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Mass Effect 3: Things That Work

I’m still dutifully trucking my way through the galaxy in Mass Effect 3. After a weekend in which I dumped very nearly every spare moment I had into the game (and I had a lot for a change), I’ve poured in nearly 30 hours. At this point I’d guess that I have about a third of the game to go. My Effective Military Strength (with no bonuses coming from multiplayer) is to the end of the progress bar (at 3072), but there’s still at least one big chunk of content to go. I don’t want to get into drawing conclusions about the game before I finish, but certainly I’ve played enough at this point to know what I particularly like about it and what I don’t. Since I’ve been bagging on the multiplayer-singleplayer interconnectedness so hard, let’s go ahead and theme today’s post around what I think works…

1. In past ME games your crew was fairly static when aboard the Normandy. Everybody had a location and there, for the most part, they would stay. Although that did make it easier to run the gamut of tracking them all down to see if they had anything new to say, it didn’t make the Normandy feel particularly lively. In this game the NPCs traveling with you across the cosmos are rather active. Between missions, if you should stroll down to Liara’s quarters there’s no telling if you’ll find her quietly working away, engaged in an intercom dialog with another NPC, or not there at all, in which case you’re likely to find her engaged in some other activity around the ship. It’s the same for everyone, from the characters you take with you on missions to the engineering staff and ship’s doctor. It makes the Normandy feel alive in a way that it never really has before. (Although not perfect about it, the game also seems to do a better job of letting you know when someone wants to speak with you.)

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2. The old gang. I can’t say I’ve run across many new characters that I’ve felt added very much to the game, but the legacy cast is aces. I’ll touch on the writing later on in the list, but I think given the challenge of dealing with the variability of who, in an imported game, is alive and who is not, Bioware did an excellent job of giving you at least some time with every past member of the cast and paying worthy tribute to those that didn’t make it to the final act. I’ll use a non-spoilery example from my game. In my game the Krogan, Grunt, died in the Mass Effect 2 endgame. I played through the section of this game where he would’ve appeared and had absolutely no idea he was missing. (In retrospect I should’ve seen it.) The worry has always been, how big will the hole in the game feel for missing characters? The answer, in this case at least, is not at all.

3. Some of the new combat mechanics really do make the shooter part of the game more interesting. Cerberus gas bombs can be a real bitch to deal with as they eliminate your ability to lock onto an adversary (which means no biotic attacks on them). It’s a terrific new dynamic for the series. I also like how, now that you can equip your character with any weapon regardless of class, you have to be wary of total weight. More encumbered characters can’t use their powers as often. Characters who pack less get a bonus to power recharge. It’s a very effective mechanic. Finally, the combat environments are hugely improved in this game, as is the AI’s ability to catch you unawares. There are maps where you have to think about high and low ground, which is awesome if you’re like me and use the Infiltrator class. Almost all maps are laid out such that you can work to outflank your rivals. More importantly, if you’re not careful they’ll work to outflank you. The number of times I thought I was safely in cover only to get tagged with extreme malice by Cerberus troops that had successfully out-maneuvered me has been quite something.

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4. The Reapers are vulnerable. For two games we have heard all about how the Reapers are this unstoppable menace. They are more bogeymen than reality. The Reapers come and all life is extinguished. There’s something very right about how not true that is in this game, something that is highlighted rather notably in the From Ashes DLC. I like this because the Reaper menace should exceed their malice. At first I found this rather off-putting because I was so focused on the bogeymen. The Reapers are supposed to be insta-kill aren’t they? They’re here. We die. Done. Yet I’m off flying around the galaxy and the battle on Earth continues to be waged as it does throughout the galaxy. Shouldn’t Earth have been conquered in like a day and a half? No. That’s not the “reality.” Don’t get me wrong, we see them waging savage destruction at multiple corners, but they’re not perfect killing and harvesting machines. They can be held or even pushed back. This is important not just to the internal consistency of the game’s story, but it actually helps humanize the inhuman in an important way. It’s like that moment in The Predator when Ahnold says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Say what you will about that movie, but that’s a critical moment for the good guys. The story arc in Mass 3 is trucking steadily along a consistent line of, “The Reapers are here, we are sooo dead!” to, “We can do this thing.” I dig that.

5. “Someone else might have gotten it wrong.” You’re not going to know what that means if you haven’t played the game yet or haven’t played very far and I won’t spoil it by providing context. I will just say that there are moments in this game and lines of dialog that completely erase whatever misgivings I might have about how generic other parts can be. I’ll stop short of saying any moment has brought me to the verge of tears, but there have been plenty where I just sat back and thought, “Wow,” or generally felt like I’d taken a punch to the gut. There are moments in the game that work so well and are so memorable that, no matter how much I want to punch in the face the person who put Chobot in the game, I can’t help but be happy with my experience playing it. It’s not a spoiler to say that the conclusions to some of the character arcs I’ve seen… I just cannot imagine how they’d do it better. Well done, men and women of Bioware!

