Andromeda Part 3: Colonialism Rules!

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 30, 2018

Filed under: Mass Effect 169 comments

So the writer left behind The Quarians, Volus, Elcor, and Hannar, even though they would all have really good reasons to go and we’d have good reasons to want them alongThe writer also left behind the Batarians, Vorcha, and Yahg, but screw those guys. Nobody cares about them and they wouldn’t make for good company on this trip.. But then the writer decided to bring…

The Krogan

We just arrived and we're already enemies with the Krogan. If only there was some way we could have anticipated this.
We just arrived and we're already enemies with the Krogan. If only there was some way we could have anticipated this.

Why? Why would you do this? The Krogan are a dangerously invasive species. It’s not just that they’re incredibly tough and good at fighting, it’s that they’re prolific breeders and naturally disposed to violence.

Centuries ago, the galaxy was getting its ass kicked by the Rachni space-bugs. The Salarians discovered the pre-spaceflight Krogan, realized their combat potential, and brought them to space. Armed with space-armor and zap-guns, the Krogan gleefully wiped out the Rachni. The problem is that once the war was over, there were now millions of heavily armed and incredibly bored Krogan spread all over the galaxy. A single Krogan female could (at the time) lay 1,000 fertile eggs a year. Free of the brutality of their homeworld, their population exploded. There was no way to contain them. And once they ran out of worlds to settle, they invaded the council worlds.

I don’t know if the death toll was in the millions or billions, but it was a pretty large number. So the Salarians cooked up the “genophage”, which would make 99% of Krogan eggs infertileActually 99% egg failure would still allow every female to have 10 children a year. But let’s not argue about this. The series was always changing its mind on what the Genophage was and how it worked.. Thus Krogan population growth was checked and the galaxy was saved from being consumed by the Krogan.

So the Council perpetrated an atrocity to save the galaxy. It’s one of those interesting bits of worldbuilding we inherited from Mass Effect 1, and which later writers could never wrap their heads around. For the most part the later stories took the rhetorical position of “the Genophage was pure evil and they shouldn’t have done it”, which ignores the nuance that made the entire thing so interesting to begin withI don’t mind if the PLAYER comes to this conclusion, but for me I always felt like the game favored the Paragon way of thinking and the more nuanced “it’s not that simple” renegade position was never properly articulated by any of the characters..

Oh goody. We get to hear this story for the fourth time.
Oh goody. We get to hear this story for the fourth time.

So here we are. Our ancestors have left us this mess. Without the Genophage, the Krogan will again expand, run out of space, and then unleash devastating war on the galaxy. With the Genophage, they’re gradually dying out. In Mass Effect 1 Wrex even explains how his people haven’t changed. Even when facing extinction, the average Krogan would prefer to work as a mercenary and fight for money rather than stay home and focus on building up their population.

The Krogan are indeed a very interesting problem. So why would you bring this problem to a new galaxy?!?

Worse, the Krogan were subjected to “gene therapy” during the 600 year tripIgnoring the question of how “gene therapy” is supposed to progress when all metabolic activity has stopped, which is the entire point of cryo-sleep. that supposedly makes them better able to breed. Post-treatment, their viability is all the way up to 4%. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but 4% of 1,000 eggs is forty Krogan. Per female. Per year.

This is monumentally irresponsible. They’re the Milky Way’s problem, and they ought to remain so. The inhabitants of the Milky Way caused this mess by uplifting a pre-spacefaring race, and then by using a biological weapon on them. Unleashing the Krogan on a new galaxy could cause a brand new wave of Krogan invasions, only this time it will be on a bunch of races that did nothing to deserve it.

Shamus, maybe they brought the Krogan along as muscle?

That’s the only explanation that makes sense, but it still paints the Andromeda Initiative leadership as reckless to a fault. If you’re that worried that you’ll need firepower, then why not put guns on some of your spaceships? Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea that the idealistic leaders decided to make the voyage in defenseless ships. It’s just that this sort of idealism doesn’t really mesh with someone bringing the Krogan as muscle.

The Andromeda Initiative is purposefully bringing the Krogan along, with full knowledge of the problems they cause and the massive death toll inflicted by their last rampage. The Salarians who originally uplifted the Krogan at least had the excuse that they were being killed by the Rachni, and they didn’t realize how the Krogan would behave once the fighting was over. But the leaders of the Andromeda Initiative aren’t being threatened with impending extinction and they have the benefit of historical hindsight. There is no excuse to justify this move. They’re either stupid, irresponsible, evil, or some combination of all three.

But… I LIKE The Krogan!

Here is Drack, who is basically Wrex 2.0.
Here is Drack, who is basically Wrex 2.0.

Of course, I’m sure the real reason that they brought the Krogan is that Wrex was a popular character and players might get sad if they didn’t have their space-turtle buddies along.

The Krogan story is indeed very interesting, but their story is over. It’s been exhaustively discussed within the game. The Genophage was either cured or not in Mass Effect 3. The player has now fully explored this topic. It’s done. Let it go.

Rather than dragging the Krogan to a new galaxy and repeating all those same themes again, the thing to do here is introduce a new slate of aliens with a new story. Give them interesting designs and make a couple of them really cool and likeable, and you’ll have a new “Wrex” or a new “Tali” for fans to love. Plus, you’ll get to explore a bunch of new ideas.

How I’d have done it:

Imagine a galaxy just after an evil empire has fallen. One really militaristic race was subjugating all the others, but after a couple thousand years the others broke free. If you wanted to be cheeky, you could even do a sly Star Wars nod and suggest that the evil empire had a super-weapon that enabled them to retain power, and their empire crumbled when it was destroyed. It was this big heroic adventure where everyone thought they were going to be free and prosper. But instead the power vacuum has put all the former slave races at odds with each other. It’s been a couple of centuries since the off-brand Death Star was blown up, and the former masters of the galaxy are now a sad, beaten race. They’re confined to one planet and their numbers are dwindling.

This presents the player with interesting situations to ponder. The former overlords are going to be very welcoming to any change in fortune, which means they will be the most accommodating to our heroes. They feel like they’ve learned their lesson and are being persecuted for the sins of their ancestors. Meanwhile the other races just see the Milky Way immigrants as new rivals. Maybe some of the former slave races have become aggressively libertine and lean towards piracy and the like, while others fancy themselves as the hot new upcoming empire. Make one race overt and militaristic, make another one sneaky and covert, and another hedonistic and uninterested in matters of state. Throw in a wildcard race that mingles with all the others, stir in some grudges and cultural biases, and you’ve got yourself a stew.

Extra bonus points: Make the former evil empire race vaguely attractive or noble-looking. Don’t make them space-orcs. Save the “ugly big-jaw orc” design for the really smart race.

Resist the urge to make the hedonistic race a bunch of sexy humanoids and instead make them Rocket Raccoon-style furry bipedsRocket Racoon as he exists in GotG wouldn’t actually mesh with Mass Effect visually and they’d be too small to make proper use of the Andromeda cover system, but you get the idea. Make someone kinda short and furry and give them the personality of berzerker party animals.. Trust me, their dialog will be much funnier. Sexy green aliens have been done to death, but players will love their new fuzzy crewmate who just wants to get laid and blow shit up, and who has a bit of a complex because their people were slaves for a thousand years.

I suppose I should stop here rather than constructing a whole new setting. Hopefully you get the idea. The Magic of Mass Effect 1 wasn’t that Wrex was a grouchy space-turtle. The magic was that he was a fun character with a cool story to tell. Your goal isn’t to keep recycling the same character and story, it’s to cook up a new character with a new story.

The Andromeda Initiative was the writer’s big chance to go wild and tell a new story in a new setting, and instead they mangled everything by dragging along a bunch of lore baggage that unintentionallyUnintentional, because the story never discusses it. frames our heroes as dangerously irresponsible explorers.

Colonialism vs. Refugees

We're not colonial invaders. A proper invasion force would at least have their shit together.
We're not colonial invaders. A proper invasion force would at least have their shit together.

It’s pretty hard to make a game about colonizing a new galaxy without bringing up the topic of colonialism. The game entirely ignores the subject, which feels more than a little strange. It’s like how WATCH_DOGS ignored the surveillance state themes it was juggling, or how Far Cry 5 made violent religious extremism a central element of the setting but then never talked about it. It doesn’t feel like the writer is tiptoeing around a touchy subject, it feels like they’re blundering into a touchy subject without noticing.

At one extreme you’ve got games built around big topics without having anything to say about those topics. At the other end you’ve got games with heavy-handed and patronizing messages like when Deus Ex: Mankind Divided decided to teach us that “Cyber-racism is bad, yo.” On one hand a game is criticized for not saying anything and the other is criticized for having a heavy-handed message. So what is the writer supposed to do?

I’ll admit this is tricky. A lot of writers in this industry have enough trouble just hammering together a coherent plot with interesting characters and integrating that with gameplay. Properly exploring a theme or idea within that story is harder still.

On the other hand, that’s no reason to give up. Like I’ve said in the past, speculative fiction is a great place to tear the labels off of political positions and group identities so you can play around with ideas without the audience falling into ugly political tribalism. We’re here in a new galaxy, so that’s a great chance to explore colonialism as a concept without needing to discuss specific real-world instances of it. We can leave behind the cultural baggage of European colonialism and play “what if?” in our own little universe.

Let’s try to fix two problems at once:

  1. The Andromeda Initiative looks like it’s engaging in brute-force colonialism, which historically isn’t a popular move and generally causes problems down the road.
  2. The Initiative seems to be run by incompetent idiots, and the colonists themselves seem to be a population of cutthroats, thugs, and other assorted troublemakers.

How I’d have done it:

Let’s say that it was supposed to take a lot longer to build the Andromeda ships. Then the Reaper threat emerged and everyone watched Sovereign crashing into the Citadel over and over, the way Americans watched the Twin Towers fall. It shook everyone up.

So the Andromeda Initiative was greatly accelerated. They planned on doing years of screening to select the best of the best, but the new timetable wouldn’t allow for that and they wound up with a lot of less-than-ideal people. They took off as soon as they could, worried that the Reapers would show up any minute and wipe them out.

(Okay, technically if you get all the way to the end of the optional “Ryder Family Secrets” questline you’ll see that a watered-down version of this idea is already in the game. The timetable was indeed accelerated due to the Reaper threat. The problem is that you shouldn’t hide crucial worldbuilding details at the end of lengthy optional collect-a-thon end-game side-content. Also, the dialog doesn’t explicitly make use of Sovereign’s attack on the Citadel, which is a major missed opportunity. If you’re trying to justify sudden, rash behavior then having a radical unexpected disaster is the best way to do it. It’s amazing to me how hard the writer has worked over the years to avoid referencing the events of Mass Effect 1.)

Now we have an excuse for why the people who signed up for the Andromeda Initiative seem to be so eager to revert to lawlessness. The accelerated timetable forced the Initiative to cut corners. We’ve explicitly made it so the Milky Way people can see themselves as refugees, even if the inhabitants of Andromeda see them as colonial invaders. With that fixed, we have some room to explore the topic of colonialism.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

How I’d explore the topic of colonialism:

Now we need a series of episodes or missions, where each one allows the player to enact their chosen solution to a problem. (After shooting a bunch of dudes, obviously.) The player is probably aware of the historical problems with colonialism. They’ll most likely want to avoid the mistakes of the past. Now they need to answer the question for themselves, “How do you settle alongside an extant culture? What’s right? What’s moral? How do you balance your own needs against theirs? Would you rather secure a safe place for your people, or minimize the impact your people have on the region?”

As refugees / colonists, the Andromeda Initiative needs a place to settle. They need land. Well, “land” in the sense of planets, moons, space stations, continents, useful places to stick orbital facilities, and so on. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll just call all of that stuff “land”.

Some examples:

  1. Some local aliens claim they “own” some land. Nobody is living there right now because of [quest problem you have to solve]. Once the player fixes the problem, the aliens want to move in. We made this place livable, but they claim to own it anyway. Do we take it, knowing it might lead to conflict down the road? Do we share it with them, knowing that these guys are assholes and will be bad neighbors? Do we let them have it, even though we did the work and we really need the space?
  2. Two races (or perhaps two factions within an existing race) are fighting. Either one is willing to give us land if we promise to join the fight on their side. Do we help the side with the better land, or do we help the side that looks most likely to win? Or do we stay out of it?
  3. We have scans of what the golden worldsThe worlds we surveyed before we made the trip from the Milky Way. looked like 600 years agoThe game does a hand-wave that we used “mass effect” telescopes so the images are 600 years old and not hundreds of thousands of years out of date., and we can see they did not contain any advanced civilizations at the time. This information would clear up a longstanding historical feud about when these places were properly settled. Do we share this info, knowing that it might make us some enemies?
  4. We brought the cat genome with us and we can clone a batch of cats whenever we like. A couple of locals are very interested in breeding them as pets. Do we sell them the cats, despite having no idea what impact a population of Felis catus might have on the local ecosystem?

And so on. You can make up examples like this all dayI actually cut quite a few. I’m worried these sections are getting a little self-indulgent. if you like. The setup is perfect for generating conflict and uncertainty.

You could make “unforeseen consequences” a running theme of the game. You want to avoid putting the player into endless no-win scenarios, but you also don’t want them to feel like they never have to make hard choices. We REALLY want to avoid the trope where doing the most “paragon” thing always gets you the best outcome. The player ought to be balancing long-term stability against immediate need. If you’re a jackass that does whatever is best for you in the short term, then your reckless interference with the other cultures will destabilize the cluster. If you’re too cautious and apply a strict non-intervention policy then your people won’t have what they need for a thriving society. You’ll metaphorically be living in a tent city on worthless land with no future, which is the kind of place a lot of refugees end up.

The idea is that the players need to make some concessions but also need to do some pushing to secure a future. Their choice will be which concessions are most palatable to them and which fights are worth having.

You could obviously fill a novel with these sorts of hypotheticals, but hopefully you get the idea. This is how I’d make the game about colonialism.

EDIT: And just to be clear, I want to stress that this game didn’t NEED to be about colonialism. You could make it about something else. It’s just that colonialism seems like the most obvious theme to play with, since it will already be front and center in the minds of the audience. They’ll already be thinking about it, and you can take advantage of that to draw them into the story. The problem with Andromeda isn’t that it’s not about colonialism, it’s that it’s not really about anything in particular. (Aside from swinging at a few overused sci-fi tropes.) My point is that Andromeda aimed low and still missed the mark.

Anyway. That’s enough about the premise of this game. Next week we’ll start in on the plot.



[1] The writer also left behind the Batarians, Vorcha, and Yahg, but screw those guys. Nobody cares about them and they wouldn’t make for good company on this trip.

[2] Actually 99% egg failure would still allow every female to have 10 children a year. But let’s not argue about this. The series was always changing its mind on what the Genophage was and how it worked.

[3] I don’t mind if the PLAYER comes to this conclusion, but for me I always felt like the game favored the Paragon way of thinking and the more nuanced “it’s not that simple” renegade position was never properly articulated by any of the characters.

[4] Ignoring the question of how “gene therapy” is supposed to progress when all metabolic activity has stopped, which is the entire point of cryo-sleep.

[5] Rocket Racoon as he exists in GotG wouldn’t actually mesh with Mass Effect visually and they’d be too small to make proper use of the Andromeda cover system, but you get the idea. Make someone kinda short and furry and give them the personality of berzerker party animals.

[6] Unintentional, because the story never discusses it.

[7] The worlds we surveyed before we made the trip from the Milky Way.

[8] The game does a hand-wave that we used “mass effect” telescopes so the images are 600 years old and not hundreds of thousands of years out of date.

[9] I actually cut quite a few. I’m worried these sections are getting a little self-indulgent.

From The Archives:

169 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 3: Colonialism Rules!

