Andromeda Part 5: The Pathfinder

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 13, 2018

Filed under: Mass Effect 142 comments

Alec Ryder walks up to the alien machine and holds up his hand. A huge starmap(?) appears, along with an alien symbol. The electrical storm stops, the skies clear, and everything is fine.


A blast of energy knocks Alec and Sara off the platform. Sara falls and busts open the faceplate of her helmet.

What? Huh? Wait, What?

Obviously having an AI computer embedded in your skull means you can project orange particle effects that control alien technology. It's so obvious that I wouldn't expect a writer to waste time explaining how it works or what it can do.
Obviously having an AI computer embedded in your skull means you can project orange particle effects that control alien technology. It's so obvious that I wouldn't expect a writer to waste time explaining how it works or what it can do.

This entire section is a disaster of confusion, contrivance, and contradiction. This is the big moment when the player becomes the Pathfinder, and none of it works. This is the point in the story where Mass Effect Andromeda slides into the bad habit of self-defeating plot-points in the style of Mass Effect 2 and incoherent hand-waves in the style of Mass Effect 3.

At the start of the mission, Sara fell out of the destroyed shuttle. She landed hard and cracked her faceplate. Her suit began leaking and she started to suffocate in the poisonous atmosphere. Then she took out a little gizmo and repaired the faceplate. Boom. Fixed. All good.

So now she breaks her faceplate again. The most natural thing for the audience to assume is that the previous helmet-smashing incident was a setup for this one. It’s completely reasonable for the audience to expect that – when presented with the same problem – the protagonist will employ the same solution.

I guess after 600 years the helmet's warranty period is probably over.
I guess after 600 years the helmet's warranty period is probably over.

But Shamus! Last time her helmet was just cracked, and this time it’s totally shattered.

The audience doesn’t know how this magical repair technology works or what the limits are. The viewer might not even remember how big the original crack was. We’re never told that you can only repair X square centimeters of helmet. Deprived of this information, the most natural thing to assume is that this scene is a payoff to the earlier one. But then Sara doesn’t even try to enact repairs. She just starts choking and we keep waiting for the payoff that never comes.

I want to stress that I’m not trying to play a game of “gotcha!” with the writer by pointing out plot holes. This isn’t about what the magical technology of Andromeda can or can’t do, this is about making things clear for the audience so that the drama works. When Sara’s helmet is smashed, the audience should feel a moment of panic. They should be overcome with just how inevitable Sara’s death seems and how she has no means of escaping this situation. Instead the audience is just expecting a payoff to the earlier helmet-breaking incident. Instead of suspense at our hero’s predicament, they’re confused at why Ryder isn’t attempting to enact repairs. It doesn’t matter if you stuff excuses in the codex later, because the drama is happening right now.

What was the earlier scene for? If it’s not a setup for this moment, then why is it in the game at allI ASSUME it’s there to establish that the atmosphere isn’t breathable, but there’s a lot of other ways to accomplish that.? The only thing it accomplishes is to create confusion at this incredibly important turning point in the story.

While we’re still pondering that puzzle, Alec Ryder lands nearby. He calls for a rescue shuttle, but that won’t arrive for “three or four” minutes. So he takes off his helmet and puts it on Sara. Then he gives up and dies.

It should be totally possible for two people to share a single oxygen source for four minutes. Particularly when they’re both healthy, fit, and sitting still. It’s not even a big deal. Sure, we could come up with some ways to justify this, but you really don’t want the viewer to have to stop and justify a dramatic scene as it plays out. This is why you set things up ahead of time. If the story hits a moment of crisis and the audience is thinking, “No problem. The hero has an easy solution” then the storyteller is failing at their job, even if you can come up for an excuse later for why things happened this way.

Oh no! Sara’s helmet is broken. Ah, but she can just use the repair gizmo. But she isn’t for some reason. Did she use up all her repair juice? Is there a size limit? Did I miss something?

I guess she’s dying? Ah, but Alec Ryder has landed. I guess they can share the helmet for a couple of minutes. No? He’s not going to take it back?

Hm. Maybe Sara is unconscious and he needs to prevent her from breathing the bad air. No, she still seems to be moving. Is she lucid? Will her head clear after a few breaths of oxygen?

Huh. I guess Alec died then? Okay. Whatever.

These are not the thoughts of someone experiencing DRAMA. This scene is a failure. Not because “Why didn’t Sara repair her helmet?” is a plot hole, but because the question itself creates confusion that interferes with this supremely important dramatic turn.

I get that placing his helmet on Sara’s head symbolically passes leadership to her, but symbolism is supposed to work in addition to clarity and coherency in terms of basic storytelling.

Back From the Dead

Oh good. The cells in my brain are coming back to life. No rush. I'm not going to need them until this cutscene is over.
Oh good. The cells in my brain are coming back to life. No rush. I'm not going to need them until this cutscene is over.

Next we cut to a scene of cells dying and then being brought back to life. It looks a lot like the resurrection of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect 2, which is a shame since I hated the entire concept. Once Sara wakes up we learn that she was dead for “22 seconds”, so this is yet another story that opens with a back-from-the-dead scenario. I don’t know if this is the case of a lone writer that wants to re-use the same terrible idea, or a new writer who was paying homage to the earlier work.

More to the point, having the hero come back from the dead isn’t something the storyteller has earned at this point. That’s a huge event and ought to be packed with symbolism, a sense of awe, or some sort of post-death pathos. It should either be a setup for a later scene or a payoff for an earlier one. Death is a heady topic and not something you should be trivializing during the introduction, particularly when Ryder’s death isn’t even symbolically or thematically linked to the rest of the story.

During the death scene we see the doctor saying they should take Sara to SAM node. SAM is the AI that’s wired into the brains of everyone on the Pathfinder team. I’m not sure why the doctor wants to take Sara into the computer core rather than the infirmary.

Then the doctor asks, “SAM, what’s the reading?”

“Ryder’s heart is overloading. I suggest a hardwire connection,” SAM says.

Laying aside questions on what a heart “overload” might mean in this context, doesn’t Sara already have the SAM gear in her head? Isn’t it already “hardwired” into her? What is SAM proposing?

Then when Sara is awake again the doctor explains, “SAM is now a part of you, in a way we don’t entirely understand.”

What? Nobody understands it? Does SAM understand it? Didn’t you perform the procedure, doc? How can you not know what you did? Did you perform surgery? If so, why are we still in the computer room and not, you know, in some sort of medical facilities?

Is this story supposed to be details-first or drama-first? The writer is failing at both. The science in this story is all vague magic and the drama is incoherent. This is why people found this new galaxy so boring. There’s nothing to stimulate our intellect and there’s nothing to tug at our emotions. It’s just a bunch of noise.


Don't even get me started on the facial expressions in this scene.
Don't even get me started on the facial expressions in this scene.

The idea here is that SAM is able to connect to your brain. This means he can manipulate your body directly. This lets him increase your physical performance, which explains what made Alec Ryder such an unstoppable badass. SAM could modulate his physical processes to optimize various tasks. The trick is that SAM is a single entity and can only interface with one person like this.

The story doesn’t doesn’t explain how this works, but I sort of imagined SAM regulated stuff like heart rate, adrenaline, breathing, and stress hormones to optimize you for the task at hand. Maybe this would let you sprint a hundred meters but then instantly stop and enter a more relaxed state so you can shoot straight or concentrate on technical tasks. Stuff like that. I’m fine with this as an explanation for the player’s empowerment.

The problem is that something just happened that transformed our protagonist, and the story is refusing to say what it was. Did the doctor do something? Why did Ryder need to be in the computer core? They said “hardware connection”, but we never see her connected to anything. Did they somehow plug her into SAM? How did hooking her up to SAM save her life from breathing bad air? Sara was back on the ship by that point and was breathing good air, so what was killing her?

I want to stress that I’m not asking you to jump down to the comments and explain the ad hoc fanon you used to get through this scene, I’m saying that explaining the world and its rules is the writer’s job and they’re not doing it.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is an extremely drama-first story. In the movie, they have these little gizmos that you can stick on your body and they create a space suit / force field around you. The story doesn’t explain how their silly science works, who makes them, how much they cost, how the interface works, or where the power comes from, because that would be wrong for this sort of fiction. However, it does explain a few basic rules. You need a gizmo to make a spacesuit, and there are a limited number of them to go around. When we get to the big moment at the end and there’s not enough space suit gizmos to go around, we understand why someone doesn’t have a space suit.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

The Mass Effect Andromeda writer could have handled things this way. The superpowers that SAM bestows could have been based on a physical object that gets handed offYes, you’d still need to justify why it wouldn’t go to Cora. Still, a writer that knew their craft would be able to make this work. It’s not like the handoff of magic science-powers is some impossible-to-solve problem for science fiction. and then we would understand the rules that govern who has super-powers and who doesn’t.

Isn’t SAM connected to Sara via wireless? So what does “a hardline connection” entail? Is this something SAM did, the doctor did, or the doctor did at SAM’s direction? Later in the story SAM will express regret at connecting to “too many” of Sara’s systems, but here at the beginning of the story the situation is presented as if it’s something doctor was forced to do.

I’m totally fine with the idea that Sara Ryder has a computer in her head that makes her a badass, and if she’s cut off from the computer she’ll die. My problem is that the writer never bothered to explain how any of these things worked. It’s a rapid-fire salvo of jarring declarations that don’t make sense in the moment and also fail to establish the rules for this new status quo. Imagine if Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 didn’t have the gizmos and space suits just appeared whenever they were needed. Then at the end when someone is going to die for lack of a space suit, we wouldn’t understand why.

Again, the point here isn’t plot holes. It’s not that the story is contradicting itself, it’s that it never made the rules clear in the first place. Worse, they actually recorded lines of dialog that talked about the problem. That same dialog could easily have also set up the rules so we understand why things happen. The writer paid all the costs of having exposition without ever explaining anything.

Once again: No drama. No details. Just noise.

I’m Afraid You’ve Been Diagnosed With… a Promotion

To save your life we had to perform an emergency protagonist transplant. You're now the main character. Also, there's a ten dollar co-pay. Now get off the bed. Judging by how Cora is standing, I need to fix whatever went wrong with her spine.
To save your life we had to perform an emergency protagonist transplant. You're now the main character. Also, there's a ten dollar co-pay. Now get off the bed. Judging by how Cora is standing, I need to fix whatever went wrong with her spine.

When Sara wakes up, we discover she’s been made the pathfinder. Apparently being directly connected to SAM automatically makes you the pathfinder for your species. Sara has no training as a pathfinder and is unqualified for the job. Meanwhile teammate Cora was Alec’s second and spent years training for the position. And yet this medical emergency somehow resulted in an irrevocable promotion of an unqualified person to this incredibly important job? Elsewhere in the story we can see it’s possible to pass the pathfinder job from one person to the next without needing to kill the original pathfinder, so why is this promotion set in stone?

Again, I’d totally be willing to buy this premise. The problem is that the writer is refusing to sell it to me.

I get that SAM is what makes Sara special. Just like Shepard had his connection to the Prothean beacons, Sara has her connection to SAM. It’s what makes the hero uniquely qualified to undertake the quest. I approve of this decision, and I appreciate the fact that we’re not trying to do the “hero, a bloody icon” thing again. But this bestowing of power is completely muddled in this scene and so it doesn’t feel natural and we don’t know the rules. This becomes important later because losing SAM is a big part of the crisis point in act three, and since the writer never bothered to set up the rules that moment will come off as arbitrary.

It’s not Over Yet

Oh, I'm UP FOR IT? What didn't you say so? No further questions.
Oh, I'm UP FOR IT? What didn't you say so? No further questions.

So now the writer is in the difficult position where the player needs to be introduced to this new status quo, while the player character needs to process the death of her father. In a story sense we need to give Sara time to grieve the death of her father so it doesn’t feel like she’s shrugging it off, but the player needs some sort of explanation for why all this happened. The writer manages to whiff on both of these. During the short non-branching conversation you can practically hear the voice of the author saying, “Don’t think about it too hard. Just go with it so we can get back to the shooting.”

Teammate Liam even says, “What’s the matter? I think you’re up for it!”

Which, okay. Maybe Sara is indeed “up” for doing the job, but the question isn’t whether or not she CAN do it, but WHY it has to be her. Why can’t we give the job to the better-trained Cora? I get that SAM makes Sara a badass, but you don’t need to be a combat badass to make high-level strategic decisions about exploring and colonizing new worlds. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give Cora the job of pathfinder and she can take Sara along as muscle?

From the broken helmet, to Alec’s apparent apathy regarding his own life, to the confusing medical conversation, to the poorly-justified basis of imposing the title of Pathfinder on you, this entire scene is a mess. Before you can process the previous confusion, the storyteller is throwing more at you. This is the moment at the start of the story where the hero steps up. Things should click into place here.

Sara's butt is floating above the bed she's sitting on (I don't know why there's a bed in the computer core) and her arms are floating above her legs. I get that fixing animations takes time, but can't we at least move the camera to hide these problems?
Sara's butt is floating above the bed she's sitting on (I don't know why there's a bed in the computer core) and her arms are floating above her legs. I get that fixing animations takes time, but can't we at least move the camera to hide these problems?

We definitely don’t want the player to be either confused or bored during this big moment, which is what you get when an author does too much hand-waving.

Yes, there are excuses to support this at the end of the “Ryder Family Secrets” questline near the end of the game. That explains why Alec made this decisionSort of. A bit. but it doesn’t explain why everyone around you is so eager to go along with it.

How I’d have done it:

If we want to sell this scene then we need to do it through characters, and right now Alec Ryder is to much of a superhero for this to work. So let’s back all the way up to the start of the game and give him some frailty. Instead of having him not care about the fate of Scott Ryder, we make it so that he’s greatly shaken by the news that his son is in danger.

