Mass Effect 2 Plot Analysis by Smudboy

By Shamus Posted Monday May 24, 2010

Filed under: Movies 97 comments

Warning: The video review below is going to send certain people into a toxic rage. I can tell ahead of time. This is exactly the sort of nitpicking that drove people up a wall in my own Mass Effect 2 review, and the comment thread on that one was arguably more combative than some of the rare political / philosophical discussions that have broken out here.

Aside: Congrats to the idiots at YouTube who broke or obscured half of the site functionality when they tried to give themselves the Facebook makeover a couple of months ago. Embedding a playlist no longer works. Which sort of defeats the purpose of having them. If you want to watch the rest of the series, go here and hunt around in the least intuitive place for the controls you need and you’ll probably be able to muddle through.

I disagree with a lot of the points made and I like a lot of the aspects of the game he criticized, but I really enjoy watching deconstructions like this anyway. I find it interesting to see where the game connected and where it missed. Note how some flaws in the game appear again and again in various reviews, while others seem to only show up rarely or are unique to the reviewer.

People said I was “looking for things to complain about” with regard to Mass Effect 2, and I’m sure they’ll say the same about Smudboy, but I think what really causes this is Plot Collapse:

Story Collapse

We all have different levels of attention and tolerance for flaws in a narrative. Some people skim the plot, or play in fits and starts, or simply don’t delve too much into the structure of the world. Some people are just having so much fun they’re willing to forgive and forget when narrative anomalies appear. But once you do notice a problem, the part of your brain that enjoys revelations and learning is going to be irritated by it. Once you start noticing plot holes, you end up thinking about them and trying to iron them out in your head, which only draws more scrutiny and exacerbates the problem. When a story is flowing smoothly for you, then you let unknowns pass and assume they’ll be explained later. But as you lose confidence in the story you end up just adding those unknowns to the list of stuff that’s getting on your nerves and ruining immersion.

A lot of the points people – myself included – made about Mass Effect 2 are minor annoyances that would normally get overlooked if they were isolated. The original Mass Effect had holes that I didn’t notice until after the game was over, and some I didn’t even notice until someone pointed them out months later. But this is because the overall story was sound enough to get me through.

As plot aberrations accumulate, you’ll eventually hit some sort of point of no return, and the whole thing will fly apart so that you end up going on a long tirade about it. (To friends, in a forum, on a blog, in a video, etc.) I think this is a kind of catharsis. We generally want stories to make sense, and if we can’t make the story coherent then at least we can can gather up all the problems and catalog them in an orderly fashion, dangit!

Since that breaking point varies on an individual basis, you end up with some people accepting the plot and others rejecting it. Add in the fact that some fans blow a fuse when they see people disliking their beloved, along with the anonymity of the internet, and you have a great recipe for people getting all pissed off and irritated at each other.

Do try to keep a cool head about this.

(I still have about 2,000 words I want to write about the best part of the game. (Mordin, and everything about his recruitment, loyalty mission, dialog, and outlook.) But it keeps getting bumped off by other projects. I need to do it soon before I lose track of it. My mind isn’t what it used to be. (Operational.))


From The Archives:

97 thoughts on “Mass Effect 2 Plot Analysis by Smudboy

  1. somebodys_kid says:

    I agree that the main story arc was the weakest element in Mass Effect 2; however, I was able to dismiss it with a few well timed eye-rolls (most of which occurred at the end-boss) and just enjoy the characters and their individual stories.
    Also it’s fun to wipe out baddies with a well placed nuke from the Cain heavy weapon.

    1. ps238principal says:

      The Collectors would probably have had more success if they hadn’t based nearly all of their architecture on chest-high walls. :)

  2. Henebry says:

    I really like your analysis of the process that transforms a passive player into an active critic. I teach writing for a living, and I’m often struck by how a glaring mistake by one of my students makes me sit up and start reading in a different way. One of the keys to good writing is to send clear signals so that surprises come off as dramatic and not as mistakes.

    Your analysis here suggests that the same dynamic applies to other fields of creative endeavor: movies, videogames, comics.

  3. Felblood says:

    If you look at smudboy’s comments, he catches a lot of flames for the first video, but in the comments of the second video, some of those same people come back and apologise.

    One guy even says that he was upset at first because he loved the game, but once he got into the meat of the series he saw smudboy’s complaints were quite accurate, and he simply hadn’t noticed during his own playthrough.

    It’s like somebody secretly replaced the internet while I was asleep.

  4. ccesarano says:

    I think the major issue is some people are more along the line of critics, and no one looks at critics right. Especially in the games industry where respectable “critics” can pretty much be counted on one hand. Someone in a forum even said “I hate critics because they are always trying to tell you what to think”.

    No, that’s not right at all. A critic deconstructs something to the base elements and identifies what was done right and what was done wrong, providing a (hopefully) sound argument as to why. They aren’t there to advise the consumer on a purchase, they are there to evaluate a product as a teacher might evaluate a student’s essay or exam.

    In terms of games, I’ve found I can’t stand most reviewers simply because they seem to have no more credentials than “I like to play games”. One of the reasons I like Yahtzee is because he has tried to create various kinds of entertainment, has suggested he is well-read and likely understands what works about other entertainment, and has also made his own games in the past. You have experience programming software, have analyzed a variety of entertainment suggesting you understand necessary elements across all mediums and have an interest in the industry deeper than just “I like playing games”.

    It seems to me that a good games critic ought to have some background and education in good software design and practices, ought to have a love of entertainment as a whole, not just video games, and should above all be a writer before they are a gamer (I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it: if games didn’t exist, would you still be writing? Considering the history of this blog, I’d imagine so. Same with Yahtzee).

    Yet unfortunately the average game reviewer is just some kid that is only in the industry because he likes to play games. So when I go and read an article from Outside magazine and then read something out of GamePro, it’s almost like a punch in the face how shoddy and poor the writing is (and considering how long GamePro has been around, it should have some of the best writing in the industry. Instead I read the reviews and, for the first time, felt like my work is more than just amateur but is actually professional quality, and that’s not right).

    I’m sorry, I sort of side-tracked. My point is when you have someone that DOES have the proper credentials to be a games critic, you’ll find people constantly disagreeing with them because they don’t understand that your complaints do not mean you don’t like the game. To them, every complaint is a reason the game is allegedly bad. To a proper critic, every complaint is “this is something that ought to be done better next time”.

    It’s especially frustrating when you are writing for a site whose average user is still in high school and has goals of being in MLG one day. Veeerrrryyyyy troublesome and frustrating.

    1. Tizzy says:

      I blame the educational system: it’s all about self-expression and never about confrontation/criticism. We are breeding generations of thin-skinned crybabies who simply cannot take criticism in stride; they cannot understand a honest criticism as anything else than an attempt to destroy their world.

      Sad, really.

      1. ccesarano says:

        Except even when you speak to older generations they have similar attitudes towards critics unless you mean someone like Ebert, in which case they know the name but not why he is such a big deal.

        Public education has, in effect, always been a bare minimum. It’s just that now the public education has been given so many demands, that they must prepare you for College while simultaneously being made to allow every student to feel good because how dare someone’s child be told they did something poorly. However, for as educated as we ultimately are, most people make a choice to not think too seriously about things. Especially their entertainment.

        Which is what it comes down to. People will analyze and dissect the sports world very deeply, but their film, television and games merely need to entertain (I suppose I should add in books as well, as since commuting to the city for work I’ve noticed a surprising number of people with books, Kindles and Nooks). It’s partly a matter of what interest appeals to you most and what is there just for when you want some leisure.