  1. Redrock says:

    Whoa. That’s an uncharacteristically political post for you, Shamus. Personally, I don’t see colonialism as inherently evil, at least not in a sci-fi space setting. Real-life Earth colonialism was problematic, to put it mildly, but I don’t think it’s a direct analogy to what’s going on in Andromeda. Space is big. After all, the Initiative is aiming to claim some uninhabited planets, as far as I recall. Claiming uninhabited territory is a bit different than invading a continet and enslaving locals.

    As for the Krogan, well, I just suspect that no one at Bioware cares about the math here. They throw percentages around but never really sit down to count how many actual Krogan get bred. On the other hand, I think the idea in both ME3 and Andromeda is that the krogan in question have evolved a bit in terms of culture and seek to not repeat the problems of the past? That seems to be the idea, both in Wrex and Drack. I mean, you could argue that starting genocidal galaxy-wide wars is an inherent part of Krogan nature, but that would be ever so slightly Kroganophobic.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      “After all, the Initiative is aiming to claim some uninhabited planets, as far as I recall. Claiming uninhabited territory is a bit different than invading a continet and enslaving locals.”

      This is why I think we need to recognize a distinction between ‘colonizing’ and ‘colonialism’. The latter refers to dominating a foreign people for economic gain. Settling worlds in space that may be uninhabited is not colonialism. I haven’t played Andromeda, so I’d actually like to know more about how the game is dealing with the subject, and how much it is even a thing. Because you could make an entire game about these people settling a new galaxy without there being any colonialism in it at all.

      1. guy says:

        It’s basically not a thing; the locals are the Angara, who are skittish but friendly and have no objection to settling planets they haven’t*, and the kett, who want to meet new species so they can use cool bits of their genomes in order to improve the Master Race prior to exterminating the lesser species, which is why there’s only them and the Angarans they haven’t exterminated yet. So basically the kett are bad guys and any objection to taking land from them boils down to “we’re stealing what they done rightfully stole!” The Initative leadership sides with the Angarans against the kett and this is uncomplicatedly the ethically correct thing to do.

        There are Initative renegades and stranded groups that are being more colonialist, but they’re either rebels you need to put down or shipwreck survivors you need to reconnect with.

        *also I haven’t finished this plot arc, but one of their major planets or maybe even original homeworld has been transformed into a hellish murder jungle by malfunctioning biosphere management tech from a precursor species and they more or less say that if you can unfuck it they’re willing to give you part of it.

        1. Redrock says:

          I think the while terraforming gimmick is pretty much a way to avoid the colonialism implications. It’s the idea that without Ryder and her magic AI a lot of those planets are largely uninhabitable or at least inhospitable. Hence, there’s very good reason for the Initiative and the angara to co-exist.

          1. guy says:

            I think the implementation of the terraforming was to let Ryder personally advance the colonization in a meaningful way; Mass Effect has terraforming tech and the plan presumably was always to adjust the environment of planets to suit; even having picked out ideal worlds with the magic telescope some biosphere tinkering was presumably expected, and if they hadn’t been able to preselect planets they’d have come equipped for hanging out in the assembled Nexus for generations while the terraforming was in progress.

            The plot was pretty much always going to be talking friendly locals into letting you terraform a planet they’d called dibs on; that’s basically the only way to have a conflict that a Mass Effect protagonist can resolve. With the Initative’s tiny population and inability to obtain reinforcements from the Milky Way they can’t conquer anyone who’s even close to a technological equal, and if there aren’t any technological equals there is going to be a terraformable planet no one even theoretically owns somewhere in the galaxy. The later could make for an interesting game, but the game it would make for is Frostpunk, not Mass Effect.

        2. Trevor says:

          Havarl is the major planet which actually is the Angaran homeworld transformed into a hellish murder jungle. However, once you unfuck the Remnant monoliths on it and complete the quest line, you give the planet back to the Angara, in recognition of its place in their culture. There’s a really brief, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, bit of dialogue where Ryder decides not to set up an outpost on it. Addison (who’s a giant dick) and Liam (whose personal quests are about setting up outposts) both support this decision. We instead drop some scientists on the planet to help their scientists.

          Even though space is big, most of space is empty and most planets/moons are uninhabitable. Life supporting planets are really rare. Here is one of those rare cases where we find a habitable world, one which the Initiative was planning to colonize (it’s designated by them as Habitat 3) and… everyone’s just fine handing it back to the Angara. The game gives you no sense that there’s a scarcity of resources or space, that it might be a problem for us to just completely abandon Havarl. The game’s not about colonialism because colonialism is a conflict over space and resources and this game just waves all of that away. The only problems are with the Remnant Tech and the Kett. And those can be solved by shooting people from behind cover.

          1. guy says:

            Well, realistically the Initiative needs two planets. One for dextro-aminio acid species and one for the other species. They’re planets. We have one and seven billion people.

            Hell, the Initiative doesn’t even need more than like 0.5% of the land area of a planet for living space if they can get suppliers for exotic materials. Even an Asari infant isn’t going to live to see serious population pressure unless the Krogan get out of hand again. The Initiative only targeted as many as they did in the first wave so they could mine everything they needed on Garden Worlds

            1. Liessa says:

              I agree that the numbers don’t hold up – my home city could hold all the Initiative colonists – but they’d planned from the start to settle several planets, so it’s clear that for whatever reason, one homeworld wasn’t considered enough for them.

              1. guy says:

                Pretty sure that was because they wanted to be able to mine/harvest everything on their colony planets instead of doing asteroid mining because that’s a pain in the ass. Also they had plans to eventually grow to need multiple planets so they might as well start with several and tune them to be ideal for a particular species rather than just survivable, and it gives them a cushion to just give up on one if it turns out to be nonviable for whatever reason. A trade deal with the Angara gets them everything they really need off Havarl.

              2. Redrock says:

                The numbers thing has always been a problem for space sci-fi. A planet is a goddamn PLANET. But in space sci-fi and especially in videogames, it’s “one planet – one settlement” all the way. The way I see it, it’s just a thing you have to roll with.

                1. guy says:

                  Generally, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to complain about Andromeda handwaving away a problem that logically shouldn’t be a problem. Mass Effect as a setting understands that planets are huge; the reason you only see one settlement on a planet most of the time is that it’s the only relevant point of interest. You aren’t going to a planet and seeing the entire planet, you’re going to a settlement that is on a planet.

                  Heck, even if you take the visitable areas of each planet in Andromeda as representing the entire planet, you could fit every outpost you do establish on one planetary map. The main thing pushing you to visit more planets is because the fleet was scattered and shipwrecked and you’re trying to find all the Arks and help survivors as well as get them hooked up to the Nexus (I got the impression it was not designed to have the crew awake for more than a few months before linking up with the Arks) and maybe get replacements for stuff that got destroyed on the approach or by kett attacks. You accomplish that on Havara; under other circumstances you might set up a farming colony and a biological research center there but it’s not important enough to spend political capital with the Angarans on.

                2. Jabberwok says:

                  This is definitely a dissonant, video game thing. The planet descriptions in ME seemed to give somewhat realistic numbers for population, but the in-game assets almost never lived up to that. Like Skyrim’s “a town is five people and one horse” problem.

            2. AzzyGaiden says:

              The nonsensical concept of “colonizing a galaxy” really bugged me. All you need is one planet, two tops (in a galaxy where habitable planets could number in the millions or even billions), and you’re fine. More than likely any spacefaring inhabitants won’t even notice you.

            3. Nessus says:

              In real terms, if you have economical and medically safe interstellar travel, you don’t actually need planets anymore. You can get everything you need easier and cheaper from asteroids and comet belts.

              The Mass Effect universe has all the technical prerequisites. They’ve got cheap energy, artificial gravity, robotized construction and manufacturing (and by corollary, maintenance), medical and/or habitat tech that does away with long-term health issues or even issues around birthing and raising kids in space, space habitat farming, etc.

              But the games (all of them) emphasize the need for planetary colonies basically because those are one of the givens of pop-culture sci-fi. They even make the one race who should be thriving from living entirely in space into a poster child for “people really need planets, for… reasons” (i.e. because most of their audience, and possibly writers, can’t imagine not living on a planet).

              So pretty much any reason they give is gonna be a handwave. They need planets for the same reason most of the aliens have humanoid body plans and human-readable faces: because this is pop space opera.

              1. guy says:

                Well, while Mass Effect has the technical capacity to survive entirely in space, it requires effort to maintain a livable environment in space and they prefer living on planets where air and gravity are free. And the Initiative was planning on landing on planets so they didn’t bring the stuff they’d need to live in space indefinitely. And it’s made clear in that the Migrant Fleet isn’t self-sufficent; they are dependent on trade and the Pilgramage to get replacement parts and new ships. So the Initiative probably does need a planet with a breathable atmosphere. Preferably two just because they have two incompatible biochemistries and would like to have separate ecosystems for each, but that’s not a hard requirement.

                1. Nessus says:

                  Like I said: all of which are handwaves that don’t really make consistent (if any) sense when thought about on a more than surface level. That stuff is there because the writers need to justify a need for planets to an audience who expects planets to be important for basically the same reasons they expect sounds in space. Even in ME1, planetary colonies were a “drama over details” element.

                  I’m not saying planets aren’t important n Mass Effect as written. I’m saying that the need for planets in Mass Effect is already a multi-layer contrivance, so nit picking over the particulars of the topmost layer is sort of like trying to nit pick the exact mineral chemistry of lightsaber crystals.

    2. Liessa says:

      I think that’s Shamus’ point, though: rather than introduce a potentially interesting conflict, the writers just sidestep it with “yayz there’s enough land for everyone, and the only reason to fight is because some of the previous inhabitants are EEEVIL.” Sure, you could use the excuse that ‘galaxies are big’ – but if you’re going with that, what are the chances of running into any alien species at the particular spot you land in? If there are aliens nearby who are aware of livable worlds in the region, but haven’t colonised them yet – why not? The Andromeda galaxy seems to be populated enough for the Initiative to run across aliens the moment they arrive, but not enough that there’s any competition for living space and resources. That’s a very specific level of etc., etc.

      As for the Krogan, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that ‘starting genocidal galaxy-wide wars’ is an inherent part of Krogan nature. I think it’s reasonable to assume that ‘uncontrolled population explosions’ are an inherent part of Krogan nature (given the right conditions), and that the one has a good chance of leading to the other unless you specifically work to avoid it. Either way, they’re a poor choice to bring along to a new galaxy before the whole genophage issue is sorted out.

      1. Redrock says:

        I think that’s Shamus’ point, though: rather than introduce a potentially interesting conflict, the writers just sidestep it with “yayz there’s enough land for everyone, and the only reason to fight is because some of the previous inhabitants are EEEVIL.”

        Perhaps, but then I can’t really see it as a negative. Unlike Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Andromeda at no point presents itself as a serious exploration of the issues of deep space colonialism. I don’t really subscribe to the idea that every game has to explore relevant socio-political issues. Not unless the game itself broaches those subjects, like Deus Ex does. Like Jabberwok said, having colonization in the game doesn’t mean you have to talk about colonialism. That would mean that every 4X game would have to do it. I mean, Campster once suggested that very thing, but I don’t really agree with that.

        1. Liessa says:

          I’m not saying you have to frame it as ‘THIS IS AN ANALOGY FOR COLONIALISM’, but I was genuinely disappointed they didn’t do more with the idea of the Initiative being – technically – the ‘alien invaders’ in this galaxy. There are all sorts of ways you could take that; it doesn’t have to be a stereotypical ‘European colonists vs. Native Americans’ scenario. As it is, the bulk of Andromeda’s story feels to me like it could just as well have taken place in the Milky Way, and that’s one of the most disappointing things about the game.

          1. Asdasd says:

            Yeah. They didn’t have to do it, but it’s kind of a missed opportunity, which is a shame. Mass Effect is more thinky than your average space 4X, after all – they’re at different ends of the ludo-narratological spectrum. And if you spend any time thinking about space colonisation at all, colonialism is bound to come up sooner or later, at least in the abstract.

            Having said that I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with telling an ethically straightforward story about an aggressors vs aggressed upon, where it’s obvious where the audience’s sympathy should lie, and if Campster or anyone else were to insist as much I would bristle like a toothbrush. (I think I know the video Redrock is talking about and it struck me as really being a bizarre critique.) It’s just, well, not a very interesting or novel idea for a story.

          2. Abnaxis says:

            Yeah, I think the article was a bit indulgent (so to speak) to spend so much space on colonialism specifically, when there’s any number of ideas that the writer could have explored but didn’t. For example, instead of colonists make the Council races actual refugees and look at issues of immigration and refugee settling. Make any of the Andromeda races structured around a big -ism and explore pros and cons. Make the Andromeda races (or the Council races) lack some sort of technology and look at the consequences of the technology as some of the aliens adopt it and other don’t. Or hell, just go on Kindle, buy yourself a highly rated speculative sci-fi book, change names to protect from lawsuits, and plagiarize someone ELSE’S speculation if you can’t find the creativity to write it yourself.

            This is what I think should have been more addressed in the article–instead of spending so much time on colonialism, spend less time coming up with a wider variety of what the writer COULD have done here. The real problem isn’t that Bioware didn’t explore colonialism, it’s that they didn’t explore anything and they got a well-deserved collective “meh” from the gaming public as a result.

          3. Jabberwok says:

            They definitely could’ve framed them as invasive in some way, which could have made for some interesting moral quandaries. I don’t think the situation lends itself well to an analogy for colonialism in general. It could have looked at the relationship between early settlers and natives in the Americas, but without a home country it is missing that element of economic vampirism. Still would be a worthwhile thing to investigate, though. But I guess they can’t make a game where the player isn’t the hero. Or even a game that might imply something negative about Western history…

            Off topic, it makes me think of how disappointed I was with Assassin’s Creed 3. In a series about opposing power, with a Native American protagonist, the game just has you helping the colonies win independence, presumably so they can continue exterminating your people. [Sorry if this is getting too political.]

      2. guy says:

        The Milky Way has explored and claimed but uncolonized planets all over, though; the whole reason there’s a particular hatred between humans and Batarians is that humans were colonizing empty worlds the Batarians had claimed. Either Andromeda is in a similar state, largely empty, or home to trillions across thousands of planets and the “colonization” will consist of filing paperwork with someone’s immigration office.

        1. Liessa says:

          Well, that’s kind of my point: even the planets that hadn’t actually been built on yet were mostly claimed by someone or other, leading to conflict when the humans showed up. As for immigration paperwork, I honestly think “having to find a way to integrate into a massive pre-existing civilisation’ could have made for a much more interesting story than what we actually got.

          1. guy says:

            The basic problem with a fight over territory, though, is that the Initiative’s needs are insignificant. It’s like having a fight over food for a city and then someone starving shows up and asks for a packet of beef jerkey. Sure, that’s food and the city needs food, but giving them the beef jerkey is not going to meaningfully impact the city. And since the Initiative is stranded, not giving them enough territory to settle and providing them with the ability to buy any critical resources they can’t mine themselves is basically mass murder; the Arks will break down at some point without resupply and condemn everyone aboard to hypothermia or oxygen starvation. So either the locals are bad people or they’ll make the Initiative an offer. And the Initiative will take that offer, die slowly as their environmental systems break down, or die quickly of starting a war with an interstellar civilization when they’re equipped for a peaceful expedition with some light weaponry for self-defense.

            1. Liessa says:

              It’s not necessarily that simple, though. Say you have a scenario like the one Shamus described, where there are a bunch of different alien races native to Andromeda, many of them already competing for territory (including those juicy uninhabited worlds the Initiative had set their sights on). Okay, they’re not total bastards, so they’re willing to help the colonists survive until they can decide to do with these unexpected, unwanted interlopers – but actually deciding what to do in the long term is a different matter. Maybe all these races have claimed territory which they could give up to the newcomers, but none of them want to be the ones to do it. Maybe they’re worried about the effects of alien culture and technology on their own people, or they’re concerned that the Initiative might be the vanguard for a much bigger invasion force. (As I said above, it’s true that the numbers of people involved should be insignificant on a galactic scale, but the original game doesn’t treat it that way. The Initiative acts like a much larger colonisation project, e.g. making plans to settle several planets.)

