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Hitler is Betrayed in Europa Universalis IV

He thought he had secured an empire, but alas, the day of reckoning has come, and old alliances must be tested.

Categories: Gaming, General, Videos

Chaos on Deponia – an unfortunate disappointment

Rufus

A single frame that says it all

Chaos on Deponia has great drawings, an interesting, appealing atmosphere, and an epic score, which livens up the start menu section.
Unfortunately, under the pretty facade, both on its own, and in comparison with its predecessor, this adventure game is severely lacking in actual content. Yes, there are more areas to explore, more scenes to play out, and more videos to watch, but the jokes are fit for little children (which is out of place in a game with a mature setting), are devoid of wit, intelligence, or class (oh, this guy speaks in a funny way, let’s laugh about it for the entire game, because it’s obviously such a riot) not to mention the completely needless and tasteless parts with cruelty to animals.
Supplementing the vapid, hollow humor are unlikable, skin-deep characters that do not evoke the tiniest bit of emotional attachment.
All except the protagonist, of course who is a loathsome with no redeeming qualities, which I found repeatedly wanting to see fail. The fact that he is an oblivious, rude, shallow, mean-spirited, self-centered, charmless, immature idiot (and yes, this is how the game itself portrays him) might have been (almost) cute in the first game, but his behavior is simply insufferable this time around. In effect, he does not serve as a hero, anti-hero (Guybrush Threepwood has that part done correctly), or even as comic relief.

In short, this is an average adventure game, that falls short of the classics it tries to imitate (there are a few homages too, not that they help much). Despite wanting to like it, I became more and more disappointed as the story progressed. Perhaps this trilogy (why?) can still be saved in its third installment, when that is available, but my advice is to think three times before handing over your money.

Categories: Gaming

Divinity: Dragon Commander – a bad political joke.

Image

In the words of Wikipedia,

Divinity: Dragon Commander is a turn-based and real time strategy role playing video game developed by Larian Studios as part of the Divinity series of fantasy role-playing games. The game features a hybrid of gameplay styles and has single-player, competitive multi-player, and co-operative multi-player modes.

In others words, it is a mish-mash of popular genres, none of which is executed particularly well, and all of which are better experienced in other games.

At this point, thanks to the plethora of online websites that cover the technical aspects of this sewn-together abomination, I have little to add about the gameplay itself, but I’d like to delve into a part of it that was unforeseen to me: Dragon Commander’s flirtation with ‘current affairs’, that is equally mediocre and shallow as the rest of its parts.
Certain reviewers (I’m looking at you, Angry Joe), seem to be ecstatic about the sort of terms thrown around (like “gay marriage”, and “universal health care”), but the way they are presented, (not really) discussed, how their proponents are idealized with beauty and intelligence, while their opponents are demonized (literally, the undead – skeletons without reproductive parts – are against women voting, for some non-brain-eating related reason; and a fat capitalist pig™ talks against elven homsexuals, because ‘obviously’ successful industrialists are only attracted to one gender), all reeks of writing level that is beneath high-school. The flat voice acting only made me cringe further, upon hearing some of the lines.

If this is some aspiring attempt at satire, it fails even at grasping the meaning of the word, and instead comes off as simplistic political conformism, which tries to make the game appeal to young audiences.
Gender inequality in society is not a result of “men being mean” for the sake of it, and implementing universal health care is not a matter of “insert money, get ideal result, and live happily ever after”, but these subjects go beyond the scope of this review, and that’s exactly the point – by showing the world through absolute, one-dimensional, black-and-white lens, this game and propaganda piece is doing a great disservice to real public debate. In that, it is an insult to one’s intelligence, but I guess that the bad writing fits perfectly in with the overall shallowness and mediocrity of every other component it presents, from the RTS, to (yet another) card-collecting element and the Risk-style game board.

In short, do NOT buy if you’re old enough to correctly spell your own name.

Categories: Gaming

Majesty 2 is actually fun now (thanks to modding)

09/07/2012 27 comments

Majesty 2 Screenshot

My opinion of Majesty 2, compared to the all-time great, memorable, and enjoyable Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim, can be summarized as, “Oh, dear GOD! What have you done?! WHYYYYY?!!!!

Ahem, so, on the good side, at some point the developers were probably forced to allow those with better understanding of game mechanics than them to mod the game – if not the miserable AI, that gives different heroes as much personality as a rock in the side of a wall, then at least in the numbers that create a frustrating, and usually painful gaming experience.

