Mass Effect 3 Continued: Clarifications, Corrections and Comments (Also Alliteration)


First of all, a huge thanks to everyone who has made this post such  a success. According to the WordPress tracker I’ve received over 30,000 views over the past three days, as well as hundreds of messages in my email, twitter and comments. When I wrote this article I never thought it would get this much attention, of course I secretly hoped it would and am overjoyed that hope has been fulfilled. That said a lot of comments and emails, while all overwhelmingly positive, did point out a few mistakes I made in the first article. Others have brought up issues with Mass Effect 2 that would be helpful to explain. So let’s get right down to it:

The Logic of the Catalyst

So what little negative feedback  I did get was about my use of the Meme picture, and that I wrongly interpreted the Catalyst’s intentions. And they were entirely correct. In my defense, the Catalyst AI God had so flabbergasted me that, in all honesty, I wasn’t paying that close attention to what he was saying. However, instead of retroactively changing my original post and in the interest of full disclosure, I decided to leave it as is and address this mistake here.

So initially I said that Catalyst was seeking to destroy all organic life in order to save organic life from synthetics, a completely circular argument. However, what the Catalyst actually says is that they destroy advanced organic life in order to keep them from developing synthetic life which would in turn destroy all organic life, regardless of technological advancement. So no, it’s not completely circular, but the logic being employed is still incredibly faulty since the Catalyst is relying on either highly speculative or downright false information to come to its conclusion. The Catalyst asserts that organic life will inevitably create synthetic life, and then further asserts that all synthetic life will eventually try to wipe out organic life. Therefore the Catalyst and his Reapers seek to avert this situation entirely by destroying organic life before it can create the synthetic life that would lead to its own destruction. Let’s try and break this thought process down, and see where it goes wrong:

First of all, the Catalyst says synthetic life will always wipe out organic life. Now this is demonstratively false, not only through evidence such as EDI and the Geth working in harmony with organic life, but through the Catalyst’s own existence! See the Catalyst claims that they seek to preserve organic life in the form of Reapers, and the cycle is meant to protect undeveloped organic life. But the Catalyst is a synthetic life form itself, some kind of sentient AI…so by its reasoning, shouldn’t it be trying to wipe out organics anyway? The very fact that the Catalyst is trying to preserve organic life is evidence against its own argument, since he (a synthetic life form) isn’t trying to wipe out organics. Well, okay he is trying to wipe out organics, but only to advanced organics before another Synthetic does it to all organics. If he’s capable of understanding the value of organic life, why does he think all other synthetics would be unable to come to this conclusion?

The only evidence given in support of the Catalyst’s thinking is anecdotal, he tells us a story of how the Reapers were once organic beings being wiped out by synthetics but became the Reapers to destroy them. He doesn’t really give us anything other than his opinion as to why Synthetics would want to destroy their creator, there was the possibility for some cool dialogue to tell us the Reaper’s perspective on things. Instead we’re just expected to believe him implicitly, which we have no reason to do since he controls the Reapers currently exterminating humanity. By all accounts Shepard has the closet organics have ever come to defeating the Reapers, and now the Catalyst has every reason to lie, but we’re expected to believe him?

“Would this face lie to you?”

And even if we accepted the argument being presented, there are several less complicated ways to go about preventing this situation. Why not have the Reapers move in only on the condition that some synthetic life form actually becomes hostile, and a threat to the galaxy. Or better yet, why not just stick around, greet the new species at the citadel and tell them the dangers of creating synthetic life forms. Act as a galactic police department as it were, and slap down any species attempting to create synthetic life. There are plenty of ways to go about preventing the Synthetic vs Organic holocaust, nearly all of which don’t involve the wholesale slaughter of billions.

Finally, if the Reapers are merely galactic gardeners doing what must be done, why do Sovereign and Harbinger seem to relish the slaughter so much? In Mass Effect 1, Sovereign seemed to think Organic life was inferior and unworthy of his attention…but yet his mission is really to safeguard organic life? Why so hostile if the end result is benevolent? Harbinger was even more psychotic, with several lines in ME2 referring to genetic abnormalities and weaknesses, furthering the conclusion that Reapers view organic life as inferior. So are the Reapers all hapless pawns, not even realizing their own objective is to help organics? If so, that just neuters the menace of the Reaper’s even further.

So yes, the Catalyst’s argument isn’t circular, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid or flawed.

I Don’t Hate Bioware

And they should totally hire me

So the rest of the negative feedback focused on what other people saw as a hate fueled rage against Bioware, so I just want to get out there that I don’t hate Bioware by any stretch of the imagination, nor would I hate anybody or anything simply for ruining a game. My criticism may have been harsh, but it wasn’t meant to sound angry. I chose a somewhat irreverent tone because a purely professional tone would have bored a majority of my readers, and sure I threw in a few expletives for the sake of humor, and maybe poked a little fun at the writers at Bioware, but by no means was it meant to convey contempt. In fact, if I didn’t like Bioware I wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of writing out a huge step-by-step post about how the ending went wrong.

Some of the comments that I didn’t allow through all usually came down to flame bait or simply screams of rage about my picking apart of the ending. For those people, I’m not censoring all attempts at disagreement, but if you’re going to disagree, at least do it in a respectful and at least partially coherent way. For instance reply #193 in the comments on the article, was extremely well written and didn’t devolve into name calling, while at the same time disagreeing with me entirely.

There was one comment in particular that bothered me, however, that I’d like to address here: “I like how your 2nd edit was basically asking them to hire you when you essentially called them idiots.” 

Well first of all, the comment was only half-joking, I don’t seriously expect an offer from Bioware. My only qualifications are as a writer, and since I have no prior experience working in the gaming industry, it isn’t realistic to expect a job offer. That said, if ever I were to apply to Bioware, I would certainly be using this article as part of my portfolio since it speaks to my ability to reach a large audience and write in an entertaining and informative way.

I believe Bioware, and the people who work there, have the emotional and professional maturity to accept the criticism of their work. If they didn’t, I doubt Bioware would have gotten this far. An essential part of writing, or really any creative endeavor, is to accept criticism of your work and not take it personally. If you start taking every criticism as a personal attack you’ll go absolutely insane. I also don’t believe I called Bioware idiots, and in fact I think I praised them for the story telling in Mass Effect 3 aside from the ending. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone screws up occasionally. Being able to accept that and move on is part of being human. You learn from the mistake and use what you learned to do better in the future. Bioware didn’t get to where it is now by failing to learn this basic lesson.

So to the person who left that comment: Your belief that Bioware would refuse to hire me based on a post criticizing their work does Bioware more disservice than my critique does.

Mass Effect 2: Shadows of Things to Come

A lot of people have said they found Mass Effect 2 equally flawed as a game, and while I agree it was flawed I don’t think it was as badly flawed as Mass Effect 3. However, there were several large flaws that created a ripple effect and led to some of the problems we saw in Mass Effect 3, such as:

The Crucible

So a lot of people wrote in about how they thought the Crucible came right out of left field, and they’re right, it did. Right after Shepard’s escape from Earth, he heads for Mars where some Prothean Archives apparently hold the secret to defeating the Reapers. Why this information was never discovered before is never adequately explained, with Liara making vague references to using the Shadow Broker’s assets to locate this information.  Mass Effect 3 also fails to mention how this Crucible is supposed to work. In fact the lack of information originally had me thinking the Crucible was nothing more than another Reaper ploy, getting all the races to waste valuable time, resources and manpower constructing a useless weapon. I thought that would have been an awesome twist. But okay, it docks with the Citadel and the Catalyst says the Crucible has allowed for new options and gives you your red/blue/green options. There’s never any explanation as to why the Crucible has allowed for new options or what exactly the Crucible does upon firing.