        I just wish most people would understand that games are more of a passion for me and other critics. Of course, considering the modern games writing industry…shameful. There’s a reason the only sites I check are this blog, The Escapist and GamersWithJobs.

        1. Tizzy says:

          Thanks, I’d never heard of GamersWithJobs, but with a name like this, it sounds like the site for me.

    2. Deoxy says:

      This comment deserves its own thread – great points. If I get some time later, I hope to come back and find a deep discussion on them right here.

      Maybe I’ll even have time to contribute! Eh… yeah, that’ll happen. :-/

    3. LintMan says:

      I disagree. I don’t think a game critic needs to have written software, created games, be a connoisseur of all things entertainment, or first and foremost a writer. Any and all of those things might help of course, but IMHO none are necessary.

      Similarly, I don’t expect a film reviewer to have made his own movies or gone to film school, a book reviewer to have written her own novel or be an English major, or a restaurant reviewer to be a chef. For any type of criticism, having expertise in the specific areas might help the critic analyze the components of the thing being reviewed, but not all reviews call for that type of breakdown. The consumers of the the movie/book/game/food/etc are not necessarily (and not usually) the same as the creators of it, and they don’t necessarily have the same tastes or want the same thing from a review.

      Sometimes people just want a movie review to tell them what was enjoyable or not about the movie, rather than how closely it adhered to the Dogma school of filmaking. Same with games – if the reviewer is familiar enough with the games to be able to intelligently place the review in context for his intended readers, and is able to form some opinions and express them coherently, I think that’s sufficient for a decent review, regardless of the reviewer’s “credentials”.

      1. tfernando says:

        Ah, but criticism in the sense ccesarano is talking about isn’t ‘reviews’. The purpose of a review is to inform and describe. The purpose of criticism is to analyze and explain. There probably isn’t much of a commercial market for game criticism– I don’t know why one would expect to find it in GamePro, but there isn’t a market for lit crit or film crit either, it mostly appears in specialized journals. The newspaper film critic is generally a different animal (a reviewer) with the same name.

        A game reviewer probably doesn’t need to have a background beyond playing lots of games. A game critic might likely need the background proposed.

        1. ccesarano says:

          You’re half right. I feel true honest to God critics are there to keep the industry in check. However, in a lot of cases, what LintMan brings up about reviews…

          Sometimes people just want a movie review to tell them what was enjoyable or not about the movie, rather than how closely it adhered to the Dogma school of filmaking.

          This is part of the problem that I brought up in the original post. Not everyone is going to agree. I prefer comedies that minimize on the number of sex jokes and references, yet it seems these days that has to be 90% of what a “comedy” references. So if I read a review telling me that it is a gut-busting adventure and then go to find I’m the only person in the theater not laughing, well that’s part of the issue.

          I don’t expect a review written by a critic to go pages on the smallest details no one cares about, either. However, I’m at least asking for someone that would rather not give a glitched up game like the Grand Theft Auto franchise a 9 or perfect 10 just because “there’s a lot to do”. Shouldn’t the score be the sum of all parts? Yet the reviewers are no better than the layman player whose priorities are certainly not in mind of the consumer.

          To me, a review will cover positives and negatives and in the end determine who it is good for and for what sort of audience. This is what I try to do. Granted every critic and reviewer is going to have their own biases, but if the reviewer is also treated as a personality rather than a product of the publication as a whole, then people will understand and tolerate that difference better.

          As for saying someone should be a writer first, I genuinely do believe that is a requirement, and it is actually something I’ve discussed on a social network of gaming journalists. Someone whose profession is writing should be doing it because it is their passion. That’s how they will improve and continue to improve in being an excellent writer. Otherwise it’s not much different than if I, someone who is poor at Calculus and other advanced mathematics, wanted to specialize in physics. Sure there is SOME stuff I could wind up doing, but it’s not my passion nor my talent, so what I produce is never going to be as good as what the talented and passionate professionals will produce.

  5. Gandaug says:

    Here’s a link to get the full list of episodes.
    In situations like this on YouTube I just go to the author’s channel.

    I won’t bother right now with my thoughts on this. I don’t have the time to tackle something this large right now.

    1. glassdirigible says:

      This is true, but the functionality should’ve never been broken in the first place.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What made me handwave most of the main plot was ashley.This is a conversation so bad,that it improved everything else just by being there.I was really tempted to just stop the game right there,and replay the whole first game but with ashley dying.

    Also,the reaper made out of human dna actually made more sense to me than anything else in the main plot.If you listen to what mordin says about the collectors,how replicating the exact same thing billions of times is bad and leads to stagnation,it makes sense for a race of non mutatable robots to find a way to spice up their gene pool.So while they see organics as inferior,they need their varied dna in order to evolve further.And that explains the whole cycle.Give organics a few millenia to evolve and diversify,then harvest whats useful,and torch the rest.Rinse and repeat.Also,if this is the case,the reaper larva then acquires the look of the race its been made out of.Which in this case is a human.And humans were chosen because it was humans that destroyed the sovereign,thus are probably the strongest available organics.

    Also,the changes on youtube suck.

    1. 8th_Pacifist says:

      In concept: plausible.

      In execution: laughable.

    2. Heron says:

      “it makes sense for a race of non mutatable robots to find a way to spice up their gene pool”

      Except that robots don’t have genes.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats the whole point.Thats why they cannot mutate and need to incorporate organics in their build in order to do so.

        1. Zah says:

          Except being machines they could just build new Reapers or modify themselves off of a new design.

          ‘Mutation’ would actually disgust a Reaper. They have a deep hatred for organic life and the spontanious nature of evolution it was a fairly big deal when on Vrmire.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            You can still hate something that you require.And random mutations can give benefits you havent thought of(they did beat this incredibly technologically advanced race because of this).

            Besides,we only know what sovereign has told us.And would you tell an inferior being that its necessary to you?

            1. Zah says:

              One Reaper was enough to plow through the Citadel fleet. They obviously don’t need further develop especially since they already technically take credit for everything developed in the galaxy.

              Even the Keepers, Collector’s or Saren they replaced organic parts with synthetic parts. They take something with a function then build it to last regardless of the innovation.

              Again for the Reaper there’s no blurred line between Organic and Synthetic. Machines don’t ‘grow’ ‘mutate’ or ‘evolve’ they don’t ‘breed’ or ‘die’ either. They design and build.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Keepers and collectors are genetically modified,they arent synthetic.So thats one further proof that however much they despise organics,reapers still need them.They could obviously build much better synthetic robots,yet theyve decided to use organic ones instead.

                Furthermore,why would they have organics using all their technology which organics would require millenia to build themselves,unless they need to speed up the evolution of organics.Meaning,they need organics developed for some reason.Obviously they dont need fresh slaves,since they seem quite capable of making organics practically immortal(keepers),neither do they require food,nor technology(since they are giving advanced tech to organics,not vice versa).Reproduction is also a possibility,but if they are building themselves just out of synthetic materials,why use organics?And they are quite capable of genetically modifying organics and replicating them infinitely.So the only thing that they seem incapable of is random beneficial mutation.

                Also,sovereign got destroyed.Yes,he took out most of the alliance fleet,but he was also aided by geth.And yes,it took 2 cycles to actually delay the reapers plans,but still thats progress.Imagine what organics would be capable of if they were given more time to evolve between the cycles.So reapers do need further development,since they arent quite as powerful as they like to represent themselves.And what better way to improve themselves,then to harvest the potential strength of organics before it blooms,and incorporate it into themselves.

