Mass Effect 2: Mordin Solus Part 3

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Sep 8, 2010

Filed under: Game Reviews 199 comments

Here we are with part 3 of our history of pretend stuff that never happened. This series is eventually going to talk about the character Dr. Mordin Solus, but to make sense of his story I wanted to first make sense of history. And make the preceding cheesy pun.

The Genophage


The Krogan were breeding like crazy. Left unchecked, they could wreck the galaxy. They weren’t driven by malice or greed. Like locusts, they were just doing what their species did.

The Salarians devised the genophage, a carefully engineered mutation that would greatly reduce the number of viable Krogan pregnancies. The Salarians designed it so that Krogans would have stable population levels. They didn’t want to exterminate the Krogan, they just wanted to put the genie back in the bottle and maybe give the species some time to mature.

Of course, there was no way to predict the cultural change that the genophage would bring about, and how that might further alter the population levels. They calculated that having 1 in 1,000 eggs produce a living Krogan would keep the population flat, but that was assuming the Krogan settled down and stopped fighting so damn much. But once their race was infected, they just turned their aggression inward.

The game gives different numbers on how well the genophage worked. In Mass Effect, Wrex insisted that his people were dying out because they were running around the galaxy fighting for money and thus squandering individuals needed to keep the species going. In Mass Effect 2, Dr. Mordin Solus (I told you he’d come up eventually) said that the Krogan numbers were actually increasing. There are lots of reasons that these two could have different viewpoints on the matter, but I really think they should have lampshaded the new revelation. “Oh yes. The Krogans think they’re dying out because they population on the homeworld is dwindling, but elsewhere their numbers are seeing a net gain.” Or whatever.

The Genophage should have exiled the Krogan from their own homeworld. The mutation was designed to make space-faring Krogan population numbers stay flat, as they were back on Tuchanka. But Tuchanka was a lifeform-devouring hellhole, and any birth rate that works in space is going to be far too slow to keep up on Tuchanka. Some of them went home anyway, and the result was an additional strain on their numbers that couldn’t have been accounted for by the Salarians.

Note that the Salarians developed the Genophage, but they didn’t want to use it. They believed that the threat would be enough to deter the Krogan attacks. The Turians disagreed and unleashed it.

I think history has proven the Turians correct. Note that stopping the attacks required doing something to bring about the required social and cultural changes to make Krogans less warlike. They’d need to find a non-destructive outlet for their aggression and embrace some sort of contraception, or they would end up overpopulating their worlds. The Salarians must have thought the Krogans would move in this direction once they were threatened with the Genophage.

But the Krogans never did settle down. If they didn’t change their behavior when faced with the Genophage in full force, then I don’t think the abstract threat of the Genophage would have made a dent.

The Gordian Knot


The genophage is a great story idea. I think most would agree that introducing a biological agent to make a sapient species have difficulty reproducing would constitute an atrocity. It’s a morally repugnant solution to an intractable problem.

It reminds me of the atomic bombs that ended World War II. A reasonable person take take up either side of the argument as the more humane. You can do the ends justify the means route:

“Dropping the bomb ended the war with fewer losses than if we’d had to do a full-on invasion.”

Or you can go the Captain Picard path of the idealist:

“I refuse to settle this with arithmetic.” AKA: We’re the good guys, so we won’t go that route no matter what.

I’m not endorsing one position over the other. I know this is a hot-button topic, but I’m bringing it up precisely because it’s a real-world analog to the situation we see in Mass Effect.

This is made more vexing by the nature of history. You can’t prove that a less objectionable solution wouldn’t have presented itself if the problem was given more time. But you also can’t easily dismiss the lives that would be lost in waiting for that solution. You can’t examine various historical paths, watch them play out, and then pick the outcome you like best. You have to make snap decisions and take actions with unpredictable outcomes using imperfect knowledge of the present.

And even if you do somehow hit the optimal solution, other people will always second-guess you and claim the other path would have been better, because they can’t see the alternate futures either. You will still be called a monster or an idiot, even if you saved lives in the end. Life is a bitch like that. Sometimes the path of the idealist will be the optimal one. Sometimes the darker road proves less destructive. And no matter which way you go, you often can’t know if the other one would have been better.

In any event, you could argue that the genophage was a horrifying crime so evil that it should never have been used. You could argue that it was a regrettable but necessary step that saved billions of lives. You could argue either of these as someone genuinely interested in preserving lives and fostering harmony. And even now that we’ve seen the genophage play out, it’s impossible to prove there wasn’t a better solution out there.

This is what the unsatisfying paragon / renegade system of Mass Effect should have been about. Idealism vs. Pragmatism. (And to be fair, sometimes it is. ) It should be taken as a given that you’re a good guy trying to save the galaxy, and the paragon / renegade system just exists to show your methods. Sometimes it did this. Other times it was just a measure of how rude you were. And sometimes it was a measure of how big an idiot you were. I would like to see this personality stuff divorced from the worldview stuff. I think it cheapens the decision and the conversation by suggesting that pragmatism is inextricably bound to being a cruel sneering jackass. In fact, there’s a great example of one in the game…

Dr. Mordin Solus


Mordin is a pragmatist from the start. He’s also a great example of a pragmatist who isn’t a cruel sneering jackass. He’s empathetic, generous, and brave, but very practical about it. During his recruitment mission he even states that (paraphrase) you can save lives by killing Problem People, even if the Problem People aren’t directly in your way. Not because he enjoys death, but because he wants to protect the innocent. And he’s living in a den of corruption and cruelty where this kind of thinking is very likely to pay off. He’s not bitter or cynical. He’s just pragmatic.

I’d love if we could dispense with jerk Shepard / nice Shepard and have a Shepard approach his renegade thinking the way Mordin does. “It’s not pretty, but this is what we have to do if we want to help people.”

Which brings us to his loyalty mission…

(The next entry will wrap this series up.)


From The Archives:

199 thoughts on “Mass Effect 2: Mordin Solus Part 3

  1. Adeon says:

    Did I get lucky? Am I first? Oh man, I don’t even know what to say. Except for, well…

    First. ;D

    1. Psithief says:

      Also ‘the it’. Excellent typo.

      1. Sekundaari says:

        How about ‘fist’, which made me look for a cheesy fist pun for several confused seconds.

        1. Jarenth says:

          I’m fairly certain I still don’t get it.

          1. Galad says:

            his story .. history

            retry spot check! :P

            1. Jarenth says:

              AAAAaaaah. Like SO.

              Cheers. ;)

        2. Adeon says:

          Oh, that’s why I didn’t understand it. I thought I wouldn’t be intelligent enough or my english might be not good enough to understand.

        3. Wil K. says:

          I too was distracted from groan-times by the typo.

          I know many have clamored for you to get to Mordin, but as someone who never played ME (I did get it for $5 from a Steam sale, but it crashes every time I load it T_T), I’ve found these background posts really fun. Thanks, Shamus!

          1. Wil K. says:

            Great, now it loads, but doesn’t render all of the character models. Any help?

  2. Psithief says:

    Good post, but it ended too early. It didn’t seem as good a cut-off as the preceding material, as you’ve just started talking about Solus half-way through.

    1. Tomulus says:

      We’ll never know if the cut-off was the optimal solution. Sometimes Shamus has to make the hard decision to end one part of an ongoing series in order for the following post to prosper.

      He’s being pragmatic ;)

      1. Moridin says:

        Not necessarily. He could have compared the two solutions beforehand, in which case whether this outcome is the better one is a matter of opinion.

  3. Irridium says:

    This is why I didn’t quite like his loyalty mission that much. When the genophage topic comes up, you can either re-enforce his thinking that it was the best thing to do, say it should never have been done and he’s a monster for it, or just use the “whatever” third option.

    Scolding him leads to paragon points, agreeing leads to renegade points, and thats what I don’t like. Either one could be argued as the “good” thing to do, and since the Paragon/Renagade system could mean any number of things, agreeing/disagreeing with Mordin is inherently good or bad, respectively.

    I personally sided with Mordin, by the way.

    1. Joe says:

      To be fair, that’s more of a problem with the Paragon/renegade system. On one hand, it’s pragmatism vs idealism. In that context, agreeing with him makes sense as renegade. On the other hand, the same system is good/evil, kind/jerk, and fifty other different ways of doing it. The pragmatism/idealism is actually a great way of doing things. You don’t have the KoTOR problem of “Why can’t I just let the bad guys win? I’m evil after all. I’ll just take it over after them,” because you just have one plotline with different methods. Sadly, they couldn’t just let it be.

      1. MogTM says:

        I actually thought the KOTOR system worked better, but only because of the mythos of corruption. It was easy to play a someone who started out as a Good Guy willing to use any means. Soon though, meta-game concerns (ooo darkside points!) would push you toward being more of a jerk; this seemed to mirror the way the dark side is supposed to corrupt people and make even well-intentioned-idealists into the sort of jerks who will force choke people for no reason.

        1. Gilmoriël says:

          What I loved about KOTOR is that is actually rewarded you with more options if you decided to play as pragmatic/devious. Yes, you could get outraged at being offered an assassination mission and gain light side points, or you could accept the mission, track the guy down, help him stage his own death, and get paid and rewarded with light side points. On the other hand you could blatantly refuse to help someone, or offer to do it for a price (that you could mind trick him into raising) and still decide to betray him in the end.

    2. Nyaz says:

      This is why I don’t like the Mass Effect Renegade/Paragon system. It is far too much about “good” or “evil” with only one absolute greyzone in the middle which is pretty much “Meh! I don’t care!”

      I kind of prefer the Dragon Age way of doing it, and your teammates judge you on your actions, and through them you see if things you’ve been doing are good/evil/whatever.

      1. DarkLadyWolf says:

        I found the Dragon Age way to be intensely irritating. I think it’s mostly because you couldn’t justify your choices to your party. Morrigan (for example) would disagree with something, and I wanted to point out that what I’m doing may be trivial to her, but it will hopefully lead to something better for us (oh, and the World) because it’s not trivial to those we’re helping.

        Really, I’ve yet to play a game with any kind of morality system that ‘works’.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats why alpha protocol owns.There are no all encompassing black and white moral choices.There is only reputation that shows what someone thinks of your actions they have learned of.If they are kept out of the loop,they are unaffected.I would love it if the games would drop the universal morality sliders for good.

    4. bit says:

      The part that confuses me most about the renegade/paragon part is, ironically, the most “important” part of the game; Cerberus. Pretty much everywhere else, renegade Shepard is blatantly anarchist; I don’t care what the man says, I’m getting this done MY way. The paragon is somewhat less defined, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll just say that it’s the opposite; following orders, getting things done to the (seeming) benefit of everyone. But, specifically chatting with The Illusive Man, this is all completely reversed; renegade Shepard is completely submissive, agreeing with everything and taking the most obviously universe saving route. Paragon Shepard, however HATES THEM, doesn’t want their help and dismisses everything they say. Come on, Bioware.

  4. Teldurn says:

    I’ve never played the Mass Effect games, but the sheer amount of story present in one game seems mind-boggling to me.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Two games,actually.

      The best thing about it is that its not presented just in exposition form,but you can learn about these things through dialogues in which sometimes even you fill in the blanks,instead of being just a clueless guy from some other age.

  5. Riesz says:

    Isn’t that sort of what Alpha Protocol managed to do? Well, at least partially.

    I haven’t had time to play through the game a second time yet, but I at least got to thinking “damnit, what if I had chosen the other method?”, which means I’ll likely get back to it as soon as I have some spare time.

    Granted, some of the choices were a bit cheesy (split-second decision to keep data a or data b) and I’m sure other choices were just illusions. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed being given the illusion of real choice and being confronted with the consequences, both good and bad, afterwards.

