Godmars290 (User)

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"I Just Want a Motherf***ing Starfox Clone!"

Questioning Mass Effect

Godmars290 | 1247d ago
User blog

(Or Suprise JRPG Attack!)

With ME3’s release just around the corner and the uproar surrounding it’s day-one DLC has gotten me reconsidering the series overall. Namely how while the first game has possibly marked a renaissance in how RPGs should be made, that quite simply the franchise has quickly devolved into theatrical driven exploitation rather than the action-oriented, thought provoking sci-fi romp its currently being hoisted as.

These are the self-asked questions which made me come to such a conclusion:

How Did the Reapers Get Here?
Every fifty thousand years the reapers descend upon the galaxy to rid it of any species which has obtained an interstellar level culture. Uses the Mass Effect relay network to both guide these cultures along a certain technological path, and leave them vulnerable to attack upon the Reapers return. This genocidal cycle however is broken with the destruction of Sovereign, a Reaper sentry, caused by warnings left by the Protheans, an advanced race killed during the last Reaper cycle, and the actions of a multi-species group lead by a human named Sheppard. This is ME1’s plot summed up as simply as possible. There’s a lot missing from it including the bits involving sex, which applies in more ways than one.

Given that ME2 was also – supposedly, I’ll get to that later – about stopping the Reaper cycle, something at which you through the persona of Sheppard again succeed at, it comes off to me as a bit cheap that with ME3 the Reapers are simply “here” with no real explanation. Worse yet this comes off as happening mere months after whatever apparent “success” ME2 suggested.

But this is really minor compared to:

What were the Collectors doing anyway?
Yes the Collectors were raiding Human colonies in order to make a Human-Reaper, which offered hints about Reaper intentions, but what exactly was that suppose to do towards returning all Reapers to the galaxy? Were they preparing for another run on Citadel? If so how long – given that in two years they’d gotten up to a skeleton – would this new Reaper take to complete? Why bother building it when considering events detailed in “The Arrival” DLC? The plan to both use and destroy that relay had to be in the works for years, so if the Collectors really had any connection with bringing back the Reapers, why were they uninvolved there?

Honestly this whole line of questioning begs to ask how was there even outside indication of the Collector’s connection to the Reapers. Especially if all of their attacks before Sheppard’s involvement left no evidence. And again, I’m making a case of Mass Effect as a theatrical game. Of things happening because they look cool rather than make sense which is the not necessarily the rotten core of all bad stories.

Which makes me ask:

Why Is the Reaper Threat Recognized Too Late?
Weather or not the Council is saved in ME1, despite Reaper wreckage likely still littering Citadel at the start of ME3, their existence is willfully denied both officially and behind closed doors. Ships lost during Sovereign’s attack have likely been replaced, an assumption of standard military buildups among the races for any lesser reason could be made, but the basic fact is that the galaxy at large isn’t prepared for what’s about to hit it.

Its these conclusions plus the opening cutscenes in the ME3 demo which has me questioning how the good guys are suppose to win. More so than I should be asking at least.

A good portion of Earth’s fleet is in orbit, Reapers arrive en mass rapidly decimating early warning and defense systems, land on the planet at once converting what populace they don’t kill into their own troops, and it is suppose to be believed that Sheppard will be able to gather and unite the forces needed to save both the homeworld of his species much less the galaxy?

I had more trouble believing that surrounding Reapers failed to blow the Normandy II out of the sky than go after a couple of shuttles – one of which should have had Anderson on it. Nevermind some cheap, unnamed Aliens Newt-clone who’s death is suppose to tug at heart strings.

Moving on to the Elephant in the Room of this “article” before getting to its conclusive point:

Why Does Everyone Leave?!
In the literal middle of nowhere every significant Normandy II crewmember boards a shuttle along with Sheppard, anyone who could repel boarders, and leaves. With the ship being boarded shortly thereafter with only its least physically able crewmember not taken by Collectors, who’d been lead to the location by a Reaper IIF signal, and save the ship.