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Soon: Stuff I don’t like so much.

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

55 thoughts to “Mass Effect 3: Things That Work”

  1. I’m shocked … I didn’t think that EA/Bioware’s grasp reached so far or this website was vulnerable to the level of corruption that IGN/Kotaku has. Or did you not finish the game either like every journalist ?

    There is an up roar of colossal magnitude about the utter crap Mass Effect 3’s ending is & marketing lies from Bioware. There is severe show stop bugs with the game & journal. Multiplayer, Galactic Readiness/EMS = DRM to hinder Gamestop resales for single player. How did you miss that ?

    People are donating money to charity in protest to fix this game!
    ($30,000+ USD at the moment)
    http://retakemasseffect.chipin.com/retake-mass-effect-childs-play
    http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9845819/1

    And there is a massive amount of collusion & blatant conflict of interest between the gaming sites against customer’s criticisms. This isn’t some fan-boy complaint about Shepard’s hair color. People are mad, jaded, confused, physically sick because of this.

    Forbes even weighs in behind the importance of the fans & the failure of Bioware’s part in this mess.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/13/mass-effect-3-and-the-pernicious-myth-of-gamer-entitlement/

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/03/13/why-fan-service-is-good-business/

    This is akin to reporting on Japan’s nuclear safety protocols & neglecting to mention the Tsunami “incident”.

    1. Our spam filter flagged this one and it was tempting to leave it there since your beef really has nothing whatsoever to do with what I wrote in my post. (What I wrote is not a review. I have not *yet* finished the game and I say so in the first paragraph. Etc.) But I fished it out as I don’t want the impression it was deliberately buried (as much as it deserves to be). That said… well… the less said the better here. Write a comment that has something remotely to do with the context of my actual post and not all this silliness and I’ll respond to it.

      1. On many levels my comments deserve to be ignored. I’m being over zealous & rude. The article you posted so far has opened up with appears to be a glowing review. I’m making massive (negative) assumptions on where the article is going. “Dewey defeats Truman” etc …”5 star restaurant, foods great” … rat problem reported on later. There appears to be missing context.

        1. Excerpts from the lead paragraph in this article:

          “I’m still dutifully trucking my way through the galaxy in Mass Effect 3… At this point I’d guess that I have about a third of the game to go… I don’t want to get into drawing conclusions about the game before I finish, but certainly I’ve played enough at this point to know what I particularly like about it and what I don’t… let’s go ahead and theme today’s post around what I think works…”

          The last line in the article:
          “Soon: Stuff I don’t like so much.”

          Regardless, neither of these pieces are or will be about the ending, which I have not yet seen. I’m hoping to write something specific about the ending next week assuming I finish this weekend. I do not expect that I will be in the crowd massively upset about the ending excepting the distinct possibility that you cannot reach the “best” ending w/o multiplayer or a 2nd playthrough. I’m endeavoring to do my homework on this point (and make up for my podcast performance this week), but it’s very hard to find information w/o trucking across massive spoilers.

          To be clear, there is no problem with you hating the ending or not agreeing with something written here. Implying corruption because others don’t see or agree with how you feel about it is counterproductive and not something that will go over well here. Hell, if I’ve been corrupted by EA/Bioware then I’m doing it wrong because I’ve paid $70 plus tax so far to play this game + DLC and I’ve spent at least as much time bellyaching about Bioware/EA choices the past two years as I do praising the stuff I still like about them. (My last comment on this part of the thread.)

    2. Thanks for wasting bandwidth.

      You pay for a book, you don’t get to decide the ending.

      Ditto a movie. Most games. Songs. TV shows.

      Glad a charity benefits from a bunch of pathetic whiners (less than 3% of purchases in case you want to misrepresent that figure as something important).

      But it doesn’t change the pathetic whining bit. Should have voted with your wallet the first time, not after the fact.

      Everybody can have an opinion, you are only doing yourself a disservice by letting it be your guide rather than your own judgement, ultimately.

    3. I’m glad you left this unspammed Todd, because this asshole needs to be dragged out into the broad light of day- also, he does a better job of discrediting and debunking this idiotic “Reclaim Mass Effect” thing that’s going on than I ever could.