So why does this relate to Mass Effect 2? Well, because if Bioware wanted to introduce the Crucible, the time to do so was in Mass Effect 2. Whereas Mass Effect 1 focused on introducing the Reapers and the threat they posed, Mass Effect 2 should have focused on Shepard’s attempts to find a way to stop them and when I first played Mass Effect 2 I thought it had.

Everyone remember Haestrom?

There was some pretty heavy foreshadowing in this section of Mass Effect 2, taking great pains in letting the player know that Haestrom’s Star was dying faster than it should be. When I originally played the game, I thought this was going to be the galaxy’s salvation. After all, if Dark Energy was capable of killing a Star, surely a Reaper would be even easier to kill. I thought perhaps Mass Effect 3 would focus on the galaxy’s attempt to harness the Dark Energy into a weapon capable of killing the Reapers. Now, the original writer of Mass Effect 2 has come out and said that the original plan was for Dark Energy to be the poltergeist of the universe, and the Reapers were trying to stop its spread. I can see why Bioware abandoned this idea, because it is a bit weird. However, Haestrom itself was a great way to subtly introduce a salvation for the Galaxy. In fact, it would have been so easy for the Crucible to merely be a Dark Energy weapon, that I’m surprised that Bioware didn’t simply run with that idea from the start. The foreshadowing was already in place, and it wouldn’t have been any more ridiculous a solution as having the Crucible found on mars.

Cerberus

Part of the reason I think Mass Effect 2 failed to introduce a plausible way to stop the Reapers, was because it focused too much of its energy on setting up Cerberus as a secondary villain. Now don’t get me wrong, I think Cerberus made a great villain and personally I thought Martin Sheen just plain kicked ass as the Illusive Man. However, Cerberus also goes from being a small, but well organized and funded organization in Mass Effect 1 to a huge conglomerate capable of funding a ridiculously expensive reanimation process right along with providing enough funding for dozens of other operations, not to mention the cost of creating the Normandy SR2. It goes even further in Mass Effect 3, with Cerberus apparently having the infrastructure to possess a highly sophisticated army and fleet capable of launching attacks on multiple targets. This all took took Cerberus from a small, but credible, threat to an enormous larger than life organization that was just as dangerous as the Reapers. The trouble is that the Reapers were such an immense enemy, they demanded a lot of time to properly flesh out, characterize, and eventually, lead us to a solution to defeating them. Unfortunately, if you think about Mass Effect 2, most of the time was spent going about the intricacies of Cerberus’s operations, and only occasionally broken up by fights with the Collectors.

The point is, most of the time was spent doing stuff completely unrelated to stopping the Reapers, whereas in my opinion, that needed to be the focal point of the entire game.

There’s nothing wrong with having another villain in a story, but you cannot give both villains the same amount of screen time with diluting both of them, which is what happens in Mass Effect 3. If you think about it, a lot of Mass Effect 3 is actually about fighting Cerberus rather than the Reapers. In fact the very first thing Shepard does after leaving Earth is go fight Cerberus on Mars, and with every mission focusing on stopping the Reapers, there is another plot critical mission to stop Cerberus.  The missions come in rhythm of fighting Reapers and then Cerberus, the only break in that 1-2 rhythm is the Perseus Veil missions.

Earth Mission – Reapers

Mars Mission – Cerberus

Palaven Mission – Reapers

Sur’Kesh Mission – Cerberus

Tuchanka Mission – Reapers

Citadel Mission – Cerberus

Perseus Veil Missions – Geth, with Reaper finale

Thessia Mission – Reaper and Cerberus

Horizon – Reapers and Cerberus

Cerberus HQ – Cerberus

Earth Finale – Reapers

As you can see, the end result is that no one really gets enough screen time to fully realize their independent plots. Cerberus’s ultimate plan was never really fleshed out, and I was genuinely excited to see where it went after the Horizon mission and saw Cerberus had acquired the ability to disrupt Reaper signals on the ground. It seems like that was an important plot point that would be brought up again in the final battle, but unfortunately it is never mentioned again. When Shepard finally confronts the Illusive Man on the Citadel, he never really reveals how he was planning to control the Reapers, and it was clearly mentioned on Horizon that Cerberus had only learned how to disrupt the Reaper signal to Husks and related fodder, they were still unable to disrupt a full-fledged Reaper. Now we can chalk that up to the Illusive Man being indoctrinated, but in the end, it seems like Cerberus’s story line just petered out. In the end it was as if Cerberus served not other function than to merely slow down the player from completing the story line too quickly…it felt like filler.

By comparison, not nearly enough time was given to the Reapers and the main plot line: how to stop them. Harbinger, who played a significant role in Mass Effect 2, isn’t actually seen until the finale of the game…and even then he doesn’t speak or do anything other than blast Shepard with his Beam. The Crucible, and how it works, is subsequently never revealed. In the end it felt like two unfinished plot lines that, instead of getting tied up, frayed into a thousand different fibers at the end, like a rope pulled too taut.

Hi…does anyone remember me?
(I’m so lonely)

Now I can see why they did this from a game play side of it, after all, constantly fighting the Reapers would eventually get boring and Cerberus presents the player a new set of challenges to keep them interested. However, I think Cerberus needed to play a much smaller part, and in fact I think Cerberus was done perfectly in Mass Effect 1. It was a small, but highly organized and well funded organization that was constantly on Shepard’s radar, and yet was ultimately insignificant compared to Saren and the Reapers. You could go through the entire plot of Mass Effect without ever doing a Cerberus mission, and that’s how they should have kept it.  Purely optional missions to help flesh out the world, and give the player something interesting to do if they got bored fighting the same enemies.

In the end, however, Mass Effect 3 was a result of it collapsing under its own weight by trying to carry two huge villains at the same time. In my opinion, Cerberus should have continued being a small, optional threat you had to deal with on the side but otherwise having no actual impact on the main plot. However, there was just so much time invested into fleshing out Cerberus in Mass Effect 2, that it was almost unavoidable that they would be included in the main plot.

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63 thoughts on “Mass Effect 3 Continued: Clarifications, Corrections and Comments (Also Alliteration)”

  1. Dear JMStevenson,

    thank you for an awesome article about the ME series from a writer’s point of view.
    You have given the whole series a lot of thought, recognized and named certain patterns typical for the ME series, that I would have never seen was it not for your incredible breakdown of things – however there is one pattern that you didn’t address (not even in this follow up article) and I’d like to ask: why?

    This particular pattern was for me the most important motivation to play the whole series after playing the first game.
    There are many that are disappointed by the ending saying “the whole series has been ruined and there is nothing BW, EA, you or I can do about it!”
    You can act like a krogan, what’s the matter with you?

    The ending that has become so popular to complain about is not bad at all. It is, as the conclusion I would have expected you to draw after elaborating in so much detail and after typing those four big red questionmarks, the most brilliant idea BW could have come up with.
    Why? Because I believe something you do not? No! I post here without doubt, because I remember! I remember that I have played through the ME series not because of the path that laid before me, but because of the path that laid behind me – so the answer is simple: another pattern.

    Do you remember the first time you’ve played through ME1!
    Did you grow to love any character of the game?
    Did you come across anything that made you angry/did you hate reactions of in-game characters or did you hate how you could not do what you would have wanted to do?

    Now remember the first time you’ve played through ME2!
    Ask yourself the same questions as above!

    Now ask yourself the same questions for your first playthrough of ME3!

    Do you see the parallels?
    Believe me, when I say: that’s no coincidence.
    They toy with your emotions and toy with your emotions and toy with your emotions, and just when you think it’s over, that’s when the real toying with your emotions begins!
    BW knew how to touch you emotionally (pride, vanity, anger – you name it) since the very beginning.

