Yes, Hi again. Been a while since I actually WROTE anything, instead of just re-blogging, correct?
Yeah, well that’s mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to go in-depth with most of the games that sucked lately, because it was blindingly obvious why they sucked. Here’s your disclaimer:
This review will contain spoilers for Mass Effect 1-2-3, will have strong opinions and IS NOT A RANT ON HOW TERRIBLE IT IS. Happy?
Now, with that out of the way, let’s begin.
Mass Effect. A game series built entirely on choice and the reflection of those choices in your storyline and characters. Yes there was shooting, yes there was huge alien bad-asses you had to kill, but the main plot always boiled down to: What do you choose, Commander?
You are Commander Shepard, a male or female soldier in the Galactic Alliance. Pick where you were born, how you grew up, how you look, what you’ve undergone as you served in the military. Then get thrown into your first mission, after receiving a distress call from the planet. You’re introduced to your enemy, the Geth. By the end of this mission, Cmdr Shepard has seen a vision of impending doom, showing every race in the Galaxy being obliterated by a race known as The Reapers. He/she (mine was a she) rushes to go tell the Council they need to step the fuck up, or they’re all going to die. Council rejects this warning, citing the need for further proof and not wanting to stress out the populace.
Shepard recruits some people for their mission to save the Galaxy, and go off in pursuit of the Geth and their leader, Saren. I won’t discuss the entire plot, but just the important parts from here. You, Shepard, have to fight lots of robots, make some tough decisions, and ultimately lead the Galaxy to victory. Go.
You have to choose who lives or dies in a factory that has to be destroyed with a nuclear bomb, one person having to stay behind to defend it and then detonate it. You can choose between two people. Both people have families, dreams and interests, you may like one, or both of them. The game will not advance till you have chosen who stays, and there is no way around it. That is what Mass Effect was about.
Your friend argues that this factory should not be destroyed, that it holds the future of his people within, and he won’t let you destroy it. Choose. Kill him? Have another of your friends kill him? Try to convince or intimidate him out of his choice? Up to you.
Saren, arguably the main antagonist, has had the same vision as you, and is trying to find a way to synthesize the entire Galaxy together to become one race, with no difference, so that the Reapers will not kill them all. You, as Shepard, are against this. Sent after Saren, you are to stop him from turning everyone into a race of synthesised creatures, and stop him from opening a gate to bring back all the Reapers.
You see, gradually over time, Saren’s original goal of saving the Galaxy through his servitude to the Reaper he found, therefore proving that Organic life was worth sparing. They were twisted by a process called Indoctrination - His goals were supplanted by the goals of the Reaper, named Sovereign and unknowingly, he came to do his bidding.
I’ll get to the final point. At the end of Mass Effect 1, you either are able to convince Saren of his indoctrination, where upon he commits suicide, or you are unable to, and have to kill him. He is raised up by Sovereign (either way) and you have to kill him again. At the end of Mass Effect 1, Sovereign was destroyed, Saren was killed, and the Galactic Council (If you saved them) says the Reaper threat is over with, that Sovereign was the only one and you destroyed him. Done.
Mass Effect 2:
Mass Effect 2 is set within the Milky Way galaxy during the 22nd century, where interstellar travel is possible through the use of mass transit devices called Mass Relays. Central to the story is Commander Shepard, an elite human soldier who is the Executive Officer of the SSV Normandy, a starship piloted by flight Lieutenant Jeff “Joker” Moreau. While patrolling for a hostile race of networked artificial intelligences called geth, the Normandy is attacked by an unknown starship, and many crew members die. During the evacuation, Shepard tosses Joker into the Normandy’s final escape pod before being blasted into space. After a suit breach, Shepard dies of asphyxiation and his/her body is pulled into the orbit of a nearby planet. Shepard’s body is retrieved and ultimately revived by Cerberus, a pro-human organization headed by the Illusive Man.
The Illusive Man informs Shepard that entire populations of human colonies are disappearing all over the galaxy, and believes the Reapers, a highly advanced machine race of synthetic-organic starships encountered in the original game, are responsible. Now working for Cerberus, Shepard is sent to investigate a recently-attacked colony, where he/she finds clues about the validity that the Reapers are working by proxy through an insect-like species called the Collectors.The Illusive Man explains that Shepard must recruit a team in order to stop the Collectors, who reside beyound the Omega-4 Relay, from which no ship has ever returned. Shepard is also given command of a new starship, the Normandy SR-2, piloted again by Joker and equipped with an onboard AI named EDI. Shepard recruits four new squadmates before receiving intel from the Illusive Man that another human colony is under attack. Shepard successfully stops the attack, but a large portion of the colony’s population was captured.
Shepard continues to recruit squadmates, adding three more, until the Illusive Man contacts Shepard about a Collector ship supposedly disabled. As Shepard and his/her squad board the ship, they surprisingly encounter no Collector resistance and learn that the Collectors were originally an extinct alien race that were turned into slaves of the Reapers. With EDI’s help, Shepard finds out how to bypass the Omega-4 Relay before being ambushed by the Collectors. Although Shepard and the Normandy manage to escape the Collector ship, relations between Shepard and the Illusive Man are strained, due to the latter’s knowledge of the Collector trap. After optionally earning the loyalty of his/her squadmates, Shepard visits a derelict Reaper and acquires an IFF transponder necessary for safe travel through the Omega-4 Relay, and later acquires an unconscious geth. If activated, the geth voluntarily joins the squad. The Normandy later integrates the IFF into her systems while Shepard and the squad leave the ship in a shuttle. During their absence, the Normandy is attacked and boarded by the Collectors; only Joker avoids capture. After Shepard’s squad returns to the Normandy, the team use the Omega-4 Relay to get to the Collector base.
In the Collectors base, the team rescue any surviving members of the Normandy, and fight their way to the central chamber. Squadmates survive or perish along the way depending on their loyalty, upgrades to the Normandy, and selections of specific members to perform certain tasks. In the central chamber, Shepard discovers that the Collectors have been constructing a new Reaper made from the abducted humans, although EDI is unsure of its true purpose. Shepard destroys the machine powering the human Reaper and prepares to destroy the Collector base. However, before doing so, the Illusive Man contacts Shepard and gives the order to sterilize the base with a radiation pulse so that its information can be used against the Reapers. After choosing to destroy or sterilize the base, Shepard destroys the awakened human-reaper larva and, if enough squadmates survived, escapes the base before the bomb detonates. If none did, Shepard must be abandoned to death in the Collector Base. Back on the Normandy, Shepard speaks with the Illusive Man, who either praises or condemns Shepard’s decision. As Shepard meets in the Normandy’s cargo bay with the survivors of the mission, Joker gives the Commander schematics of a Reaper. Humanity now has the full attention of the Reapers, who awaken in dark space, and descend upon the galaxy, beginning the events of Mass Effect 3.
Now this comes with huge amounts of choice and repercussions for your choices, along with carrying on from your save game in Mass Effect 1, with the choices you made in that game carrying over to affect ME2 in adverse and positive ways. See the key here? It’s choice and reaction. Choice and consequence. The entire ME games are built on this premise, when you strip away everything.
Mass Effect 3:
Mass Effect 3 begins on Earth with Commander Shepard having been detained following the events in Arrival. Out of the blue, the Reapers attack and the planet is overwhelmed. Shepard escapes to the Normandy with the help of Admiral Anderson and leaves to gather help from other species while Anderson coordinates human resistance on Earth. Before leaving the Sol System, Shepard is ordered to Mars by Admiral Hackett who claims that researchers have uncovered something that may give humanity a chance against the Reapers. There, Shepard battles Cerberus forces and encounters former squad-mate Liara T’Soni, who has discovered plans for a Prothean superweapon that may be capable of defeating the Reapers. Before leaving the facility, Shepard speaks with the Illusive Man, who claims he wants to use the Prothean weapon to take control of the Reapers.
Next, Shepard heads for the Citadel. Once there, Shepard pleads for help from the Council, but they are reluctant to oblige due to their own preoccupations. Shepard realizes that the only way to gain other species’ assistance will be to help them with their problems and garner favors, while at the same time gathering war assets to be used against the Reapers in battle. Eventually, Hackett begins construction on the Prothean weapon and dubs it “The Crucible”.
Shepard’s crew’s first objective is tackling the krogan-salarian-turian conflict centered around the genophage. Afterward, they intervene in the geth-quarian war and defeat a Reaper. Finally, they attempt to defend the asari home world Thessia from the Reapers while simultaneously gathering information on “The Catalyst”, an essential tool for the Crucible’s effectiveness. At a Thessian temple, Shepard encounters a VI called Vendetta. As it is about to reveal information regarding the Catalyst, Cerberus intervenes and steals it. Shepard then attacks their headquarters, killing their second-in-command Kai Leng but failing to capture the Illusive Man. After regaining control of Vendetta, Shepard learns that the Citadel is the Catalyst and that the Illusive Man has been indoctrinated. Because of his indoctrination, the Illusive Man has told the Reapers of the Citadel’s true identity and they have moved it to a defensive position in Earth’s orbit.
Under Hackett’s leadership, the galaxy’s forces attack the Reapers on Earth in an attempt to retake the Citadel and use it as the Catalyst for the Crucible. Shepard helps an assault on London, the focal connection point from the planet to the Citadel. Reunited with Anderson, Shepard eventually begins the final push to the Citadel but is attacked by Harbinger. While charging toward the conduit that sends humans to the Citadel, Shepard’s squadmates are injured and evacuated. Shepard continues the charge but is wounded. He barely makes it and meets up with Anderson and together they encounter an indoctrinated Illusive Man. They stop him, but Anderson is mortally wounded in the process. Shepard is then transported to the pinnacle of the Citadel where a childlike AI appears. The AI declares itself as the Catalyst and the Reapers’ creator. It reveals that the Reaper cycle is an attempt to prevent organic life from wiping itself out by creating synthetic life; creators, the Catalyst argues, are always doomed to be destroyed by the created. The Catalyst characterizes the harvest as an ascendance, wherein advanced organic races are preserved in Reaper form and space is left for more primitive species to rise, evolve, and advance.
The Catalyst says that it has lost faith in the Reapers’ ability to achieve their purpose and gives Shepard three options of defeating them: control the Reapers, destroy the Reapers and all synthetic life, or synthesize all organic and synthetic life together. Each choice results in Shepard’s apparent death and the destruction of the entire mass relay network. London suffers varying degrees of damage and the Normandy crash lands on an alien planet. If the player’s Effective Military Strength is high enough and Shepard chooses to destroy the Reapers, the game ends with a cutscene of Shepard taking a deep breath in a pile of rubble, hinting at survival. In a post-credits cutscene, an old man known as the “Stargazer” tells Shepard’s story to a young boy, implying that Shepard’s legend lives on.
Here’s the biggie. I’m going to cut straight to the chase. The game has so many cracks in it, it’s unbelievable. Some art plot holes, some are story-telling and immersion fractures. Now, I’m not going to say the entire game was bad, I’ll leave that for you to judge, I found several parts throughout Mass Effect 3 hugely enjoyable, rewarding and precious to me. The mission on Tuchanka, for example. My god, what a fantastic mission. It had everything Mass Effect was about encapsulated neatly within an hour and a half of gameplay.
I’m going to discuss the ending, but first, here’s the Extended Cut’s additions to it. (Yes, from fan outrage, Bioware decided to retcon several parts of the ending and try to fix it with this free DLC.)
The Extended Cut reveals that the mass relays are only heavily damaged by the Crucible’s firing instead of being destroyed as per the original ending, but most aspects of the plot remain the same. Additional scenes and dialogue have been added to clarify events and resolve perceived plot holes.
The three original ending choices have been modified to include a varying narration provided by Hackett (Destroy), Shepard (Control), or EDI (Synthesis) along with slides showing the impact the player’s choices have had upon the galaxy, as well as the fate of surviving characters. If the player has a sufficiently high EMS score, the surviving crew of the Normandy is shown holding a memorial service for Shepard before repairing the damage from the crash and launching into space.
The Extended Cut also provides a fourth ending, triggered by either refusing the Catalyst’s choices, or attempting to kill it when the player resumes control of Shepard. Consequently, the Crucible is not fired and the war ends with the systematic destruction of all space-faring civilizations, and the continuation of the Reaper cycle. The scene then shifts to an unknown garden world in the future where one of Liara’s beacons has been discovered. Dialogue in the post-credits scene reveals that the knowledge gained from the beacon ultimately led to the next cycle’s victory over the Reapers.
