Sunday, August 10, 2014

Issues with Mass Effect 2's Opening

I’m going back and forth on how much I want to talk about Mass Effect. The first was one of my favourite games of all time, and the sequels were such a huge letdown. I feel like the ending has been talked to death, so I’m hesitant to get into talking about the games much, but at the same time I don’t feel like there’s been much coverage into what actually annoyed me. I’m going to start this off with this first post, and then maybe grow it out from there.
I recently decided to play through the games again. I beat the first ME in a few days, and have been working on ME2 for over a week now. The problem is not so much that I think it’s a terrible game, as that there’s not any real sense of flow, and that I typically want to put the game down whenever I reach a “Mission Complete” screen, which is every half hour or so. However, during this playthrough, I made note of the issues I came across during the games opening. This consists of 3 areas: The Destruction of the Normandy, The resurrection of Shepard, and Freedoms Progress. These vary in severity, from immersion/lore breaking to completely trivial items that I found amusing. These are listed in order that I recognized them.

1. Normandy is seen by the Collectors despite being cloaked.
Joker comments on this, but it brings up the it ok to break the lore if they recognize they are doing it? I say no.
2. Joker is exposed to the vacuum due to poor clothing.
He wears a helmet so he can breathe, but his neck and arms are exposed when he is moved to the escape pods. This is actually an ongoing issue throughout the game...characters regularly wear a re-breather but no suit when exposed to unlivable conditions.
3. Joker has a severe case of Vrolik Syndrome, yet runs to the escape pod.
Even with Shepard to lean on, this would be impossible. Shepard would have to carry him, and even then he would probably be in so much pain that he would pass out.
4. Shepard is blown into space, suffocates, is flash frozen, is burned up on entry to the planet below, and then frozen again on the planets surface, yet maintains his/her identity.
The brain is gone at this point. The body got so cold so fast that the blood boiled, and would have destroyed all the neurons. And then it melted, and then it happened again. The brain is gone at this point, there’s no amount of technology that can bring that back directly.
5. Upon waking up, Shepard’s armour and gun are stored directly next to the operating table.
I don’t really understand this one. Put it in the next room...why would you put it in the OR?
6. Shepard instantly knows about thermal clips.
Ok, lets ignore the stupidity of the entirety of galactic civilization switching to this backwards technology in two years. How does Shepard recognize that the gun doesn’t have it? Shepard has been dead for 2 years, and wasn’t around for the change. Why comment on it? Why not just have Miranda explain the issue?
7. Thrown grenades replaced by a grenade launcher.
Again, backwards technology. In the first game, grenades had mass effect fields that would let that travel in a straight line indefinitely. The grenade launcher shoots slower, is less accurate, the detonation can no longer be controlled, and grants no additional damage. There’s no reason for it to exist, within the games lore.
8. Project Lazarus has no other test subjects.
Lets pretend that Cerberus has no one else that would want to resurrect. This still means that all tests were performed directly on Shepard. If you have new technologies, this is irresponsible, and wouldn’t work. You would need corpses to test muscle, organ, personality success. Again, fixed by a single line of dialog...instead of saying “there are no other test subjects”, just say that they’re all corpses...because they are!
9. Miranda Lawson as the Lazarus project lead.
What exactly are her qualifications? She seems to be more of a Spec ops/bodyguard/secretary. It seems like she would need some practical experience in order to actually be the lead on such a project. Seems more likely she would be some sort of oversight, and the doctor would be the lead.
10. Jacob stops Shepard in the middle of destruction to say he works for Cerberus.
Hell has broken loose. Robots are killing everyone and all you have is a pistol. You come across a soldier and team up to escape this nightmare. Suddenly, he stops you, and tells you that he works for Cerberus, a group he knows you have personally busted unleashing monsters upon the galaxy, killing military, conducting genetic experiments. This is supposed to make you trust him? Bad timing dude...wait until we’re on the shuttle…
11. Miranda kills Dr. Wilson in cold blood right in front of Shepard, who just shrugs it off.
Barely a reaction on Shepards part. She says he was bad, so everyone takes it at face value. It’s never brought up again. How about checks and balances? Proof of any kind? How about shooting Miranda in response, because we aren’t even sure that she’s not going to try to kill us next?
12. When questioned about other survivors, Miranda says Shepard is all that matters, and they leave.
This may be less noticeable if you’re not playing as a paragon, but you don’t seem to be in any immediate danger. What’s the harm in waiting around for more survivors? There’s none. Instead you leave behind any potential survivors because Miranda says you’re more important than them.
13. The Illusive Man is located in front of a very distinct star.
At this point, humanity has been on the galactic stage for around 30 years. Other civilizations have been there for thousands. TIM is sitting in front of a star that that emits a very distinct light pattern, and there probably aren’t more than a handful of them in known space. How about taking that info to the Alliance so that they can capture this madman? How about going and visiting him yourself?
14. Instant Interstellar Communication via the Quantum Entanglement Communicator.
I’m going to throw out how ridiculous this technology is. Affecting 1 particle makes the other replicate it...ok, fine, whatever. Lets just talk about what this represents. The first Mass Effect featured limitations on technology. Communication was restricted because of bandwidth limitations. Council communications had top priority, then individual governments, then the rest was either purchased by re-sellers or given out for free. ME2 decided that explaining how Cerberus worked within the lore was too hard, and so it came up with a new technology instead. Sure, they tried to place limitations on it (it’s strictly point A to point B), but by the end of the game they give up on that and kinda just say whatever goes. What was inconvenient was torn out or ignored, rather than any attempt made at trying to work within the boundaries of the game world.
15. Shepard is railroaded into helping Cerberus.
This is probably the most common complaint I see about Mass Effect 2. Shepard, an elite human military Commander turned into an autonomous super soldier/spy by the reigning government body of the galaxy, is forced to work with Cerberus, a group Shepard has investigated killing military commanders and soldiers, unleashing the rachni and thorian creepers, turning colonists into husks, and possibly even killing Shepards own team on Akuze. Paragon or Renegade, it makes no sense for Shepard to work with them...Shepard would burn them to the ground, and if Renegade, would kill them all in the process. An undercover op might make sense, but that’s never presented.
16. The changing origin of Cerberus.
Mass Effect 1 clearly states that Cerberus is a black ops Alliance program that had recently gone rogue. Mass Effect 2 changes this, saying that Cerberus has been independent the whole least as far back as when Jack was a child 20 years before. They are a black ops group, yet everybody seems to know them. Shepard him/herself hadn’t heard of them until bodies started piling up.
17. Tali never questions Shepard coming back from the dead.
This is more of curiousity...Tali says something along the lines of “Shepard, you’re alive!” and then has no further reaction to Shepard reappearing from the dead after two years. It’s kind of an awkward bit of dialog all around.
18. Shepard carries weapons you can’t equip during cutscenes.
Assault rifles really only make an appearance if you’re a soldier class, yet during cut scenes, Shepard is always carrying one. It’s very awkward and immersion breaking...I don’t understand why they didn’t use the weapon you had equipped, like they did in the first game.
19. Collectors change from two dozen left-handed salarians to all of the humans with no explanation.
I’m not really sure this falls into place here or later on, but lets talk about it anyways. Eventually we “understand” (and I use the term lightly) why the Collectors are trying to capture all humans. However, what were they doing before this? Why left-handed salarians? Why “pure” quarians? Why batarian twins and krogan born of feuding families? What possible relevance could this have to anything? They’re looking for genetic diversity, that doesn’t come from twins. They’ve been around for millennia doing this as well. So what were they doing before humans emerged on the stage?
20. The Alliance grounded Joker after the Normandy was destroyed.
Umm, why? He was not just the top of his class, he was the best pilot at the school including the instructors. He has a long list of commendations, he fired the shot that destroyed Sovereign. He helped organized the Alliance Fifth Fleet to defend the Citadel and was instrumental in every aspect of the Battle of the Citadel. He’s beyond a decorated pilot in his prime. Grounding him simply because he thinks the Reapers are real doesn’t make sense, unless he tried to steal a ship as a result.
21. Initially 24 beds on board the Normandy, but 27 crew...not including the companions.
Like I said, trivial, yet amusing. There aren’t enough beds for everyone, yet Shepard (and Miranda) has a full sized apartment to live in, complete with its own toilet and shower. The crew doesn’t even get dividers between the toilets and the shower...or doors on the toilet stalls. Heck, the door even opens up every time somebody walks by, so hopefully you’re not on the john while somebody is heading to bed.

So, that’s what I got for right up until you get control of the ship. Technically, there’s actually more, but I think this is good place to stop. I may continue talking about my opinions on the franchise some more, but I haven’t decided on that yet.

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