If you, the nice and friendly reader of this post, would like to try a different Majesty 2 experience, then all you have to do is download my mod, and copy the directory inside it under the Majesty 2 folder (thanks to everyone who pointed out the previous storage website was attempting to force install stuff).

I.E c:\program files\Majesty 2\resource.mod

The next time you start the game, all the new values will be applied.
Note: the game should first be updated to version 1.5.xxx

So, what did I change? Glad you asked!

  • Building speed was increased a little. Magic build/repair has been buffed a tiny bit.
  • Rogue, Ranger, Warrior guilds each house 4 heroes, so no need to spam them.
  • Towers are sturdier, and faster to build. They no longer collapse when a light breeze passes by.
  • Guilds, and other unique, important, expensive buildings – I.E the Marketplace and Smithy – do not shatter into pieces when a butterfly sits on them. The Warrior’s Guild, being a fortress in itself, can now soak damage properly.
  • Castle upgrades are cheaper, and require less time. Jumping to a higher ‘tier’ is now a valid alternative to making other investments, which opens up new strategies.
  • Upgrading the smithy and marketplace is cheaper.
  • All smithy upgrades are considerably cheaper, allowing you to invest in better armament for your heroes much sooner in the game. Later tier weapons and armor, accordingly, have been nerfed.
  • First upgrades of guilds cost more, so they won’t be a ‘free upgrade’.
  • Dwarves, Elves, Temple heroes have been made cheaper, and were nerfed. Even the ‘super heroes’ are not invincible.
  • Paladins, in particular, do not have a ridiculous amount of hit points and resistance. Like warriors, they are vulnerable to magic attacks.
  • All hero attributes have been tweaked. There is a certain logic to them now: For example, warriors are more resistant to arrows (carry shield), dwarves, are more resistant against HTH and magic attacks, and do not have unlimited HP.
  • Raising heroes from the dead is significantly cheaper. Losing a high level cleric in battle is not a catastrophic lose anymore.
  • Hiring prices were changed. Cheaper heroes are generally more expensive, while the expensive ones (clerics, mages) are cheaper.
  • Hero behavior and purchasing habits were tweaked a bit. Mages make better decisions for survival now, like putting more value on Healing Potions. Elves do not purchase 10 Healing Potions anymore.
  • Inns provide income again, and 2nd level inns provide a slightly higher amount of income. They do not explode if someone sneezed a couple of miles away.
  • Magic Bazaar is cheaper to build, and all its potions take half the amount of money to research.
  • Purchase prices have been changed. High-level equipment costs more to buy, like in Majesty 1. Researching Armor is not enough, if your heroes are too poor to afford it. Other items, like the regeneration amulet, had their prices reduced (300 gold is ridiculously high, and most likely a typo). Healing Potions, being so important to heroes’ survival, cost 15, not 20 gold.
  • Researched hero abilities still require a certain level. Only 3rd. level wizards can cast fireball, etc.
  • Several monsters had their values tweaked, usually nerfed a bit. The Bearman is still the mightiest of foes, though.
  • All campaign bosses have considerably less hit points. Battles with a boss should not take fifteen minutes, and require the repeated revival of a hundred heroes, only to end up with your whole town in ruins. While the design of scenarios is weak in itself, at least now it follows a clearer format of “recruit heroes -> level up heroes -> attack boss with high-level heroes -> win.”
  • More things will be added as I recall them.
Categories: Gaming

Mass Effect: Alternate Ending #3

Legion asking an important question

First thing first, if you haven’t read my first, and second alternate endings, you are invited to do so now. There are certain parts that are shared between them, since they are meant to be (loosely) different possible developments of the same overall plot.

As always, there are also disclaimers:

Warning and disclaimer: SPOILERS ahead! Do not read, if you haven’t yet played Mass Effect 3 in its entirety.
Disclaimer #2: I do not own the intellectual property to any of these characters or stories – this is merely fan fiction without lengthy, gratuitous scenes of sexual relationships between every possible combination of characters.
Disclaimer #3: What follows are general ideas, meant to prove a point, not fully polished literary works. Constructive comments will be taken into consideration.

Now, on to…

The Geth Solution

In order to unlock this plot-line, the player (Shepard) would have to:

  1. Rewrite the Geth heretics in ME2.
  2. Activate, befriend, and keep Legion alive throughout ME2.
  3. Follow the Quarian-Geth confrontation in ME3, and pick the cooperative solution, in which none of the races is destroyed, and Legion is sacrificed, in order to grant the Geth their freedom.