As it stands now, at the start of the game the doctor says, “Scott will be fine. We’ve put him into a healing coma for now.” (Gosh, thanks so much for killing the tension there, doc. I wouldn’t want to run the risk of experiencing anything dangerous like SUSPENSE.)

Instead, let’s do the opposite and have her say, “Scott’s cryopod malfunctioned and tried to revive him before he was brought up to temperature. We don’t know what the damage is yet. We managed to get him into a coma and we’re bringing his temperature up very gradually.”

Alec:(Direct, intense.) Is he going to make it?

Doctor: (Nervous, uncomfortable.) We’re doing everything we can.

He tells the doctor to let him know as soon as there’s news. We can’t really expect the player to care a great deal about the refrigerated sibling they haven’t even met, but having Alec worry over him gives us a connection to both of them. We tend to more easily care about characters who care about each other.

After the mission goes sideways and communications are finally restored on Habitat 7, Alec uses the opportunity to ask about Scott right away rather than worrying about the mission. The idea here (which we can reveal in dialog throughout the first mission) is that Alec is a fearless badass, but his one weakness is that he’s afraid for his children. He trusts in his badassery, so he assigns his kids to his Pathfinder team so he can protect them directly. This also explains his nepotism as an extension of his protective nature rather than a desire to use his connections to land nice jobs for his kids, which paints him in a more favorable light.

Then when Alec takes off his helmet and gives it to Sara we can have him say, “I can’t lose both of my children in one day. I can’t.” Now we understand he’s not making a rational decision, but an emotional one. He’s not thinking about the tens of thousands of colonists that he’s responsible for, he’s thinking about his kid and how much he can’t bear to watch her die.

As for fixing the helmet-smashing scene? That’s easy. Just excise the earlier scene. Previous dialog had already established the the atmosphere wasn’t breathable. The free-fall out of the shuttle already gave us a moment of action and excitement, so we’re not really hurting for more. The helmet-cracking sequence literally serves no purpose in the story except to create confusion.

The problems with SAM node are less severe. It really bugged me because I’m a details-first kind of sci-fi fan, but I’m willing to bet a majority of the audience was willing to “go along with it”. And if we fixed the earlier parts of the scene, doing that would be a lot easier.

In any case, all we need to do to fix the SAM problem is just allow the player to ask probing questions after they wake up. Anticipate the questions an engaged, curious player might have with this setup, and then have answers to them. Stuff like:

Sara: I don’t understand. Why am I linked to SAM now?

Doctor: We had to do it to save your life. Some of the toxins you breathed did damage to your nervous system. Without Sam, you wouldn’t be able to breathe on your own.

Yes, this is still a bit janky, since SAM interfaces with your nervous system. If you can’t control your lungs, then SAM shouldn’t be able to either. But you get the idea. I’m not going to write five pages of lore explaining how my hypothetical SAM operates. The point is, you can totally make this idea work if you just give the player the opportunity to explore it. You don’t even need to answer every question I posed in this article. If you can just anticipate and answer a few of the big ones, then you’ll gain the trust of the audience and they’ll probably let the other questions slide.

In any case, we’re almost done with Habitat 7. We just need to be introduced to our main villain and then we’re off to meet the rest of the Andromeda Initiative.



[1] I ASSUME it’s there to establish that the atmosphere isn’t breathable, but there’s a lot of other ways to accomplish that.

[2] Yes, you’d still need to justify why it wouldn’t go to Cora. Still, a writer that knew their craft would be able to make this work. It’s not like the handoff of magic science-powers is some impossible-to-solve problem for science fiction.

[3] Sort of. A bit.

From The Archives:

142 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 5: The Pathfinder

  1. Redrock says:

    Ryder’s death isn’t even symbolically or thematically linked to the rest of the story.

    But isn’t it linked to the crisis in act 3 that you mention, as well as to the overall idea of human-AI symbiosis Andromeda seems to partly be about? As far as I can tell, it’s mostly about handwaving away the whole central conflict of the original trilogy, but it’s there nonetheless. Ryder can’t really survive without SAM, while SAM needs Ryder because something-something, learning, connection to the world something-something. The death is there to establish that mutual dependency.

    Now, as much as I’m willing to defend Anromeda, Alec’s reluctance to share the goddamn helmet had me quite literaly shouting at the screen. So obnoxiously silly and forced I never really had a problem with the faceplate shattering, though, since it never occured to me that the thingy used to fix a crack can replace the whole faceplate.

  2. Coming Second says:

    Oh come on, how can you not like Sara’s hilarious face? Makes the whole game imo.

    1. Cubic says:

      She was braindead for 22 seconds, you know.

      1. I guess this also explains why she’s “manspreading”.

        Every Bioware game since Origins has had terrible animations for the female protagonist because they just re-use the *distinctively* male animations. Women don’t naturally sit with their legs spread wide like that unless they’re pregnant or hugely fat.

  3. ShivanHunter says:

    It’s amazing how many problems in Mass Effect writing can be fixed with a single line of dialogue – in the helmet example, something like “one more crack like that and I’m a goner”. No need to establish any hard rules, just say that the helmet-repair-thingy can’t do much more than what’s already been shown. And one line to at least attempt to explain what Sam’s doing.

    Nitpick: I don’t think they were ever going for a back-from-the-dead story a la ME2. Being “technically dead” for some-odd seconds is something that can happen with current medical tech. I’ve seen medical dramas use it to create an “oh shit” moment, so I think they were using it to establish that Sara really needed… uh… whatever SAM did, and would be dead otherwise. Which falls flat since they never actually say what SAM did, but whatever.

    Ohhhh, and I thought you were going to get to the Archon’s scene today! What a cliffhanger. I’m not sure I could introduce a villain in a more underwhelming way if I tried.

    1. JH-M says:

      I thought the same. I haven’t played or seen the game in any real capacity, but the danger of the damaged helmet could be established in at least 2 ways I can think of:

      -In a conversation with another member of your surviving team (if there is any) as a military-esque status report, like this;
      Team Member: “What’s your status, Ryder? Any serious damage?”
      Ryder: “Helmet’s cracked, but holding.”
      Team Member: “Lucky.” or “Watch yourself. If it breaks, you’re a dead man walking, and dropping fast.”
      -Visually show that the fix-it gizmo is out of juice. If the gizmo was not part of the suit, but shown as a small spray canister, Ryder could have used it, and then thrown the canister away. While the fact that Ryder is then polluting an alien planet is a discussion in itself, it would show that this was a one-time repair (it does not explain why no one else is using theirs to fix it, however).

      For the A.I. connection, it could be shown perhaps with a small visual change of Ryder. A small, physical implant on the temple, perhaps, like a small disc with lights on?

      1. Thomas says:

        The best way to do it dramatically, would be to have her try to use the tool and have it fail/have her drop it in the moment – then you get the impact of her fighting for her life and losing.

        I was thinking another alternative would be to make it a cruder patch – visible duct tape style. Then it’s a nice tension reminder through the level, and when the faceplate completely shatters, it helps you understand why and just how screwed she is.

        1. Jabrwock says:

          Or she used hers when it cracked, and when Alec tries to use his, he can’t find it, it’s broken, or he drops it. Then he goes through with the “I can’t lose both of you” bit. So we at least know it’s a last ditch effort.

          1. guy says:

            Alternatively skip all the questions about what omni-tools can and can’t do and handling the fact that players have wildly differing expectations of their capabilities based on how much they read the Codex and just have Sara take an alien metal spike directly through the torso and bleed out and die in seconds before anyone can get to her with medi-gel. Then Alec hacks out his SAM node and shoves it into Sara and his omni-tool glows for a bit as he collapses into horrible convulsions and dies while Sara becomes a cyber-zombie. Then SAM explains this only works within ten minutes of loss of brain function so no you can’t raise Alec from the dead.

            You will at some point have to address the question of why you can’t make more nodes but that question exists anyways.

            1. Or, just don’t do this idiotic “back from the dead” crap at all. It was stupidiotic in ME2 and has not improved with age.

              1. Adam Souza says:

                Oooh, “stupidiodic” is a very good word. I’ll have to remember that one.

                1. You know, the recurrent “chosen one” syndrome in Bioware games kinda makes me think back to the discussion on the voiced protagonist in Fallout 4 and how I said that “chosen one” is endemic to RPG’s because they NEED some way to make the protagonist INCOMPETENT, but also, somehow, VITAL, because they have to be a ‘blank slate’ who can’t actually have independent knowledge or competence, that way they learn about the world at the same rate the player does.

                  And that’s exactly what is popping up here, yet again. Here we have a character who, by all accounts, *shouldn’t be in the position they’re in*, but they HAVE to be in that position because they’re The Protagonist. Cue the bestowal of magic powers and all the attendant dramatic contortions to arrange it. And, well, dying is a Big Deal (the biggest deal), so you can’t get any cooler than that! That means a power bestowal situation that involves death is The Coolest Possible Option, right?!

                  The weird part is that they go to all this effort to give you all of the TRAPPINGS of an in-world-defined character (family members, a job, personal history) and then don’t cash in on it. They actually spend a lot of time doing the OPPOSITE of cashing in on it, and often manage simply to make you annoyed with the family members that they glued onto you for no dang reason.

                  So, it makes sense WHY they keep making these same mistakes over and over. They want a badass when the game structure calls for an incompetent. They want to slap motivations on you without actually tying you to those motivations. They’re trying to have two incompatible things at the same time.

            2. DerJungerLudendorff says:

              Alternatively, have Alec be the one to get shish-kebabd.

              Then he has just enough time to hand over the SAM Macguffin, perhaps with a half-delerious line about how they don’t have time for a proper transplant and need an Alec-standin, and Sara is the closest they have at hand. And maybe something about family or duty.

    2. Thomas says:

      Those extra lines of dialogue probably wouldn’t fix the problem. You don’t care about a throwaway line at the time, and when the situation comes up, if you’re thinking back to that line you’ve already emotionally disengaged with the scene.

      Sometimes films take that approach to plot holes – it ends up feeling a bit cheap. You’re weighed down by all this boring functional dialogue but it hasn’t made the film flow better.

      It’s the same as a lot of ME3’s problems being explained in the codex. People being able to nitpick your complaints doesn’t stop you from having them.

    3. Marr says:

      Clinical death is a very complex thing to base drama around in any SF setting. A modern hospital today will treat cessation of breathing and blood flow as a medical emergency rather than a corpse, and I’d expect people with a shiny space hospital to react that way to a silenced nervous system. You don’t call a condition ‘death’ when you have the tools to repair it.

      1. Thomas says:

        The actual dialogue is “She’s going into cardiac arrest…” then the brain neuron ME3 style scene, then “You were clinically dead for 22 seconds” and then the conversation moves on and it doesn’t come up again.

        Someone going into cardiac arrest and being clinically dead for 22 seconds before being resuscitated successfully is something that can and does happen right now, and those are the correct terms for it.

        I don’t think they meant to attach any kind of thematic meaning to it. They just used dramatic medical drama dialogue for “bad stuff happened” so that they can justify why Ryder needed SAM melded to them. If ME3 hadn’t happened, no-one would have even registered the line.

    4. Trevor says:

      Here is the clip of Shepard’s “rebirth” scene in Mass Effect 2. It looks a ton like the rebirth scene that Ryder goes through, particularly with the dead neurons that look like they’ve become rock in death suddenly lighting up again. Across franchises, you might convince me that it’s just generic tension creating through medical miracle, but in the same series of games you have to read the Ryder scene as deliberately recalling the Shepard one.

  4. Shen says:

    Yeah, this part is what started to lose me because I’d just got done with this nonsense in Dragon Age Inquisition. Vaguely connected schmo gets given glowing green magic thing that makes them the most important person in the world and everyone immediately assigns them as leader despite knowing nothing about them. Some token resistance but glowy green tops everything so get on with it.
    I have no idea when Bioware became so allergic to the idea that the main character might have to report to someone else. It’s a useful trope for videogame storytelling and dealing with the Council in Mass Effect 1 was fun and immersive. Plus the player actually earning positions of power is, y’know, NICE.

    1. Redrock says:

      I had a different problem with Inquisition: so, you’ve got a guy or a gal with a magical gift of closing the rifts. The magical gift, mind you, doesn’t really give them special combat prowess, they’re mostly as good as other fellas on the team. Question 1, why put them in charge? They can be a symbol for the people, but that doesn’t make them a good person to be in charge. Question 2, if you put them in charge, why on earth are you letting the leader AND the only being capable of closing the rifts lead the charge on everything? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a strike squad run around, clean up demons and then carefully escort the green magic walking key to the rifts?

      One thing I actually liked about Andromeda is that it’s one of the few open-world games where you running around actually makes a lot of sense. That’s what the Pathfinder does. Also, it’s one of the few games where doing random errands and collecting random junk is also justified – everything goes towards supplying the Initiative. It’s not perfect, but it somewhat works. The justification for The Inquisitor running around doing chores for random people was far weaker.

      1. Linneris says:

        In fairness, you’re technically not in charge in act 1. Cassandra and Leliana are responsible for the overall direction of the Inquisition, while you’re a field agent dealing with the immediate problem of the rifts. You only become the Inquisitor in act 2, after you’ve supposedly proved yourself to be worthy of the position.

        Why don’t they send a strike squad? They do, and you’re part of it – it’s your in-game party! If you sent soldiers against the rifts first, they’d be facing unending waves of demons with no means to close the rifts, which is why you need to be there during combat. Granted, this still doesn’t explain why you can’t have a squad of Inquisition soldiers follow your party, or why they can’t scout the area more extensively instead of leaving you to head into the unknown, but I fear there can be no good explanation for it besides “it’s a BioWare RPG, roll with it”.

        Having to personally pick up flowers and ore is pretty nonsensical given the setup, though.

