Andromeda Part 18: Choose Your Own Misadventure

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Feb 19, 2019

Filed under: Mass Effect 131 comments

I said earlier in this series that the dialog is a mess. I’m not going to document every single non-sequitur, cringy one-liner, false binary choice, and incoherent bit of exposition. We’ve already established that this game is lacking in polish and there’s no need to belabor that point. But even beyond the lack of polish you can see problems that couldn’t be fixed by throwing more time at them. Even if the game had been fully baked, the cutscenes would still be clumsy and inefficient. There’s a conversation here on Kadara that really drives home the crude way the dialog is put together.

You head to Kralla’s Song, a local dive bar. The goal is to to meet with a contact who will go by the name “Shena”. But before we talk about the cutscene, let me ask some rhetorical questions about this bar…

How Does This Place Work?

At some point in the last 14 months, someone took the time to make a sign that says "DRINKS" in English.
At some point in the last 14 months, someone took the time to make a sign that says "DRINKS" in English.

How did this particular Asari bartender come to “own” this bar? Who supplies her alcohol? How do her customers earn a living so that they can be her customers? This city is already divided into haves and have-nots, complete with slums. What is this wealth based on? Are they basing their economy on money they brought with them from the Milky Way? Why do smugglers exist in this quasi-lawless city? What could they possibly be smuggling? From where?

Hey Shamus, no fair demanding details from this drama-first world! Do you need to know where the bartender got his booze in Mos Eisley spaceport?

In Star Wars, we were shown a little corner of a great big universe and we were able to assume all sorts of things existed just off-screen. The problem in Andromeda is that the writer put in just enough details to paint themselves into a corner. We know that this city is basically it for humans in this galaxy. This is the most advanced settlement we have. In Star Wars you can assume a wide galaxy full of breweries, gambling dens, competing government powers, some sort of institution to manage galactic currency, and so on. We know that none of those things exist in Andromeda. Kadara Port isn’t some obscure corner of a sprawling complex society, it’s the first tiny foothold of a new one. This place isn’t Las Vegas, it’s Plymouth RockActually, it’s more likely this would end up being Roanoke, based on how Sloane is running things..

Again, the writer is shooting themselves in the foot by offering just enough details to make the world implausible and confusing but not enough to make it interesting. It’s not like this setup is horrible or anything. I’m just trying to show that this team didn’t seem to know what kind of story they were trying to tell.

Meet With Shena

Pay up or I'll continue to vandalize my own property!
Pay up or I'll continue to vandalize my own property!

Like I said, we’re here to meet with someone that goes by the name “Shena”. The scene plays out like this:

As the cutscene begins, we see the bartender shouting at a Krogan that he needs to pay for his drink. The Krogan shrugs her off and walks away. Then she pulls out a knife and stabs her own bar, and he comes back and pays.

Ryder takes a spot at the end of the bar. A guy comes in, buys two drinks, and offers one to Ryder. The player can accept the drink, or refuse and the guy will drink both.

The guy introduces himself as Shena and then immediately tells you his name is actually Reyes. (After the cutscene, SAM will refer to him as Mr. Vidal. That normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but we just arrived on this planet and the game has been throwing a lot of proper names at us for several minutes. Having one character with three names in two minutes is perhaps making things needlessly convoluted for our poor player.)

Reyes gives you the exposition you need and then leaves. Then the bartender demands that you pay, even if you haven’t had anything to drink. Ryder then uses her omnitool to pay while saying, “Keep the change,” even though she’s paying digitally and there wouldn’t BE change.

“I always do,” says the bartender who works in a world that runs entirely on digital currency with no concept of needing to make change.


I hate code names too. Which is why I don't USE ONE.
I hate code names too. Which is why I don't USE ONE.

You can probably see how this scene was constructed. The writer is using tropes as shorthand to fill in the world. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. As TvTropes will tell you, tropes are tools. The problem here isn’t the tropes themselves, but the careless usage of them that makes the situation incoherent or simply immersion-breaking.

Having a bartender threaten the customers is good cinematic shorthand to show that this place is dangerous and a bit of a dive. Except, having a Krogan be afraid of a woman stabbing her own bar is just… off. I admit that it’s not impossible for a Krogan to be cowed by threats, but was this really the best way to construct the intended mood?

Having someone use a codename is a good way to convey that they’re into cloak-and-dagger stuff, but having him casually blow his cover because he “hates nicknames” makes the entire codename feel like a childish waste of time, both in and out of universe.

I can't really capture how awkward the cup-handling and drinking animations are in these screenshots. Trust me, they're off.
I can't really capture how awkward the cup-handling and drinking animations are in these screenshots. Trust me, they're off.

Having someone pretend to buy you a drink but then stick you with the bill is a time-honored tradition in moviesEven though I doubt its usefulness in the real world. but it doesn’t work here because the player has the option to refuse the drink.

Having the protagonist tell a server to “keep the change” is a common way of showing they’re honorable and generous, but it doesn’t work here because this world would have no concept of change.

Sure, with more time someone could have fixed these stiff faces, the unintentionally comical animationsReyes holds the cups like a three-year-old, which doesn’t mesh with the suave characterization the writer is going for., the janky camera workThe bartender ends up ducking out of the shot when she puts the drinks on the bar., and odd posesRyder’s pose to lean against the railing doesn’t line up and makes it look like she’s doing a bad mime routine., but the problems with this scene go all the way down to the script, and you don’t fix script problems in the polish stage.

It’s not a horrible scene, but it’s not a brilliant one, either. It’s trying and failing to be stylish. One scene like this wouldn’t be a big deal, but as the hours wear on and all the scenes feel wobbly like this, it degrades the quality of the world itself. Nobody comes off as interesting, witty, intriguing, or surprising. The bad parts feel amateurish and the good parts feel merely functional.

Choose Your Own Misadventure

SEE? This game has roleplaying.
SEE? This game has roleplaying.

Choice has always been a big part of this series. That’s not to say the choices always made sense or were satisfying, but the effort was there. The choices were a means of roleplaying, a means of self-expression, a way to explore different points of view, and a way of empowering the player by giving them direct agency and a little sliver of authorship over the world.

Sometimes choices are big and far-reaching in scope, like when you chose to save the galactic councilEven if Mass Effect 2 / 3 didn’t really follow through, it was still a big deal at the time.. Sometimes it was personal, like when you had to choose between saving Kaiden or Ashley. And sometimes it was just expressive and ephemeral, like when you decided what Shepard should say to the crew before they embarked on their mission in Mass Effect 1.

Sometimes choices just existed to create tension. You’d find yourself dealing with (say) a hostage situation. Or perhaps that one time in Mass Effect 1I didn’t cover it in my write-up, but it’s a pretty good vignette. where you have to confront the dangerously suicidal woman who spent most of her childhood as a prisoner of Batarian slavers. You don’t get to make “choices” in the sense of choosing the fate of a species or a companion, because the stakes are personal and you’re not really in control of the situation. But rather than have the dialog play out as a fixed cutscene, the writer has the player choose their responses. This creates the impression (sometimes real, sometimes an illusion) that it’s possible to say the wrong thing. This tends to focus you on the scene in a way that just isn’t possible in passive media.

Based on context, it looks like my options are: 7) Explain to me the concept of divine creation. 4) Yes! I also believe in God. 6) No, your beliefs are wrong. Also, who devised this numbering?
Based on context, it looks like my options are: 7) Explain to me the concept of divine creation. 4) Yes! I also believe in God. 6) No, your beliefs are wrong. Also, who devised this numbering?

Here in Andromeda, this new development team seems to be aware that choices are important to Mass Effect, but they don’t seem to understand why. Or perhaps they just didn’t see player expression as a priority and they think of choice as this mechanical obligation.

  • Andromeda doesn’t offer as many choices.
  • When it does offer you a choice, it’s often nakedly a false choice between Emphatic Yes and Reserved Yes. It’s true that the earlier Mass Effect games occasionally did this, but the false choice was often hidden so that you needed to play through twice before you could detect it. Here in Andromeda the practice is both pervasive and obvious.
  • Even when the choice is genuine, it’s usually a binary. In Mass Effect 1 I complained that the “release Rachni Queen” vs. “kill Rachni Queen” idea didn’t totally work because simply leaving her caged was the most cautious course of action. Here in Andromeda it feels like every decision has been reduced to a choice between two unreasonable extremes. Example: In your conversation with Suvi, she mentions that she believes that the universe was created by a (vague, non-denominational) God. Your only responses are to say she’s wrong or to agree with her. There’s no way to respect her beliefs without becoming a believer yourself!
  • Even when the player is given reasonable options, the obfuscated dialog means they can’t always tell what they’re choosing. If I select “I disagree”, does that mean Ryder is going to offer a counterpoint to the other person’s position, or is she going to be irrational and sanctimonious? Deus Ex: Human Revolution fixed this problem seven years ago: When the player hovers over a dialog option, simply show the full text of what they’re about to say. That way the player can see what they’re choosing without the designer needing to clutter up their precious cinematic views with the full text of all options at once. It’s baffling to me that Andromeda didn’t adopt this. It’s an easy solution and it solves a ton of problems. Not only does Andromeda not show you the text ahead of time, but the short text it does show you is often completely unrelated to what you end up saying. The shorthand labels are often useless or misleading.
  • Even when you can tell what you’re choosing, the choices don’t always work because you’re not given enough information. The game offers me the option to show clemency to a criminal, but I have no way of knowing what their crimes were or what their punishment would be if I turned them in. I can’t weigh the risks because the game doesn’t tell me the risks. The game is just asking me if I’m open to the general notion of second chances, and for the vast majority of people the answer to that question is “it depends”.