      Screw you, Helios and screw this whole “fan” protest movement. The fact that you come on this site out of nowhere and attack Todd’s fine article with completely unfounded and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory pretty much says it all about the intelligence and reasonableness of the “fans” who are so up-in-arms about the ending of Mass Effect.

      This children’s charity thing is an absolute disgrace- exploiting a great charity to blackmail BioWare to kowtow to whiny, entitled fans who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives, time, and energy than to protest the ending of a FUCKING VIDEO GAME is shameful and disgusting. I hope that all reasonable gamers are able see this embarassment for what it is.

      This “up roar of colossal magnitude” can go fuck itself. For every single revolting man-child that is upset that his jackoff fantasy FemShep didn’t get the ending he felt like she deserves, there’s a legion of folks that respect the writers and creators at BioWare and their right to end their damn game however they see fit.

      The arrogance of the consumer in this situation is astonishing. Anyone that cares about creativity, innovation, and progress in video games should strike this whole “movement” down where it stands. BioWare should not be hostage to “fan” demands”

      Without ever having taken a cent of payola and having never met nor talked to anyone at EA or BioWare, I will say that for my part I am 110% in support in Casey Hudson and the creative team that made the Mass Effect games. I may think the ending sucks myself, but I would NEVER presume that I could pitch a fit online and get it changed.

      I’ve spoken out here and elsewhere against these companies and their over-reaching DLC marketing policies and the multiplayer component. But I’m on the EA payroll, right? Oh yes, that’s right. No High Scores is “corrupt”. I wish someone had told me.

      Bottom line- if you want to come on here spreading your shit around like you’ve done and making accusations against MY site- OUR site- and undermining the integrity, honesty, and hard work that my colleagues and I have put into this place then you can fuck right off and take your “Reclaim Mass Effect” movement with you.

      That said, if you want to post again and if you have something to say that falls in line with our goal of offering folks a reasonable, honest, and mature place to talk about games then by all means do so. But if you start casting aspersions and telling lies to support your feeble cause- I’m on you.

      1. This is why I love NHS. Interesting discussions for sure – but more this strange thing that happens with this site, where people are held to the standard set forth by the intentions of the site and it’s readers. On the internet!

        Also, that was pretty bad ass Mr. Barnes.

        Lastly, and this is in no way intended to affiliate me with any particular belief or movement, I find it really interesting that the current political and social climate has trickled down to inconsequential shit like video games (long live video games). The “I bought this man, you OWE me!” attitude has always been there but it feels…different than it did a year ago. As if people thinks this is really, really important and fundamental to a good life. You bought a video game, you didn’t sit on a bus.

      2. I haven’t played ME3 yet. I’m still holding a grudge against Bioware/EA for ME2. But that’s the point of my post. If you don’t like how a company does business or a product they put out, vote with your wallet. It’s their baby. If you don’t like how they’ve conducted business, then take yours elsewhere. If enough people don’t like the way they handle things, they’ll either change or disappear.

        Same token, like NHS is you guys’ website to run. I don’t agree with some of the stuff I read on here. One writer in particular tends to annoy me to the point that I will most of the time just skip what they post. I’m not going to lobby the staff to have that person fired or have their approach changed just because I don’t identify with their point of view. I don’t work here, and I can just choose to not read whatever they post. Just because I don’t appreciate what they do doesn’t mean it’s crap. What right do I have to deprive somebody who does enjoy their work just because my views are different?

        If you don’t like what you see on tv, there’s a ton of other stations to choose from. If you don’t like what you hear on the radio, you can choose another station. If you don’t like the website you’re reading, there’s a ton of others on similar if not the same topics. My mind is blown by people who go to ridiculous lengths to show how they’re offended by creative content.

        With that out of the way, I’m curious to see how Todd feels once he’s finished with the game. I’ve read the spoilers, and at the moment, I’m really content that I didn’t buy this game, although I have friends that are lobbying hard.

      3. It would be a relief if your right. If 100,000 people said I’m bat shit crazy, that be great. The confusion & grief would end. But this is a broken game. With a company(s) exploiting everyone. From developers, it would appear that many, many people respect. I’m not panhandling support for any cause other this is a complete bullshit situation. When was last time you heard anything like this ? And I don’t imply some masturbatory “fantasy FemShep” poll or thread. There was a story here weeks ago, is here now & it’s being glossed over because this is a AAA title & suddenly every blogger is an art critic too. Or worse, being overlooked because “it’s just some nerd rage online” stereotype.

        Reading what I posted (god where is the edit button?), it’s definitely in the wrong order and is assholish, I agree. I’m not posting for some charity, entitlement syndrome, or to get people to sign a petition. This game is shit & when enough people are fed it, can they tell what it is anymore ? I do believe you guys know the difference.