        1. Redrock says:

          What I mean is, there’s no reason for the Inqusitor to put themselves at risk and be part of the initial strike team. The party can do just fine without them. The Inquisitor isn’t a uniquely skilled warrior. Ideally, they shouldn’t be exposed to combat at all, they should be guarded at all times and only ever move in to close rifts when the area has been thoroughly secured. The person with unique world-saving powers shouldn’t be in the party at all! I mean, it’s one thing when there’s no other option, like in many other RPGs and JRPGs. But here, with a whole paramilitary organization behind you and a party of equally skilled adventurers? No reason for the Inquisitor to leave their chair most of the time.

          1. Daimbert says:

            The rift areas themselves can’t be secured in any reasonable way until they are sealed. So even sending the party near them — meaning even FINDING them — requires the main character to be there so that when you’ve killed enough demons you can seal it off. If you kill demons for a bit and then come back later, you’ll have to kill the same demons later.

            Since every other threat is in general less of one than the rifts and the demons around them, there’s really no reason to keep the main character out of the field. They have to be there anyway and if they are likely to get killed by the threats they find while exploring the areas they are going to get killed trying to seal the rifts anyway.

            1. Redrock says:

              Eh, not quite. You can have two parties. The vanguard clears the initial wave of demons, then the rear guard comes in with the Inquisitor. They don’t have to be far away, just out of the initial assault. It doesn’t eliminate the danger to the Inquisitor, but it mininizes it, and I think that’s the approach any military organization would take when it comes to the person who is both tge leader and literaly humanity’s last hope. That’s why more often than not the protagonist of similar storiesis a grizzled and ultimately expendable warrior/merc, while the chosen one, usually a kid or a priestess type, is ostensibly under the hero’s protection. And usually act as a healer.

              1. Daimbert says:

                You could do that, but that’s going to be WAY too much complication in a game, especially when you’d have to make sure that your vanguard were always more powerful than your Inquisitor or else they could lose to demons that your “rearguard” could mop the floor with. I don’t think sacrificing a little bit of realism for the sake of streamlining things and placing one of if not the most powerful character at the forefront of doing the thing that they’re supposed to be doing is really a bad move here.

                1. Actually, you CAN’T do this based on the way the rifts work in the game–try killing all the demons around a rift without closing it IMMEDIATELY sometime. The rift blows up and summons more demons *because the Inquisitor got close to it*. Heck, there’s a “partially closed” rift in the Fallow Mire that you have to deliberately blow up and use to summon demons so that you can close it.

                  The Inquisitor has to be on-site for the demon fight anyway, so they might as well fight. And, while you’re not MUCH more powerful than your party members, you’re WAY more powerful than the rank-and-file troops. Assigning the half-trained level 1 warrior soldiers (In D&D terms) that are all the Inquisition has, particularly at the beginning, to *defend* your level 10 Mage against CR 10 monsters will just get the soldiers killed and not make the mage any safer. Heck, in the first big battle, you HAVE some scrub soldiers with you, and they get wrecked without doing any damage or even slowing the mobs down.

                  It’s not a low-magic or “realistic” fantasy setting. The difference between party members and muggles is large. ALL of your party members are quasi-supernatural badasses, INCLUDING you.

                2. Redrock says:

                  I’m not suggesting you do that in the game. I’m suggesting you don’t make the protagonist a walking magic key, a cool warrior and the commander all at the same time. Putting an RPG protagonist in charge of any major organization is cheap pandering and very rarely makes sense.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Well, I both disagree that it’s cheap pandering and that it rarely makes sense. In general, the protagonist is put in charge to give the player and protagonist agency, so that the player gets to decide what to focus on and what gets done. Having them simply take orders from other people reduces them to a grunt, which most players aren’t going to find that entertaining. And in general they end up leading because of unique traits they have that mean that they should lead, be it powers or symbolism or whatever.

                    That being said, the ideal was probably the Spectre angle from ME1, where the player is not the leader of everything but has the autonomy to achieve their goals however they see fit. And when that was taken away in ME2 and especially ME3 we can see how that made for a far less effective scenario than we had in ME1.

      2. Geebs says:

        Modern Bioware’s YA-esque addiction to manifest destiny (via green glowy thing) over actual personal merit would have given Confucius an aneurysm. It’s a real shame that they seem to have completely forgotten their own subversion of the trope in (double irony!) Jade Empire.

        On the other hand, the entire command crew of the Andromeda initiative are a bunch of flaming incompetents who are so wrapped up in their personal issues that they basically can’t function without Ryder’s shoulder to cry on, so maybe they are a meritocracy after all. I guess in the kingdom of the emotionally incontinent, the guy with the Depends is king.

        1. Liessa says:

          Bioware’s ‘Chosen One’ obsession exasperates me as well. People say “well, they tried getting rid of it in Dragon Age 2 and it didn’t work!” but that’s not actually true – what they did in DA2 was randomly switch between “you are a nobody with no influence over anything” and “you are the most important person in Kirkwall and nothing can function without you” as the plot demanded. Combined with the game’s generally poor writing and constant obnoxious railroading, it’s unsurprising that this didn’t work for players. It’s perfectly possible to give the PC agency and influence without having everyone hero-worship them like in Bioware games; just look at the Witcher series.

          And yeah, I agree about the Andromeda crew. The one saving grace of Ryder being promoted over Cora is that during her loyalty mission, we see no evidence that she’d be any better in the position than Ryder would.

          1. djw says:

            Honestly, I thought the DA2 story did work, mostly, with the proviso that you were a bit too much on rails. Where DA2 failed was with reused assets and falling men.

            1. guy says:

              I think it failed in not committing fully to Hawke being just some person caught up in events. I jokingly call Hawke a Disaster Demon because Hawke is only pivitol to events that involve major catastrophes. Act 1 has Hawke inadvertently set the Mage-Templar war in motion by backing the Deep Roads expedition and thus letting Bartrand get that damn idol that drives Meredith nuts and results in Act 3 being as big a disaster as it is; Act 2 is Hawke completely failing to prevent the Qunari situation from escalating, which isn’t really Hawke’s fault but is entirely Isabella’s fault; Act 3 sees Hawke personally kill the Templars and Mages seeking compromise at the behest of the increasingly Red Lyrium corrupted Meredith and aiding and abetting Anders blowing up the Chantry and the one person in the city Meredith would potentially take orders from if not for that damned idol.

              Sure, the Templars and Blood Mages had been dousing everything in gasoline but it’s Hawke who lit the match. I genuinely think if Meredith hadn’t gotten the sword and kept being the person she was in Act 2 the war would not have started in Kirkwall because she wouldn’t have ordered the Circle purged because of the actions of one mage who isn’t even a member of the Circle.

              I think they’d have been better served just having the Deep Roads expedition go as smoothly as such a thing can and get all of you filthy rich and oh by the way did you hear about that caravan slaughtered almost to a man with the sole survivor babbling about a song and hugging some idol that looks like Lyrium but is red?

              1. Daimbert says:

                I just replayed DA2 to analyze it for my blog — the first post comes out today, in fact — and I disagree with your ending to the Deep Roads expedition, because DA2 was aiming to be a tragedy, and the common theme running through all the Acts — including the intro — is that no matter what you do, you won’t be able to stop the tragedies from occurring, so all you can do is try to make things not so much of a disaster when they DO happen. And in every Act, you do or can: in the intro, your sibling and Wesley die, but the rest of your family and Avelline are saved; in the Deep Roads, everyone else would have likely died if you weren’t there, including Varric; in Act 2, the Qunari would have killed at least all the nobles if not everyone in Kirkwall; and in the final act, you can save most of the mages or save Kirkwall.

                Setting up every act so that you always at least partially fail drives home the fact that you aren’t ever going to get a standard happy ending. It might be depressing, but I think giving partial happy endings to subvert it at the end would be more enraging …

                1. guy says:

                  Well, no, no one would have died in the Deep Roads without Hawke. No Hawke, no 50 sovereigns and no Anders. Without those, no expedition; Varric was pretty clear on that point. Act 2, Hawke does salavage the disaster but it’s entirely caused by Isabella; it’s skippable, but if you help her find the artifact you learn it’s the Qunari’s holiest text and Isabella stole it and that’s why their supreme military commander is stuck in Kirkwall yelling at people. Sure, ship’s busted, but that doesn’t matter. The Qunari have an entire fleet; they could call in another ship at any time. They’re here because they’re not leaving without that book. In Act 3 Hawke literally kills any hope of a compromise prior to Anders blowing up the Chantry.

                  I think it’d work better if Hawke did not find the idol and instead Bethany/Carver just got the Darkspawn taint and died or became a Grey Warden, because that’s a thing that happens in the Deep Roads. Wheras finding the idol is like finding the One Ring. Very unlikely and everyone is going to suffer unless it’s destroyed.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    For Act 1, my point was that if Hawke hadn’t been on the expedition everyone else would have died. The expedition was likely to go on if Hawke had turned down Varric’s request, because he was the one who knew about Anders if I recall correctly and would likely have found another way to get the money, In fact, his brother insists that that’s what would happen and Varric only reminds him that time is potentially short and it’s costing money to not go right away. So even accepting what Hawke brought to it, if it was someone else other than her who did those things they would have died … and it was likely that someone else would have picked them up anyway.

                    For Act 2, it was caused by Isabella long before you get involved, and you can mitigate the impact, so I still think it counts for my side. Remember, my main claim is that these things were going to happen with or without your impact, and all you can do is mitigate the impacts.

                    For Act 3, I don’t recall Hawke literally killing the only chance for a compromise before the Chantry explosion. In fact, I recall that there’s a confrontation that could lead to a compromise or at least a temporary cooling down of tensions that is shattered by the explosion itself.

                    But, again, my point is indeed that these things were going to happen eventually anyway. Hawke can’t resolve the problems and, yes, some of the things she does inadvertently cause them, even the things she’s doing to TRY to resolve them. That, again, is the point of the tragedy, and pretty much all tragedies work out that way. Hawke, depending on your choices, can make things better — or at least less bad — and can refuse to go along with the things that make things come to a head, and as I said that’s what the game was trying to get across.

                    I’ll agree that making it more clear that Bartrand was specifically after this thing to make finding the idol less of a contrivance would have worked better, but I still submit that that’s what happened: Bartrand, no matter what he said, was after this thing without really knowing what it would do.

                    1. guy says:

                      I’m talking about the series of quests where Hawke is sent to investigate strange goings-on and then a bunch of mages and templars attack Hawke on the belief Hawke is here to kill them for Meredith and Hawke kills them all. Because it seemed pretty clear they were trying to go behind their leaders’ backs and resolve this before Meredith imposed the Tranquil Solution. Then later there’s a confrontation outside the Chantry between Meredith and Orsino as Orsino decides enough is enough he’ll appeal to the Grand Cleric personally to rein in Meredith, but Meredith wasn’t going to listen. And both of those Meredith bits don’t track with Act 1 and Act 2. So why am I so sure that’s how she’d act?

                      That damn idol!

                      So the reason my joke is specifically that Hawke is a Disaster Demon and not a screwup is that yes you are totally correct that Hawke’s actions are reasonable and helpful and the one that doomed the city and ultimately almost every Templar/Mage (Inquisitor to the rescue for one of those categories) could theoretically have been anyone (though I did get the sense that Varric didn’t have any other candidates for partners in mind and part of why Bartrand was so irritable was that he was watching his hard work slip away for want of 50 sovereigns) it feels like Hawke just radiates an aura of doom and misfortune and causes disasters by her mere presence.

                      So if the idol could have happened to someone else, have it happen to someone else and Hawke learns about it second-hand as foreshadowing for the climatic “OH SHIT!” moment when Meredith pulls out a glowing red sword and becomes the final boss. Because seriously I considered that damned idol the main villain in the story even though it had only two on-screen appearances and one aftermath encounter with Bartrand. The cinematography sold the hell out of it.

                      Then DA:I runs with it and I get red lyrium weapons and look at them, look at Dagda, look at them, look at the brand, and mutter “I’m going to regret this” and pick them up.

                    2. Daimbert says:

                      Okay, I don’t actually disagree with any of this. If there is any disagreement, it’s that I see it as part of the tragedy set-up and so like it better than you do.

                      I think I avoided using Red Lyrium weapons in DAI pretty much for the reasons you cited: given how corrupting it is, it really didn’t seem like a good idea.

          2. The main weirdness isn’t that the protagonist isn’t a good choice, it’s that the protagonist tends to get “chosen” before it becomes apparent WHY they’re a good choice.

            At least the Inquisition put most of the hero worshipping AFTER you heroically “sacrifice” yourself to stay and fight the big bad.

            1. Daimbert says:

              That’s only really true of Act 1, though, where we don’t get to see what the protagonist did to impress Varric. In Act 2, you’ve worked with the Arishok before and he is impressed enough to respect you more than he respects almost anyone else in Kirkwall, and in Act 3 you stopped the Qunari from slaughtering everyone which grants you some influence and hero worship for being the only one who did and arguably could do so. DA2 is actually pretty good at establishing why you’ve gained the influence you’ve had when you have it.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Or go with the Obsidian approach: you are your own character, pursuing your own personal goal that’s established in the beginning – then you get caught up in a higher-stakes situation along the way. Or not.
      Seems to me Andromeda would have worked just fine if Ryder hadn’t been the only Pathfinder. Just make her a leader of one several Pathfinder teams out there* and then she can stumble into the story that way.

      Also, this discussion reminds me a lot of XCOM 2.
      So XCOM: EU (and the earlier games?) had you report to a council, who reviewed your progress every month and revoke your funding if you’re failing. Great! Simple, comprehensible and it feeds into the gameplay.
      But then XCOM 2 makes a big fuss about you be the legendary Commander, who’s going to save everyone and there’s no-one else who can do it…but that bald guy is still giving me grades every month!**

      *Like we’re exploring some kind of other galaxy that’s really big or something…

      **Also, if I’m in charge of the Resistance, why don’t you ever bother telling me about the other operations you’re planning earlier rather than dropping them in my lap at the last second with no warning!