              Or you could take the conflict in a different direction: Say you’ve got that massive civilisation with trillions of people. Their attitude is “okay, we’ll give your insignificant flotilla a place in our awesome space empire, but in return you’ll play by our rules and like it.” This has the advantage of taking the story in a totally different direction from the original trilogy: there’s no way humans, asari or anyone else are going to be top dog here. Instead, the story is about trying to adapt and carve a niche for yourself in an unfamiliar society – an ‘immigration’ analogy rather than a ‘colonisation’ one.

              The point is that there are all sorts of interesting things BioWare could have done with the basic premise, but instead they went with “shoot the evil aliens from cover and make friends with the nice ones”. What’s the point of moving the action to a different galaxy if you’re just going to tell the same kind of story as before?

              1. Viktor says:

                That’s what I was going to mention. The Milky Way races are either refugees or immigrants, not colonizers. The local can either accept their presence or send them back to certain death. If they allow the MW races in, who decides what happens next? Do the MW races get their own planets to settle on, or are they shunted to tiny enclaves on established worlds that need laborers? Who gets to punish a human who breaks a law, and what happens if it’s a crime that one of the parties involved doesn’t recognize as a crime? A Krogan squad kills a bunch of Andromadans who were threatening the settlement. The Andromadan govt wants (relatively minor) restrictions on all Krogans because of it, how do the Council races react?

                There’s a million discussions to have here, and the writers decided “Nope, you travel to a new galaxy and shoot the evil aliens, that’s a good sci-fi story.” It’s just weak.

                1. guy says:

                  I don’t think those questions would end up making for a satisfying game because in practical terms the answers would be “whatever the Andromedans decide”. A human protagonist could try to influence their decisions, but if the Andromedans decide they want to be the ones who arrest and try humans who commit a crime then they will. Much like how the Turians decided humans didn’t get to open Mass Relays; the humans didn’t win the First Contact War, the Asari just told the Turians to peacefully resolve the Relay 314 Incident. Mass Effect 1 made the right call starting the story with the Relay 314 Incident in the background rather than being about the Relay 314 Incident. Because you’d have no meaningful input on the outcome; you would fight the Turians for a while and then the Asari would show up and tell you what humanity is allowed to do.

                  1. Liessa says:

                    That depends very much on how powerful the Andromedan government is. If there are lots of competing/warring species with incompatible laws, there might not be one at all, or it might be a talking-shop with no real power – in which case there’s a lot more scope for the newcomers to influence decisions. If it’s the big overbearing empire, that changes the dynamic completely, forcing them to conform outwardly while perhaps finding more subtle ways to resist. Either approach could make for a good story.

              2. guy says:

                Well, yes, those could be interesting stories. My point, though, is that those aren’t stories about colonialism; they’re about basically being a mercenary company with family along trying to settle down if they can get paid in land or about the immigrant experience.

                And I don’t think the story they told was nonviable; if the terraforming mechanics were deeper and relations with the Angara were more complex (it’d help if there were multiple groups of friendly-ish aliens with competing interests and the kett weren’t dominant enough that negotiations wouldn’t boil down to “help us not get exterminated by the kett and you can name your price) it could have been great as-is.

                1. Liessa says:

                  Well, it would certainly have helped – but introducing more species only increases the problem of ‘why haven’t these worlds been claimed/settled yet?’ I’m sure the writing team could come up with a plausible way to avoid the colonisation issue if they tried; what baffles me is that it’s such an obvious theme and it’s never even brought up. Not even when Ryder’s team lands on their first planet and the inhabitants immediately start shooting at them.

                  1. guy says:

                    The answer is that the planets suck until Ryder fixes them. If the kett weren’t genocidal then they’d be the places no one wants and might get around to settling when they are totally out of less terrible worlds.

                    I’d have gone with them being like 20% habitability worlds in Stellaris; someone owns them but isn’t terribly invested in keeping them. They wouldn’t give them away for free, but they’ll “sell” them cheap, and the real dilemma is who you “buy” from. I would also have made the terraforming and settlement mechanics a lot deeper, so they merit their key place in the story. I’d argue the story is set up to be about terraforming and the kett and Angarans are complications; they take on more percieved importance because they’re what the mechanics let you interact with more.

    3. “Claiming uninhabited territory is a bit different than invading a continet and enslaving locals.”

      This depends a LOT on your definition of “uninhabited” and how well that definition meshes with the definition of the people already in the place you’re going to. Just because a planet or solar system doesn’t have anybody living full-time on it, that doesn’t mean that nobody uses it, or that moving in and putting up a settlement/farms/etc. won’t seriously devastate the use that it WAS being put to by the absentee owner(s). And are you so sure that, when the absentee owners(s) show up for whatever they WERE using that territory for, they’ll even RECOGNIZE your colonists as “people” instead of some strange fungal growth to be exterminated with extreme prejudice?

      The interaction of completely different races in space should be rife with these kinds of problems. It was actually one of the conceptual problems that Star Trek at least made an effort at addressing. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra was a classic episode for a reason.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Quite so. Imagine how you’d feel if a bunch of scruffy looking foreigners started living in the public park where you like to take your kids to play. Or in the middle of your local church or sports stadium. Or camped out in your bathroom because “you’re hardly ever in there anyway.”

        1. avocaat says:

          Have you seen Paris lately? Or Malmo, or London, or Calais, or Rome, or most of the Southern US?

  2. KotBasil says:

    I haven’t play Andromeda, so take my words with a grain of salt, but… I think bringing Krogan into Andromeda Initiative can be seen as a humane solution to the “Krogan problem”. I mean, if I’d need to find a place for a race of war-loving, fast-breeding badasses, it would be exactly some kind of a new frontier. It’s good for them, and is far enough from me. Yes, it is bad from the point of view of locals, but we are alrerady kinda screwing them over by this whole Initiative.

    1. GoStu says:

      From the point of view of the expedition’s organizer though, it’s a colossally stupid and short-sighted move.There are no Mass Relays in the Andromeda galaxy, so you’ll be at best limited to a few solar systems that you can reach with “conventional” FTL drives, not the whole galaxy like in the Milky Way. You don’t have unlimited room, you have maybe a couple dozen habitable planets.

      By bringing Krogan and improving their fertility, you’ve doomed everyone to re-enact the Krogan Rebellions in a few generations. This isn’t “unforseen consequences” or even “didn’t learn that lesson from history” – Krogan in the era of ME1 (when the Initiative launched) are still angry and bitter over the Krogan Rebellions. That’s not a missed lesson from history, it’s a lesson missed lesson from right-freaking-now, and it makes the expedition’s planners look like complete sinus-mining morons with precisely zero foresight.

      1. Yeah, it’s not like they’re transplanting the ENTIRE Krogan species, just a few members. So, unless their assumption was that the Milky Way is going to be scrubbed of all sapient life shortly by the Reapers so they HAD to bring EVERYONE (which can’t have been their assumption, since they DIDN’T bring everyone), bringing the Krogan specifically seems pretty ridiculous.

      2. KotBasil says:

        Valid points, but still don’t think it is such a bad decision, for following reasons:
        – Firstly, the position “Krogans = doom” is kinda disrespectful to Krogans, and based on assumption that they can’t learn from their mistakes. They are warlike, but still an intelligent race, not some kind of mindless space parasite who can only spread.
        – Secondly, I actually don’t see a better solution for the Krogan problem. As far as I remember it was kinda swept under the rug in ME3 with handwavy “Genophage is cured and all is ok”.

        1. Culnan says:

          Well that depended on who lived or died. IIRC if Wrex and Eve both lived then the Krogan adapted and everything was fine because the two of them were implied to be able to enforce a new way on the Clans. Can’t remember what happened with Wrex but no Eve (I assume something similar). If you had Wreav and Eve, it looked like a Civil War brewed between Eve’s ‘chill out guys, we don’t want more genocide’ faction and Wreav’s ‘fight all the things forever’ faction. Only Wreav left? Then it’s Krogan Rebellions 2.0 (which is why that’s the only way you can persuade Mordin to sabotage the cure himself).

          The issue with the Krogan is that their violent ways are so entrenched in their culture, very few of them even think to try another way. Look at ME1 Wrex, he’s a bitter, failed reformer who’s given up on his species. His entire ME1 background and exploration of the Krogan is that they, on a macro scale, haven’t learnt from their mistakes. It’s only during the games he gets his second wind to try again and make something stick, whether the Krogan like it or not.

          That said, I have to disagree with Shamus that the “nuanced “it’s not that simple” renegade position was never properly articulated by any of the characters.”. That was pretty much Mordin’s ME2 plot (to the point I found it somewhat jarring when he pulled a complete 180 in ME3). And I found he articulated the ‘bad business, but better than a second Rebellion’ stance extremely well, and without becoming some emotionless Vulcan-parody.

  3. Mephane says:

    I actually cut quite a few. I’m worried these sections are getting a little self-indulgent.

    Don’t you worry, I am sure I am not the only one who greatly enjoys reading these ideas. :)

    1. Matthew Collins says:

      They were all good and interesting ideas, and it’s a shame that this degree of thought wasn’t put into the actual game, which (some occasional interesting stuff with the angara’s fractured society/nebulous history notwithstanding) seemed more interested in just replicating the Milky Way in Andromeda, even if the numbers and timeframe couldn’t logically support it. (How many exiles are there? Surely you must have shot every single one of them twice over). The krogan are a symptom of that — rather than doing anything new with them (or even something that deliberately plays with the theme of repetition, by *showing* them as an invasive presence happily carving up the frontier and the Initiative is stuck wringing its hands and thinking “maybe we should have thought this through a bit more/not been so idealistic”), they’re just off on their radioactive homeworld directing some simmering hostility to the Citadel (I mean, Nexus). Or you could have played up the genophage as insurmountable, and have krogan martyrs who accept their race’s extinction and want to go out having conquered/built a new galaxy, contrasting with long-term or optimistic thinking from the other races, who are intending to be here blossoming indefinitely. It could even get rather dark, with a group of krogan displacing/killing a native community to clear way for one of the Council races who could use the location (without the Nexus’ approval, obviously). If the krogan are going to be enemies, at least make them tragic enemies who were driven out by trying hard to help (in their own way). As it is, the krogan don’t really live up to the promise of something new *or* interesting exploration of the old dynamic. It’s just a bit stagnant. The krogan are here, they live on their wasteland, they don’t like anyone else. It’s good to see them, because who doesn’t like krogan, but that is indeed the only real reason why they’re here.

      EDIT: Actually, I disagree with “no good reason to bring the batarians”. This was a perfect opportunity to flesh them out, explore an underused culture, finally have a batarian squadmate, and generate uncertainty — “we didn’t come all this way so you humans and batarians could just do the same thing you did back home and fight over who gets to colonise what”. “No, we’re going to work together, honestly!” As the post says, krogan have been done, we’ve heard their story. There’s a lot about the batarian story we haven’t heard. And unlike the other two “outcast” races (krogan and quarian), we never got the opportunity to explore the batarian experience, befriend a batarian representative, or help the batarians reclaim a place of nobility in the eyes of the galaxy. Where was the batarian Tali or Wrex? Well, now you make him/her.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        I’ve turned a corner on the Batarians myself. I think there’s something interesting there worth exploring. It’s really easy to write them off as “evil” because they believe in and practice slavery, but I don’t think that every culture in monolithic. It would be really easy to establish some Batarians whose beliefs in slavery are a little more complicated than just choosing to be evil. There could be groups of Batarians who are completely anti-slavery. Heck, you could have Batarians who join the Andromeda Initiative to get away from a Batarian government who persecutes them for their anti-slavery stances. All the better since the Batarians in the Milky Way go on to be virtually ended as a species.

        1. guy says:

          The original trilogy established that the Batarians are actually pretty normal people, they’re just citizens of a paranoid theocratic dictatorship that’s big on xenophobic propoganda. And then humans hate them for being slavers even if a particular Batarian isn’t and has run off to join the Blue Suns and serve as a mercenary alongside humans and Turians, so those Batarians figure the dictatorship is nuts but they do have a point that humans are assholes who deserve anything that happens to them. “Not you, boss, you treat us right.”

          Also Codex entries and planet logs very strongly imply they recovered a dead Reaper and brought it back to the capital for study a long time ago, and so their central government is Indoctrinated to hell and back. Hence why they just folded instantly when the Reapers invaded.

          1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            This reminds me of a comment I read a while ago where someone said that, basically, all of the significant information we get about the Batarians is little more than propaganda from the people who are at odds with them. That might be a bit of exaggeration, but I still think that the Batarians could’ve been more diverse and interesting than most people would’ve given them credit for.

            1. guy says:

              That is indeed our main source on them; ME2 has a couple scenes with Batarian civilians who are puzzled that a human is showing mercy, and there’s ambiant dialogue and a couple conversations and miniquests in the Citadel in ME3 establishing that the refugees are surprised and grateful they’ve been taken in, plus a priest preaching hope and trying to restore the old, less xenophobic religious ways.

      2. Stuart Worthington says:

        Apparently Zaeed in ME2 was originally going to be a Batarian but that changed for some reason. A missed opportunity, for sure.

    2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      So the examples were: Texas, Baton Rouge, Massachusetts, and… Australia?

  4. Geebs says:

    Did no-one in the Mass Effect universe ever consider cloning arbitrary numbers of cats as a way to keep the Krogan population down?

    Now excuse me, I’m off to solve our pest-control problems using cane toads. I’m sure everything will work out just fine.

    1. Matthew Collins says:

      Krogan are basically cane toads. Actually, they’re rabbits. Same destructive influence on Australia and other places, well known for reproducing like, well, rabbits, prey animals with jittery hair-trigger reflexes… krogan are ecologically speaking, Tuchankan rabbits.

      “All the world will be your enemy, prince with a thousand enemies. And when they catch you they will kill you. But first they must contend with your M-300 Claymore”

      1. Kestrellius says:


  5. Philadelphus says:

    We have scans of what the golden worlds looked like 600 years ago, and we can see they did not contain any advanced civilizations at the time.

    Probably because they’re actually two million years out of date, due to the light travel time from Andromeda and all. (Though it’d be hilarious if you try to use them as evidence and one of the locals points that out.) Although, not having played any of the games, maybe they addressed that somewhere in the setting?

    1. Matthew Collins says:

      They did. Hand-waved it, something about the Geth having built a device to scan dark space in real time (presumably looking for the Old Machines), and some quarians lifting the data and selling it to the Initiative.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        Yeah – it’s this interesting bit of lore that is pretty important to nitpickers like me, but gets so little attention that it gets lost in the lore. As much of a fan as I am of lore, even my understanding of it had to be corrected to some degree in the last installment.

        But the Geth converted a Mass Relay into a long range telescope because they were looking into dark space, presumably for the Reapers, but then it essentially gave the Quarians a “real time” look into Andromeda and that’s how we knew that there was that cluster of golden worlds existing “now.”

        Maybe I’m just a nerd about these sorts of things, but I would’ve liked the game to have made a bigger deal about it.

        1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          For that matter, I felt like multiple bits of valuable lore got downplayed so hard that they were easily missed when the writer of this game should’ve been making a big deal out of them, if not otherwise tying them to the main quests in some way.

          The whole Benefactor storyline is one of the most important plot points of the game, but it gets hidden behind a ridiculous collection quest that many people probably didn’t bother with.

          There’s a small side-quest on Elaaden where you can discover that a radiation leak may have damaged the minds of a significant portion of the Andromeda Initiative’s population, making them the violent, self-destructive mooks that we often find ourselves shooting at instead of the competent scientists, engineers, and military personnel that the Initiative thought they were bringing. But how often do you hear this quest get discussed? Virtually never – because the game itself barely treats it like a footnote.