        It’s like if I mentioned endings without saying ***spoiler*** first. Or I see a weatherman calling out the 5 day forecast “skies are peachy so far today”, but not mentioning the local I95 is closed due to a severe flooding & hazard conditions. I don’t know if that makes sense.

        1. I can’t imagine anything happening in the end that would drive me to the lengths some of this stuff has gone too. Mostly I’ll just be disappointed, maybe say some meant things here, and move on. Honestly, I hope I love it. I want to love it (whatever I get). We’ll see what happens.

          As for your original post: Forget about it. Everybody gets a bad day!

    4. “People are mad, jaded, confused, physically sick because of this.”

      Those people need to get out of the house, it’s a game. There is so much in this world to be physically sick over, entertainment is not one of those things.

      1. On some level, I do agree with you.

        That being said, while not having played the game, but indulging in spoilers, I think people do have a right to feel insulted if they invest a ridiculous amount of time into something. You wouldn’t run a marathon just have twenty people slap you in the face at the finish line, would you? I understand the anger, but not quite the lengths that people are taking it.

        It might be entertainment, but we’re talking a really large amount of time invested in characters that you got really attached to over the course of three games. Not only that, but you’ve also watched as your choices have had sometimes significant impacts on everything in the world around you. I don’t think it unfathomable that people would react strongly.

        1. That implies that all the closure takes place at the end though.

          I am over 20 hours into the game and there are piles of moments that bring closure to characters, subplots, and let you know where almost everybody you can think of from the first two installments finds themselves.

          The ending in no way will invalidate the things I’ve seen, the characters I caught up with.

          I’d rather an amazing journey than wading through crap to reach the best ending ever.

  2. Yeah, #5 is just killer. It works so much better than any other similar situation in the series thus far.

    I think the series is progressing well. They tuned it up too much in 2, 3 is a nice balance between the chunky RPG bits in 1 (and the depressingly same-y side missions) and the gun gun gun of ME2. Sidequests are so much better, more organic, set pieces are great.

    Otherwise I heartily agree with this list. I am also playing the Infiltrator class, so bonus points for your impeccable taste ;).

    We will agree less on the things you dislike since I love multiplayer (the maps are slightly altered versions of those used for the N7 missions, which I quite like), but for now I remain in total agreement.

    1. I’ve got at least six lines from legacy characters that as soon as I heard them I stopped to write them down because I thought they were so great. Not sure I’ve ever done that before. Last night it was, “Emergency. Induction. Port.” I was so tickled by that I about died.

      I’m still shaking out my negatives list, but I’m not going to put multiplayer specifically on it as that’s a separate thing and I haven’t played it. I do have misgivings about the War Readiness bar from a conceptual standpoint, so I’ll definitely be getting into that a bit.

      Also, yay Infiltrator class!!!

      1. I shed a tear or two when I got to the scene in point 5. The other one that stands out in my mind was “The prayer was not for him”.

        The thing that has impressed me most, however, about these legacy scenes is how each one fits the character so well but still shows some growth/change from ME2. Every character is a little bit different, and has a good reason to be that way, but you can tell that at their core they are still the same people who fought the Collectors with you.

        1. Everything about that prayer sequence and the mission leading up to it was so well done.

          I don’t care if it turns out the Reapers are the byproducts of a cosmic fart, I love this game. Ridiculous crap like Allers aside, when the writing in this game is on all cylinders it blows away anything I played this year or last year.

  3. The Chobot thing really doesn’t bother me at all. I think it’s partially due to the fact that, until I read the post about her here, I had no clue who she was. Never heard of her in my life. I thought she was supposed to be voice acting a squad member or something. But then I realized that she was just the reporter who comes aboard. The whole concept of have an embedded reporter on board the ship kind of makes sense to me. That she’s being voiced by a video games reporter has no impact. I am only a few hours into the game and so far every time I’ve gone down to talk to her, nothing has happened.

    The fact that she’s in tight revealing clothes… Well, this is a video game. Sad as it is, almost every woman in a video game – regardless of who makes it – tends to be in tight, revealing clothes. It’s an old topic for another time, but I just have zero heart burn about this.

    It’s a classic example of a Tempest in Teapot.

    I will reserve any judgment as to the ending of the game for when I actually finish it – likely in a few weeks. That said, if the reaction to the initial release of the game is indicitative of the reaction to the ending, I will have to largely dismiss it for the very odd, puzzling thoughtless frothing and nerd rage that it is.