Everything is fine.
Everything is fine.

Once again, we see the team copying the superficial trappings of Mass Effect while completely misunderstanding the nature and purpose of the things they’re trying to imitate.



[1] Actually, it’s more likely this would end up being Roanoke, based on how Sloane is running things.

[2] Even though I doubt its usefulness in the real world.

[3] Reyes holds the cups like a three-year-old, which doesn’t mesh with the suave characterization the writer is going for.

[4] The bartender ends up ducking out of the shot when she puts the drinks on the bar.

[5] Ryder’s pose to lean against the railing doesn’t line up and makes it look like she’s doing a bad mime routine.

[6] Even if Mass Effect 2 / 3 didn’t really follow through, it was still a big deal at the time.

[7] I didn’t cover it in my write-up, but it’s a pretty good vignette.

From The Archives:

131 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 18: Choose Your Own Misadventure

  1. Chris says:

    The numbering of the dialogue is based on the numpad

    1. Hans Hansson says:

      And all previous Mass Effect games, and Dragon Age II, allowed you to use the numpad to select the conversation options like that. That might not have displayed the number this explictly, though.

      1. Karma The Alligator says:

        I remember KOTOR having numbers next to the replies, but not any of the MEs or DA:O.

      2. Hans Hansson says:

        Hovering over an option also doesn’t work when you’re primarily using the keyboard to select the option. I for one wouldn’t want to push the mouse over all options all the time.

        If you’re playing on a console and/or with a gamepad, you could assume hovering = having moved the stick but not yet pressed the button. Might increase the risk for repetitive strain injuries, though.

        Me, I prefer just showing the whole line to begin with.

        1. Hector says:

          Which should be an easily-toggled option in the relevant menu. It’s a trivial change that some games *cough* Fallout 4 *cough* never could quite manage. God forbid designers do things that are sensible and take almost no effort.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          I used a mod for fallout 4 to show all dialogue lines. One surprising thing I discovered is that I hated seeing the entire line, selecting it, then having to wait as my character reads the entire line i just read. I suppose it’s too much to ask that the genre roll back this “voiced player character” thing.

          1. Thomas says:

            I believe this is the reason Bioware does the shortened responses. I think I would hate it too (or just skip through the line reading)

            There must be a better way. Longer paraphrases? I liked the Alpha Protocol way, but I don’t think that worked for other people.

            I want someone to try the Human Revolution thing with a full game though. If you only hover over when you’re unsure (and skip the delivery when you do) I bet that would work.

          2. Nessus says:

            Deus Ex HR and MD did it really well in that, contrary to what Shamus says, they don’t actually show you the full text, just the first sentence. But that first sentence is enough for you to get an accurate idea of the tone of the full text, while not giving you the full content, so listening to the dialog is still worthwhile.

            The Deus Ex games basically use the exact same dialog system as Mass Effect, only with the ambiguity problem fixed, and it works perfectly. It is a complete mystery why Bioware went though 4 games in 15 years without ever realizing (or maybe more likely not admitting) that their whole “paraphrasing” thing was so obviously broken AND so easily fixed.

            1. Burner says:

              I remember seeing Gaider respond about this once and he cited that it always went bad in testing, essentially people didn’t like having the line read back to them after they already saw it.

              Don’t know why it wasn’t a toggle though.

            2. Gruhunchously says:

              Also, the Nu Deus Ex games literally label each dialogue option with the tone it’s going be, i.e ‘Cold’, ‘Sympathetic’, ‘Aggressive’, as well as giving you the exact words or a close paraphrase of the first sentence. It feels like the dialogue system is helping you rather than actively working against you like it sometimes does in Mass Effect.

    2. Cainis says:

      That is my first thought as well. It was probably designed by a lefty because it’s quick to move from arrow keys to num pad without leaving the mouse. If you’re right handed it’s nonsensical because WASD to the num pad is a long distance for your left hand or you have to take your hand off the mouse. A better arrangement would have been with the center as S which would make the options above Q, A, D. Add it to the heap of problems with this game that someone in QA probably complained about.

      1. Kincajou says:

        Honestly as a left handed person myself, I’ve never used the mouse on the left. Nor have I ever met anyone who did (left or right handed)… Is this just me having a very specific experience?

        If I had to guess I’d say the numpad choice arises more as a consequence of using the arrow keys instead of wasd, when I started playing games, that was the default for me. Considering the choice goes back to kotor, it could be that it’s just a vestige of a time when developers hadn’t quite conceived how to properly map things to keyboards. That’s my 2c anyway

        1. Viktor says:

          My former boss was a lefty who used the mouse left-handed*. He also did a LOT of numpad data entry, which probably affected it. I could see a left-handed gamer using numpad+mouse like that, especially now that console ports with fewer buttons are more common.

          *It was always interesting borrowing his comp, since the mouse cord didn’t even reach to the right of the keyboard.

          1. Lino says:

            *It was always interesting borrowing his comp, since the mouse cord didn’t even reach to the right of the keyboard.

            Ughh, just thinking about that makes my left hand tingle uncomfortably! And that’s saying something, since I train martial arts that make a big deal of having your left side be as good as your right side.
            But just the thought of using a left-handed setup for work or gaming puts a bad taste in my mouth. I guess that’s why in Italian the word for “left” is derived from “sinister” (“sinìstra”) :D

            1. Sannom says:

              It’s the other way around : “sinister” (latin) meant “left” long before it took its current meaning. That’s why some roman languages (italian, I believe spanish too, not french) still use it with the original meaning.

              When people tell you that left-handed people were once seen with suspicion and distrust, they are not exaggerating.

        2. Joshua says:

          My wife is a lefty and not only uses the mouse on the left, she has the mouse buttons inverted too. She has a really bad habit of getting up to do something in the kitchen or wherever and leaves her character in the game (like Don’t Starve or LOTRO) exposed and I hear it being attacked. I try to scramble over to her computer and fumble around with all of the controls being in the wrong place to keep her from dying.

        3. Abnaxis says:

          I’m pretty much ambidextrous from all the different ways I’ve just had to “get used to” using things designed for right-handed people, including using the mouse with my left hand. I have zero problem mousing with my left hand if I’m passing a mouse back and forth to someone, and I have very little issue using the “nipple” mice they used to build into laptop keyboards, so it’s kind of a net positive for me.

          All lefties I know do the same thing–WASD with mouse in the right hand.

      2. Nessus says:

        When I see this sort of thing in games (i.e. basically any time the player is expected to use keys one the left side of the keyboard) I tend to assume it was done by a dev who only plays games using a controller, and thus doesn’t really understand the logic of KB controls.

        Part of the reason I think this is because in my experience, there seemed to be rises in the frequency of these issues that tracked with periods when the game industry was shifting heavily from developing parallel game versions for PC and console to simply porting after developing exclusively for the console version.

        It’s not just right/left hand weirdness. There’s a lot of games where the keyboard use logic is jank in ways that only make sense if you assume the dev in charge of KB controls only understands controller layout and is getting lost. Stuff like vehicle controls not mapping to walking controls (e.g.: when in a vehicle, turbo/boost SHOULD be the same key as sprint when walking, usually shift, but some devs will put it somewhere weird like G). Or keys assigned according to the first letter of the functions’ name instead of by ergonomics relative to the WASD cluster (“L” for turning on/off a flashlight is a common example). Or using “Enter” as a confirm button instead of whatever the default “action” button in-game is (usually E or F).

        And to top it off, these seem to correlate to games that scrimp on the rebinding options. So if vehicle boost is on F or Z or some other madness, you can’t rebind it to Shift without de-binding sprint from Shift.

  2. Grudgeal says:

    At least they permanently occupy a quarter of the dialogye wheel with a context-less “[SARCASTIC]” option…

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Honestly it’s worse here, because you know that in a Bestheda Fallout your choices don’t matter. You’re not here to roleplay, you’re here to shoot, loot, cash out.

      1. FluffySquirrel says:

        .. that’s not how it used to be, thinking like that is what’s ruined Fallout

        1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

          I specifically said “Bethesda Fallout”. If Obsidian made a Fallout I would have radically different expectations.

  3. Lino says:

    but the short text it does show you is often completely unrelated to when you end up saying

    You probably meant “what you end up saying”.