          1. Trevor says:

            I can’t hate on Peebee that much because she is the only person we meet in the game who seems legitimately stoked to be exploring a new galaxy. She can be annoying, although, I would argue, in an interesting way. But we don’t really meet any competent scientists, engineers, or military personnel. Everyone complains (at best) or rebels (at worst) as soon as things become difficult. It’s like, why did any of you sign up for this?

      2. Philadelphus says:

        Ah, thanks for the explanation (and apologies to Shamus for what comes off more passive-aggressive than I intended). I’m glad they addressed it; I can take a hand wave, it shows they at least thought about it.

  6. guy says:

    Honestly I don’t think Andromeda has a setup that allows for a colonialism story, for two reasons:

    1. It’s a one-way trip with no expectation of any following trips; there’s just the one expedition and their goal is to live in Andromeda, not exploit it for resources or “civilize” the natives
    2. The expedition is tiny. A hundred thousand people for an entire galaxy.

    If the expedition had been from Andromeda to the Milky Way it would have been resolved when the Asari tossed them a not yet colonized garden world on the condition they not make trouble with an attached note that their scientists may be able to learn a lot from each other :attached video of the Destiny Ascension in action: because the Turian councilor insisted on including a threat. The expedition’s land needs are simply too minimal to be a serious burden for an interstellar civilization; it’s like asking the US for five square miles. That’s not free, but it’s not a big deal.

    1. guy says:

      I also don’t think the story potential of the Milky Way races was in any way close to played out. I mean, imagine you got an Asari commando as a squadmate. She could go around addressing Ryder as Pathfinder, proposing the Initative seek a diplomatic solution and she’ll handle the security arrangements, talk people into giving up their weapons when the locals insist (whisper: “I don’t need a gun to use my biotics, but we don’t have to tell them that”) and wear a normal set of armor and not be at all hedonistic aside from a passing mention that the Angarans look kinda hot.

      The Mass Effect races aren’t one-note; they have a lot of room for different characters within them. The first game had a Salarian military commander and a Krogan research director on Virmire, after all.

    2. Thomas says:

      Garden worlds are fairly scarce in Mass Effect. There were plenty of conflicts over ownership of garden worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy.

      This is definitely true of Andromeda – you’re looking at 6(?) Garden worlds and most of them are either inhabited or had been previously inhabitants.

      And then Andromeda invites the comparison by immediately having you shoot the first enemy you see – establishing that you will be using force to take and defend your land (which is also a game mechanic).

      So there is a conflict in Andromeda of settlers for another world coming and taking land that was wanted by other people and using force. Its not straight European colonialism because the power balance is very different but the metaphor is wired into the game.

      (also I think a lot of people are thinking India and Africa when this is closer to North America and Australia – settlement instead of trade)

      But then the game, after making some pretty big world building contortions to create this situation (I agree the exploration or refugees would have been the more natural route for the designers to go) it goes to greater contortions to avoid it.

      The species you’re battling to seize land from don’t actually want the land, they’re evil and want to make the land inhabitable. The previous inhabitants are dead or show no desire or possessiveness about resettling or the Initiative refuse to settle on an inhabited planet out of place politeness without mentioning resource scarcity.

      Andromeda goes to great lengths to get nowhere

      1. guy says:

        Andromeda is really trying to tell the story of Feros, basically; it’s not about colonialism in the sense we think of it. There’s land there that no one lives on because it’s not livable, and the goal is to make it livable and protect it from raiders. Yes, you shoot the first people you meet, but that is because you have been shipwrecked and the locals are attempting to murder everyone in the lifeboats. The kett attacking you under those conditions in response to trying to talk to them is outright a war crime. You are not attempting to take their land, you are seeking help with a ship in distress full of civilians and fighting in self-defense when fired upon. The fact that the ship is from very far away doesn’t change that.

        It is established right out the gate that the Andromeda Initative does not authorize initiating hostilities; you are reminded that the rules of engagement strictly forbid firing first.

        Basically I think the reason Andromeda has nothing to say about colonialism is that it’s not happening. It is straightfowardly a war with a malevolent empire bent on genocide, occurring alongside struggles with an unforgiving environment and ancient alien tech, plus seeking to build alliances where possible. All it has to say about killing people to take their land is that the Initiative expressly forbids that.

        I am of the opinion that the problem with Andromeda isn’t that it’s not about colonialism, it’s that it’s about terraforming, first contact scenarios, and fighting not!Daleks in a shallow and uninteresting way.

        1. Thomas says:

          That “fighting proactively because you’re seeking defence for yourself” is a real ideological trap though. By responding to initial aggression with aggression whilst the situation is still hot you can ruin relations that could have otherwise been pleasant.

          Imagine if aliens declared war on us, because a bunch of yokels shot at some aliens who landed in a field in the middle of nowhere.

          This isn’t some abstraction either – there have been lots of historical incidents, but the biggest one is India. “Just defending themselves against hostility” is the reason the British used to subjugate the whole subcontinent. And not merely as an excuse. For a large part (well up to Clive) they thought they were being entirely rational and reasonable as you suggest above. They had warehouses because they were trading. A civilian population built up around them. The local population sometimes rejected or punished the civilian population for reasons that seemed obscure to the British. They built up their security forces to protect their civilian population – the local government “irrationally” objects to this which requires more aggressive politics, which they tended to come out on top of because they had the economic force of their trading success backing them. The native governments go through some turbulent times and suddenly it’s a 100 years later, we’re controlling half the coast with a massive standing army and parliament (nor the East India company) has never displayed any actual objective desire to do so. They were just defending their interests – but on someone else’s sovereign territory who they didn’t really understand or care about. (And then later on it changes)

          Sure, it happens to turn out the Kett are irredeemably evil in every way, it happens that it wasn’t a rogue band of Kett, or a small Kett population who were frightened at seeing aliens land on their doorstep, or the Kett mistaking a crashed spaceship for an act of war. Or the Kett mistaking a bunch of refugees for an invading force (they have no idea about the Milky Way, the spaceships are huge, why should they assume they were colonialists or setttlers). But they wrote the Kett off as the enemy before they spoke their language, before trying to make a second contact situation.

          They just ignored all the problems and wrote the easy answers. As I said – structurally this is a semi-colonialist set-up – you’re looking to claim land, the story says that that land had been occupied – so at one time it was viable – and you are fighting a war against a species who has more ties to the area than you.

          But then the story goes out of it’s way to rejustify the problems – “It’s Feros, all the aliens are dead and they don’t want the planets anymore”, “the angry aliens commit war crimes for breakfast”. They set-up a complex problem and then made sure it wasn’t complex in a dumb boring way.

          1. guy says:

            See, I think the outcome of any Andromeda Initiative the Council might permit to exist running into any of those “more interesting” conflicts would be boring. It is explicitly in their charter that they’re going to avoid conflict wherever possible. And if that weren’t in their charter then a Turian battlefleet would have shown up to inform the builders that the Milky Way is not going to go invade Andromeda for no reason.

            I do not think the situation allows for an interesting dilemma over whether to murder innocent people and take their land. That is generally agreed to be bad. In order for it to be remotely justifiable it would need to be strictly necessary for survival, and that would only happen if Andromeda is much, much more densely settled than the Milky Way, which it should be noted has at least one Garden World devoted to the Ardat-Yakshi monastary because dealing with its ecosystem is annoying.

            I think Mass Effect flatly cannot support an interesting narrative about colonialism by the Milky Way to Andromeda; either there is no dilemma because you can easily negotiate settlement rights (you have the entire scientific knowledge of the Milky Way to barter with, after all), there is no dilemma because the locals have decided to basically murder you all out of spite rather than give up the right to maybe settle one planet sometime if they can be bothered to get around to it, or there is no dilemma because you’re trying to be a Stellaris endgame crisis with four unarmed colony ships designed for settling unclaimed planets and it turns out that is an objectively terrible plan and the only real question is whether you’ve picked a fight with one giant doom empire or a thousand small empires. Maybe if the Council had opted to abandon the Milky Way to the Reapers and evacuate their entire population and full battlefleets that would work, but they did not do that.

            What it can support is an interesting narrative about settling a planet rendered nearly uninhabitable by massive radiation storms or deadly wildlife. Andromeda told that narrative really badly.

            1. guy says:

              An analogy has occurred to me: Andromoda is not about colonialism in the same way the first episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead is not about the ethics of breaking into a pharmacy to steal heart medication; it is about surviving a zombie apocolypse. Were there not a zombie apocolypse going on then there would be no need to break into the pharmacy, and since there is a zombie apocolypse going on obviously you break into the pharmacy and the interesting question is how.

              Andromeda fails not because it asks the question of how to settle a planet instead of if; it fails because the answer to how is boring.

            2. Liessa says:

              OK, I flatly disagree with this. Lots of people – including Shamus in the original article – have suggested ways in which the colonisation theme could be made interesting, without portraying one side or the other as pure evil. Your argument is basically “the game isn’t about colonialism because it isn’t.” Okay, so the Initiative’s charter forbids violence: show what happens when they reach Andromeda and their noble ideals run slap-bang into reality. That kind of thing is a big theme in Star Trek, after all, and ME is heavily inspired by Star Trek.

              Could I see Andromeda being a good story without the ‘conflict over territory’ theme? Sure: just get rid of the aliens and focus on the internal tensions between the colonists, as well as their struggles to transform a hostile environment into living space. The game kind of half-asses this with the rebellion, but that basically boils down to ‘some people ran off to be smugglers’ (and the ‘hostile environment’ thing is completely handwaved by having magic machines do everything for you). What I’m not buying is that the colonists arrive to find loads of native species, yet coincidentally plenty of unclaimed land for everyone.

              1. guy says:

                Well, that basically happened in Mass Effect 1’s backstory. Humanity arrived on the galactic stage to find loads of species and plenty of basically unclaimed land. The Batarians considered some of the planets humanity settled rightfully theirs, but that claim was considered illegitimate by everyone else so there is no more reason to respect it than there is the kett’s claims in Andromeda as written. It is inherent to the setting of Mass Effect that interstellar nations will often be aware of potentially habitable planets they have not settled and have no plans to settle anytime soon.

                I do not think the technological and cultural conditions established in Mass Effect allow for the conflict over territory to be any deeper than it is in Andromeda as written. The expedition desperately needs a trivial quantity of territory and has no use for more. Had it been an expedition to the Milky Way, the Asari would have tossed them one of the many unsettled Garden Worlds and that would be that; if the expedition didn’t like it they could take it up with the Destiny Ascension. In order to not have a large quantity of unsettled Garden Worlds Andromeda would need to be vastly more developed and settled than the Milky Way is, and therefore almost certainly far more militarily powerful, so the question of whether we do something to make enemies when there is any possible alternative is obviously no because if we make enemies they kill us just as soon as they can dispatch a minor border patrol fleet to wipe us out in hours.

                1. guy says:

                  Essentially I think under the conditions that would make sense to have with Mass Effect technology for an intergalactic expedition organized during the original trilogy, either the colonists will be pure evil for taking land they don’t need from its rightful owners, or the locals will be pure evil for denying the colonists land they critically need to survive. And if the locals are sufficently militarily weak that picking unnecessary fights is a pragmatic option, then there’s going to be land they can’t meaningfully use or exert influence over, so basically the Initiative just gets enough of the land to meet their needs and pays a price the Initiative considers reasonable. If the locals do not think that price is reasonable, it doesn’t really matter because they’re not a credible military threat. If they are a credible military threat you get whatever land they can most part with at the price they set, or you get the land they’re least interested in fighting you for and fortify as heavily as you can in the hopes they’ll give up, because you have no source of reinforcements so your only hope is to convince them kicking you out is too much trouble.

                  Obviously you could make decisions about what kind of price you opt to pay for the territory you are 100% getting, but I do not think the tradeoffs are going to be interesting enough to take center stage. You came loaded for establishing a colony from a civilization that can put prime real estate on Novaria and were not expecting any intelligent inhabitants at all; setting up your colony as an isolated self-sufficent compound in some marginal area is not going to be a serious hardship for you. They could have made it more interesting as a sub-plot by having multiple non-kett races so you pick who you’re going to buy/eminent domain a hell world from, but the main plot would still have to be fighting the kett or terraforming the hell world. I do not think the problem with Andromeda is its choice of core plot, its problem is that its core plot is badly implemented. Because the war against the kett is abstractly the same plot as the war against the Reapers, and Mass Effect 1 shows that plot has legs.

                  1. Liessa says:

                    There absolutely was conflict over territory in the original series – aside from the human/Batarian thing, we had the Krogan wars (and arguably the Rachni wars to some extent) as well as the issue of the Quarians’ search for a homeland, and that’s just from the first game. What’s more, there were plenty more conflicts over issues other than planetary settlement: political power and influence, relative military strength, cultural and religious differences, you name it. The one thing you can guarantee when one group of people meets another is that there’ll be conflict of some kind, even if both sides are mostly decent and well-meaning, and this was a major and (to my mind) one of the most interesting elements of the Mass Effect setting. But Andromeda throws all this out the window, because the only new races we meet are either straight-up murderous bastards (so we needn’t feel bad about killing them or encroaching on their territory), or so chill that they’ve got no problem with a bunch of random aliens arriving without warning and just plonking themselves down on the planet next door.

                    I could buy the ‘trivial quantity of territory’ argument if the game ever actually made it, but it doesn’t – it’s simply taken for granted that the colonists will be spreading themselves out over several planets. To be fair, this has been a problem as far back as ME1 – the games treat planets like countries (or even cities) and tiny research-outpost numbers of people like huge settlements. The colony on Eden Prime seemed to consist of about 20 people. With those tiny numbers, why don’t we just friggin’ share these planets with the Batarians? We could settle on different continents and never have to see or interact with each other in any way.

                    Like I said before, I wouldn’t mind the territorial conflict being handwaved away if the writers put the least amount of effort into it. What I can’t deal with is the way they straight-up ignore it, and all the other obvious issues you’d expect to face when colonising an already-populated galaxy. You can’t just give us one alien species that’s super-evil and one that’s super-friendly, and expect a bunch of space opera fans to be happy with that. Personally I’d be fine with either a much-more or much-less populated galaxy, each of which raises different problems for the colonists to deal with, or even with one that’s similar to the Milky Way but with a very different political situation (as suggested by Shamus). Instead it feels like the writers just copied a bunch of elements from the original series, without including much of what I found interesting to start with.

  7. Chris_ANG says:

    The sorta interesting thing about Krogan reproduction that (it sounds like) never occurs to the writers is that they could just *choose* not to have 1000 children a year.

    I mean, humans can also produce an unsustainable number of children (8-14 kids per family, easy, or 4-7x population growth per 30-ish years), but a lot of people just choose not to. And, just like the Krogan, it used to be necessary to have lots of kids, and now it isn’t.

    It also makes a lot of sense that the initial uplift would have gone very badly in that regard. The Krogan went from living on a planet where it was necessary to have lots of kids, to fighting a galactic war where it was *also* necessary to have lots of kids, to suddenly being expected to fit in to a multi-species civilization where everyone has to share space. If they’d been left alone to tame their homeworld, by the time they made it to space they might’ve been in a very different place, culturally.

    1. guy says:

      The problem with the Krogan that does require a biological solution is that they have children a thousand at a time because they evolved under conditions where only one in a thousand would reach adulthood. Once they got uplifted and 998 in a thousand would reach adulthood things went to hell. They didn’t have a culture and government that would say that one out of every thousand females would get to have any children at all this year. Post Wrex, they’ve got a more organized and restrained government and culture that can keep things under control to an extent, though I think clutches of a full thousand is straight-up nonviable over the long term.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        How could they even handle that many children? Between the end of the Rachni war and the genophage, the vast majority of Krogans must have had less education than a caveman. Sure, you have to assume that they’re much more independent than human children anyway, but they’re not going to learn how to live in a remotely advanced society on instinct.