    Once you realize that every single aspect of the game – that every single reaction of you has been taken into account when the game was made – that it was BW’s intention that you’d react the way you did only to address this later in the series – only then can you comprehend the masterpiece BW has created.
    Only in a community this “young” could you even try to say the ending sucked and keep a straight face.

    Try not to think of it in terms of being right or wrong or believing in a “fan-made-theory”.
    This is about what you can experience as the most rewarding kind of joy and I personally can’t believe how doubt has poisoned the souls of so many including talented artists such as yourself.

    Of course it’s more comfortable for you to label BW insane! The ending’s not something they would expect you to accept!
    But that’s the point, isn’t it?
    You wanna know what it is? What the ending’s all about? John 9:25!
    Remember… all I’m offering is a different perspective, nothing more!

    If one had only played 2 or just 1 game of the ME trilogy, sure you could understand people having serious doubts since they don’t know better.
    After all no one expects you to require only one occurrence to adapt to a new concept,
    but rest assured, this will be the third time BW has toyed with your emotions and they have become exceedingly efficient at it!

    1. Hm, I think I understand what you are saying.
      What i do not understand is, how this fits the discussion?
      Dont get me wrong, i dont want to troll you.
      But if im right, you are invalidating critic by the argument that the emotional outrage that was effected by the ending of ME3 would be a proof of quality.

      Let me explain the problem I have with this argumentation with an example:
      McDonalds invented a new burger that has an awkward aftertaste.
      Clients complain about it, since it didnt match their expectations of what it SHOULD taste like, according to their experiences of other McDonalds burgers and the marketing.

      Then McDonalds says “were just playing around with your senses” and want to sell you this awkward aftertaste as a proof of quality, since this product, all in one represents two entirely different spheres of sensuality: the tasty and the ugly.

      See, if videogames are art, they have to address at least convenient ways of it, same as a burger should stay within the range of the clients taste.
      Except they invent completely new forms of art or burgers, but both is not the case.
      As the burger is just a variation of whats given already, ME Trilogy is also.

      And now we reach the critic point. Of course you cant sell identical products again and again, so they have to be in some way unique.
      And Biowares games always were stellar in products in the ways of challenging the players emotions by a well written story.

      Well, and here we have the problem: This ending isnt well written. Why is it? Because it doesnt stick to the very basic rules of storywriting, as Mr. Stevenson laid out here quite eloquently.
      Of course you can like it, no doubt! But still it does not stick to the very basic rules of storywriting. And since our narratological insights are themselves some kind of compendium of millennia of trial and error, you can expect unusual or proven shitty techniques (like a deus ex machina) to turn out as a flop.
      Only true masters of story writing may walk the borders of common storytelling with success, and even they may fail sometimes.

      So, the reason we have this outrage now is with quite high certainty not the result of a masterpiece of storywriting, but some critical points of faiure.
      This failure in the very last stance is caused by contradicting the way we are thinking. Even though its fiction, every fiction has in some way to be reasonable. And be it, that this fiction AT LAST is coherent, in its plot, its character, its genre, you name it.

      This fiction chose the way of a classical heroes journey, operated according to the classical dramatic arc. It was reasonable to the point it stepped aside from this path and introduced a new of approaching the resolution. Unfortunately, their creation wasnt compatible to the rest, and they also failed to introduce new yet undiscovered elements of storytelling to compensate this disorder and lead to a satisfying closure.

      The thing is, if you dont stick to these rules, you in most cases also abandon the frame required for a logical rethinkable fiction. It lacks coherency. Without this frame, art isnt art, since art is defined by artistic freedom, but also by rules the artist has to stick to.

      So, for the last time, dont get me wrong! I dont want to brainwash you or troll you, neither of them. I myself was at start quite content with the ending, but after a few minutes the first doubts arose. And these doubts, as i can see now thanks to mr. stevenson, were caused by incoherencies and breaks in the very structure of the story, not by its plot itself.

    2. So in conclusion, im not outraged by a reasonable but controverse plot put into an awesome arrangement of storytelling, but by an unreasonable plot due to a badly structured storytelling. The ending itself is, lets say ok, but in the context of mass effect as it is, it is disastrous, because it cant fulfill the function it has to!

    3. Good art has to do more than “toy with your emotions” after all, with all Bioware was about was toying with our emotions, they could have simply cut to child pornography in the final minutes instead of having an ending at all. Now THAT would have toyed with people’s emotions.

      Good art should (at least sometimes) induce strong emotional reactions, but there’s a difference between having a strong emotional reaction to the goings on of the plot (say, that Mordin has to sacrifice himself) and having a strong emotional reaction to a given thing being part of the plot.

      Let me speculate. You like the ending because “What the ending’s all about [is] John 9:25!” That is, you like the ending because it’s very Christian. That’s a fine reason to like something–but not this. Because this isn’t a Christian parable. At the end, Shepard isn’t Jesus, or even Aslan. Not everyone who dies at the end of a story is a Christ-figure–even if someone calls him the Shepard. And this goes double for someone who may well have been the most merciless hombre in the galaxy for the first 3 games. Plus–even as undifferentiated as the endings are–there’s too much choice for the game to be framing Shepard as a Christ figure. Christ didn’t come to control, synthesis or destroy–and certainly not to face a choice between the 3. In fact there are serious moral problems with each.

      Maybe you meant something else with that comment–something like “the game shows us we’ve been blind for 3 games. All this we’ve been thinking the reapers were the problem when really it’s the catalyst.” But again, switching up the villain at the end of the game isn’t good art. Heck if the villain had turned out to be Spock or Dracula we would have been just as surprised–and it would have sucked.

      1. “Good art should (at least sometimes) induce strong emotional reactions, but there’s a difference between having a strong emotional reaction to the goings on of the plot (say, that Mordin has to sacrifice himself) and having a strong emotional reaction to a given thing being part of the plot.”

        Abso-frickin’-lutely. The end of the Rannoch chapter had me in actual tears (I got the best resolution on my first playthrough). And it can sure go the other way too. A story can break your heart in a good way (Mordin is a good example, also if Shepard died to secure safety and prosperity for the galaxy – close to the current ending but still so far away)

    4. This reply was like an exercise in movie quotes.

      This has been a very unsettling argument, especially because the choice of many used sentences is quite simmilar to John Doe’s monologue in Andrew Kevin Walker’s script for “Seven”.

      “…people will barely be able to comprehend it”
      “…only in a world this s* could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face”
      “…it’s more comfortable for you to label me insane”

      And the Matrix:
      “Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
      “I stand here without fear because I remember.”

      Do you see the parallels? 😉 Anyway, it was fun to read it but it’s more about being inspired by the movies than Mass Effect. 🙂

  2. I was one of those who challenged the way the catalyst’s logic was introduced in your previous article. I actually wasn’t blaming you because that is how most of the people reacted other the internet, so I guess you just followed the trend for this particular part.

    Nevertheless, I wanted to thank you for this new article which, from my point of view, is exactly what should have been done: pointing exactly what is missing or wrong, with more details. This is the only way for the fan base to provide constructive feedback to Bioware’s team so the ending can be improved (and not necessarily changed), if that ever happens.

    Thank you again !

  3. Its really simple, Karpyshyn just lost all of his talent as a writer. Did you read the last ME book? I cant belive i read it to the end myself, as it soooo boring and stupid.
    Yes, he probably got this nice idea 5 years ago. And who can blame him, as before he wrought only scenarios on already existing universes (like D&D or Star Wars). And here we go, he trying to create something new.
    At the start idea was amazing. But as it come latter it prove more and more that its still very fresh and unpolished.
    I doubt he didnt polish it because of simple laziness, no matter how popular he is in bioware, no one gonna pay him for doing nothing. Yet he failed at the end. Although of course its bioware fault anyway. You cant keep script writer (especially working on such costly project) just because he was with bioware from the start. Yes he did nicely for baldur’s gate, he did very good for KOTOR, and he did amazingly good for first ME. But ME2 and especially ME3 proved to be his epic failure.