    Oh, and as an addendum: I don’t consider the dialogue system to be that relevant as opposed to the moments you make a real choice. The suave/professional/aggressive buttons aren’t necessarily there for roleplaying: they’re there for manipulating other people. It’s even explained in the tutorial that your proficiency in that department is why they recruited you. Of course I might just be roleplaying a manipulative bastard…

    1. eri says:

      Yeah, honestly Alpha Protocol is probably the only game to really nail this to any significant degree. There are so many situations in that game where you’re forced to say “dammit, I just don’t know” and yet have to pick in a moment or two. I can only think of one situation in the whole game that really has this fall flat, but that probably depends more on how invested you are in a particular character. Thankfully, at least the consequences of that decision are pretty well presented.

    2. Nyaz says:

      I’ve heard a lot of people say this, and I disagree. I’ve played Alpha Protocol, and it wasn’t really “making decisions” as it was making uneducated split-second guesses and praying for the best. (At least that’s what I did pretty much all the time, anyway)

      I much prefer the Mass Effect-way of doing it

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Really?I rarely had to guess,and usually knew from the start what option will get me what.

        The choices arent illusionary,they are real.Well,except for the choices in making your character,but thats due to broken balance.I did a replay and the missions do develop differently based on who you sided with,which is an extremely rare thing in games.

      2. Sean Riley says:

        TOTALLY agree with this. I really wanted to like Alpha Protocol, bought it on launch day and all, but it’s OMG level painful because of endless numbers of bad choices. Like:

        Why are the conversation options so cryptically named?
        Why is ‘professional’ always super-boring?
        Why are they so many damned bugs?
        WHAT ON EARTH is with adding a timer to the conversation? It was ungodly annoying in Farenheit and it’s moreso here.

        Alpha Protocol had lots of great ideas, but the execution was so lousy that even I couldn’t overlook the faults, and I’m normally a ‘concept is great, I can deal with lousy execution’ guy.

        1. GiantRaven says:

          The timer keeps the conversation flowing naturally. Something that I always felt was sorely needed in other voice acted games with dialogue trees.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Same here.Though I think that there shouldve been an option to remove the timer as well.While I like it this way,I know that there are people that dont.And Im always in favor of more options.

          2. Sean Riley says:

            You seriously think that? I admit, I’m surprised. I barely even notice the pauses because that’s when I’m thinking about my response. I get irritated at being forced to just jump without looking.

  6. swimon says:

    The atomic bomb analogue gets even more interesting with Mordin in the mix. He’s a massive Oppenheimer analogue. He did something he believed in was shocked by the result and found comfort in Hinduism.

    I really like Mordin he seems real and his status as a scientist is more than an informed ability. Everything he does really makes him seem like a brilliant scientist, unlike Miranda who we’re told is smart but shows no proof of that (I liked her too but the “brilliant” part seems questionable).

  7. RTBones says:

    On my first playthrough now, and about to take on Mordin’s loyalty mission. You touch on something, though, that has always had me puzzled about the Mass Effect series: everything is either black or white – there is no “shade of gray”. There have been several conversations in the game where I wanted to “split the difference” and couldnt.

    1. jdaubenb says:

      Which is why it is downright insulting that Bioware claimed Mass Effect 2 contains more gray areas and decisions that could swing either way.
      No it doesn’t. The only difference is that you are working for people who are clearly evil instead of people who are only somewhat evil (*waves at the council*).
      You are still either GI Messiah, a friend of every beautiful creature in God’s kingdom or some hybrid of James Bond and Space-Skeletor (Shoot first, continue to shoot later, just make sure to jack everything up beyond repair).
      The Renegade choices just don’t seem pragmatic most of the time. They are just Frank-Miller-esque “Badass” moves.

      1. Nyaz says:

        I think I would mind it less if you didn’t have to stick to one or the other (more or less) to make sure a team member doesn’t die in the end.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Actually,all the grey in mass effect comes from your companions.You are just a dumb monochrome guy,while your companions are the fleshed out live ones.Even the stubborn ones like garrus and jack.

      What I found the worst about part 2 was the encounter with ashley.I was working with cerberus,but I did a couple of missions that either undermined them or gave me leverage against them once the collectors are done with.Yet this bitch didnt trust me?And thats not even mentioning the things she went through with me in part 1.That part still boils my blood.

      I really hate bioware for this.In neverwintwer nights 1 you also were an idiot,and the main plot was bland,but the henchmen were amazing.Its like they have all these great stories to tell,but dont know how to glue them together,so they just slap something generic as filler.And its not like they cant do better.Hordes of the underdark was amazing in the main storyline as well.It was sort of a generic plot,yes,but told in a great way.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        ME1’s choices were a LOT better than ME2. After the first one they dropped the philosophy stuff and added more nice guy/jerk stuff. Renegade Shepard in ME2 isn’t really concentrated on getting the job done, he’s concentrated on, well, being a jerk.

      2. Michael says:

        It’s flat out worse if you were in a relationship with her. “Why didn’t you call me?” “I was dead.” “But, why the fuck didn’t you call me?” (The same goes for Kaiden).

        I seriously wanted a renegade interrupt: “Well, you see, there’s dead and there’s not dead, here, let me demonstrate.” *Executes former squad member.*

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Oh yes,thats the worst!And I didnt even chose her as my romance in the first,I was with liara.But no,bitch girl has to trow a temper tantrum because I couldnt get my ass of the resurrection table and call her.Not to mention the fact that when I did ask the military about her,they were all “Shes on a classified mission,and you cant reach her”.

          And people call morigan bitchy and unreasonable.Yeah,Id like to see what ashley would do if she found out her mother wanted to kill her and posses her body.

  8. MogTM says:

    This is what the unsatisfying paragon / renegade system of Mass Effect should have been about. Idealism vs. Pragmatism. (And to be fair, sometimes it is. ) It should be taken as a given that you're a good guy trying to save the galaxy, and the paragon / renegade system just exists to show your methods.

    How much of this is due to the inherent limits of the medium? Consider the mission from Mass Effect 1 where you need to attack the Thorian and have to decide if you will use non-lethal force against the colonists it has mind-controlled. In real life (or a movie, book, or TV show), this could be a challenging choice, where the protagonist decides if the lives of himself and his friends are worth endangering to save a few innocents. This decision would be further complicated by the fact that if you die fighting the Thorian, many *many* more innocents will die. Either option could be argued for as “good.”

    But within the logic of the video game, this is not true. I know, as a player, that I can finish the quest either way. One may be a little harder — but, at a maximum, I’ll have to reload a few times if I spare the colonists. In the end, I will have stuck to my principles without getting hurt or getting any of my friends and allies killed (er, killed permanently). The only reason I would use lethal force against the colonists is if I value their lives less than my convenience.

    This dynamic plays out time and again. What makes the Genophage (or atomic bomb) choice so hard is that we don’t know how history might have played out. But, as a player, we always know that we’re going to win somehow. The ideal paragon/renegade choices may not be allowed by the medium.

    1. Shamus says:

      That is a really, really good point. Hadn’t considered that before. At he end of my first-time ME1 run, my paragon Shepard abandoned the council because saving the galaxy was so much more important than saving the galaxy’s government. I knew I would win any fight I was in, but I wasn’t in that fight and couldn’t be sure our fleet would prevail.

      1. jdaubenb says:

        The game actually punishes you for taking the pragmatic choice.
        It seems to me at least that more often than not the pragmatic choice is middle of the road. You abandon the council, but do it because you want to take down sovereign.
        Yet you are still lumbed in with the space-Gestapo-Shepards who want to murder everything that is not pleasantly pink and fleshy.

        The whole Paragon and Renegade system is broken beyond repair, because you need the points gained from Paragon and Renegade choices to make more Paragon or Renegade choices. There is really no point in mixing your choices up or playing *your* personal Shepard.

        1. FatPope says:

          And don’t get me started on the whole “extremes are good” thing. Basically being either really good or really bad is beneficial but staying somewhere in the middle screws you over. How does that make sense?

        2. Galad says:

          It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but if you pick your choices it should be possible to get to at least around 75% in both paragon and renegade..

        3. Electron Blue says:

          The solution to this is to import a character who has maxed para/gade points from the first game via cheats/glitches. This means that pretty much no matter what you do, you’ll have enough points in the second to play a unique character.
          I do wish there was just a ‘persuade’ thing to put points into, though. It could go either way and would work a lot better oops I just described Dragon Age’s system. Funny, that.

          1. Irridium says:

            And it seems they’re getting rid of that in DA 2 and making it more like Mass Effect for some reason. I’d guess its because of the console audience, but since the game sold well on consoles and the only complaints were really the controls and graphics, I really don’t know why they’re changing it so much.

            1. Avilan says:

              What they are getting “rid” of is the old-fashioned dialog tree and replacing it with a (even better than Me2) superior dialogue wheel. It has NOTHING to do with “consoles”. At all.

              1. wtrmute says:

                How is a dialogue wheel different from a dialogue tree? You don’t get to arrive at beginning of the conversation however you select your choices, do you?

                “Dialogue wheel” describes just the interface; it’s still a dialogue tree notionally.

              2. Irridium says:

                I don’t know about better. All the wheel is is just a more restricted dialog tree.

                I don’t really see it as superior, since it restricts choices and could potentially have an adverse effect with mods, if DA2 even supports mods…

                1. Avilan says:

                  Why is it more restrictive?

                  The Dragon Age engine can handle up to 6 dialogue options.
                  The Mass Effect wheel can handle up to 6 dialogue options.

                  This has already been explained to death on the DA2 board by the actual designers involved. There is NO restrictions imposed by the dialogue wheel. It is just a more visual way of picking, since both in ME and in DA:O it is sometimes hard to judge how a line will be said and received by the other party. In DA2’s version of the wheel you get an icon by each dialogue option that indicates the tone of voice (joking, serious, questioning, threatening, etc).

                2. Irridium says:

                  Oh I don’t know. Honestly I think I’m just arguing for the sake of it. The more I think about it the less it seems to matter. I guess its just a preference. I like knowing exactly what my character says. Sometimes the little summery of what your going to say sounds good, but what you say isn’t good. Plus I found the dialog “list” a lot easier to manage. I just enjoyed it more.

                  It was different, not the same as Mass Effect. And thats what I liked about it.

        4. Nyaz says:

          Heh, it’s funny because the people around you nag no matter what choice you pick.

          Save the council, let the people die: “OH MY GOSH, you murdered all those people! You asshat! Think of the children!”
          Save the people, leave the council to die: “HOW DARE YOU murder our government? Now we are all headless chickens and it’s your fault!”


          1. Retlor says:

            I didn’t mind that so much. At least I felt like I’d made a difference! :D

            On the other hand, saving/killing the council has precisely zero influence over the course of ME2, so maybe not.

            1. Aldowyn says:

              THAT is annoying. It was the ultimate decision in ME1, and, contrary to public perception, does not matter in ME2. None of them do, at least not yet.

              I have faith that they will in ME3, though. Like maybe the Renegade that’s gone around annoying everyone will actually lose because no one’s helping him. Or the galaxy beats the reaper almost in SPITE of Shepard.

      2. pneuma08 says:

        What’s even more frustrating is that the choice at the end of Mass Effect 1 is actually not that, because in the end you win (i.e. Sovereign is defeated) either way. The choice ends up being whether to sacrifice many human lives to save the council or vice versa. I mention this because it’s not particularly clear, even after finishing the games a few times. If I recall, the game itself muddles the choice a bit too by throwing into doubt victory if the council is to be saved.