  4. Coming Second says:

    That conversation with the religious crewmate seems particularly egregious, because it will instantly remind anyone who played ME1 of the same conversation you have with Ashley. Except in that one you did have the option of basically saying ‘I respect your beliefs even if I have no time for them myself’.

    On a similar note, Bioware have produced the classic dive bar scene about a dozen times over already. Including the memorable ‘3. 2. 1..’ Calo Nord effort in KOTOR. Anyone remember that old chestnut about not reminding players of better games as they’re trudging through yours?

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      Every space opera has pulled out the dive bar scene since the Mos Eisley Cantina first graced cinema screens. (There were a few before too, but the mass culture is mostly ignorant of them.) Even Star Trek has had a couple dive bars show up in its “utopian” future. Strictly speaking it’s possible to have a space opera without a dive bar ever showing up, I just don’t think it’s ever happened outside of Dune.

      1. Kincajou says:

        Maybe the culture series doesn’t have dive bars… I wouldn’t better 100% on it though, the worlds and places are so varied…. But for what it’s worth I can’t thing of one. There’s a bit of a “dive world” scenario in the player of games, but not a bar that I can remember.

        1. The Elusive Man says:

          I was always fascinated by the prospect of a Culture-type civilization recreating our modern issues that seem so inescapable, but in the context of role-playing and games.

          People would work boring nine to five office jobs, hit the dive bar to escape their problems, get diseases and go into debt, go to prison, get drafted into a war, take your pick. As vivid of an experience as possible.

          The difference being, it’s all a simulation, you’re aware of that, and you could jack out anytime. Hell, that’s basically what we do now with video games.

    2. tremor3258 says:

      Those dive bars even came with background people!

      Seriously, what’s the point of meeting in a dive bar when you’re the only people mysteriously discussing plans in a corner?

  5. Karma The Alligator says:

    Example: In your conversation with Suvi, she mentions that she believes that the universe was created by a (vague, non-denominational) God. Your only responses are to say she’s wrong or to agree with her. There’s no way to respect her beliefs without becoming a believer yourself!

    Isn’t that yet another botched nod to ME1, when Ashley talks about her beliefs? I know I was told in an earlier entry that there were a lot, but come on.

  6. ShivanHunter says:

    I love the contrast between ME1’s conversation with Ashley about her beliefs, and the one with Suvi here. Here, with the way the dialogue flows (or doesn’t), it’s obvious the writer knows where they want the conversation to go and doesn’t really care how they get there. So there’s only two real options, with awkward slight non-sequiturs and changes of subject everywhere (they way most ME:A dialogue is written). In ME1, you get five options, since the writers realized we want to choose something that at least approximates our own opinion, and then let the conversation develop naturally from there.

  7. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    It is insane how everyone in Bioware has always been absolutely sure that their short options did the job nicely. I’m sure they’d find the notion of adding the full text as tooltip hilarious and useless. And it’s not like this problem wasn’t there from the start either.

  8. Philadelphus says:

    Oh my word, what is going on with Ryder’s pose in that second-to-last picture?? Her spine has simultaneously turned to Silly Putty and stretched half a foot. Her torso looks to be suspended from the ceiling by wires while her lower half has sagged and started to meander off on its own. Her head doesnt look correctly proportioned compared to any other part of her body, and looks like it’s been Photoshopped onto someone else’s. I’ve mostly chuckled at the various screenshots of amusing glitchy animations you’ve put up so far, but this one’s actually giving me creepy body-horror vibes for some reason.

    1. eaglewingz says:

      Not to mention the awkward, if not impossible, position of her hands.

      I instantly knew what the next picture would be.


  9. Lars says:

    In Star Wars you can assume a wide galaxy full of breweries, gambling dens, competing government powers, some sort of institution to manage galactic currency, and so on. We know that none of those things exist in Andromeda.

    I disagree on that one. The Nexus has a bar too and its good that there is one. Assuming the “Exilants” stole enough Nexus stuff to build a city, stealing 2 or 3 distilleries is nothing. Brewing is a reeeally old art, Kadaara without a brewery would be unbelievable.
    Competing “government” powers are there, like there were on Plymouth Rock. Sloane on the one side, wannabes till now under Sloanes order, the natives (Rokaar) and the Cerberus remains are there too.
    An institution to manage galactic currency doesn’t need to be there. In Mass Effect I have never seen any hard cash, only digital credits. Like Bitcoin (but sci-fi-working somehow) there isn’t an institution, there is only the network.

    The rest of the article: I completely agree.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      The money has still to come from somewhere, even if it’s digital. And the only reason digital currency in our world has some value is the existence of other currencies. If we were only to have bitcoin and the like, there would definitely be a need for an institution to manage it. Also, how did they come by it? Did the smugglers manage to steal some? Hack some? And how do they trade with the Angara, who they just met?

      Also, at some point you have to wonder just how much stuff the smugglers stole from the Nexus. They have weapons, armor, furniture, cutlery, distilleries, tools, enough building materials to make a city… How did the smugglers manage to get their hands on so much stuff without being stopped? On their own, each of these small things might be forgivable, but put together they’re preposterous.

      1. Lars says:

        They weren’t smugglers from the beginning (except Vetra). So they were in the network before the revolt. You cannot expel someone from the network, if there isn’t an institution that controls it. The whole idea behind krypto currencies is, that not One institution controls the worth of the money.
        Money itself is/was only a symbol to value goods. See Gold standard Mass Effect Credits do the same thing – for Nexus, for smugglers, for the milky way.

        Yes. The smugglers, as well as the Nexus, shouldn’t be able to trade with the Angara based on milky way credits and stealing Nexus goods to build a whole working town is bonkers. Shamus covered all that in the last entry. But if you (teeth grinding) accept that they did. Goods like distilleries or brewery-tanks or materials to build them should be among.

        1. Hector says:

          You can absolutely remove people from a crypto network. All it takes is 50% of the network to do so, and you can functionally rewrite whatever. The big issue here is worse though – digital currency has no meaning in thus context.

          The outlaws presumably just took whatever “cash” they had at the time, but thus basically falls apart the moment they left. After that, the only value they had was in the goods they stole. They could use paperclips, bottle caps, solved Sudoku puzzles or beer bottles after that. It wouldn’t matter, because in leaving they cut themselves off from the economy of the Initiative, and formed a new one. As such, old money would be worth no more than a stray electron.

          Tl;Dr version: You can’t have a bank account with no bank and nowhere to spend banknotes.

      2. Ayrshark says:

        At this point I’m convinced the exiles could have just taken the Nexus without any real resistance. Hell, I can imagine the conversations now. Tann would say something along the lines of how were they supposed to know you had to turn the safety off in order to fire a weapon and that was why they needed a military expert. Adison would chew you out for not getting there in time and then blame Ryder for not making the ark go faster. The guards in charge of stopping the exiles would question whether or not they should even stop them because it’s a new galaxy and the rules/laws from the old one might not still apply (in reference to the side-quest where they lock up a guy for murdering someone and you find out they didn’t do it but tried and still only had the choice of exile or let him go because I have no idea). Besides, based on the track record of both the Nexus and the exiles, I would argue that if they did take over the Nexus that it would at least have been in better shape by the time we got there.

        1. NAMENAMENAMENAME says:

          It gets worse, the krogan also split off from the Nexus at around the same time and also managed to build their small-but thriving colony with no assistance. In the same time period (or less!) it took the Nexus to fail twice at colonising Eos, a minimum of two new successful colonies were built by people with less resources than them and no planning (implying of course that the Initiative ever had a plan).

          You can’t even claim that Kadarra like Elaaden was mostly ignored by the kett- part of the backstory of the planet is that it was origionally occupied by the forces of the main villain before Sloane came along and killed them all. So not only is Ryder uneccesary because people can colonise planets without them but the Archon isn’t a threat because people can simply wander in and take planets from him by force.

    2. tremor3258 says:

      Also the guys who left stayed on the same currency system as the Nexus to the point transactions are instantaneous? Sloane didn’t put Sloane dollars at five Nexus credits a dollar?

      In the Milky Way, there was a lot of effort to unify the economy and if I remember, the Alliance actually had linked the Earth national currencies in the backstory and the Citadel (well a central bank, but probably on the Citadel because trap) managed the floating exchange rates in real time.

  10. Liessa says:

    Once again, it seems like a big part of the problem is the writers’ unwillingness (or inability) to take their own story seriously. The informant who immediately discards his codename is a perfect example of this. Just like the ‘vacuum of space’ scene from Liam’s loyalty mission, he doesn’t need to worry about any consequences arising from this, because he’s apparently read ahead in the script and knows there won’t be any. It could work if the scene were played for outright comedy and the lines were genuinely funny, but it isn’t and they’re not.

  11. BlueHorus says:

    There’s great spoof potential in the interaction between the Krogan and the Asari in that dive bar.