    1. But…But… he Drew Karpyshyn didn’t work on ME2 and ME3.. he was moved to Old Republic team – Bioware Austin after ME1 sometime during first phases of ME2….

      1. Ok, my bad, explain even more the failure.
        Although still can point to the fact that last ME book for terribly boring and stupid, and second one is just “meh”. First one was pretty intresting.

  4. Just btw.: I love how you illustrate your articles 😉 Very well chosen Screenshots, combined with nice comments to them! 😀

  5. Excellent analysis there. Comprehensive, accessible, and humorous at the right times.

    That said, I do have a question for you: what if ME3 got split into two games? By your own admission, it basically buckled under its own weight of trying to explore two huge villains, but I actually found that Cerberus-Reaper dynamic engaging. However, as with you, I agree that the ending felt…rushed, leaving many questions up in the air. So, I figured, why not just make it a 2-part game? Dunno how it would pan out, dunno if it’d be even feasible, but it -would- give them the time to flesh everything out, no? Particularly if the ending basically ends up being the Indoctrination Theory.

    Cheers

    1. I think that would be great actually. I liked Cerberus as well, my point was simply it was too big a villain to share a stage with the Reapers. So yeah, a second game to fill out what was missed and give the players a proper conclusion would be pretty awesome.

  6. I am dangerously close to trolling… so I think I will make this the end of my postings on ME 3… and move on.

    Mass Effect, tropes… it is a trope machine, it tropes everything in Sci-Fi.

    The Crucible

    It is the “gateway” device from “Contact”, could of been a Trojan Horse? but it isn’t, it is what it is.

    Alien device or elaborate ruse? Dunno, that is never answered in the film, nor does this game bother.

    Reapers have a sense of Humor and like to screw with would be saviors out of boredom?

    the God kid.

    It is the chat with Dad, that Jody has.

    The rest of the arcs are just tropes and blenders from other popular sci-fi.

    As I mentioned in the previous blog, video games are not “written” like movies and other mediums. The writing usually happens “last” because it is the easiest thing to change, and manipulate.

    There is no script, it all “comes out of someone’s ass” at some point.

    The failure of ME 3, was when the process was derailed somewhere mid-stream, and perhaps later in development… causing a “systemic” back up of the work flow, resulting in a rather choppy narrative in the second act and on.

    Is it art?

    It copies good films… I guess that is something… good B’ssssing by the PR… but it did what all the other games in Mass Effect have done, rip off everything else.

    ME 3 overstepped taste when it made the rip off’s “central” to the theme and central plot devices, the previous games simply troped it, and kept on rolling with it’s own narrative.

    That is the break down. I didn’t mind the Samurai 7, Dirty Dozen of ME2… it was ok. Sure it was campy, but the exposition was fun.

    Getting talked to like it’s doing me a favor (God) and slowly reducing all the narrative down every increasingly smaller corridors to toss a “contact” moment on the audience,

    Just Because… well… there we are.

    There is nothing to fix, unless they find another movie or something to rip off. It’s just bad. Silly really. Wasteful.

  7. Good articles, which I have enjoyed reading. It would be nice if gaming “journalists” had come up with anything half as impressive as this.

    “Synthetics will inevitably wipe out organic life.”

    Has this ever happened in the ME universe?

    If so what happened to those synthetics and how did organic life develop again after this event?

    If not then how do we know they would?

    I can’t help feeling the reapers would have been better off being left as the big bad that wanted to wipe us out for reasons we couldn’t understand (and more importantly didn’t need to know.)

    The indoctrination theory really is the only hope as I see it. It could have been brilliant if it had been followed by even a solid traditional ending in the manner you described.

  8. Just cause…

    google images:

    space winter

    WinterSun’s (band) song Star Child

    Artistic Integrity?

    You tell me… hahahahaha. what a f’kn joke.

      1. If you liked that, you’ll love this!

        and enjoy this…

        but this has been around for a long time… nothing new… just never on a game quite this big… paradigm shift?

  9. Hi JMStevenson,

    Just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed both this and the past article you wrote on Mass Effect 3 – lucid, articulate, and entertaining. However, I also thought I’d point out that I disagree with your point about Cerberus and the Reapers contesting as primary villains in the third game. I myself always saw the Cerberus enemies as extensions of the Reapers; remember that Mars mission when Ashley/Kaidan finds the dead soldier and you discover that he has husk-like features? I thought that confirmed that Cerberus had officially signed a deal with the Reapers, and thus that all the enemies you fight in the game have been indoctrinated in some way. Just my two cents!

    1. Hm, i think the author meant that ME2 has put up a new villain, as big as the reapers, instead of introducing us into the solution of the reaper conflict.
      So, when part 2 is over, we still dont have the slightest clue how to the beat them…and thats why the crucible appears in ME3 just like out of nowhere :/

      ME3 couldnt introduce the solution for the (central) reaperconflict decently, because that would have been too much. Thats the job of part 2, which like in the heros journey should have contained our sword to pull out of the stone.
      But it didnt, and so we have this awkward superweapon which, as it seems, lied right before the noses of the alliance-archeologists for DECADES and they did not mention it. Before liara came around with her powerful shadowbroker ressources and just beat da crap out of those cryptic datafiles.

      They really could have done better here if they just didnt make cerberus such a big thing in ME2, at least they could have given us our sword in the cerberus base…although that wouldnt have been better anyway if they hadnt changed all the rest of plot too, so that it focusses on the reapers, not on those insectoid prothean-things calling themselves “collectors”…

      1. It also would have made the whole curcible situation not only far more believable but wrapped up ME2 better to have the crucible data found in the collector base prior to destroying (or not) it. As the citadel is reaper tech in the first place, and the collector’s are as well, the idea of plans for a weapon of mass destruction, based on dark energy and utilizing the existing citadel would have made far more sense than what we ended up with.

  10. Your final point about Cerberus really hit the nail on the head. My fiance and I both played ME3 simultaneously, and took part in many discussions about the game as we played. We both have differing opinions on the ending, but one point we agree on is the faulty way in which the two-villain plot was handled. The Reapers are intended to be the primary threat to the galaxy, yet I felt I spent more time battling Cerberus troopers than I did fighting Husks. I even wondered if the Alliance private on the Citadel that you overhear complaining about fighting Cerberus rather than Reapers was a writer’s in-joke toward the gamer.

    I firmly believe that if Bioware wanted to incorporate Cerberus in such a significant way into the series finale, the last chapter of the Mass Effect series should have been split into two games:

    Mass Effect 3 could have focused mainly on Cerberus and The Illusive Man’s attempts to control Reapers by dissecting their technology. Throughout the game, you would learn more about how the Reapers function, while battling with Cerberus for control of important research facilities and retrieval of important Prothean artifacts. This plot structure could be used to expose more history behind the creation of the Reapers as you sift through the discoveries made by Cerberus. The Reaper threat would still be incorporated into the third game, but as an incoming menace still on its way toward the galaxy. Skirmishes with Reaper advance scouts for key strategic locations could be used to break up some of the battles with Cerberus.

    Mass Effect 4 would begin with the attack on Earth and incorporate Shepard’s quest to unite the galaxy, much like the current Priority missions of Mass Effect 3. It would provide more focus on the Reapers, now that Cerberus would either be an ally or eliminated as a threat. It could have even added more depth and variety to the fourth game, depending on whether you incorporated Cerberus and their use of Reaper technology into your mission, or rejected it and destroyed them instead.

    I would gladly have paid for a fourth game in the Mass Effect series, if the story had played out in that manner.

