Andromeda Part 21: Not-so-Great Scott

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 12, 2019

Filed under: Mass Effect 76 comments

All of the surviving Pathfinders meet and agree to ignore Tann’s orders for everyone to abandon the main plot. The meeting is interrupted with the news that Scott is awake. So let’s see how that plot thread has been going.

There are two ways things can go with your sibling. One is kinda dumb, and the other is dumb and obnoxious.

Scott is Confused

Then again, I might NOT say that. Because it's really dumb.
Then again, I might NOT say that. Because it's really dumb.

If you visit Scott while he’s still in a coma, then SAM will use Scott’s cranial implant to “make contact”. Scott will be able to converse with you from within his coma, with his ghostly disembodied voice coming out of SAM’s speaker system. He’ll ask about Dad and he’ll ask about Habitat 7, and if you tell him that Dad is dead and the planet is a wasteland, then he’ll freak out, panic, and the doctor will give him something to help him… sleep???

The writer evidently doesn’t understand the difference between “coma” and “paralysis”. If you’re having a lucid conversation and forming memoriesScott remembers this conversation later., then your brain is not in a coma.

It’s a nonsensical, melodramatic conversation that doesn’t really do much to characterize Scott. I have no idea why the scene is here.

But if you skip this conversation then you’re setting yourself up for a worse one…

Scott is Angry

You're worried you're the biggest idiot in the galaxy? Dude, competition has been FIERCE lately. Don't worry. You're not even in the top 10.
You're worried you're the biggest idiot in the galaxy? Dude, competition has been FIERCE lately. Don't worry. You're not even in the top 10.

If you don’t visit Scott while he’s in a coma, then the conversation you have with him when he wakes up is just as nonsensical but also a lot more frustrating. Scott will get angry at Sara because she’s been “too busy to tell me that dad is dead?” He’s apparently angry that you were off doing your job and not here to comfort him?

Unlike the other option, this conversation does indeed give Scott meaningful characterization: It characterizes him as idiotic, irrational, childish, and hopelessly self-absorbed.

Scott is a grown man. He was in the military. He ought to understand the idea that his sister has massive responsibilities as Pathfinder and isn’t free to camp out by his bedside. Literally tens of thousands of lives are on Sara’s shoulders, and this dipshit is mad because she wasn’t there when he woke up? Is he five?

Keep in mind this guy could also be our main character, so it's really strange to see him acting like a selfish pouty child.
Keep in mind this guy could also be our main character, so it's really strange to see him acting like a selfish pouty child.

Just to drive home what a complete butthead he is, the game even gives you an interrupt prompt. If you press it quickly enough, you can try to hug him. And then he shoves you away like a sullen child. Given what a stoic hardass Alec Ryder was, how did this fragile creature ever make it out of childhood and into the military?

Sure, you can make excuses for him. He was confused. He just woke up. He was still reeling for the news that Dad is dead. Fine. I can believe that people are a little off when they wake up from a coma. The point is, this is how the writer chose to introduce this character. He may be Sara’s little brother, but he’s a complete stranger to the audience and this is his big first impression. It’s not like it would have shattered our immersion to have him behave rationally.

At the end of the game, the Archon will kidnap this ninny and that plot point sort of requires that we care about him, so it’s a shame our interactions with him are so goofy.

(Protip: Visit him while he’s still in a “coma” and tell him Dad is dead, but then don’t tell him about the failed golden worlds. This seems to make for the least annoying conversations.)

Fake Meridian

Yeah, I bet the leadership will be THRILLED when you announce you did the thing they specifically ordered you not to do.
Yeah, I bet the leadership will be THRILLED when you announce you did the thing they specifically ordered you not to do.

Our heroes travel to what they assume is Meridian. The plan is to turn on the entire terraforming network. When they arrive, they find a “massive” space station made of Remnant Technology. How massive? Is it larger than the Nexus? The game doesn’t say.

We learn that this isn’t actually Meridian. The Kett call it Khi Tasira, so let’s stick with that for a name. The Remnant technology at work here gives this place gravity and even an atmosphere. (It’s actually raining when you arrive.)

We shoot a lot of Kett mooks and even more Remnant robots. We do some Remnant puzzles and hike down a lot of Remnant walkways. Eventually the game drops its first big reveal…

The Remnant Made the Angara

The lighting in here is goofy so you can't see inside the pods, but these are all full of prototype Angaran bodies. (They look just like normal Angarans, if you're curious.)
The lighting in here is goofy so you can't see inside the pods, but these are all full of prototype Angaran bodies. (They look just like normal Angarans, if you're curious.)

We find a room filled with Angaran bodies in capsules. These are early Angaran “prototypes”. Whoever ran this place was engineering a species to live in this cluster.

This is a fine idea for a reveal, although it lacks punch because the Angara are – like so many other details in this setting – relentlessly vague. We don’t know enough about their religion or history to have a sense of how this news might impact them.

This information is neither an answer to a standing question, nor is it in conflict with truths that the Angarans hold dear. It’s certainly an interesting bit of trivia, but it doesn’t impact our story because it doesn’t change anything.

How I’d have done it:

In Suvi’s dialog, the writer has been playing around with the concept of creation as a divine act. Maybe that’s a theme the writer wanted to explore and it never got fleshed out, or maybe that was never intended to be more than character flavor. If this was a theme the game was intended to explore and if we wanted to do something a little risky, then we could turn the standard creation story on its head: We could make it so that the Angara believe they evolved over millions of years, and that belief has shaped their religion. We’d need to put some meat on the bones of their religion for this to work, but we could easily do this through exploratory dialog with Jaal / the Moshae.

There’s a lot you can do with this idea, but I’m not going to make you sit through six paragraphs of fanfic religious exposition. The point is, the Angara believe they evolved here and are frustrated that they can never find evidence of their forebears. They have this theory that there’s some “lost” Angaran homeworld out there, and they’ve built up all these myths around the idea.

(There’s the nagging question about how the space-faring Angara came to forget their history and have no record of the first Angara waking up wherever their creator species dumped them. This is a problem in both my version and the original text. Ideally we’d patch over that somehow, but let’s just move on.)