                Not to mention that while immensely technologically advanced,reapers still are very limited.They are using technology only slightly(figuratively speaking)more advanced than what theyve left in the galaxy,meaning that they cannot easily improve themselves.And lets not forget that collectors were built only during the last cycle(because they were protheans),meaning that that base in the centre of the galaxy is also(relatively)new,because if it was built before the collectors,it would be manned with some other race(keepers are at least two cycles old,so reapers dont seem to replace minions).All of that means that theyve improved their technology during the last harvest,which means that the organics theyve harvested were key to new technological advancements.

  7. Psithief says:

    This guy knows how to be entertaining by using music.

    1. Psithief says:

      …but this guy whistles when he talks and that’s incredibly annoying.

  8. PurePareidolia says:

    He actually raised a lot of good points and I found I agree with a lot of the analysis. His suggestions about making trust and loyalty a bigger factor in that you decide who you trust made me really wish the plot had an injection of Deus Ex. You could have a lot of conflicting goals with the Alliance and Cerberus, the Shadow Broker and Liara, The council and people like Aria and even the Krogans and Salarians.

    There’s so many interesting conflicts going on in the background but Shepard never really gets involved in any of them to any significant degree.
    What if I want to hire some of the Mercenaries to help on the missions? Maybe I could play them against each other Fistful of Dollars style? Maybe I could kneecap Zaeed and hand him into Vido to earn HIS loyalty instead?

    You wouldn’t even need the paragon/renegade system any more as speech checks could work based on how much a faction or person trusts you. That way the amount of loyalty is what decides things like the Miranda/Jack conflict, not just who good a speaker Shepard is.

    For that matter, why can’t my squad have affiliations to groups or characters that I can either encourage or discourage? what if Jacob has a crush on Kelly? Can I encourage that and they undergo a romance plot? could I damage Miranda’s loyalty if I screw Cerberus over one too many times? Will Garrus try to pull me aside to deal with some gangsters he saw because he hates them so much? What if the council tells me I have to ditch Cerberus or I’ll be branded an outlaw, but potentially losing my ship in the process, only to be given an inferior one, but with additional Spectre privelages?

    This could get really deep and make the game’s political structure a really interesting scenario for roleplaying and decision making rather than just being a project management simulator.

    Obviously I still love ME2 and getting everyone back alive on my first try was one of my favourite moments in a game, but there’s so much that could, nay SHOULD have been that people like Warren Spectre had already nailed a decade ago, so it’s not even amazinlyl new ground.

  9. Factoid says:

    Interesting analysis. He’s got some valid points. I disagree with some of his logic, but I can’t avoid the fact that killing the protagonist in the first 5 minutes of the game is a bizarre story choice.

    I 100% agree with his take on the Wilson character though…that never felt right to me. He had no motive for betraying Cerberus and that was all kind of silly. Cerberus must have some enemies out there. Why not just have one of them attack the facility when they discover that Shepard is being rebuilt there? Maybe the doctor instead of being an inexplicable traitor could just be a little loose-lipped and spills the beans that he’s just about to bring a man back from the dead.

    I wish this was a written review, though, instead of an audio/video one. This guy is incredibly scripted and stiff and difficult to listen to.

  10. ps238principal says:

    Mr. Plinkitt, this guy ain’t.

    He even tries to use the same format, but without any of the comedy RedLetterMedia used to review the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” films.

    It’s a nag, and I know it doesn’t address his points, but it’s how “Unskippable” irks because rather than finding their own voice for mockery, they just took the MST3K format and ran with it.

  11. Dev Null says:

    I apparently have different thresholds for different media. I can put up with a lot of crap in a video game, and I’ve been known to watch science fiction television and be happily amused, but with books I have much less tolerance. Just the memory of the ending to Tad Williams Otherworld series still drives me into a murderous rage; its one of the few times I’ve actually written an author to tell them what I thought of a book. And yet I’ve heard lots of other people say they liked the series. (Admittedly, I liked _most_ of it, but hated the lame ending so much that the entire experience was ruined.)

    1. Tizzy says:

      It makes sense to me: you have to be a much more active participant when reading a book, vs. watching or playing.

  12. Merle says:

    I have yet to finish the first game (yes, yes, I’m slow), so you may well get my annoyed nattering showing up here about three months from now when I finally start part 2.

    Hell, I still haven’t even started Dragon Age.

  13. Solid Jake says:

    *Spoilers all up in here*

    I think what bothers me most about Mass Effect 2 is that for all the hullabaloo about Fighting For the Lost you don’t manage to rescue a single kidnapped colonist. Apparently ever single one of the tens of thousands of the abducted colonists died horribly.

    I mean, the quest to rescue them resulting in getting to bang Tali so net gain there, but it’s still pretty depressing.

  14. krellen says:

    I pretty much agree with the entirety of smudboy’s critique; he hit just about every point that made me hate ME2’s story (he didn’t hit the gameplay aspects I hated, but that wasn’t what his review was about.) I’m not sure I disagree with any of his points at all. Even if the game had some really solid portions, those portions were strung together with bailing wire and chewing gum, and really makes even the good parts look shoddy in comparison.

    I want to make something absolutely clear: I loved Mass Effect. I viewed the original as the second coming of Fallout. I pre-ordered ME2 (the only game I have ever pre-ordered in my life) because of how awesome Mass Effect was. I wanted more, and I wanted it as soon as possible.

    And what I got was this crap. This stupid story that doesn’t hold together, with stupid same-old hide-and-shoot shooter mechanics, with lifeless characters that don’t mesh together, work together, or even talk together. Mordin by himself is awesome – but Mordin’s awesome is entirely self-contained and does not bleed over into any other part of the game. Once you are done with Mordin’s awesome parts, you go back out onto the creaky plot-bridge strung together with bailing wire and chewing gum, and nothing from Mordin’s plot affects anything else at all. You don’t even get a chance to give a genophage cure (or the research that was nearing a genophage cure) to Wrex, who is one the same damn planet you do Mordin’s mission on.

    Good parts do not make a good whole. The good parts need a good foundation to rest on, or everything falls apart. It doesn’t matter how great your construction is if you build it on a balsa-wood bridge over the Grand Canyon. It’s still going to collapse.

  15. Falcon says:

    At the end of the day none of his little nitpicks matter to me. In Mass Effect 1 the story and universe were what drew me in. I read all of the journals thoroughly engrossing myself in the universe they had created. Any quibbles or inconsistencies were waved off due to the deep universe they had created. Weak characters (sorry Kaiden) were easily let go because I loved the story.
    In Mass Effect 2 there is a bit of a reversal. The main story is weak, but the characters are phenomenal. The weaknesses of the plot are something I overlook in favor of enjoying the individuals present. Yeah the dying in the first 5 minutes pissed me off, because it was blatantly mechanical in nature. It was solely to justify taking an imported character and removing them from the loots, resources, and class of the first game. Not to mention allowing you to tweak the characters look. That broke the immersion sharply. Once I met Mordin though all was forgiven.
    I picked squads based on who I wanted with me in combat. Tali was a permanent party member regardless of the fight. Same with Mordin. Sure I hamstrung myself on combat at times (not recommended on insanity) but I wasn’t playing to min max beat the game, I was playing to hear the parties stories.
    Since that’s the part that clicked with me, and those parts were exceptionally well done, none of the inconsistencies bothered me… well all but the final boss. Sorry the ‘using human DNA so it looks human’ was dumb. Fine use squishy meat bags as your super Reaver lego sets, but don’t stretch it that far. Anyhow I digress.
    His criticisms are valid, if a bit overly picky. In the end I could write some similarly scathing critiques of 24. I could eviscerate every instance of technology used in the show as either impossible, or so incredibly mind numbingly stupid that it ruins the show for me (yeah it’s that bad). Nothing ruins a show for me faster than stupid (pronounced impossible) technology. Not the warp drive type, but the I just hacked the CIA in 3 seconds through FTP type. Does that mean that the show is bad, no, it just means the show is completely unwatchable for me due to acute mind breaking.
    So good job, good points, and thanks for pointing them out so I can continue to ignore them.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      I actually like 24 partially for that reason. It’s like all the super-spy stuff is the main plot and the tech is the comic relief. It’s like they try to throw around just the right techno-jargon to sound completely ludicrous to anyone who knows what it means.