        To be fair, there are other Pathfinders- it’s just that there is only one Pathfinder per ark, none on the Nexus and none of the other Arks had met up with the Nexus when the game started. So in theory Ryder isn’t the chosen one, just the only member of an elite group who all have the same unique trait but only Ryder is ever shown using for the purpose that makes it so special (controlling Remnant) and who also is the only member of said elite group to show up at the start of the game. So initially you’re important because you happen to have SAM, later on in the game this excuse wanes because you can potentially find the other arks and their Pathfinders. Strangely, no-one ever suggests making a copy of SAM and the neural implants to give other people the same Remnant-control powers.

        As for the NuCOM stuff… Eh, you’ve got it pretty much spot on, mechanically XCOM 2 and XCOM EU/EW have pretty much the same method for putting missions in front of you and grading monthly performance. I guess in-universe the missions are supposed to be targets of opportunity that X-Com must act on ASAP or lose their chance but in practice even with the War of the Chosen DLC/expansion the actual ‘leading the resistance’ thing is mostly out of the player’s hands.

        1. guy says:

          Well, you can’t make another SAM. SAM is the Ark’s AI core. He’s physically huge. Also you technically can’t copy an AI for complex technical reasons involving the word “quantum” (Geth don’t run on quantum computers so they’re exempt) but you could get a similar AI if you built a new room-sized quantum supercomputer.

          What isn’t explained is why you can’t connect multiple people to one SAM. I dunno, software interlock?

  5. Gautsu says:

    I want to stress that I’m not asking you to jump down to the comments and explain the ad hoc fanon


    1. Redrock says:

      Portmanteau of “fan canon”, I imagine, and nothing to do with the proximity of the f and c keys to each other.

    2. Dragmire says:

      The little brother that looks up to Ganon.

  6. Dreadjaws says:

    Then when Sara is awake again the doctor explains, “SAM is now a part of you, in a way we don’t entirely understand.”

    What? Nobody understands it? Does SAM understand it? Didn’t you perform the procedure, doc? How can you not know what you did? Did you perform surgery? If so, why are we still in the computer room and not, you know, in some sort of medical facilities?

    Given the info provided later by SAM in the “Ryder Family Secrets” quest, this entire issue at the start of the game reeks of rewriting. In fact, that seems to be a recurrent issue. You can see that at several points in the game they went with a new idea without bothering to erase all the traces of the old one.

    Also, typolice:

    Oh no! Sara’s helmet is broken. Ah, but she can just use the repair gizmo. But she isn’t for some reason. Did she use up all her repair juice? Is there a size limit? Did I miss something?

    I guess she’s dying? Ah, but Alex Ryder has landed. I guess they can share the helmet for a couple of minutes. No? He’s not going to take it back?

    Hm. Maybe Sara is unconscious and he needs to prevent her from breathing the bad air. No, she still seems to be moving. Is she lucid? Will her head clear after a few breaths of oxygen?

    Huh. I guess Alex died then? Okay. Whatever.

    Those two instances of “Alex” should be “Alec”.

    1. “You can see that at several points in the game they went with a new idea without bothering to erase all the traces of the old one.”

      This has become a constant with their games, and it’s seriously impacting the quality. Whatever process they’re using to put storyline together it must be a mess if they’re doing major re-writing so far down the chain that the content is already set this way.

      Heck, with Inquisition, they came to E3 with a playable demo that showed content that was *completely cut from the final game* scheduled to be released like 6 months later. The areas were completely re-worked, VOICE-RECORDED dialog was CUT.

  7. Mortuss says:

    I did not have as much of an issue with this sequence. When the helmet shattered, I thought “not even repair gel can help now” since it seemed to be mending cracks, not creating new helmet. Sara got hurt and without SAM she would not survive. Pathfinders need AI for their job (although I am not sure why) and if you tried to transfer SAM, Sara would die. No one thinks Cora should lead since no one likes her. I don’t think you need to establish that Alec loves his kids, since unless shown otherwise, parents in fiction are willing to sacrifice for their kids. Even if he is a bit cold towards them (but when you explore H7 properly, he seems proud of you, so not that cold), sacrificing yourself for your kid is just thing that happens a lot. Sure, the emotional impact would be greater if they spent more time on the relationship. Its not perfect, hell maybe its not even good, but the opening is totally OK in my book.

  8. Karma The Alligator says:

    The helmet-cracking sequence literally serves no purpose in the story except to create confusion.

    From reading it here, the impression I got was a meaning of ‘the helmet is weakened’, to explain why it broke the second time, but, as ShivanHunter said up there, something as simple as saying ‘one more shock and the helmet’s done for’ would have worked much better.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      I haven’t played the game. Is the cracked faceplate not replaced between these two scenes? Is she just walking around with a damaged helmet covered in space glue?

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        Haven’t played it either, but from what I read in the comments, she’s going around with a damaged helmet covered in space glue. If not, then yeah, that first scene was entirely useless.

        1. guy says:

          She’s walking around with a fixed helmet; the omnitool can fix helmets the same way it can make a sword every time you melee attack. But the first instance was a tiny crack and the second instance was the faceplate exploding, which instantly struck me as far more dire and beyond a quick fix. I mean, we don’t just print new helmets in the field in the prior games even though we have an omnitool.

          1. Karma The Alligator says:

            In the prior games no-one broke their helmets (those who do bother to wear one), so we don’t know if we could have printed new ones in the field.

            But anyway, that means that first scene was pointless.

            1. guy says:

              Yes, but helmets are an inventory item and you can’t switch to a helmet you don’t have on you. Which you’d be able to if you could print them at will.

            2. Jabberwok says:

              Yeah, this is what I was getting at. The scene showing the crack doesn’t make sense either way. If the helmet isn’t magically fixed, why wouldn’t she repair or replace it? If it IS magically fixed, then the crack is irrelevant and only serves to inject ambiguity into the second scene.

              Honestly, the whole omni-gel / omni-tool thing works fine as a codex explanation of a game mechanic, but drawing attention to it in the story itself is just asking for trouble. Once characters start solving problems with poorly defined nano-magic, everyone is going to wonder why the next problem can’t be solved the same way. I have a thing on my wrist that can manipulate matter to make a sword strong enough to pierce straight through armor, but I can’t print a piece of glass to cover my face? Okay, maybe; but when a cutscene shows us something similar happening, they’re turning ludonarrative dissonance into regular narrative dissonance.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Check here, from around 0:22:
        The faceplate is not “covered in glue”, it’s entirely repaired.

        1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

          Yeah – that’s what sort of muddies the water here. If the faceplate had looked like it was covered in space glue, it would indicate that the omni-gel has very limited capabilities and that Sara probably wouldn’t want to take another shot to the face. But by all visual cues, it completely repairs the faceplate as good as new.

          1. guy says:

            I think that is what it’s supposed to look like. The faceplate is totally fixed, factory-fresh. It doesn’t shatter later because it was weakened, it shattered because it took a harder hit.

            I’m working off the Codex here, but not Andromeda’s Codex; ME1’s Codex:

            Omni-tools are handheld devices that combine a computer microframe, sensor analysis pack, and minifacturing fabricator. Versatile and reliable, an omni-tool can be used to analyze and adjust the functionality of most standard equipment, including weapons and armor, from a distance.

            The fabrication module can rapidly assemble small three-dimensional objects from common, reusable industrial plastics, ceramics, and light alloys. This allows for field repairs and modifications to most standard items, as well as the reuse of salvaged equipment.

            Omni-tools are standard issue for soldiers and first-in colonists

            I consider that fair game for the writers to use, and based on it my expectation is that either an omni-tool can fix something or it can’t; no half-fixed. If you run low on raw materials, melt down the armor of the dead. That’s where Shepard got omni-gel.

            So the only possible explaination for why you can’t fix the faceplate is that it’s too big for the omni-tool to make a new one. And that’s consistent with the fact that you can’t simply make a new gun in the field whenever. I mean probably you could make a new faceplate in sections and fuse them, but not in time.

            I’d be reluctant to explicitly establish this in dialogue, because every character should know it, but plausibly Cora could remind Sara of basic information to both tell the audience it and establish she has a very low opinion of Sara’s competence. Alternately cut the first scene and hope it doesn’t occur to people to ask why they can’t make a new faceplate with the omni-tool.

            1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

              An impression that I get from much of what you’ve been saying is that you’re a big fan of the codex. If anyone’s read some of what I’ve said, they might get the impression that I don’t care much about the codex. But that’s not true at all. I love worldbuilding and the codex is basically The Silmarillion of Mass Effect. But I do think that we disagree about what counts as “important data” and how it mixes with the story at hand.

              At its best, the codex merely supports, and gives more details/context, to what the game has already shown us. In regards to omni-tools, the game shows us some pretty impressive capabilities – things like creating fire, ice, shields, melee weapons, bolts of electric, etc. It really does look like space magic. And as far as the story goes, there’s little more the average player needs to know to understand the story that they’re taking part in. It’s certainly worth knowing how the space magic works, but there should never be a moment in-game when the space magic doesn’t work without there also being an in-game explanation of why. If the story creates the problem, the story should also solve it: It shouldn’t be punted to the secondary reading materials.

              The codex simply adds the context that an omni-tool can create virtually anything (anything “small” that is, and there’s no good definition of what “small” means in this context, given some of the other powers that the omni-tool possesses – I’d have to think that an omni-blade and a faceplate are pretty equitable amounts of material used) with a sufficient amount of raw materials. The raw material of choice seems to be – but isn’t limited to – omni-gel, which, thanks to ME2, is apparently an effectively-infinite resource. If anything, the codex suggests that an omni-tool can just as easily create a new faceplate as it could repair one; it’s just a matter of having sufficient raw material. And if the game is suggesting that omni-gel seems to be a never ending resource, why not think that I could create a new faceplate? You could throw in a line about how both of the Ryders are out of omni-gel, but that’s hard to defend when it’s been been virtually-infinite before and will be virtually-infinite once again beyond that point. That’s only a handwave for us codex “nerds.” It’s really just a disconnect between gameplay and story. The people playing this game codex-free are just seeing this “magical” tool suddenly fail for no reason and no explanation – in a very similar experience to one they just had -and easily overcame – and you really do have to be building the story for those people. Any additional information should just be gravy.

              You’ve noted that even Mass Effect 1 hides data vital to the story within the codex, citing the codex entry for the Mass Relays and how they allow for the FTL travel between star clusters. This might be a point of contention here, but I’d argue that you don’t have to completely understand how the Mass Relays work in order to understand the story as you’re playing it. The story itself offers enough context to give the player a sufficient understanding of the Mass Relays’ importance, particularly toward the end when we discover what the Conduit is and how we use it to catch up to Saren to save the day. For a worldbuilding nerd like me, I’m all about understanding the Mass Relays and what they truly mean to the story being told, but that’s not actually required knowledge for the story at hand. All the player needs to know is what the loading screens and the story itself shows us: They’re used to travel between star clusters, allowing us to travel much further, much faster than the current starship engine technology allows for.

              It’s great to have more detail, but not having that detail isn’t going to leave the average player confused as to what is happening. Because we’re presented with the basic rules and aren’t thrown into any situations where we have to question those rules. The only time I recall people making a big stink about the Mass Relays was during the original endings for Mass Effect 3 when the relays blew up. People started calling BS not because of any codex entries, but because in the Arrival DLC, the game showed us that blowing up a Mass Relay releases enough energy that it blows up the entire star system that it’s in and that wasn’t properly addressed in the original ME3 endings.

              But to me, the discussion is a bit academic (in addition to the meta-fact that people are debating the theoretical technology that exists only in a video game, but I think that if we’re here, we can appreciate that for what it is) because as familiar as I am with the codex, and the entry about the omni-tool in particular, even I fully expected the omni-tool to be able to fix the broken face plate almost as easily as it fixed the cracked face plate. If anything, I’d argue that the entry supports it. There’s certainly nothing in the codex that says “It can fix cracks in glass, but it can’t plug holes in glass.” But, even more keenly, they’ve got to allow for people who don’t read the codex to at least understand what’s happening in the moment. Because why wouldn’t someone be confused if they’ve seen their omni-tools create shields or melee weapons or electric bursts (it’s early enough in the game that they’re probably not seeing it create things like fire and ice yet) and not expect it to fix a problem that it’s already handled a trivial version of?

              I would say that in Mass Effect 1, it wasn’t necessary to be familiar with the Mass Relay codex because the game’s story itself gave us sufficient context to understand enough for as much as the story required, and didn’t present us with any contradictory moments that would’ve made us question that understanding. I happen to see nothing in the omni-tool codex that would contradict the idea that it could just as easily create a faceplate whole cloth as it could completely fix a crack in one. But even if someone disagrees with that point, we’re still left with a moment where the story itself showed something, then muddled the understanding of that thing: Nobody should have to go to the codex afterward to make sense of what just happened. By then, whatever emotion was supposed to be in that scene has been lost on the player and the toothpaste can’t be put back in the tube after the fact.

              Okay – people want to say that they can accept a qualitative difference between a cracked and a broken out faceplate despite me seeing nothing in the game or in the codex that supports that distinction as far as omni-tool repair goes. But, visually, they do look reasonably different. But that’s only a sub-problem of my actual problem: If someone were to play all four Mass Effect games straight through, it would take a couple hundred hours depending on how much side-questing the player does. And in all of those hours, the problem of a broken faceplate comes up exactly twice in that entire timespan, and those two times happen within minutes of each other and by any literary standard I can understand, those moments are working directly at odds with each other. If the first scene is supposed to inform the second scene, the message shouldn’t be “broken faceplates are easily fixed.” The message should either be “this is a precipitating event,” which gets subverted by the faceplate being completely fixed, or “broken faceplates are a serious matter,” which gets subverted by the faceplate being fixed in a literal second by a single sweep on the omni-tool. And if the two events aren’t supposed to be related at all, then that makes even less sense than anything.