They believe their purpose is to find this lost homeworld, which they imagine would be ideally suited to their species and thus a paradise. Then Jaal is hit with this big reveal that they didn’t evolve, they were designed by a benevolent creator. This would make a mess of their religion. If we made it so their government leaders were also religious in natureWhich I think is the case with the Moshae, but I’m not sure what she DOES, in terms of government., then telling them the truth might make this information a threat to the existing power structure.

As written, the story has the party conclude that they need to tell everyone right away. That’s okay, but there’s no decision to make and thus no tension. To make it interesting for the player, we could make it so the Angaran religion is explicitly beneficial to them, and telling them the truth will threaten that pillar of their society. Perhaps it will threaten the power of the Moshae, and since you’ve gained her as an ally you really don’t want to create a situation where she could be deposed. Are you willing to hide the truth from the Angara for your own benefit?

The creators of the Angara apparently left behind hundreds of capsules of discarded prototypes. Not sure why these test tube specimens are clothed. There's already a nude Angara model in the game, so I'm not sure why they didn't go with that. Not a big deal, but still kinda odd.
The creators of the Angara apparently left behind hundreds of capsules of discarded prototypes. Not sure why these test tube specimens are clothed. There's already a nude Angara model in the game, so I'm not sure why they didn't go with that. Not a big deal, but still kinda odd.

Jaal could then feel the burden of this terrible secret. Does he tell his people the truth, or allow them to continue searching for a nonexistent lost homeworld because it’s good for them? Does he value truth, or stability? (And then he could turn to the player for advice, because that’s how these games work.)

Also, this reveal is so huge that I really feel like Jaal needs to be here when it happens. Currently, the game allows you to pick any two squadmates for this mission, but I’d insert an excuse for why we need to bring Jaal. (I stupidly forgot to bring him for this mission, even though I intended to. Which is why I don’t have any screenshots of Jaal’s reaction. I had to watch it on YouTube. Still, that’s on me. I actually brought Liam, which… why did I bring Liam?! He’s less interesting than Jaal on any mission. So silly.)

I imagine the gameplay director would hate the idea of forcing the player to bring Jaal. Players that don’t care about Jaal might resent being forced to take him. But if you’re going to do a huge reveal like this then we need to make allowances for it in the gameplay. The character-specific loyalty missions force you to take the related character, so we could just make this Jaal’s loyalty mission if that’s what it takes. As it stands, having this big reveal happen without Jaal around is like having Darth Vader reveal his true identity to R2D2 instead of Luke.

If messing around with creation vs. evolution seems too risky or too much of a “big idea” to spend on a side-plot like this, then we can scale it down to the homeworld idea I mentioned above: The Angara have no record of their existence as a pre-spacefaring race, and really want to know where they came from. Then here they discover the answer to the question is “a lab”.

The point is that for this reveal to have some heft, it ought to challenge something the Angara believe or answer a standing question for them.

Along the way we run into some scourge tendrils running through the station. The dialog seems to indicate that the scourge originated here, and was a result of this place being damaged. That’s a nice idea, although the dialog is a spontaneous exchange between gunfights. You don’t get a dialog wheel and you can’t talk about or explore it. Sad face.

We get to the end of this murder dungeon and we get our final reveal…

This Isn’t Meridian

You're going to read us some text you magically translated without difficulty? This is our big reveal? Come on.
You're going to read us some text you magically translated without difficulty? This is our big reveal? Come on.

A lot of the “storytelling” in this game has been offloaded to datapads, audiologs, one-way exposition conversations, and having the quasi-omniscient SAM just narrate exposition at us. I don’t know if this is because the new writer just isn’t interested in exploratory dialog, or if the large scope of the game required them to make many shallow dialogs rather than a few deep ones. Whatever the case is, you can maybe forgive most of this as a necessity of the change in focus and development priorities. But not here.

This is roughly the “big reveal” at the end, equivalent to the conversation we had with Vigil at the end of Mass Effect 1. In Mass Effect 2 I said the reveal lacked punch because it was just EDI interpreting data for us rather than having a conversation with someone. This is worse still, since it’s basically SAM translating an audiolog for us. The creator of Meridian recorded a message to nobody in particular, explaining that their project was under attack and that they were sending away “Meridian”.

This is our big reveal. This is where you explain your science-magic, deliver your plot twist, and put the adventure into some kind of context. You should not do this using an AUDIOLOG.

For crying out loud.

The ARCHON was wrong? Ryder, YOU'RE the one who's been making wild assumptions since the beginning!
The ARCHON was wrong? Ryder, YOU'RE the one who's been making wild assumptions since the beginning!

How I’d have done it:

How about we turn on this gizmo and we find an AI like VigilYes, Vigil was a Virtual Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence. Fine. Whichever. This far from Mass Effect 1, that line has become quite blurry., that’s broken and doesn’t realize it. It sees Jaal, and figures he’s an explorer and he’s finally reached the cradle of his species. The AI explains that all of the wonderful habitable worlds out there (it doesn’t know that the scourge wrecked everything) are a gift from the creator.

This cluster was like a garden. They tilled the land (terraformed the planets) and planted the seeds (the Angarans) so that life would flourish. As far as this AI knows, the Angaran are a powerful and prosperous people living on paradise worlds.

The AI can then tie this into some kind of theme. We already have the side-plot with Cora and the Rose garden she wants to grow. We could connect those two ideas with some sort of setup / callback thingThe game actually does this a bit. After this mission Cora emails Ryder. Obviously you want the thematic connective tissue to be part of the story and not jammed into optional codex / datapad / audiolog content..

When it’s over, the AI can ask Jaal what they did with Meridian. Jaal / Ryder can respond with, “Isn’t THIS place Meridian?” Then the AI can explain what Meridian is.

It turns out Meridian is a planet. We don’t know anything about it, but Ryder’s copy of the script says it’s valuable and we need it. She even says she needs to “Find home.” I guess she knows Meridian is a habitable planet and not just a big ball of machinery to run the terraforming network.

Of Course we Need a Boss Fight Here

I hope you don't have plans this evening, because this dude has HP for DAYS.
I hope you don't have plans this evening, because this dude has HP for DAYS.