  16. Guile says:

    What was wrong with Kaiden? I liked that guy way more than Ashley (if only I could have romanced him instead, but you know, my Sheppard is a dude; lesbians okay, male homosexuality is unthinkable).

    And I actually really like this guy’s voice. He’s no Yahtzee, but I’d still listen to him for an hour (hell, I just did) and consider it time well spent.

    1. Michael says:

      This frustrated me as well. BioWare completely leaves out any sort of homosexual male option. And I can’t believe that it’s a matter of “too much effort.”

      Throw in an extra line of Kaiden or Garrus or Thane straightening uncomfortably and politely rejecting Mr. Shepard’s passes. But no. We just have this obvious female sexualization. There HAS to be at least one female body? You did it in Dragon Age. Female homosexuality is fine; go bonk an asari (don’t give me that “technically asexual” crap. They possess distinctly female bodies).

      Rant aside, I did have one issue with Kaiden. Kaiden had some great potential for characterization. In fact, I feel like he could have replaced Jack. Kaiden had outbursts when he was a kid which got him in trouble. I was waiting for that to come up all through Mass Effect 1. But he never lost cool, not once. I feel like the Mass Effect 1 cast never got the opportunity to shine before they scrapped half of them for Mass Effect 2’s (albeit great) cast.

      In fact, the alien crew returns. Each one has added depth. However, Ashley and Kaiden never really get off the ground. That’s my rant there.

  17. Bobknight says:

    Miranda’s Butt.

  18. Nyaz says:

    The way I feel it, the biggest problem is the ending. Okay, sure, Shepard dies in the beginning, smashing up your crew and fucking things up quite a bit (…and in turn, this gets you a better ship, a cooler crew and Tricia Helfer as your personal AI). Blah-blah-blah. TIM is also quite disturbing, but I somehow like hating him. He is the ultimate gangster-badboy-person, sitting in his chair, smoking, drinking, brooding.

    The problem for me is, as I have stated, the ending. This whole buildup, about the “suicide mission” which can be summed up in “fly through warpgate, shoot some stuff, stroll through a space station for 15-20 minutes and then shoot a large terminator in the eye”.

    It was all so… so… short! BioWare kept bringing it up as the “huge, epic battle that could cost you and your crew members their lives”… but to me it just felt like a medium-length mission where fucking up came back and bit you in the ass a lot worse than usual.
    In Mass Effect 1, you had this sweet, epic battle where you ran around on the outside of a huge space station, with hundreds of space fighters zooming about over your head, in a huge epic battle. Here… we hop through a warpgate and fight one ship and some probes? This… is a suicide mission? No epic armada? No… anything? This is the “suicide mission” and that wasn’t?

    And… ugh… the Terminator-boss. So far, the Reapers have been these faceless, unfeeling robots that have “plans far beyond our comprehension”… and they are building a Terminator? That I kill by shooting in the eye? …Aaaaaarrrrgh.

    I can dig the whole thing where humans are being harvested for the purpose of building a new fancy type of Reaper… but making them look like TERMINATORS! Aaaahhh!

  19. Chiller says:

    OHMYGOD whether he raises valid points or not (seems about 50/50 to me), WHY did he need to have that horrible music whose volume is higher than his voice ?!?!!

    1. acronix says:

      I agree, though I think it is not the music that is horrible but the fact that it is, as you say, higher than his voice.

    2. DNi says:

      There are so many things wrong with what was written here.

      1) I could hear the dude just fine, and I use Dixie cups tied to strings for my computer speakers. Admittedly, that could just be a difference in computers, but whatever.

      and 2) most of the music is from Cowboy Bebop. Calling Cowboy Bebop’s music horrible pretty much invalidates anything you’ve said. Ever.

      1. Chiller says:

        Dunno. I don’t remember disliking the music from Cowboy Bebop, although it was not an anime I’ve paid a lot of attention to. I did dislike the music from the first half of this video (that was all I could stand).

        I was listening on headphones, btw, not sure if that could be an issue (as I think that headphone sound is better than speaker sound pretty much always).

  20. Hugo Sanchez says:

    The biggest problem for me, above all else. Was that Shepard was just back, when people saw Shepard who knew he died it was nothing. Shepard himself barely acknowledges it and acts as if nothing had happened.

    He sums things up pretty well in that department.

    It’s a plot point pretty much unused, outside of the game play purposes. So much could have been done with it. Honestly, I would have rather they’d just let you change your character and not worry about how different they look. I mean, they don’t ANYWAYS, despite whatever drastic changes you might have made, so what’s the big problem.

    I still loved the game, and i can’t wait for number 3, but it definitively worse than the original, story-wise.

  21. Danath says:

    His analysis of the introduction is ridiculous, it’s beyond nitpicking, it’s a total lack of objective analysis and a lot of assumptions about what he thought should have happened. Especially his long rant about Wilson and painful to listen to, it’s quite obvious Wilson betrayed the base, and the information doubtfully would have been released publicly (rock star my ass). The resurrection thing was silly I admit, and could have come up with other ways to remove Shepard from action for 2 years that didn’t require death and resurrection.

    This actually detracts from his review somewhat, I can acknowledge alot of his points. His harping on certain points which he constantly bases on his assumptions I find quite irritating, especially the ones that are explained later.

    The seperation of the loyalty missions from the main plot is something that resonates with me, as I’m currently replaying the game. Shepard has no character growth, it’s quite disappointing, and even my team’s character growth feels stale and uninteresting in comparison to ME1. I don’t CONNECT with them like I did in ME1, which I didn’t understand at the time. Many of them are cardboard cut out characters, who, while they get some character development, I never feel “grow” as you progress. They don’t tell you interesting things about themselves or their past, and after you finish the loyalty mission you get a couple more pieces of dialogue, and that’s all. It’s kind of sad when Grunt is the most interesting character. Tali and Garrus are downright boring, a huge change from ME1. So I disagreed with him heavily in regards to his analysis of the characters in terms of being fleshed out. None of the characters feel like they have enough dialogue or notable dialogue like in the first game. Garrus especially felt like he had 1 line until his loyalty mission, and his romance was another couple of lines of dialogue. Very dissapointing. Grunt and Thane are the only characters with real character development and insight as far as I’m concerned, with Garrus and Tali only becoming interesting in a pursued romance.

    Won’t post a full analysis, but his review was interesting in it’s deconstruction, but certain bits of nitpicking really bothered me in that they seemed to miss the point.