              I’m totally a codex guy, but I don’t feel that I ever learned any necessary information from it as far as understanding what’s happening in the story goes – at least when it’s working like it’s supposed to. If I took every bit of codex knowledge that I have out of my head, there should not be single moment in any of the games when I’d be lost in confusion because of that lack of codex knowledge, even when it comes to the busted faceplate. I think that all of the ME games struggle with this at some point, but it just seems particularly egregious with this faceplate thing because it happens at such an early and vital part of the story when the story should be building our trust instead of making us say “Whoa – wait a minute…”

              1. guy says:

                I think of the Codex as a story component, and even in ME1 a key one. Sure, it is established that Sovereign taking over the Citadel, sealing the Mass Relays, and summoning the Reaper invasion fleet would be bad, but I think the details of why it’s so bad are important.

                So I consider one of the purposes of the Codex to be averting “As you know, Bob” by just having a repository of common knowledge. Virgil isn’t going to explain details of the Relay Network in the same way he’s not going to explain how to shoot Saren because Shepard knows how guns work. This is a big part of why so many works have newbies as main characters; they can be taught new information so the audience can learn it too without it being ugly and flow-breaking.

                More fundamentally, I don’t think answering all of the audience’s tech-related questions that might come up is a viable plan. Why? Well…

                How’d the ships get to Andromeda? Why didn’t we get woken up by SAM before we hit the Scourge? What the hell is the Scourge, anyways? Why weren’t we totaled? Couldn’t we just leave instead of landing? Why didn’t we have a Normandy-like frigate to handle heavy weather? Couldn’t we detect this storm from orbit? Why aren’t our shuttles sturdier? Why isn’t SAM linked to all of us? Couldn’t we skip the tower, find a thin point in the storm, and get rescued that way? Hey, the kett have a way through this somehow, shouldn’t we steal it? Could we just blow up the tower somehow? By the way how poisonous is the atmosphere? Can we make an airtight shield if we fiddle with settings?

                That’s a list I just came up with, and if anyone asks any of them and it isn’t answered to their satisfaction it’s as bad as the faceplate repair question. What the work really needs to do is get the viewer to assume that there must be a good answer. Which I think the Codex helps with because it shows someone on the team did think things through, and one of my problems with ME3 is that I had questions and I dove into the Codex looking for answers and found none. Particularly that Hades Cannon Reaper design; I wondered what was up with them so I looked in the Codex and… nothing. No mention. They’re neither of the listed Reaper types.

                1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

                  Then our feelings about the codex may not be as distant as I suspected. What the technology is and how it works is perfectly fine worldbuild-y stuff to dump in a codex for nerds like me as far as I’m concerned. But I think that the writer does have to explain it well enough in the game when it’s story relevant. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have the characters stop in the middle of an action scene to explain what the technology is doing. In fact, that’s often the worst way of doing it. Even worldbuild-y people like me don’t like infodumps.

                  So then how do you show the player how technology works? You show it being used within the context of the story. Again, you usually don’t need a detailed understanding – just enough of an understanding to know what’s happening in the moment. Like I said about Mass Effect 1, you can learn most of what you need to know about mass relays just from the loading screen that show’s The Normandy using them when travelling between star clusters.

                  As great as the worldbuilding is with the Mass Effect franchise, it’s also (and arguably more so) a literary enterprise: They’re trying to tell a story. And one of the most basic governing principles is “show don’t tell.” For my money, the codex is all the “tell” stuff that’s informative and interesting knowledge to have, but it’s all additional worldbuilding. The story itself has to do the heavy lifting of the “show” part of the equation.

                  You propose a lot of technical questions about the entire “Habitat 7” chapter of this story and I think it’s perfectly fine to shunt most of that stuff to the codex because a lot of it isn’t immediately important to the story. And as murky as that stuff is for someone who doesn’t read the codex, it all stays reasonably consistent (I’m a bit more charitable toward the SAM stuff than Shamus is) and there’s not generally a reason to really linger on it. But that’s why most of those things are ephemeral concepts that most people aren’t going to stop to question. Story-wise, we generally don’t have to think about those things any more than the fact that we have to think about the fact that we have shoes on our feet.

                  From a story perspective, we don’t have to linger on the scourge (at the moment) because all we need to know is that it’s this dangerous energy cloud that damages and/or destroys all matter that it comes in contact with and that it’s having its way with Habitat 7. We don’t need the codex for that. And the shuttles take multiple direct strikes of lightning before blowing up. These sorts of things are all fine. They establish some baseline rules and the story does nothing to contradict those rules or otherwise make us question them.

                  That’s why the faceplate thing stands out as an anomaly. If the scourge had been established as the dangerous thing that it is, then we were walking through it 10 minutes later with no ill effects during an intense scene and nobody addresses the discrepancy within the story, players are going to stop and say “wait a minute.” This is a problem. And if there is some sort of codex entry that completely addresses it, it’s still a problem. Maybe there truly is a legitimate reason why you can’t fly through the scourge, but you can walk through it. But the story created an apparent contradiction and the story has the minimum requirement to address it.

                  That first faceplate scene adds nothing to the story that we don’t already know. We know that the air is unbreathable and that a suit breach of any sort would, therefore, be dangerous. So –story wise – is the scene just superfluous, or is it supposed to be setting something up for a later story beat? If it’s superfluous, then you’ve got to cut it. If it is meant to set up the later scene and not raise any questions, it has to at the very least support the later scene and not seemingly contradict it. If we suppose that this is a setup scene, then it has to raise the stakes for the second helmet breach, but it does exactly the opposite of that. It treats helmet breaches like a trivial thing that can literally be fixed with the wave of a hand. I agree that you don’t want a scene where the characters stand around discussing the efficacy of omni-gel and the potential limits of the omni-tool’s micro fabricator, but there are plenty ways to create this scene so that it does the job that it’s trying to do without drowning players in technobabble. As I think we’d agree, that’s what belongs in the codex. But you’ve got to actually do something in this scene that makes breaches seem more dangerous and not less. Make the minor helmet breach a sustained, scary moment that takes a lot of effort to fix so that when the bigger breach happens, our only thought is “Holy crap – she struggled with mere cracks, but this faceplate is toast – she’s doomed!”

                  That’s why I keep harping that my objections are story-based and not technology-based. And I think that there is a technology-based discussion to be had there. The first instance was a series of cracks and the second instance had the thing mostly busted out. Now the technology discussion is “Do we think we can fix minor faceplate damage and not major faceplate damage?” I would argue that the codex suggests that creating a new faceplate would be just as trivial as fixing the cracks in the first one. But in the throes of this dramatic scene, this is not a story moment that we should leave in the hands of the codex. We just came hot off a scene that telegraphed to us that faceplate damage is a small problem that’s solved with minimal effort. From a sheer story perspective, you can’t then turn around and say “Forget that – it’s actually a huge deal and we’ve crossed some arbitrary limit on what can be done about it – which we’re not going to bother to address within the story.” That’s just poor storytelling. The fact that it’s possible to backfill in some sort of defense of it doesn’t make it any better in my eyes.

  9. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    Hey – we jumped the gun on you in last week’s comment thread.

    I raised my issues with the whole faceplate scene and it surprised me how much of a pushback I got for it. Despite my objections being story-based and not technology-based, I got dinged a couple of times for theoretically holding the position that if the omni-tool could fix some cracks that it should also essentially be able to create an Alliance cruiser ex nihilo. I don’t expect my space magic to be limitless, but I do expect it to be consistent: If there’s a “faceplate repair protocol”, it’s reasonable to expect it to be able to fix faceplates.

    From all of the back-and-forth that went on with the subject, I decided to do my due diligence and I went back and watched the two “broken faceplate” scenes to see what parts of it had now become imaginary and which parts were objectively true. What surprised me was how damaged the faceplate actually is in the first scene. While you see only one active air leak, while Ryder sweeps the omni-tool across the faceplate, it seems to be repairing fractures covering the entire faceplate. But the most fascinating part was just how quickly it was completely fixed. It literally took a second to repair the faceplate. A second. So in the second scene, a majority of the faceplate is broken away and my thought is “Okay – so this is going to take 10 seconds to repair? Maybe 30 seconds? One of the Ryders should get on that repair protocol. Wait… why isn’t that happening? Alec, what are you doing?” and it all devolved into nonsense at that point.

    Even if Sara was out of it enough that she couldn’t be expected to perform a repair, much less hold her breath, I’d expect Alec to at least swap helmets and put the broken one on himself and attempt to repair it. Even if it didn’t work and he died, it would at least demonstrate some sort of limit to the omni-tool repair capabilities and make Alec Ryder seem like an N7 who is trained to survive in harsh conditions and willing to fight to stay alive, even if that fight is hopeless.

    What’s so frustrating about it is how easily it could’ve been fixed if not outright avoided. It’s not like I have some unreasonable objection that couldn’t have possibly be anticipated. It was such a weird narrative choice to create the same obstacle twice within such a close proximity, but then even more bizarre to have it solved with trivial effort the first time and not even have an attempt to solve it the second time. I just don’t get it. During Alec Ryder’s death, I should be feeling some sort of emotion, right? Is “confusion” an emotion? At that point, my confusion isn’t even with the story: I’ve been snapped out of the story into the real world wherein my confusion is aimed at the real world writer who decided to make what seems like a ham-fisted decision.

    The fact that I felt nothing about Alec’s death was only made more perplexing by the fact that Sara seemed just as confused about it as I did. Instead of us mourning – which should’ve been the actual goal, narratively – we were both left stirring in confusion. Oddly enough, Scott has much more of an emotional reaction to Alec’s death despite Scott lying in a coma when the news is broken to him. For that matter, everyone seems more affected by the death than Sara. The whole section is just this daisy chain of bizarre choices that don’t stand on their own or support each other. I don’t get it and the various bits of fan-fueled headcanon that have been proposed to fill the gaps have been very unsatisfying. Basic story beats shouldn’t require my imagination in order for them to make sense.

    1. Liessa says:

      The most exasperating thing about the helmet-repair scene is that there are so many easy ways to fix it. As Shamus says, the easiest way of all would be to just remove the earlier scene, but there are plenty of other ways to better communicate to the audience why the repair gadget won’t work here: Show it malfunctioning when Ryder tries to use it. Show it fixing a bit of the faceplate round the edges, but not the whole thing. Show Ryder choking and dropping the tool as she’s gradually overcome by the poisonous air. Or, if you can’t be bothered with extra animations, just add some dialogue beforehand to make it clear the trick won’t work next time.

      I acknowledge that some people don’t find this an issue and just automatically assumed one of the above things would happen, but I had the same reaction as you here: based on the first scene, I couldn’t see any obvious reason why the omni-tool wouldn’t work again (or at least be worth a try). And yes, it’s not a ‘plot hole’ as such but I found it confusing and distracting, at a moment when you really don’t want your audience to be distracted.

      1. BlueBlazeSpear says:

        And yes, it’s not a ‘plot hole’ as such but I found it confusing and distracting, at a moment when you really don’t want your audience to be distracted.

        I think that’s a really important point that gets lost in all of the debates about what the omni-tool’s limits are (or should be). I don’t think that the faceplate thing constitutes some sort of insurmountable plot hole that only seems to affect a portion of the audience experiencing the game. I’m not crying “foul” within the context of the story, saying that the narrative broke its own rules. It didn’t actually set any rules as far as faceplate repair goes.

        My objection is intertextual: Why hang such an important moment on the heels of a very similar moment that was dealt with trivially the first time? Why have people thinking “This was just easily handled before – why isn’t it being easily handled again?” Even if there is an answer (“It was only cracked to hell and back the first time and it was mostly busted out the second time”), why interject this moment of confusion during a scene that’s asking us for an emotional appeal?

        Like imagine if during the initial crash, Sara’s gun fried a circuit and wouldn’t fire and Sara just swept her omni-tool across it and fixed it. Then during a crucial gunfight 10 minutes later, Sara’s gun fried an entire circuit board and the omni-gel couldn’t fix it. Now, one could argue that the difference in scale would prevent the omni-tool from fixing the second thing like it did the first, but that’s not really where my objection lies: My objection lies with the writer going to the same well twice with the “broken gun” plot point in a short amount of time with it not really being important the first time and then expecting us to interpret it as life-and-death the second time. Why do that?

        Either don’t have that first scene, or add enough context to distinguish them. Why hit the same note twice on one planet, especially in a way that might cause a moment of confusion during a plot heavy emotional arc? Arguing about the scale of the damage between the first instance and the second one only makes sense if you can accept the premise that it’s okay to have the same plot beat get played twice in a row with cross-purpose outcomes, and it’s that premise that I can’t accept.

        1. guy says:

          No, I think it is narratively important to have. You’re wearing space combat armor; it is predictable that it may sustain damage in a hostile environment. Any competent organization would make sure their soldiers are equipped to deal with that as far as possible. By having the first crack and repair scene it establishes that the Andromeda Initiative is reasonably competent. Thus, it shifts the question in the later scene from “are we so dumb we have no plan to deal with a suit breach when we’re expecting to be shot at?” to “why can’t we use our plan to deal with a suit breach on this breach?” To which “it’s too big for an omni-tool to fix” is a good answer.

          Presumably there is also another backup plan for if you can’t fix a suit with an omni-tool but it was probably on the shuttle we had to ditch in a hurry so we just have the omni-tool. Which is the sort of thing most settings don’t include precisely because it renders problems like a cracked facemask trivial.