The Kett show up and pick yet another fight. I’m fine with the idea that the Archon is just throwing waves of dudes at you to hide the fact that he’s spying on you through the transmitter you stupidly forgot to removeThat is, I’m fine with him attacking you. The transmitter itself is bullshit., and he fully expects you to plow through these mooks and continue on your way. However, he sends his super-powerful underlingSeriously, this guy’s HP bar is gargantuan. It’s not a hard fight so much as a really time consuming one. and his backup dancers. They make a big deal of announcing that their goal is to capture Ryder.

If we wanted to be extra generous we could imagine that the Archon is being double-clever by pretending he wants to capture you when he really wants you to escape, and if this plot had even a sliver of cleverness in it I might be willing to believe that. But I suspect this dialog is leftover from some earlier edit or is the result of different writers working at cross-purposes. It makes no sense that the Archon would want to kill OR capture Ryder at this point, since his long-term plan is to have you figure out the Meridian network for him.

Ryder uses her Remnant mojo to order the station to attack the nearby Kett vessels. The Kett are wiped out, and it’s clear they can’t get anywhere near this place now that the defenses are up.

In this datapad diary to his troops, the Archon claims that humans call this place Meridian. But we call it meridian because the Moshae says the ARCHON called it Meridian. Not only does this alien macguffin have an English name, but the origin of the name makes no sense.
In this datapad diary to his troops, the Archon claims that humans call this place Meridian. But we call it meridian because the Moshae says the ARCHON called it Meridian. Not only does this alien macguffin have an English name, but the origin of the name makes no sense.

At this point, the good guys don’t really need Meridian. The big threat was that the Archon might figure out how to use this control center and un-terraform all our planets. That’s no longer possible. We’re safe. The most sensible thing for Ryder to do at this point would be to go back to her terraforming / Kett killing. We know there’s a planet-sized thing out there, but we don’t know where it is, what it does, or even if it still exists.

This isn’t a plot hole or anything. The audience is naturally curious about this mystery they’ve been chasing, and their drive to see it through is more than enough to cover for the fact that our protagonist no longer needs it. Still, it would be nice if there was some peril pushing our story forward.

Well, this was our big reveal and it sort of fizzled out. I’ll admit it’s better than the big reveal at the end of Mass Effect 3, but that’s a very low bar indeed.

We’re nearing the end now. Next week we’re going to embark on the final mission. Not to freak you out, but I’m actually going to have a few nice things to say before the end.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Scott remembers this conversation later.

[2] Which I think is the case with the Moshae, but I’m not sure what she DOES, in terms of government.

[3] Yes, Vigil was a Virtual Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence. Fine. Whichever. This far from Mass Effect 1, that line has become quite blurry.

[4] The game actually does this a bit. After this mission Cora emails Ryder. Obviously you want the thematic connective tissue to be part of the story and not jammed into optional codex / datapad / audiolog content.

[5] That is, I’m fine with him attacking you. The transmitter itself is bullshit.

[6] Seriously, this guy’s HP bar is gargantuan. It’s not a hard fight so much as a really time consuming one.



From The Archives:
 

76 thoughts on “Andromeda Part 21: Not-so-Great Scott

  1. Lino says:

    …our protagonists no longer needs it.

    “our protagonist no longer needs it” or “our protagonists no longer need it” is what you probably meant.

    The idiocy of this plot never ceases to amaze me. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that such a big, multi-million dollar project could have been so badly mismanaged…

  2. Olivier FAURE says:

    This is fine.

    1. Lino says:

      HEY, I just realized this entry doesn’t have the picture!
      WE NEED TO BOYCOTT THESE ARTICLES IMMEDIATELY!

      1. Hector says:

        Shamus, you flawed ignorant!

        (Reference joke!)

      2. Blue-NINJA'D says:

        10 years from now, Shamus will be calling this ‘ZOMGWhere’sMyImage?!Gate’19.

      3. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Nah, dish ish fhain.

    2. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Thanks, I felt something was missing!

  3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I’m still hung up on the awesome Mother Figure Archon idea of Shamus. Like, the Sword might have been sent by the Archon to gently push Ryder along her path, but she’d be jealous of this upstart gets from the Archon and try to kill her. The Sword’s underling would be like “Attack? But the Archon told us to-” before getting silenced, which would cause confusion for the player and show that something weird is going on.

    And when Ryder finally makes it to actual Meridian instead of mocking her when revealing her plan the Archon would act like a proud mother at how far she went, and assure that she’ll take care of the rest.

    Man that would have been so much cooler.

    1. Syal says:

      It sure could have been.

      But it could even be something like rogue Kett trying to kill you because the Archon is starting to lose his authority. Maybe this is the Archon’s Sword doing the same thing as the Pathfinders, ignoring his orders in order to do the “right” thing, because he doesn’t trust the Archon has a plan. You kill him and find the Archon’s actual orders which tell him to avoid an engagement with you at all costs.

      1. Tremor3258 says:

        I like this. Set up some mirroring.

  4. Tizzy says:

    The last time Shamus tried to say something nice about a Bioware game, we all know how it ended up…

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Ah yes, “nice things”, we have dismissed that claim.

  5. Jenkins says:

    Since it doesn’t seem like Shamus will touch upon it, I’d like to point out a cutscene that particularly annoyed me.

    Remember that really tense moment towards the end of Mass Effect 2 when you needed the right biotic to (barely) get past the seeker swarms? It turns out Shepard was recruiting the wrong biotics all along, since Cora and her friend seem able to not just stop but reflect friggin’ missiles with their biotic barriers. It sure makes our thousand-year-old space paladin and our tortured, tattoo-wearing biotic badass look like chumps for struggling to hold off a couple of insect swarms – not to mention the others who couldn’t even do that! Talk about kicking Miranda and her perfect genes while she’s down.

    The funny thing is, I’m glad Shamus is going to end the series on a somewhat positive note. My aforementioned annoyance only scratches the surface of the problems I have with Andromeda (gods if the animation looks awful in screenshots it gets so much worse when watched in realtime), but I don’t have anywhere near the bitterness towards the game as I do with Mass Effect 3 (which, simply put, ripped the soul out of the entire franchise by blowing the whole damn thing up). Andromeda is a mediocre game, but it’s a miracle the thing even got made given all the troubles of its development.