    Edit: I get annoyed at his calling out “Shepard was dead!” But the fact is that people think Shepard was just injured and HIDING and disbelieve that he was dead. This is alluded to at several points in several discussions and makes me headbang my desk. Nobody can believe the Deus Ex Machina, which is one of the few things that resonate true. Also his calling out of TIM bugs me, although that’s probably because I found him to be one of the most interesting characters, both antagonistic and helpful, who you get to understand more as you see his casual disregard for others lives. He shows supreme confidence in Shepard while at the same time surprising him, it makes me wonder what ulterior motives he has. Also note TIM doesn’t know Shepard, as far as he knows, he wouldn’t know Shepard would go head first into these traps ANYWAYS. In fact as far as anyone who’s a DM should know, if a player knows everything theres a chance they may choose *not to do something*. By not telling you, the game removes the fact that you may be suspicious and “choose” not to, and it feels less like railroading.

    Not defending the plot, but yeah… that specific point. Also TIM interrupted transmissions reporting about the Reaper ship. Plus as far as I can tell, the whole point you need to hurry is that the workers WILL TELL SOMEONE and you want to be there before it’s claimed by the other factions.


    1. acronix says:

      I think he nitpicked with Wilson´s treachery because the writers never bothered to adress or at least lampshade it later. It´s like the vorcha when you are trying to cure the plague in Omega: they mention that the collector´s gave them the plague and yadda yadda, but then it is never mentioned again. We never learn what or who made Wilson a traitor or what the collector´s would accomplish by powering the vorcha.

      1. Danath says:

        I agree, but that’s not the point he harped on. He harped on it and started ranting out his assumptions about Wilson which felt entirely off just from the logs that I read. It was pretty OBVIOUS Wilson was a bit unstable/jealous of Shepard. And people doing crazy things because of jealousy has never happened, no siree.

        It’s cheap, but it makes more sense than his rant.

    2. Danath says:

      Oops, and Mordin Solus was amazing. I can’t believe I forgot him, almost everything about him was perfect.

  22. Kdansky says:

    You missed something which you pointed out: To paraphrase you, if one starts to see the hole in the story, everything starts to fall apart. And now ask yourselves: What is the weakest part of ME2? Could it be (gasp) the incredibly stupid intro/death/resurrection thing that happens right at the beginning? No wonder so many people are annoyed, as it is really hard to miss if the first five minutes manage to fuck the story up royally. If a book has some (in hindsight) obvious plot hole on page 300, you’re all immersed into the story and characters at that point, and you barely notice. But if the first page contains glaring errors, it is very hard to continue. Sure, you can just close your eyes and glare and shout at every critic, but that only makes you a zealous fanboy.

    1. ps238principal says:

      Out of curiosity, was the “death” at the beginning used to lampshade Shepard dying in the first ME, if that happened? When I played ME1, I survived the fight with Sovereign, but I was told it was possible to die.

      If that’s the save game you bring forward, do you just start out waking up in Cerberus’ labs, or… what?

      1. krellen says:

        If you die fighting Sovereign, it’s a game over and you have to reload. You cannot finish a game with Shepherd dead in ME1.

        1. ps238principal says:

          So there’s no chance of Shepard perishing when that big chunk of Sovereign hits the tower? I thought the scene when they dig out your companions could end with Shepard having rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.

          1. krellen says:

            None. It is only a dramatic moment.

            1. acronix says:

              Too bad it´s spoiled because it´s such an overused trope. So much, in fact, that it´s a cliche, actually.

            2. Danath says:

              Funny enough I thought that was an incredibly powerful and tragic moment, right up until Shepard stood up out of the rubble, causing me to facepalm.

  23. Kuyo says:

    I liked that he gave ways to fix it, although he basically said to make it like the hype says Alpha Protocol’s going to be. It’s possible to fix some of the problems with further revelations on the Reapers, such as the possibility that they left transmissions in the Prothean communications system that caused a proxy indoctrination. That would rebuild the perceived intellect they’re supposed to have as well as distance them from the complete stupidity of the Collector’s IKEA Reaper by saying that the Collectors were the ten or so Protheans who survived from that base in the first game who immediately upon thawing, sent out a signal that gave them a partial indoctrination that subtly corrupted their thoughts and over time drove them to the insanity we see in the Collectors explaining it as a mixture of their own altruism mixed with reaper influence. That event also gives the possibility of retroactively developing Saren and Shepard and explaining the lack of logical choices in the second game as being the Reapers blocking certain ideas to keep Shepard on their predetermined path. The downside of that plan would be the inevitable comparison with BioShock.

  24. B.J. says:

    It’s not that the guy is wrong per se, it’s that his complaints really apply to every Bioware game ever. Baldur’s Gate 2, Neverwinter Nights, Kotor; they all have a lame main plot with interesting side quests. Furthermore he is making up definitions to words (Hint: usage determines definition, not whatever you say) and then engaging in retarded legalese wankery. “oh it has Premise but no Plot with it’s Theme blah blah blah” What garbage.

    1. Heron says:

      I think it would be rather silly to talk about the game’s failures with respect to plot, premise, and theme, without defining exactly what you mean – especially because they are actually different, and if you don’t define what you mean then people like you would just yell at him for using the words wrong rather than for defining them in the first place :P

      The biggest mistake that you can make in any debate is failing to define terms that your listeners might define differently. I very much prefer seeing too many definitions to too few.

      1. TSED says:

        For sure. That is standard essay writing procedure, really.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      First kotor and hordes of the underdark actually both have quite interesting main quests as well.Bladurs gate 2 also has a good main quest,if bit on the cliche side.Not to mention that in all three you grow as a protagonist,and arent just a brick plowing through events.

  25. capital L says:

    To my tastes, ME2’s story was broadly crap, though there were some interesting bits and pieces.

    (I thought Zaeed was pretty cool, but that’s seemingly a minority position.)

    This guy’s videos suffer from some strange audio levels, but I sympathize with most of his criticisms.

    Youtube’s playlists are still right up there in the upper right hand corner where they always were. (I thought the post-video overlay thing was inconsistent even before the Youtube redesign?)

  26. Reach says:

    The thing that bugged me the most about this game was how nobody gave a rat’s ass that you came back from the dead. It’s not like Shepard’s death was ambiguous; he was sent spiraling into a planet from space. Cerberus has totally rewritten the rules of life and death and everyone has the same “hey, you came back from the dead, that’s pretty cool I guess” reply.

    I’m also surprised Garrus and Zaeed never had any conflict. The two are polar opposites to such an insane degree that they should be perpetually attached to each other by the sheer force of personality magnetism. Not to mention Zaeed started one of the gangs Garrus has been dealing with.

    However, I think developers have to sometimes choose between freedom and solid writing. The freedom to pick the active members of your party, for instance, means they can’t have any meaningful discussion, with Shepard and especially between each other. The combination of possible missions for a given character as well as the combination of any two teammates would have meant hundreds or even thousands of lines of dialogue, most of which wouldn’t even be heard by the average gamer. I actually would have rather had my team pre-selected and given decent dialogue exchanges considering that the other members didn’t make that much of a difference in combat. As it stands I’m fine with the personal exchanges between me and my crew-mates in the Normandy.

    Edit: Oh yeah, in regards to the video(s), I thought he was correct on almost all counts. What he said about the powerful support characters was spot on. What he said about Arnold was, true or not, damned hilarious. One thing I disagreed with was how he defined plot, theme, and whatever the third thing was.

