the writer’s job to write the story, it’s your job to read the codex, and the lore, and the item descriptions, and the fan fiction that I wrote!

    If you establish characters, motivations, goals, conflict and actual stuff that happens, you’re just holding my hand, and I’m a big boy gamerbro, only babies need that. The future of storytelling is loading screens telling me what some losers did centuries ago, who I’ll never meet, and whose actions have nothing to do with anything that happens in the game!

    (I really hate Bloodborne fans.)

    • IFS says:

      As a Bloodborne fan I will say that your statement is sadly accurate of a lot of people in the general Soulsborne fandom. However I think the idea behind the statement comes a lot from the fact that the sort of environmental storytelling you get in those games is quite good, and it is a sort of storytelling that only really works in games.

      Bloodborne is not an incredibly strong game in terms of narrative (though it does have a pretty solid twist/reveal imo), but that’s not its focus (whatever some fans might have you believe). Its focus is largely on atmosphere, and the various scraps of information you might piece together, the bits of lore tucked away in item descriptions and environmental details help contribute to the atmosphere in their own small ways. The fact that the feeling of piecing the lore together yourself contributes to allowing for long ongoing conversations about ‘what it all means’ also certainly contributes to the games longevity, while having the unfortunate side effect of convincing people that because they had to work to come up with the explanation that makes the story in game a masterpiece.

  39. Vdweller says:

    But Kai Leng is awesome!!!one!!one

  40. That last screenshot about having inside people because the dead had been shot from behind leads me to think the writer is a journalist. Possibly Spanish, since our press is filled with that short of bullshit reasoning everywhere, specially when the news involve something about a trial or crime.

  41. Coming_Second says:

    The plots of ME2 and ME3 can only be understood if you accept the premise that crowbarring Cerberus into them was of the utmost importance. Yet nothing about them is justifiable, explicable or interesting. They shouldn’t exist, every interaction with them is a slap in the face of the player, and they don’t explore the one borderline interesting issue available to them – that of putting humanity’s interests first. They don’t put Cerberus’s interests first, let alone humanity’s. It’s utterly infuriating.

    I mean, look at it from a purely gameplay view, which is apparently what the writers did. Yes, there’s a need for more varied cast of mooks than just husks and actually, the Cerberus mooks are quite enjoyable to fight against. But why do they have to be Cerberus? We know the Reapers can manipulate the minds of anyone they come into contact with; we know they see the value of keeping some organics unhusked, at least for a while. Have these spess marines be indoctrinated pawns fighting for the Reapers because, like Saren, they believe they can save themselves by doing so. Suddenly them knowing everything and having unlimited resources and manpower makes sense; suddenly there’s a reason for why they turn up to set you up the bomb on Tuchanka et al. Suddenly I’m not incredibly frustrated fighting them, because they aren’t this completely ridiculous sideshow which feels like nothing but padding; they are the Reapers minions, they’re creepy and worrying in the same way Saren was, and they have to be stopped.

  42. Staff Cdr Alenko says:

    To be fair, the Shroud WAS mentioned in the planet description for Tuchanka in ME2. Although it wasn’t in dialogue, one could argue that the Shroud was actually mentioned in ME2.

    But you know what’s the kicker here? So was Mordin’s “Someone else might have got it wrong” line. And that one was actually spoken word-for-word in ME2, provided you chose certain options on the dialogue wheel during Mordin’s loyalty mission.

    They literally had to go back to the previous game’s script for the line that’s supposed to be the encapsulation of Mordin’s motivation here.

  43. Staff Cdr Alenko says:

    Also, while I didn’t much mind the bronze filter, the whole deal with “the cure falling out of the sky” bothered me greatly. It’s not just a bit bombastic and over the top, it’s contrived, cheesy as hell, a design choice that’s supposed to make me feel emotions based solely on a visual cue. Granted, the scene itself is very emotional (even though it achieves that through being extremely manipulative and dishonest, but that’s another topic) but the “falling snowflakes” effect is just gut-wrenching for me and took me out of the experience. I remember thinking, what is that? A wannabe art film by an anime fan? (I have nothing against anime, I just mean it was completely unfitting.)

  44. Joey245 says:

    I distinctly remember the first time I played the mission with the bomb on Tuchanka. I had James and EDi in my squad (because I was playing Solider, and James complemented my Shepard’s soldier skills and EDI had tech powers), and I was going through the opening firefight with Cerberus troops. Beige and brown dust was flying everywhere, and all I could see was my health bar, the enemy health bar, and the chest-high wall in front of me.

    That’s when I realized something, something that took me a while to realize.

    “This doesn’t feel much like a Mass Effect game. This looks and feels like every other cover-based shooter out there.”

    And that’s when my love and excitement for Mass Effect died down significantly. I still love the series, and I still played the games for a whole year afterwards, but it no longer became the Greatest Thing Ever (TM). Because it was clear that whatever I fell in love with Mass Effect was, it didn’t carry over from 2 to 3.

  45. Roger says:

    I suppose there is one advantage to playing ME2 after all: the whole Cerberus thing is so stupid and unexplainable, it gradually made me numb and immune to it. As such, I could mostly enjoy ME3 without thinking about Cerberus.

    Still feels to me like the ME3 writer tried to mostly fix the mess that ME2 did but the ME2 writer was a cousing of the EA CEO or something and kept pushing his Cerberus agenda.

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