    1. Lino says:

      I think the problem with the cutscene you linked is just the fact that whenever some authors make a sequel to a work, they feel the need to make the sequel bigger in every single aspect – e.g. if the main character saved the city in the original, now in the sequel they have to save the world, and in the third installment – the universe. There’s name for this trope, but I can’t remember it for the life of me…

      1. Lars says:

        The Dragonball Trope? The story only continues because of a new and even greater threat.

        1. Lino says:

          I guess that can describe it as well. It took some searching, but I found the trope I was originally referencing – https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SequelEscalation

        2. Coming Second says:

          Power creep. It affects games and fiction at almost every level.

      2. eaglewingz says:

        I always wondered that about Call of Duty : Infinite Warfare.

        Umm, what do you follow that with?

        1. SPCTRE says:

          well, Infinity times two, of course *taps forehead*

          1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

            You reboot the series and go back to the roots, so you can do it all over again.

          2. Zak McKracken says:

            Well, there are in fact different orders (cardinalities) of infinity …
            So, you could for example move from integers to real numbers, I think that should do it :)

            Moving from 2D to 3D space or anything like that isn’t going to help, though because that doesn’t increase cardinality. Weird that it doesn’t, I know.

        2. Jeff says:

          Call of Duty: Space Rangers

          To Infinity and Beyond!

          1. Mattias42 says:

            Call of Duty: Infinite Climax Edition.

            Wherein you have to team up with Bayonetta to shoot Heaven, Hell AND all of future Earth in the face. While quadruple wielding guns, using your new cyborg arms AND legs, and using your cyber-hair to form anti-magic mecha beast!

            …I joke, but that sounds like a pretty awesome idea for a cross-over, actually.

  6. Joshua says:

    “Scott will get angry at Sara because she’s been “too busy to tell me that dad is dead?”

    Since I haven’t played this game, how much time is supposed to pass before he wakes up and she appears at his bedside? Minutes/Hours/Days? The first two definitely make him come off as entitled because he was expecting her to literally do nothing but sit by his bedside. Also, it’s unclear from the description, but was he expecting her to communicate with him telepathically in his coma and tell him?

    1. Scourge says:

      No clue how quick the traveling from planet to planet is, or how long in a 24 hour day cycle the time passes on the planets, but by my estimate and all the stuff you do, it should at least be a month.

    2. Shamus says:

      “Also, it’s unclear from the description, but was he expecting her to communicate with him telepathically in his coma and tell him?”

      It’s unclear within the game, too. But yeah. It does feel like this conversation is here for people who didn’t visit Scott when he was in a coma, which means it feels like he knows you could have visited him. I don’t know. It’s weird.

      1. The Wind King says:

        Well there’s an obvious answer to this…

        Scott’s linked with the camera, the same way S.A.M linked with him to talk, so he’s watching everyhing you do and judging. You are watching the game through Scott’s (or Sara’s) eyes.

        Why he can’t comment on it once he wakes up can be handwaved as well he wasn’t actually the camera, just “linked” to it…

    3. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Better question. If SAM can let you talk to the sibling in their coma… why do you have to be physically present to do it? Your entire brain has a wi-fi connection to SAM at all times. Why can’t SAM just let you like… call them? This could even be a weird reoccurring element if they wanted, like dead space child in ME3.

    4. Biggus Rickus says:

      It’s pretty much the same as the interaction in Mass Effect 2 with Kashley, where they’re mad you didn’t contact them while you were literally dead. It’s there for dramatic purposes, but its effect is instead to either piss the player off or confuse him.

  7. Hal says:

    First, I’m kind of annoyed that the Archon apparently needed to explain that his Sword is his enforcer. If these are his troops, you’d think they’d recognize the position/title for what it is.

    On the other hand, maybe they don’t understand what it means for someone to be a “sword.” Is that an archaic concept here? Do people know what swords are? Or is this reference so uncommon that it has to be explained? Maybe Ryder can talk about hopping in her buggy and puttering off to their next destination.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      They totally know what a sword is, Kett have quite a few old school melee weapons that you can craft.

      1. Scampi says:

        Please respect the ancient culture of the K/kett, who are considerate enough to write in English, but not considerate enough to conform with the sci fi convention of writing species names with capital letters. Compare wikipedia about e.g. Klingons, Ferengi or Daleks, contrast with elves, vampires or dwarves.
        Instead, they adress humans, A/angara and their own species with names beginning in lower case.
        It just caught my eye, as it once again seems to be an odd linguistic detail.
        Where did that come from?

        1. Mattias42 says:

          Maybe it’s a way of subtle denoting that nobody outside their weird faith is a ‘true’ person? As in, there are no ‘Humans’ because that would imply their culture is equal and/or threat, but any ‘humans’ may see the light and join them?

          Probably giving this game WAY, WAY too much credit for even considering that type of subtle linguistics being at play, though.

          1. Scampi says:

            It might work, if they didn’t treat themselves the same way. As I said: the Archon writes “kett”, not “Kett”.

        2. John says:

          I don’t know about Daleks, but Klingons and Ferengi are usually citizens of the Klingon Empire and the Ferengi Whatever, respectively. You capitalize Klingon or Ferengi for the same reason you capitalize American, Brazilian, or Egyptian.

          Though I don’t know what you do for possible exceptions like Worf or Nog, who, by joining Starfleet, the military of a foreign power, may have forfeited their Klingon or Ferengi citizenship.

          1. Syal says:

            Worf at least has dual citizenship. That’s a surprising amount of DS9.

        3. Gaius Maximus says:

          That goes all the way back to ME1. No species names are capitalized, which I thought was a nice, realistic touch. You have humans, turians, and asari, rather than the sci-fi standard humans, Turians, and Asari. Much more consistent.

        4. Corsair says:

          That’s actually a Mass Effect thing since ME1.

    2. Syal says:

      It’s a quasi-religious, emotion-tugging speech. I see that as just emphasizing the honor of interacting directly with the Archon’s Sword. It fits in the same vein as “we have worked long and hard to unlock these secrets”.