    1. I have to say, I really like this two-games idea, both because to give the Cerberus story more time to play out and because I thought the beginning of Mass Effect 3 was kind of weak. Specifically because the Reapers showed up too fast. One minute it’s all birds chirping and that kid playing with the fighter, and five minutes later the entire Alliance defense network has been taken apart. Oh, and apparently the batarians got completely wiped out without anybody noticing.

      Plus, Mass Effect 3 didn’t have time to reveal anything new or interesting about Cerberus, so it kind of felt like they were abandoning all the foundation work that Mass Effect 2 was setting up.

      I’d have liked it a lot better if the Reapers’ destruction of the batarians was a major subplot in Mass Effect 3, while you spent your time taking down the Illusive Man. It would have been even better if they’d merged the plot of the Arrival DLC, and made the Project a Cerberus initiative designed to trap the Reapers after they arrived in the galaxy so there would be time to figure out how to control them. Then, if you managed to keep Miranda alive in Mass Effect 2 and 3, you go into Mass Effect 4 with Cerberus as an ally.

      There’s something kind of wrong when the obsession with trilogies means that a major studio will pass up the chance to deliver two blockbuster games in favor of compressing the story into a single kind of half-assed one.

  11. I basically agree with almost everything here. Although, I would say that the Catalyst’s argument not being circular actually does make it considerably less stupid and flawed; it just doesn’t make the argument smart. And I think framing your argument in absolutes and superlatives like this may be what’s making it sound angry and contemptuous.

    What’s strange is that there’s a considerably stronger argument to be made, that it’s advanced organic life itself that is inherently destructive. I actually thought the game was doing a good job of making that point, since the backstory of both the krogan (who were uplifted by the Salarians to fight the rachnai, but then nearly destroyed galactic civilization themselves) and the geth (created by the quarians to make their lives easier, but then almost destroy the quarians) both points to the idea that the advanced species are basically running around setting off time bombs. Then again, Mass Effect 2 and 3 actually confuse this point by suggesting that the krogan and geth aren’t as irredeemable as they’re presented in Mass Effect 1, so the franchise has actually evolved beyond a premise that would actually have be perfectly faithful to the original game.

    Also, I think it’s not exactly fair to assume that Sovereign’s lack of regard for organic life is incompatible with its mission to preserve organic life. The process the Reapers use to “preserve” advanced organic species involves transforming them into Reapers: They’re not conceded with individuals, but with societies, and their means of preservation involves transforming organic civilizations into synthetic entities. They’re clearly not terribly concerned with what an organic would think about all this.

    I completely agree that using Cerberus as a dual villain makes the game feel unbalanced, although I think I would have felt a little cheated if the Illusive Man got downgraded much further after the central role he played in Mass Effect 2. My solution would be to have made the game longer, possibly with actual missions involving the volus, elcor or vorcha worlds. Then again, it occurs to me that one reason why Mass Effect 3 seemed a lot shorter than its predecessors was because I played this one before most of the DLC was released, so this problem might solve itself. Still, I would have liked it if the two endings actually tied into one another: Say, if the Illusive Man’s efforts to control the Reapers actually enabled Shepard’s meeting with the Catalyst somehow. As it is, this feels like another plot element that could have worked if the writers had gone through another revision.

    Given all that, I kind of wonder if we should be calling for some sort of pre-release feedback process that does what playable betas do for gameplay, or what test screenings do for movies. I still maintain that the elements of a good ending are in there, but the writers could really have done with some perspective.

    1. Well, i dislike the last-minute turn from harbinger/sovereign, the unfathomable, almighty destroyer of worlds, to harbinger/sovereign, the unfathomable, almighty vacuum cleaner :/

      Okay, they are machines, so there should be propably anything possible in their flawed minds “we cant understand”. But making a sentient, highly developed species spending their spare time on taking out billions of organics just to SAVE them? Still, even the “space-police” reaper would make more sense here, thought this wouldnt be a proper antagonist, would it? 😀

      The logic makes some sense, but for an omniscient super A.I. its such an underwhelming statement…i mean, they didnt even try to explain why the god child decided to establish this circle instead of other solutions! Or why it didnt try from time to time to teach each cyce, or in general try to teach a cycle and if the cycle refuses, it gets mashed and put into reaperform?

      I truly dislike this brainless god-child controlled new reaper. The old reaper was fierce, violent, egoistic. A decent antagonist, maybe not logically acting, but truly badass. This new reaper is just…intellectually retarded if he figured out this cycle to be the “best solution” to bring lasting peace to the galaxy.

      As for now, whenever i see a reaper in front of me, i see just a poor, highly developed but unluckily malfunctioning A.I. which simply is unable to figure out a better way to protect those it wants to protect…And thats quite an effort, considering how BAD the actual solution is…

      1. I can see that. Although this might be one of those cases where any attempt to explain the Reapers’ motivation would have been a letdown. I’m assuming the writers didn’t leave the Reapers as some inscrutable force because they actually had something to say about the inherent chaos of organic life.

        And the logic of the cycle actually makes a lot more sense if you try to think about it from the Reapers’ perspective. Acting like some kind of galactic police force makes sense to us, because it’s the sort of solution an organic would come up with, but remember the Reapers don’t really respect us that much. Bothering with laws and crap would mean lowering themselves to our level, whereas leaving us alone to develop (semi-)naturally and then swooping in to cull us every 50,000 years can accomplish the same goal (galactic stability) at the expense of a lot less processing power.

        You’re totally right that the game did a bad job of explaining all this, though. And the bit about synthetic life being the problem just didn’t make sense.

      2. Yeah, but still this retcons the reapers as mindcontroled super husks :/ Whatever the author wanted to say (i love this sentence xD exploited a thousand times during college) he really did it the worst way possible. I mean, this story was meant to entertain me, and by this gave me some awesome sidekicks to philosophy, like in the geth/quarian conflict. This was perfect, we didnt need any more of it. The reapers had done what they were supposed to do, they kicked our hero out his slumber and put him into this adventure!

        And btw, the logic this A.I uses is not really one i would attribute to machines only. We may be tempted to do so, since its a disgusting thought a human being would think so, but they indeed would. And the reason we think of it as flawed is because we experienced in millennia of trial and error, that destruction DOES NOT PUT THINGS TO A BETTER LEVEL!

        Super A.I.s should be able to achieve that insight.
        Of course, in a dystopian setting, this is an absolutely legitimate perspective for the “solution” of a conflict. But Mass Effect isnt meant to be a dystopy, it never was. Its a Lord of the rings in space.

        And would you have appreciated it if in the end of LotR Sauron has been revealed as the savior of the world?

        For real, everythings better than being HARVESTED from cycle to cycle, This is not for the harvests good, neither space-brat nor Shepard can think so without being completely braindead. If somethings not able to live on its own, you kill it. Thats cold logic. I do NOT support this, but a machine which comes up with the thought of harvesting species to save them, thats sadistic. Even an A.I: would see that. But at least shepard would never accept this, and the reapers in my eyes still arent true A.I. if they cant come to a change in mind over AEONS! What do they do in orcus? sleep? Think? Because if they at last DREAMT there they would have come up with another, final solution. You dont watch that poor deer in its agony without granting it the last act of grace (sry for my strange english, im not a native speaker xD). Nor would an A.I., ESPECIALLY not those Skynet Style A.I.s which arent bound to any moral. And even if they were but couldnt figure out another solution than destruction, then they of course would decide for ULTIMATE destruction, because from that point of view, excluding ANY kind of constructive solution, any logic would point to a clear cut. This would make the most sense.

  12. looks like BioWare announced today that they are releasing DLC this summer thet will maintain the current horrible ending and merely “clarify” it.
    I am beginning to believe this is gonna be ‘it’ for me, folks.
    this could have been so much. this was my new Star Wars. No longer, it seems.

    Excellent articles, by the way.
    I truely enjoyed reading them. you have very good insight.

  13. Perhaps someone over at Bioware is smarter than we think. I do try to give them credit. Whether deserved or not, I do not know.

    Who are these evil reapers and who is the god child? Who represents the galactic community? Some may say the players represent the galactic community. I say no.

    Bare with me when I say the following because it may be a very simple symbolic display we’re seeing but having difficulty recognizing.

    My take is this,

    The galactic community’s struggle is represented by Bioware itself. They try to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds. They put together a mighty force. In the end they fail.

    The reapers are the embodiments of EA themselves. They are uncaring with motives that are difficult for the normal human being to understand. They won’t tell you what their motives are they just exist to harvest civilization (Bioware and any other good franchise).

    And who is the god child? Well, it’s the Chief, the Omnipotent One and CEO of EA. His decisions are final and seal the fate of the galaxy. While he’s killing off everyone, he stops long enough to steal everything of value.

    J M Stevenson gives you the best explanation from a writer’s standpoint as to the failed writing. He is very good at it and I love it.

    I give you my take on why.

    1. Amen Brother =) Couldnt have put it in better words. Im also not too happy they chose this path. This is of the sort: “Ouh shit i think we gonna have to do SOMEHTING” -“Okay, then lets do..THIS thing. I think thats the minimum we can do.”

      Still, best regards to the retake mass effect movement and all the other fans, and especially our author here 🙂 I think he did more to make this happen than we can actually imagine. His article made things clear we didnt even see, and that way we could build up a clear understanding of what we are missing and what HAS to be done to revert this catastrophy. Such knowledge is necessary to prevail in such conflicts. Thanks to you 🙂

  14. Hey there,

    I’ve read both your postson the ending of ME3, and I gotta say I’m impressed.
    Not only with your abilities to deconstruct the narrative behind the ending, but also with the fact that all that seems to somewhat explain how I feel about it.
    Now I have to admit that I don’t know much about narrative techniques, or “rules” as laid out in the begining of your first post. I blame my teachers, the boring books they made us read (supposedly high literature), and all the stupid interpretations we where supposed to learn by heart in order to get a good grade.
    That said, I’ve read a couple of books in the past some of which I really liked, but never really questioned why I actually liked them. I never thought about the possibility of something other than the story itself being responsible for it, I never thought about the way it was presented having something to do with how much i liked it, which in retrospect was probably a good thing as I think it may have lessened my enjoyment of the story.

    It was not until the ending of ME3 that I began to think that there actually might be more to it.
    I have to admit that I actually read quite a bit about the, supposedly horrible ending to the awesome game I was playing, before I had actually finished it. There was hardly any way for me to ignore all the fuzz people were making about it.
    When I actually finished the game, I thought it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined after reading all the posts about the ending, not until I had time to think a little more about it.
    Everything people had said came to mind, and I began to completely agree with most of what they said. At that point I wondered if it was still my own oppinion or if I had taken the oppinion of the majority of gamers and made it my own.
    However, aside of the plotholes and logic issues, I was always under the impression that something else was wrong with the ending, it just didn’t fit, it didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t pinpoint it until I read that first of your posts today, and I finally began to understand where that nagging feeling, that something was just wrong with it, actually came from.

    Again, I actually find it really impressive, that your explanation, using the deconstruction of the ending, also seems to be the explanation for what didn’t feel right about it.
    Looking back, the endings to all the books I’ve read, to the storydriven games I played, all more or less match the bounds you laid out in your first post, the only one I can remember that has blatant issues with it (maybe just because it’s so recent) is ME3.
    What impresses me the most however, is that even though I really have no idea of techniques used for storytelling, the points laid out, instantly made perfect sense to me.

    In that regard, thank you for giving me something to think about.

    Now about ME2, I never really understood what people didn’t like about it. Yes, it took a step away from the Reaper menace as a main plotpoint, it mainly focuses on Cerberus, putting together a trustworthy crew, and the Collecters maybe being connected to the reapers in some way.
    It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the Reapers as the “main villian”, but at least for me there’s a simple excuse for that. In ME1, you prevented the Reaper fleet from using the Citadel to jump right to the heart of your galactic civilisation, in fact they had to fly in from darkspace using “conventional” FTL travel, which apperently took them about 3-4 years.
    That means, there needs to be something else to keep the plot alive, and while I have to agree that, fleshing out Cerberus to the point it was, was unfortunate, and on top of that, going from “small, independent sidequest organisation” to a full fledged, galactic “super villian” was somewhat strange, I think Shepard dieing, and then being “rebuilt” by his former enemy is a nice twist to the plot and also opens up a lot of possible conflicts for the character. In fact I think it was an interessting choice.
    Not as good as the setting of ME1, and somewhat disconnected from the original story, but not bad either.

    As for the Crucible, it does have a slight stench of being pulled from an arse, but it really just seems like a minor discrepancy to me. That said, one or two hints towards it, in ME2 (maybe while talking to Liara, or even just some random prothean data found on any mission) would have completely eliminated the problem in my eyes. In fact it’s not that big of a problem to begin with, at least for me.

    Regarding the Cerberus- and Reaper-missions in ME3, while Cerberus only seems to be there to distract you from your actual mission, flawed design is not the only explanation for it.
    After all, it is established throughout the game that the Illusiveman was, or is being indoctrinated to a questionable degree. This makes room for a possible interpretation of Cerberus’ intereference with Shepard’s quest, is actually part of the Reaperinvasion and thus, not controlled, but directed by the Reapers themselves. In that light, this “filler content” actually becomes part of the main plot, and its existence is very well justified.
    Obviously though that is the kind of connection you’d want to reveal/resovle at some point, which brings us back to the original topic, the ending.

    In that regard, the recent news about an “extented cut” don’t make me all too happy. It really sounds just like a “three-colored” expansion of the current ending, which would be even more dissatisfying than the ending on it’s own.
    I really like the indoctrinationtheory, and completely agree with you that it’s awesomeness would be indescribable, if it ere to be true.
    However, the only light of hope I currently see in that regard is that the rumored “The Truth” DLC, was supposed to contain the additional races and classes, that Bioware has now announced officially. http://www.gamefront.com/rumor-mass-effect-3-dlc-the-truth-due-in-april/
    This gives me some hope, that the content of the announced SP-DLC, is actually what was supposed to be included in “The Truth”, which sounded more promising than what they did announce.

    Woot, another huge post in the comments, hope you enjoyed reading nontheless.
    Oh, and I appologize for possible errors in grammar and spelling, as english isn’t my native language…

  15. My friend told me to read your previous article and I was very impressed with how you looked at the series. You’re totally right about the foreshadowing of dark energy in Mass Effect 2 (I got that vibe, just as I knew the “Leviathan of Dis” from the first game was a Reaper ship).

    It’s exciting to know that so much uproar and confusion can arise from a videogame, prompting people like yourself to analyze the components of it and find out where it went astray. Kudos to you!

  16. I see you fixed the faulty circular logic in this post. Although the logic has many holes, I think it’s certainly sound enough to work. Just because it’s a little extreme doesn’t mean that some race with logic different from humans wouldn’t buy into it.

    It’s a little late to be picking apart ME2, but I like the tie-ins to ME3. As far as Cerberus goes, I always felt like they were fully indoctrinated in ME3, and that the Reapers were using them to stall Shepard. It didn’t quite flesh out that way in the end (or maybe it did, it’s all so confusing and I refuse to play the game a second time (for obvious reasons!)), but the Reapers have always used indoctrinated subjects to oppose Shepard, and I see no problems with having 2 enemies if they are on the same side.

    And I think the idea of the Crucible would have worked had it been fleshed out more. The idea that every cycle contributes more and more to the ultimate downfall of the Reapers is an idea I really like, they just needed to, like so many other plots in ME3, work on the delivery.

  17. Just a minor nitpick but the crucible is a dark energy weapon. However I could understand if you missed that since it’s only called that once. When Sheperd is talking to Conrad Verner. So yeah, An easily missed comedy scene is the only time the Crucible is called a dark energy anything.

    1. Yeah, the Crucible is a dark energy weapon. If you read the war assets entries on the crucible, it talks about how the Prothean data files say that dark energy is meant to be used for the crucible. I do wish it was stated more clearly in game instead of a throw-away little entry.

      1. I wasn’t aware of this actually, so it’s good to see they were at least aware of Dark Energy being a possible life saver. That said, you’re both right, having it be such a tiny easily missed element was a bad move. Such critical information needed to be front and center.

  18. I wholeheartedly disagree with the fact that you don’t think that Cerberus is a large enough threat or should be considered as a major villain. I think they were fleshed out upon and worked well in Mass Effect 2, especially if you’ve read the Mass Effect books. If you’ve read them, then you’d understand how powerful and menacing they truly are. In fact, Mass Effect 1 didn’t flesh them out enough. They shouldn’t be optional stuff, because they’re crucial to the main plot, especially since the Illusive Man wanted to control the Reapers, so that relates to the Reapers plot and it all interconnects. I’ve seen movie trilogies and such where there were two main villains, and they focused decent time on both to flesh them both out, not just one since that gives more story and interest into the movie or game (in this instance). I liked your previous article; this one was decent as well, but I completely disagree on your thoughts on Cerberus. The Illusive Man was probably more badass than the Reapers, especially since we kind of get the feeling that the Reapers were pawns as well in the hands of the Catalyst. Then again, the Illusive Man was indoctrinated in the very end as well. So, this is all one big convoluted twist. I still enjoyed the ending, but I thought they could have closed it off better, especially with the way you wanted it to end in your other article- sounded like the perfect ending.

    1. Like I said in the article, I also loved Cerberus as a villain, and they were indeed a credible villain, I never meant to imply otherwise. My point was that Cerberus was too large a threat to share a stage with the Reapers. In an ideal world if Bioware had had the budget and the time to create a 100 hour epic game, then yes there would have been more than enough time for both, but it’s not an ideal world unfortunately. There just wasn’t enough time, and I suspect money, for Bioware to successfully combine two huge villains into a single game. That was the only point I was trying to make.

      Like I said, I still love Cerberus, and Martin Sheen as the Illusive Man just kicked ass.

  19. Very good articles, I’m glad for finding this page!
    A few thoughts.
    First, I’m very intrigued, there is a major flaw in the whole ME universe, which seems to be unnoticed by anyone so far. It’s the Citadel, especially it’s design. They claim, it’s impenetrable when the wards are closed, but as far as I can work it out, the wards closing on only one side of the Presidium ring, so unless the other side of the Presidium is closed with an enormous piece of unbreakable glass, the closed Citadel looks like a cup, so must be accessible from the “mouth” of the cup. Of course, it’s possible I missed some important detail, which explains this problem, so please enlighten me, please! 🙂
    An other issue with the Citadel it’s supposed to be a gigantic mass relay, and the Reapers would attack through it, after Sovereign signaled to the Keepers. First, for mass relay travel, we need two relays, one sending, and an other receiving traveling ships, but we didn’t see the counterpart of the Citadel in the Reaper “dormitory”. OK, this doesn’t mean, it’s not exist, but if it does, why the Reapers didn’t use it to travel to an other mass relay? They can use those for moving their fleet without any problem in ME3. If the “Reaper relay” doesn’t exist, how the Citadel supposed to work as a mass relay? Another issue, if the Reapers are a truly menacing machine race, who despise organics, why they put the key of their return in the Keepers hand?
    They also claim, no one was able to figure it out for millions of cycles, that the Citadel itself is a mass relay, which I find difficult to believe – the natural interest of any species, discovering the abandoned Citadel, to unfold it’s secrets until they can muster perfect control. It’s possible, some species are not smart enough, some not really interested (like the asari), but someone should be successfull at some point, yet they say, the Protheans were the first to be able do something about it (however that is a strange story on it’s own).
    Introducing the “Star Child” AI makes the whole thing much more confusing – if it’s truly there, no need for the Keepers to receive Sovereign’s signal, the Protheans couldn’t modify the Keepers, and the whole fuss in ME1 and ME2 was unnecessary as the superadvanced AI, which controls the Reapers, surely should be able to open the Citadel for the Reaper invasion.
    I don’t completely agree with your opinion regarding having two villains in the story – I think it wouldn’t be a problem, if Cerberus would be an appropriate enemy. In ME1, Cerberus was a small black ops group, well founded and well organised, but small on a galactic scale. In ME2, they made them somewhat bigger, capable of building starships like the new Normandy and conducting projects like rebuilding Shephard – you raising your eyebrow, but still beliveable. In ME3 on the other hand, they are rivaling Alliance, maintaining a galactic presence, having multiple huge starbases, attacking the Citadel, etc… It’s just unbeliveable – they can’t gain such a strength unnoticed and unchallenged by the Alliance or by other major powers in the galaxy. Come on, a surprise attack against a top secret salarian military intelligence facility on the salarian homeworld?! Ridiculous…
    OK, I’m tired now, but I’ll be back! 🙂

    1. These are excellent points. The Citadel one is one I’d never really considered, but you’re right, by all accounts their should be a hole in the citadel where ships could fly through even with the arms closed. I guess they could probably write up some fluff about having powerful kinetic barriers there or some weird mass effect field that prevents entry. As far as I know it’s never covered in Mass Effect, but I may have simply forgotten.
      I think, emphasis on think, that a mass relay only links with one other mass effect relay. For instance in the codex entry for Arcturus station (I think that’s the name, it was the one that housed the Alliance parliament) it mentions that the star system has several relays to different systems. So presumably the relay in Dark Space where the reapers were only linked the citadel.
      I actually liked the part about the keepers. The keepers are more than likely a species the reapers wiped out and then genetically engineered to serve them. Sort of like the collectors were genetically engineered Protheans. The Reapers I think are a bit arrogant, not in the traditional human sense of the word, but through their complex calculations I think they vastly underestimate organic life. They probably thought no one would be able to reprogram the Keepers, or that a species could survive their relentless extermination like the Prothean scientists had done.
      Yeah, that was my point really. Cerberus could have been a viable villain, and like I said a story can work well with two villains. Both you and I agree though that BioWare made Cerberus WAY too big a threat, and by doing so made them in an implausible villain. How did this supposed splinter group get the resources to build an entire fleet able to attack multiple targets? I too was arching my eyebrow when Cerberus attacked the Salarian base, I was fully expecting Reapers to attack.
      Thanks for the post, looking forward to hearing from you again.