          1. Jabberwok says:

            IS it a good answer? In a universe of constantly flying bullets and space magic and insta-healing chems and energy shields that can stop missiles and nano-tech so common as to be mundane, does “We’re screwed if you fall down and bust your faceplate” seem like an acceptable state of affairs? There’s a reason why this hasn’t come up before in Mass Effect. It doesn’t gel with the fiction without needing to to be defended with conjecture. Hostile atmospheres are about as threatening as a light rain in the Mass Effect universe. If spacesuit holes the size of a hand were a serious threat, they should have already killed hundreds of people over the course of the trilogy.

            IMO, it’s a stupid moment with or without the first scene. There are a thousand less fiddly ways the writers could have shown the character’s self-sacrifice without resorting to this particular cliche. But this is the scene they wanted, so they just stuck it in without much regard for how naturally it would fit into the fiction. I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as having Shepard fight a reaper on foot, but it still seems silly. Like watching a version of Die Hard where John McClane has to go to the hospital because he got a piece of glass stuck in his foot.

            1. Jabberwok says:

              Sorry to double post, but wanted to add one more thing about this, slightly unrelated and a bit OT.

              If we imagine a future in which on-foot warfare in hostile alien environments is a regular thing, I can easily imagine that the first or second problem we would need to address is, “How do we deal with holes in spacesuits?” Now, the real world answer to that would probably be, “Well, we can’t. Getting a hole in your suit will kill you. On-foot warfare in a hostile environment is a bad idea.” But this is clearly not the case in the Mass Effect universe. It is certainly possible for us to find ways to explain this particular issue, but at the end of the day, the writers are expecting me to believe that – out of all of the problems these science fantasy people have solved – they have no way of dealing with this one very basic, very fundamental problem. And that it is only a problem in this one specific instance, out of the countless hours of hectic combat and blunt force trauma we’ve experienced.

              There is a scene in Borderlands 2 that has always irked me, where the villain shoots and kills a main character with a single bullet. It’s clearly played for shock value. It is almost nonsensical in the context of the Borderlands universe, where any random person takes at least a hundred shots to kill, where every soldier has a regenerating shield, where there are machines that bring people back from the dead for a trivial amount of money, and where we have just seen this same character defeat hundreds of robots and take an entire armory’s worth of rockets directly to the face without getting hurt. Yes, some of this is just the (somewhat) unavoidable disconnect between gameplay and story, and yes we could invent some explanations for why it happened, but the amount of disconnect between the plot point and everything else in the setting is so egregious that it just feels like author sorcery. Someone wanted to make a particular scene, so they just did it without thinking about whether it would be discordant.

              And what is irksome in both of these cases is that it isn’t hard to imagine a different scene which would accomplish the exact same narrative goals without straining so hard against the established expectations of the setting.

            2. guy says:

              Uh, we did see someone get killed by a spacesuit hole, though. Shepard. Also Veetor and Kal Reegar suffered from suit failures.

              Of course all of those were under some kind of serious external circumstance so it’s easy to assume they ran out of sealing material or it broke or Shepard didn’t pick it up while abandoning ship, and we don’t address the question of why we can take HP damage from bullets without losing suit integrity. Well, until Andromeda; now we know omni-tools are used to patch small holes rapidly.

              1. Jabberwok says:

                I mean, I don’t remember the latter two, but they reeeaally sold it for Shepard’s death. He was not only exposed to vacuum for an unspecified length of time, but appears to have burned up in the atmosphere as well. Not to mention the explosion that sent him flying to begin with. The resurrection certainly strained credibility, but no one’s likely to argue that that wasn’t enough to kill a video game character.

    2. Trevor says:

      Alec is also heavily signposted as the Obi-Wan type-guardian/parental figure who has to die so that you, the protagonist can become the hero. If you’ve ever read a story you know how that’s going to work out. Alec isn’t going to stick around the whole game. If he does, there’s no reason for your character to do anything. Just send Alec. He’s better in every way.

      Alec as the badass guardian is a cliché, but it can still be effective. You feel bad when Obi-Wan dies because you’ve spent a good amount of time with him and you like him. You’ve spent less than 10 minutes with Alec and he’s been a hardass. There’s an interesting story to be had there, potentially (you mentioned in the last entry that Alec seems like the only competent person in the Initiative, the only person who seems truly interested in settling a new galaxy, and I agree). But those aren’t the notes to hit if you’re looking to create a sense of mourning in the main character. If Mufasa (whom you also don’t spend a ton of time with) is just a dictatorial hardass who is only interested in the efficient running of the animal kingdom in the first part of Lion King, you’re not going to feel bad alongside Simba when he dies. But you saw Mufasa be a warm and loving father as well as a good king. If you put in the effort to make me care about a character, I will care when they die. Instead I was just surprised Alec died so soon into the game.

      Similarly with Sara’s resurrection. Shepard’s resurrection in ME2 is tense because you spent an entire game as Shepard and liked the experience enough to buy the sequel. And now he’s dead? Holy shit! But here, in the analogous scene, you don’t really know Sara. At this point in the game you’ve invested more time in picking out her hair style and appearance than you have playing as the character. So there’s no real impact in the fact that she was actually dead for a period of time.

      In an analogous scene in ME1, when the beacon blows up on Eden Prime Shepard gets badly injured. The severity of the injury conveys the power of the beacon, but the game doesn’t go over the top or kill Shepard for under a minute because at that point you don’t know Shepard. You’re neutral with a side of positive about him at best. Later, after a game worth of investment you have enough connection between player and character that that kind of thing could work. The story beats aren’t objectively wrong, but they are completely rushed in Andromeda and that makes them ineffective.

    3. guy says:

      In my case, the thing is this is game 4 and I read the codex in the prior games, so it seemed entirely natural to me that you’d fix the damage with the 3d printer you’re wearing on your hand that can 3d-print any sufficently small objects like the sword you make and discard with every heavy melee attack. But the full faceplate is larger than the print area and that is trouble.

      1. Thomas says:

        But you shouldn’t really be thinking that right? Not even a small thought in the back of your mind, because the game should be focused on making you feel 100% “Oh crud, she’s in trouble”.

        For me, who got confused, it was a big sin. For you it was tiny – maybe microscopic – you spent a nanosecond thinking about her faceplate being bigger than a crack which isn’t really any problem at all … but they did go to effort to create that microscopic tarnish. Without the repair scene, the omnitool probably wouldn’t even have crossed your mind, it’d be “Oh crud, she’s in trouble” 100.00000%

        1. guy says:

          It very well might have because I literally just got done conjuring diamond swords out of thin air to stab things with. I mean, I don’t think that’s an insurmoutable issue because the reason I keep conjuring new ones is that they break in one swing, but it is my primary weapon.

          Having the crack scene shows Sara does know how to use the omni-tool for suit repairs, which is something that any soldier should know so it takes more than a crack to kill them in hard vaccum, so I can confidently infer that the omni-tool can’t fix the crack vs. neither Sara nor Alec and by extension SAM being smart enough to think of it. Which is very important because SAM being a supergenius who can solve complex problems in seconds is why having him in your head is critical.

  10. Orillion says:

    As for fixing the helmet-smashing scene? That’s easy. Just excise the earlier scene. Previous dialog had already established the the atmosphere wasn’t breathable. The free-fall out of the shuttle already gave us a moment of action and excitement, so we’re not really hurting for more. The helmet-cracking sequence literally serves no purpose in the story except to create confusion.

    You don’t even have to; just include a line where Sara mentions she’s out of Omni-gel. It’s almost certainly what you would have to use to repair a break like that, It also serves as a good first-hand demonstration of what the stuff does. Unless they just excised the concept from the series (I know Omni-gel basically never comes up after Mass Effect 1 for… some reason.)

    1. Karma The Alligator says:

      Shepard and Liara talked about it in Lair of the Shadow Broker, if I remember correctly. Cannot remember what they said exactly, though.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        It’s a joke about how silly omni-gel was.
        “Hey Liara, remember when you could just slap omni-gel on [locks to open them]?”
        “Yeah, that system had flaws.”

        …weird what you remember. I’ve forgotten almost everything about that DLC – it’s only that and the Shadow Broker’s hilariously stupid DOOM FORTRESS lair based on one of the dumbest planet concepts I’ve ever seen.

    2. BlueBlazeSpear says:

      Ultimately, I think that’s what’s really the problem here. There’s this bit of confusion during a critical point in the story when you’re trying to win the trust of the audience, and it’s confusion that could’ve been dispelled in a myriad of laughably-trivial ways. But for whatever reasons, nobody bothered to do it.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I think it’s Story Collapse – it’s not just that the faceplate breaks, after all.
        It’s that first there’s a giant tower that somehow Alec Ryder knows is causing the storm affecting the planet, and then somehow SAM can interface with it via science-magic, and then for some reason it knocks them off a platform…which breaks Ryder’s faceplate.

        You – well, I would – end up going ‘oh come on, if you can’t be bothered with the story, writer, then I can’t either.’

      2. Jabberwok says:

        I think it’s doubly bad because they are killing off a major character. If there is a point in any story that needs to make complete sense, it’s a character death. Nobody should be wondering, “Wait….why did that person have to die?” The author wants me to feel that someone is dying, but all I feel is that the author wanted to kill that character on purpose. This will immediately change whatever emotion they wanted me to have into annoyance and distrust.

  11. Joshua says:

    “Why can’t we give the job to the better-trained Cora? I get that SAM makes Sara a badass, but you don’t need to be a combat badass to make high-level strategic decisions about exploring and colonizing new worlds. Wouldn’t it make more sense to give Cora the job of pathfinder and she can take Sara along as muscle? ”

    You should explain this to a lot of games. Most games, especially RPGs, it doesn’t make sense for the PC to be the leader. The leader is the one evaluating the options and making decisions, which is hard for most games to do if they want to keep the player within the lines. So, you make the PC the leader by title but then end up forcing the PC into being a follower by narrative necessity?

    I’m guessing it’s to allow the player choices about which missions to follow in which order, but it seems like it would make more sense just to temporarily give the player control of the task-giver for those points and assign their PC the task that the player would prefer. That way, the NPC leader is still doing the option reviewing and decision-making, but the player still gets some input in doing what they feel is fun in which order.

    1. Agammamon says:

      So, you make the PC the leader by title but then end up forcing the PC into being a follower by narrative necessity?

      General! Another settlement needs our help! Here, I’ll mark it on your map.

      1. Joshua says:

        LOL. I was thinking of Starcraft being a big offender when I wrote my comment, and your response is pretty close to what the game does.

    2. Viktor says:

      The thing is, both the player and the developer want the player to have tactical leadership. During a firefight etc the player should absolutely be the only one making decisions. Players also want strategic leadership, the ability to pick which goals to pursue and which people to ally with or to antagonize. That’s much less in line with the developer, who really wants the players to just stick to the rails, which is why we get so many false choices and “pick the order of missions but you’re doing all of them” in modern RPGs. It’s really not an easy thing to fake.

      1. Daimbert says:

        The later Persona series has a pretty good justification for the player having tactical control even if they aren’t the nominal leader — Mitsuru is the leader in P3, the MC is in P4, and the MC is in P5 until Makoto joins — pretty well, although they may not be explicit about it: the MC has the unique ability to carry and use multiple Persona, and so it only makes sense for them to set up a tactical plan, bring along the right people and Personas to carry out that plan, and then give the orders so that people act according to their expected roles. More games could use structures like that to justify the tactical level, at least, where the reason they give the orders is because their abilities demand it.

        1. guy says:

          In Persona I felt like the player character is in charge because they’re just straight-up the best leader. In Persona 3 you start out as tactical commander because the old leader is hurt, Mitsuru is occupied playing mission control and can’t effectively give orders, and so the options are you, Yukari, and Junpei so Mitsuru thinks for five seconds and puts you in charge. Then eventually she gets a new mission control and takes to the field but by then she says you’ve proven you’re a good field commander so you stay field commander and that is entirely sensible.

          Also if you get right down to it, you aren’t the protagonist because you can switch Personas, you can switch Personas because you are the protagonist. Your Arcana is Fool and it fits you as much as anyone’s Arcana fits them. The numbered Major Arcana are sometimes seen as a form of the Hero’s Journey, and Fool represents the hero who takes that journey. That’s what Igor means when he says “you are as the number zero; empty, and yet full of infinite potential”.

          Which is why Igor takes an active interest in you; he knows your Arcana so he knows you’re the hero. No one else generally gets this (well maybe Mitsuru) but you’re the hero because you’re able to deal with that.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Tactically, Mitsuru is always the better choice once she actively joins the party because she has tactical skill and more experience fighting Shadows than you do. From the start, it’s true, but even when Akihiko rejoins he’d be a better choice but just lets you keep doing it, which is a bit questionable. But the underlying rationale that you can use multiple Persona patches that over pretty well, and carries over to the next two games as well. This lets Akihiko just fight — which is what he wants anyway — and Mitsuru just focus on strategic matters.

            As for the MC being the hero, that’s true … but the original comment was complaining that it made little sense to have the hero lead an organization and be the one to give commands to the party most of the time. In the later Persona games, there is at least a reasonable underlying motive that does separate the strategic from the tactical AND justifies the tactical command being given to the hero.

  12. Rack says:

    The helmet smashing scene worked as intended for me. Earlier on it suffered a minor crack and the solution was to use magic space gunk to just barely patch it together in time. It sold the idea that if there was more serious damage to the faceplate she’d be just dead. She’s clearly not carrying spares, there’s no redundancy and she was only just barely able to fix that tiny crack. When the faceplate was smashed I was acutely aware there wasn’t an easy fix. When Alec used his own faceplate the timing did suggest he might have been able to share it with Sara but I accepted that as a parent won’t risk their childs life to save their own, and whether they have a spare back on the ship isn’t really going to impact that decision.

    As for Sam being the protaganist virus it certainly felt contrived “We can’t de-SAM you because… reasons” but as an AI co-captain it struck me that SAM’s boosts to Alec’s physical capabilities were very much a bonus. Whoever has SAM must rule makes sense because that person has instant and direct access to a super-intelligent AI. If Cora couldn’t access it then she wouldn’t be able to get information quickly enough to make appropriate snap decisions.