  8. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    This might be a pretty small nit to pick, but my impression of what we learned here from Fake Meridian wasn’t that the Remnant created the Angara, but rather that a race called the Jardaan created both the Remnant and the Angara.

    Also, dialogue indications aside, I didn’t have the impression that this place created the scourge, but rather that some unnamed enemy of the Jardaan loosed the scourge on them and that the Jardaan launched Fake Meridian from the real Meridian to draw off the scourge. I’ve always assumed that’s why the Jardaan aren’t around anymore – because they were either destroyed by the unnamed enemy, or they’re still off somewhere battling them.

  9. Matt says:

    There’s a lot you can do with this idea, but I’m not going to make you sit through six paragraphs of fanfic religious exposition.

    Hell, I’m game.

    1. Lino says:

      Yeah, me too. I’d also love to hear some of his alien race ideas that he teased a couple of entries back.

  10. Trevor says:

    I actually think the game works pretty well from Hunting the Archon on. Sure, there are silly bits of plot, like the Salarian “maybe if we go to sleep it will go away” and “the only way to save you is if I kill you, Ryder” but most video games and movies have sections where your suspension of disbelief is strained by plot contrivances. Pathfinder Raeka is cool, and exploring Khi Tasira is pretty fun. The ending sections of your squadmates’s missions and storylines are actually pretty cool and made me want to hang out with the characters more, and that I might miss them when the game’s over. The revelation that the Angaran are an engineered species is an interesting one and it answers some questions about the Remnant while raising others. I would have liked to have seen how this information is received and changes Angaran culture.

    But there’s no time, there’s the endgame fight to be had.

    It would have been nice to have seen the kind of game suggested by this endgame section rather than the midgame slog of Kadara and Elaadan where you’re dealing with dickhole former Initiative people, doing the three monoliths + vault dance, not learning anything new about the Remnant or the Angara (or the Kett), and the middle sections of your squadmate stories which are all uniformly pretty dull.

  11. Karma The Alligator says:

    Wait, wait wait.

    then SAM will use Scott’s cranial implant

    Does everyone in the Pathfinder team has one? If so, why is it so hard to find a replacement for the other species?

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      They do, but the human SAM is special and only gives space magic powers to the Ryders. Illegal AI research crossed with biology, something something.

      1. baud says:

        Something something Cerberus. I mean it’s been quite some time we haven’t heard of them, it’s time for a reminder!

        1. Blue-NINJA'D! says:

          Well…is the Archon incompetent enough to qualify for Cerberus membership?

          Points in his favour:
          – Talks too much while saying very little
          – Appears to have read the script
          – Unwarranted arrogance

          …but Cerberus doesn’t just hire anyone. They have standards. I mean, what’s his record in idiotic team-killing and pointless death experiments?
          Has he ever thrown random followers of his into the Scourge to see if they would die*?
          Has he ever left a group of researchers on a Remnant ruin and never checked up on them so that they got slaughtered by robots?
          Has he ever run a research facility where he tried to convert Angaran children to his cause by kidnapping them and then torturing them daily (and then was surprised when they turned on him)?

          *’Maybe if we throw enough people in, the Scourge will, um, run out!’
          ‘Lord Archon, I’m not sure if that’s how the Scourge works-‘
          ‘Silence! My plans are perfect! You’ve just volunteered yourself for a Scourge Expedition, naysayer!’

          1. Sartharina says:

            Ooh… are we talking Cerberus? I liked Cerberus, in spite of Shamus’ eviceration of the organization, and the writers refusing to commit to Cerberus’ main theme – Achieving superior results through amoral actions. As far as I understand, they were a secret “Find anything that works!” weapon development division of the System Alliance founded during the First Contact War… and were deemed ‘unnecessary” (And a PR nightmare) after the war ended…. except they went Rogue instead. They have two founding, seemingly-contradictory positions: Humanity is destined to be First, and The Universe Doesn’t Care About Humans.

            They go after Humans for their internal tests because 1. Humans are the control and test group at once. They’re looking for human enhancement first and foremost, even if some have to die or be horribly traumatized from it. 2. If they go after non-humans, they risk starting an Interstellar incident, and likely trigger their Greatest Fear: A second war, with the might of Space Wizard Goddesses, Unstoppable Military Forces, and That One Race That Committed Genocide Against Another ‘Upstart’ Species that spooked them all crashing down on Humanity as a whole and wiping it from existence, or forcing it down the same broken path as the Krogan.

            While they weren’t really fleshed out in Mass Effect 1, I liked that they were retconned into it. I can bet that ExoGenni and a bunch of Noveria Corporations were Cerberus fronts, given the experiments they were running. In fact, one of the first decisions of the game, Batia’s remains, sort of tapped into Cerberus’ MO (Theirs, of course, is “Lure the Geth into a Trap by first sending in a bunch of Space Marines, then having more on standbye to eliminate the Geth as soon as the bait marines were dead, for even more samples of Geth munitions data).

            Shepard’s potential origin story is a Cerberus mission – Human colonies were being wiped out by an ‘unknown threat’ (Thresher Maws). Instead of waiting for who-knows-how-many colonies to get wiped out leaving few hints of what was happening, Cerberus used what data they had to create a trap for the Thresher Maw, using a colony as bait… and they made sure they had scientists on standbye to gather as much information as they could about EVERYTHING (The Thresher Maw was an unknown threat) – They even had a bunch of unwitting soldiers in the area ready to swoop in and save the day, including the future Commander Shepard. They set it up to be a win-win for all of humanity except the immediately-involved individuals, which, in all honesty, were expendable (The colonists were in the path of a Threshermaw anyway, and the soldiers, well, they’re military. Their job is “Go Ye Heroes, Go And Die”). They probably were hoping the soldiers would be able to destroy the Thresher Maw with minimal-to-no casualties, but were prepared for almost full casualties, ready to inspect the bodies (And living victims were also a plus for research purposes)… I think ME2 dropped the ball on actually giving the payoff of that operation – Weapons capable of slaying the Thresher Maw (Even if they retcon the first game’s infantry ability to deal with the beasts – “We’re the ones who developed the weapons and armor tech to make surviving an encounter with Thresher Maws possible and killing the beasts with even small arms, thanks to the sacrifice of your squad”. They could have had Miranda go over the Project with Shepard from Cerberus’ perspective after Jack’s (Precedent for giving information out to victims) and Grunt’s (Hey, we fought and killed a Thresher Maw with infantry armor and small arms!) loyalty missions)

            Cerberus has no qualms with human experimentation, because they know the Batarians and Salarians don’t either, and don’t want humanity to be at an information disadvantage because we’re unwilling to treat our own species as the Guinea Pigs the other species would have no qualms with.