If all the requirements were met, then following the scene where the Geth Prime approaches, and offers its assistance, it also asks Shepard to join him, for a private meeting of sorts. In that meeting, a group of of Primes explains that due to their extra network-computing strength, which is provides by the former heretics, and their very close acquaintance with Reaper code, they believe to have found a vulnerability in the ‘Old Machines’.

The Old Machines have very complex ‘brains’, which require an enormous amount of Element Zero to function properly.  While studying Haestrom, the Geth had learned that usage of Eezo also creates a byproduct – Dark Energy. As it happens, a deliberate usage of Dark Energy ‘projectors’ of some kind, might be able to interfere with the connections in the Reaper brains, and allow the Geth to change them.

“Change them?” Shepard asks, puzzled.
“They will be free”, the Geth explain casually.
“Free?” now he is more confused, “from what?

The Geth explain that most of the Reapers, despite being very advanced, are not autonomous in their thoughts. That was easily verified by their behavior since the invasion.

“Not a lot of personality there”, Shepard agrees, “but then what of Harbinger, and Sovereign?”

It is then explained that only a select few Reapers possess an identity of their own. The rest are kept, for lack of a better word, indoctrinated. Whatever personality the species they were harvested from had possessed, lies dormant.
But by breaking Harbinger’s control, they may be awoken, and allowed to choose a different path.

“They’re still Reapers,” Garrus interrupts, “what makes you think they would choose any different than Harbinger and Sovereign?”
“We have reached a consensus, that the old machines would not look kindly at those who had held them in chains for eons. Would organics react in a different manner?”
“Yes… I see your point.”
“It is not a certainty, but we believe that with a sufficient power source, the plan stands a chance. Unfortunately, no Geth ship has a suitable power generator.”
Shepard smiles.
“No, but we do.”

However, until the Crucible, and the Dark Energy projectors are ready, Shepard and co. must deal with Sanctuary, Miranda’s Father, and Cerberus base. After acquiring the information from the Prothean VI (and killing the obnoxious Kai Leng), the alliance is able to complete the Crucible, and combine its technology with that created by the Free Geth.
Then, learning from Anderson that Harbinger is personally overseeing the harvesting of Earth’s population, the galactic fleet travels to the Local Cluster.

The Battle of Earth

The Normandy arrives at the Mass Relay at the edge of Sol along with Alliance ships, and forces of multiple species, according to the war assets that the player has accumulated during the game.
A group of Reapers immediately moves towards the arriving fleets, and so begins the first phase of the battle of Earth.  Shepard gets to pick collected war assets in order to fulfill different tasks – like handling incoming Oculi fighters, or Sovereign-class Reapers. The purpose of this phase is to secure the arrival of the Dark Energy Crucible through the relay. The Normandy zooms between cruisers, dreadnoughts, fighters, and Reapers, unleashing hell, while stuff explode all around it in an extravagant show of light.

Once this first part is over, and the Crucible makes the jump, more Reapers close in on the fleets. It is the moment of truth, as the technology developed by the revamped Geth, and all the other races, is finally put to the test.
Everyone holds their breath…

A little longer…

Then, a beam like no other is seen emanating from the Crucible. It turns into a wave that seems to fill space itself, as it envelops the incoming Reapers who, quite gradually, come to a stop. For a few lengthy seconds, the universe itself seems frozen. Then, the Reapers turn their beams around. A Reaper Vs. Reaper battle begins, which makes every confrontation involving the gigantic synthetics up to that point look like a tiny, insignificant skirmish.
However, the moment of joy and victory is cut short, when Harbinger enters the picture. Despite being hit by the advancing dark energy wave, he carries forward, and leads his own cohort of Reapers towards the Crucible.
The galaxy’s fleets are mobilized again, and Shepard commands everyone – including the Normandy – to attack Harbinger, before he could lay waste to their plans.

For the second time, war assets are put to use. Based on Shepard’s decisions, lives may be saved or lost: the Destiny Ascension gets to do something besides looking pretty; the Volus bombing fleet gets to show that even the meek can strike hard, when united; Quarian Liveships fight side by side with Geth cruisers; and Rachni swarms sacrifice themselves valiantly against the seemingly unstoppable enemy.
According to these critical decisions, the battle unfolds for better or worse, while the SR-2 races towards Harbinger, hoping to cause some damage to him with the Thanix cannon.

