Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mass Effect 3: "Things I Liked"

This may sound hard to believe, but the ending to Mass Effect 3 didn't go back and destroy everything that was good and pure about this series. But that's not for a lack of trying. I can still enjoy the events that lead up to it, even as it tries desperately to make everything I did across 90 hours completely pointless.

Here is a small list of things the ending could not ruin for me(in no particular order).



The bottle-shooting. His scene with Tali. His dick-measuring contest with Vega. His Fry & Laurie routine with Joker.  His calibrations. I can't think of a single moment or scene that is lessened by this character's inclusion. And damn well too, because he's one of only two or three of your squad-mates in this game that I can stand.

This guy's going to get his own "Character Showcase" article in the foreseeable future.


There are multiple ways the Tuchanka mission can play out. For me, there is no outcome more perfect for this character than his "encore performance".


I didn't punch the reporter in the first game. I held my tongue in the first game when I was interviewed by "Khalisah-Al-Jilani"(and fuck was it hard to find that character's name on the Wiki or Google). I regretted it, but Lance Henrikson assured me it was the right call.

He wasn't there the second time, and I was in no mood for her crap. I didn't punch her in the second game, but I did tell her in my own Shepardy way to go fuck herself.

"Is it true that you're a slut and also fat?"

The third time, Earth and the galaxy at large was under attack by giant squid robots. Death toll in the millions. By the time she showed up again, I was all out of patience and all out of fucks to give.

I threw a punch and... was very surprised at how the scene played out.


"Emergency... Induction Port..."



I played as a FemmeShep. Possibly bisexual... But I never got her into a romantic situation. A few potential candidates, but it either never felt appropriate, or they got themselves killed. I wasn't happy when the game put words in my mouth and activated romantic options I didn't ask for(*COUGH*ihopeLiaradies*COUGH*).

Samantha Traynor is the only character in this series that I think would be a good fit with my Shepard. And the beautiful part is, despite the flirting and wink-wink suggestions, you can still deny this from happening.

The way I see it, Shepard isn't cut out for any relationship. She's a great tactician, leader and military asset... But she has no idea how to Play The Game. I like to think that's why she loses the chess match with Traynor if she doesn't join her in the shower. She's using the only tactics she knows, the kind that have worked for her on the battlefield but are useless when it's just two people in a room, trying to sort out how they feel for each other.

The game makes it really, really obvious how great and perfect and super-special and perfect you are. You read that right: it thinks you're perfect twice. So it's nice to see her in a position where she's not equipped to handle something, and misses out because of it.


I am okay with villains having laughably stupid plans or motivations. Even plans that hurt them as much as it hurts their enemies. Even if they're too deluded or just plain stupid to understand why. I do not believe this is "unrealistic". See: The Taliban.

I am okay with that in a video game, as long as I get to kill the shit out of those bad guys, and their twirling moustaches.

From the moment I started up Mass Effect 2, I was already planning to take down The Illusive Man. Every time he said or did something recklessly idiotic, resulting in the deaths of my crew or the people he swore he was "protecting", I made a note of it in my head. I tallied it up, and I knew it would just make pulling the trigger so much sweeter.

I could tolerate Kai Leng, despite being a plot-armoured cheater. I could tolerate The Illusive Man, despite being a delusional monster. I tolerated them, because I knew I'd get the chance to waste these two pricks. These are the bad guys. I'm supposed to hate them and think they're stupid. Not every villain has to be Magneto. As long as I get to bring justice eventually, I'm okay with not thinking the bad guy is cool or smart.

And that's exactly why people hated the star-child. The biggest mass-murderer in the history of the series, and the game doesn't even give us the option to reject/murder him.


This was going to be a comment on how the combat is a nice trade-off between the obnoxious stiffness of the first game, and the cover-based simplicity of the second.

But Jack is my favourite non-Garrus character, and now she's a biotic gym teacher of sorts. So she gets in this list.

...You know, in the first game, I lost two squad-mates. In the second game I lost half of the Normandy's crew. By the time I reached the end of the Mass Effect series, there were only two former squad-mates I could talk to on the vid-com thing: Jack and Jacob. All of my ME 3 squad were still alive, but still. That was pretty humbling.

But seeing the toughest bitch in the galaxy was still kicking? That was a good consolation prize.


The last major "battle" looks at first like something out of Gears of War. A ruined four-way intersection at night. Just you and your two favourite squad-mates. Your reinforcements are dead. There's a reaper in front of you, and from every direction spawns every possible combination of Husk your way. Standard variety, Marauders, Banshees, Cannibals, Ravagers, and Brutes, Brutes by the barrel-fold. Some of these things on their own require the entire team to take down. Now they're all around you, and you're losing ground territory fast.

Up until those last few moments, I preferred to pause the action when selecting my biotic powers or tech abilities. But here, the action was so intense, and growing and growing and getting worse and worse as they got closer and closer with every passing second, that eventually it became too much. "I need to kill fast, and bullets too slow". It was the only time in the series where I mapped out powers to individual buttons, just so I wouldn't have to pause the game each time.

Fire. Overload. Fire. Grenade. Warp. Fire. Overload. Grenade. Warp. Throw. Fire. Warp. Fire. Throw. Grenade.

"Ey 'ow ya doin'?"

And it never truly feels like enough. They just get closer and closer, and Garrus and Tali are doing the best they can, overloading and setting up defense drones, but there's always more. And then they get too close. And then that Reaper is looming right above you...

...That was the best moment of combat in the Mass Effect series.


I cannot wrap my head around the people who play as ManShep. Are we really that insecure, that we'll play as the world's worst voice actor instead of someone who brings some meaning to the part? Are people really that concerned about cooties?

I realized later on why I was able to let so much of the stupid shit and the plot-holes slide, and how I was able to so fully involve myself into this franchise. It's because Jennifer Hale is absolutely convincing as Commander Shepard. With Mark Meer, I get the feeling they wanted to cover all of their bases, white, black, whatever. But in the end they ended up making a character whose voice NO ONE could relate to.

Hale can sound kind of silly when she's shouting. And I don't think that's a point against her work here. That made her character a lot more interesting than it could have been. By making her that much more specific, I was able to believe her performance more.

It reminds me of what Roger Ebert once said about movies(paraphrased):

"The more specific you are about human nature, the more universal it is. Whereas movies made 'For Everyone' seem to be made for no one in particular."


The one silver lining to The Worst Ending Ever Written is that it got everyone talking. About how they played the game, what this series meant to them, and how they would have done things differently. The analyses, video reviews, blog posts, fan-art and fan-fiction have been eye-opening for me.

If EA and BioWare don't listen to or respect these people, they don't deserve another dime. To throw away a community this devoted would be corporate suicide. No matter how much they wanted to, they couldn't ruin that.

(All images appear courtesy of



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