        I think the whole Paragon/Renegade system is used too often and as such loses all meaning. It’s not quite so simple; it needs to come up to influence gameplay, but at the same time it can’t come up very often if it represents only one thing (idealist/pragmatist for instance doesn’t come up nearly as often as Paragon/Renegade needs to), and as such things get lumped together with unsatisfying results.

        Honestly, I think it’s best to just let one’s actual actions be judged by the various characters (and players). Alpha Protocol did this quite nicely, I think, and I hope New Vegas’s reputation system will have a similar effect.

        1. Shamus says:

          Right, you win either way. But the first time through the game I didn’t know that. Which is why I let them die.

          1. Sigilis says:

            That seems to be the rationale that most people give for allowing the Council to be abolished, with extreme prejudice. However that was also the rationalization that drove me to have the Humans swoop in and save the day. From all the emphasis put on the Destiny Ascension (the vessel carrying the council) I was left with the impression that it was one impressive military vessel. Ashley says that “the main gun on that thing could rip through the barriers on any Alliance ship”, the gratuitous flyby in the wards, that Vol-clan trying to impress people with his really long tour story.

            I had mentally filed the ship under “Ultimate Weapon”, so when the time came to decide whether I wanted to sacrifice this magnificent ship that may be the only vessel capable of making a dent in Sovereign’s barriers or advance the cause glory of humanity by trying to take him on alone the choice was clear. I feel the location of the council to be a useless piece of information that muddles the issue, and indeed had there been a choice to viciously murder the council later and blame it on the Geth I would have gladly done it.

            Or maybe just Executor Pallin “Finger-Quotes” MacTurian. Down with all obstructive bureaucrats.

            1. Retlor says:

              Pallin was the pretty much the one person on the citadel who I both liked and respected! Certainly the only one with any real connection to the council. YMMV I guess.

              1. Sigilis says:

                Darn, I just realized that Executor Pallin is actually an interesting dude who is killed during the Battle of the Citadel. They never bothered to give my true nemesis a name. I was referring to the nameless Turian Councilor who when confronted with the life and death situation that faces the entire galaxy responds with the following:

                Ah yes, “Reapers”… We have dismissed that claim.

                Thanks a billion, Councilor.

      3. Klay F. says:

        Another problem with the medium is that it is impossible to stop players from meta-gaming. Yahtzee pointed this out also. The problem is that players are never thinking, “What would I do in this situation?” Instead, they are thinking, “What dialog choice will give give me the most paragon/renegade points?” Until developers put an end to meta-gaming, morality systems will always be hopelessly broken.

        1. Llama says:

          Most of the time, I am thinking “What would I do in this situation?” not about renegade/paragon points.

          Am I the only one?

          1. NeilD says:

            I know there have been times when I’ve made choices based on some in-game benefit instead of what resonated most with me, but those are rare exceptions.

            In fact, I have an extremely hard time playing against my own personality. When this season of Spoiler Warning started I decided to play through Bioshock again, and this time, why not harvest the little sisters just to see how it affected the dialogue and end-game. Couldn’t do it. When the moment came I realized that doing so would distance me so much from the character and events of the game that I would never play it through to the end. Which is why I like it when the SW crew goes the evil route — I get to see the things I never will playing by myself.

            That’s kind of an extreme example, of course, with the whole killing little girls thing, but I’ve had the same experience with other RPGs. I’ve tried to play the evil sadistic dickwad, but I find that it just disconnects me too much from the game and I lose interest.

            Having said that, I did enjoy a few of the “renegade” options in ME2, particularly during the interactive cut scene moments. But those were more chaotic in nature than outright bad or evil.

    2. swimon says:

      I was thinking this too but when things don’t happen to you directly (like in the saving/killing the Rachni) there are some meaningful choices to be had that do challenge your level of idealism or pragmatism. The problem is that there are like 100 other choices where being a renegade is the same as being a jerk. That plus the fact that Shepard almost always sounds like a jerk when he takes the renegade route makes it seem like the game is calling you an asshole whenever you take a renegade option (the not so subtle facial scarring when you do “angry” stuff doesn’t help either). I was borderline offended when the game called me a douche for wanting to help Mordin :/. This is why karma meters suck (well one of the reasons).

    3. Vegedus says:

      Very true. Some more examples:

      In ME2, there’s no diplomacy or threaten skill, instead you use your karma meter directly (it also had influence on said skills in the first game). By far most of the time there is a “speech skill check”, both the renegade and paragon options is available, and you need the same amount of points in either to use it. In other words, renegade isn’t more efficient than paragon. From the outset, you’re just likely to convince someone by using logic and persuasion, as you are by intimidation and violence… So why go the latter route of all? When you intimidate someone, you’re being a jerk for the sake of being a jerk.

      And then there’s Shepard’s safety. By the second game, we know that Shepard is very important. He’s the one to save the galaxy. They even tell him this in game (I guess he doesn’t have to believe that, but he still probably knows he’s important). This means any choice that endangers him, endangers the galaxy. A practical renegade shepard should thus avoid non-galaxy-dangers as much as possible… Except that we can always reload when he dies. Thus, not going out of the way to save innocents and the like again becomes a matter of convenience rather than efficiency and ethics. You could argue that Shepard wouldn’t actually see it like that (though perhaps he should, considering, as Shamus lampooned, Cerberus revived him after entering an atmosphere and decaying for a while), but I think few people can immerse themselves to that degree. If a load button can annul a decision or consequence, it’s always going to affect it’s weight.

    4. Steve C says:

      The root of the problem is that they used a scale with a single axis and then shoehorned complex moral decisions onto a single scale. There’s a reason why pen and paper tabletop RPGs always have at minimum two scales. One scale doesn’t cut it.

      If BioShock wants to develop “deep” games then they have to use a deeper scale to show that complexity.

      1. swimon says:

        Well the tabletop morality grid is not really any better than the Renegade/Paragon duality for complex moral choice. The problem with the grid is that one axis is good/evil so a complex choice can only be judged by one axis since if you call one thing more good than another it’s hardly an ambiguous moral choice. The Order/Chaos is really no more complex than the Paragon/Renegade. To be fair to the grid though: I don’t think that this is what it was designed for. It’s seems it was designed so that you could quickly and easily define a character and his allegiances.

        Really the best morality gauge would be a non-existent one. Giving arbitrary points to difficult choices improves nothing. It just creates another reason to make certain decisions and those reasons make no sense in any sort of real setting (like “I want to protect the people but I get more good points by having the ghouls kill everyone”). I guess it could be a measurement on how you’re perceived by the rest of the world but that doesn’t make much sense either. How come people on Mars have the same perception of you as Venus when you bombed Venus and freed Mars? Arcanum had a regional sort of renown and while a bit simple if it was worked on a little I bet it could be made into something much better than a morality meter or grid or hypersurface for that matter.

        1. Will says:

          It helps if you remember that ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ in most tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons actually more accurately translate to ‘Selfless’ and ‘Selfish’. They don’t always mean that, but they usually do.

      2. ghost4 says:

        I don’t see a need to have a morality system at all. Just make the player’s decisions have the appropriate consequences, e.g. if you kill someone his friends and the police might come looking for you.

        All ME’s system does is force the developers’ morality down the player character’s throat, often in inexplicable ways.

    5. Daemian Lucifer says:

      No,its not the medium that limits the choice.Alpha protocol proves it.That game truly plays differently based on your choices.The end boss differes depending on your choices.

      And its not the only example of this.Original fallout,planescape:torment,hordes of the underdark and starcraft 2(to some extent)all show this.You can make a game that will have meaningful choices,and will still be beatable no matter what you choose.Its hard,yes,but not impossible.

      1. Taelus says:

        I’m not sure I track this one. Alpha Protocol was an interesting game, but the choices made in it weren’t all that better than what you see in the Mass Effect universe. In both games, your choices can and will result in NPCs living or dying. AP certainly implemented the whole thing differently (and I wasn’t a fan of the decision timer), but the decisions never really kept you from deciding the whole good guy vs. bad guy thing right at the end a la KoTOR.

        I disagree entirely about Starcraft 2. That game was so linear a 3rd grader could graph it.

        As for ME2, I have to say I get why they’d limit the possible effects on the universe. They already know they’re making a 3rd game that imports events from the first two and that means the more they allow to diverge in the second game, the less plausible the third game becomes. I may not like the limitations, but I certainly understand them from BioWare’s perspective.

        1. Shamus says:

          I think AP gets a lot of points for being different. Instead of Carebear / Jackass we get “Quick! Pick one!” Still arbitrary, but it’s a NEW kind of arbitrary.

          Also, AP is a lot closer to how some decisions in life are made. A? B? Crap! I have no idea! I’ll just pick something and hope for the best.

          1. Sean Riley says:

            That’s true, but it’s also a really bad game design philosophy. I think Clint Hocking nailed it with the word ‘intentionality’. The best games make you feel like you’re designing your destiny — you’re making choices to directly shape your world. Alpha Protocol’s tiny, sometimes one-word conversation calls made it impossible to work out what I was doing, leaving me feeling like a spectator, not a participant.

            (As an aside on the subject of Mr. Hocking, a while back you reviewed Far Cry 2. Whatever happened with that?)

            1. pneuma08 says:

              The worst options in Mass Effect had this problem, too.

              I think what we need is a device that plugs into our brains and reads are emotions, then picks a dialog choice closest to that. Until then, I agree with Shamus in that AP gets points for trying. I think it might work better if the time limit wasn’t “immediately after this guy stops talking”.

              1. Sean Riley says:

                And yeah, ME2 had that problem occassionally. AP had it nearly every damned time.

            2. Zukhramm says:

              Why is it bad design? In an action game, you have to make decisions quickly, even if you do not know what you are doing. Step to the left? Woops, you got shot and lost some health. Could not dialog work the same way? I think it ca, and Alpha Protocol did a good job of it in my opinion.

              1. Sean Riley says:

                Because the recovery possibilities are greater. Losing some health means less than pissing off an NPC in an RPG, and the soul of an RPG is in character interaction.

                Plus, part of being in an RPG (at least for some players) is about trying to model another person, and that can take some thought time to get it right. When you must hit the button instantly, it’s hard to play as anyone but yourself. I see the intent of a timer, it’s to force you to think on your feet and make conversations flow at more natural speed, but I think the former is an unworthy goal, and the latter generally needless — the back and forth of RPG dialogue is a happily accepted genre trope.

                1. Zukhramm says:

                  But the point of the dialogs in Alpha Protocol is more to manipulate rather than creating an interesting character out of Michael Thorton.

                  The first point, I can agree with, but I’ll say that Alpha Protocol did try to do something about that. It gives out points often enough to give you the chance to try out a character a bit first, to see what kind of attitue they like. The game also gives you some bonuses and other options if some characters dislike you. Not enought, unfortunatly, but it’s something.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “the back and forth of RPG dialogue is a happily accepted genre trope.”

                  No its not.I always find it irritating that I have to read all the responses while the guy stands in front of me waiting for an answer.

                  I like to think about my choices,I like turn based games,but these dialogue pauses always break the immersion for me.Especially in voiced over games.

              2. Daimbert says:

                Why is it bad? Because in an RPG I’m supposed to be making decisions as my character. But in order to do that, I have to be able to understand each option and what the consequences are, and decide what best fits my character, even when some of the options seem close.

                My character would know what each option means to them quickly. I, however, might need some time to think about it. Thus, making me choose quickly doesn’t let me portray my character the way I want my character to be portrayed, or at least doesn’t allow me to guarantee that.

                I can always portray a character as having made a snap choice, even without a timer. But if there’s a timer, there’s no way for me to take the time I want to consider a choice for my character. That’s bad.