    Asari: *stabs the bar* Pay up!
    Krogan: *Looks confused, scornful* What? *Shakes his head, turns away.*
    Asari: *stabs the bar again* Pay for your drink!
    Krogan: *Turns back* Get bent.
    *The Asari pulls out a hammer and hits the bar. The Krogan turns back*
    Krogan: What’re you doing?
    Asari: *Hits the bar again, leaving a noticeable dent.*

    *The scene slowly escalates with the Asari pulling out more and more destructive tools with which she proceeds to furiously destroy her own bar. The Krogan watches in growing confusion and mounting horror. Eventually…*

    Krogan: Stop! This is YOUR bar! Why are you doing this?
    *The Asari says nothing, instead reaching under the bar for a final time. She produces an oversized, comically-elaborate chainsaw. Staring at him with a determined expression, she starts it up and slowly starts to cut through the bar, showering sparks everywhere..
    Krogan: Oh god! No! I’ll pay! I’ll pay!
    Asari: *Nods, satisfied, then puts the chainsaw down.* Good.
    *Shaking, the Krogan pays for his drink.*

    *After the Krogan leaves, the Asari takes out a cloth and starts to polish the rubble that used to be her bar with a satisfied expression.*

    1. Lino says:

      That was probably the first draft for the scene, but then they saw they didn’t have a big enough animation budget, so they just settled for the knife thing.

      1. Jbc31187 says:

        In previous BioWare games, the assumption would be that the krogan has a very good reason to fear the asari bartender. They’ve done it before, with the mandolrian and the little guy in the old republic and wrex in me1. Is the bartender a biotic? A retired mercenary pirate-type? A friend of whom ever is in charge of this heap? Could she even be our contact? But no, the asari is just poor window dressing.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          That was pretty much my first thought, rather than have her stab that silly knife into a bar have her light up with biotics.

        2. Gruhunchously says:

          The precedent was already set on Omega with Aria and Patriarch. There are plenty of in-universe reasons why a krogan would fear an asari, they just chose a really dumb one for this instance. Biotics, influence, contacts, secrets gained from private liaisons, sure, but physical force? With a bladed weapon? Against a krogan? It’s not an impossible sell, but it’s a hard one without any prior build up.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      I’ve seen something like this somewhere. Some people try to interrogate a person by abusing a mannequin while doing nothing to the actual man who’s being interrogated. I can’t remember where I’ve seen it, and it’s kind of driving me crazy.

      1. Distec says:

        You had just reminded me of that scene, and I too had forgotten its source! So I, of course, texted my brother after scouring the internet unsuccessfully for twenty minutes.

        It’s from Dude Where’s My Car.
        A delightfully stupid movie, at least in my memory.

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Ah, thanks! I remember it now!

    3. Coming Second says:

      Or have her stab the bar, the Krogan snorts ‘What, is that supposed to intimidate me?’, and she says ‘No, it’s to distract you whilst the bouncer cocks and aims. She’s behind you.’

      Not brilliant or anything, but at least it uses the established tropes of Krogan and Asari.

      1. tremor3258 says:

        THAT would be funnier and better, and make more sense.

        Clearly a Cerberus infiltrator in a Korgan suit, here. It’s a knife, guy – remember, the guy who knew where to strike Krogan with a knife preferred BOMBS as his backup assassination option.

        1. trevalyan says:

          If I was an asari trying to intimidate a krogan, I’d use my biotics. Nothing fancy, just have him float an inch off the ground. Maybe even walking on air, and he only notices a few steps later.

          It would be a sign that his mass means nothing, that I could make his head implode if I feel like it, and it really isn’t worth walking away from your tab.

          On the very small chance he’s a biotic battlemaster, well I’ve pretty much ended my life. But if you can’t sense the psychic powers of your clientele, what the hell kind of asari bartender are you?

  12. Mr. Wolf says:

    Your contact’s name is Shena? -eyetwitch-

    My baby takes the morning train
    He works from nine ’til five and then
    He takes another home again
    To find me there, waiting for him

    Well, now that I’ve got that out of my system, why does nobody in these wretched hives of scum and villainy ever demand cash up front? I wouldn’t serve my best friend a drink until he put money on the counter, let alone strangers in a town of thieves and thugs. And here’s a supposedly tough-as-nails Asari who makes the same mistake twice in five minutes.

  13. Hal says:

    Interesting. It seems like the writers of the story handle tropes like a Cargo Cult. They understand the form, but they don’t truly grasp the function, leading to . . . well, everything we see above.

  14. PPX14 says:

    Ryder’s proportions (and Suvi’s too) look somewhat off in that divine creator screenshot

  15. PPX14 says:

    The Divine Creator was just a rogue cell.

    1. Lino says:

      There will come a day when all these “rogue cell” jokes are going to get old. But by God, today is not that day!

      1. BlueHorus says:

        And if they ever do, we can just change it a rouge cell!

        At least some commenters here will be seeing red at that typo.

        1. Scampi says:

          Sorry pal, context matters. This one is fine by me;)

          Also: Seeing red in context with “rouge”?
          Pun intended? Were you trying to steer me in that direction?

        2. Karma The Alligator says:

          Well it worked.

        3. Philadelphus says:

          Yeah, that missing “to” is really bugging me.

          1. Scampi says:

            Saw it, too. Didn’t matter that much to me at the moment.

        4. modus0 says:

          I believe that Dragon Ball FighterZ allows you to have a rouge Cell as one of your fighters.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Who knew the True Religion of Mass Effect was Gnosticism?

      Well in hindsight, it seems obvious…

  16. Trevor says:

    I’m in a playthrough of DA:O right now and I’ve noticed an odd thing with the dialogue that is also true for ME1: Your character has input into conversations constantly.

    You meet an NPC in Andromeda and they might have four pieces of information to give you, one of which is critical to the plot. They give you all of this information in one long monologue, at the end of which you have a choice between Logical “Yes, Thanks,” Emotional “Yes! Thanks!”, Flippant “Gee, Thanks a lot,” and Professional “I agree, Thank you for your time.”

    You meet that NPC in ME1 and he says a couple of sentences to you and then you’re given a giant, full looking dialogue wheel where you can ask him about any of the four things he wants to tell you about in any order, or walk away. If you walk away before he’s given you the critical piece of information he’ll throw it in there before you leave dialogue mode to make sure you get it. But the NPCs stop after saying a couple of sentences and allows you to have an input.

    I don’t know that the ME1 guy has a longer script than the guy in Andromeda. I want to say yes because it’s a better game, but I’m really not sure. I think the amount of dialogue is very similar, or with an edge to Andromeda. I’ve just been struck playing DA:O how few words the NPC say before they need an input from me. Whereas if you ask Gil about something, he will tell you a whole story about it, with only minimal “Uh huh” “Okay” “Sure” “No, you’re a great guy, Gil” inputs from you needed along the way. There’s a good amount of illusion put into ME1/DA:O that makes you think you have dialogue options (I can ask this guy about four things!) that is completely lost in Andromeda with people just delivering a paragraph with four main points in it.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I remember that before release the developers were showing off that the game had a ridiculous number of lines of dialogue. It’s really not that impressive once you realize most of them are just four variations of the same sentence.

      And yes, there’s a lot of input, which seems to be directly proportional to your lack of agency. They show a lot of dialogue options, as if to say “Look all you can say!”, but since most of it is entirely pointless (most of your answers don’t change your interlocutor’s response in the slightest) you never get even the illusion that you’re doing something. It feels like you’re a ghost talking to people who can’t listen to you.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        In all fairness the illusion doesn’t necessarily break down that badly if you only play through the game once. Also, your mileage may vary, but it still makes it feel more like you’re having a conversation rather than reading a wikipedia page, and at the very least adds a tiny little bit of roleplay, like, we all know this person is going to tell me about the McGuffin only after I do a quest, but I can decide what kind of personality my character is by being polite or obnoxious about it. Again, as someone who played tabletop RPGs I know how little this means but it’s something.

      2. trevalyan says:

        I’ll always remember Dragon Age: Origins for its stellar branching. Yes, mostly characters would follow the same basic tree, but the King was genuinely shocked when I snarked about the cake served at my otherwise horrific wedding. That made his heartfelt promise to an elf of the underclass feel that much more real.

        Fundamentally, I think Dragon Age and even ME1 fell in that sweet spot between “modern adventure game masquerading as an RPG” and “relatively inaccessible old school Fallout 2.” I never felt that way about Inquisition, which is also why that was my last EA purchase.

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    Once again, we see the team copying the superficial trappings of Mass Effect while completely misunderstanding the nature and purpose of the things they’re trying to imitate.

    I’d say they’re not just doing it for Mass Effect, but the entire Bioware catalog. This game feels like “Generic Bioware Game: The Game”. It’s like they took a basic template and forgot to build on it, merely changing the names and visuals to look Mass-Effect-y.

    1. Gruhunchously says:

      It feels like ‘Generic Bioware Game’ as written by someone who has played Bioware games before but has never been part of the creation process.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Or possibly Mass Effect as written by Tommy Wiseau?