    1. krellen says:

      Previous BioWare titles – including Mass Effect 1 – had at least dozens of extra lines of dialogue that were triggered by having specific combinations of companions on your team; most of these played during elevator rides in Mass Effect, but they would play randomly in other games (KOTOR, Baldur’s Gate I and II, etc.)

      There are plenty of places for these to be triggered in ME2, but the new writers suck and simply didn’t do it.

      1. Reach says:

        Those weren’t exactly tailored to the mission, however. For example, in his loyalty mission, Mordin had some very interesting, deep dialogue in regards to the centerpiece of the mission. Bioware could put in those lines because they knew Mordin would be on that mission and wouldn’t have to worry about it being wasted effort. If they did this throughout the game, character development could be more thoroughly woven into the action, as it was on recruitment and loyalty missions.

        1. Danath says:

          Say you have a character whos a polar opposite or beliefs are in stark contract to Mordin’s own. If you bring him along on Mordin’s loyalty mission it would be quite interesting if there was a little bit of bonus dialogue to reflect that.

        2. acronix says:

          Blame that on voice acting. No voice acting would mean less restriction about adding lines. However, that´s not an option at all in a Cinematic Playing Game.

        3. krellen says:

          Yeah, but even without tailoring things to the specific missions, the little conversations between your team-mates did a lot to make them feel far more alive and realised outside of their specific side-missions. In ME2, characters have personalities during their particular story, but not so much anywhere else.

          1. ps238principal says:

            I liked the conversations with the characters in ME2, except for the fact that the longer I talked to them, the more the conversation choices started steering me towards appearing to desire sex from them.

            1. krellen says:

              I liked the conversations with Mordin, but only because he is the very model of a scientist Salarian.

  27. Katy says:

    Yes, Shepherd’s character development was poor in ME2, but some of the “plot problems” Smudboy listed were so violently false that I’m amazed anyone is kissing his butt. Killing off the character first thing without that character having some kind of personal revelation? It’s useless drama.

    But saying that Shepherd’s team was grossly unprepared? That they should’ve gotten bigger guns and more intel before going through the relay? Did that reviewer play the game? First off, they did the best they could: the player gets resources to upgrade the ship, he recruits the best, the bravest, and the brightest, and he learns what he can about his enemy along the way. He’s on a deadline, though. He can’t wait years for new intel while colonists are abducted and put through a blender. And getting intel through a booby-trapped relay about an alien species advanced enough to wtfpwn them first thing in the game is like asking a 10-year-old to sneak into North Korea to spy on them.

    And that’s just one example of his grossly inaccurate complaints. kthxbai

    1. Danath says:

      Pretty much what my long rant was on too. Thanks for being wayyy more concise though, some of his complaints were so off the wall stupid it made his legitimate complaints less acceptable.

      1. Allanon says:

        Really guys? Is it that hard to take a minute and think it through?
        So, the best thing to do would be to assemble a team of the best of the best and send them into the great unknown. Frankly, the chances of them hitting a random asteroid as they come out of the jump and dying are quite high, not to mention many other possible hazards like well placed defenses or what not. Remember we are jumping to the enemy’s HQ after all. So instead of sending a robotic scout to investigate we just carelessly jump and risk the future of humanity or something.

    2. Heron says:

      Killing off the character first thing without that character having some kind of personal revelation? It's useless drama.

      The main problem is that Shepherd was killed off for no reason whatsoever – the exact same end-result could have been carried out by simply having him stranded in an escape pod and rescued by Cerberus, for example.

      The complaint about a lack of personal revelation on Shepherd’s part is a more general comment that if your character is going to undergo a near death experience, it must affect the character in some tangible way, but for all intents and purposes Shepherd’s death has absolutely no effect on him. In fact, that’s pretty much Cerberus’ stated goal – reconstruct him exactly as he was.

      It’s pointless to subject a character to near-death (or actual death, in this case) if that experience is not going to affect him. That is the problem with Shepherd’s death.

      In reality, Shepherd’s complete reconstruction was merely a gimmick to let you change his class (since ME1’s classes don’t necessarily map directly to ME2’s classes, they wanted to let you choose). It’s unfortunate that they let that desire take precedence over the plot actually making sense.

      First off, they did the best they could: the player gets resources to upgrade the ship, he recruits the best, the bravest, and the brightest, and he learns what he can about his enemy along the way.

      Well that’s one of the problems – from the beginning we’re given to understand that we’ll be tracking down the Collectors to destroy their ship. Wouldn’t I just need to upgrade my ship and call it good? Why would I need an elite ground squad to prepare for a spaceship battle?

      Other than that, we learn virtually nothing about the Collectors, their motives, or why it’s so urgent that we get there RIGHT THIS MINUTE (as soon as you’re done with these seven sidequests).

      He's on a deadline, though.

      Except that you can take as long as you want doing sidequests, or strip-mining every planet in the galaxy, or dancing at the club, or whatever else you want to do, and nobody blinks an eye.

      Oh, and let’s not forget that it’d take the collectors several more years to collect enough humans to finish their human-goop-reaper, during which time they’d probably focus on the outlying systems for a while longer before they’d try going after Earth.

      And getting intel through a booby-trapped relay about an alien species advanced enough to wtfpwn them first thing in the game is like asking a 10-year-old to sneak into North Korea to spy on them.

      The booby-trap is avoided by having an IFF. Now that the Normandy has one, surely they could use it to get a probe through? Couldn’t they at least try? But nobody even suggests it. Nope, let’s jump in blindly!

      At any rate, the Collectors aren’t advanced enough to “wtfpwn” them (not if you upgraded your ship, anyway).

      But even that doesn’t make any sense. The Collectors were in fact powerful enough to swat the Normandy V1 like a fly at the beginning of the game; there was no reason to believe that would not continue to be the case for the Normandy V2. Oh, you made some new armor? Great! Can you prove the Collectors haven’t made a stronger weapon in the meantime? No? Well why don’t we send a probe to find out?

      Oh, wait, you think it’s dumb to send a probe. No, let’s send our only IFF-equipped ship to deal with a threat of unknown strength in completely unfamiliar territory. Oh, and let’s not forget that we’re not even sure the IFF will actually work.

      Yeah, this seems like a great plan. *eye roll*

      The plan is flawed in a dozen ways, and it only works because the plot demands it.

      1. Danath says:

        As far as Shepard being dead, it was dealt with poorly, I think everyone agrees on that point.

        They don’t punish the player for doing their own thing however as that would be frustrating. Although if you take too long after your crewmembers get kidnapped they end up getting liquefied before you fight the end-boss. This deadline thing is more a seperation of game mechanics from game timeline so that people can actually have fun exploring the gameworld and interacting with stuff. Mechanically it makes sense, plotwise it’s stupid.

        This probing thing you suggested, has that been done by anyone else? First contact was from ships jumping through mass relays and not knowing what was on the other side. So apparently people couldn’t just “probe” relays then either. This assumption is faulty and is a big problem I have with the video review.

        Also the Collectors not developing a stronger weapon makes perfect sense. Why you ask? They are ALREADY using REAPER technology. As far as the Reapers are concerned the ARE the absolute pinnacle. They don’t exactly have scientists or do research, these are husks who basically do as they are told. Doesn’t justify why Cerberus didn’t bother getting all these upgrades together when building the Normandy, but the assumption that the Collectors didn’t develop something more powerful is actually pretty much a safe bet.

        You’ll note ME1’s attack on Ilos involving the Mu Relay and The Conduit was kind if similar. They couldn’t just launch probes through it, they had to figure out where it went first.