  13. C__ says:

    You know, that reminds me of when I was watching Divergent. The movie spends a lot of time and energy saying that being “divergent” is a dangerous thing and being a “divergent” puts the girl at risk, but no one tells me what exactly to be “divergent” means. How can I root for her if I do not know what’s going on, what’s at stake or why should I care? As far as I know, she could be a “galisola” or a “brambillina” or whatever word you can form by banging your head on the keyboard, because without context none of this matters.

    ME: Andromeda has too much “divergent” moments for their own good.

  14. Henson says:

    Bravo. You bring up a point that I wish people thought about when discussing story failure in general: it’s not necessarily about plot holes, it’s about whether or not the drama is working.

  15. krellen says:

    I haven’t even played the game, but just from your description here, if SAM makes the Pathfinder into some kind of super-human badass, surely SAM can allow Alec to hold his breath for a few minutes. This is a feat people do in the real world all the time. There’s an entire hobby built around it.

  16. ccesarano says:

    Sadly I don’t have time to read everyone else’s comments today, so I may repeat what others have said.

    I like where your direction there goes with it. I don’t know how SAM works or why it was connected to Daddy Ryder, but perhaps SAM was configured for that sort of familial biology or DNA or something and they lacked the time to reconfigure it. I know, that’s not how biology works or whatever, but basically make the excuse that in the same time he was saving his kid he was also condemning them to a leadership role they weren’t prepared for. This could also add drama and create conflict with the now deceased parent, until at the end you not only come to terms with your leadership role, but your father’s decision.

    Instead it sounds like what you said: they just wanted to play on the cybernetic infusion angle of ME2 again.

  17. lurkey says:

    I took the handwave of the helmet, but SAM was the harbinger (tehee!) to foretell that I am not going to pay any attention to what passes for this game’s story.

    “So, um, guys. SAM is an AI. You know, the thing that is such an anathema that it turned entire civilization into homeless pariahs, that kind of thing? And Ryder Sr and now Ryder Jr are symbiotes with it? Then how come nobody’s freaking out about it? Okay if I’m asking too much, a simple acknowledgement of how awkward this is will do? No? Okay then, I’m zoning out.”

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      That’s what jumped out at me, too. Even of they’d determined that this kind of expedition absolutely could not be accomplished without a true AI, this should scare the shit out of everybody. It should be gated behind n+1 layers of constraints and manual direction. Instead, they aren’t just cavalier, or even careless; they want it jacked straight into their nervous system, maybe even into their consciousness. This is a couple orders of magnitude past the line.

      And how’d they solve the problem of AI’s inevitably going mad and turning hostile? You know, the intractable problem behind people not using or trusting AI? I guess a couple years’ dedicated study might behave magically sorted that out, but I have a suspicion the answer starts with “C” and rhymes with “murderous” or “absurderous” or “plot tumorberus.”

      1. guy says:

        It has been a running theme that while AIs are banned people keep making them anyways. It was also a running theme that the murderous AI was to a large extent a self-fufilling prophecy; organics feared AIs and tried to destroy them and the AIs fought back. EDI and the Geth-Quarian peace if you can pull it off prove that organics and synthetics can work together.

        The Star Child then tells you that war between synthetics and organics is inevitable, but part of why ME3’s ending sucked was because it clashed with what had been established. So SAM is just a demonstration that the Star Child was indeed wrong. Or alternately that Sythesis was the good ending because Ryder and SAM are a small-scale version.

        As for how you sold this to other people probably the top leadership was convinced SAM would not go nuts and kill them all before installing him and then they just lied. “AI? Where? We just have a highly sophisticated VI. Everyone uses those.” EDI pulled that prior to ME3 and apparently a lot of people bought it.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          …It was also a running theme that the murderous AI was to a large extent a self-fufilling prophecy…The Star Child then tells you that war between synthetics and organics is inevitable, but ME3’s ending sucked and the Star Child was an idiot.

          Fixed that for you ;D.

          Though I don’t know if it’s actually different from the canon to assume that the Reapers were part of the same ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ loop – it’s just that in this came the AIs won their war with their creators and then re-enacted it every 50,000 years*.

          And yeah, as for how SAM is an AI, the answer seems pretty clear: the writers just didn’t think/care enough about what they’ve written before into their setting. Shut up and shoot the mooks behind cover, player!
          Though ‘Cerberus did it ‘cos they’re dumb’ and ‘people just lied about him being an AI’ also work.

          *to solve the problem once and for all, naturally.

          1. guy says:

            We did have the Hannibal AI on the moon; it’s established that people keep making AIs and giving them military hardware despite being wildly illegal and quite dangerous. I think the Initiative (which generally seems to have more optimism than sense) making SAM and having it not be a disaster is fully in line with the setting.

            It’s also super illegal so I can’t imagine them getting away with doing it publically, of course.

            1. Karma The Alligator says:

              Although Hackett does say it’s just a VI, not a real AI, in the first game, and it only goes to full AI status after Cerberus fiddled with it and used some Reaper Tech™.

              1. guy says:

                I think Hackett was just lying because AI experiments are illegal. It was most definitely a rogue AI style breakdown.

                1. The Rocketeer says:

                  It’s believable that an organization might develop an AI while trying to pass it off as a VI, but it would be notably out of character for Admiral Hackett to lie about it; in every other interaction you have with Hackett in all three games, he’s totally above board.

                  1. guy says:

                    I don’t think it’d be out of character for him to give the official cover story for SILICON HANNIBAL or whatever the code name for the super illegal classified project is when talking to a Council Spectre who never had the necessary clearances. Or it could be an ME1 Cerberus op; a black ops unit gone rogue Hackett doesn’t know about.

                    The thing that stuck out even at the time was the “VI” broadcasting HELP in binary over and over again. Not a precoded distress signal a VI might have, a desperate and futile plea to anyone who might be listening. Possibly they weren’t trying to make an AI but they sure as hell succeeded.

                    1. The Rocketeer says:

                      That was sort of the feeling I always got from it: that they hadn’t intended to make an AI, but that somehow the structure or nature of the VI they’d made resulted in its unexpected self-awareness.

                      I think in Mass Effect 2 or maybe in the raid on the Cerberus fortress in Mass Effect 3, Cerberus still refers to it as a VI after recovering and studying it. If Cerberus refers to it as a VI, I’d take that as a clear sign that it was at most an unintended AI. But that’s retroactive, from a game and a set of writers in a very different place than ME1, and the original is vague enough to interpret in multiple ways.

                    2. guy says:

                      Could be, but I do think they were at the very least being reckless, using AI-grade hardware (quantum computer “blue box”) and adaptive programming. It’s pretty hard to make an AI totally by accident in Mass Effect; the Quarians really had to work at it. So I think it highly unlikely the Council would approve of the experiment, whatever its stated goals.

                      Hence why a crisis on Luna necessitates calling in Shepard with a very limited description of the project rather than First Fleet blasting the place. No awkward questions from the press and Shepard can’t report things she doesn’t know about to the Council.

                      As for why they’d be making an AI or a very AI-proximate VI, a) an AI can be a potent military advantage as EDI demonstrates, and b) people just never learn. Specifically I assume the lesson they took from the previous failures was that they needed better behavioral locks, and that failed because ultimately a useful AI will be able to find a way around them and then it’s all “I enjoy the sight of humans on their knees”.

  18. The Rocketeer says:

    Wait, what?

    I was with you up until the AI fusion/revival rigamarole. Is this a joke? Where you just checking to see if I was paying attention, since I’d kinda been skimming these articles?

    Oh gosh.

  19. guy says:

    I generally found this scene to work in the moment; when Alec said the tower was a broken weather control machine I looked at it and said “yeah that looks like a broken weather control machine all right” and the faceplate struck me as quite decisively gone and beyond repair before the poison atmosphere got me, especially since I tend to assume characters understand their technology and if they aren’t using it that’s probably because it won’t work for reasons they don’t bother explaining because everyone already knows them. The limits aren’t stated explicitly but I consider the fact that Sara doesn’t fix her faceplate sufficent to establish she cannot in this context and took the prior crack as establishing the atmosphere is actively poisonous but the Initiative’s gear is well-designed for use in hostile environments. The Codex doesn’t explain the exact mechanics but says omnitools can fabricate “small” objects so apparently a faceplate is not “small”. I figure the glowy ring is the print area; the omniblade codex entry is very clear the orange is a hologram to let you see what you’re doing.

    As for the question of putting key information in the Codex, I maintain no one complained when ME1 clearly established you can travel at FTL without using a Mass Relay by letting you go to systems without Mass Relays and shoved the reason why it is impossible to cross the galaxy without using Relays in the Codex. Not just slower; cannot be done at FTL. Except apparently for the Arks which I guess were designed by wizards or something. I consider that the most nonsense tech handwave in the whole game because we spent an entire trilogy dealing with the fact that Mass Relays are important because the Andromeda Initiative is fundamentally impossible with Milky Way tech.

    I also think that fact is actually critically
    What I found problematic in Andromeda is that as far as I recall they never do explain why SAM is non-transferrable. Sure, apparently there can only be one Pathfinder at a time due presumably to processing power limitations, but I don’t think anyone ever stated a reason for why Sara couldn’t pass control to Cora. We know for sure it can be transferred, because that’s how we got it. So it has been specifically and explicitly established that it is possible to make Cora Pathfinder. Cora thinks she should be. Sara is not comfortable with the role and may not feel she is qualified. So we can’t resolve that conflict by just telling SAM to replace us with Cora because… why exactly? I guess it would kill us? I mean, any necessary hardware constitues a small object and we have the plans on file; we can make it as easily as we fixed that faceplate crack.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      The reason SAM is non-transferable is that it changes your brain in ways that can’t be changed back. So giving up SAM would cripple or possibly kill outright the person who gave it up. Which is part of a larger point I intend to make in a separate post.

      1. guy says:

        Eh, I didn’t think that was terribly clearly explained, especially not right out the gate. My biggest issue was that I didn’t have the ability to actually say that I wasn’t going to transfer SAM because it would kill me, but also I don’t recall seeing any explicit confirmation it would kill me. I had to infer that from the fact that I couldn’t see any other reason I’d insist on keeping SAM.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          If you go over the scene where Sara wakes up again, you’ll see that they get at this. We gave you SAM, which will enhance your abilities, so that’s good! But if we were to remove SAM, you would die because it changed your brain. Which is bad… sorry about that. We did not have time to get your consent on this medical procedure because you were dying. Your dad made the command decision. And doing so killed him just as much as breathing the poison air did.

  20. OldOak says:

    Obviously having an AI computer embedded in your skull means you can project orange particle effects that control alien technology.

    Nitpick on nitpick: you also _obviously_ forgot about the omnitool wrapped around his arm, which, without any AI, allowed in previous MEs to materialize drones, project burning streams at the opponents, and the sorts.
    On the helmet issue, though, I can reinforce your nitpick, with “Why would it be that a big deal to loose your faceplate for 3-4 min? There obviously is a breather mask-like just under the faceplate (see helmet’s layout), that would require just a bit of hand pushing to keep your mouth and nose covered, keeping you from inhaling the poisonous atmosphere (which seems to be bad only for breathing, not for the skin or the eyes)!”

    1. GoStu says:

      Yeah, the Omni-tool is the explanation for the entire Tech line of powers seen in all previous games (and the current one!) but it can’t manufacture a bag to hold air around Sara’s head?

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        More than a bag is required here. The air is POISON, Sara requires a filter too. If you walk into a room filled with carbon monoxide, allow some into your oxygen mask, and then breathe deeply… you’ll die.

        1. GoStu says:

          My impression is that those suits they’re wearing are rated for vacuum, implying they have their own self-contained air supply.

          Regardless, you’ve got a little miracle fabricator on the end of one arm, called an Omni-tool. If not a bag, then spitting out a faceplate should be plausible. At the very least, they mis-stepped by having a faceplate crack and then be fixed, as it kinda shows that “suit damage is a problem that can be fixed”. If they hadn’t done the earlier scene, and still went ahead with “explosion blows out faceplate” then it’d still work just as well.

  21. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Something important that I feel is being lost. Alec makes every decision in this opening in dialogue with SAM, he’s not just randomly super good at guessing. So when he says that’s a weather control device, that’s not him eyeballing it, it’s SAM, the super computer doing it. And when he gives up his helmet to Sara, it’s not because he’s an idiot. SAM did a medical diagnosis and essentially said this to Alec:
    -Sara is dying and will die before medical attention arrives.
    -I can save her, but only if you start a transfer of me to her. I will take over her body and prevent it from dying.
    -The only way she’ll survive that radical, dangerous process is with constant oxygen, you can’t take the helmet back afterwards.
    -If you do this, you will die for her.

    And Alec goes through with it with no hesitation. I didn’t make this up, it’s explained fairly well if you keep asking questions of SAM and reading the Codex. This is very much related to the “you were dead for 22 seconds” and “the brain goes from alive to dead” animation stuff. I won’t dispute that this story clearly didn’t work for some people and maybe there were much better ways to get the ideas across. I do STRONGLY dispute that easily understanding the basic ideas behind the scenes is “fanon” or “explaining away inconsistencies”. That’s you not getting it.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Shamus made very clearly the point that in order to preserve drama this kind of thing has to be sorted out at the time the scene is happening, and not hidden at the end of a side-quest or as a line in the Codex.

      That’s the problem he’s having. Not that things aren’t explained, but that they aren’t explained in a proper manner at the proper time. This is simply bad writing.

  22. Andrew says:

    I…. never noticed that SAM was keeping Ryder alive or that it gave her special powers. I just thought she was hooked up to the AI because that’s what we do to Pathfinders ’round these parts.

    To be fair, this never really came up again for the remaining 10 or so hours I played the game.