            They were also trying to study Reaper Indoctrination – Something that they didn’t know was far bigger than they could handle (But, Shepard helps get them a LOT of information on it over the course of ME2) – The goal there is pretty obvious: Giving humanity immunity to indoctrination (Though it would likely be abused by Corrupt sects in Cerberus to enslave humans for Cerberus), while being able to pacify and enslave belligerent species, like Turians.

            Jack’s experiment is also upfront in what it was doing – maximizing humanity’s Biotic potential, during an era when nobody really knew how to harness biotic power. Unfortunately, the game emphasizes that it was ‘a waste of life’… even though it at least started with the scientific process, and it followed multiple paths to figure out the development and enhancement of biotic powers, and even started out sorting out the information based on effectiveness, and based on harm it caused – They found both safe AND dangerous ways of improving biotic ability.. and may have had a hand in making each successive generation of biotic implants stronger and safer than the last (Generation 2 was infamous for multiple problems, with a party member and side quest dedicated to it in ME1. Cerberus’ aggressive experimentation may have had a role in finding and solving the problems).

            Even the open Cerberus missions you did were about them trying to create bioweapons – If there had been a First Contact War 2.0, Cerberus wanted the Alliance to have surprise allies in the form of the Thorian Hivemind/empathic link (And Husks as non-human cannon-fodder when we really can’t afford human casualities), Rachni swarms, Geth weapon systems, advanced AI systems, Reaper mind control, and Jack-level biotic power to ensure Humanity’s triumph over the other species in such a war.

            I’m pretty damn sure Horizon was a Cerberus set-up, with some middlemen cutting a deal with the Collector’s middlemen to “Collect” Horizon (I might be thinking of a later Collector mission), while having Shepard and his team ready to swoop in and catch them in the act, and come across as Heroes for saving the day (Rather than having the Collectors collect colonies without warning, and leaving Cerberus scrambling to try to pick up the pieces).

            Of course, we largely saw Cerberus’ failed missions (We were definitely being used as a ‘clean up crew’), which painted them as incompetent. We don’t really get to see their successes, at least not presented as such due to the organization’s clandestine nature… when it’s not being deliberately loud by sponsoring The World’s Greatest Hero and having him be the greatest Cerberus/Humanity PR Agent of all time.

            I remember Shamus was upset that the options at the end of ME 2 were “Blow up the base or give it to Cerberus”… But they were the only real options available – Remember, you ARE Cerberus, and have been giving them all sorts of information in your debriefing (Whether knowingly or not). It would be a LONG time before the System’s Alliance would have had anything to take it, and it was in space hostile to the Alliance anyway. So, the choice was ‘keep it and hand it off to another group, because ours doesn’t have the manpower or time to do anything with it’, or ‘blow it up.’

            Unfortunately, the writers of ME were incompetent, and Cerberus bit off way more than they realized when it came to the Reapers, so we ended up with them being allies of the Reapers instead of their most effective enemies in ME3.

            Cerberus had two in-universe problems (As in, actual problems they faced as an organizations. Not problems the writers had) – One: They needed to be Amoral and impersonal toward the humans they needed to use as test subjects… unfortunately, that job description often attracts the Immoral. and Psychopathic, which would corrupt a mission (Example – instead of finding the most effective and safest ways to develop Biotic technology, they’re playing Biotic Digimon with real children getting hurt and killed instead of Digital Monsters for fun)
            The other: In plunging into the Unknown in the quest for knowledge, they exposed themselves to unexpected threats without full and proper quarantine of the dangers. Sure, the team studying Reaper Indoctrination before Legion’s recruitment mission was expendable and sufficiently isolated (And they were pretty sure the follow-up team – Shepard and the Normandy – was secure enough to keep their minds about themselves during the clean-up and data retrieval)… but they seriously underestimated the risk of Reaper Indoctrination and how it worked, leading to TIM getting corrupted without even knowing it. They were hit by a threat they couldn’t even conceive of.

            1. Blue-NINJA'D! says:

              …wow, what a lot of words.

              But I kind of agree? The concept of Cerberus as a ‘deniable asset’ of the Alliance that first went rougerogue, and then later became indoctrinated isn’t a bad one at all; the failure is almost entirely a matter of their presentation.

              TIM gets to sit in a dramatically-lit room and smoke cigarettes while being one step ahead all the time (mostly due to reading the script). He almost always gets the last word on everything and Shepard’s responses are limited almost every time you talk to him. (He’s also called The Illusive Man because the writers love him.)
              Kai Leng repeatedly beats Shepard – not through skill, nor through careful planning, but through Author Fiat and Cutscene Incompetence. It’s just one aspect of him being a grating, annoying character who’s horribly out-of-place in a game like this.
              By the third game, Cerberus are distracting from the Reapers with an unlimited supply of space marines, usually being dispatched to do silly things like capture civilians (by sending in armed mooks to shoot the civilians)

              There’s other examples I could list, but they’re all variations on a theme: this organization is presented as omnipotent and hyper-competent, but they just aren’t. And more than that – the player is forced to play along!
              (Related section of Shamus’ ME Retrospective)

              You’ve also got quite a few arguments/interpretations of Cerberus’ various actions. In the interests of not writing a rival Wall of Text in response, my general response in reading it was this:
              ‘But why didn’t the games make this clear?’
              It’s fanon. Good fanon, and it would have made the games a lot better had they said these things…but they didn’t.

              Instead, by ME2&3 they had these characters strut around centre-stage, arrogantly spouting nonsense you can’t really object to in-game, winning via author fiat, negating choices you made previously, and so on.