        1. Will says:

          Actually the Collectors don’t use Reaper tech at all. Soverign for example had a mass accelerator as it’s main weapon and was mechanical, in fact remember that the Citadel is Reaper tech, and that the entirity of modern civilisation is based on and around Reaper tech.

          The Collectors make extensive use of biotech and have somehow discovered how to make efficient beam weapons, something that no-one else has and something which Soverign showed no signs of using. In fact, Reaper tech is starkly contrasted with Collector tech; Reaper tech being smooth, sleep and efficient, while Collector tech is all fungal and organicy.

        2. krellen says:

          “First contact was from ships jumping through mass relays and not knowing what was on the other side.”

          A probe cannot make decisions, it cannot choose to explore interesting things, it cannot interact with alien species. And Humanity’s first contact with the Turians was not their first use of Mass Relays. The First Contact War started because Turians ran across Humans opening unmapped relays, which was a direct violation of Council Law after the Rachni Wars.

          “You'll note ME1's attack on Ilos involving the Mu Relay and The Conduit was kind if similar. They couldn't just launch probes through it, they had to figure out where it went first.”

          They did not have to “figure out where it went”; the Mu Relay linked to multiple systems; what the crew had to figure out in ME1 was which one of those multiple systems was the one that contained Ilos. Since they were searching for a dead world of a dead species, they couldn’t just go through the Relay and check out each and every individual system and planet on the other side; that was a problem of unknown size and they simply did not have time for uncharted exploration with an invasion imminent.

          Potential plot holes in ME1 were, for the most part, explained and bridged. The holes that pepper the Swiss cheese of ME2 are simply left as if an intended part of the production.

          1. Will says:

            I’ve certainly seen absolutely no reason in the game universe to explain why probes couldn’t be used, and considering the sheer size and scale of space it’s pretty ludicrous to assume they cannot be used, especially since in ME2 we clearly see that probes are fully capable of mining precious materials from the crusts of planets.

            So yeah; i really don’t see any reason why they couldn’t send some probes through, even if all the probes did was pop through, do a quick scan of the surrounding area with a radar or similar and then pop back.

            As for finding a largely intact derelict 37 million year old Reaper, sauntering in, taking a single piece of tech and then blowing up the entire ship. That, that was just dumb.

            1. TSED says:

              There’s actually a sidequest in ME1, in which an ancient probe was relay-hopping about. It was also nuke-armed. They sent a bunch of them off during the first contact war.

              The quest part kicked in because it began sending signals to Earth “ok ready to blow now, found my target” and Admiral Hackett was all “ohhhh friiiiiiiii-” about it.

            2. krellen says:

              I was pointing out reasons why there would be manned exploration despite probe exploration being possible, is all.

          2. Menegil says:

            Interstellar communication is heavily dependant on comm buoys scattered across space and in between relay pathways, if I understood the Codex entries nicely enough. Logic speaks that uncharted systems do not have comm buoys in place – it is fair to assume similar devices employed by the Protheans and previous hyper-advanced species were completely wiped out during the Reaper purges (the beacons seem to function in a similarity much akin to the quantum whatsamacallit that the player uses to be in touch with TIM), which means that one could not simply repurpose them to connect to the galactic webway of communication.

            This being said, probing locations beyond relays is a waste of money bordering silly, since, without said comm buoys to relay information across centuries of light-years, one cannot feasibly launch unmanned probes to check out what is beyond unexplored relays. And if no one is returning from the Omega 4 relay, it makes perfect sense that manned probe missions are suicide as well. Between placing the IFF on an unmanned probe which cannot relay information back and sending a sentient, crewed vessel through with little chance of success, I would definitely choose the latter.

            ME2 as a story makes sense, and the revelations were big “Holy crap” moments for moi, despite the cheesiness in the end;

            “A human reaper?”



            In any regard, I did believe it could have been better executed I respectfully disagree that loyalty missions are disconnected from the main story – some have dire implications, such as Tali’s, Legion’s and Mordin’s. The Collectors are, in the end, rather minor opponents, compared to the big bad, and I would call ME2 a Two Towers case – First part estabilishes setting and oomph, is overall awesome; Second part is a bit of a drag-along that has neither beginning nor end or self-standing nexus, and is thus a bit flaccid and “meh”, then comes the Third part and it wins loads of Oscars.

            I hope.

  28. Alex says:

    I’ve played Mass Effect 2 nearly three times to completion. I am a huge nitpicker of story continuity and all of those other things nerds like myself keep track of. To date, I haven’t discovered anything so glaringly awful or inconsistent about the story as to make a 6-part plot deconstruction. But then, I hated the first Mass Effect so much that I’m willing to consider much of it non-canon. Just out of spite.

    That said, Mass Effect 1 at least had an antagonist, which this game lacks. The collectors are alright as a generic evil invading force, but they’re just not as interesting as the Geth. There’s no one fulfilling the Benezia or Saren roles. The Reapers are too distant and too 1-dimensional a concept to be intimidated by. They could have at least done something more with the Collector General, maybe.

    The closest we get is The Illusive Man, but it’s obviously setting him up to be the Big Bad of number 3, so I don’t think he can count as the villain of this game. If I have any complaints about Mass Effect 2, “Less drones and more Mickey Rourke“, I guess would sum it up.

    1. krellen says:

      Why the hell would you even want to play ME2 if you hated the first?

      1. ps238principal says:

        I find myself asking the same question when I read a lot of the comments on this site about Fallout 3. :)

  29. Galad says:

    I guess I’ll watch that when Spoiler Warning starts ME2. Not that I haven’t spoiled myself to most of ME2’s plot, its analysis would make more sense for me after I’ve seen the details somewhere though

  30. Lalaland says:

    The videos seemed to make much sense to me, some of it could be hand waved away but the reaction of Kaiden/Whatsherface to their long lost feared dead soulmate is just stupid. Equally I can forgive the ‘oh wait we all have to leave the ship, I sure hope nothing happens’ stuff as that’s all standard action movie tropes but the failings in writing deeply annoyed me.

    I played a bit of ME2 (a number of character side quests) in a mates place and it was fun but I didn’t like how at the end of some quests you get sucker punched with an alignment check. If a ‘loyalty’ quest is determined by how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are, how about a hint if I don’t have the requisite alignment level to ‘win’ their loyalty? It’s my mates save so he was unaware of the false dichotomy of good/bad running through all Bioware games and thought choosing based on the situation was a valid choice and thus had about equal levels (2) in good and bad meaning we failed several endgame alignment checks.

    Alignment as a gate condition for conversation choices is BS in any case, even if I am a Paragon I should be able to choose evil responses if I’m happy to accept the knock to my alignment. I hate having to assist whiny/lazy NPCs because telling them to do it for themselves is the bad option.

  31. Nalano says:

    I agree with Smudboy’s analysis.

    I still love ME2.

    Shep’s death was handled poorly. Railroading Shep into Cerberus was handled poorly. Aside from having previously saved the galaxy, there was nothing inherently special about Shep – what is he, the world’s most expensive mascot? The introduction of a new enemy was handled poorly. In fact, we could have had all those elements if they were just rejiggered around. All we need’s a second draft.

    After all, the writing was still good on the supporting cast.

    My pet peeve my first playthrough was my Sole Survivor background never coming into play during my TENURE AT CERBERUS. Not to mention Tali having a very good reason to hate Cerberus, Zaeed’s history of killing Cerberus, Mordin’s professional rivalry with Cerberus, Jack’s whole Cerberus background, and the fact that everybody hates Miranda and her conniving ways.