    1. The revealing clothes, yeah I know it’s common, but it’s still crappy and it doesn’t have to be that way. I think calling that out is perfectly acceptable. Now I have yet to actually play the game, however if the character of this reporter is like I’m guessing she is in my head (pushy, overly self-confident and gunning for a story), then the revealing clothing may actually fit fine with her character. In this case, it wouldn’t bother me as much.

      In regards to the controversy around the real person providing the voice, what people are upset about was that there was an apparent conflict of interest surrounding it. The gaming world at large found out that Chobot voices this character mere days after she did a very positive video preview about the game on IGN. Now, nobody was seriously expecting this game to be bad really, but surely you can see the problem with reporting on the game in a very positive light while at the same time being involved with the production of said game. It would be like an actor in a film doing a hugely positive preview of that film, but under the guise of being an unbiased journalist.

      She should have been the one being interviewed on the other end of the microphone, and the problem with this is that it perpetuates the intensely discussed (at least in some places) incredibly tight connection between the publishers in the game industry and the supposedly objective sites doing the reporting. When you consider things like flying journalists to a resort in a bloody helicopter for a tightly controlled preview of Modern Warfare 3, you get the impression that bribery runs rampant in game journalism, and this really isn’t helping things. That, in a nutshell, is why the hard working people like the ones who run this site, whom I would call “real” game journalists, get so riled up about something like this. It’s like one of their own rank stabbing them in the back, albeit perhaps unintentionally.

      1. On top of all that, Emily Wong should have been the embedded reporter.

        My real problem with Chobot is how fucking miserable her delivery is. Pandering is one thing (no fan of that either; my wife loves ME3 but rolls her eyes at any romance because it is handled with such a male teenager perspective), but pandering with such crappy voicing is the worst.

      2. I certainly understand the controversy around her having a role in the game and the whole conflict of interest thing with her “reporting” on it. Again, it doesn’t bother me because I never really heard what she had to say, but the issue is crystal clear.

        Still, that controversy aside, her presence in the game has been pretty much a non-factor for me. I do, agree, however, that she is not a particularly good voice actor.

    2. Concur. I had never heard about her before as well. Seems a harmless addition if you’ve never heard of her, and a harmless pandering if you have. Her character is vacuous, so who cares if the voice actor is vacuous as well? For all we know half the voice actors are completely bonkers… that we have confirmation for one of them is hardly a revelation.

  4. One thing I’ve learned over the last couple years of Jumping the Shark is that Todd’s taste in games tends to run closest to my own. It’s particularly noticeable around the Bioware games. I will never forget his instant, uncensored reaction to Brandon’s reveal that the “Witch Hunt” DLC offered no resolution of any kind.

    “WHAT!? Aw, son of a [email protected]#$%, I’ve been waiting a couple of weeks for that thing!!” It might be my favorite Todd moment from all of JtS so far!

    It really solidified with Dragon Age 2, though. I heard Todd’s opinions unfold months before playing it for myself, and upon realizing that every criticism he’d levied was mirrored in my own experience, I was able to quit with the knowledge that it wasn’t going to get any better.

    Anyway, hopefully that clarifies what I mean when saying that as curious as I am to hear from the whole staff, I’m happy Todd is doing the heaviest coverage!

    1. These games are truly in Todd’s wheelhouse. As much as most of us here love rpgs, this is Todd’s primary game genre. (Take away single player story based RPGs and Todd’s gaming would consist of watching his son play LEGO Star Wars)

      So it’s only natural that he take the lead for stuff like this.

  5. I find your point #4 very interesting, Mr. Brakke. I felt very much the same way coming into the game, that the Reapers were fairly godlike with reference to the rest of the galaxy, and their coming would herald the doom of everyone in short order. Admittedly, we blew up a Reaper in ME1, but that took (what I viewed as) an enormous fleet, with significant casualties. With thousands of Reapers descending upon a single planet, I thought it was pretty much a “That’s all she wrote” situation, save for the inevitable Magical MacGuffinator* that would have to be introduced.

    But instead, the game (which I am still playing and have not finished) has been presenting the situation to be as much like an actual war as possible. Not a massacre, not a situation with gods bent on the extermination of life, but a war. It totally took me aback, and left me pretty discombobulated for a while. Now I’m okay with it for the most part, but I don’t think I’d list it as a plus.

    I fully subscribe to the notion that the Reapers are supposed to be completely alien, tremendously powerful beings beyond our conception. As close to space-gods as there’s going to be in this galaxy. It’s…odd that they’re now, for the first time, being presented as an enemy to be fought in any meaningful fashion, directly.