        1. guy says:

          Well, they handled them very badly, apparently.

          Probably they made heavy use of VIs and automated teaching systems, and didn’t actually have a thousand kids a year; they had on average a thousand kids every twenty years so it was slightly more managable to run public schools and such but still got out of hand pretty quick.

      2. INH5 says:

        Personally, I just mentally replace the Krogan reproduction numbers with “naturally reproduces at a rate somewhere between humans and rabbits.” I get the sense that the writers never really thought about the implications of the “thousand eggs” thing.

        1. guy says:

          I think the ME1 and ME2 writers did. They reproduce like frogs, and when like frogs most of them died in childhood this was fine. Then they got uplifted and now nearly all of them survive childhood.

          The implications of the thousands of eggs thing are why the genophage is so interesting; if the Krogan birth rate was in any way sustainable there’s no way the genophage would have ever been permitted by the Council.

  8. Hal says:

    I don’t know about lawlessness, but I do know that if you’re forming a colony that’s never going to get more arrivals, you bring people who are going to make babies. Lots and lots of babies. Because your new civilization is going to collapse without people making babies.

    Which, frankly, kind of makes bringing the Krogan someone sensible. If they can bread at even a reasonable rate, they’ll establish your presence in the galaxy very quickly. At that point, though, you are riding the tiger.

    1. guy says:

      The expedition is big enough it doesn’t really need to worry about that; they’re big enough to be stable from a population growth perspective. They’d only need Krogan birthrates if they’re intent on rapid expansion, which they aren’t really.

      Though the Krogan might need Krogan birth rates; they don’t have Ark slots so their breeding pool is just the Nexus staff.

      Also the Asari Ark, but that just gets you tempermental Asari with bone ridges like Liara’s dad rather than Krogan.

      1. Hal says:

        Not necessarily. It’s not just “stable population growth,” which is still 2.1 kids per woman (which is going to be a lot on a mission like this.) You also have to maintain genetic diversity for the sake of the long-term health of your population. That can mean needing as many as 40,000 people to start with. These ships brought 20,000 people of each species, so that’s adequate for the less generous calculations, but again assuming that everyone is having kids. Genetic diversity suffers if you’re leaving a portion of your population to do the breeding for everyone else.

        This is one of the reasons Colony Arks in sci-fi have a tendency to be rather tyrannical; because they almost have to be if the group is to survive. You don’t get a say in whether you’re going to be having kids because everyone has to be having kids. You don’t get a say in what career you’re going into, because the colony ship needs X number of engineers, and you can’t decide you want to be a painter instead.

        1. guy says:

          The usual number I see for gene diversity for species survival is 500 individuals. With Mass Effect genetic tech they have a lot of slack, too; if a genetic disorder crops up they can just fix it.

        2. Viktor says:

          We’re getting a lot of interesting developments now about the actual number of individuals needed for a viable population. The key is that currently, we don’t know much, but we’re learning exactly what it is that we don’t know. Invasive species thrive with an initial population numbering in the dozens, various extremely small human communities managed to breed out their genetic disorders, but there are anti-inbreeding checks in our genes that we don’t know how to overcome. A thousand is the commonly-cited number, but the ME writers could have gone with anything and I’d buy it. They’ve got sci-fi gene treatments, lots of doctors, and an initial population drawn from a bunch of isolated groups. If they say it’s fine, then the genetic diversity is fine.

          1. Hal says:

            They’ve got sci-fi gene treatments, lots of doctors, and an initial population drawn from a bunch of isolated groups. If they say it’s fine, then the genetic diversity is fine.

            That’s a fine resolution in a sci-fi setting. The actual birthrates will still be an issue; 2.1 per woman is the rate for population stability just to get replacement. I’d say you get some lee way on that since you’re probably not bringing a lot of elderly people along for this kind of journey, but that at least gets negated by the danger of a colony like this. You’ll face population pressure from any number of unknown factors: Hostile actors, dangerous environments, new diseases, etc.

            You have to make life comfortable first, of course, but at some point you have to have that baby boom, or else your colony lasts 1-2 generations and then peters out.

            1. guy says:

              Mass Effect has the tech for mass production military clones, as Saren and Okeer demonstrated, so they don’t need any natural birth rate whatsoever. And hitting 2.1 births naturally is not hard for any of the species present if they make the effort; it’s only a problem if a lot of people decide to avoid having more than two kids.

        3. Joe Informatico says:

          Things are a bit mitigated because by the asari’s crazy biology they’re better off having children by non-asari, but then why are they on their own ark instead of being spread out among everyone else’s arks? A handwave about politics, asari always breeding “true”, blah blah would have been nice. Also, each salarian female lays dozens of viable eggs a year, and it’s only social convention that keeps their population at 90% male (unfertilized eggs), so presumably they could grow their population pretty quickly by allowing more females to be born–probably a good idea for a species with a lifespan of about 40–so they’re probably okay too.

          Also, why not bring several hundred thousand frozen embryos along? You could probably bring at least half a dozen or more for the same cost in space and resources as one adult human popsicle, and then you have the next generation ready to go once your settlements are well-established. You don’t have to have potentially half of your personnel inconvenienced by pregnancy at some point (unless they choose to be), and you have at least one cohort of settlers who’ve gestated under controlled and understood Milky Way conditions instead of the unknowns of having children in Andromeda.

          Unless the intent is to form “traditional” (ha!) nuclear family units among your settlers, but given the opportunity to build a new, advanced civilization from the ground up, is that the best way to go about it? Because it seems like the perfect opportunity to try new methods of social organization–group marriages, polygamous arrangements, collectivist child-rearing, the kind of ideas people crazy enough to pick and leave for another galaxy might like–and the feasibility of these could make for interesting stories besides. I’m not usually a gatekeeper-y SF fan who says “You must read the Golden Age classics!” but I’ll admit they tended to explore these areas a lot more than most post-Star Trek/Star Wars derivatives who assume everyone’s upbringing was in a late 20th century middle-class American context.

          1. guy says:

            I think the answer to all this is that the Initiative is basically a bunch of people choosing to move to Andromeda, and they’re coming in a big enough block they don’t need to do any of that. The Milky Way has, as far as the vast majority of the people involved in the planning know, absolutely no practical need to settle Andromeda at all. And while they have genetic tech that can do quite a lot, it’s tightly regulated by the Council and they would not permit the expedition to go forward if it depended on illegal cloning like that. And if the Initiative did get around that somehow, they could take Okeer’s tech and manufacture trained adult colonists on site. Much more practical if drastic measures to increase the population are required.

          2. DHW says:

            >Because it seems like the perfect opportunity to try new methods of social organization–group marriages, polygamous arrangements, collectivist child-rearing, the kind of ideas people crazy enough to pick and leave for another galaxy might like–

            Well, that would certainly provide opportunities for exciting storytelling as the colonies collapse disastrously, I’ll give you that.

            1. Viktor says:

              Dude, collective child-rearing is basically normal in many places that aren’t the US, and has been throughout history. Polygamy is less common, but it has worked in the past and if done without the sexism, could work in the future. The nuclear family as a unit only came to prominence in the 1950s(hence the name) and is no more the default state for humanity than any other social structure.

              1. DHW says:

                > Polygamy is less common, but it has worked in the past and if done without the sexism, could work in the future.

                Sure, and Communism could work if done without the oppression and corruption. It’s just that it never seems to actually happen that way. In practice, you’ll get Saudi Arabia if you’re _lucky_, and Afghanistan if you’re not.

                Our societies didn’t just pick monogamy out of a hat, you know.

                1. Shamus says:

                  That’s enough of that. I can see this isn’t headed anywhere productive. Topic closed.

  9. Jabberwok says:

    Funny to think of them writing in a Wrex 2.0 character, when we already had Grunt….

    1. RCN says:

      Wrex 3.counting?

      Wrex we-will-continue-to-make-the-exact-same-Krogan-and-hope-no-one-will-notice?

      Though, to be fair, Grunt isn’t Wrex. Grunt just wants to be everything he THINKS Wrex is.

  10. Darren says:

    The thing about the Genophage that was consistent throughout the series and which wasn’t really scrutinized quite enough is that the core problem of infertility was compounded by the fact that Krogan culture is inclined to lethal violence. The Krogan responded to having 1,000 kids a year by having a culture that easily accepted massive loss of life. With those kinds of numbers, a more civilized society could have a casual approach to murder and still have a population explosion. But once the Genophage was introduced, the hard lives and brutal death tolls that Krogan happily lead swiftly decimated them.

    The Genophage was, fundamentally, more of a cultural problem than anything else, but the series didn’t address this as much as it could have. Wrex, of all people, seemed the most keenly aware that Krogan culture needed to shift if they were to survive. Most other characters were fixated on the morality of mass sterilization, even though the scenario was well beyond the kind of hypotheticals that we argue about in real life.

    1. guy says:

      Yeah, one reason I liked the geophage is that it didn’t actually change between ME1 and ME2; what changed was that we heard about it from Mordin’s end and learned what was really going on. Wrex thought it was an attempt to totally sterilize the Krogan that hadn’t quite worked, but the reality was that if the Salarians had wanted to sterilize the Krogan they would have succeeded. The goal was to stabilize the Krogan population growth, so they’d fit in with the rest of the galaxy.

      I’m actually not sure the Krogan population is even declining by the time the trilogy starts; the STG evidently thinks the original genophage birthrate target is still optimal. Wrex might just be wrong about that; he’s more focused on the Krogan civilization dying rather than the Krogan species dying.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        As I understood it, the Krogans are depressed as a species because of the Genophage and are behaving in sub-optimal ways to maintain the birthrate and survivability that the Salarians might have expected. For example:
        -Krogan men hiring themselves out in high fatality professions and reducing the life expectancy of the Krogan race by doing this enough.
        -Krogans infighting and killing off babies that survived birth.
        -Krogans killing off the men who could produce the most viable babies because they’re just not thinking things through.
        -and finally, Krogans making the colossal mistake of killing breeding females, likely during a raid meant to just capture the breeding females.

        1. guy says:

          Mordin’s loyalty mission indicates that the STG believes the original birthrate was correctly set and remains appropriate.

          Also, I am pretty sure the Salarians intended for the Krogan to persist as a species. If they wanted to wipe them out, well, the ending of the Rachnai wars demonstrate that the Council is willing to authorize genocide if they’re backed into a corner and a sterility plague wouldn’t eliminate the existing Krogan military anytime soon but would really piss them off. So if the Salarians wanted to use biological warfare to get rid of the Krogan they’d use a lethal bioagent with a long incubation period.

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            I disagree. Mordin is so troubled by that mission, that he unavoidably commits suicide (or is killed by the player) in ME3 unless you specifically manufacture an extremely specific chain of events. These are not the actions of a scientist who believes his work is proceeding as expected within acceptable limits.

            1. guy says:

              I said the STG belives that, not Mordin. Mordin regrets what he did for the STG, but his problem is with the ethics of the original goal, not with a divergence between the original goal and actual results.

              The Salarians as a whole do not regret the geophage, as shown by the Dalatrass calling you up to tell you to sabotage Mordin’s cure.

              Basically, I think if the Salarians wanted the Krogan dead, the Krogan would be dead; if they can make and distribute a plague that sterilizes an entire species they can make and distribute a plague that melts the internal organs of an entire species. The fact that the Krogan are not dead indicates the Salarians do not want them dead.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                I think the STG did as much as they believed they could get away with in the current political climate. I think the Asari would be extremely gun shy if the Salarians were like “Hey… let’s genocide our second race in a decade. That sounds like a good idea, right?” Coming to the Council with “what if we could make the problem just go away?” is a lot more agreeable sounding, even if the reality is also rather horrible on the ground.

                1. guy says:

                  Well, for an important bit of context the use of weapons of mass destruction such as biological weapons or deorbiting space stations to render a Garden World uninhabitable was banned in the Citadel Conventions, after the Krogan Rebellions were resolved in response to the devastation inflicted by the Krogan and Turian fleets. Also, the Salarians wanted to use the threat of the genophage to compel a Krogan surrender, it was the Turians who pulled the trigger. And I tend to think of the Asari as being very much in charge, but the way they handle problems like the Krogan Rebellion is to ask the Turians and the Salarians to fix it and by the time the genophage was concieved of the Asari councilor presumably introduced a resolution authorizing the Council forces to end the Krogan Rebellions “by any means necessary”. Here’s the wiki description of the Council’s first move:

                  The Council had taken precautions. The finest STG operators and asari huntresses had been drafted into a covert “observation force”, the Office of Special Tactics and Reconnaissance. The Spectres opened the war with crippling strategic strikes. Krogan planets went dark as computer viruses flooded the extranet. Sabotaged antimatter refineries disappeared in blue-white annihilation. Headquarters stations shattered into orbit-clogging debris, rammed by pre-placed suicide freighters.

                  That is what they did the very moment they decided a diplomatic solution was impossible. In that context I think if the Salarians had shown up with a death plague instead of the genophage the Turians would have used it.

  11. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    I’ve often said that Mass Effect: Andromeda has a character problem and that the problem often extends from the writer confusing the word “character” with the word “race.”

    In their attempts to cosmetically rip off Mass Effect, they said “Wrex was a well-loved character, so we should have another old, battle-hardened Krogan. We can make him even older and more battle-hardened: They’ll have no choice but to only love him more!” But, of course, what made Wrex great was that he had a unique personality and – what I would argue is more important – he was actually important to the story being told. If you remove that character from Mass Effect, there’s a huge and important gap in our knowledge about the world we’re playing in.

    People freak out when you make the apples-to-oranges comparison of the companions of the trilogy to the companions of Mass Effect: Andromeda because it’s theoretically impossible to fairly compare characters who got a trilogy to be developed compared to characters who got only one game’s worth of development. I would argue that most of those original characters were sufficiently developed in one game to be considered loved, but that deflects the discussion in an unnecessary direction.

    So I started looking at the characters as they’re introduced in the first Mass Effect game and started comparing them to Mass Effect: Andromeda characters to have a more fair one-game-to-one-game ratio. I started asking myself why I so enjoyed those characters from the first game and was tepid-to-bored with the characters from the last game. The biggest thing I noticed was that the characters in the first game all mattered to the story in a significant way. They all held important bits of the Mass Effect narrative. They weren’t just characters: They were important bits of worldbuilding.

    Wrex introduced us to the history of the genophage and the resulting hate and distrust that had created this kind of Krogan nihilism. They rightly aren’t fans of the Salarians or Turians for what they did, but there was a sense that the Salarians and Turians weren’t all that wrong. That’s why the showdown with Wrex at the Krogan cloning facility is such a big deal. Ashley was our introduction to the First Contact War and where that put humanity on all of the various galactic demographic maps. Kaiden was our introduction to biotics – what they are and what it means to have them. Garrus introduced us to a cold, ineffectual galactic government that 1) wouldn’t believe in Reapers and 2) would only act too late once the Reapers were on our doorstep. Tali was our most direct line to our antagonists – the Geth: We learn who they are and how they came to be. Liara introduces us to the dominant species of the cycle: A species that absolutely prides itself on diversity, which would go on to be a deciding factor in this reaping cycle surviving where the monolithic ones like the Protheans didn’t. It’s only a nice touch that her mother was a secondary antagonist… though not even a necessary one.

    Do we get any of this from our Mass Effect: Andromeda squadmates? Ha! Cora and Liam might as well be “Initiative Peon 1” and “Initiative Peon 2” – or “Vicks” and “Wedge” if you’re feeling cheeky. You just sort of randomly pick up Drack out in the world for no good reason. The same is true for Peebee. Vetra is supposed to help us by using her smuggling skills, but not once in the game does she actually help us in the story by smuggling anything. Jaal arguably has a purpose, but even that doesn’t feel like it reaches its full potential. We ended up with what feels like characters by committee: It’s like they just drew races and power types out of a box, bolted on origin stories that would justify them, then broke up the genders to give a good distribution of romance options.