The ending is bad. It’s really bad. It takes everything Mass Effect was built on: Player choice, consequences, The Galaxy, relationships, friends, unity, victory through difference and screws them into a ball. I’m taking into account you’ve read the above plot summary of the original ending and the Extended Cut.
Destroy: Destroy is my favourite of the endings, personally. You destroy the Reapers, (Yours and the majority of the Galaxy’s goals for the entire series.) and claim victory. The only thing the destroy ending lacks for me now (Post Extended Cut) is a scene showing Shepard reuniting with her crew and love interest. It would’ve tipped it from being an ‘okay’ ending to a ‘great’ ending. Still, it has it’s problems, just like all of them, it shares one fundamental flaw, which I will discuss at the end.
Control: Control pisses me off as an ending. Yes, it’s good to have player choice there, but it’s a choice that was shared by the Illusive Man, whom you’ve been clashing with since MASS EFFECT 1 (Yes, Cerberus were in ME1.) and you pick HIS choice? No, no nonono. Shepard wouldn’t do that, in my head, and having it being one of the only four choices here is pathetic.
Synthesis: You read the start of this entire long post, did you not? This is what Saren wanted to do! My god, didn’t the writers read that? We KILLED Saren because he was Indoctrinated and wanted this to happen. It forces this change on everybody whether they wanted to or not, merely to pacify the Reapers. You, Shepard, make the choice for billions of people in the Galaxy. Some may say that is the “Ultimate” Mass Effect-esque choice. But I say nay, it is not. One of the key-themes from Mass Effect is victory through individuality. I point to the fact that in the first game, you gather all varying species of people from the Galaxy to aid you in your plight against Saren. One of the characters from ME1 (or 3, if she lived.) had xenophobic views at the start. She did not like the fact that there were so many alien races on the Normandy, a Human Alliance vessel, taking part in their mission. But, had it been the Alliance, and nothing but the Alliance, they would have almost certainly failed. I hate this entire option, it’s stupid and ruins one of the greatest themes of Mass Effect.
Refusal: This comes so, so fucking close to being the choice I and so many other fans wanted that it fucking hurts. In this ending, you refuse to choose from the choices given to you by the Catalyst, telling him to figuratively go fuck himself, and that you’ll fight together with the forces you’ve amassed, and if that means dying, then you’ll die, but you will die free! SO GOOD. This is EXACTLY what Commander Shepard would’ve said. To rely on the unity of the Galaxy to defeat the threat, not a Deus Ex Machina-3000 to conveniently end the threat for you.
Here is my final point on Mass Effect 3:
War Assets. What was their point? Really? There wasn’t one, it was just a number. That’s all. The number was meant to represent the forces of the Galaxy uniting to take down the threat of the Reapers, and that’s what drove us to do all the extra missions, and help random people on the Citadel. We felt that the races would do better if all their other problems were taken care of and they could focus on this one task of defeating the single greatest threat to life in the Galaxy. But ultimately, they don’t matter at all. Nothing you do in any of the Mass Effect games makes the slightest bit of difference. I could go on for days about the huge array of (seemingly) important choices from Mass Effect 1-2 are not touched upon, or do not modify anything in any particular way. The unification of the Galaxy doesn’t mean shit. All you needed was your huge black ball to end the threat for you.
Because in the Refusal ending, regardless of your War Asset rating, you die. Everyone dies, and you lose to the Reapers. Fuck off. What was the point of gathering anyone? We could’ve just built the ball and then parked it on the Citadel, same shit would’ve happened. Yes you can say “The other races helped build the Crucible!” and I’ll say no, about three squads of engineers with people from every race built the crucible. The majority of the War Asset rating was military personnel. Completely stupid, and takes away any of the drive to do any of the, frankly, shit side quests in ME3, or even play Mass Effect at all anymore. Commander Shepard wasn’t even needed in ME3, just some moron who found the designs to the Crucible. Same thing.
And that’s that. Mass Effect, done and ended. What a depressing end to such a fantastic franchise.