Many will note that while the beginning of that summery made no real sense, the latter did to a degree. The player’s usual story point of view, Sheppard, is temporally ignored as he/she and the other cast of characters you’ve gathered go off stage because something that’s believed needed to happen to progress the plot happens. The rest of the crew need to be kidnapped to give you more of a reason to go where you were going anyway, so the game’s writers decided that they’d be kidnapped to give the game’s ending mission some emotional weight. You as Sheppard were just off somewhere sitting on your hands before that last final game level.

In other words, they got lazy. Doesn’t matter that there‘s an explanation – an adventure – of what Sheppard and gang did while away in some novel or comic book, in the context of the actual game that you’re playing at the time – the writers got lazy.

No, that’s probably not exactly the case and might be unfair. Though it is the point of this article which was inspired by questions raised while playing ME2 and ingesting ME3 hype.

Even before this console generation the most prolifically known type of RPGs, which being made in Japan has labeled JRPGs, had come to be accused of stagnation. Introduction of convoluted story elements if not full plotlines. Character archetypes who were always of a certain age, appearance and even personality. These recursive flaws made it both harder for one time fans to accept the premise of a game’s story, to suspend any real world beliefs which might hold back from becoming enveloped in its presentation, and easy for critics of the JRPG genera to attack it. To also promote the rise of WRPGs such as Mass Effect.

Which features character such as Jack, who can easily take out three heavy mechs at once during her introductory cutscene but is just another squad member in the game. Her assumed full body tattoos also seem to be able to do the job of a spacesuit.

Its things like Jack which causes narrative bumps that are no better than a possible ten year old girl who happens to be a JRPG’s main protagonist. The gap in logic that has you repeatedly taking someone for their word when they’ve knowingly sent you into enemy ambushes at least twice which is exactly similar to repeatedly accepting your back-stabbing best friend back into the party, especially after kidnapping your girlfriend. Spending two years and billions of dollars on experimental technology to revive the body – that fell to a planet! – of someone based on the premise they’re a symbol is the Western equivalent of a pop-star saving the world from Cthulhu with a soccer ball and song she just made up. All are cases of theatrical story telling in games. All have caused gamers at one time or another to question the narrative.

So to sum up: WRPGs = JRPGs. With ME1 the series might have shown promise and originality, but with scheduling and production demands, being viewed as product, a vehicle for merchandising rather than a story told through a game, its quickly fallen into usual and established conventions.

TenSteps  +   1246d ago
It was difficult and took a lot of effort but I managed to fap to the Shepard in that pic.
Hovis  +   1246d ago
1. Pic is sweet

2. Why the hell did everyone leave the shuttle at the same time? No seriously!?

I played Mass Effect 2 times more over the last month (wanted a few more files to import) and I just couldn't get over the fact that everyone on the team just gets up and leaves. Then Miranda has the nerve to have a go at the guy with brittle bone disease for not saving the day...the fudge?!

Anyway I had a go at Uncharted 3 for the same reason really. Plot points which happened solely to keep the story going (somehow washing up on the beach where he needed to be after being shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean(!) and surviving for days in the desert etc). When you stopped and thought about the events in question it just ruined the immersion completely.

It's an established part of the entertainment industry. It's like when you watch a Bond film and the villain has many opportunities to kill Bond but talks to him instead. Obviously in real life Bond would've just been shot but because it's a film they have to build tension and show the hero miraculously survive the odds etc etc.

Anyway the only real way to get over such plot problems like these is to just ignore and go along with them. It's not all bad though and the films/games are still enjoyable at the end of the day.

Good blog though :)
teething  +   1229d ago
I agree with your suspension of disbelief point.

I went through a phase where I criticised the plot of every movie I watched... nothing made logical sense. I did not enjoy watching those movies. When I turned my brain off and just went for the ride, I again started to enjoy movies.

The crew leaving the Normandy was simply a plot point to make the story work. Just like when characters decide to split up in horror movies.