    You say that their menace should exceed their malice, but I don’t see that, especially considering that the malice of a species of extra-galactic, immortal, mind-controlling leviathans who have exterminated all space-faring life in this galaxy every 50,000 years for the past God knows how many eons, would seem to be pretty freaking high. I’m still just taken aback a bit by the notion that the Reapers have been doing this for so damn long, and have won every time, but hey! They’re still beatable with guns!

    Is it a matter of increasing the hopefulness of the story for you, Todd? Or is there something else in particular that you like, here? Or am I being a dunce?

    * As I was writing, I had to resist the urge to put in a line about an Egg MacGuffin. I didn’t resist too well, as I just put in the line, right there. Oops.

    1. Well the funny thing here is that I’m going to list the Reaper menace as a negative in the next post too. Hooray for consistency! But seriously I both love the Reaper portrayal in the game and am annoyed with it pending the particular moment, so I think your take on it is entirely fair. Ultimately, I think I’m okay with accepting certain inconsistencies in the name of what I think Bioware was trying to do with this, which I like a lot.

      It will be interesting to see just what the MacGuffin turns out to be and how that plays out will have a pretty big impact about how I feel about it. I can say I came across some plot stuff last night that moves the needle for it in a more positive direction for me and helps me accept the idea of why “this time it’s different.” I would recommend you stay tuned on your playthrough for that. Would love to know what you think when you get there. (We need to so some kind of “finished it” community post/thread where we can all share experiences.)

      1. I have yet to start my ME3 play through as I’m finishing up ME2 again, so I may be totally off my rocker. But I am going to point out that in ME2, when you meet the Prothean VI, he details the fall of the Protheans to the reapers. And it definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. I get the impression that it took upwards of at least a 100 years. In fact I think at one point he mentions that 100 years mark (or a similarly significant timeline, if not longer), and implies that it took longer than that. So they are powerful, yes, but definitely not godlike. I think what makes them a force to be reckoned with is their lack of a need for resources, at least in the context of what organics need. What if your enemy didn’t sleep or eat? Think of the massive advantage they have. Secondly, I would imagine they have a complete lack of fear. A war is won eiher through total annihilation or the fear of total annihiliation (i know, reductive). If you don’t have that fear, you don’t stop (Thanks World War Z!). I think it’s more of a conceptual power than a direct “Reaper lasers blow up planets” power.

        Also, does no one remember that Sovereign gets totally smoked in ME1? Pretty quickly actually. If you think about a realistic timeline of that fight, the dude gets wasted in a few hours.

        Again, could be way off base given how they are presented in ME3, I don’t know. But I’ve seen a lot of talk on this subject, and I genuinely feel like maybe people aren’t remembering important bits from ME and ME2 in regards to the Reapers, they’re just going off the mental image they built.

        1. More good stuff! I’ve been trying to remember if the Prothean base gave a timeline for destruction in ME1 and couldn’t decide. Nice catch! I had no memory of it being 100 years. Ultimately, though, I think it comes down to the idea that the attitude in the first two games is about stopping them from emerging because if they do everyone dies. I’m probably glossing over some other details, but that’s been my take home.

          Sovereign I think actually works in this direction. Yes, it was defeated, but it took entire fleets from multiple factions to defeat just it. Defeating a legion of them? Hopeless.

          1. That’s exactly it. I didn’t remember it being 100 years either, until I was doing some wiki-reading in the lead-up to ME3. That one totally surprised me, too, and I wondered if it was a retcon (which it clearly wasn’t). But you hit it right on the money, Mr. Brakke. The first games very strongly set up the feel of “Delay the Reapers! If they arrive, we’re dead!” This feel may not have been strongly rooted in the fiction itself, but was instead rooted in the style and emotional content of the games, at least for me.

            McHoger has a very good point, that there was a specific reason to stop the Reapers from coming in at the Citadel, so that fight may have been less blatantly about delaying them and more about preventing them from winning the war in one gigantic strike. But the Arrival DLC, at least, was 100% about delaying the Reapers at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. That sold me on the notion that “We all die when the Reapers show” even more.

            Still, it’s good to remember those important bits from ME1 and ME2 that I kind of forgot. Thanks robotlazer and McHoger!

            And Todd, now you’ve made me all excited to play more, and dammit, that’s just cruel when I don’t go home for another couple hours. CRUEL, I SAY. (Also, we totally need that “post-game debriefing” thread.)

          2. it’s also important to consider what we actually KNOW about the Reapers.
            They’re machines.
            They appear to be immortal.
            They can harvest and change races to work for them.
            In the past, they have always won.
            They have always won by relying on the technology they seeded into the universe.

            Importantly, in Mass Effect 1, Shephard denied them access to that technology (see McHogers post below). So while it took a collasal effort to win that battle, it was an enormous blow to the Reapers overall ability to achieve their goal. Now they have to fight the team as a team, instead of fighting each individual player.

        2. I just finished ME1 and they make a pretty big point of how the Reapers gaining the Citadel allowed them to destabilize the Prothean government, gain vast information about the Protheans, and gained control of the relay network which cut systems off from each other.

          1. That’s a really good point. The Reapers were able to defeat the Protheans largely by destabilizing their society. They robbed that current empire (made up of many races, like the current ME universe) of the ability to communicate and coordinate, which is huge, and I think plays back into the idea that they have a conceptual power versus a physical power. It’s not their lasers we fear, it’s the completely foreign way in which they can implement their plan due to their mechanical nature.

            I also just looked up the timeline and it took several centuries for the Reapers to defeat the Protheans.

            And yeah Todd, I see your point that it took several fleets to defeat one Reaper, but – and this might be me making stuff up in my head – I get the impression that there aren’t actually a ton of reapers (supported by the fact they need to subsume other races not only for stealth, but just to straight up get shit done). So if you look at the simple ratio of assets to the number of Reapers it starts to seem less far fetched that they could be taken down.

          2. Not to spam the comments thread, but two things to robotlazer’s reply:

            (1) I’m absolutely confused as to how many Reapers there are supposed to be, not least because there are lots of different types, and they’re all over the freaking place. Hell, there appear to be so many Reapers, they even have some to hunt me down every time I scan star systems too often. I would think those Reapers would’ve had valuable planet-smashing to do, but apparently either I’m just that important, or they’re just that numerous/bored.

            If there are supposed to be relatively few Reapers, then you’re right. But with how widely they’re spread, and how many seemed to hit Earth alone, I got the impression there were LOTS. (Thousands.)

            (2) This is really pedantic, but part of my confusion comes down to what the hell this war is about. Has anyone explicitly, outright stated that the Reapers are harvesting the biological species of the galaxy in order to create new Reapers? Because I want it definitively stated that that’s what the Reapers are after. If the Reapers are just here to kill all of us, then, uh, there are WAY more efficient ways to do that than actually landing on the planet and attacking us at the ground level. Hell, even if they are harvesting us, do they really need ALL of us? Couldn’t they figure out how many they need, and then just throw a couple giant asteroids at the places they don’t need?

            Simultaneously, I want the Reapers to be unknowable space gods, and I want to know WHAT THE HELL THEY’RE DOING, so I can better understand why they’re fighting the way they’re fighting. Conundrum.

    2. I only just started ME3, but it sounds good to me that the Reapers aren’t JRPG God-bosses.

      Most of the dialogue in the game revolves around either figuring out what is real, or trying to navigate complicated layers of misconceptions and beliefs of the people you encounter. It’s about hearing what people say, and not taking it at face value but trying to guess why they said it.

      I think “The Reapers are Evil Gods” makes a much better psychological hurdle for the game than a plot mechanic. As you said, if they really were God-like, the entire problem would be cheapened by some MacGuffin item anyway.

  6. For some reason I can’t reply to your statement Navigator si I had to start fresh.

    First off, I have no idea why I think there is a relatively small number of Reapers, it’s just the impression I get. It’s not something I know.

    1) Thousands isn’t a lot. In fact, if it was only thousands I would argue they have almost no chance in hell of winning. Even tens of thousands isn’t a lot. What’s the population of the Citadel alone? Or Earth? Throw in the fact that a lot of the cultures in the ME universe are highly militaristic (humans, krogan, turians…possibly the Rachni as well), and that they have become experts in the art of war and developing along those lines culturally – and you wind up with a galaxy that is very, very ready to deal with a threat like the Reapers. Whether they know it or not (the Reapers power is really based on the idea that no one knows the answer to what, why and how – the very questions you pondered in your post).

    2)I don’t know if they harvest other races to create more Reapers (that might be an ME3 thing), but they DO harvest them during their “down time” to prepare for their arrival. The Reapers themselves have definitively stated (in ME1)that their goal is the total annihilation of sentient life. The only reason Sovereign really gives is “Because. Also, I’m a robot, you wouldn’t understand.”

    I have no idea why they are fighting the way they are fighting, other than the fact that they are robots. Sentient machines are still machines that can only move in allowed ways, they’ve just been taken off the rails. But yeah, they are kinda dumb, and not very efficient.

    1. Not sure whats up w/ that. Need to ask Brian because i think the scaling only allows so many replies to the same comment.

      1. Also if you enter the CAPTCHA phrase wrong and go back to fix it, the content of your post is saved but not the fact that it was a reply to somebody.

    2. (1) You may very well be right, and it’s my own misinterpretation that’s misleading me. My take is echoing something Mr. Brakke said earlier, though. It took several big fleets to take down a single Reaper. Thousands of Reapers should require tens or hundreds of thousands of big fleets. I did not get the impression that, even with everyone collected, the races of this cycle had anywhere near that number of naval forces. And I do not understand how any ground forces are going to do a damn thing to a Reaper. Sure, Krogan will tear up all the Reaper ground forces, but even the small Reapers seem well beyond infantry level fighting.

      All of which is to say, you may be right. It’s not the impression I got, though. So, I just dunno. You do raise an interesting perspective though.

      (2) This is pretty much one of the big things bothering me. ME1 basically had Sovereign say the Reapers kill everything, just cuz. ME2, I think, tried to explain WHY the Reapers do this, by demonstrating their method of reproduction. But it did so in an incredibly roundabout and confusing way. In ME3, there is a codex entry referring to Reaper reproduction. I’m pretty sure it’s spoiler free, but I’ll basically just say that it seems to lend credence to the idea that they’re harvesting to reproduce…but it does so very tentatively, and within the codex. I would much prefer if someone in the game actually said to me, “Hey, this is why they’re coming after us!”

      But to your bottom line, that the Reapers are mysterious and unknowable: you may be right, but I hope you’ll excuse me if I say I hope you aren’t.

      Ever seen Mystery Men? Remember the Sphinx? His power is that he’s “terribly mysterious”. And yes, that he can, like, cut guns in half with his mind. But mostly that he’s terribly mysterious.

      It’s kind of a shitty power to have.

      1. I never really read much in the way of the Codexes. My understanding of the Reapers was that they sort of show up every X-thousands of years or so to rid this galaxy/universe of all organic matter, then they go back to wherever they go, sort of hibernate for X-thousands of years and then come back to do it all over again.

        That’s really good enough for me.

        If the Reapers have some other agenda, such as harvesting to reproduce, or use tactics that seem a bit odd to us, that’s perfectly fine. If they’ve been doing this for eons, I would imagine that some what they do would seem odd or strange. And given how they wipe everything out when they come, there wouldn’t be too much left to really discuss what they did or why they did it. I don’t think there is some sort of Reaper Manifesto out there.

        Having a mysterious and unknowable threat that is bent upon the destruction of others is a pretty well accepted in the sci-fi genre. (See, e.g., “War of The Worlds”).

      2. The ground troops thing interest me a great deal because the “small” reaper forces are eminently beatable. If the Reapers depend on them, it seems like they should have a harder go of winning than they do. On the other hand, what does a huge giant Reaper do when it lands? All I’ve seen them do is step on buildings like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man and shoot a big giant laser. Powerful and awe-inspiring, yes. A good way to harvest a population? Probably not so much.

        Also, “Nobody steps on a church in my town!”

        In terms of total force composition, that’s something I’m digging into tomorrow as I think the game does a poor job of making how the Reapers disperse and attack work within the story. Mostly they just seem to be wherever the writers need them to be to justify Shepard’s challenge of the moment.

      3. Doesn’t Shepard take out a Reaper on foot at the end of ME2? I remember fighting something that looked like it belonged in Contra, which was simultaneously great and terrible. And there’s bits about Reaper reproduction in ME2? Good thing I’m playing it again before ME3, don’t remember that at all.

        I’m with you on the “mysterious and unknowable,” I’d prefer that not to be the case. I don’t really have high hopes for Bioware betting past that though. Wasn’t trying to make an argument for it, just sayin’ that so far the only explanation we’ve gotten is Immortal Robots!

        I also really hope they pull a classic sci-fi ending (a la something like Battlestar did, or Heinlein/Asimov stuff) and make things go a little weird. Set it up so that Shepard is the antagonist in the next ME, a few hundred years in the future! The metagame is you fighting yourself! Probably won’t, but a man can dream.

        1. MASS2 SPOILER:

          It’s a Reaper in progress of creation (one based on human DNA). Somewhere in the past few months I said it looked like a Terminator and a Zentradi had some kind of unholy offspring. I gave that idea a thumbs-down.

          1. Oh, that’s right! I remember now.

            It’s hard, because I really love when ideas are ridiculous and over the top, but I hate when they show up in the middle of something that is well done instead of wonderfully stupid.

    3. The ending of ME3, which I found disappointing but not terrible, actually does attempt to explain the Reapers mindset. Whether they succeed or nor is open to interpretation. I’m not going to say anything more for fear of spoilers, but Bioware does at least give it a try.

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