        “Oh hi Cora! How are you today? Think we’ll pathfind anything this week?”
        “Oh hi Ryder! My face is tired, but when I trained to be an Asari commando we learned to deal with that. Anyway, how is your sex life?”
        “Everything is fine.”

        It WOULD explain how the weird bar stabbing and awkward Krogan fistfighting got into the final draft…

  18. Dragmire says:

    … How does currency work in the new galaxy? Shouldn’t a credits based system need to connect to a central hub where the currency is validated? If this were brought to the new galaxy then wouldn’t the Nexus be the only place that could control and maintain such a system? With such few places that use their currency in the new galaxy, the Nexus should be able to cut people out of the market.

    Anyone that rebelled or ran away from the Nexus should have had a different currency system, probably a physical one since any digital system crafted by these people would be open to rampant hacking.

    Don’t think about it?

    Don’t think about it.

    1. Cubic says:

      It’s like … blockchain? (waves hands slowly)

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        In the cloud? (does a very nocommital gesture)

        1. Cubic says:

          The Greater Magellanic Cloud. Which is quite a bit away, but … (slow shrug)

    2. beleester says:

      In Andromeda’s defense, I’m pretty sure *every* sci-fi game that uses “credits” does this. Credits are some weird hybrid of electronic banking and cash, where your money can both live in an online bank account (so that the player always has access to their wallet, and so you can hack people’s bank accounts), but you can also store it on “credsticks” or some other easily-stolen, unauthenticated, portable format that works like cash (so that the player can find money as loot by exploring). It never makes a lot of sense, it’s just there to avoid interrupting your sci-fi action with an accounting lesson.

      The only place that I’ve actually seen it justified is Shadowrun, where they have the reasonable excuse that everyone is doing shady under-the-table deals, and they don’t want the megacorps to be able to track what’s going on.

      1. Hector says:

        Amusingly enough Shadowrun did basically conceptualize the attributes if Bit coin and cryptocurrency in part (the part that players cared about anyway). But it was designed with a lot of intriguing insights into technology and society originally. The later editions… Not so much. The people writing after 3rd edition were all about the game and the world became theming.

        Anyway, I briefly explained some issues with it above and won’t hash it out because the ME:A writers didn’t. What I will say here is that this was an amazing, golden opportunity to tell a story that intertwines with mechanics. If the player had to proactively figure out something as badic as money, you could use that to tell a story. The player might need to make deals, set up trade and exchanges, and then enjoy trade benefits by being able to purchase goods. Of course you drop the boring stuff like giant conference calls between the groups to hash out issues.

        And it can all be done within the existing quest mechanics AND provides an example of why the Pathfinder matters than a random mercenary.

    3. Shamus says:

      I probably should have gone into more detail in the post, but I was worried it would feel like another re-tread of the “but what do they eat?” argument. My gripe is less about who issues currency and more about what it’s based on and used for.

      Like, okay, we have space money. Great. But money is just a medium for trade, and for it to work you need to produce something worth trading. This town is basically isolated. What do people DO here? How do people make a living? Sloane charges people money for her drugs, but why does Sloane need the money and what does she buy with it? Are the city inhabitants giving Sloane Milky Way credits that they brought from home? If so, what can Sloane buy with those credits that she doesn’t already have? If not – if these people are somehow earning new money – then where is the money coming from? What do they do and who pays them?

      Kadara port is like the town of Megaton in Fallout 3. For this place to exist, someone, somewhere needs to produce something. That activity would generate value that could be traded for booze, food, and housing.

      As a thought experiment: Sloane gives everyone a million credits each. Then she charges them a million credits for today’s food and shelter. What’s changed? Nothing. It doesn’t matter what Sloane charges for drugs, food, and shelter, if the people don’t produce anything then the money in this self-contained economy is meaningless.

      A worldbuilder would put a resource here. Say there’s a mine nearby where you can harvest toxomax gas, which you can trade with the Angara for food and weapons. Now let’s say that it’s a pain to harvest toxomax gas. The mines are instantly fatal for Angara, which explains why they never messed around with it, but only GRADUALLY fatal for humans. So humans can harvest it and sell the safely contained (processed) resource to the Angara.

      Now the peasants have something to offer in trade. They can trade their labor for money, and the money for food, booze, drugs, shelter, medicine, etc. The labor is gradually killing them, but slowly enough that people are still willing to work. Now we have interesting things for the player to do. Either they can stabilize things by doing a quest to acquire supplies to protect the miners, or they can arm the peasants and roll the dice with a bloody rebellion.

      NOW we have the makings of a quest. It would be the same amount of dialog, except now the world holds together and there’s something for us to think about.

      1. GoStu says:

        It’s a complete flip in approach.

        ME1 would put that resource (Vespene, Toxomax gas, pretty rocks, whatever) in a place and then explain what kind of place the resource creates. Maybe it’s a backwater farming world of little interest to most people like Eden Prime (until they found Prothean relics). Or maybe it’s a frozen rock enjoyed only for its privacy like Noveria. Either way, the location drives the kind of plot you have there.

        Meanwhile ME:A has a reversed approach: Writer wants a seedy dive bar with a knife-happy bartender and poofs it into existence. Then they poof the rest of the town in because “that’s gotta be here I guess”. Sprinkle it with desired characters and bake in Animation for a few minutes at Not Enough Funding degrees. The resulting scene is really tropey but doesn’t stand up to critical analysis.

        1. Biggus Rickus says:

          I don’t think the approach is inherently a problem. You could work backwards from the scene you want and build the world around it. You just have to consider the world making sense to be important, which they clearly don’t. I guess it’s possible that the fact they would work backwards in the first place indicates their disinterest in world building, in which case it is inherently a problem, and you can ignore this comment entirely.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Don’t know about anyone else, but I do both when I’m writing. There are usually a few key scenes, characters, and set-pieces that I want to have in the story, so I work outward from those. The trick is being flexible enough to change things when a situation gets over-constrained. Even better is to put the minimum amount of constraint necessary to lock the setting into place, and then let it organically tessellate from there.

            The problem isn’t starting with the scene, or starting with the world. The problem is not weaving them together well enough that it becomes impossible to tell which came first. But of course that takes time, and it’s evident that time was not in ample supply in this case.

            1. Coming Second says:

              Exactly. When I write I will have a scene or device in mind, from which I’ll then zoom back a bit and go ‘Ok… so what is this place they’re in? How does it work?’

              Often when you do that little sparks go off and you see how you can make the characters more interesting, involve them in the tapestry of your world more, provide them with better purpose and meaning and expression. That, for me, is the true joy of fiction writing. It’s strange to think of just… not doing it.

            2. Biggus Rickus says:

              I’m sure time factored in based on what I’ve heard of the developmental clusterfuck this turned into, but I think the larger problem is that the people in charge simply don’t care about the world-building aspect. They just want dramatic moments and a bunch of popular features to be included to appeal to as many people as possible. If that leads to a shallow or incoherent world, so be it.

              I tried to play DA: Inquisition, and it has all of the same fundamental problems that Andromeda does, aside from the godawful character designs and animations. It’s a slightly less infuriating version of Andromeda, and I stopped playing it for the same reasons.

      2. Karma The Alligator says:

        As a thought experiment: Sloane gives everyone a million credits each. Then she charges them a million credits for today’s food and shelter. What’s changed? Nothing. It doesn’t matter what Sloane charges for drugs, food, and shelter, if the people don’t produce anything then the money in this self-contained economy is meaningless.

        Well, something did change in your example: now Sloane has less food.

    4. Xeorm says:

      I wouldn’t think too much about it, but it’s not as unrealistic as one would think, I’d think. We already have methods for constructing digital currencies that don’t rely on a central validation network. Should too be able to get a system that would work well even if different networks are separated. And if that all works, then it’s likely you’d have some form of interaction with the system that requires physical contact. Say a handheld device that requires physically pressing a button to initiate a transfer. Which allows for looting credits from people that you’ve killed with minimal hassle.

      I’m betting too that this currency would be worked on back home before the expedition went out. Get a system going and if nothing else momentum will keep it being used. No central network validation required and if it’s made right there’d be no easy way to lock people out, nor much reason to. Why would you want to? There’s not much benefit to locking people out of using a currency.

      Importantly too for any currency system, fraud protection doesn’t need to be 100%. You can print $100 USD bills all you want and you’d be unlikely to make a major dent on the system at this point. As long as fraud is kept to a minimum (and again, there are ways to do this that don’t require a central protection service) the system should work for a long time.

      Sadly, currency systems really fall under the purview of “too complicated to explain” so they wouldn’t get much screen time.

      More importantly to world building imo is explaining what people are doing to earn currencies. Take something as simple as soldiers wagering tasks in a game of cards. I don’t care how they represent the tasks, and which is worth what, but knowing that some guy has 3 weeks of cleaning the latrines can still be relevant.