        2. pneuma08 says:

          In Alpha Protocol, people live or die or escape, they talk to you or fight you depending on what you do and what you did, your relationship with them and with others. Even what facts you uncover on a given playthrough are influenced by your choices. This dynamic is at least tenfold more complex than ME1 or 2, the former of which you can skip -one- fight if you invested enough into Charm/Intimidate (and another if you bought the first DLC), and in the latter, you can save lives based on what missions you went on (or rather, what missions you didn’t go on) and your Paragon/Renegade scores; moreover, in either game every mission plays out the same no matter what your current stats (you just get more points depending on your decisions), with the sole exception being the final mission of ME2. The mere fact that you can just Paragon or Renegade your way through what would otherwise be difficult choices makes Mass Effect the inferior system.

          For SC2, I think you mean “so simple”. The game is not linear, and not even the “several independent linear threads” kind of non-linearity. I can’t fully comment but I have seen some branching so far and I’m wondering what repercussions there could be, if any.

          1. Michael says:

            Not much, actually. The branching in SC2 just affects unit availability (and research data). I could be wrong, but the branches are at the end of threads, so they go nowhere (yet). Additionally, you can actually go back and play the other mission, without penalty.

            Multiple linear strands is still a linear game design. (It is just less so than a strictly linear corridor shooter.) Contrast this with a game like X-Com and it’s clones, where there isn’t really any linear progression at all.

            Alpha Protocol is mostly linear, honestly. Now, you can switch between mission strands, and it’s a simple pass 2 missions to progress to the next stage in your area, but it is still (more or less) linear.

        3. Daemian Lucifer says:

          In mass effect you have a few entities that you can kill or leave alive,and all you get is a mention about it later.In alpha protocol whether you fight or talk with someone can influence:What you can buy and at what price,will you have certain help in some missions,or certain new difficulties,who will be the end boss,and whether youll fight certain other people in the last mission,will you fight certain people in previous missions,or will you never even have a conflict with them.The differences are not just cosmetic like in mass effect,they influence your further missions.A lot.

          Starcraft 2 is in no way a linear game.True,it has a linear story(not completely),but the gameplay in various missions varies a lot based on the order you play them in and yon your upgrades.Whether you focus on infantry,vehicles,airships,defense or offense,it all depends on what youve chosen.

          And yes,I get it why they limited the choices in mass effect,but it still doesnt mean that they had to.They still couldve made the missions play differently based on your choices,yet dont affect the final outcome by much.They werent limited by the medium itself,but by their resources devoted towards the development of the game.

          1. pinchy says:

            I have to agree about the Starcraft 2 point- yes the story is more or less a bunch of separate linear paths, but the gameplay does change. Take for instance the Great Train Robbery- without wanting to spoil anything (not that theres much if anything to spoil in it) if you’ve unlocked siege tanks by this point you might decide to play the mission in a more static manner by lying in wait, if you haven’t then you may choose to use massed diamondbacks to chase after the targets. I’m sure that there are several other similar situations depending on the order that you unlock units/upgrades/etc…

    6. Not a bug says:

      “But within the logic of the video game, this is not true. I know, as a player, that I can finish the quest either way. One may be a little harder “” but, at a maximum, I'll have to reload a few times if I spare the colonists. In the end, I will have stuck to my principles without getting hurt or getting any of my friends and allies killed (er, killed permanently). The only reason I would use lethal force against the colonists is if I value their lives less than my convenience.”


      1. Aldowyn says:

        The problem with Permadeath is its permanent, and thus kills your game. Imagine Insanity with permadeath, you’d be completely screwed. I died more often than not, even when faced with relatively few of relatively easy enemies. Especially as a Vanguard… Charge=useless on Insanity >.>

  9. J Greely says:

    The very-out-of-print Tuf Voyaging collection by George R. R. Martin handles the biological time-bomb issue quite nicely.

    (ignore the phony “collection” offered on Amazon by “Books LLC”; they just scrape Wikipedia articles and package them deceptively)


    1. John says:

      I remember picking that up once at random at my local library years ago. It was excellent, and to be honest I’ve yet to find a book that handled such questions better.

      (Albeit, I haven’t really tried.)

  10. Randy Johnson says:

    This is exactly what I wanted the system to be aswell. I have always considered myself a Lawful good type of person, but when it comes to the big issues, I also try to be very pragmatic. My love of Star Wars makes this very difficult because the sith are always portrayed as Pragmatics, and the Jedi as Idealist, but I want to be a Pragmatic good guy protecting the galaxy, not trying to rule it.

    1. Felblood says:

      There are a lot of pragmatic ideals in the Jedi philosophy.

      It’s just that most of them relate to the question, “How many innocents is it okay to sacrifice, to keep one Jedi from falling under the influence of the Dark Side?”

      Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are idealists, who want to train a hero, and set him lose to fix the galaxy, but Yoda and Mace Windu are pragmatists, who want to train dispassionate monks, who will sacrifice their loved ones (or better yet, avoid friendship and love altogether) just to avoid the potential for tempation.

      Yes, their pragmatism is bound up in an ancient system of proven techniques and strategies, but Pragmatic does not equal Chaotic Good. The entire divide among Jedi basically boils down to: “What’s the best way to sacrifice all force users for the greater good?”

      1. Will says:

        I’m sorry, but trying to train emotionless dispassionate monks is not pragmatic, that is idealistic. People will never be emotionless, it is that idealism; that ignoring emotions makes them go away, which resulted in Anakin’s fall to the dark side in the first place.

        Ignoring problems has never, in the entire history of everything, made them go away. But that doesn’t stop people trying it on the off chance it might work this time.

        1. Michael says:

          I thought it was terrible writing, and hideous railroading that resulted in Anikin’s fall to the dark side…

          Anyway, I’ll stop snarking for the moment. Though, you are right about ignoring problems not solving anything.

          1. swimon says:

            How do you railroad a movie? I mean all movies are linear with no player input so…

  11. Taelus says:

    I found it worth noting in ME2 that sometimes the Paragon road also came through as a jerk. I was always surprised when it happened. More often, Paragon sometimes came through as just depressed, such as talking to Joker about the new Normandy for the first time. I mean, why name it the Normandy if your response to it is “There’s nothing here from the *real* Normandy”?

    On the subject of difficult choices, I have to very much back up MogTM on this one. I think it’s easy to forget that in a video game, it’s exceedingly rare for something to truly risk damaging the main character permanently, and even then, it’s usually limited to the loss of a supporting character. ME2 at least took a stab at this issue with the loyalty vs. survival odds trick. It may not have been implemented perfectly, but I have to say I appreciate the attempt to give character choices lasting meaning, even up to the death of the main character themselves.

  12. Deoxy says:

    While your atomic bomb analogy fits well in terms of the discussions about it, that’s only because the discussions about it are almost always dominated by the ignorant. The people in those cities were all going to die, either way – the only question was how many people were going to die WITH them. As such, the only thing to discuss about it is whether or not using atomic weapons ever, under any circumstances, is ok (and especially the first time, since that does set a precedence, though it was a precedence used basically to say, “That was a bad idea – let’s never do that again (unless we’re screwed anyway),” which is probably a pretty good stance to take).

    Before we were nuking those 2 cities, we were firebombing other cities (standard from all sides during that war… and true to normal form for historical wars, as well – not killing/massively brutalizing the civilians is not an entirely new concept, but it was not remotely the norm, historically speaking – heck, in many parts of history, killing/brutalizing your OWN population on the way to/from the battle wasn’t uncommon). The people in them ended up just as dead, and many of them suffered horrendously (dying a slow, agonizing death to large body burn is just as bad, whether it was a nuke or not).

    In fact, we killed a lot MORE Japanese with firebombing than we did with the nukes.

    If you don’t realize that, well, sure, it’s a fascinating and difficult discussion about could-haves and might-have-beens, but with just a little more knowledge… well, it makes a bit of a hash of your analogy.

    1. Taelus says:

      I’m not sure I can agree with your logic. The argument that we were already doing horrible things isn’t really a justification for doing something horrible. For instance, it would be similar for me to posit that if I’ve been burning people in their houses, it’s worth shooting blowing a few houses up to show that I have that ability and shock them into submission. I know, this doesn’t talk about the fact that we were at war, so add on that the people in that neighborhood were also out to get me. I guess the analogy gets a little odd, but the point is that I don’t believe we can justify the slaughter of a city full of innocent people with the justification that we’d already been doing it in a more brutal way anyhow.

      I’m not trying to say what we should or shouldn’t have done, just that the argument has traction on both sides.

      1. krellen says:

        To be fair to President Truman and the folks making the call, while we had done weapons tests on the things, at the time no one knew the long term devastation that dropping an atomic bomb would cause. The intent was only to demonstrate our massive destructive capability on a relatively sparsely populated military target, not to irradiate the countryside into uselessness for generations. That was an unexpected consequence of the decision (and likely why nuclear weapons have never been used again. We get a pass for being first and not knowing any better, but now we know, and, in this case, knowing is the entire battle, not just half.)

        At the time, the only thought was “this makes a really big boom”, and so it wasn’t really anything more than fire-bombing on a larger scale.

      2. Deoxy says:

        “The argument that we were already doing horrible things isn't really a justification for doing something horrible.”

        No, but that’s not the point. Doing horrible things was already accepted and considered, essentially, a normal part of warfare at the time. In relation, nukes weren’t any more horrible, had zero chance of increasing the body count, and had a decent chance of lowering both our AND THEIR body count.

        We had ALREADY decided to do whatever it took to make the surrender (see the plans for invasion of the Japan, which would involve huge American casualties). Complaining about the nukes is therefore no more horrible, and indeed, likely LESS horrible.

        It’s not “pragmatic vs idealist”, it’s “pragmatic vs stupid”. “Idealist” got kicked out of the discussion after Pearl Harbor.

        (Actually, there’s even an IDEALIST case for the nuke, since the invasion of Japan would likely have resulted in the practical genocide of the Japanese people, as they had been ordered to prepare spears for everyone who could hold one to charge our soldiers with.)

        1. Shamus says:

          “It's not “pragmatic vs idealist”, it's “pragmatic vs stupid”. “Idealist” got kicked out of the discussion after Pearl Harbor.”

          I really have no idea where you’re going with this, other than to say idealists are stupid. Which is what pragmatists often say, and was the reason I brought this up to begin with.

          And the central point still stands: Two groups of people come to radically different opinions, given the same input data. You’re saying their data is bad, but that’s not really the point of this discussion.

          1. Taelus says:

            Nuh uh! We’re not proving that there are two sides to the argume…oh wait…

            1. Aldowyn says:

              This entire discussion is just illustrating his point…

          2. Deoxy says:

            No, I’m saying that the Idealist position (not killing them) was already completely and totally out of the question. As such, the closest thing to an “idealist” position would be minimizing the total body count (ours and theirs) without regard to which side the bodies came from. By every moral standard, once you take “we’re going to do horrible things to them until they surrender or are all dead” as immutable, dropping the nukes was better than all known alternatives.

            “Two groups of people come to radically different opinions, given the same input data. You're saying their data is bad, but that's not really the point of this discussion.”

            OK, I can’t argue with that.

    2. Shamus says:

      Actually, you could replace “nuke” with “firebomb a city” and have the same discussion. An idealist could object to wrecking a city full of schools, houses, hospitals, and other non-military targets. A pragmatist will say, “Yeah, but if we wreck their city it will make them surrender and the war will be over with less total deaths.” So I think the analogy stands. The nuke is just a really big attention-getter, history-wise.

      (This is of course discounting the genetic damage / cancer that can linger for decades after the war, which they didn’t really understand back then.)

      1. Taelus says:

        Which is really what makes it a more valid analogy. The galaxy didn’t really understand what unleashing the genophage would do, the Salarians least of all. Of course, they had and continue to have their statistical models of the whole thing (just like we do with large yield weapons) and the outcome is still just as difficult to predict no matter the choice.