    It’s a real shame too because the loyalty missions were some of the most fun things about the game. Worse yet, those missions don’t even affect the story of the game. You can do them after the main quest and nothing is better or worse for it. Except for maybe Cora’s? If you do hers, the Hyperion captain, who we’ve spent all of 30 seconds with and can’t possibly care about, survives a crash landing in the final battle. Is that useful? Who can say? Of all of the missed opportunities that plagued this game, I think that the characters were the biggest one for me.

    1. Redrock says:

      I agree, but I think those aren’t character problems, per se, but rather an indication that Bioware was taking a different approach with Andromeda squadmates. They don’t play a big part in world-building, but rather represent aspects of what I consider the central theme os the game – that of family and belonging. That’s why Drack is, first and foremost, a caring grandpa, once you get to know him. Vetra is all about family. Jaal, like all of his species, is the same. Cora is all about her quasi-family asari unit. Liam’s thing is being the black sheep. Peebee is the one defined by an abusive relationship. And the big long-term squad quest is a movie night. I think Andromeda was aiming for a less grand story than the trilogy. Which clashed with people’s expectations.

      1. Trevor says:

        “Once you get to know him” is a key point though. There’s a great conversation you have in connection with Lexi and Kesh where it becomes clear just how old he is and how many of his redundant organs are gone, etc. This bit of writing, I would argue, actually distinguishes Drack from being Wrex 3.0. The problem is that this conversation/plot thread comes about like 80% of the way through the game. Up until that point Drack really is Wrex 3.0, especially if you spend a lot of time with him in the Nomad. His Nomad dialogue is all about how he is old and likes fighting. That’s all he talks about.

        I suspect the Nomad dialogue is a big part of why people hate on certain characters. They just repeat their core talking point over and over again (put Vetra in the Nomad and she will not shut up about her sister) and you have to listen to them as you drive from place to place.

        1. Redrock says:

          True. Drack, I think, is basically Citadel’s version of Wrex. Notice how in the Citadel DLC Wrex suddenly becomes the grouchy gampa of the squad. Actually, I think that the lighter tone of Citadel DLC was pretty much the goal in mind for Andromeda’s characters.

      2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        I’m curious about what people think about a couple of things: What is Mass Effect? What makes a good Mass Effect game? I suspect that answers vary quite wildly there, but I’m guessing that anyone reading this retrospective would probably agree with this basic premise: It’s more than a set of alien races and visually familiar weapons and technologies skinned onto any old sci/fi shooter.

        While I suspect that we agree on much, I think I could be more open to your line of thinking here had the writer not attempted to copy the cosmetic parts of the characterizations while simultaneously missing what made those original characters great. The result is that so many of these characters feel like a sad parody of characters that came before them: Old, battle-hardened Krogan, youthful Asari seeker of antiquity, Turian who isn’t the rank-and-file rules-follower, and so on.

        If they were trying to do something different with these characters, then they should’ve created new characters. Otherwise, there’s going to be what I’d argue to be a reasonable set of expectations. I don’t want to be some sort of self-appointed gatekeeper who decides what “true” fans expect from a Mass Effect game because those are truly unhappy people and others tend to not – rightly – take them seriously. But I do want to hold the writer of this game to the same standard that they’ve seemingly applied to themselves: If you’re trying to create the illusion of a Mass Effect game, you’re going to have to copy more than the original visual designs and character templates. Otherwise – just make a different game.

        Thematically and tonally, I wouldn’t expect them to lift directly and totally from the trilogy: I’d expect them to inject their own sensibilities and creative vision into the process and giving us another angle on the franchise. But I think that my problem is that they tried lifting whole-cloth from the trilogy and managed to only copy it aesthetically without capturing what made the trilogy popular. I suspect that the competing ideas of “know your audience” and “grow your base” came into conflict here in such a way that it was too unmoored from the built-in audience’s expectations and was too weird for a wider base. They ended up Frankenstein-ing enough of the trilogy into it to set expectations for us that they couldn’t – or didn’t intend to – meet in order to win an audience who possibly isn’t even there.

        If you want to tell a story about family and belonging, which I won’t quibble about that being what they were trying to do, though we may disagree on how successful they were at doing it – you still have to follow some pretty basic rules of storytelling. The principle of Chekhov’s Gun doesn’t just apply to objects – it applies to characters too. If they’re going to be there, they very well better matter to the story at some point, else they shouldn’t be there. Searching for a sense of belonging and trying to make a family are worthy themes for a story, but they still have to come from characters who advance the narrative in some meaningful way. A story piece can hang there just fine without some thematic bit glued onto it, but a theme can’t hang there on its own without some part of the narrative supporting it. If that’s not happening, then you need to look at how you’re presenting your narrative.

        Wow – I’m terrible at being concise.

        1. Redrock says:

          I won’t disagree. I think a lot of Andromeda’s problems comes from using the Mass Effect name. People – rightfully – attach certain expectations to it. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for a spin-off to go in a different direction stylistically and tonally. That’s what happened here, I think. As for quality, I dunno. I think Shamus demonstated quite well that on the whole the Mass Effect trilogy isn’t really the best there is at storytelling. Can it really be said that Andromeda is that much worse at doing what it’s trying to do than ME 2 and 3? If we account for nostalgia and familiarility with certain characters that helped the original trilogy in the long run? I don’t know. I don’t think so, if I’m being honest.

          1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            I definitely agree that the original trilogy gets a bit of a nostalgia pass. ME2 and ME3 certainly aren’t flawless examples of the Mass Effect platonic ideal. One could even argue that Mass Effect: Andromeda was the natural extension of the direction that the franchise was heading, for better or worse. And I suspect that there’s a lot of truth in that – more than an old school fan like me might be comfortable with.

            But with that being said, I just came off of a fresh replay of the original trilogy this week. The experience is still pretty fresh to me. And I felt it from the opening crawl of the first game through the lousy ending of the third game: It was just fundamentally a better gaming experience. Going into it, I had a suspicion that I might be wearing rose-colored glasses, but once the game got rolling, I had all of those feelings again – “This is what it should be like.” It felt good. It felt fun. I didn’t feel the need to sprint to the ending. I don’t know how many times I’ve played through the trilogy, but I’ve enjoyed it every time. That’s why I keep going back. I’ve played through Andromeda twice and it just felt like a thankless slog both times.

            Maybe I don’t have a clue what the thing actually is, but there’s something in the soul of the trilogy that Mass Effect: Andromeda just fundamentally lacks. Had this game been called “Space Quest” or something, who knows how it might’ve been received.

            1. Trevor says:

              I was the original one to ask the “Space Quest” question and have been thinking about it during my current play-through. I don’t think it would have been received as badly, because no Mass Effect game coming after the ME3 ending debacle would have satisfied people. I think people would have had issues with some hypothetical perfect game.

              But I’m not convinced Space Quest: Andromeda would have been received that well either, even sans the Mass Effect label or the BioWare byline. It just doesn’t excel at anything. It does a bunch of things decently well, but it doesn’t do anything superlatively.

              The Mass Effect original trilogy, and, I would argue KotOR, have incredibly rich and detailed world that you want to immerse yourself in and don’t want to leave. There’s no hook in Andromeda. It’s about a space wagon train going off to a new galaxy and you settling the new frontier with your family. Family is the theme. But your family’s not that fun to hang around with. I’ll defend the various characters in Andromeda as being “not that bad” but I’d rather hang out with drunk Tali. I have more of a connection to the one-game-only character Samantha Traynor than any of the people that I met in Andromeda, so it’s not just that you form more of a connection to characters over 3 games than you could in 1. The Codex entry talks about “A Crew Like No Other” but… there are other, better crews out there, and to have committed so hard, thematically, to the idea of a created family settling the new frontier, it needed to have a better family.

              1. guy says:

                I think if it’d been a new IP it would have been quickly forgotten. At root, I think the real problem with Andromeda isn’t that the kett and Angaran conflict is not a good idea for a story, it is that the implementation is bad. At base, the plot of “we show up in a new place with unambigious good guys and genocidal lunatics and we help the good guys beat the genocidal lunatics” describes both ME:A and The Daleks. One of these killed a beloved franchise, the other reshaped the direction of a franchise that’s getting new entries fifty years later.

                But the Daleks didn’t get their longevity because having a motivation that can be expressed as “EXTERMINATE!” is deep and creative and interesting. They got it because they have memorable voices and verbal tics and because how the Daleks try to EXTERMINATE! and how we stop them is interesting. The only ethical dilemma they present is whether we should kill them all, and while there’s some wriggle room about whether to try to rehabilitate them knowing it might not work, the main argument against it is that the Kaleds thought the Thals were an existential threat that could only be stopped by killing them all, so they allowed Davros to create the Daleks.

                What underpins most of the stories, though, is just that they’re really dangerous and beating them is hard. There’s no dispute that shooting at them is ethical, but the protagonists never have the firepower to beat them head on. If they have the firepower to kill them by the hundreds the Daleks bring millions. Sometimes they’re an overwhelming invasion force, putting so many ships in orbit around Gallifrey they’re nearly a contiguous sphere, sometimes there’s three of them with minimal power on a colony riven by political machinations, where they can’t kill the security forces in a straight fight unless they can get reinforcements, but the humans see them as a potential asset in their power struggles rather than a threat. Progression:

                Dalek: I AM YOUR SERVANT
                (The power-hungry security chief decides to use them to strengthen his coup, giving them resources they ask for to get stronger)
                (The Doctor tries and fails to convince people the Daleks must be destroyed, then tries and fails to destroy them himself while he still can)
                (Rebellion begins)
                Roughly 40 freshly-built Daleks: DALEKS CONQUER AND DESTROY! DALEKS CONQUER AND DESTROY!

                Andromeda, unlike Power of the Daleks is unlikely to get a 50th anniversery remake. Not because they’re not as ethically complex as the Daleks, but because you can beat them by shooting them and you own a gun.

                So basically I think changing the story concept is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. If they’d made the main theme colonialism it would be a boring story about colonialism instead of a boring story about fighting kett.

        2. guy says:

          Well, I think Mass Effect is fundamentally about shooting hostile aliens/humans while befriending other aliens/humans in a complex and deeply explored setting. Because seriously that is what the mechanics and the Codex are built around. The specific aliens and technologies are the brand, but if you kept the mechanics and changed out the aliens and specific technologies it would be recognizably a Mass Effect inspired game.

          For Mass Effect Andromeda specifically, from the moment it was announced I expected and wanted it to be “the Mass Effect species go to Andromeda and fight/befriend a bunch of locals.” In my mind, the point of going to Andromeda was to take the familiar species and cut them off from their power bases. How do ordinary Asari act when they’re not in a stable ruling coalition? How do Turian generals act when they aren’t part of the most powerful military in the galaxy? How do the Quarians act when they aren’t going to return to the Migrant Fleet, and how are they treated when everyone is spacebound?

          1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

            To me, that seems fundamentally interesting. And that’s what perplexes me about this game’s story: Ask any Mass Effect fan to take the Andromeda premise and do something interesting with it and most will come up with something that seems fundamentally better than what we got. But the ideas I see always seem to have one thing in common that ME:A doesn’t have: They’re actually about something.

            And I think that’s ultimately what Shamus is talking about here. Whether it’s “colonialism” or something else, the story has to be about something. I can appreciate if the people making this game just wanted it to be a light-hearted romp, but none of the choices they made lent themselves well to such a choice. We don’t have to see Angarans marching the streets with tiki torches, but the story still has to be more than pointless characters wisecracking their way through a series of events. At least I think that’s the case if you’re trying to make a Mass Effect game.

            1. guy says:

              I think it’s about playing Rimworld. You’ve got a bunch of people and a pile of advanced tech but aren’t going to get more, and your goal is to establish a sustainable settlement in a hostile environment before it breaks down and everyone dies when the local environment throws some super disaster at you and demonstrates why no one lives here already. And you deal with locals who send raiders or trade caravans your way, and depending on what you do a faction might switch from sending one to sending the other.

              And the reason it’s bad is not that Rimworld in Mass Effect is a bad story; it’s that all the things Shamus talked about in the first entry made Andromeda tell a really lame version of that story. You can’t make complicated logistical decisions so the terraforming and settlement aspect isn’t that deep. The mechanics you do have suit being a soldier/negotiator, which is important, but the diplomatic situation is more suited to a game where you could toggle invasions and visitors off.

              It’s like a version of King Of Dragon Pass where the events are boring, you only have the emissary, planting, and raid screens, and those are all dumbed down. That game would suck because it sucks, not because King Of Dragon Pass is a flawed concept.

          2. Matthew Collins says:

            “In my mind, the point of going to Andromeda was to take the familiar species and cut them off from their power bases. How do ordinary Asari act when they’re not in a stable ruling coalition? How do Turian generals act when they aren’t part of the most powerful military in the galaxy? How do the Quarians act when they aren’t going to return to the Migrant Fleet, and how are they treated when everyone is spacebound?”

            Yes, and that’s why not taking along the minor races was unfortunate — it would be great to see a new dynamic in which the volus, elcor or hanar were the ones with the real power or influence, having viable colonies before the humanoid races and no longer at second-tier status because of it.

          3. guy says:

            I’ve thought about this some more, and I’m thinking maybe some of the problem is that there are certain expectations for a Mass Effect game that ultimately hedge out a lot of stories that could be told in the Mass Effect setting. Because one of the core complaints about Andromeda is that it’s just “hide behind cover and shoot the bad aliens, and befriend the good aliens”. The setting supports stories that aren’t that, but the game is a third-person squad based shooter with extensive branching dialogue. Therefore you advance the plot by hiding behind cover and shooting the bad aliens and befriending the good aliens. If doing that in Andromeda can’t be a good story, Mass Effect Andromeda was a mistake from the moment they decided to go to Andromeda with their next mainline Mass Effect game. Every story that does not boil down to that is not suitable for a mainline Mass Effect game. That does not mean it is not suitable for a game, however; you could tell the story of setting off to Andromeda planning to settle nice habitable worlds and finding they’re trashed by some inexplicable disaster just fine using a variant of Surviving Mars’s mechanics. You need to set up mines, build habitable domes, and secure essential food and water and the resources to keep your air scrubbers operational, and you need to get it done before the fact that the Arks were designed on the assumption they’d just wake everyone from cyrosleep and send them down catches up to you as the environmental systems break down under the strain. That story and game are not bad, but Ryder is a bit part in it. She comes down in the first wave with the tiny amount of prefab gear you’d brought along to establish a mining outpost on an airless rock with eezo deposits, and the player sends her to kill mutant hellbeasts that attack the colony and she provides some extra options in the “aliens have shown up to tell us they own this planet” so you’re not stuck with “pay them off (lose 1 air filter factory and 200 eezo that you really can’t afford)” “fight them (sustain periodic heavy raids targeting critical infastructure)” or “leave (GAME OVER)” and can instead take “sincerely apologize for your tresspass and explain the situation (aliens say ‘okay, we’re not going to kick you out any more than we’d ignore a distress signal. You can stay at least until you can relocate and we’ll bill you when you have money’ adds an objective to pay them 400 eezo in three years)”

            That is itself an interesting choice, but what makes it interesting is that eezo and air purifiers are a mechanical centerpiece. If you pay up right away maybe you’re low on air purifiers when the Ark breaks down and you pick who you suffocate, or maybe you can reallocate resources from other priorities and replace it before anyone dies of oxygen starvation. If you’re playing Ryder then there’s ultimately no “maybe”; the head engineer NPC runs some numbers and tells you how many people die if you pay up. At which point Ryder calls the aliens and tells them they name a price the Initiative can afford or the Initiative will pay them in gunfire.