      ME:A has people doing too few things to represent a real economy. The dive bar seems illogical because there’s no one around doing anything worthwhile. They’ve got the service industry going, but nothing more than that. There’s no mines, no farms, no reasons to be some place instead of somewhere else. It’s devoid of anything meaningful.

      1. Jbc31187 says:

        “The dive bar seems illogical because there’s no one around doing anything worthwhile. They’ve got the service industry going, but nothing more than that.”

        My god. The nexus is the B Ark.

  19. MelTorefas says:

    Not only does Andromeda not show you the text ahead of time, but the short text it does show you is often completely unrelated to what you end up saying. The shorthand labels are often useless or misleading.

    I hate the Bioware Dialogue Wheel so, so much.

    For me, this issue goes all the way back to ME1, and it is one of the reasons I always quit partway through. My idea of what the shorthand meant and the designers’ ideas of what it meant never seemed to mesh well, so my choices were always “immersion breaking character inconsistency” or “immersion breaking restarting the conversation multiple times”.

    This is also, incidentally, one of the big reasons why I had to abandon Star Wars: The Old Republic. The game uses dialogue wheel conversations for everything, including basic fetch/kill quests. For me, it was like playing conversational whack-a-mole, or maybe the RP equivalent of Russian Roulette.

    1. Liessa says:

      Oh God, yes. I remember when ME1 first came out and everyone was raving about it, and I was going “what? How can this conceivably be any better than just telling you what you’re saying?” It wasn’t so bad when playing as a Paragon, but I had to give up my Renegade playthrough because I never knew whether Shepard was going to say something mildly sarcastic or punch someone in the face. I HATE the dialogue wheel, and I hate the way every goddamned RPG since ME has adopted it despite it being objectively worse than the alternative.

      *deep breaths*

      1. Henson says:

        I actually quite like the dialogue wheel; it certainly has problems, but it also gives dialogue a smoothness that I think adds to the atmosphere of Mass Effect. The problems with dialogue summation can be largely avoided by taking the time needed to phrase your choices well, I think, though there will probably always be some problems.

        But yeah, I’m also perturbed by the over-use of the wheel across the board. The dialogue wheel does not belong in Dragon Age. At all.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Objectively worse? Yes, it can be a problem when your character says something counter to your intentions. You know what’s a bigger problem? Either not having a voice, which means your character is a mute, telepathic weirdo in a sea of characters who communicate as humans do, in spoken conversations. OR having a list of options that you read in full, that your character then SLOWLY speaks out. It’s like, instead of an audio book, let’s have a book that you read, then you have to listen to someone ELSE read before you’re allowed to turn the page. The dialogue wheel allows the player to communicate their intent (I want to agree with this statement) and then enjoy a dialogue performance, like they get to do with all the other characters in the game (since they aren’t just waiting for the option they already know every word of to stop). Being surprised by the dialogue is a FEATURE, not a bug. The issue is just that the surprise should NOT be “that is the opposite of what the prompt implied…”

        1. Viktor says:

          “You know what’s a bigger problem? Either not having a voice, which means your character is a mute, telepathic weirdo in a sea of characters who communicate as humans do, in spoken conversations. ”

          While I love canon-nonverbal/autistic Link, and the humor of Freeman or Chell going up against their chatty oppts is great, if you give the player a list of responses and let them choose one, the vast majority should have no problem filling in the gap of “I said X, which is why my partner is responding”. Don’t make me wait while a badly-directed VA says something, I’m not interested in what they assume the inflection is supposed to be. I have the text, that’s the important part, just let me read it at my own pace. And definitely don’t hide the text from me because you assume I care about the VA reading from the script with no clue about the context, that is the worst possible solution.

          Keep in mind that I already have to deal with listening to a bad audiobook after I’ve already read the text, since I play with captions on and I read quickly. All the current solution does is move my comprehension of what I’m saying from just before I select it to just after, which is 2 seconds too late for me to fix the choice.

          1. Liessa says:

            I’m the same – I read very quickly and tend to skip or partly skip the voiced lines, because by the time they’re half-way through, I’ve already read the subtitles and chosen a response. So for me the dialogue wheel has all the disadvantages of the ‘summary’ dialogue without any of the advantages, such as making the conversation move more quickly. As far as VA is concerned I’m pretty agnostic; I have no problem whatsoever with a ‘mute’ protagonist, or even no voice-acting at all (though I realise the latter is unlikely in a modern AAA game). But I’m fine with a voice-acted PC as well, as long as the acting is decent and I get to skip lines whenever I choose.

            What is non-negotiable for me is getting to choose what I actually say, rather than some vague indication of tone or attitude (at least in an RPG – I don’t mind it so much in other genres where your character is basically fixed in any case). I’ve sometimes replayed entire conversations in Mass Effect because I thought I was choosing to say one thing, and it turned out the writers had something else in mind entirely. It was one of the most frustrating aspects of a game I really enjoyed for the most part, and I will never stop hating it when games do this. It’s especially annoying since there are solutions that could please everybody, such as hovertext (as mentioned above by Shamus), or using a traditional dialogue menu and using symbols to mark the different ‘tones’ for people who prefer that.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              Here’s what I don’t get about this. I agree that if you want to say “diplomatically, we have to say no.” And your character instead says *Pulls out weapon* “My gun says that you’re not going to do that!” that’s a big problem. Kind of breaks the feeling you’re going for. But if you intend to say “ha ha, we’re not friends like that yet” and your character instead says “ha ha, don’t be a loser,” okay… that’s not what you intended, but who cares? It’s an NPC. You’re not actually having a conversation. If the game states a tone and is written properly, the TONE is all it’s really taking note of for the progress of the conversation. I know immersion and all that, but you have to realize that this is just a game and you aren’t going to be held to account for saying a wacky thing from time to time. This INTENSE control aspect doesn’t really make sense to me because the conversation is just for your entertainment. Maybe it didn’t go exactly how you expected, but you got to where you intended to go (persuaded someone, said no, made a threat of some kind, etc).

              Of course, bad conversations are annoying but the dialogue wheel or spelled out does not actually fix that. Knowing what all the dialogue options are in Fallout 4 doesn’t suddenly give you a good one. They didn’t write any!

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      I didn’t have much against the dialogue wheel in ME1 (maybe it was the novelty, but I thought the choices were clear enough), but once we got to ME2, it became really useless.

      1. Thomas says:

        It was one of the reasons I didn’t get on with the franchise when I first tried it. In ME2 it’s pure guess work

    3. Xeorm says:

      To me, the dialog wheel worked really well 95% of the time as long as you didn’t read much into it. Don’t overthink it and remember that one option is for paragon and one is for renegade and you’re able to work through much of the decisions. The beauty of the wheel is solving the problem of reading the line twice. If you know the line ahead of time then that means reading it, which doesn’t mesh well with voice acting too.

      I’d think an option where holding down the key and/or being able to always see the answer would help with the cases of people that have issues.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        See, to me this is where it gets annoying. Because I no longer think about the character at all but instead I’m just adding score to my paragade pool. So I don’t need to consider my character’s opinions, likes or dislikes, or decide stuff like “you know, I’m generally all for second chances, but this character is a despicable piece of waste of flesh who does not deserve to walk this world”. No, I’m just checking which of the options are blue and which are red.

        1. Gruhunchously says:

          And as has been mentioned, the game is nowhere near consistent enough in what ‘Paragon’ and ‘Renegade’ represent. Sometimes it’s broadly the dichotomy between cooperation between species and humanity being self-reliant. Sometimes it’s a simple difference between being polite and being rude. It gets even muddier in Mass Effect 2 where physically assaulting someone or threatening to break their legs are classified as ‘Paragon’, based on context.

  20. Jbc31187 says:

    Instead of mos eisley this should have been Hatfield vs McCoy or that little town from for a fistful of dollars. A little nowhere place with a lot of angry people.

    You can even work the lack of resources or any other reason to be there into the plot. The renegades or whatever they called themselves grabbed the first livable space they could find, and are slowly realizing that there ain’t jack shit here. Sloane should be sitting on a powder keg, not lording over a generic hive of scum and villainy. Not!Shepard’s task should be something akin to bringing these warm bodies back into the fold or something.

  21. decius says:

    Forking paths are only really choices if the person deciding the action knows enough about the expected consequences to make an informed decision.

    If the player doesn’t have the chance to know what it means to accept or decline a drink, that fork is not a choice- it’s simply a random number generated by the player.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      That is not entirely true, while I assume your use of “informed decision” and “expected consequences” suggests that you are not calling for perfect player/character knowledge (for example the Red Baron questline in Witcher 3 does not telegraph the consequences of your choices and a big part of its strength comes from that) there is, for example, the roleplaying aspect and adding little choices that serve only to define your character’s personality is not a bad thing. This is, of course, a general sentiment since ME:A does not care about consistent characterization or roleplaying a character or it would, for example, give you more nuanced options in the religious conversation.