              1. Sartharina says:

                I don’t want to talk about ME3 because it’s bad, and I suspect so as an overreaction to the reaction from Shamus and similar critics about Cerberus being suddenly Heroic in ME2.

                And as for why it wasn’t in the game? Because the writers probably creeper themselves out with the theme of “sometimes highly-immoral science is good for human advancement”

              2. Sartharina says:

                I didn’t have a problem with TIM being “One Step Ahead” – He had a much better information network, and was often playing both sides. He probably set up a lot of the situations he sent us into, like how he set up Shepard’s first potential encounter with a Thresher Maw. I don’t know how to feel about the dialogue options, though. It’s been a while since I’ve played, and Shamus has been hit with his self-described “Narrative Collapse” during his retrospective.

                Thinking back on Kai Leng… they could have made him work. First off – ditch his entire Ninja bullshit aesthetic. Make him a professional Soldier/Biotic/Engineer with a loyal support squad like Shepard, and have him introduced in ME2 two or three times – Once where you’re on parallel missions that don’t interact (But are of similar scope), one where you rescue him at a mission gone totally awry, and one where he gets you out of a similar predicament. Maybe a mission where you get to play as him and his squad as well (Prologue/Tutorial for ME3?), all to establish him as Shepard’s equal. Heck – they can even give him the background Shepard didn’t take in ME1 – If you were War Hero, he was Ruthless. If you were Ruthless, he was the War Hero, but ended up disillusioned. If you were Sole Survivor, he had a 50/50 chance of being either.

                Then, get better directing to not make the hostile interactions between Shepard and Kai Leng feel like some sort of shitty Tom+Jerry cartoon.

  12. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Wouldn’t the reasoning for finding Meridian be that it is the BEST planet of the ones you’re sifting through? Like, if you have one that’s Earth-like right now, it would make the whole initiative A LOT easier. Everyone can start building civilization ASAP on the Earthish one and smaller, focused teams can do terraforming work on the more troublesome desert or irradiated worlds. Instead of trying to create a new peaceful civilization in a shield bubble that kills you if you leave it.

    1. Kavonde says:

      Well, everyone but the Turians and, eventually, Quarians.

      Which is a subject I recall being lampshaded in this game once or twice, but never really addressed…

  13. guy says:

    We find a room filled with Angaran bodies in capsules. These are early Angaran “prototypes”. Whoever ran this place was engineering a species to live in this cluster.

    This is a fine idea for a reveal, although it lacks punch because the Angara are – like so many other details in this setting – relentlessly vague. We don’t know enough about their religion or history to have a sense of how this news might impact them.

    This is well past the part of the game I’ve played, so I don’t know what explainations they might have, but, uh, why did they bioengineer the Angara to have them colonize what was, at the time, the most hospitable environments ever? And extensively terraformed by them, so it’s not likely they’re methane-breathers or suchlike creating settlers for oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres. They also didn’t strike me as being all that special and worth making as super-soldiers or such. Was it just for the hell of it?

    1. Pax says:

      I interpreted it as the Angara just being one part of the overall terraforming plan. As in, they didn’t terraform and populate all these planets with a habitable biome for the Angara, the Angara was just one of the things that got plopped down along with the plants, the oxygen, and the terrifying man-eating monsters.

      That is one sort of clever thing about the twist – because all of these planets were custom made by the Jaarden, it gives them an excuse to use the same creatures/plants assets on all the planets, rather than come up with unique ecosystems for each planet. Good for their messed up dev cycle, no doubt, though in a game predicated on exploring new worlds, having them all be kinda samey was a bit of a disappointment.

      1. guy says:

        I would think that plopping intelligent tool users down as part of your terraforming process would be extremely unwise. It is in their nature to poke at things like terraforming equipment and in large numbers to decide to make the local environment suit their needs.

        I could only really see it making sense as a gigantic science experiment, where someone with entirely too much budget decided to see what would happen.

        1. tremor3258 says:

          Cerberus must never, ever learn of this. Or we get Gilligan’s Planet with Thresher Maws.

  14. Hector says:

    Is the conversation the same if you play the other sibling?

  15. Carlos García says:

    It’s not just this game, that put important stuff away in codes.
    YOU MAY SAY SPOILERS ARE COMING

    With my main character in SWTOR, that’s up to current events, I’ve been for long confused about what happened with the throne of the Zakuulian empire, as she got the throne, then made an Eternal Alliance and then she’s treated as having nothing to do with Zakuul, but I’ve done seen nothing about my character handing/delegating the rule of Zakuul to anyone. For a while I thought she’d be the Empress of Zakuul just calling the empire an alliance because the writes have decided because in the original films the Empire is evil and the Alliance is bad then if you play a light sided then you can’t be ruling over something called Empire. But then in one of the later (not the latest) everything goes as if my character has nothing to do with Zakuul and Zakuul is some external force.
    Yesterday I finished the KOTET expansion with my second character, who happens to be also lightsided, though being a sith Warrior (I’m soon to go through it with a decidedly dark sided char) and found at least half my questions are answered within a codex entry. More or less it tells that the changes bring a time of more or less anarchy and there’s a lot of reestructuring and there may be a degree of lawlessness, but still not clear on what’s going on regarding actual leadership and it comes across as if my character is just ignoring she has a galactic country to rule with very grave problems to solve.
    Obviously the game needs to put you in problems that are solved in first line of combat and can’t come now and turn into “prime minister simulation, at 3PM the minister of agriculture will come with three choices to solve productivity. At 5PM the economy minister will ask you what’s going to be the budgets for the next term and at 7.30PM the Sith Empire’s foreign minister will seek a trade deal” and it’s logical to shove that stuff to the far background. But it’s not done in a way that communicates to me the idea that my char has some responsibilities that are being glossed over because they don’t pertain the gameplay nor that my char has delegated tasks on someone else or has abdicated the throne or whatever.
    Then it also has to some extent some of those bad choices. In the War on Iokath part it’s a bit less bad as there’s some degree of things to decide what side to support, but I feel it’s still not enough and still doesn’t manage to convince me why I can’t refuse to ally with anyone and then have a questline with dealing with the consequences (I don’t think it’d be hard, considering your fleet is just disabled in orbit and you have only the handful of companions you brought). Then in Jedi under Siege you just get Lana Beniko tell you that your Alliance can’t stand alone and needs to work with either the Sith Empire or the Republic in the war that’s coming again between them, but there’s no background at all about what has been happening between them since Iokath got solved. No war has begun, we don’t know if one or both sides is preparing to initiate a war or defend against one, if one or both have found a reason they’d want a war… All we get is that Lana believes the Republic is weaker than the Empire (which does point toward what’s expected from typical alignment, except in KOTET the Empire joins you loyally to stop Vayling and save the galaxy and the Republic backstabs you to try use the Alliance for its own selfish benefit*, so even if you finally got rid for good of the backstabber it still doesn’t guarantee the new leadership will be much better).