            Ryder can explore the question of how much beyond the bare necessities the colonists should get, but then the Mass Effect setting pops in and reminds her she is wearing a 3D printer on her hand and so is everyone else because when Mass Effect people stock a colony ship they include omnitools for everyone, much like how when they build an interstellar ship they include an FTL drive.

  12. John says:

    I disagree that the Vorcha or Batarians would have been an unwelcome addition. I’d think Batarians would jump at the chance to create a society separate from their police/terrorist/slaver stats. Vorcha seem to be the only sapient race it’s okay to dismiss as vermin, which gives me pause. Weren’t humans being treated as unworthy nuisances not too long ago?
    I had an idea for a Vorcha squadmember who was sensitive to his people’s position, and wanted to be a true equal among the rest of the galaxy, rather than just henchman for “real races”. He would prove to be quite perceptive of others, and while not well-read he knows more than he lets on because no one bothers to ask.
    1/3 of the way through the game, there would be a major emergency aboard your ship, with a bunch of things going wrong. You can send him into the coolant tanks to repair a leak, or to extinguish a fire, or out to spacewalk to patch a hull breach, or into the engine core to knock something back into place. He doesnt come out unscathed, but his Vorcha adaptation kicks in and determines his specialty – he’s immune to extremes in temperatures and uses the appropriate weapons/ammo, or can selfpressurize and no longer requires a spacesuit, or can withstand much heavier gravity and is now super strong.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      It’s got story potential too: how you treat him affects how he act; and how he acts becomes how people see the Vorcha in general, since he becomes a prominent figure due to his place near the Pathfinder.
      You end up with either the Andromedan Vorcha as a whole being seen as space vermin, or the other races beginning to appreciate them.
      Much more interesting than having them just be screeching cannon fodder like they were in ME2 (were they even in 3?), anyway.

      1. Gautsu says:

        Prothean no like you

    2. guy says:

      To me, the reason not to have the Vorcha is not because they aren’t potentially interesting from a story perspective; it’s because I don’t think the Initiative would let them join. They are viewed as so stupid that on Omega no one gives serious consideration to the possibility they’re associated with the artificial plague they are the sole real beneficiaries of. Only they and humans are immune, and no human-led organization is making a cohesive push to sieze territory from groups weakened by the plague. They are blatantly obviously the culprits and the only question is where they got the plague from, but everyone has such a low opinion of their intelligence they just ignore the giant neon signpost saying THIS IS SOMEHOW THE VORCHA’S FAULT.

  13. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I’ve always wanted to write a story where the aggressive warrior race were terrible warriors. They evolved on a low-gravity, resource-scarce world, and have poorly developed muscles, weak bones, and liw intelligence with slow reactions (brainpower eats up a lot of calories). They’re big, scary-looking, aggressive, and obsessed with battle, but they’re completely useless in any kind of fight.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I read an SF story where the humans are the aggressive ones, arriving on the planet of peaceful, patient aliens. These aliens turn out to be basically indestructible; as a result, they never bothered inventing violence because it couldn’t achieve anything. Once they realise that they can simply tear helpless humans into pieces if they want, it changes the balance of power somewhat…

    2. GoStu says:

      Sounds like you’d be interested in the “Deathworlders” series. There is a race of predator aliens (Hunters) that go around butchering other aliens for sport, but they (and everyone else out there) evolved on relative utopias of planets.

      Meanwhile, Earth is a “Death World” by their standards, so harsh and inhospitable that it’s thought to be incapable of evolving sentient life. A human abductee on a backwater station runs into a raid by Hunters, and when he slaughters them all it draws huge interest in humanity as a whole…

    3. jbc31187 says:

      There’s a webcomic called Outsider, where the enemy bug race (actually closer to mammalian with shells) who thrive on Mars-sized planets and need cybernetics to get around on planets with Earthlike gravity. But they’re not dumb; they’re the most heavily-industrialized race in the known universe and it’s a plot point on how they can throw wave after wave at the enemy and seemingly not feel it.

  14. Echo Tango says:

    “We REALLY want to avoid the trope where doing the most “paragon” thing always gets you the best outcome.”

    Actually, I’d go even farther and say we need to explicitly ban the whole good/bad/neutral thing from our hypothetical game entirely. All your examples from the yellow aside-boxes feel like they’re straight out of Fallout 1 or New Vegas. Rather than trying to build up some ultimate “good ending” or “bad ending”, just have lots of small, medium, and large decisions, which play out small cutscenes like in those other games. SAVING THE X gets really old really quickly, and paints you into a corner for sequels, where you constantly have to raise the stakes. :)

    1. Matthew Collins says:

      Well, in the original game Paragon/Renegade wasn’t “good/bad”, it related to how you approached a particular issue that was key thematically — that is, how human political ascendancy within the Citadel was to be achieved. The paragon, as a paragon of the galactic community, is diplomatic, accommodating and pluralistic, and works with the Council. The renegade, as a “renegade” in the community, is more aggressive, pragmatic, and works on the basis of “every other species is putting its own interests first regardless of what they claim, we should do the same.” Be too paragon, and humanity will end up like the volus, elcor and hanar — loyal semi-vassals who have no real power or say and do what the Council races tell them. Be too renegade, and humanity will end up like the krogan, quarians and batarians, as outcasts from polite society. Ashley is renegade human, Kaiden is paragon human (though neither to extremes). You have to navigate between them.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Then they shouldn’t reward players for being on the extremes, though.

        Also, if a game wants to pretend to have moral choices, they shouldn’t all be stuffed into a single binary, whatever you call it. For example, the ending of Mass Effect 1 is not only about whether humans should put themselves first, or the galactic community. It’s also about whether the Council is worth sacrificing thousands of lives for.

        1. guy says:

          Remember that in Mass Effect 1 they weren’t an opposed binary; it was pretty easy to get enough Charm and Intimidate to have full access to every option. I liked that because it meant it rewarded being in the middle and deciding each situation on its own merits. If you did that, you got more freedom to do it in the future; you could pick whether to get the good paragon result or the good renegade result.

          The problem in Mass Effect 2 was that yields were rebalanced so instead of being able to succeed at both you were able to succeed at neither.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            That’s still the game pushing the player into a binary choice though. Sure you *can* pick middle-ground options if you spec right, but for most players, you need to go all one way or the other. I remember all the people I talked to about this game when it was new, viewed the choices as binary – it definitely felt like the way the game was meant to be played, and how it was portrayed in marketing at the time.

            The game also incentivizes this with the character model – you end up either more good or evil looking, if you level that stuff up. The game also has all those decisions pushing towards the end-game; Maybe I played the game wrong, but I remember feeling like everything in the game was pushing me towards being good-guy Shephard or bad-guy Shephard at the end of the game. I couldn’t make a decision without feeling like I needed to decide what I wanted the end of the game to be, rather than what made sense for that situation.

  15. Matt says:

    I don’t find the “How I’d Do It” sections indulgent or superfluous at all! I love thinking about how I’d do properties differently and I often use these ideas for tabletop game settings. Rutskarn’s take on Fallout 3, for example, was a great read.

    Maybe I spend too much time on news & politics sites these days, but I’m skeptical that a setting or narrative that humanized former oppressors or gave a nuanced take on colonialism would escape severe criticism. Star Wars games, and their take on the Empire and Dark Side, are representative I think. Many of these games will allow you to side with the Empire or take on a Dark Side alignment, but they always end up being non-canon, irrelevant, or at the level of jerk-ass cartoon villainy. No Star Wars game in recent memory would deign to say, “the Dark Side has a point” or “the Empire did some good things.” I believe these topics are simply too fraught in modern discourse for any major company to allow their big-budget game to offer their players a take beyond what is broadly acceptable (without tongue planted firmly in cheek).

    1. Echo Tango says:

      That seems pretty reasonable, but in this case, it’s not former oppressors under consideration, but their grandchildren. I think even an AAA studio could make a game (or film) that treats this people (as a whole) with dignity, and not be viewed negatively for it. It can lead to interesting stories or chapters, showing how they work. Maybe some faction still favors the imperialism, but are shown as pariahs to their peers. One faction wants to atone for the sins of their ancestors, and another thinks the atonement is already sufficient and wants to move forward with trade with outsiders.

    2. guy says:

      Honestly I think the entire colonialism debate about Andromeda is an example of this in action; it was literally getting flack for its portrayal of colonialism before we had any confirmation that Andromeda had sentient natives period. And as I’ve been discussing I don’t think a message about colonialism would even make sense in context. Asking the question “will you sieze land from the natives or suffer from being stuck with worse land?” requires that you have the military power to sieze land from people you don’t already want to fight on general principles and that the worse land is so bad you’d compromise your principles to avoid being stuck with it. I do not think that is logically coherent for a civilian expedition equipped for settling uninhabited planets. If you were stuck crashing on modern-day Earth you would make planetfall in Antarctica because no one is using it much and you’re from a civilization that settled Novaria, which is basically Planet Antarctica. It’d be a pain in the ass to live there but as long as you keep the heaters running it’s not like anyone is going to die or anything. So the interesting question is how you keep the heaters running, and if you don’t feel like mining raw materials you can get them by auctioning off a Mako.

      1. guy says:

        Well, the other interesting question is how the governments of the world react to an alien ship crashing in Antarctica and then calling to say they’re sorry about this but they’re kind of stuck here so they’re taking Antarctica at least until they can leave and settle elsewhere, would some of their alien supertech make up for it? But if you’re playing as a human, which you are because marketing thinks that’s the best call, that will manifest as a complication to your efforts to keep the heaters running.

        This example is coming to mind because I’ve been watching Frostpunk streams, which is a game about keeping people alive with steampunk tech as the temperature plunges below -140C. That is it; every other aspect of the game is about what you do to keep people focused on making preparations for the storm.

      2. Shamus says:

        By “colonialism” we can mean the classic “British Empire” style colonialism, or we can mean “sending colonists someplace”. We had colonists on Eden Prime way back in Mass Effect 1. It’s true that the initiative isn’t in a position to subjugate extant states, but it is possible for this influx of new technology and people to shake up existing power structures for good or ill. I don’t know if you’ve played the game, but Andromeda makes it clear that the initiative is limited to the Heleus Cluster, a handful of a few dozen stars. We’re not settling an entire galaxy. It’s more like a handful of stars that are isolated because [insert in-game justification here].

        I would be very curious how people settling in Antarctica could possibly survive on their own. What will you construct your buildings out of? Where will you get the sand to make concrete? What will you make clothing out of? Where will you get fuel? Where will your food come from?

        Those people would need everything, and yet they’d have nothing to offer in trade. Perhaps they can negotiate for these resources, but their trading partners will have tremendous bargaining power. This leads back to the problem I talk about in the article. If you settle on the land nobody wants then you end up “living in a tent city on worthless land with no future, which is the kind of place a lot of refugees end up”.

        Again, this is not to say the game HAS to be about colonialism. It’s just that that’s the first thing everyone thinks about when presented with this scenario. You could also argue that nobody would bother talking about colonialism if the game had given us some other concept to talk about. Maybe we’re only talking about colonialism as a way to try to INSERT meaning into a thoroughly vapid setting and premise.

        1. guy says:

          They would render ice for hydrogen to use their fusion reactors and mine for raw materials in the Antarctic mountains with the mining equipment they brought. At Mass Effect tech levels for a well organized intergalactic colony expedition, being stuck in Antarctica is not a big issue. Nice Garden World, breathable atmosphere, plenty of untapped metal veins. Bit chilly but that’s not a big deal. Locals have made territorial claims but aren’t really using them and will probably be happy to sell them for a copy of a technical database containing everything learned from the Mars Archives.

          If the expedition is so screwed over being stuck in Antarctica is a serious obstacle they’re too screwed to invade people. Heck, all the planets you do settle are way less hospitable than Antarctica yet the biggest problem for the initial landings on the radioactive hell world is kett raiders.

          1. guy says:

            Really, I think what they missed was not the potential of colonialism, it was the potential of just being stuck in an environment so inhospitable that even at their tech level it’s not really suitable. Sure, we could get some more habitable land, but it’s controlled by lower-tech species who want to keep it and Citadel law is very clear that they get to so we’re going to tough out this except worse.

            1. guy says:

              Ultimately, I think colonialism in the context of Mass Effect settling Andromeda is a narrative dead end that will not produce interesting dilemmas. It would reduce to one of two opposed pairs of options:

              1. Do something horribly unethical for no justifiable reason.
              2. Don’t do that

              1. Die a slow icy death in the void between the stars.
              2. Do not die a slow icy death in the void between the stars

              I do not think any expedition the Milky Way as presented in the Mass Effect trilogy would launch to Andromeda could possibly end up facing any dilemmas more complex than those in terms of whether or not to behave in a colonialist manner. The Council would not permit the expedition to go forward if they were concerned it might antagonize the inhabitants of Andromeda and simultaneously hand them five intergalactic vessels that seriously pissed off Andromedans could send back to kamakaze into the Citadel and the homeworlds of each Council race at .99c to annihiliate their biospheres, and unless the Arks all literally explode in transit and turn this into most definitely a refugee scenario for everyone who got to the escape pods in time they will have a certain minimum resource and space requirement to set up their prefab colony buildings and manufacturing gear and not feel much pressure to expand beyond that.

        2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          It’s also worth noting that during a significant portion of the pre-release interviews and articles leading up to Mass Effect: Andromeda, the people making the game said themselves that a major theme would be colonialism and what it means to balance choices between doing what’s morally best and doing what’s necessary to help your people survive. I remember that there were a couple of think-pieces that came out shortly before the game (I think even IGN had one) that sort of pondered colonialism in the game. This isn’t some idea that formed in a vacuum: It was put there by the people making the game.

          Maybe they had bigger plans that they had to cut once their backs were against the wall or something else was going on there, but they opened the door to the idea of colonialism in this game, then seemingly slammed that door shut sometime before the game’s actual release.

      3. shoeboxjeddy says:

        I think it is completely unreasonable to think that the story premise of Andromeda (explore a new galaxy), will not involve meeting new alien races. In a game series all about meeting (and fighting) interesting new alien races, you’re seriously proposing the idea that they WOULDN’T introduce ANY new races in a NEW galaxy setting? That’s like saying “I think the new Forza game might NOT have any new cars. I dunno… do people like cars?” Your statement is ridiculous on its face.

        1. guy says:

          Well, yes, obviously there were going to be new aliens, but I don’t consider going to a new place and meeting new aliens automatically colonialism.

          I mean, what if Andromeda was inhabited by the Vorlons and they considered our tiny ships, frail bodies, and laughably petty technology beneath their contempt and told us we could go take this planet full of some leftover war machines they hadn’t cleaned up after annihilating their builders? Is that colonialism?

          1. shoeboxjeddy says:

            You could manufacture a specific scenario that wouldn’t bring up themes of colonialism, sure. But… why would you do that? That would be like if Deus Ex went out of its way to avoid any possible themes of transhumanism. That’s the reason to write the story in the first place!

            1. guy says:

              I would argue that a Mass Effect mission to Andromeda is exactly wrong for colonialism. Why? Because Andromeda, presumably, has no Reapers. If their Leviathans did not catastrophically fuck up and trap everyone in repeated cycles of extinction and tech stasis then Andromeda has like five million years of technological development on us. We’re like a rowboat full of people who recently invented fire landing in the US. In order to justify not being hugely out-teched, Andromeda has the local Leviathan equivalents experience their Reaper-grade screwup while we’re in route.

              If you want to do colonialism in Mass Effect, stay in the Milky Way and have it be through a newly opened Mass Relay. New species, new planets, we’re getting started in a nice ethical Council approved way and we can’t make a lot of things on site yet, but that’s no problem because we can import anything through the Relay-

              *Crucible fires, Destroy ending. Mass Relay explodes*

              Player character: Well, shit.

              That’s how you get Mass Effect people in a position where they have to make tough calls about whether to look out for themselves or for the natives.