      1. decius says:

        You don’t need *perfect* information, but you need enough to make a prediction about what will happen.

        Adding completely meaningless small choices like “I’ll be happy to stop the plague/I better be well paid for stopping the plague/I’ll do anything you ask/I can’t leave the city until I stop the plague/I am personally offended by the plague competing with me for kills” is a long Bioware tradition, and having those ‘choices’ doesn’t result in a plot tree exploding, since they aren’t a node in a plot tree- they are a line.

        I was more calling out the problems inherent in things like “If the player refuses a drink, permanently set the ‘abstains from alcohol’ flag”, or “Display the text ‘Justice’ and ‘mercy’ in the dialog wheel, and have ‘justice’ result in the player character murdering the captured criminal but ‘mercy’ result in releasing them into the uninhabitable alien planet with no weapons or tools.”

        (I tried to exaggerate all of the examples far beyond what anyone would actually do, but I also tried to start from actual Bioware writing)

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Oh sure, don’t worry about it, I think we’re actually to a large extent on the same page. I was mostly meaning to communicate that I don’t mind having at least some of the choices being purely there for the sake of me fleshing out my character even if they don’t have actual effect on the storyline.

    2. Syal says:

      I kind of want to see a game with a lot of forking paths based on making decisions that are not only uninformed, but untelegraphed. Like, someone makes an icebreaker comment about the weather, and you have four responses, and only afterward do you find out the weather is actually a major political issue and you’ve just picked which faction dislikes you.

      1. decius says:

        Spend the first half of the game selecting responses to prompts, and the second half of the game learning what the prompts mean?

        I’d buy that game for $0.24 during a Steam Seasonal sale.

      2. Lino says:

        That sounds a bit like Reigns*, but it’s a bit different, since in Reigns you have a pretty good idea of what the short-term consequences of your choices are. However, in order to know the long-term consequences, you need to die a few times (the game is a rogue-lite, after all).

        *If you don’t like GOG, here‘s the Steam page

      3. The Elusive Man says:

        I can heartily recommend the Henry Stickmin Collection, you don’t go in totally blind but the entire game runs on cartoon comedy logic so things can go bad, in entertaining ways.

        The story also unironically branches way more than the original Mass Effect trilogy. Thanks to a smaller scope and easier art style, sure, but it still is fun to be friends with a character in one route and their sworn nemesis in another.

  22. Even when the player is given reasonable options, the obfuscated dialog means they can’t always tell what they’re choosing. If I select “I disagree”, does that mean Ryder is going to offer a counterpoint to the other person’s position, or is she going to be irrational and sanctimonious? Deus Ex: Human Revolution fixed this problem seven years ago: When the player hovers over a dialog option, simply show the full text of what they’re about to say. That way the player can see what they’re choosing without the designer needing to clutter up their precious cinematic views with the full text of all options at once.

    There’s another, potentially more interesting, way to solve this problem as well, which is to have you either pick or acquire a personality for your character (Dragon Age II tried to do this a little bit with the “tone” options, but I kinda prefer the notion of choosing one at character creation so it’s more consistent). If you’re playing an “aggressive” character, then, when you disagree with someone you’re abrasive and abusive. If you’re playing a “diplomatic” character, when you disagree with someone you’re moderate and respectful. And if you’re snarky, you make a terrible joke of some kind. This also means that your character can actually be CHARACTERIZED instead of just REACTING to the stimulus of the moment–often in ways that don’t match the way you reacted 5 minutes ago.

    Even having all the text still doesn’t tell you what tone it’s delivered in, but knowing the overall “personality” of your character gives you a better feel.

    1. decius says:

      Either the NPCs don’t generally react to your ‘tone’ at all, in which case you get dissonance, or they do a little bit, multiplying the voice costs, or they do a lot, multiplying the writing costs.

      If MEA had a problem with fitting within budget, all of those options are bad.

      1. Or you come up with a clever solution which doesn’t multiply the work.

        This is where real writing SKILL can actually save money while still making it FEEL like there are a lot of possibilities, because if you’re smart and a good writer you can write almost any branching dialog in such a way as to feel reactive without having a huge multiplicity of different outcomes. In conversation, people don’t generally respond to EXACTLY what you say, so, for instance, you can have the “Diplomatic + I agree” reply be THE SAME as the one to the “Aggressive + I disagree”. If this seems weird, it’s because people don’t automatically like it when you *fawn* over them. Telling someone “you’re a stupid stupid head” can and often DOES trigger a similar level of defensiveness to saying “You’re the greatest and I love everything you say” Mechanically, it looks like this:

        Diplomatic Personality Selections
        Agree: Defensive Response
        Neutral: Pleasant Response
        Disagree: Neutral Response

        Agree: Pleasant Response
        Neutral: Neutral Response
        Disagree: Defensive Response

        Agree: Neutral Response
        Neutral: Pleasant Response
        Disagree: Defensive Response

        So, you still only have to write THREE total responses and record THREE total voice lines for the NPC. If you’re REALLY clever you may only need to write five or so lines for the PC (which can be short).

        The result is that the game *feels* like it’s a lot more responsive without a huge multiplication of lines.

        Writing branching dialog in this way has the additional benefit that it pushes you toward a more subtle, understated writing style, because that maximizes the ability to hook relatively few individual lines of dialog together in the largest number of permutations.

        1. You can get even more savings as a clever writer if you have certain responses skip LEVELS in the dialog tree, so that (for example), some selections go through an intervening line and get another response cycle, whereas others skip that line/response pair and go straight to “you’re an ass” two levels down. Or three levels down. Whatever you want. The result is that you can have an AMAZINGLY large number of possible paths to the conversation wrapup and not very many discrete lines of dialog.

          1. It kind of plays into the entire idea of how you make a game feel responsive to the player, and it’s NOT by giving them a box with two buttons and saying “do you pick button A or button B?”. I mean, look at the ending of Mass Effect 3. Yeah, you had a choice, but it was so arbitrary, like an irritated adult demanding to know what flavor of ice cream you wanted.

            I don’t actually care that much about whether your choices have some long-term outcome that radically changes something, in fact, I think that attempting to do this is ultimately extremely stressful and even detrimental to the experience, because the writers wind up feeling obligated to constantly revisit things that were already resolved instead of breaking new ground. It’s very weird because as the sequels pile up the world gets smaller and smaller and smaller because of all the obligatory cameos you pretty much HAVE to jam in there SOMEHOW. Look at Fallout. Gotta have supermutants. Gotta have bobbleheads. Gotta have power armor. Gotta have Brotherhood. After a while there’s so much stuff you gotta have that there’s no room, time, or money for anything NEW or INTERESTING.

            Anyway, coming back to the point, I think your real value is less in how many possible *conclusions* there are to any given situation, but in the number of ways the route to that conclusion can PLAY OUT. Not pick A or B, but did you do A first or B first, and have that impact something. It doesn’t have to be a BIG thing, just a slight rearrangement of elements can produce a big effect.

            And the best part is, once you have your elements, putting them in a slightly different *arrangement* is cheaper and easier, also.

  23. Viktor says:

    So, I looked up the Ashley and Suvi conversations about God, since I remembered the Ashley conversation not sitting well with me and couldn’t remember why. There’s two main problems that both the ME1 and MEA conversations about religion have:

    First is that you can’t just swap a privileged majority and an underprivileged minority’s roles and have everything work with no change. You have to ignore all historical context and the relevant social changes and even then you just muddy whatever message you have. It’s been attempted before, it always ends up awkward or awful.

    Second, and more relevant, is that neither of them ACTS like someone from a religious minority who will face consequences for revealing that. Both Ashley and Suvi drop their religion very casually into conversation without any previous attempts to sound you out on the subject or backup plan if you take it badly. I do not mention that I’m an atheist to anyone I work with unless I’m certain I’m indispensable, and even then I’m cautious. I’ve been warned by people who know I’m not Christian about specific bosses who will fire me if they find out, and since I’ve seen a family member fired for not attending church, I believe them. Now watch this clip of the Ashley conversation:
    Does that sound like how someone who could lose her dream job for believing in God would bring up the subject of religion? Or does it sound like how an American Christian used to being the default would raise the subject? Her bit at 4:10 and her casual mention of the afterlife paint completely different pictures of how religion functions in the ME universe, and the subject is never raised ANYWHERE else in the game.

    TL:DR, just because it was ME1 doesn’t mean it got everything right.

    1. Agammamon says:

      Where do you live?

      Just in general. Because – as an atheist myself living in the US (specifically the Southwest) – I’ve never encountered any significant prejudice, certainly not ever been in a situation where I thought I would get fired for being one. IME, with various flavors of Catholics from Roman to Chaldean, they’ve all been pretty live-and-let-live.

      Relating that to your in-game point, my experience is that minority religions are tolerated and people would be very surprised if they brought it up and got more than a ‘I really don’t think-this-is-the-place-for-this/care’ response. So it would be very natural for two people to talk about those differences without worry.