      1. Hello again!
        I went through the Citadel’s wiki entry, and couldn’t find any reference to a kinetic barrier on the Presidium’s other side – if it exists, it should be massive, as the diameter of the ring is 7 km – i’m not really sure, whether it’s possible (even for the Reapers) to create and maintain such a huge barrier, and as we know, the kinetic barriers can be penetrated relatively easily. So, for me it’s still a question.
        You’re right, the mass relays are linked to each other as pairs, but from the builders of the relays I would expect some resourcefullness, and I think they should be able to “relink” the Dark Space relay to an other one, if the Citadel is inaccessible. Of course, this would make the ME1 plot rather short 🙂
        An other interesting problem with the Citadel is it’s role as a Catalyst – I find difficult to believe that any reasonable species would incorporate it in the Reaper-killing superweapon as usually the Citadel falls first and the relay network is shut down, so even if someone would be able to gather the necessary military strength to take it back from the Reapers (at least temporarly), they wouldn’t be able to bring the fleet to the Citadel. Or let just say, these are desperate times, let’s hope, we can pull this off, but if we fail, we leave the blueprints to the ones come after us. Good, but why the secrecy about the Citadel, why leave it out of the blueprints? They can’t really keep it in secret after they deployed the Catalyst, or after it was destroyed due indoctrinated traitors, it just makes the coming race’s job more difficult.
        After finishing ME2, I developed the feeling, the Reapers may not be interested in galactic scale genocide after all, but they want to create one “human” Reaper only – the whole Reaper army awoke only after Harbinger’s plan failed – in ME3 it was a bit disappointing to see them resuming the “kill everyone” plan. If this was their master plan all along, why they bothered with the Collectors in ME2? Seems to be a bit confusing to me.
        I like the Keepers too, sort of enigmatic race on an enigmatic space station, however I always felt the ban of researching them (and the Citadel itself) quite unnatural – this is why I helped to scan them in ME1 🙂
        Regarding Cerberus – I don’t really understand, why Cerberus and Alliance are adversaries in the first place – they should be allies in these desperate times rather then anything else. Maybe a bit reluctant and mistrusting allies, but this all-out hostility is a bit difficult to swallow.
        Anyway, I must go – I hope we’ll talk again soon!

  20. I asked myself. why shepards has to die in end blue and green, and not in red?
    its not very logical[and i mean in me-ingame logic] that shepard survives this, because he is parrly cybernetic. miranda said, that the shep they got was only sore flesh and things [i am not a native english speaker, so sorry if some words dont fit] and they made shep alive. [and, well secondly i think the technology for reviving people is space magic as hell and wasnt very wise…i mean, they could have solved it better, although its an nice twist[bt very annoing because of the long unzappale sequence].]

    okay, back to topic-shepard was part of cybernetic- part human, part not and if everything cybernetic and synthetic have to die, even geth, edi and the lifesuits, shep has to die too.

    well, hope thats understandable^^

    i like the game but i hate the ending. i play the game until i am killed by harbi, then i delete the savefile and start again.

    1. Yeah, if anything the Red ending should have been the one where he should have died. Like you say, Shepard is only kept alive via his cybernetic implants. I still hate that Shepard dies in the blue and green endings because it’s just shoehorned in because they wanted a “bitter sweet” ending.

      1. Well, if ME has anything, it has a multitude of lines that could support a number on conclusions.

        I don’t think there is anything in the story line that supports the idea that Shepard dies if he or she takes the red option. Only the God Child suggests this by saying something like, “even you are partly synthetic.” They are many lines throughout the entire series that actually suggest otherwise. They tend to point to the conclusion that it is a matter of ones own will and determination.

        To abbreviate this post, I’ll only point to a few as follows so you can draw your own conclusions:

        In ME2, in the scene with Zaheed at the bridge and Shepard says, “You survived a gun shot to the head?” What was the retort he came back with?

        In ME3 at the hospital where Shepard can support one or the other argument at the reception desk about the name of the hospital, what was the outcome?

        In ME3, in the scene with Miranda during the meeting in the apartment where Miranda discusses the control chip, what does Shepard say that defines him/her?

        In ME3 during the assault on the base, there were videos to explain what took place during Shepard’s resurrection. What was it that TIM’s scientist says?

        In ME2, the paragon and renegade choices were fairly obvious with one of the choices being the good guy type of approach, one the bad guy. This system changed in ME3 and tended to appear more as the supportive approach and the other being the strong willed and determined ideal. In many cases, there does not seem to be a right or wrong approach, just a different way of getting to the same point. I know this change in how the system worked was a point of confusion to me for a bit.

        So the color scheme at the ending, whether paragon, neutral, or renegade represented by the blue, green and red respectively, has no bearing in itself as to the outcome. Only which decision and the resulting action have a bearing on what the outcome appears to be.

        All this rhetoric does not change the fact that there is no satisfaction to the end of this story regardless of which choice is made. There was no continuity to define the ultimate outcome. And the fact that the ending cut scene reflects that this is a story with more stories to be told, does not help. I’m sure a lot of people still play this game up to some point near the end and just stop because there is no resolution. And when I say resolution, I really mean a way forward. How do we get from the ending to the grandfather and child on a late evening stroll? And what is this wisdom or moral for the story he’s telling.

        It’s like telling the story of “The Wizard of Oz” and Dorothy never makes it home. Hell, she already found out the Wizard was a fake and a liar. I’m sure that would be a best seller.

        1. Well I was basically basing that off the introduction video of ME2. I mean it basically shows Cerberus rebuilding every system in his body. Everything from his heart, lungs, musculature and skin is painstakingly revived. I’d think if all the nano technology needed to restore him suddenly shut down, he’d sort of be in trouble.

          1. I was basing it off the thought that once the body was restored to it’s original organic functional state, why would it need continued support? The doctor checked the state of Shepard’s implants at the beginning of ME3 but no where does it tell us what those are and why they are needed. She does say that as long as things are positive the scarring should not reappear. I didn’t quite get this as in my play through of ME2, I used the surgical upgrade to fix those. Just another plot hole?

            In thinking about today’s technological advancements in cloning and talk about organ replacement by growing them from stem cells, there is current technology to support this. Straying too far from reality is what gets stories in to trouble. They need to be plausible or some type of unexplained mysterious something the audience can buy in to, like magic or the possibility of just plain evil. Otherwise, they must rely on pure action and/or adventure to glue the story together. That only seems to work in the movies.

  21. I do not know if this was addressed in prior comments but I would like to point out one thing that the article seems to miss (if it’s already been discussed please forgive me). There are two very small statements, one given by the Prothean AI on Thessia (and firther explained if Jarvik is brought to Thessia that it happened in his cycle as well) and the other by the God-Child that in every “cycle” of the God-child’s plan (which never stops repeating until Shepard) there is always one splinter group chosen by the Reapers to be falsely led to believe that they can control the reapers for there own ends. In this cycle it is Cerberus, in this way the Reapers can slowly indoctrinate the splinter group to cause internal strife and in-fighting as the splinter group wastes its time on the false hope of controlling the Reapers similar to the idea of the crucible being a faked weapon Reaper plot. Because of this any direct opposition to the Reapers made by the galactic peoples must constantly by diverted by or otherwise come into conflict with the efforts of the Splinter group as they seek to preserve and subvert the Reaper technology for there own ends rather than destroy it. In this way Cerberus is not so much a secondary villain but rather an unwitting pawn being fed delusions of grandeur by the true villain so that they may serve as a discretionary force. This is why I never had a problem with the constant Cerberus interference once I realized it was part of the Reapers overall plan. I do however count myself in the group that despises the way that the ending treated all of the player’s efforts and investments as something to be balled up and thrown away at the very end.

    1. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Cerberus storyline too, it definitely had potential. I was genuinely excited after the Sanctuary mission to see if there research about the reapers would unlock the key to defeating them. The cerberus arc wasn’t bad from a literary point of view, it fit in beautifully.

      My point was that Bioware was obviously stressed for time making Mass Effect 3, EA’s 1 game a year policy makes that clear (and the ending is ample evidence.) With that in mind, I think the Cerberus plot should have been cut in order to make the Reaper storyline more fulfilling and give us a real ending. As it stands, they tried to fit both stoylines and ended up with two dead-end stories with no resolutions. Neither the Cerberus or Reaper story arcs are adequately resolved, whereas if they had just cut Cerberus we might have gotten a good ending for the reapers at least.

      If they’d had 3-4 years to develop ME3 like they had done with ME2, then yeah, both plots were great additions. I’m only saying that under the circumstances, someone at Bioware should have said “we don’t have time for two epic storylines, lets focus on the reapers” instead of trying to squeeze both of them in and ending up failing both.

      1. I can agree with that, I was simply pointing out that I saw Cerberus (and the illusive man) as more of a misguided soul that I had to keep correcting rather than a trivial nuisance enemy

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