  16. Asdasd says:

    Not self indulgent at all, Shamus. I love reading your speculative, er, speculative fiction. You’re good at it, and it gives me a moment where I can daydream that I’m playing an interesting Mass Effect game.

    In fact I think neglecting this sort of thing is a major failing of many pop culture critics – John Walker for example is very adroit at tearing a bad game apart over at Rock Paper Shotgun, but it’s somewhat rare that he balances out that negativity with some constructive ideas about what the developers could have done differently.

    It might just be me of course. I really enjoyed all those ‘how I’d fix the Star Wars prequels’ videos that were trending on youtube a few years back. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy for you to lay it on thick with the ‘how I’d do it’.

    1. guy says:

      My fix is to make there be at least three Andromedan star nations who are hostile to each other and aren’t straightforwardly the good guys and the bad guys, and the Initative gets multiple offers of the form “give us your weird alien technology and help from those awesome AI-organic fusion Pathfinders so we can beat up those other guys and we’ll let you settle one of the planets we’d been planning to colonize next century.” That puts the Initative in a position to play kingmaker and thus introduces a dilemma about who you want to make king, while still making the Initiative a small expedition with no lifeline, a piece on the game board of galactic politics rather than a player.

      1. Asdasd says:

        Your proposed story hook reminds me of Shiny’s Sacrifice. I wonder if Shamus or anyone else on here is familiar with it?

        It’s about a cosmic refugee who ends up on a new world rife with competing gods, each eager to exploit the power that the newcomer has brought with him to aid in their petty feuds, and deaf to his warnings about the much bigger imminent threat from which he has just escaped.

        You very much get to play king (or queen) maker, and as the campaign progresses your choices affect both your material power (the rewards dependent on who you’ve been supporting) and also the balance of power among the gods, with the stakes ramping up with every mission. A great game I’d recommend to everyone, and one thematically germane to this discussion.

  17. Christopher says:

    Resist the urge to make the hedonistic race a bunch of sexy humanoids and instead make them Rocket Raccoon-style furry bipeds[5]. Trust me, their dialog will be much funnier. Sexy green aliens have been done to death, but players will love their new fuzzy crewmate who just wants to get laid and blow shit up, and who has a bit of a complex because their people were slaves for a thousand years.

    Well there’s a market for this at least. I think it would be cute with some short fuzzy animal people but I kinda don’t think the dev team can handle it. There’s probably a reason why any species that doesn’t have a regular human height and shape kinda framework aren’t playable, or even participate in the fights mostly. Even if a Mass Effect equivalent of the popori would be super cute.

    1. trevalyan says:

      Putting aside whether the dev team even can code it or not: some people would love this. I would personally find it hilarious and awesome, while a while lot of people would want to bed the crazy raccoon boy unironically.

      But. Given the reception some people had to dwarf romances from DA being a sign of attraction to underaged body types- I know the artist Aimo was particularly scathing against such people- such a character would be controversial to -someone-, which is why it probably couldn’t happen in the modern era.

      And yet it would still be more popular than the Jacob Taylor romance. Poor bastard.

  18. BlueHorus says:

    Not arming your ships while heading into the unknown is stupid. Bringing the Krogan (especially a partially un-genophaged version!) along is also stupid.

    …wait, expedition funded by Cerberus, you say? I’d never have guessed!


    Rather than dragging the Krogan to a new galaxy and repeating all those same themes again, the thing to do here is introduce a new slate of aliens with a new story…you’ll get to explore a bunch of new ideas.
    Somewhere, an EA executive just suffered a mild panic attack.

    …The Magic of Mass Effect 1 wasn’t that Wrex was a grouchy space-turtle. The magic was that he was a fun character with a cool story to tell. Your goal isn’t to keep recycling the same character and story, it’s to cook up a new character with a new story.

    Silly ol’ Shamus. That’s not the point at all – the point is to churn out the same material with successive numbers on the end! You take that horse and you flog it until you can flog it no more.

    If that doesn’t work, you can always just close the studio. Must be their fault, after all.

    1. guy says:

      I think the ship armaments make sense, myself. The Initiative is not an invasion force and the Arks aren’t warships. The Initiative has light warships for limited self-defense, but that’s it.

      I actually think arming the Arks would’ve been a bad idea; it would make it more likely they’d look like a threat, and get them into a fight they couldn’t win. There’s no way they could be armed heavily enough to beat a dreadnought fleet.

  19. Joe Informatico says:

    Of course, I’m sure the real reason that they brought the Krogan is that Wrex was a popular character and players might get sad if they didn’t have their space-turtle buddies along.

    Every big space opera property gets hamstrung by this. Star Wars keeps going back to the same 4 planets and can’t fully escape the characters and events of the original trilogy. Star Trek keeps going back to the Vulcans and Borg and Klingons, even though they get less interesting every time they do. (DS9, which did more to flesh out other galactic species and their cultures than any other incarnation of Trek, still couldn’t resist going back to the Klingons over and over, which finally ruined them for me.) I’ve just accepted over the years that the majority of the fanbase isn’t interested in the deeper themes of the work, they’re in it for the lore and the continuity. Which is fine and I don’t want to dump anyone else’s idea of fun (it used to be my idea of fun too), it just means I burn out and quit on franchises a lot more readily than I used to.

  20. King Marth says:

    Ahh, telling the same story again and again independent of changes in the setting… reminded of a critique of the Men in Black movies, where the lesson learned from the first success was that “Agent K should be the mysterious veteran and Agent J the new hire” which persisted through two more movies of J having more and more experience than K while still being the scrappy sidekick. Who cares that K’s memory was erased or that J was sent back in time (having the advantage of future knowledge as well as a full career of experience while going to a time when the ‘mentor’ was less experienced), K always knows best because that’s what the script says.

    If you’re going to tell exactly the same story, why change the setting in ways that make that story make less sense? With trust in the author (and decent execution) you could make a point about people failing to learn from mistakes, but that generally isn’t what happens.

  21. Tonich says:

    Maybe some of the former slave races have become aggressively libertine and lean towards piracy and the like, while others fancy themselves as the hot new upcoming empire. Make one race overt and militaristic, make another one sneaky and covert…

    Shamus, are you familiar with the Space Rangers games? I think in terms of space races those games did almost exactly that – before Mass Effect, too! The developers mostly used the tension between the races and their quirks for laughs (and some of them were pretty blatantly based on real-world national stereotypes), but they still felt really alive. The gameplay was a blast, too. Too bad the original games’ English translation was reportedly poor – don’t know about the reboot though.

  22. Ninety-Three says:

    Dues Ex Mankind Divided

    Typo patrol.

    1. Mousazz says:

      We just arrived and we’re already enemies with the Krogan. If only there was some way would could have anticipated this.

      In the annotation for the first picture, the “would” should have been a “we”.

  23. C__ says:

    Boy, Andromeda sure feels like a direct-to-DVD sequel…

  24. GoStu says:

    As usual, Shamus throws together a story off-hand that I’d rather play through than the actual story of the game. That kind of “shattered empire” story would be very interesting and most of those races seem like they’d be a hell of a lot of fun.

    It’d be a fun twist to end up helping along the “poor aliens” who are getting beaten on by the rest of the galaxy, only to find out that they actually kinda deserved it for enslaving everyone.

  25. Syal says:

    Imagine a galaxy just after an evil empire has fallen.

    Well… that sounds a lot like KOTOR 2. They probably don’t want to make people think of KOTOR 2.

    The talk of slave races makes me wonder if you could pull off non-standard slavery. Like, they use to use slaves for slave labor, but all the labor jobs are automated now, so now slaves are used as focus groups and captive audiences for aspiring comedians or whatnot. Slaves are stationed around the water cooler so the citizens will always have someone to talk to.

  26. Dev Null says:

    You could make “unforeseen consequences” a running theme of the game.

    Just take care that “unforseen consequences” doesn’t work out to be “Oh so you thought you did the right thing? Psyche! It’s all gone horribly wrong!” every time. I’ve seen this done to the point where the player stops caring about their decisions. I think the trick is to mix in a few cases where you feel like you’re being a jerk – deliberately or without a choice – and it works out fine. And focus your twists on those with more “mission successful but that leads to this _new_ problem” than “unforseen consequences mean your solution doesn’t work / has the opposite effect.”

    Otherwise I _love_ the idea of a game making unforeseen consequences a running theme, especially since most games never bother to show you more than the immediate consequences of your actions at all. Everyone loves to write “actions with real consequences” on the box, and it always turns out to be that some trader gives you a 10% discount or doesn’t. I want to see a game where there are whole planets that you can never visit depending on your decisions in-game. Rampant colonialism does seem like a setting particularly well-suited to that theme.

  27. Dreadjaws says:

    I’ve been playing this game almost non-stop in my free time so I could catch up to this series and wow… All the problems you mention are there, but the one thing that I’ve found increasingly irritating to the point of almost making me snap the disc in two out of rage is how the game feels the stupid need to make reference after reference to events and people from the past games.

    Obviously, this is a sequel, so the universe is the same, but we’re in a whole other galaxy, you don’t have to constantly bring out stuff that happened in the other games. This was a major problem with the Star Wars prequels: it seemed like every character from the original trilogy had their start in the same place (Turns out Anakin built C-3P0 and lived near Greedo and Jabba the Hutt, the clones from the Clone Wars happened to be from Boba Fett’s father, Yoda was pals with Chewbacca, etc). This kind of thing makes the universe seem smaller.

    I mean, it was cute when they off-handedly referenced Shepard without mentioning the name, or when they gave an “Archangel” color scheme for the Nomad, but then it turned out that Ryder’s father was pen pals with Liara. Then you met the son of Zaeed Masani (who, I remind you, was a DLC character). Then a major side-quest had you investigate a scientist from Project Overlord. It was at the point in which you ran into freaking Conrad Verner’s sister when I threw up my hands in the air and screamed “FOR REAL, ANDROMEDA?!?”.

    Seriously, did the Andromeda Initiative hand-picked their colonists by taking at all the individuals Shepard ran into and choosing people who happened to be their relatives?

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Reading this makes my planned return to this game really tough. They pick 20,000 out of the billions of humans available, and a Verner somehow made the cut?

  28. INH5 says:

    I could see a justification for some Krogan coming along if, like you write, the Initiative was rushed out the door after the attack on the Citadel, they had to recruit a lot of people in a hurry, and it turned out that among the only people willing to respond to job ads for security guard positions on a one-way trip to another galaxy were a couple of Krogan mercenaries who didn’t have any better options. The sort of Krogan who had no hope of being let near any fertile females anyway, but at least this way they could have a comparably comfortable life and maybe even make a name for themselves.

    But yes, bringing along a breeding population of Krogan and dialing down the genophage while you’re at it is totally bonkers.

    1. guy says:

      I think if they wanted to have Krogan in the game they could just have brought some genophage-afflicted Krogan who have one viable offspring per litter of one thousand so basically they’re no more of an environmental risk than humans. That was literally the entire point of the genophage, to make having Krogan in your galaxy not a problem.

  29. Nimrandir says:

    Make one race overt and militaristic, make another one sneaky and covert, and another hedonistic and uninterested in matters of state.

    Did anyone else have flashbacks to the Great Houses in Vvardenfell when they read this? I thought Rutskarn was the Morrowind apologist.

    Not that this reduces the worthiness of the idea; I quite like more multifaceted faction structures. It could be a new place for Mass Effect to go as a franchise and might have blended well with the totally-not-Paragade conversation system.

    1. guy says:

      I have flashbacks to the Turians, Salarians, and Asari respectively, except the Asari put a lot of work into setting up matters of state so they could be hedonistic in peace.

      That’s not really a problem, though; they’re solid archetypes and can manifest in different ways. But what’s new to Mass Effect wouldn’t be the presence of the archetypes but the absence of the Council. The Milky Way bent around the Council because the Asari talked the Salarians and the Turians into signing up to form an invincible juggernaught of the best soldiers, the best spys and scientists, and the best diplomats; every other power exists because the Council allows it and if the Asari decide even they’re sick of dealing with these guys they’ll let the Turian fleet off the leash and that will be that.

  30. The Rocketeer says:

    It warms my heart that Shamus has misspelled Hanar as Hannar every single time he has typed it for a decade.

  31. Steve C says:

    Why do the characters in this game look so derpy? I thought that was the big thing that was wrong at launch that they fixed. It does not look fixed to me. The main character always looks cross-eyed and always looks like an idiot.

  32. Zaxares says:

    The cats may not be as big an issue as you might think, Shamus. With the level of technology available in the ME-verse, I think most players would go “Oh come on! You mean to tell us that we can’t just clone infertile copies of cats to sell as pets? Not only would that avoid the issue of unforeseen effects of cats on local species, but it would ALSO mean that I control a monopoly on the supply of cats!” ;)

  33. shoeboxjeddy says:

    If you’re going full super duper Paragon in ME3, your character and Wrex have a deep ride-or-die type relationship. Wrex is basically making a positive relationship with humanity a core part of the emerging Krogan culture. So taking a specific group of Krogans and trying to be space buddies with them seems… less stupid? Like, part of the reason Krogans are so dangerous is that they feel resentful and have a huge chip on their shoulder about their past with other species. So if the Andromeda expedition group took the Krogans with and specifically provided medical aid with the Genophage, this group of Krogans would be like “I’ll die before any alien freaks hurt my expedition friends, they invited us here where we aren’t controlled by the Council and helped with the Genophage!” The Krogan would seem to be great for the colonists and terrible for the existing civs in that case.

    This idea is seriously harmed when they were brought along by the devs “so that you’d have some Krogan to shoot at” though.

    1. guy says:

      I think the answer to why they brought Krogan to colonize Andromeda is that they didn’t; they brought them to crew the Nexus and figured that wasn’t enough Krogan to be an ecological problem. And they did not think this all the way through.

  34. PPX14 says:

    and you’ve got yourself a stew

    Haha! I hope this is an Arrested Development reference.

  35. PPX14 says:

    Genophage is evil and Geth are innocent are the two jarring apparent truths in ME2 and ME3 that messed with my usual Paragon standpoint. Even the Renegade options seemed to err on the side of genophage=evil. Stupid Krogan.

  36. Smam says:

    Hey Shamus, I really liked your idea about the furry hedonistic bipeds, do you mind if I use your idea as inspiration for a species of my own? I can even make sure to add a credit to you if I release it publicly, if you would like.

  37. George Monet says:

    You are wrong about the pre Genophage birth rate. Krogan females could give birth to hundreds of young during their entire LIFETIME but by necessity of giving birth to a baby with a big brain that they would have to teach they would only give birth to on average one baby at a time. Mass Effect 1 directly stated that most females only gave birth to a still born baby and only a few females were able to produce viable offspring. This was reiterated in Mass Effect 2. This was why the genophage was so devastating. Most females could not produce any living babies at all and most males couldn’t either. This was why you had that offhanded comment about Krogans getting 4 new testicles implants because their original testicles could not produce viable offspring. From the mention of Krogan getting 4 new testicle implants because of the genophage we have Wrex making a joke about someone having a “quad” in Mass Effect 3.

    In Mass Effect 3 the genophage and Krogan reproduction were retconned to the point where the genophage wasn’t a problem at all. If each Krogan female drops from laying one thousand viable eggs a year to one viable egg a year then there is no crisis. In fact that would be a huge boon to the Krogan as they could now focus on raising and educating one child at a time instead of a thousand at a time. How would that even work? How could one Krogan female care for and raise one thousand babies to adulthood? If the Krogan could still produce offspring at the same rate as every other sapient species who also only produced only one baby a year then why would anyone care? Why would the Krogan be facing a population crisis? There is no genophage problem to solve in Mass Effect 3 because the genophage is actually a huge boon to the Krogan who aren’t facing a population crisis.

    If you look at biology, the species that give birth to many young are those with smaller brains and smaller bodies. These are usually prey animals where a high reproduction rate is more valuable than a bigger brain and an extended childhood.

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