      1. Yeah, me too. I never hesitate to tell ANYONE that I’m an atheist (assuming it comes up, I’m not interested in making a big screaming deal out of myself, because honestly, most people don’t care). I don’t want to have anything whatsoever to do with ANYONE who’d be rude to me over it, and I certainly don’t want them as my boss.

        People with even quite exceptionally fringe beliefs are often AMAZINGLY forthright about it. How many people do you know who bring up their belief in astrology or veganism or similar within minutes of meeting you for the first time? Heck, it’s been my general experience that the flakier they are, the sooner you hear about it.

        Ascribing automatic “privilege” to any majority *simply because they’re a majority* does not add up in my experience, either (nor does any data of any kind whatsoever bear this out). In fact, the U.S. is full of “privileged” MINORITIES who are BETTER OFF than the population at large. That simple fact put some massive, gaping holes through the notion of “privilege” being a matter of a larger population “oppressing” a smaller one, and rather puts paid to the notion that being a minority AUTOMATICALLY means you’re “oppressed”.

        Yeah, if you look hard enough you can find examples of people who aren’t comfortable with anybody who is different than they are, but the assumption that this is an obvious and automatic result of relative population percentage is hogwash.

        1. Ashley’s concern level is more appropriate to a military junior having ANY kind of personal discussion with a military superior, which I’ve witnessed quite often, having spent several of my formative years living on Army posts. My dad’s immediate superior once asked me (I was 10) whether my dad complained about me at home. When told about it, my mom described him as a “jackass”, shocking me, because I’d never heard her say something so categorically negative about another adult before.

          The relationship between military ranks can potentially turn ANY personal difference, no matter HOW minor, into a huge damn problem, so most military folks become EXTREMELY reticent about volunteering personal information, no matter how innocuous, to their superiors, and good officers don’t interrogate their subordinates. It doesn’t preclude extremely friendly relationships (for instance, my dad STILL is good friends with one of his later superior officers), oddly enough, but those tend to develop based on personalities and shared work BEFORE any personal details are shared.

        2. Viktor says:

          To be clear, I was trying to be vague on my first point because this is already well over the lines, however: I wasn’t saying that majorities are always privileged over minorities. I was saying that IRL Christianity is a majority in the US and ALSO has significant advantages in the form of legal accommodations, political muscle, social status, etc, whereas that seems to be reversed in Mass Effect.

          I agree you can’t look at sheer numbers to determine which groups hold the power in a country. However, if one group has every chief executive in history, every member of the upper levels of the judiciary in history, over 99% of the members of the legislature, regularly has laws passed based on their beliefs, AND members of a different group are legally barred from holding public office*, I think saying the first group has advantages over the second is fair.

          *Yep, Texas doesn’t legally allow atheists to be elected.

          1. The article in the Texas constitution that requires you to believe in a “Supreme Being” (term undefined) has never been challenged because *no candidate has ever been denied the opportunity to serve because of it*. Jim Mattox, the Attorney General at the only time it was challenged last, basically agreed not to enforce it because it’s clearly an unconstitutional clause. While this is kind of a dippy way to go about it, there are similar “agreements”.

            I’d be curious to know what legal accommodations you think Christians get that nobody else does. Sure, there are religiously-motivated laws, like “Blue Laws” against selling booze on Sunday, but Christians have to obey them TOO, so it’s hardly a special restriction ON atheists.

            I grant you there’s a lot of whinging about the curriculum in public schools, but the solution to that is simply to get rid of the public schools–the reason why the whining exists is because government is already forcing a particular curriculum down EVERYONE’s throat, Christian or not. I don’t think I know a single person who is HAPPY with the public school curriculum regardless of affiliation.

            Overall, I’d say whatever benefits Christians purportedly get are more than lost in the noise of random garbage laws that NOBODY should have to put up with–not to mention that the people with the most public attention are not necessarily the people with the largest amount of overall influence or control. Politics is renowned for mistaking the tail for the dog.

      2. Viktor says:

        Texas, in a blue collar industry. And it’s not me reading into things, there have been plenty of comments made about non-Christians that make it clear where my bosses stand. In a previous job, I told someone and their response after they understood what I was saying was “Damn, keep that quiet or K will fire you.” My mom was fired from a job a few weeks after her bosses learned she doesnt attend a church. Texas Protestants are not accepting of other beliefs.

        So yeah, maybe the creators didn’t mean to make Ashley’s “there won’t be a problem, will there” and “I’ve met a few people who got really weirded out by my faith” come across as “Christianity is a niche belief and practitioners suffer social and career consequences for being active or visible”, but in that case, why include those lines? The conversation, which is all about religion, leaves the status of religion in the game very unclear.

      3. decius says:

        Atheism is pretty well tolerated in the Southwest. But if you want to buy Halal food, you have to go to Albuquerque.

      4. Abnaxis says:

        As an American loving in the Midwest, as well as a bit on the Southwest, I have literally been told–by an old boss–that “I can’t be Atheist because those people are horrible and have no morals,” and upon assume this they proceeded to try and convince me that my atheism was actually some other sort of spirituality with a different name.

        I suspect it’s less about geography, and more about social class. From where I live, I am VERY reticent to share my beliefs with anyone.

        Incidentally, this is why I’m on the same page as the OP on this subject. As someone who has to be careful because studies have literally shown that atheists endure higher prejudice than any other belief doctrine among Americans–including Muslims and Jews, who have it bad enough–the Ashley conversation strikes a nerve. It feels like sometime who’s never been an outsider is writing dialogue they aren’t really qualified to write

    2. Gruhunchously says:

      Was it ever implied the Ashley could lose her position over her beliefs? When she asks whether or not there’s going to be problem, I always assumed she was referring to her personal relationship with Shepard more than anything else. When she mentions that other people have been ‘wielded out’ by her faith, she doesn’t say anything about it seriously affecting her career, and only suggest that it caused friction with other soldiers she served with. The more contentious issue is her being related to the infamous General Williams.

      1. Coming Second says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure Christianity is not supposed to be a strange, minority position in the ME universe that might get you fired if it came out about you (and it’d be very odd it was, since it’s set not that far into the future). The vibe I got was that Ash was shy about revealing her faith in the way any soldier would be revealing personal information about themselves to a superior.

        1. Biggus Rickus says:

          The game was also written by people in an industry where being a devout Christian would probably raise an eyebrow.

          1. decius says:

            I think “raise an eyebrow” is too severe a descriptor.

            It’s likely unusual, but not just not noteworthy.

            1. Biggus Rickus says:

              I think a lot of people would think it odd and somewhat offputting based on my experience with agnostics and atheists especially. Granted, a lot of them are reacting from a position where they’ve been insulted by bible thumpers, so I get it.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      you can’t just swap a privileged majority and an underprivileged minority’s roles and have everything work with no change. You have to ignore all historical context and the relevant social changes and even then you just muddy whatever message you have.

      Why not? The ME universe doesn’t have to match our world.
      Part of the point of Fiction – and particularly Science Fiction – is that it imagines world that aren’t ours, and where people act differently. I never got the impression that Ashley was worried about losing her job or great social stigma by revealing belief in God; at worst she was worried that Shepard might think she was a bit weird.

      If you live somewhere that won’t accept your lack of faith and you have to hide it – yes, that’s bad. But Mass Effect didn’t get it wrong by failing to reflect your personal experience.
      The intention could well have been to imagine a universe in which most people just don’t care about someone else’s religion.

  24. konondrum says:

    I was somewhat disappointed that this post was about the setting and not Reyes.

    Because, holy shit, I can’t remember the last time an NPC pissed me off as much as he does in every single frame he is onscreen

    It’s been a long time since I’ve pIayed the game, so the exact details escape me, but I found him absolutely intolerable. I actually thought he was worse than Kai Lang.


      I think the problem is he’s so obviously supposed to be a character you’re supposed to find charismatic. At least for me, I ended up rebelling in every scene I could with him around half out of spite. On the one hand you have Sloane who -Aria T’Loak comparrisons aside- is stand-offish with Ryder and at best reaches a mutual tolerance of them, on the other you have Reyes who’s constantly lying to you but is also constantly getting time to try acting suave and flirty on the camera with plenty of scenes where he gets Ryder to act as his semi-witting pawn.

    2. Coming Second says:

      I wound up killing Sloane because I managed to find her more intolerable than Reyes. You’re not throwing another Aria at me and getting away with it this time, Bioware.

      The whole mission thread on Kadara is frustrating because it does have some potential; two different criminal enterprises vying for control, and you’ve got to decide which is the lesser evil. However Andromeda just loves not telling you stuff. You get basically zero information on who the Collective are, what their long term goals are, how they’d run the port differently to the Exiles. It loves pushing Ryder around, giving them zero agency and overall making you feel like a stupid doormat. So at the end of the day, the decision comes down to which of these pair of assholes you hate the least.

  25. Misamoto says:

    Hehehe, Mass Effect: Cargo cult

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.