    * When I write that always someone comes saying that Sharesh is no longer the Chancellor of the Republic. I know. But everybody who has spoken to my character about the current state of the Republic says the same: Sharesh was deposed but the new Chancellor is nothing more than a puppet she placed, so effectively Sharesh is still in charge of the Republic and Sharesh tries to get you killed to take control of the Alliance, so that’s as good as the Republic backstabbing the galactic effort to stop Zakuul’s aggression.

  16. Asdasd says:

    It makes no sense that the Archon would want to kill OR capture Ryder at this point, since his long-term plan is to have you figure out the Meridian network for him.

    This is a storytelling screw-up that crops up so often in media that I bet it has its own TVTropes page.

    The villain wants the heroes to do something difficult so they can swoop in at the last moment and steal the prize, but then places them in direct peril (and the objective in jeopardy) because… that’s what a villain does? Bonus points if the means of interference is so oblique and roundabout that it’s almost (but not quite) plausible that the villain, rather than the writer, forgot they were acting at cross-purposes.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Hell, it’s a already a common trope in this game alone. And it won’t be the last time it shows up in the game, I assure you.

      1. Syal says:

        Having now spent longer on TvTropes than I have in years… I actually don’t think they have a trope for sending mooks to do something that would mess up your plans if the mooks succeeded. There are a whole lot of related tropes that come close, but seems like nothing hits it on the head.

    2. Scampi says:

      Luckily, Nale in panel one has you covered with an explanation I envy.

  17. Sunptel says:

    This reveal never had much weight for me, even in my first playthrough, because how inconsistent with the rest of the backstory it is. The writer wants all these things to be true 1) the Jardaan were destroyed/pushed to exile by the Scourge 2) at the time of the Scourge, the Angara were an advanced, spacefaring race that had colonized worlds in multiple systems and finally 3) the Angara somehow never noticed the Jardaan, or their enemy, or an interstellar war on their doorstep…. It just doesn’t work. Hell, we‘re not spacefaring, and I’m pretty sure we would still notice an interstellar war in the Solar system.

    1. Scampi says:

      Just for curiosity’s sake: Isn’t an interstellar war in the Solar system kind of an oxymoron? I may be wrong there.

      1. guy says:

        There could be an interstellar war that is present in but not confined to the Solar System.

        1. Syal says:

          It could also be confined to the solar system if the invaders are under no threat of retaliation.

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    Jaal’s reaction to find out his entire species was created in a lab is priceless in its idiocy. It basically amounts to this:

    Jaal: “I cannot believe it. My people, my history, my religion, everything I know… it’s all a lie. My life no longer has any meaning.”
    Ryder: “Yo, that’s wack, dude!”
    Jaal: “You’re right, it doesn’t matter. Let’s keep going.”

    I mean, it doesn’t even take a long speech by Ryder to shake him out of his misery. He snaps out really quickly after a sentence and I don’t think he ever brings the subject back up. Basically, bringing Jaal into this mission is pointless. Very different from, say, bringing Liara to the fight with Benezia in ME1.

  19. slug camargo says:

    Protip: Visit him while he’s still in a “coma” and tell him Dad is dead, but then don’t tell him about the failed golden worlds. This seems to make for the least annoying conversations.

    I love that you give me tips for an eventual playthrough, but my interest in this game was already low, and at this point it looks like its only value is the laughs I got from this series.

    I was quit when Andromeda came out. I’m twice as quit now.

  20. SiriKeet says:

    Not to freak you out, but I’m actually going to have a few nice things to say before the end.

    I bet it will go something like this:

    Here’s a thing that’s kinda sorta nice. I mean, it would be nice if it weren’t for these 15 not-nice things…

  21. baud says:

    A lot of the “storytelling” in this game has been offloaded to datapads, audiologs, one-way exposition conversations, and having the quasi-omniscient SAM just narrate exposition at us. I don’t know if this is because the new writer just isn’t interested in exploratory dialog, or if the large scope of the game required them to make many shallow dialogs rather than a few deep ones.

    Regarding RPG writing, one of the writers of Torments: Tides of Numenera recently published a piece which try to explain why so much writing in RPGs tend to be bad:

    https://rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=11097

    He’s listing three main reason: ” (1) a tiny talent pool in a field that requires writers to perform in two distinct domains; (2) a lack of metrics to assess RPG writing that leaves those writers without useful guidance; and (3) a development cycle that leaves no time for revision.”

    1. Joe says:

      That’s an interesting article, thanks.

    2. Asdasd says:

      Thanks for the link. Very interesting read. It’s strange to see an industry writer opine that it’s a miracle that well written RPGs ever get made, but by the time I reached the end of the article I could see where he was coming from.

  22. Destrustor says:

    Is it just me or do those two thugs on the left in the screenshot with the Sword guy appear to be holding invisible guns?

    Is that a momentary rendering bug that Shamus caught, or is this cutscene always like that?

    Or am I just not seeing the guns because they’re strangely small and/or the guys’ hands are huge?

  23. Zak McKracken says:

    I would pretty much expect ME to make the mistake of “bad guy tries to foil you but in the end his plan was for you to succeed and then take the McGuffin all along” — however, this particular thing may not be an instance of that:
    If the Archon doesn’t know more about Meridian than you do, they would have believed that that’s were you currently are (as does the player, at least in the writer’s mind), and dispatched a team to spring the trap. Except that by the time they show up, this information is no longer valid, but the team doesn’t know about it.

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