    1. ps238principal says:

      Ooooh. The “hating Miranda” thing just gave me an idea that would have been great for ME2, especially with the “loyalty” thing:

      One of the team should have murdered someone else.

      On a logistical note, you don’t need everyone to complete the final mish. I did it before downloading the DLC, so at least Zaeed is non-essential.

      Anyway, the game could take which team members you’ve exposed to each other on away missions to choose a motive for one to try to take out another. Then you have to solve the mystery of whodunnit before the game can progress (or at least, you have to get the murder out of the way to get the team to work together effectively or something).

      It would have made away team choices and dialogue a bit more important and have been a fun addition to the game, I think.

      1. Axle says:

        Youre idea could have been a nice touch to the games story, but the developers chose to treat every character as an individual and not like a part of a team.
        Except for this one argument between Miranda and Jack there was never any meaningfull interaction between characters, not even a banter like in DA:O.And by the time I got to the “suicide” mission, it felt more like I’m handling an alien zoo, rather than an elite team.

  32. Winter says:

    First off: the music is great. I thought maybe he just went to google and typed in “piano music” or something, but he seems to know what he’s doing musically. (Although just going through the Cowboy Bebop OST later on gets kind of predictable :P)

    He also seems to know what he’s talking about with regard to stories. The distinction he drew between premise/plot/theme was something i wouldn’t have come up with on my own. (Of course i probably learned that at one point and have just forgotten.)

    Anyway, the actual thing: it looks to me like a lot of the complaints are just that the protagonist has a very weird lack of a basic sort of inquisitiveness that’s common to all humans, but especially successful ones. When things are weird we want to figure out why, and we’ll accept (usually, as long as it’s not too abused) answers like “because it’s weird” or “nobody knows” or, particularly if they’re questions you’re going to address later on, “that is a good question and you should remember it”.

    I remember when i was regularly DMing D&D for a group of very, very smart people i got a lot of use out of that last one. No plot hole is too large to solve with a knowing “that is a good question, isn’t it?” and a raised eyebrow.

    And, indeed, it looks like there’s a lot of stuff that we should be curious about here… but we’re not given the options to investigate. (I haven’t played the game, but that’s sure what it looks like.)

    Of course this could be at least partly a product of the modular writing done by the game–when you have an open-ended game everything needs to be flexible as there’s no way of knowing what the player or character knows at any given moment (without doing a huge series of internal checks that would take a lot of work).

    In fact, some of this looks like the writers just forgot what the character/player knows or doesn’t know and so we get all kinds of weird stuff.

    The main character seems to lack a sort of organic quality by not having that basic inquisitiveness–who are we working for, are they trustworthy, what is our goal, is there a better way of doing it, etc–again, even if those come up negative it’s the questions that matter as much as the answers as far as the game’s story is concerned. Instead the main character looks more like a narrator, talking about and acting out other characters’ stories like the biggest Mary Sue plot ever: all these characters have different problems and they are helped by a person and that person has the exact qualities the player sets up and it’s all the same person.

    Or maybe not a narrator, but maybe the protagonist is like a player playing a game… inside a game being played by a player (which is ME2). Or to put it less indirectly: Shepard behaves sort of like players do. Just say yes or no to everyone else and don’t actually make decisions or change things yourself.

    Of course since literally Shepard is the protagonist inside a video game that sort of thing is sort of impossible with current technology. You can’t do something the designers didn’t set up (in terms of the game’s story), but part of writing a video game is that you have to set it up so that’s not obvious!

    In fact you have to hide that as best you can. When writing a video game you have to make it look like the main character is dynamic and active, even though the main character is (mechanically) pretty static…

    1. krellen says:

      ME2 had an entirely different staff of writers from ME1; the head writer of the first might have been consulted, or he might just be on there as courtesy, but he didn’t really have anything to do with ME2’s plot and story. I think most of the “why” behind the problems ME2’s story has basically boils down to “the new guys didn’t do enough research”.

      1. smudboy says:

        Hey krellen,

        Just curious: how do you know Drew wasn’t involved in ME2? The credits list for writers are as follows:
        Mass Effect 1 Writers:
        –Drew Karpyshyn, Lukas Kristjanson, Christopher L’Etoile, Mac Walters, Patrick Weekes

        Mass Effect 2 Writers:
        –Drew Karpyshyn, Lukas Kristjanson, Christopher L’Etoile, Mac Walters, Patrick Weekes, Malcolm Azania, Chris Hepler, Brian Kindregan, Jay Turner, Jay Watamaniuk

        1. krellen says:

          Reference that Drew was not the head writer of Mass Effect 2. Admittedly, the new head writer was one of the old writers, but any change of head writer leads to a change of direction in a series. And you don’t stop being head writer and remain deeply invested in a title.

          Furthermore, BioWare also hired a brand new team to make ME2. ME1 and ME2 were not made by the same people, and I think it’s glaringly obvious even without references when you look at the two games side-by-side. The story, the presentation, and the gameplay are all vastly different beasts, and don’t really have much relation to one another.

          1. smudboy says:

            We know that Mac Walters was the lead writer of ME2 (and we can dismiss the comic books as, well, comic books. Not slamming comic books in general, however.) But he was also involved in ME1. However, you’re implying that writing isn’t the forefront of ME2’s production. I would have to agree with this.

            What I do not understand is the creative process where writing takes a backseat, or is done after a visual or mechanical game play design. This is evidenced by Parrish Ley’s comments on Thane, the Lead Cinematic Animator.
            Did he not read the design doc? Did they change him half way?

            In any event, you just gave me some inspiration to make another video…

            1. krellen says:

              Though I have no evidence to back it up, I suspect Mac Walters was responsible for the Cerberus quest line in ME1. It would certainly help explain why Cerberus suddenly became the most important thing in the universe.

  33. Draconis Ravenus says:

    I’m torn. Aside from Baby Arnold, which was a bad idea from the offset, I was able to explain away most of the plot inconsistencies in ME2 as I played. Like you said, Shamus, we all have a different tolerance level we’re willing to go to in suspending our disbelief. And I loved ME1 enough that I didn’t want to focus on the areas of ME2 that exhibited sketchy consistency, regardless of how small or large.

    I’m still of the mindset that a lot of the complaints are reading too much into things. Shepard is a character you take control of, and I think that trying to bind him into normal narrative structure for a book or movie is difficult given the range of actions the players put him behind the wheel of, but at the end of the day, these are certainly valid blemishes, regardless of how big or small, and that does speak to a lack of polish in ME2 that ME1 had, at least in regards to the story.

    I also believe that until ME3 is released, a lot of the bigger plot issues can’t be criticized. It’s hard to judge the original Star Wars trilogy after only seeing New Hope & Empire. If ME3 comes out and they don’t resolve a lot of these issues, I will gladly come back and say you guys were spot on with your critiques.

    I am sad, though, that the overal story tightness ME1 exhibited wasn’t more fully realized in ME2. But I can still whistle a tune and turn my head away when ridiculous things happen, just like I did in Return of the King when – I’m not even putting a spoiler alert because anyone who hasn’t seen LotR shouldn’t be on this site – when Sauron makes Arwen sick to piss off Aragorn. Close my eyes, plug my ears, whistle a tune, and then I’m back on my way through Happy Land!

  34. Chuck says:

    Pretty much the same problem I had with Lost.

  35. smudboy says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, krellen.

    1. Warden says:

      Do you censor comments on that too?
      No wonder there are so few comments dispite shuch grand remarks.

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