"It is dark, we don't know where we are, there is a killer monster on the loose, we are safer if we stick together." "How about we split up?" "Great idea."
Christopher  +   1246d ago
Because post-Mass Effect, the writing took a turn not towards logic but towards extending the concept and forcing 'new beginnings' with each game.

Perhaps it was a fault of the first game's writing in that it should have resulted in continued fight against the Reapers, but the problem is that instead of writing about the political concepts and continuing affect of Reapers on the people, they instead made it all about one man, Shepard. Only Shepard can save us, only Shepard can find the answer, only Shepard can find answers for his squad members to gain their loyalty, only Shepard can open this can of Peanut Butter.

Rather than continue the story from the first game that was only played by about 2 million gamers, they instead created a new beginning focusing on the same person while drastically changing gameplay so as to shoe-horn more people into the game. After all, you're not going to make people feel like they have to play the first game to understand it all, are you? No, you gotta present them something completely new that they can understand from the get-go.

And with the third game, they are doing the same thing. Instead of continuing on with the previous story, they instead progress the timeline and redo the same thing, Only Shepard.

And you can't have a single person save the galaxy without a ship and his crew to back him up. So, in a place where everything including the smallest of shuttles is getting shot out of the air, you can't have a large one get shot out. Shepard needs it, it must survive, so that he can go and save us... well, those of us that aren't currently being blasted to pieces or turned into Husks.
Godmars290  +   1245d ago
Thing is with the second story - there was no story. The Collectors where just doing something which happened to be Reaper related and you stop them after coming back from the dead.

Also think for what its worth Bioware failed to explain the actual arrival of the Reapers, which in itself would have been a colossal narrative event, is largely because they would have had to present Sheppard - the player - as losing. Or for whatever reason the gamers of today can't stand to lose.
Hovis  +   1245d ago
Just in regards to the first paragraph of your comment.

So is the problem of the middle game.

Number 1 sets up the franchise.

Number 2 can't really develop the story that much or characters so can only really saunter about looking good

Number 3 finishes the story that was started.

This is the problem that comes with basing you games/films as a trilogy because number 2 can't end it. If you took Mass Effect 2 out of the equation and just had Mass Effect 1 & 3 story wise I believe there wouldn't be much difference overall.

Mass Effect 2 as good as it was could only really add depth to the galaxy because that's all it really could. More locations, characters and choices.
teething  +   1229d ago
You have to admit though, sheppard getting shot out of the sky at the start of the game would be realistic... but make for a crappy story and game.
SageHonor  +   1246d ago
Wait until you play the entirety of Mass Effect LOL
Captain Tuttle  +   1246d ago
I've learned that it's not a good idea to look at ME2's story too closely. I loved the game, the characters were well written. Bioware forgot to fit it into the big picture.

You want a well written story in a videogame? Play Planescape: Torment. Or even Fallout New Vegas. There's too many holes in the ME series.
Christopher  +   1246d ago
Planescape: Torment, really wish someone with the talent would redo the art assets at 1080p resolution and release it without any other changes. What a masterpiece in gaming.
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Captain Tuttle  +   1245d ago
There are some HiDef mods for it
Christopher  +   1244d ago
@Captain Tuttle: Yeah, but that's still limited to at about 720p.

The Gibberlings 3 mod doesn't do well at much above that.

I play the game about once a year and always look for new mods. Took a bit to get it to work on Windows 7, which was weird, but got it to work eventually.
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teething  +   1229d ago
ME2's story is pretty light, but the intention was always to focus on the squadmates and their stories and relationships. I thought it was an interesting change for gaming.
redDevil87  +   1245d ago
Wow, this was a extremely well written blog. Props to you.
WildArmed  +   1245d ago
This an extremely well written comment. Props to you.

(And thanks for pointing the blog out, it was a great read -- kodus Goldmars)
#6.1 (Edited 1245d ago ) | Agree(1) | Disagree(3) | Report | Reply
TenSteps  +   1245d ago
You two go back to your dumb forums
redDevil87  +   1245d ago
Oh hai!
TenSteps  +   1245d ago
Sorry I do not like to speak to dirty forumites.

I feel dirty talking to you.
Godmars290  +   1245d ago
ME2 fails to contribute to its trilogy because it does nothing to advance the overall plot. Does less to give Shepard any real value in the story they're suppose to be the center of.

Star Wars the Empire Strikes back not only better showed the Empire as a threat, but further developed Luke as the overall story's central hero. Han And Leia's relationship.

Likewise Two Towers presented the rise of Mordor, its allies and the effect this was having on the surrounding kingdoms. It also showed Frodo's growing burden as Ring barer, Samwise's loyalty and even presented Gollum in several lights. Not to mention any number of other characters.

Even the second Xenosaga offered more character and plot development, moved its story towards its third installment, better than ME2. Which had Shepard as its main character because he/she was its main character. This when the Prothean cipher they were exposed to was completely ignored.

Aside from revelation that Collectors were Protheans, a shallow little fact at best which was just casually given, what did ME2 do other than say, "The Reapers are coming." Which was already said in ME1.
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Hovis  +   1244d ago
I totally agree with you, that may not have come across in my previous comment but I do.

The idea I was trying to present was that Mass Effect 2 couldn't progress the plot because Mass Effect 3 was going to be the war against the Reapers and so number 2 couldn't advance the story to that point.

Your examples like Empire and Two Towers also come across the same problems. Obviously because the third film/book was going to be the 'final' battle and end the story the second film/book could only develop the story so far. Therefore both of them can only really attempt to develop the characters, villains and world as a whole.

Mass Effect 2 wasn't the best idea story wise, maybe as a one off story it could've been but as part of a interlocking trilogy it just doesn't hold up, (like you've been saying).

The ideas of the Collectors was obviously an attempt by Bioware to raise the stakes in the war with the Reapers and to show how fragile humanity was but it didn't pay off because it felt more like a one-off event rather then a piece of the puzzle slowly building towards the climactic final battle.

Hope that clears things up, it's been nice discussing this topic. Never really thought about it until your blog.

If you have anything else to add then just PM if you're still interested :)
rattletop  +   1245d ago
the problem is that everyone wants to do a trilogy. what people and bioware don't realize is that some stories are so good that they need 4-7 sequels to explain the various happenings. trying to squeeze everything into a trilogy is definitely gonna take away pieces of the story and it has loopholes.

Look at Harry potta- it wasn't written to fit in a trilogy instead allowing the author to explain each and every incident/place/character with a greater depth. when people finished reading the final book they had a sense of experiencing the complete universe and almost all the questions were answered.

ME1 provided a good base setting for the reaper story arc but after that they concentrated more on gameplay mechanics and finishing the story with ME3. so it's not surprising there r loopholes
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Blacktric  +   1244d ago
Oh my God. Another piece of "art" made by Godmars that completely nitpicks Mass Effect 2 and 3. My day's just got even crappier... Who knew.
Godmars290  +   1243d ago
Any chance you could explain the biggest nitpick: the shuttle.

And that's within the context of gameplay.
Redempteur  +   1244d ago
MAss effect 2 had awesome characters .. A very great poll of choices It's just a shame that so few of your choices matter in the long run ... Well for the opening of ME3 , they leave because they need more power to decimate the reapers . Anderson is supposed to organize the 'on site resistance'.
Why did the concil do nothing ? Well They are ( were ) in position of making decisions and they can't accept that they might not be in control someway ..this point was made painfully clear in ME1.

nice blog by the way.
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dedicatedtogamers  +   1242d ago
The last decent storyline Bioware made was in Dragon Age: Origins. I daresay the story in Dragon Age II made more sense and had more relevance to the DA series compared to Mass Effect 2 and its effect on the ME series.

But because ME has that cross-over appeal of "boom! gunz and teh spaceships?" for all the shooter junkies, combined with the all-corrupting influence of Bioware's owners, EA, Mass Effect was bound to go downhill. I view the first Mass Effect as a fluke, not as the norm for what Bioware is capable of.

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