      2. Deoxy says:

        The problem is that it destroys the very discussion you would have, not to have it be about nukes, since massive bombings against civilian targets was standard operating procedure in that war for all sides. The only thing different about Hiroshima/Nagasaki was the nukes, but plenty of other cities were just as thoroughly destroyed (maybe more so).

        1. Taelus says:

          Again, it’s not a question of what was standard practice at the time, but from the Idealist’s perspective, what is or isn’t the right thing to do. The Idealist doesn’t use a relative-to-current-times lens, but rather an absolute one. The Idealist would tell you that the bombing of population centers is wrong no matter the size of the bomb. The use of a nuke for them is still wrong, no matter how many towns have already been bombed.

          1. Deoxy says:

            In which case, the argument STILL isn’t about the nukes. At all.

            That was my point – from an idealist perspective, the dropping of the nukes was at the very least no worse than what was already being done, making them irrelevant. At any point better than that, they would still be bad, but less bad than what was already being done, so the idealist wouldn’t be arguing AGAINST them (at least, not until they had argued against a great many other things first).

            Arguing against the nukes makes no sense from an idealist perspective, since the alternative would be just as bad or worse. The idealist would be arguing against the war itself – nukes would be either an irrelevant detail or a slight improvement (that the idealist would still clearly thing insufficient, of course).

        2. krellen says:

          Not entirely true. The fire-bombing of Tokyo was deliberate bombing of civilian targets. Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, were military targets – Hiroshima was a depot and the headquarters of a large portion of Japan’s army. Nagasaki was the major shipyard for the Japanese navy.

          So, arguably, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was less horrific than the fire-bombing of Tokyo.

          1. wtrmute says:

            Au contraire: Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were cities which contained military targets — the army HQs and shipyards you mentioned. In fact, since Hiroshima was spared most of the bombing (and was selected for being the most intact city in Japan so the US military could gauge the effects on a target which wasn’t half in ruins already), lots of refugees from elsewhere in Japan found themselves there that August. Tokyo, by the way, also had military objectives — most of the top brass of the Imperial Army and Navy were in Tokyo, not to mention Emperor Shouwa himself.

            1. Michael says:

              Well, if you nuke the command structure it does make surrendering a wee bit difficult, because no one can agree who’s left in charge.

          2. Soylent Dave says:

            Less horrific – apart from when you take into account that the bombings were in part done as a weapons test.

            That’s why two cities were bombed (you have to repeat the experiment), and why an undamaged city was chosen as a target.

            Obviously we don’t know how much weight that carried when they were making their decisions (I’d think ‘not as much as “we need to make sure the Russians don’t invade Japan”‘ amongst others) – but it’s just one of many factors involved in the atomic bombings of Japan which are frightening in their pragmatism.

    3. pneuma08 says:

      You’re assuming that there was no other options besides a land war. One argument is that if the Allies changed their terms of surrender (perhaps even as little as from “unconditional” to “ensuring the seat of the Emperor merely as a figurehead”) the war might have ended without any further bloodshed, whatsoever.

      This argument also does not consider additional repercussions and only counts total human casualties on all sides. Besides the irradiation of the countryside, the use of nuclear weaponry also went a long way in furthering tensions between Russia, which we all know led to the Cold War. Granted, this probably was not foreseen at the time, but we might as well take the whole picture into consideration when we make up alternate history.

      1. Shamus says:

        I’d love to see the alternate history of that one play out. I am not a history scholar, but according to my vague recollection of that thing about the war I saw on the History Chanel that one time years ago, the bit about the emperor was the last sticking point. The Japanese* were willing to call it quits, but they wanted to keep the emperor.

        Perhaps the emperor, having just lost a war and gotten a lot of people killed, would have faded from importance. Perhaps he would have rebuilt and come back at us a generation later, as happened with Germany after The World War.

        I would like to encourage all alternate historians try asking something besides “what if Hitler Won the War?”

        * I hate how we always have to write out “Japanese” every time because BOTH “japs” and “Nips” are racist slurs. We’ve got Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, and Canucks. But we can’t shorten any of our former foes. Maybe we could shorten it to ‘nese? Sigh. War is hell.

        1. Irridium says:

          Well there was a game that promoted the “Nazi’s won in Europe” alternate history and ended up invading the US.

          Sadly the game itself was mediocre at best.

          1. Irridium says:

            The game is “Turning Point: Fall of Liberty” by the way, in case anyone wants to know.

          2. acronix says:

            You mean that one that had nazi on jetpacks?*

            *Addendum: You can tell how bad that game was since I can only identify it for that.

            1. Irridium says:


              I had to actually look up the name. I honestly couldn’t remember what it was called until a nice google search did it for me.

        2. Keeshhound says:

          It has been further speculated that even though Hirohito and the Japanese people were willing to surrender, the Generals where insistent that the Japanese people would fight to the end, rather than admit defeat. They probably would have been hard to convince without the bombings, but again, thats a question for the alternate history writers.

        3. Soylent Dave says:

          The other key reason for the use of nuclear weapons on Japan was the need to end the war quickly, because Soviet forces were almost in position to invade the Japanese home islands.

          This would obviously have made an allied invasion of Japan entirely feasible – but by this point the other allies (particularly the US) were getting a bit wary about allowing the Soviets to take and hold onto too much land after the war was over.

          A negotiated surrender might therefore have resulted in Japan being divided between East and West, much like Germany was – creating an entirely different setup for the cold war.

          1. cassander says:

            While Truman might have wanted to use the bomb to scare the USSR, it is not true we wanted to win before they got involved in the east. We had actively been trying to get them involved in the war against Japan for months at that point, ever since Germany had been defeated, and Stalin dragged his feat.

            1. Michael says:

              As a minor quibble, (and this could be faulty recollection on my part), but it wasn’t so much Stalin dragging his feet. He wanted more Pacific coast holdings for Russia, it was that it has been historically difficult for Russia to redeploy forces from Europe to the Pacific. Especially naval forces.

        4. Aldowyn says:

          sorry Shamus, nice try, but there’s at least two MAJOR racial names ending with ‘nese. Chinese and Japanese…

        5. Michael says:

          You run into the same things with Germans. The abbreviation us a slur.

          On the alternate history thing, there’s always Iron Storm. Set in 1963 it’s premise is, what if WWI never ended.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Bad logic.There were other choices.Assassinating the emperor,for example.Might have worked,we dont know.

      1. somebodys_kid says:

        Assassinating the Emperor would NOT have worked since it was he that finally pushed the High Command to surrender after Nagasaki. After he did that, the Army higher ups tried to assassinate him themselves to keep the war going (they failed, obviously).
        To support your other choices comment though, a massive air and sea blockade was suggested, but the body count in Japan from that and the time required to pull it off would not have made it more humane.

        1. J Greely says:

          They didn’t try to kill the Emperor; they tried to stop his recorded surrender announcement from being broadcast to the people of Japan. Big difference.


          1. somebodys_kid says:

            I disagree. Richard B. Frank in his book Downfall says, “…the fact is that a small group of Imperial Army officers assembed a coup d’etat…with or without the complicity of higher officers”. They bungled it badly due to their rushed time frame. Their immediate objective was to prevent the broadcast, but their ultimate goal was to remove the emperor from power specifically to continue the war; I can’t see any other way of doing that outside of assassination.

            1. J Greely says:

              It’s a good book. I’d also recommend The Making of Modern Japan and Embracing Defeat, which will fill in a lot of context about how the military viewed the emperor. Don’t forget that before the Meiji Restoration, the emperor had been a figurehead for centuries, living in a comfortable palace in Kyoto while all the real power was in the hands of the shoguns and the bureaucrats. Revered, but not obeyed.

              If they’d actually planned to kill him, they’d never have found enough recruits to get their coup off the ground. Kill the emperor? Unthinkable! Rescue him from bad advisors and lead the empire to victory in his name? Let’s go!


        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I was just tossing the first idea that came to mind.I have no in depth knowledge of the exact state of the world at that time.But what I do know that tossing the nuke was not the only choice.And while we know how that one worked out,we have no idea how other proposed choices wouldve worked out.So saying that neither one wouldve worked is wrong.

          1. somebodys_kid says:

            A fair point…we can’t know what would’ve happened.
            The Allies were given options of nuking, invading, or blockading. Were the Salarians given any alternative choices to make other than Genophage? I don’t think any were mentioned…

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              There was also the choice of surrendering to the japan.Giving them the islands in the pacific they wanted.And that would cost the least lives.

              As for salarians,someone mentioned in the last topic that they couldve used krogans to scout the other mass relays.So they had at least that.And probably something other that we know nothing about.

              1. Viktor says:

                Research the Rape of Nanking. There’s a reason we weren’t about to give Japan access to any indigenous populations. Hitler was an amateur at genocide compared to the Imperial Army.

  13. jdaubenb says:

    I think this post finally made me figure one of my problems with Mass Effect 2 out: There are no “Paragon” Squad mates.
    Everybody you pick up along the way would be classified as a Renegade/Outlaw by the game’s logic and is actually a representation of what a Renegade Shepard could be.
    Miranda & Jacob work for Cerberus, Jacob actually defected from the Alliance Navy, because they think it is best for humanity.
    Mordin is a “the ends justify the means” type of guy.
    Garrus claims to be a vigilante, but is little more than a thug, menacing other, jerkier thugs.
    Grunt is practically a Warhammer 40k Ork, short of shouting “WAAAAGH!” instead of “I. AM. KROGAN!” while charging.
    Jack is a murderous psychopath.
    Samara is a vigilante with a strong moral code, but is also a unrepenting murderer who has no time for other people’s ethics.
    Morinth eats people.
    Thane is a gun for hire (a very stylish gun, that gives you hallucinations if you like it, but a gun nontheless).
    Tali advocates Geth-genocide, which, while coming from an understandable point of view, is still genocide.
    Legion is geth – you get to know so very little about it that it is hard to pinpoint what its motivations actually are.
    Zaeed and Kasumi are bland.

    Compare that with the original Mass Effect (drink!) which had Kaidan, Liara and Tali as clearly idealistic (Paragon) characters and Ashley, Wrex and Garrus as Renegade-Archetypes, and that is only on your crew.

    You don’t meet a single character (recurring or otherwise) who would classify as idealistic and is not a raging lunatic. The only one who comes to mind is the ship-admiral at the migrant fleet with the embarassing name who advocates picking up communications with the geth again and is laughed out of the room for it.

    I guess Bioware realised that people favoured the “baddass”, rather than the “heroic” (quoting the loading screens here) choices and geared the sequel accordingly.

    1. Taelus says:

      I think you have a reasonable point, though I’ll toss in a few exceptions:

      Kal Reagar (Quarian soldier). He’s a soldier and he kills things, but he never said he was out for Geth genocide, he just goes where he’s told and fights what needs fighting to save his people and friends.

      Kelly Chambers (Yeoman). She professed loving support for almost everyone and the few exceptions (like Grunt) she didn’t have it out for, but was simply a bit frightened.

      Admiral/Councilor Anderson. He’s done some hard things, but he’s always come down on the “save people the right way” side of things.

      Still, you’re right that all the ones I can think of (save Kelly who wasn’t particularly heroic) are at best minor sidelight characters…

    2. swimon says:

      You have a point certainly but I would disagree on a few characters. First Samara might be a murderer by some standard and Garrus might have been a vigilante but so is paragon Shepard in the first game. You’re completely above the law and kills more people than malaria. This is sort of accepted as status quo for games but when you think about it, Shepard was never all that super heroic. “Killing for a good cause” has always been a paragon and renegade choice in ME (as it should IMO since non-lethal stuff only works in stealth games). It’s the same as vigilantes being heroes in comics but in reality they’re frowned upon ^^.

      That said ME2 was a lot darker which is a shame since one of the things that made ME so special is how almost utopian it was. It’s very rare to see a work of fiction having the future portrayed in such bright colours today and that combined with the hard (somewhat at least) sci-fi world gave ME a very distinct feel. ME2 had a much more conventional tone to it with the usual cyberpunk doom and gloom.

    3. Avilan says:

      I agree with everything you say except Kasumi. She is my favorite companion actually and far from bland.

      1. Taelus says:

        Maybe true with Kasumi, but seeing into her character really takes talking to her over and over again. and now that I finish typing that sentence I realize that’s no different for any of the other character…silly me.

        1. jdaubenb says:

          I will grant that Kasumi and Zaeed actually have some backstory, but getting to the creamy centre is needlessly difficult.
          Their dialogue feels more or less random because the game inserts the same comments repeatetly in the three sentences they will say when you click on them.

          And they are still renegade.

          (Why yes, I hate the DLC characters’ version of dialogue trees with the fiery passion of a million suns and will continue to bitch and moan about it until the cows come home, why do you ask?)

          @Samara – She does not question motives. If you do something wrong on her watch she will gun you down, no matter what.
          To her it doesn’t matter if you were forced to steal that loaf of bread to feed your 5 adorable children, you stole a loaf of bread and she will kill you for it. She pretty much says so – Samara will not burden her consciousness with the knowledge of a wrong-doers motives. She follows her code.
          I find it telling that the game awards automatic Renegade points for recruiting Mordin and Samara (at least I found no way around them) and everybody else is fair game.

          EDIT: I am sorry if my “arguments” read like hyperbole intended to underline ‘the one true opinion (mine)’.
          Proofreading is for sissies and I think the tone is overly aggressive.

          Allow me to rephrase: Mordin and Samara are the only characters, to my knowledge, that award the player with automatic Renegade points upon their recruitment.
          Samara is presented a career killer who doesn’t care or cannot care about the motivations of those she has to hunt and bring to justice.
          The difference between her and a career soldier, or even a specter, is the lack of a governing body.
          Specters are still liable to council jurisdiction and are handpicked to take care of business the council cannot be involved in officially.
          Samara is more akin to a travelling monk or a paladin in a D&D type settings, handing out wisdom and other peoples’ behinds on plates.
          While she is certainly more… “good”, lacking a better description, than the other renegades she still doesn’t adhere to the galaxies consensus of correct behaviour.

          Describing her as renegade breaks, because the game insists on making Paragon/Renegade a Good-Evil-axis for the player character, while the NPCs are allowed to stray a bit from these absolutes.

          1. Taelus says:

            I’ll back you that Samara is completely Renegade. You need look no further than her introduction when she kills a disarmed and mostly helpless merc because that merc wouldn’t give up information. That’s not even remotely Paragon in nature.

            As for Kasumi, she could be argued as Paragon more than Renegade. While she is a thief, she doesn’t do any of it to harm people in any way. She makes references to going out of her way to avoid hurting people and has a deep aversion to the beating you witness on the Purgatory. I don’t know…she’s more gray I suppose, but of all of them, she seems reasonably on the side of Paragon.

            Now that I think of it, Jacob also resides on the Paragon side, probably more than any of them. He states very clearly that he works for the Illusive Man only for so long as he’s not made to do anything outside his moral bounds. He’s worked in the Corsairs, but then, Shepard is a Spectre so that doesn’t force Renegade status. He left the Corsairs because he wasn’t able to do enough good. On his loyalty mission he’s sickened by his Father’s actions but draws the line at killing the man off. I’d say he actually comes through as Paragon quite nicely now I have a chance to verbalize it.

          2. Rick W says:

            The dossier missions for Mordin and Samara automatically award an equal number of Paragon and Renegade points. There are other occasions for that: the Collector Ship, getting the Reaper IFF, and Grunt’s loyalty mission (more points for killing the thresher maw than for just surviving). So doing those missions doesn’t shift you toward either side.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I would call tali a paragon.Dont forget that she is not human,so you cannot apply the same morality.She is the ideal quarian.And yes,she wants to destroy the geth,but thats like saying human is not a paragon because he wants to destroy the t virus zombies.

      And legion by definition cannot be renegade.He is programed to be logical and follow orders to the letter.But then again,I dont know if you can qualify a machine as either paragon or renegade,no matter how advanced it is.

      Jacob is also a paragon.He just doesnt think the navy is any better than cerberus,but works with the latter simply because they are currently fighting the collectors.

      And grunt…Well,he is krogan so…Can we apply renegade/paragon to these guys anyway?I mean they do have their own code,and grunt does follow that code,but still…

      Oh,and samara is not a vigilante,she is a justicar.And she is following that to the letter.Yes,thats not how humans operate,but she is not human.Imagine a decorated war hero,who saved numerous of his comrades in battle,and acted as a model citizen back home.Is he a renegade because he bombed a city he was ordered to?

      1. bit says:

        I think I need to disagree with you on Legion. True, he is programmed to follow Shepard’s orders, but his reasons for doing this are not Paragon in any way whatsoever; he is there to study, not to help. Additionally, when left to his own devices, the logic you mentioned is the very thing that, by definition, denies him from being Paragon; he will always pick the most practical choice, with as much disregard for aesthetic ethics as possible.

        On that note, EDI always struck me as fairly Paragon, at least in intention.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          He is not following shepards orders,he is following geths orders.But like I said,its hard to define legion as either paragon or renegade,because he is a part of a hive mind civilization.It would be like trying to define the morality of your right hand.But then again,can you define the geth race as either paragon or renegade?Can you define any race as paragon or renegade?

      2. Avilan says:

        Exactly, Samara is not a Renegade. She is a D&D Paladin.

        1. You people keep messing up with Samara again and again.

          First of all, her name is Samara.

          Second, she is not a vigilante as that would mean taking the law into their own hands, unsanctioned by the government.

          Thirdly, she is a Justicar, and thus outrank the police and who knows what, for the lack of a better term she is the Asari species version of a “judge Dredd”, where a Justicar acts as judge, jury and executioner.

          And amusingly enough, the Asari Justicar is very similar to the Council’s Spectres (most likely it was the Asari that suggested the Spectre thing based on their Justicar tradition.)

          1. Rick W says:

            Spectres were based on the salarian STG. The justicars are not a government organization and have no oversight.

            As for Samara and justicars in general, the whole justicar code strikes me as the worst of the lawful stupid detect-and-smite interpretation of the D&D paladin code. Everyone on Illium’s worried that she’s going to cause a diplomatic incident by killing the wrong non-asari; to the point where Detective Anaya has orders to arrest her, even though trying would make Samara, following the code, have to kill her.

            I can’t call Samara a Renegade, though. She works out a way to (temporarily) cooperate with Anaya while you finish her investigation, and tells a Renegade Shepard (who didn’t side with Morinth to kill her) that were it not for the fact that she swore to follow their orders, she would be honor-bound to stop them.

            1. Avilan says:

              This is my point exactly. She is (deliberately written as) Lawful Stupid. Extremely far from Renegade.

  14. Soylent Dave says:

    I liked the idea of the switch to Paragon/Renegade from Light/Dark, simply because it seemed a lot less like ‘good guy/bad guy’ which I just don’t think works.

    It seems to be much too complex for developers to make a game which genuinely lets the player be either the good guy or the bad guy (which makes sense – the entire game world, and probably the overall objectives, would have to completely transform around you) – whereas the Paragon/Renegade dichotomy assumes (or should assume) that you’re always the ‘good guy’, you’re always the hero; it’s just how you display your heroism that changes.

    But Bioware, having come up with this concept, seem to have immediately forgotten what they were doing and turned it back into ‘good guy/bad guy’ again – recreating all the same verisimilitude problems that we’ve always had (why would a Renegade give a shit in the first game? Why would a Paragon keep working for Cerberus in the second? Und so weiter)

    That’s why it’s unsatisfying for me – it’s just a relabelled light side/dark side dichotomy, which will never work unless they make games a lot more complex.

    (And of course, in a world where we ride around on unicorns spending chicken teeth as currency, I’d like a game where the middle ground is meaningful too…)

    1. I agree, the games that truly let you take a good or evil paths (or inbetween) are rare indeed. In fact I can’t really think of many.
      Besides KoTOR and the last chapter if you will, in where the story truly do change the “world” in different directions.

      I wish there was a list or such that showed which games had a satisfying “evil” story path.

      Fable 3 looks to have that potential )+good and middle of the road), and I’m kinda wondering if Dragon Age 2 might just allow good/evil paths. The Old Republic seems to have some potential too. I wonder what Fallout: New Vegas will allow (these are the Alpha Protocol and KoTOR2 guys, they do know gray choices so it could be great).

      It’s refreshing to see games where you are not heroically saving the world again, but instead conquering it, or even (shock) achieving your own end goal using whatever means you choose be it good or evil or neutral.

  15. Picador says:

    On my first playthrough of ME1, I went with almost pure Paragon play. I liked that it was a step up from the “good” path provided in other games’ karma systems: being a Paragon was usually about being honest, following the rules, and addressing everyone’s concerns, even when doing so appeared to create more problems than it solved. Following the Paragon choices made my Shepard feel like someone with real integrity and principles: a professional, someone to be emulated. In contrast, the “good” path presented by most games is usually just a half-step above complete sociopathy.

    On my second playthrough I tried to go Renegade with a space-jerk Shepard. I lost interst in the first hour. The choices made by Renegade Shepard were just idiotic and offensive. They weren’t even funny or amusing, and they certainly weren’t practical. Perhaps the game should have called the two paths “Grownup” and “15 year old boy playing a Halo deathmatch”. They could have just made every Renegade dialogue choice read “FAG!!!1!11”

    Recently I’ve been playing Vampire: Bloodlines for the first time. I admire a lot of things about the game, but the Humanity/Masquerade system is an amazingly immersive and effective system for producing interesting moral choices. First, as a member of a secret vampire society, you have an obligation to keep the existence of vampires a secret, and actions that further or impede this goal make you gain or lose Masquerade points accordingly. Second, vampires are always at risk of losing touch with their sense of normal human life, which puts them at increased chance to become animalistic, bloodthirsty killing machines; you gain Humanity points by exercising your empathy and connecting to people, while you lose them by hardening yourself to suffering or exposing yourself to inhuman experiences. What’s so great about the game is that the two different karma systems work together in complex yet highly intuitive ways. They are often at cross purposes, such as when you have to decide whether to kill an innocent witness to supernatural events; but they can also complement each other, such as losing points on both scales by feeding on innocent people in public. These two scales balance out very well against the very real drive in the game for money, influence, information, magical power, etc, creating a very compelling set of dilemmas for the player. I wish more people were looking at this game when they sat down to design their karma systems.

    1. Avilan says:

      I must say that ME2 is better than ME1 with the responses. Paragon Shepard can be far more badass and still paragon. Renegade Shepard is mostly practical and pragmatic (if a little agressive). Only on a few extreme occasions (Zaed’s loyalty mission) does the renegade choice really equal “evil”.

      1. krellen says:

        What if I don’t want to be “badass”?

        1. Avilan says:

          Then you pick the non-colored response. Of course the whole point with Shepard IS “Badass”. She is badass enough that it is worth rebuilding her from the dead!!! She is badass enough that she can threaten to break an Elcor’s bones(!) and he BELIEVES her.

          Shepard IS badass.

          1. krellen says:

            ME2 is stupid.

              1. krellen says:

                More to the point; in ME1, Shepard was a caring, courageous woman who cared about her crew, her species, and the other sentient species of the world, and did her best to help them all (the “Save the Council” ending, in my opinion, really should have ended with Shepard NOT emerging from the rubble, frankly.)

                ME2 made Shepard into some sort of space zombie jerk, who not only died for a completely stupid reason, but then starts working with one of the most detestable organisations in the galaxy for a completely stupid reason, made even more colossally stupid by the fact that one of the choices of defining moment in Shepard’s life could be said organisation feeding her entire squad to a Thresher Maw, which the game then proceeds to ignore entirely, despite the fact that you’re face to face with the man ultimately responsible for that.

                I’m not sure who wrote the good parts of Mordin’s arc, but they clearly didn’t have much to do with the rest of the game. The game seems like it was written by a 13-year old seeking to assert his manly awesomitude.

                Shepard shouldn’t have to be a badass, but, because ME2 is stupid, is.

                1. Avilan says:

                  Sorry, I just don’t agree with you. At all.

                2. Taelus says:

                  I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of the working for Cerberus aspect. The only thing I can figure is that you have to stick with them long enough to figure out the colonists vanishing issue, and I’m alright with that part. After, if the first thing you do is return to the council to say “hey, there’s this Reaper stuff we should look into” and get the blow-off as comes up, I can see being between a rock and a hard place. I wish they’d shown that a bit more though. I would have been fine playing a Shepard who hated what they were having to do, but didn’t see any other way to save the colonists (assuming Paragon of course).

                  A moment that completely lost me was the inside of the Collector ship and the comment of “they’re going to target Earth”. Seriously? This one ship? This one ship that we blow apart with some upgraded lasers? Yeah, I’m sure that thing’s just going to jump into Earth space and battle through an armada to pick up some humans…right…

                3. krellen says:

                  Avilan: That’s fine. It’s your right to be wrong. Constitutionally protected, even. :D

                4. swimon says:

                  I agree completely. ME had some rather dull side character but a really nice main (and a good central plot and interesting combat and all that but that’s besides the point). ME2 has fantastic side characters some of the best in any game with only 1 that I despised (Jack) but the main character is just a jerkish moron. I think the biggest problem I have is that he/she seem so dumb. There’s never any diplomacy or intellectual discussions it’s just veiled threats and an astounding ability to simplify everything until it makes no sense.

                  I wonder how ME3 will turn out. If the series continues like ME2 it will end with you killing all the reapers in ship to ship combat or something stupid like that. If it went back to its intelligent roots however… There are so many cool things they could do. Like having the game centre around proving that the war would cause some losses on their side and make some sort of deal? Or trapping them in darkspace knowing that in like 100yrs or something they will kill everything and we have just stalled the inevitable or given the galaxy a chance to upgrade their tech until the can match the reapers? Something even cooler? So many opportunities.

                  Not to imply that all was gold in the original. The dumbest part is when Shepard says something like: “machines can be destroyed”. How does that help anyone? I doubt anyone thought that the reapers were indestructible but that doesn’t make them any less deadly. The way he says it also seems to imply that non-machines can’t be destroyed It’s all so dumb.

                5. Irridium says:

                  Agreed. My Shepard also had his squad fed to Thresher Maws. I should have had the option to either demand some explanation for the event which would have been the single defining moment in his life, or failing that simply told the Illusive Man to go screw himself and leave.

                  Plus, what kind of “pro-human” organization focused on “humanities expansion and domination” would release giant murderous worms on a human colony?

                6. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  See,thats not how Ive played it.Ive played it by constantly collecting more and more leverage against cerberus,while using their resources to combat the collectors.After that threat was done with,Id have enough to seriously damage cerberus.

                  What I find stupid,though,is that this organization who Ive combated numerous times before,doesnt even try to subdue me when I go through their various projects and keep secret data for my later use.And yet this incompetent bunch managed to acquire equipment that is far superior than anything the government is using.Yeaaaaaah….

                7. Avilan says:

                  @Daemian Lucifer

                  Exactly, that is how I play it too. You are drafted into Cerberus, but instead of shooting your way out, you use their resources to save the human colonies (Cerberus has ONE point: they ARE the only organization that gives a damn about those colonists) while steadily undermining the Illusive Man’s power and basically either destroys Cerberus from within, OR steal the whole organization and making it yours (with the Illusive Man still as the figure head).

                  As for resources… Cerberus is a small organization with a HUGE amount of ready cash, mainly from people like Amanda’s father. I can definitely believe that they can outfit you with far better weapons, quicker, than a galactic council can, especially since Cerberus is completely without infighting (until you come along ;) )

                8. Retlor says:

                  There’s a moment in ME2 where you ask TIM if he’s fighting for “human domination? Or just Cerberus?”

                  Obviously the tone of this statement is that TIM is just a petty terrorist with delusions of grandeur and that he should be fighting for all humans like he claims to be, but it really gets to the heart of what I hate about ME2.

                  Paragon Shepard, MY Shepard from the first game, would NEVER have asked this. MY Shepard doesn’t WANT human domination. There’s a whole galaxy of races, all of whom should be considered. Human’s shouldn’t deserve special consideration in that.

                9. krellen says:

                  Your points all tie back to another stupid thing about ME2: the fact that no one believes Shepard, and the fact that Cerberus is the only one willing to do anything about it.

                  The whole “Terminus Systems” thing is a horrible excuse; governments meddle in “unaffiliated” territory all the time. The Alliance is doing something (as evidenced by Kaiden/Ashley), the Spectres exist precisely to deal with this sort of situation, and the members of a saved Council owe their very lives to Shepard.

                  Cerberus might make sense for a Renegade Shepard that sacrificed the Council, but it makes absolutely no bloody sense for a Paragon Shepard that saved it. Renegade Shepard has no where else to turn; Paragon Shepard has friends all over the galaxy to which to turn long before Cerberus.

                  The game fiats that Cerberus is the only group willing to do anything about it, but Cerberus being the only group willing to do anything about it is stupid. It makes no sense given the universe built in the first game.

                10. Avilan says:

                  But this depends on what you think a galactic council and the human alliance is capable of. I find it plausible that both these entities have trouble doing anything but the basics, simply because the Terminus systems are outside of their political influence (meaning no votes, no taxes). The alliance sends a little help (too little too late) to quiet those who complain too much, but they don’t really care that much.

                  I guess to a point it also depends on what you believe your IRL government would do in a crisis that doesn’t happen to their own country. AFAIK the American gov. are quite frequently bailing out their citizens from other countries if some sort of crisis happens. Many other countries have the attitude towards their citizens of “Look, you [email protected]$$, you went there, we told you not to, and now they threw you in jail / got stuck on the airport / the volcano is erupting; It’s your own damn problem”.

                11. Brumbek says:

                  Very well said krellen! I 100% agree with you. ME2 was very stupid in comparison to ME1. ME2 was so incredibly contrived. The death of Shepard, his alliance with Cerberus, and the whole end plot was just contrived nonsense. It’s a shame because ME1 was pure genius story-wise.

                  I had to cringe every time the game branded me a “renegade” for making what I believed the best choice to save the most lives! It reminded me of that horrible quest in Fallout3 where you got massive bad karma for killing (in self-defense!!!) that genocidal maniac who wanted to murder everyone in Tenpenny Tower…LOL.

                  Anyway, I do realize I’m in the 0.00001% minority that realizes ME2 is such a failure compared to ME1. Here’s hoping they drop the contrivance method of storytelling and also drop the “badass” stupidity and instead focus on a believable, emotionally and intellectually engaging finale…I can dream, can’t I?

              2. acronix says:

                Probably because releasing it on another species colony would cause a diplomatic uprising against humanity if they are discovered. Or if it doesn´t, then you get way a lot more attention, not only from the human goverments but also from the turians/asari/whatever you killed, which means extra enemies to deal with and avoid.
                Killing your own side has quite a few advantages, one being that you are probably used to their investigation methods and technology (If we belive that Cerberus is so super-duper-smart as they want us to belive) so you can avoid being discovered more easily. And if you are discovered, then your deeds didn´t have the potential to start a galactic war with the Council species.

                EDIT: Wooops. This should have been a reply to Irridium. Apologies!

                1. Irridium says:

                  That makes some sense I guess. But it still sounds pretty, well pretty stupid. They advocate protecting and furthering humanity, yet they do possibly the worst things to humanity.

  16. Vegedus says:

    That, right there. In the fifth paragons, about the differing viewpoint of Wrex and Mordin. I disliked that part, moreso than some of the things Shamus lampooned in his review. To me, the lack of a lampshade makes it feel more like a retcon than anything else. Sure, you can try and explain it away on behalf of the game, but if you take the info given for what it is, it’s directly contradictory. I don’t remember them that well, but I think the codex in the first Mass Effect only affirmed wrex viewpoint. Given the general handling of ME2, the lack of consistency and the changed writers, I very much get the sense that they simply retconned it for the sake of Mordin’s concept. That it’s an interesting retcon, changing it from a slow acting weapon of mass extinction, to a carefully calculated stabilizer, is another matter…

    1. Taelus says:

      They don’t necessarily conflict. Wrex’s version holds for anyone generally observing the situation. The Salarians were monitoring the exact numbers and noticed the change in the birth rates. It was probably minor at the time (being a scientist you’d be amazed at how small a difference can be that we consider significant). So, before the Krogan became aware of their imminent recovery, the Salarians corrected it and kept them mostly barren. Neither character is wrong and the galaxy would see Wrex’s point of view. If the galaxy had even a hint of Mordin’s side, there’d be a whole lotta hell to pay.

      So yeah, they didn’t mess anything up, we just learned a secret about the Krogan birth rates the rest of the galaxy is oblivious to.

      1. Avilan says:

        Plus, you know, on the Krogan homeworld (and probably on other places) the population IS dwindling, because the Krogan can’t stop behaving like usual. They are so used to “We have Reserves!” that the fact that they don’t, have not altered their violent tribal behavior.
        (This is what Wrex seems to be on the right track to fix if you made him survive the first game).

        In fact, it reminds me (which is probably the point to a degree) of the fall of the Spartans, although they limited their rate of offspring themselves, and then fought wars that caused great losses.

  17. eri says:

    The reason why Renegade Shepard = Jerk Shepard is because that is what the vast majority of players want. No, really. BioWare knows that “good vs. evil” is an easy concept to digest and that easy concept sells a lot more copies than “idealism vs. pragmatism”. People want to be jerks in the game, probably either because it’s funny or because it lets people do things they normally wouldn’t do in their own lives.

    You think that people are interested in these deep moral quandries that require a lot of emotional investment and time to think over, but that really isn’t the case for most people playing the game. Heck, considering the disconnected way most people complete games, they barely even notice the inconsistencies and plot holes (which is why Mass Effect 2 gets praised for its “great story” so often). For most people, games are escapism and entertainment, not an obsession, and BioWare are well aware that people are more interested in immediate thrills and memorable moments than in things like coherent storytelling. The fanboys who actually take the time to analyse this stuff are going to buy the games anyway, so might as well shoot for more mainstream success.

  18. Wolfwood says:

    They just need to straight up make it so that any choices presented to you in a dialog tree isn’t based on the Paragon/Renegade skew. But instead bring back the old RPG trope of character stats, i.e. Charisma. as a lot of ppl point out going down the middle will completely screw you over since you can’t make any of the tough choices down the line.

    With some Character you’re gonna wanna be an angel with and with others a complete ass. Having that choice is fundamentally what makes RPGS so much fun.

    So rather than having the Paragon/Renegade system base on you, what if its actually based on the characters you meet? With each character seeing you as one or the other rather then a blanket “Youre good/youre Bad” scenerio?

    case and point, The senator guy from ME1 i’ve always chose Renegade dialog choices cause he was a prick. With say Tali, i’ve ALWAY chose the Paragon dialog (even on my Renegade play through, can’t help it >.<)

  19. Shep says:

    Not wanting to open up the politically can of worms here, but I don’t think characterising people against the Atomic bombings (or the genophage for that matter) as idealists is entirely accurate. It’s a slightly false dichotomy to suggest that it was either atomic bombs or millions of deaths; the situation was a little more complex than that. On the other hand, the in-game lore for the genophage is unclear on the circumstances of the war when it was unleashed. Most Turians and Salarians that you speak to seem to imply that the Krogan were committing mass genocide on Turian worlds and the council races were on the brink of defeat or even annihilation when they unleashed the genophage. Whether that is true or untrue is unclear but if they were, then it would be slightly different from the real-life situation where America was not under any real threat of occupation or destruction.

    Whilst I thought the first use of the genophage was somewhat justifiable, because it seemed to be used in desperation in order to stave off extinction (though that could be Turian propaganda?), I couldn’t agree with Mordin when he said that he then went in and re-engineered the genophage when it looked like the Krogan might be developing a resistance. It’s one thing to do something in self-defense but morality gets more murky when you aren’t under any immediate threat.

    I also have to agree with the people above who dislike the Paragon/Renegade system. My main problem is that it forces you to meta-game instead of making honest role-playing choices.There’s no real point in taking the middle path or of making decisions on a case-by-case basis; you have to choose one path and then you’re at the whims of – at times seemingly arbitrary – game designer morality. Dragon Age was far better in this regard where members of your party would like or dislike you depending on your actions and their morality but there was no over-arching God figure judging your every move. At the very least, it does pretty clearly label what is Paragon and which is Renegade most of the time unlike quite a few games.

    I think the Tenpenny Tower nonsense that Shamus highlighted in an earlier article is a perfect example of this. You can walk up and kill Tenpenny without even knowing who he is and you still get positive karma despite the fact that, to your knowledge, you’ve just murdered an innocent old man. What’s more, in that same questline, you get positive karma for convincing the people to let the ghouls stay, despite the fact that they seemingly later murder the other inhabitants who have done nothing except having some nice clothes and adopting air and affectations. At least in ME 2 I know that Paragon is the top choice and Renegade is the bottom choice.

    1. bit says:

      I think that if they’re going to do the Renegade/Paragon as it stands now, the first step to improving it is simply hiding the results; scramble the location of the choices, hide the bars and numbers, and don’t blatantly advertise additional choices earned through paragon/renegade. It won’t hide shoddy writing, of course, but I’m sure it goes a long way towards getting their players to actually role play without the subconscious need to make the numbers go up.

      1. Shep says:

        But then it would just annoy me when I took an option that I considered Renegade but the game designer considered Paragon, or vice-versa. The first step to improving the Paragon/Renegade system should be to actually define what those terms MEAN and then stick to them when presenting choices. If they can’t do that, then what’s the point of having the system?

        1. Danel says:

          The problem for almost everything there, though, is that the philosophies would either be so specific that people would disagree with both of them, or so narrow that choices neatly fitting into them would seem shoehorned in.

          It’s a problem I’ve noticed with the new morality system they’ve implemented in City of Heroes, though they have the excuse there that they’re being deliberately vague in order to enable different roleplaying excuses for alts. And, well, that you don’t really lock anything off – choosing for roleplaying reasons won’t stop you from maxing out a bar, it’ll just slow you down. “Vigilante” usually means prioritising “Punishing the guilty” over “protecting the innocent”, but there are differences of scale between some of the choices, some can be read of more a matter of “saving more lives in the longer term”, and other choices are straight-up “overly aggressive jerkface”.

  20. FutureHero says:

    I honestly think you should do one of these articles on the Quarian-Geth war.
    In my opinion it was a far more murky and disturbing conflict, especially with what you find out in Mass Effect 2 from Legion.

    In short (with spoilers), the Geth are like the machines in the Matrix, (or Animatrix, to be exact), gaining sentience, and getting killed for it by fearful overlords (the Quarians).
    People don’t really see it that way since, well the first Quarian you meet is Tali (so yeah), and most geth are trying to kill you.

    On a completely unrelated note, I just asked to have my account removed from the Escapist, so yay me!

    1. Taelus says:

      I know right? The way they played out the whole thing in ME2, it’s the Quarians who are the evil jerks. Even now, the Geth aren’t the ones opposed to a peaceful resolution. It’s the Quarians who want it to be a blood-ba…errr…silicon-bath. :-/ Craziness.

    2. Internet Kraken says:

      On the subject of that, I’ve never heard a convincing argument for siding with the Quarians, mainly because you’d have to justify the genocide of a species solely on the grounds that they are machines. It also doesn’t help that the Quarians are a bunch of backwards, arrogant, trigger-happy morons.

      1. swimon says:

        That’s not completely fair. It’s not like the Geth were without blame, I mean they didn’t start the war but apparently what they did in the “morning war” was so repulsive that the first emotion that the Geth collective formed was regret. They don’t fully understand it but they treat the Quarian homeworld as a graveyard (according to Legion) because the feel regret for their actions and sadness for their loss. The war might have started with the Quarians trying to perform a genocide but it ended with a genocide by the Geth. Also the Geth aren’t exactly helping matters by not communicating with any outsiders and killing anyone who ventures across the veil.

        The Geth did the most right in the conflict IMO but I don’t think it’s impossible to see the Quarian’s side of it.

        1. Internet Kraken says:

          The Geth were an incredibly young race that when faced with the threat of extinction, fought for survival. The fact that they actually won is amazing (or a testament to the incompetence of Quarian’s. Probably both). You are probably correct in assuming that the Geth did morally wrong things such as killing civilians during the Morning War.However, considering how little they knew at the time, it’s understandable. And while I don’t blame the Quarian’s for being afraid of them after losing the war, since they were utterly crushed.

          But the modern Quarian’s are portrayed as a bunch of lunatics. They have clearly degraded as a society after staying in space for so long. The Quarian’s refuse set aside their conflict with the Geth. They are obsessed with retaking their homeworld, to the point where they are willing to charge into the Geth system’s when they know almost nothing about the modern Geth. And this is why I find it hard to side with the Quarian’s, or more specifically their idiotic government. They are going to sacrifice billions of lives in a futile war for the sake of reclaiming their homeworld. They are clearly inferior in terms of population, military tech, and knowledge. Yet they are still determined to charge blindly to their doom.

          The Quarian’s could have colonized other worlds by now. The galaxy is a massive place. The idea that there hasn’t been a single world they couldn’t colonize is absurd. The only explanation is that most of the Quarian’s are to stubborn to colonize new worlds, because that would require sacrificing what little military strength they have. The Quarian government is forcing their species to descend into ruin becuase they refuse to stop fighting the Geth. Most of the Geth aren’t fighting them anymore. They don’t have to continue this war. Yet they continue to do so, which is why I can’t take their side in this conflict. They are the ones prolonging their own misery. The Geth aren’t trying to kill them.

          1. Otters34 says:

            By that logic, there was nothing to stop the geth from just saying “We are deeply shamed by this war, both of us. Let us go our separate ways and try to keep this from happening ever again. If you’ll let us go off the planet to another world, we swear by the spirits of your forbears never to molest or hinder or harm another organic race again.”

            What’s stopping the geth from doing that? pride? they’re machines, so I doubt they have that. Basically, the writer fell into a familiar pitfall: designing a conflict that has at its core a dilemma the writer cannot ‘solve’. If they go by the tack that the geth deserve to live because they think, an immediate retort is that they are just malfunctioning robots and thus it is sane and healthy to destroy them all.

    3. Soylent Dave says:

      The Quarian-Geth war would be much more interesting if it wasn’t already the plot of Battlestar Galactica.

      1. Avilan says:

        The plot of Battlestar Galactica would be more interesting if it wasn’t already the plot of the Geth – Quarian conflict ;). Or the plot of Battlestar Galactica for that matter…

  21. ProudCynic says:

    Very good analysis, Shamus. You really nailed down the better aspects of Mordin’s character–except his awesome dialog and Gilbert and Sullivan song, of course. Don’t know how much it interests you, but the Lair of the Shadow Broker pack that came out the other day included dossiers on everyone in Shepherd’s crew, including Mordin, and the Salarin STG mission that apparently caused the split between him and Maelon, and the wiki already has a transcript up:

    Might provide some interesting supplementary materials for the final post.

  22. Jeff says:

    “I wanted to fist make sense of history”?

  23. RCN says:

    And thus, again, Salarian are awesome.

    Still, the greatest problem with Mass Effect is that it has a brilliantly written BACK story, while the game itself is so badly written at times.

  24. Christine says:

    Wait, wasn’t that an episode of classic Trek?

    I haven’t played this game, no, but reading the summary reminds me of Niven’s universe, with the Puppeteers.

  25. Nick says:

    This is sounding more and more like Australia’s Cane Toad problem:

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “We will get the snakes to eat the toads,then monkeys will eat the snakes,and when the winter comes,the monkeys will just freeze to death”

  26. LB says:

    I swear I remember a line about the Genophage not just stopping reproduction, but causing the babies to be stillborn. That’s considerably…Darker.

    Oh, and I think Mordin’s line was “Lots of ways to help people. Sometimes heal patients; sometimes execute dangerous people. Either way helps.”
    (Which is how I play Shepard, really.)

  27. UtopiaV1 says:

    I loved breaking the paragon/renegade system by always doing what’s right, but being a complete asshole about it! And you know what? I saved millions of lives, I helped the poor and the needy, and was a compassionate and kind human being. Yet because I always choose to intimidate people rather than persuade them, I was a renegade.

    Stupid system. In my next playthrough, i’m going to be Lawful Evil! Erm, i mean, a real evil SOB who is always nice to people’s faces, but stabs them in the back when they turn around. And I reckon i’ll still be counted as a Paragon.

    1. Avilan says:

      Hey, my characters tend to end up with a good 40% of the “opposite color”. BMy new Renegade import for example is nice to the nice, but has no time for fools, cowards and evil bastards. That means she will happily help the dying Salarian in the beginning of the Assassin quest, but will happily push the idiot Eclipse team leader out the window.

      I find that very realistic behavior.

  28. Blanko2 says:

    on a mass effect related tangent, SHAMUS, your comic that featured a male shepard with breasts???!!! IT IS A THING.
    at about 4:35 in the video.
    male shepard on fem shepard body.
    not. nice.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Oh man,thats disgusting.And whats worse is that it uses female voice as well.And that means the game treats it as a female.Which means that you can end up in bed with kaidan and garrus…And I just imagined that face kissing one of those faces…Oh man….

      1. Blanko2 says:

        it doesnt just use the female voice, it… alternates, some points it uses the male voice, i dont even know how the romancing would pan out, when he meets ashley for the first time, the character model does all this weird stuff, flickers out of existence, flies away, runs around with its arms spread like an airplane…
        its more disturbing than it already is

  29. RCN says:

    While I do think Mordin is nothing less of awesome, I’d rather have a Salarian black-ops than a Salarian scientist with me, though. After all, that’s what they’re famous for.

    I’d also love if Bioware got around taking away with the auto-leveling enemies. It just gives the impression that you are static in the universe.

    “Congrats, you’ve reached the 29th level. And so has everyone else. Getting more powerful didn’t change a thing! Aren’t you happy for it?”

    1. swimon says:

      Salarians are hardly more renown for being black ops than scientists. It’s just the military and civilian part of their culture. Just like the Turians are marine/police. Also Mordin is a black ops and a scientist. Although the black ops thing doesn’t really shine through all that much in the combat, but then again the same could be said about Shepard.

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