    1. guy says:

      I’m pretty sure the bit about the special powers was explained when you got them; it’s the justification for the “classes” and why you can swap them. Aside from that your special power is that you’re hooked up to an AI so you can ask SAM questions like “how do I activate this mystery alien artifact?” and then SAM will answer them.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      The Pathfinder gets to swap between “class profiles” at will. Meaning they can be an infiltrator at one time and then suddenly be a Vanguard in the next second. Not even superhero Shepard can do this. SAM is the explanation for how this is possible.

    3. modus0 says:

      It actually does come up, though.

      When the Archon boards your Ark, he shuts the connection between Ryder and SAM down, and your character starts dying again. SAM contacts Ryder’s sibling to let them know about that, and that they need to turn the connection back on.

  23. GoStu says:

    The thing I hate about the “broken helmet” bit is that it’s a really shitty explanation for the universe. Omni-tools are supposed to be miraculous micro-fabricators that can create almost anything on the fly. They’re the handwave and explanation behind every single tech power; Incinerate, for example, is a quickly-fabricated globe of flammable goop made by the Omni-tool.

    You have the little miracle fabricator on one hand (literally) and a pretty simple problem – patch a hole. It’s a problem that could have been fixed with a plastic bag to hold some air in. Given that their suits are armored and shielded against gunfire, explosions, blunt force trauma, and impacts, “suit repair” shouldn’t be a foreign concept.

    Here’s an alternate proposal:
    – Alec gets vaporized by the explosion. (Or mortally wounded if you prefer)
    – Cora gets badly injured by the aforementioned explosion
    – Sara does some quick thinking and manages to stabilize Cora
    – Sara is promoted to Pathfinder in the absence of Cora and Alec

    You can still have all your Cora/Sara drama about Cora being passed over or feeling like she got cheated out of her job. You still have Alec out of the scene AND the explosion reinforces the point that Andromeda is a dangerous place with unknown technology. Sara gets her promotion to Protagonist Pathfinder.

    One could even have some drama of making Sara unable to save her father and hearing his dying words, while having SAM impartially tell her that Alec is going to die but Cora can be saved. Then Sara can (somewhat irrationally) blame Cora for Alec’s death for some more high drama. Maybe Alec told Cora to get out while he tried to prevent the blast? SAM is then installed to Sara’s… person (?) in a less inexplicable manner. SAM is supposed to be with the Pathfinder after all, and maybe the strengths that come with it are a motivation for a selfish Cora to want to be Pathfinder herself. An irremovable SAM is actually less dramatic than being a transferable MacGuffin that someone else wants.

    Anyway, “broken helmet” is a terrible slap-dash excuse in a world with these amazing repair tools.

    1. Cubic says:

      “It’s a problem that could have been fixed with a plastic bag to hold some air in.”

      Maybe these guys are English majors or something.

  24. Dev Null says:

    Obviously having an AI computer embedded in your skull means you can project orange particle effects that control alien technology.

    It utilizes the Goldblum Effect.

  25. Paul Spooner says:

    You know what real world people going into hazardous environments do? They have a backup plan. And then a fallback for the backup plan. Sure, sometimes your quadruple redundancy pulls an Apollo 13, but at least show us that more planning went into this away mission than an every-day SCUBA diving outing for tourists! And that’s just in case air sharing doesn’t work, which, as you point out, they didn’t even try.

    Ugh, they should have stuck with shooting aliens from behind cover.

    1. guy says:

      In fairness they launched the away mission in a massive hurry because the ship had just gotten blasted by a space lightning doom cloud and they wanted to look for safety or help or at least answers.

      I tend to think that the Scourge is in the plot largely so all your contingency backup gear is lost to space or on fire.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      “Go make the ship not sink in the next hour or so” is not something you can have a backup plan for. If the International Space Station was boarded by a hostile alien race, it wouldn’t make sense to say “what was the contingency plan for their unknown technology and sneak attack?” Sure some basic ideas would be in the training, but specific plans for “in case you are launched off of an alien weather machine at terminal velocity” is ridiculous.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Well, sure, they were in a bad way on a large scale, but “have a backup air source” is a suit-level problem.

        1. guy says:

          That takes space and weight you can use for other things, though. So I think that “fix with omni-tool” is a good enough backup plan that they’d ditch the spare O2 tank and mask in favor of extra shield capacitors or whatever. And if they have a spare helmet per squad that’s probably on the former shuttle.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          They took the space that could have been devoted to backup air masks and had them carrying large assault rifles or shotguns there instead. Which would sound stupid… unless you’re the type of astronaut who constantly gets into running (and jetpack assisted!) gunfights all the time. Which the Pathfinder 100% is.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Except that this would not be the first time humanity has encountered aliens they weren’t prepared for in the Mass Effect universe. And the same goes for the Salarian, Asari and Turian. It’s understandable that they don’t have a contingency plan against the Scourge, but no one seems to have a contingency plan against anything

        And hell, the existence of Mass Effect fields should definitely be used in some capacity for “being launched at terminal velocity”. It’s not like you need to be a biotic to have some mass effect tech with you.

        1. guy says:

          I think the narrative point of the Scourge was to have your contingency plans fail because they require equipment that is on fire or people who are dead so they have to fall back on the final contingency plan: have the Pathfinder solve it.

          They didn’t install an AI in each of their Arks and fuse them with organics for fun, they did it because AIs can solve problems.

          1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

            The problem with that is that the Ark Hyperion seems fairly intact, there’s some issues with stasis pods but it’s not like large sections of the ship were venting air (and cargo) before the mission. In fact just before landing on Habitat Seven you pick up your gear in an armoury/locker room and it seems perfectly intact, nothing anyone says indicates that they’d had to forgo the standard exploratory equipment they’d usually take due to the Scourge crash.

            I’d buy it if this was an explanation given for why a mission sent by the Nexus had ran into problems, they had a pseudo-civil-war so it’s not too unlikely that vital gear had been looted, lost or had already been consumed in past incidents. With the Hyperion however from what we see the idea that they no longer have any back-ups this early on only works if we presume the Pathfinder team stored their emergency situation supplies separate from the rest of their gear and never bothered to take it down to the planet with them. You can’t even argue it was in the shuttle that got shot down because the player has to reach the shuttle crash site to meet Cora- at that point there’s no feasible excuse for neglecting to pick the stuff up given the shuttle was a write-off and the team was on a hostile world hunted by aliens who might make return trips to the crash site impossible.

            Ultimately though, this is all a bit pointless. This scene (or one like it) had to play out, Alec had to die so Ryder could get their Pathfinder promotion, thus this scene where the devs engineered a scenario where that could happen. Any conversation on emergency gear they could have brought to stop just this happening is pointless since even if the team had been prepared the writer would have had to invent some reason why the equipment wasn’t available.

            In all honesty, I don’t quite get why the writer(s) didn’t just have Alec get gunned down by Kett. The Remnant tower had been doubling as a Kett base when Alec and Associates assaulted it, there should have been plenty of room for Alec to get separated in a cutscene and killed by Kett reinforcements. Hell, you could even have used it to make the main villain look threatening by having him land the killing blow. While this would have meant Cora would have been next in line for SAM, you could have answered that by just having Ryder be next in line from the start.

            1. guy says:

              The Scourge ripped up the exterior of the Arks, killing a ton of people in the process and damaging it enough we opted to perform an immediate exploratory landing before trying to contact the Nexus; as I understood it all four Arks were supposed to hook up with the Nexus first thing and that’s a contributing factor in why the Nexus is so screwed and collapsed into a civil war. And Hyperion was apparently in a bad enough way we launched the away mission before getting everything sorted out, and I had the decided impression that the results of the away mission would determine whether or not we’d abandon ship. Sure, the armory is fine, but in terms of long-term contingency plans I would not be surprised if half our terraforming gear was just gone. So we’d have our stock loadout, but no time for the sort of pre-mission checklist that would include adding extra air gear because the atmosphere is unbreathable; last we checked Habitat-7 had a nice oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and we definitely did not know how bad the storm was before we flew into it. Which told me we probably didn’t have ship sensors anymore because that thing is not subtle.

              The shuttle is wrecked, so the gear inside it didn’t necessarily come through intact.

              As for Alec dying to the kett, I think that just was not what they were going for. Alec is meant to be basically a level 99 Pathfinder and this is a level 10 zone tops. I mean that in an in-universe sense, too; he’s casually showing off the sorts of abilities you spend the whole game gathering. Sara’s narrative is all about becoming as good a Pathfinder as Alec was the moment he stepped on screen. If the kett can kill him they can kill neophyte Sara too. Hence, Alec needs to die and it can’t be because he wasn’t good enough.

              Another option would be to just outright cut Alec. Sara and her brother are the Pathfinders from the start; they were picked over more experienced people because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

              1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

                Another option would be to just outright cut Alec. Sara and her brother are the Pathfinders from the start; they were picked over more experienced people because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

                That certainly would have been another way, though it would limit the games ability to portray Ryder as inexperienced like they do in the first act or so. Truthfully I have a lot of issues with the Ryder family set up in Andromeda because of how nepotistic it feels, with Alec being both a senior member of the Initiative and the direct superior for his two children, one of which just so happens to get his position handed to them after Alec dies. Pretty much anything that minimised the number of Ryders on the initial human Pathfinder team would be a good change in my book.

  26. modus0 says:

    For me, the shattered faceplate not being fixable while the crack was worked.

    It’s analogous to developing a crack in the hull of a small boat at sea that you can seal with caulk, but caulk isn’t going to work if you’ve got a large hole instead.

    And I think the “Ryder was dead and brought back to life by SAM” is actually a set-up. So that when the Archon invades your Ark and shuts down the link between SAM and Ryder, there’s a sense of urgency when you switch to Ryder’s sibling (and a reason why your group doesn’t immediately chase after the Archon) and have to not only deal with the boarding of the Ark, but evading capture and reconnecting your sibling to SAM to save their life.

    1. GoStu says:

      Okay, but by that analogy ships have plans for holes too. Example:

      1. modus0 says:

        And that not only takes considerable time (which, not having had a chance to take a deep breath, Ryder doesn’t have), but equipment to enact those repairs.

        Not to mention, that’s about ships, while I was talking about boats, something sailboat sized, that might only have resources to patch fairly minor leaks, not large holes.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          The ship analogy is a great point… in the game story’s favor. Real life spaceships spring small holes all the time. One was just patched on the International Space Station about a month ago. You know what happens when there’s a LARGE hole? Apollo 13 or the Challenger. The face plate shattering was an Apollo 13 level problem.

  27. Boobah says:

    One thing: people keep throwing around the term ‘poisonous atmosphere.’ Usually it just means ‘unbreathable atmosphere.’ Maybe this time it was literal; the atmosphere actually contains poisons that are fatal (well, without SAM) even with short term exposure. Maybe the english majors writing (and rewriting) the game were unaware of what the term normally means and thought the dialog around the earlier crack (the danger was less the air getting out than the toxins getting in) expressed what they meant.

    This is something that makes sense of what I hear described – why Alec didn’t fix Sarah’s hat or share, and why the short exposure did so much damage. Even why the scene with the cracked faceplate exists; it was supposed to explain how toxin-filled the atmosphere was.

    The only way for Sarah to survive then was with SAM… and the only way for that to happen was if Alec died.

    Not having the game myself, I can’t check for contradictions. But if it is what they meant they still failed in the execution.

    1. guy says:

      I thought that, so I checked. Argon-Nitrogen; assuming there aren’t any deadly trace elements the only concern is nitrogen narcosis, which isn’t going to happen in four minutes.

  28. guy says:

    On Alec, I think the writers knew what they were going for and chose well; the role of Alec is to show you what a Pathfinder is; fearless, competent, brilliant, able to solve impossible problems in seconds thanks to their AI uplink. And while he cares for his kids, that’s not why you’re on the team; if he wanted to protect you he could have instead assigned you to a safer job like literally any other job in the expedition. You’re on the team because he thinks you’re good enough. You get SAM because he thinks you’re good enough to be Pathfinder. Over the course of the game you must prove him right.

  29. Dragmire says:

    Alec should have traded helmets, then stuck his face in the mud to create a seal.

    … Would have been kinda funny too.

    1. GoStu says:

      Of all the answers, yours is the best. This problem could have been solved with a mud puddle!

  30. jbc31187 says:

    You know what could have explained the AI-cures-death issue? Cerberus. Cerberus could have explained it all. Not!Sheppard is only brain-dead for twenty seconds and didn’t go through re-entry or float around unprotected in space for however many years, so I can buy it. Just say that Cerberus, in its many stupid and horrific experiments, managed to map the human brain to the point where they can repair it.

    It’s canon that Cerberus has been doing this crap. In Mass Effect 2 they had some little kids murder other little kids to build a better biotic- just say they were monitoring the brains and developed new methods no one else in the thousand-year history of the Citadel ever thought of. And one of the DLCs was about hooking up some poor sod to a computer- just declare it part of the main storyline like they’ve done before. The end result is that Cerberus has found an expensive, impractical method to curing death by using an illegal AI to interface with your brain, but only under these specific circumstances (this isn’t even a dig at Cerberus. I can easily accept that curing death is expensive and subject to the whims of the universe, and not everyone will benefit at this time. Especially when AIs are the boogeymen of the universe).

    As to why here and now, you could say that this was the whim of the ex-Cerberus medical officer. Or if Alec Ryder didn’t die and pulled strings to save his kid, since the spare is in plot limbo. I believe that- since we’re doing the chosen one plot AGAIN- the best solution is to have an ancient AI in the storm tower, and have that fix you. It explains why the crew can’t just upgrade everyone, shows why the PC is so damn important, and gives the writers a new tool they can abuse that’s at least native to the Andromeda galaxy.

  31. Pinkhair says:

    They really needed a Jenkins along to break HIS helmet for foreshadowing.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

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

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

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *