Skip to main content

Mass Effect 3: Things That Don’t Work

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

24 thoughts to “Mass Effect 3: Things That Don’t Work”


    Oops, sorry, just found that lying around there ;).

    This was less inflammatory than I was expecting, Todd, and they’re good points. You disappoint me!

    Seriously though, the only one I take issue with is the first point on Cerberus. In ME1, yes, they were a very secretive organization, picking away at behind the scenes stuff. That I took as them not being completely fleshed out until the second game.

    As of ME2 they’re a very credible power, in my mind. They rebuilt Commander Shepard and they built a second Normandy, which can’t be cheap, and the Illusive Man alludes to having a huge pile of resources to draw upon.

    I see the upscaling in ME3 as less ‘well we need bad guys’ and more ‘okay the entire universe is going to hell, Cerberus has the plan, none of the rest of you know anything, time to reveal just how damn powerful we are and get in there’.

    The way it came across to me, they’ve always had this much power, they just chose to not use it. But, with the end of civilized life upon them, the Illusive Man sees no reason to stay secret any longer and is pushing hard to get what he wants.

    And for the war assets, I just assume the ships are hiding or damaged on the planets and the Normandy slaps a band-aid on so they can get back to the fleet. Otherwise, yes, no damn sense ;).

    1. I didn’t get that whole “secretive” part in ME1 considering how often you came across their schemes. Not only that, but throughout the entire series, Cerberus has been an incredibly stupid and badly motivated group. I guess I can see the “human superiority” goal, but that’s significantly undercut when every one of their plans ends up hurting humans and only humans. I mean, how many times do they have experiments that just end up killing a bunch of human beings? And while I haven’t finished ME3 yet, I have trouble believing we’re going to be given any half-way decent explanation for why they’re acting so foolishly now.

      As much as I’ve love this series, Cerberus has been one of my biggest sore spots (which didn’t help ME2 much considering how big a role they play there).

  2. On point 5. Where is the big red button in the war room? Any respectable War Room has one to start Armageddon. Staples have plenty of red buttons. That’s my beef.

    In all seriousness, after messing around with the Mass Effect Datapad app on iOS, it’s a crime that wasn’t implement in-game. Specifically the mission deployments with those little ships representing your fleet every few hours. An incredible opportunity missed. I think that could have made waiting for the TSA agent’s on my ship scanning my balls worth the wait to pass through each time. It would also be a completely viable alternative to multiplayer & immersed the single player aspect even more. Especially if those war assets you picked up helped. Volusian Bomber Fleet acquired? I can’t lose with biotic gods in little gas filled ships!

    I don’t think I would have made it past scanning systems if I was pushing little ships around the galaxy like some old maritime admiral.

    On point 1. There is a large of amount of story from comic books & novels being incorporated in-between ME1/ME2 to ME3. As a fan of Halo, I loved how Bungie threw (tasty) bones at people that read Fall of Reach, but didn’t punish players of Halo:Reach either with insider knowledge. Kai Leng the biggest offender here ? He was an N7 marine like Shepard & Vega, but we didn’t get any of that goodie info in-game. I wouldn’t have minded the start of the game with a prologue seeing how far Cerberus’ power can go & would be going later in the game. Like the Genesis addon did for PS3 owners (story wise), but covering the comics & books.

    Solid points on the rest.

    1. You can read Kai Leng’s service record on Liara’s laptop. Its not the best, but it gives you a sense of what he was. And, honestly, he was such a lame attempt at the “cool villan” archetype that I really wasn’t interested in hearing more about him.

  3. re:cerberus and its size

    I thought it was implied that they are indoctrinating large numbers of refugees and that was where they are getting all their shock troops. Maybe that is from the end of the game though, maybe Lawson’s mission.

  4. They do explain a bit later in the game, if you find the right place to look, as to how the heck Cerberus is getting these endless waves of guys for you to shoot through the head. They never explain their ability to outfit them all in weapons and gear though.

    My total military strength was 6300 or so when it was time to seal the deal. I am a completionist (speaking to the story here earlier) but luckily I really enjoy the multiplayer, so my Readiness rating was a solid 99% down the stretch so to speak.

    I don’t see myself playing the Mass Effect single player experience again. Not due to any outrage regarding the endings (not that I don’t have any disappointment in that respect, just that that is a different topic altogether) , but more because my Shep was exactly the way I wanted her, and Liara is the only one for me If I played again I would just end up making all the same choices all over again… yes I am a big dork…

    But not to get sidetracked, I almost certainly will continue to play the Multiplayer….

  5. I am an uber completionist, with an imported paragon save that included every sidequest finished in all games, every piece of DLC going back to the first game (including that stupid, stupid pinnacle station and all the stupid, stupid records on there). At the end of the game, with 100% multiplayer galactic readiness, and a multiplayer character promoted to the galaxy at war, I sat at around 7300 points or so, IIRC. Maybe slightly less than what is fully possibile to achieve, due to some idiot decisions I made on the spectre terminal.

    @Helios Kestrel, totally agree, re: the Datapadd IOS thinger. That whole ‘dispatch the fleets’ mechanic should have been available in-game. I’m really surprised it wasn’t.

    I can’t wait, also, until Todd finishes the game, so we can all discuss the ending sequence and how the war assets impact all that.

    That being said, the multiplayer is f’n fantastic. I usually hate multiplayer with fire.

  6. I can’t remember exactly, but my total military strength was 6400ish when I beat the game. I read somewhere (random gameFAQs post I think) that 7600 is the theoretical max, but that might have been somebody talking out of their ass.

    As to the bulk of the article, the changes in Cerberus attitude/resources bugged the crap out of me. I never played ME1 (PS3 gamer here), but I actually really liked how in ME2 Cerberus was basically a purely Machiavellian enterprise. They were protecting the colonists where the Alliance wasn’t, but they were doing so by basically hiring the most dangerous people regardless of morals. And they were developing great technology, but were getting there via human experimentation. It gave them depth and made them seem like an actual terrorist organization, because they had goals outside of their own gains. Then ME3 comes along, and they’ve basically become the Legion of Doom. This was not a good transition.

  7. On point #2, were there a lot less middle-of-the-road dialogue choices this time around (middle-right on wheel)? They were generally not the most inspiring choices in me2 dialogue but I sort of liked having them there for when paragon and renegade answers were both a bit bonkers or when I wasn’t sure of a situation. On my first playthrough of all the mass effect games I do generally go more strongly paragon, but I also have no issue dropping in a fair number of renegade responses and reactions. Sure it means I get locked out of some important para/ren choices late in the game (this happened only once in me3), but I’m fine with that. I can’t really buy that because I once punched a reporter in the face (maybe more than once) I am not a good enough person to solve the universe’s problems. So I just don’t worry about it. Plus she totally had it coming.

    The radar pinging…I just found it sort of silly. Partly for the same reasons detailed above about the nonsensical items acquired, and partly because being chased around by itty-bitty reapers just felt a little silly compared to every other encounter with them. On the other hand I enjoyed scanning for minerals so clearly I’m demented.

  8. The thing that gets me are the software bugs (I mean the literal bugs in the ME3 game). How sometimes when transitioning between an in-game cinema to another in-game cinema there are a few frames of a random camera angle. Or sometimes the in-game cinema is looking at empty space because the assets haven’t been finalized in-game yet.

    And then there are the odd design choices. Like out fitting a squad before a mission. How is the B button “accept”? I could have sworn that goes against MS’s TCRs. I’ve tried to back out of that screen once or twice because I forgot to upgrade a weapon only to be thrown into the next screen with no way back.

    I play with subtitles on so I’ve been noticing a lot of dialog that isn’t audible/played but is still interesting and useful (mostly dealing with who’s looking for me on the ship).

    1. Weird. I can’t find a B button on my mouse. 😉

      There are definitely some weird audio issues with the game and I did have a couple side quests that appeared to glitch on me. At this point I kind of treat that stuff as the cost of doing business with any large-scope game like this.

  9. Very interesting, Mr. Brakke. I find myself mostly in agreement, and thus shall descend into details and nitpicking to contribute to this conversation.

    Depending on how sensitive you are, this post may have spoilers in it. I’m doing my absolute best to avoid them, however.

    To your point #3, I have a general question, which for the sake of spoilers maybe should not be answered directly. But my question is this: How many Reapers actually, definitively, have died during the course of this war? Not during the ending in some climactic confrontation, but during all the fighting and struggling. As far as I can tell, only a single Reaper was killed, for certain, during the fighting. The only other dead Reapers I for certain know of are Sovereign, the dead proto-Reaper, and the dead Reaper corpse floating in space that you investigated in ME2. This fact very significantly influences whether or not the Reapers are unbeatable and incredibly powerful, or vulnerable if very tough.

    If the latter, then several Reapers should have died during the fighting, and in fact, the deaths of those Reapers should have been publicized like crazy. Nothing better to increase galactic morale than the news that those unstoppable space gods are actually pretty darn killable, right? But I’ve only barely received an inkling that some Reapers have died in the fighting.

    If the former, then this is barely a war. Kill however many Reaper troops you want; if the Reapers themselves aren’t going down, it doesn’t really matter.

    To your point #4, you say you enjoy the fact that fuel is scarce this time around. My question to you is this: How is the scarcity of fuel anything but an attempt to artificially lengthen the game? All I have found the scarcity of fuel to do is add time to the game by requiring me to leave, go to a fuel source, refuel, and return to the place I want to search. In other words, it simply has required me to waste time.

    Indeed, the fuel is not actually scarce. There is an unlimited supply of it in this galaxy. You simply can only access that supply from certain locations. I do not understand what this adds to the game, and am genuinely curious to find out. Is there something in particular that you think the scarcity of fuel depots (and the fuel mechanic, in general) adds to the game?

    I, too, sincerely hope to hear from someone who has reached a full 10k of points.

    1. From what I remember in ME3 you witness or take part in destroying at least two reapers. I agree with your propoganda point, though. With the fighting ostensibly intense and going on everywhere, there should be more specific references to small victories like that.

      The fuel thing… yeah, you’re not wrong at all about that. I just like that as a game mechanic this time it at least has a more teeth. In Mass 2 the whole notion of fuel was completely useless. You could fill up anywhere, were almost never at risk of running out, and gas was cheap so money wasn’t a factor. At least here there is a threat of running out and you inevitably need to find fuel in wreckage to help you get through systems without having to bug out and find a BP.

  10. Ok, so let me respond in order of your points…

    #1 Cerberus: I have to agree with some of the other posters in stating that they were “behind-the-scenes” in ME, and since they brought Shepherd back in ME2 they would be more apparent. As others have also said, there are scenes that tell how they are getting their troops for ME3. Also, throughout all three games it has been either hinted at or out-right stated that they have an incredible amount of wealth/income.

    #2 I agree. In ME, the response selections were pretty nice. In ME2, I thought they had gotten better… for the most part. But in ME3, we basically only had two choices.

    #3 The Reapers. We know they have an agenda. We also know that they have priorities. And to top it off, since this is entertainment (and science fiction, no less), we do need to suspend at least some of our sense of disbelief to enjoy the game. 😉

    #4 The Radar. It is better than the planet scanning…but still kinda silly.

    #5 War Readiness. As far as some of the specific resources go, I’m a big nerd…so I read all the fluff written for them, which “can” explain why you’re getting them. In regards to the online multiplayer helping with the Galactic Readiness level, I’m just going with it. I’m actually enjoying the multiplayer on this, and usually I don’t.

    BTW, I too am a “completionist.” My Total Military Strength when I commited myself to the final attack was 7085. Due to some choices I made for RP purposes I did not receive *all* of the available resources – but I don’t think there was too much more to get. Also, I was at 100% readiness when I finished the game…MINOR SPOILER ALERT…and I really don’t think it has too much of a bearing on the end game. I will be doing another play-through with another character and I will be testing that theory out.

    1. War Readiness sounds cool to me. I prefer side-quest completion right in the game rather than as an abstract statistic buried in the game menus.

      1. War Readiness is a cool idea, I completely agree. But the way its implemented here isn’t, IMO. Here it’s really just a meter to compel you to go check out the multiplayer.

  11. IGN is saying that 5000 in the max required score once you multiply assets and readiness and this was borne out by my experience. I got just under 7300 in assets myself though i think my end choice in 1 and my decision in the krogan mission cost me at least a few points. it is interesting though because this means MP is required for the very best ending as it seems virtually impossibly, even if there are 10k points out there, that someone made every right decision in all three games. (BTW the only difference between a 3000 point ending and a 5000 point ending is 2 relatively minor conditions being very slightly reversed in one circumstance(check the IGN wiki if you are fine with spoilers))

    1. I’ll check that stuff out once I finish (this weekend, I hope; into the final missions now). But, yeah, I understand how the numbers word – military readiness x galactic readiness = effective readiness.

  12. Everyone,

    Lots of good thoughts yesterday! Had I not been sick I would have been more proactive about responding to more of them. I did want to add a second thought on the Cerberus point, since that’s the one most don’t seem to agree with. It’s definitely true that we see their troop making operation in ME3 in the works. There is stuff you can use to justify how they are. I still, however, find the notion that they’re a galactic power on the same level as the other races dubious (which is how they come off in this game). Mostly, however, I just think they’re a more interesting group when they’re clouded in mystery. I think the game benefits when that organization comes off more insidious and crafty. Again, to me, in this game even more than the first, they were very Hulk Smash and that’s what we have the Reapers for already!

  13. Man, with so much talk about this terrible ending I just might have to go look it up! Since I refuse to put the Origin spyware on my pc I don’t think I’ll ever play me3 anyway so no harm right?

    I did find ME1 ok, but ME2 sounds like a mediocre 3rd person shooter so don’t have much interest in playing it, especially since I can never finish the trilogy.

    1. Taken as a whole, in total honesty, I think Mass 2 is probably my favorite of the series from a story standpoint. (Literally just finished 3. Will take some time to collect my thoughts on that.)

  14. Interesting points. Spoilers abound, so tread carefully, anyone. ^o^

    On the first, I’m a bit on the fence with Cerberus. On the one hand, I can agree that it’s weird how they are basically a major power on the scale of the Alliance (or any other major race) when they are suppose to be just a pro-human splinter group, but at the same time its revealed that they were duping Shep during the whole second game as to their true nature. The events at Sanctuary (and the base raid) actually shed a good deal of light on how/why they became how they are in ME3, as TIM knows he is running out of time for his plans. And while they seem more brute forceish, they still show how crafty they can be both infiltrating the Citadel and taking it down from the inside, and getting to Thessia in time to take the Prothean VI right out from under you. Still, I would have preferred them to remain more of a shadowy threat than a full on army.

    I initially liked The Wheel, but the more time spent with it reveals very easily its limitations, at least as far as Bioware utilizes it for the archetypes. It might have worked a lot better without the Blue/Red options and more morally ambiguous choices to grey situations. I like the Interrupts and feel like they should have replaced the color coded choices entirely as regards to Paragon/Renegade. Thing I did find interesting about this game, though, is how Reputation played a role on whether you could charm/intimidate rather than enough points in either. Even in the endgame, I could still use Red options even though I had a low Renegade score (only three interrupts in the entire game).

    I was confused as to the whole Reaper threat level as well. I suppose if you work off of the fact that they have to come from the fringes of the galaxy and have no idea where anything is (they didn’t take the Citadel, which is where they get their census data), so they’re basically fighting blind. It’s been said they make their way slowly across the galaxy for centuries in order not to miss anything and without knowing where anything is, they have to be extra careful. Not to mention they stop to make new husks and process the races as well. The thing is, aren’t there suppose to be thousands upon thousands of these things? They take Thessia very easily, but Earth is still suppose to be standing a good resistance? Is this because they think Humans are special? It should be noted that the only 2 Reapers you take out during the journey are classed significantly smaller in size than the more dangerous dreadnaughts (like Harbinger). I’ve always wondered how threatening they can be when you can jump all the way across the galaxy and back with no consequence. Its a weird dissonance. O.o

    I could take or leave scanning. What I didn’t like is how there are still some systems during the endgame that aren’t 100%, because they have nothing in them, but you have no way of knowing that, and waste time and resources looking, which ties into your last point with the progress bar not fully representing… well, anything.

    Galactic Readiness is a very cool idea, as I’m sure has been brought up already. The problem is their implementation, and how it ties into the endgame/ending, though that is a discussion for another topic. As far as during the course of the game, I liked being able to see the resources you gathered during the fight and I enjoyed the little blurbs about each, and that they factored into their own categories based how what their use is. But I vehemently didn’t like how your resources were halved without multiplayer though, so you can’t get the perfect number without a very specific playthrough and very specific choices, which runs counter to how the game has been presented about you making your own choices. It basically pushes multiplayer on those that may not want to deal with it, and that percentage bar sitting there the entire time (Galactic Readiness) its just staring you in the face. I don’t mind there being multiplayer in the game if that is what they want. In fact, its actually pretty good. I don’t mind if they want to tie it in story wise (the rest of the galaxy fighting the war while Shepard does his/her thing). I do mind when it has an effect on the the gameplay/outcome, and without a “perfect” playthrough, is more or less required. I do mind when it stares you in the face while viewing your assets, cutting them in half and taunting you the entire time. That is some serious metagaming shit, and I can understand how one could be disillusioned by it. And that is just the multiplayer issue part of it, not is basic (non) bearing on the games outcome, which I can discuss my thoughts after you’ve posted your Ending article.

    Lol, long rant is long. Sorry about that. ^o^ I guess I have too much free time? I tried to keep it short by not gathering all of my thoughts, so… yeah.

    1. If you crawl through the codices you can get a pretty good idea of the reaper threat. The biggest alliance ships can destroy the big reapers with 3 shots one after another. This is difficult though because reapers out range them. This is significant because, although there are thousands of them, the effort involved in making more means they are essentially finite.
      Earth fell quickly because they were caught off guard and without sufficient data of the enemy. The fleets were positioned poorly and split up making them easy for the reapers to bypass and start the occupation immediately. Then rather than risk everything in an engagement, Hackett pulled the fleets back and didn’t really contest the reapers. Also they did commit the most resources to Earth because as established in ME2, yes they do think humans are special and they want them for their new line of dreadnoughts.
      The normandy is able to traipse across the galaxy without any real fear because space is huge, it’s a small stealth frigate, and you can’t track an object moving faster than light.
      Finally Thessia fell so quickly because Asari space is the biggest and their fleets chose to spread out and try to cover it all (as opposed to the Turians who more or less pulled all the way back to Palavan). Additionally their home world defense was uncoordinated due to the many independent republics that rule Thessia lacking a centralized command.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *