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GameCritics.com Podcast Episode 71: Mass Effect 3 & Sequels

Dylan Collins's picture

It's all about sequels this episode on the podcast! From Super Mario Bros. 2 to Devil Survivor 2, we're all over them! Also, Mass Effect 3: has BioWare reclaimed Brad's seal of approval? What about the ending controversy? All that plus thumbs, AND a birthday! With Dylan Collins, Chi Kong Lui, Brad Gallaway, Richard Naik and Mike "I live near a den of spiders" Bracken.

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Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3   3DS   Nintendo DS   PC  
Developer(s): BioWare  
Series: Mass Effect  
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Great show guys, nice work

Great show guys, nice work Dylan!

To me, the Mass Effect 3 ending felt like it had been done by a writer who had never heard of Mass Effect, had taken a lot of acid, and had just watched End of Evangelion. After three games of hard science fiction, the direction of the ending was pretty baffling to me, and the massive number of plot holes didn’t help. Considering Bioware had made comments in the past about “wildly different” endings based entirely around your decisions of the past games, I couldn’t help but feel the ending was overall really poorly done.

BUT, it’s a great game nonetheless. And let the record show that I did barely any complaining about the ending on Twitter. ;)

Also, ditto to EVERYTHING Brad said about I Am Alive. It's amazing.

I'm really disappointed there wasn't a dissenting opinion

I'm really disappointed there wasn't a more thorough presentation and explanation of the dissenting opinion on this show. Nearly every other serious reviewer and critic I have heard has taken the "all these people who are upset are idiots or just wanted a happy ending". I really was hoping that gamecritics.com, of all places, would be different.

I came here all excited about your podcast and ready to praise you for taking the discourse to a new level -- as I have come to expect from this podcast. This is a real letdown.

The Forbes writer was high? It's all about just wanting a happy ending? It's all just about the cutscenes looking similar?

And btw, re the deu ex reference, IT IS ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME AS DEUS EX'S ending.

I'm sure there have been tons of people who have already said this within earshot of the whole podcast crew but the problem is not that the ending "invalidates" the choices you make -- rather, it renders them pointless because the means of galactic community -- the mass relays -- gets destroyed. All these things happen to set the stage for the future in the ME universe, but then you render that setting defunct because, no matter what you choose, Shepard must destroy the mass relays. All possibility of a galactic community is gone, permanently. So, for example, what was the victory in killing the genophage if the Krogan are all now doomed to Tuchanka where their population issues will affect only them (provided you except the lore change that they'll survive the relay blast, that is)?

On top of that, all of these war assets that you gather add up to nothing but a number, so there is no pay off for any of that in, say, a cut scene, and no word on even the immediate fates of all your crew members and friends from throughout the series. And that doesn't even begin to get into the ridiculous "fleeing Normandy" scene.

If you guys disagree with all this, that's fine, but I really expected more than "they're all crazy/high/idiots".

One other note: an ambiguous ending, while not generally my preference, can be well done and appropriate. As an example, from movies, "Limbo" had a great ending that fit the rest of the story but didn't settle the issue at hand at all. I found it infuriating in some ways, and it made me perceive the director as very arrogant BUT, at the same time, I admit it was a great ending for that specific movie and it more than served its purpose.
But this isn't a movie. It is a video game trilogy. To have people invest hundreds of hours of interactive game play in a series, in fact, helping to create the story themselves, and then give them an ending that's totally out of the blue, instead of building on those choices and their consequences; that doesn't resolve the immediate fates of the main characters but renders their long-term futures a trying existence in a galaxy that has been jarred back to the stone age, is inexcusable.

I haven't been pounding the drums for a new ending because I don't think people should be forced to changed their art once they release it, but I think the ending we have is horrible and I think many people have every right to be upset with it. It would at least be nice to have those complaints acknowledged and discussed in detail.

Finally, I doapplaud Richard's efforts to at least try to shed light on the specifics of the complaints from the ME fan community.

emotions!

Mild spoilers ahead!

Really, I didn't want to engage in the ending discussion yet again, but you brought this unto yourselves, seeing that your discussion was kind of one-sided.

To give an educated answer to Mikes's question (no offense Richard, but you're a bit out of touch here): No. The lack of a "super happy" ending is not the "bulk of the complaints". Granted, there are a lot of people who would love to have the OPTION to such an ending, but the main complaint here is really about the way the whole ending scenario is disconnected from the rest of the drama - the overreaction to that being "it invalidates everything!" I don't necessarily agree to that reaction, but the immediate emotion I felt while witnessing the ending was actually none at all, and I know from reading a lot of comments on the issue that I'm not alone here.

As Brad said, Mass Effect is all about the drama - but it's a drama which drops all emotion in its last few minutes in favor for some very questionable, detached philosophical ideas which weren't even properly hinted at prior, or worse; they could even be considered inconsistent with the themes layed out within the span of three whole games. That is also a reason why people feel it "invalidates" everything (again, I think that's exaggerated).

There is no emotion in the ending scenario because there is no build-up to it. It does not work as a resolution to anything. Instead, new plot points are introduced in the last few minutes, only to be immediately wrapped up by multi-coloured explosions. It feels totally pointless and out of place. Intellectually, it creates confusion because of its plot holes and flawed logic. Emotionally, it creates frustration because of its lack of any emotion whatsoever.

To summarize, I think this lack of emotional resolution is the incentive for most players to look back on the ending and find all the things that don't work, and the reasons they come up with diverge wildly from there. And in the end, because I myself have been emotionally burned, I read all these complaints and find myself agreeing with most of them. So yeah, the ending was pretty shit. Does it invalidate everything? No. But playing Mass Effect won't quite be the same anymore.

Enough about the ending!

Regarding the notion that the whole game works as a resolution to various plot threads, I guess that's true. It's not perfect as some of the recurring characters felt more like cameos than meaningful implementations, but it's written well enough to work overall.

Also, the cutback on dialogue options (totally not in your mind, Richard) was quite jarring to me, being one of the things I enjoyed most in the previous games - all things considered, that would propably be my biggest gripe with ME3.

I figured that segment would

I figured that segment would get a lot of response -- and found it interesting that the two people who've actually played the game (Richard and Brad) had the same feelings about the ending.

I haven't played ME3 (because I still haven't played ME2), so I avoided reading a lot of stuff about the issues with the ending because I didn't want it spoiled for me (a good idea in theory that has now totally failed in execution), but I find the whole thing pretty interesting (although like some of you, I'm sick of hearing about it at this point).

I also think it's pretty interesting to see people so emotionally invested in a series that it inspires this sort of reaction. This seems like sort of a milestone in the potential evolution of the medium -- I'm just not sure if we'll look back on it in a decade as a positive or negative moment.

Mike Bracken wrote: I also

Mike Bracken wrote:

I also think it's pretty interesting to see people so emotionally invested in a series that it inspires this sort of reaction. This seems like sort of a milestone in the potential evolution of the medium -- I'm just not sure if we'll look back on it in a decade as a positive or negative moment.

Mass Effect is kind of special in the way it lets you define its main character Shepard. Not only in the big universe-altering decisions that get carried over from game to game, but also in the many little choices through which you build a reputation for yourself. All of this serves to create a strong identification with the character, and in this way leads to the heightened emotional investment - even if the story itself is not all that original. It helps that the overall quality of the writing is pretty good, too.

So, I would guess we'll look at it as a positive moment from that perspective - while still making jokes about the ending, of course.

I suspect the same thing

I suspect the same thing will likely happen.

Disappointed:(

I had really hoped the single best gaming site on the web would have taken the time to understand the argument.

**SPOILER START**
There's a semantic misunderstanding here. That the ending "invalidates" the rest of the series is an in-story concept, not meta-story. The ending, indeed, undoes everything SHEPARD accomplishes, no matter how he/she went about it. Create peace between the Quarians and Geth? Doesn't matter, the entire Quarian flotilla is sentenced to death because they're stuck in the Sol system and can't eat human food. United the Turians and Krogan? Doesn't matter, they'll never see one another again. The Krogan will likely die off because it's unlikely their planet can support them without resources shipped via Mass Relays.

Everything you accomplished is undone by the destruction of the Mass Relays.

It isn't about happy endings, it's about satisfying endings. I never expected Shepard to live... I expected to experience the consequences of my actions... not the undoing of them.
**SPOILER END**

PLEASE- and I don't care if you disagree, but PLEASE- understand the REAL premise of our dislike of the ending rather than making assumptions and sounding like IGN all over again.

Moderator's Note: Please be mindful of spoilers.

Thanks for the show I really

Thanks for the show I really enjoyed it I always await these podcasts with anticipation so thanks for the upload.

Richard & Mega Man

Awesome show guys, as usual!

I have to admit though, that I skipped over the Mass Effect 3 part.
I'm still playing 2 in preparation for 3 (man, how I LOVE ME2, by the way) and I have so far been able to avoid all spoilers, and I'd like to keep it that way. REALLY curious as to what the infamous ending is going to turn out to be.

I found myself agreeing a lot with Richard this week, especially concerning the Mega Man series. I also think MM4 was the pinnacle of the series, because it just got everything SO right. Great game that was, but few people seem to agree.

Also, regarding the X series, you should really give MMX8 a try, Richard.
I know that 5, 6 and 7 were gigantic messes, but 8 was a great return to form. Very solid, no BS, classic MMX game. The parts system has been replaced with normal upgrades like in the first 4 games too.

As far as taking Mega Man into an RPG environment goes, Mega Man X Command Mission was indeed not very good, but I'm a HUGE fan of the Battle Network series (addictive as hell), although 4 and 5 were a bit messy.
Does Legends count as an RPG? That seems to have a lot of fans too.

And hey, another Seinfeld hater here! :D

Good job.

I have to say, I was positively surprised by Dylan. I did not comment after the audition as I am inherently pessimistic and skeptical, but he proved me somewhat wrong. I was afraid that he would not be able to make the show "his own" in a sense, but he felt far more comfortable on the air in this episode than in the audition. Especially the start made me laugh.

As for the rest of the episode, I still felt like the transition from one subject to another was not as organic as it could be. I do not know what made me feel this way though.

Also, this isn't something that can be fixed as opinions are opinions, but guys agree with each other most of the time, and the most interesting conversations are born out of conflict between opinions, for example the classic save game debate.

Thanks for the podcast, will be waiting for the next one.

WARNING, SOME ME3 SPOILERS

WARNING, SOME ME3 SPOILERS AHEAD

Anonymous wrote:

All these things happen to set the stage for the future in the ME universe, but then you render that setting defunct because, no matter what you choose, Shepard must destroy the mass relays. All possibility of a galactic community is gone, permanently.

No, they aren't FTL Travel is still possible after all. It's just that travelling between systems will now take months or years instead of minutes. Also, the Mass Relays are not some voodoo-magic which is forever lost. It's technology. Technology can be (re)invented and there's no reason why the races of the galaxy shouldn't be able to build new MR networks of their own in the following years.

Flo wrote:

Mass Effect is kind of special in the way it lets you define its main character Shepard. Not only in the big universe-altering decisions that get carried over from game to game, but also in the many little choices through which you build a reputation for yourself.

Isn't that all a bit smoke and mirrors though? Generally you have two main responses: renegade or paragon. Sometimes something in between. A lot of people stick to either renegade or paragon throughout their playthrough. Which results in a lot of people having very similar experience after all.

adembroski wrote:

**SPOILER START**
The ending, indeed, undoes everything SHEPARD accomplishes, no matter how he/she went about it. Create peace between the Quarians and Geth? Doesn't matter, the entire Quarian flotilla is sentenced to death because they're stuck in the Sol system and can't eat human food. United the Turians and Krogan? Doesn't matter, they'll never see one another again. The Krogan will likely die off because it's unlikely their planet can support them without resources shipped via Mass Relays.

Everything you accomplished is undone by the destruction of the Mass Relays.

Again, FTL travel is not suddenly impossible. It's just taking longer. Turians and Krogan are fairly close to each other, so their ships are likely to be able to travel back and forth within months. The quarian flottilla is not 'stuck' in the sol system, they can return to rannoch within some years. Which is in my opinion still better than not having a homeworld altogether. And if they would not be able to process food for themselves on their ships, they would have died out long time ago since only few planets seem to be catered towards quarians. The quarians are fine. Ok, maybe not fine but they'll survive.

The main accomplishment for Shepard is getting rid of the Reapers. In case of my Shepard: destroying the reapers. Everything else is secondary. Even saving earth would only be secondary, as long as some humans survive somewhere to carry on.

Li-Ion wrote: Isn't that

Li-Ion wrote:

Isn't that all a bit smoke and mirrors though? Generally you have two main responses: renegade or paragon. Sometimes something in between. A lot of people stick to either renegade or paragon throughout their playthrough. Which results in a lot of people having very similar experience after all.

True, many players will deem it favorable to stick to one side of the paragon/renegade system... which I don't do, because that's missing the point as far as I'm concerned. It's also my biggest issue with ME3 that it basically eliminates all nuance in the dialogue options by reducing them to two easily distinguishable choices.

If you're truly roleplaying, though, you will, most of the time, not end up with a "pefect" renegade/paragon score. And while each individual dialogue prompt will not offer a wild variety of options, all of them combined do add up to innumerable possibilities. Sure, the number of possible outcomes is not affected, but the image you concoct of "your" Shepard is. Thus your strong identification with the role.

So yes, the experience of the events is similar for all; the experience of Shepard's character not that much.

@Zolbrod I've actually been

@Zolbrod

I've actually been told that about MMX8-I'm saving it for now though, since I want to record a blind run of it eventually. Also, it's somewhat comforting to know that there's more MMX still out there, totally unknown to me :)

Not anonymous

I really don't like looking like I'm trying to hide, so just wanted to add that "anonymous" above, c'est moi.

-- Haki "aushaki" Crisden

Flo wrote: If you're truly

Flo wrote:

If you're truly roleplaying, though, you will, most of the time, not end up with a "pefect" renegade/paragon score. And while each individual dialogue prompt will not offer a wild variety of options, all of them combined do add up to innumerable possibilities. Sure, the number of possible outcomes is not affected, but the image you concoct of "your" Shepard is. Thus your strong identification with the role.

I agree. My feeling is that no 'real' person would be 100% paragon or 100% renegade, but in the gray area in between. The way I played I ended up with roughly 60/40 towards renegade choice in ME1 and 2, by the end of ME3 it was 50/50 because of all the galaxy-saving I had to do.

ME2 and 3 got much better in this respect, but ME1 was very restricting to players who didn't want to fully commit to either ideal. Since intimidate and charm were linked to renegade/paragon scores, not maxing one was causing problems in the later game.

However, it remains that while the way the game can play out differs a lot depending on choices, most choices were rather limited to renegade or paragon. And in any case Shepard would end up trying to save the galaxy. After all a renegade-Shepard is still a hero, but more of the Jack Bauer type while a paragon is a boyscout in shining armor. Thus there could always be only so many ways how this could end.

Great work

Good show folks, kept me smiling on a long drive this morning so thanks!

I cannot believe Chi is the only one who likes Seinfeld. I guess the rest of you are Frasier fans, huh? A sickening display.

;-)

Haha! I hated Frasier too.

Haha! I hated Frasier too. :p

Watched chasing ghosts it

Watched chasing ghosts it was very good however Mike you should stay far away from the guy in the trailer if you know what's good for you. As exciting as those spiders were I would keep my distance from that one

Haha! The spiders don't

Haha! The spiders don't scare me, but yeah...probably good advice.

King's Field 4

I know I'm a little late to comment, but when you guys started talking about good sequels King's Field: the Ancient City was literally the first thing that popped into my head. Lo and behold Mike Bracken mentions it moments after I thought it. This podcast seriously made my day.

Sweet Rap

Way to represent nerds/rappers Dylan!

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