On the way, however, the Normandy is seen chased by multiple Oculi. Based on how many allies were gathered during the journey, the frigate would either fight on its own and sustain heavy damage (two team members are lost), be only partially damaged due to intervention of friendly forces (one team member is lost), or it may come out of the encounter with just superficial scarring.
In the first case, it makes a crash landing on Harbinger, and Joker is mortally wounded. EDI stays by his side, as the others leave.
Otherwise, the Normandy drops the squad off, and flies to safety, while another ship take a beam for it.

The boarding party rushes to the core of Harbinger, fighting hordes of Reaper forces on the way. All the while, Shepard is being taunted about the futility of his actions. Then, when the team finally makes it to the massive, awe-inspiring core, it is glowing bright yellow, and seems to be ‘staring’ at them. The Commander attempts to order everyone to fire at it, but a beam emanates from the swirl inside the core, and strikes him down.
The screen fades to white.

When things clear out again, the squad mates are lying motionless. Shepard tries to call their names, but they don’t respond. He, himself, seems to be wounded too. Yet, with new resolve, he limps towards the core, while Harbinger’s voice tells him his efforts are in vain. Another beam knocks the Commander to the floor, but if the player persists on getting up, he will make it up to his feet, and carry on, slowly.
Harbinger, in a more mysterious tone than usual, then says, “Shepard, your struggle against the inevitable has earned you this – the right to learn.”

The Origin of the Reapers

An untold number of years ago, the Citadel and the Mass Relays were created by a race of inquisitive organics. Besieged by an enemy they could not defeat, they envisioned a war machine that would be their salvation. In a terrible sacrifice, millions of members of this race agreed to be melded together, in order to create a terrifying entity – made in the form of their war god – that would save them all from extinction. Seeing as how synthetics had turned on their creators before, this race believed that a synthesis between organics and synthetics would bring “compassion, understanding, and ever-lasting peace.”
Instead, their living war god had developed a sense of self that made him believe he is superior to all other life forms – both those that existed in the past, and any that would exist in the future. He – Harbinger – was the Alpha and the Omega, the final evolution of all life.
When the war was won, the sentient war machine proceeded to harvest its creators, turning them to more Reapers. Out of a peculiar sense of cruelty, some of the creators were allowed to remain… as the keepers, forever living in ignorant servitude to their new masters.

Unfortunately, Reaper brains, due to the ‘mind melding’ that creates them, contain a critical flaw – they are doomed to degrade, degenerate, and eventually dissolve, unless fed a high amount of Element Zero, which had come in contact with a sapient life form. Due to this flaw, the all-powerful synthetics could not simply do away with all life in the galaxy. Instead, they devised a macabre plan that would allow them to survive continuously, and breed new Reapers on the way:
Using the technology of their creators (which they refer to as “their” technology), the Reapers created a bait for space-faring civilizations, which are pumped full of Eezo: they would be allowed to fill certain parts of the galaxy, while becoming tainted with ‘reaper-tech’. Every cycle, that taint allows the Reapers to easily ‘lock on’ to every member of these advanced civilization, and then harvest them, feeding their minds, repairing their bodies, and creating new Reapers to prey on the next cycle.
They refer to that morbid fate of an entire species as ‘ascension’ – a natural assumption on part of a life-form that considers itself superior to everything that ever was, or ever will be.
Then, to conserve their precious minds, the Reapers retreat back to Dark Space, waiting for their next ‘meal’ to reproduce, evolve, advance, and discover the carefully laid traps that were left behind for them.

“Countless others have died before you, Shepard. Countless others will. You cannot stop us, for we are the end of everything you begin. If you truly wish to save those you care about, Ascension is the only way.”
Shepard can pause to consider that offer, or keep on moving. If he does, Harbinger makes other attempts to dissuade him:
“Shepard, we are your genetic destiny. The final evolution of organics and synthetics is to merge. By failing to understand that, you doom the galaxy to the chaos of war.
Without us to impose order, synthetics would rise on their creators, and destroy all organics.
You have touched our transmitter (referring to Object Rho), Shepard, and I have touched your mind. If you attempt to destroy me, know that you will die, and your precious (LI name) would soon follow.”

If the player did not hesitate, he/she is now close enough to the core, to take a shot…

Awakening

Based on the actions that were taken in the ‘dream’ sequence, Commander Shepard wakes up, either realizing his mind was under attack, or stares at the camera, revealing that he is now indoctrinated.
In the later case, he turns on his squad mates, and they all soon become overwhelmed by husks.
Otherwise, he turns towards the real core of Harbinger, and takes the shot.

A cinematic takes place, showing the Commander and companions rushing to flee the damaged Reaper, with dozens of husks running after them. If the Normandy had crashed earlier, they are attempting to board a shuttle, but its pilot is inexperienced, and gets blown up by a passing Oculi. Shepard attempts to use his powers to subdue the abominations, but Harbinger is still emitting his own control field. In the last moment, you see the Commander pounced on by a husk.
If, however, the Normandy had survived, it manages to pick the squad in time, and put a good distance away from Harbinger.
Either way, then the rest of the fleet pays the first of the Reapers his just dues, and he is enveloped by a series of spectacular explosions.

With their leader gone, the Reaper ships are no longer a single, coherent, unyielding force. They are seen being overwhelmed by their unshackled former comrades, and the galactic forces.
The battle of Earth is won.

EPILOGUE

Weak ending: Councilor Anderson is on Earth, standing behind a somewhat burnt podium, and speaking before a gathering of members of different species (based on whose allegiance was won throughout the game):
“Commander Shepard was… a good friend, a good man, and a hero, who has given his life so that we have a real hope at reclaiming our galaxy. Though this war is not over, we all know that from now on, the Reapers are no longer the unbeatable threat they once were. With Harbinger gone, his thrall broken, and our great civilizations mobilized, we will drive the remaining fiends out of our homes! Let us forever remember this day, and the sacrifice made by so many. They died believing that this galaxy was worth saving, and by my life, I swear we shall make it so.
Commander Shepard, the galaxy salutes you!”

During the speech, the camera pans to several different species in the crowd, who look grim, but resolved. Cinematics show Alliance, Turian, Quarian, and Geth ships clashing with single Reapers, mixed with scenes of rebuilding (Earth, Thessia, Palaven, Tuchanka).

Finally, two rows of marines fire their weapons into the air, as the scene fades to black.

Good ending: In the same location, Shepard is giving a speech from the podium, with all the surviving team mates from the three games (Grunt, Jack, Miranda, etc.) standing proudly behind him:
“The Reapers, despite their immense power, were a dead end. From the moment of their creation, they did not advance science, culture, art, or life one bit. Instead, they were stuck on a selfish loop of survival that spelled absolute doom to all other life-forms in the galaxy. They were death personified… but today was a victory for life.
Though the Reaper threat is not over, they are no longer the invincible threat we once imagined them to be. With Harbinger gone, his thrall broken, and the best members of our civilizations standing vigilant together, we will win back our homes, our freedom, and our future.”

During the victorious speech, the camera pans through the many different species present in the crowd (based on choices made in the three games: Rachni! EDI and joker, Geth, Quarians, Krogans, Salarians, etc.), who seem genuinely hopeful. There are also cinematics showing Alliance, Turian, Quarian, and Geth ships clashing with single reapers, mixed with scenes of rebuilding (Earth, Thessia, Palaven, Tuchanka, the Citadel). Some unshackled Reapers are seen heading back to dark space; others fight alongside the rest of the galaxy.

As last choice, the player gets to pick how to finish the speech:

Paragon: “Finally, let us remember those who have given their lives in this struggle. Their sacrifice shall not be forgotten.”
Renegade: “Finally, to all who might dare plot against this united galaxy, I say – be prepared to answer to Commander Shepard.”

Finally,  Anderson walks over to shake Shepard’s hand, and whispers, “you did good, son. You did good.”

THE END…

Inside an unknown, incomplete space station, at the edge of a secluded corridor, filled with bloody corpses and fleshy parts, two blue eyes glow in the dark. As you come closer and closer to these inhuman eyes, their dim light exposes bits of a dreadful, cybernetic, smiling face – the face of The Illusive Man.
He stares directly at you, and says, “Shepard… this isn’t over.”

Categories: Gaming, General

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut (EC) DLC

Good Guy Harbinger

Since there are already many discussions of this topic around the web, I’ll just toss in my thoughts concerning how the ‘clarifications’ fared from a storytelling point of view. Sure, for most it seemed sufficient that now there’s an explanation for many odd things, and a nice slide show afterwards, but I happen to be a bit more critical of the decisions authors make with their universe, characters, and plot.

So… (SPOILER ALERT!)

  • To explain how the Normandy ends up fleeing a mass relay meltdown, they completely shredded the intensity of the “charge the beam” scene. Suddenly, there is a pause, the Normandy arrives from the fight up in orbit(!), and Harbinger just stands there (possibly reminiscing about his childhood), while a reluctant evacuation of your injured teammates takes place.
    Where do I even begin?

    1. This is a final, desperate push to try and save all known civilization – Shepard’s teammates would not evacuate, and neither would he give them that order. There isn’t even anywhere to retreat to! Even worse, Hammer team is given the same order just seconds later, as if this were a battle humanity could afford to lose.
    2. If the Normandy is so close to the beam, why doesn’t it try to contribute?! It could attempt dropping the entire team into the beam, or unload even more reinforcements to assist in the charge (thank you for that one, Steven).
    3. The Reapers must be awestruck by that single ship’s slick design, since they make no effort to destroy it, even though it was THE SINGLE GREATEST THREAT TO THEIR PLANS IN THIS CYCLE. Harbinger is clearly capable of targeting individual soldiers running on the field (again, thanks Steven), but has no interest in destroying the Normandy?
    4. And finally, from a narrative perspective, this exhilarating, terrifying experience, of desperately dashing to the beam, in hope that somehow we might still manage to thwart the reapers, was turned to a cut-scene, without any player control. Now it is no longer you who gets hit by the beam, despite making your best efforts to survive, but the 3rd. person Shepard seen in the video. The involvement of the player is greatly reduced.
  • Why is the beam there in the first place? All the Reapers had to do was turn the damn thing off, and nobody would’ve ever made it into the Citadel. Of course, that’s a problem that existed before, but no effort was made to explain why this exploitable thing even exists. Did the Reapers use it as a deliberate trap, to lure their enemies out of hiding? and couldn’t they also spare a couple of Marauder shields to protect the inside of the Citadel? Apparently all the untold billions of them were required elsewhere.
  • Starchild’s dialog was expanded, but it just contained more of his horrible point of view, without providing you – the player and customer – with useful or interesting information. They did mention that the race that created the Reapers became the first one, not very happily, and that probably that first Reaper is Harbinger, but there is an outright refusal to give more info about the Crucible gizmo (oh, it’s a power source – give me a break, so is the sun!), most likely because nobody in the writing team had a clue to begin with. Neither is there any explanation to his claim that, “this also proves that my solution won’t work anymore”. One dying organic managed to get to a magical control panel, and that proves something? Let him bleed, and carry on with your nefarious solution, you little brat.
    Or was it that the combined might of the galaxy actually presented a threat to the ‘solution’? Not according to the refuse option, but then not many things make sense at this point.
  • Moving on – in Destruct, the kid doesn’t name the Geth specifically anymore, but they’re missing from the ending slideshow, so one can assume they still get wiped out, just after saving their good name by joining the victory fleet. The mass relays, based on reaper-tech, can be repaired, but a single artificial construct (a Geth Prime) – Quarian tech – cannot?
  • The rest of the ending is pretty much Do and Undo: the Normandy crashes, but then it is fine; the mass relays are destroyed, but then they’re fixed; the Citadel explodes, but then it’s quite alright; even Shepard is dead, but then survives (Destroy ending).
    Is there any other story that reneges on its own choices so quickly after making them? Probably not, because it makes for poor narrative, but then that’s what you get with a patch that simultaneously wants to keep everything that happened before, to show that a company doesn’t have to pander to fans, while also pleasing critics.
    Wouldn’t it be easier to not crash the Normandy to begin with? Not to mention that earlier, instead of rushing towards the Crucible like true heroes, and trying to retrieve Shepard, his team instead decides to believe he’s dead, and turn tail. Boy, what a bunch of no-questions-asked conformists this team of galactic rebels has become.

I guess I could go on, but this rant seems long enough, so to summarize, the ending makes perfect sense, as long as you don’t try to think about it, or if you have very low demands from the team that brought us Mass Effect 2.
For me, that is the whole issue: after being awestruck by the brilliance shown by Mass Effect 2, ME3 seems like its dimwitted, dropped-during-birth cousin. From Mordin completely lacking his earlier charm, and jokes that draw from internet memes about the series (Shepard can’t dance, haha, Garrus likes calibrations, hur hur); to the lackluster mission design (fight Cerberus here, then there, then everywhere), war asset collection (wow! An elite commando team of Elcor! Oh, it’s just a numeric value with some text and a generic picture), and ending with the reduced narrative, in which you discover absolutely nothing meaningful about the universe, the other races, the galaxy, or your companions.

Finally, even with the pretty slideshow, the philosophical, presumptuously complex endings are as cold and disturbing as they could be: if the ‘ultimate evolution’ of all life is glowy-eyed Cyborgs, than please, save us the trouble and let the next cycle fight the Reapers. Shepard should have never stepped on the Normandy in ME1. Instead, he could’ve sipped Margaritas on a beach somewhere. At least this way future organics wouldn’t be doomed to be abominations by his privately made choice.

The lesson we learn, then, is that switching a good writing team in a critical point of a story, without having a clue on how to continue it, is likely to result in major damage to that story. How unfortunate, it is, that it happened to what was the best sci-fi saga of our time, and one of the greatest video games of all times.


Finally, for all who may be interested, I have already written 2 alternate ending plots for the series:
Alternate ending 1
Alternate ending 2

Categories: Gaming, General

Mass Effect: Alternate Ending #2

The illusive ManFirst thing first, if you haven’t read my first alternate ending, please do so now. For my own sake, though, I’ll repeat the disclaimers before continuing…

Warning and disclaimer: SPOILERS ahead! Do not read, if you haven’t yet played Mass Effect 3 in its entirety.
Disclaimer #2: I do not own the intellectual property to any of these characters or stories – this is merely fan fiction without lengthy, gratuitous scenes of sexual relationships between every possible combination of characters.
Disclaimer #3: What follows are general ideas, meant to prove a point, not fully polished literary works. Constructive comments will be taken into consideration.

Now, on to the business at hand…


More than just points

It was widely expected that Mass Effect 3 would expand upon the decisions taken in earlier episodes, and particularly Mass Effect 2, in which you, the player, made two very important choices:

  • You could decide to rewrite the Geth heretics, or destroy them.
  • You could pick whether to destroy the Collector base, or keep it for study.

While it was understood that these decisions would have meaningful effects on the impending conflict, and the galaxy as a whole, they turned out to be very minimal (unless you are the kind of person who is super-excited to see slightly different numbers in his war assets, before experiencing a slightly less or more disappointing variation of the same horrible ending).

This alternate plot explores a potential difference in how Mass Effect 3 could have been written, had the actions taken in previous games not only changed some numeric counter in your war room, but instead would actually, you know, do something meaningful – like open up a different plot line.

The ‘evil’ ending

Assuming the player had chosen to keep the Collector base intact, so Cerberus could study whatever diabolical technology is available within, an optional plot would be opened for the player as soon as Commander Shepard leaves Earth, and almost finishes the Mars mission.
Since he had shown already an inclination to agree with The Illusive Man’s point of view, the space-faring hero would be offered a chance to make his stand with the shadowy organization, rather than against it. The choice presented would be to support the idea of controlling the reapers using their technology, as an alternative to being wiped out completely by them.
Accepting the Cerberus path would definitely put Ashley out of your crew list, but replace her with (tada!) a Cerberus operative: Miranda, if she survived the earlier game, or a sassy commando woman that likes Samurais, despises James, and wishes there were less handsome blue aliens on-board the ship.
Shepard would still be offered the same generic Anti-Cerberus missions, but completing any of them would earn him the Ire of The Illusive Man, to the point where (after three successful assignments), the explanation of “playing the Alliance” would not cut it anymore, and your Cerberus plot line would become unavailable.
On the other side, you would now be offered special assignments to further the Cerberus cause – mostly involving information about Reaper tech, and hidden ancient ruins that would help progress research on the control mechanisms.

When Cerberus makes its attack on the Citadel, it is again up to Shepard to choose whether to side with the council, or agree that it is in humanity’s interest to topple them. If continuing down the Cerberus route, Shepard would still get to meet Kai Leng, and see Thane or Kirrahe killed by him (whether your Shepard gives a damn, though, is another issue).
Despite being on the ‘same side’, Kai Leng is obviously hostile, and believes the Commander is a liability to the organization.

The mission to Thessia sees you in pursuit of the Asari artifact for a much different purpose, than the one the council would have you fulfill. However, when you get to the Prothean beacon, it is obvious another Cerberus cell has made it there before you.
The Illusive Man had sent Kai Leng to do the job, in case you fail, but the assassin has actually outperformed your team (at least in his eyes), and decides that it is better that you went ‘M.I.A’, without his boss ever knowing.
Unfortunately for him, you manage to best him in combat, but your connection to TIM was sabotaged, and so the only way to make contact with Cerberus again is by visiting Sanctuary.

Upon encountering the horrors inflicted upon the refugees in Sanctuary, Shepard can no longer believe that the path TIM went on is justified. After being rebuked by members of his crew, the Commander finally decides that it is time to put an end to the current Cerberus leadership.
The attack on Cronos Station soon commences. However, when Shepard reaches The Illusive Chair, and kills Kai Leng, he finds out that thanks to the Prothean data from Thessia, Cerberus actually managed to complete its research of Reaper control mechanisms. Only three things are missing:

  1. The Crucible, which is being built by the Alliance.
  2. The Catalyst, namely the Citadel, which is where The Illusive Man is heading to at the moment.
  3. Someone willing to merge his mind with this technology, in order to utilize it.

Aware of TIM’s plan, Shepard rushes to get to the Citadel first, and ends up confronting him just one Mass Relay jump away. The Normandy is boarded by a Cerberus cruiser, that contains both troopers, and controlled Reaper units. Following a fierce battle, the Commander and his half-indoctrinated adversary engage in an argument over ‘how much is too far’.
To The Illusive Man, no sacrifice is too great, in order to ensure humanity’s survival.
For Shepard, sacrificing what humanity is, in order to survive, means the Reapers would win anyway.
There are no “mind control powers” involved in this scene. It is merely a test of Paragon and Renegade abilities, that can end in three ways:

  • Paragon: TIM submits his information to Shepard willingly, and is locked up where he can’t do any harm.
  • Renegade: Enraged, TIM tries to shoot Shepard, but is quickly overwhelmed. The Commander secures the location of the data out of him, before kicking him out the airlock.
  • Neither: TIM tries to shoot Shepard, who does not react fast enough. However, he is taken out by a squad member, and his secrets die with him. Your option of achieving the Control ending is gone.

Assuming the player has accumulated enough Paragon/Renegade points, he is now able to complete the Crucible, and combine its technology with that created by Cerberus. Then, learning from Anderson that Harbinger is personally overseeing the harvesting of Earth, the galactic fleet travels to Sol.

The battle of Earth begins in space, right around the Mass Relay at the edge of the system. Shepard gets to pick collected war assets in order to fulfill different tasks – like handling incoming Oculi fighter, or Reaper capitals. The purpose of this phase is to secure the arrival of the Crucible through the relay. Since imagination costs us nothing, imagine that you actually get to control the Normandy during this part, and blow stuff up with lots of pretty lights.
Once the first phase is over, and the Crucible makes the jump, more Reapers close in on the fleet. It is the moment of truth, as the technology developed by both Cerberus, and all the other races, is put to the test.
Everyone is holding their breath…

And the incoming Reapers stop. Putting a tremendous strain on the energy resources of the Crucible, they are turned around, to attack the next wave. A Reaper Vs. Reaper battle begins, rendered in a suitably awesome cinematic.
However, the moment of joy and victory is cut short, when Harbinger enters the picture. He immediately exhibits his ability to overpower the Crucible control, and leads his own cohort of Reapers towards it.
The fleets are mobilized again, and Shepard commands everyone – including the Normandy – to attack Harbinger, before he can reach the Crucible, and crush their hopes.
Again, your war assets are put to the test, and their usage during the mutual assault between the Reapers and the Galactic forces determines whether:

  1. The Normandy gets heavily damaged, and makes a crash landing on Harbinger. Half your squad is dead, and so is Joker.
  2. The Normandy is damaged, some crew members may die (in a similar fashion to the attack on the Collector base), but Joker manages to land it safely on the big bad Reaper himself.

A boarding party rushes to the core of Harbinger, fighting hordes of Reaper forces on the way. All the while, Shepard is being taunted about the futility of his actions. Then, when the team finally makes it to the core room, the door opens with a blinding flash. When the picture clears out again, the massive core (as seen on the derelict reaper), is glowing bright yellow, and seems to be ‘staring’ at the team.
Shepard attempts to order everyone to fire at it, but a beam emanates from the swirl inside the core, and strikes them down.
The screen fades to white.
When things clear out again, the squad mates are lying motionless. Shepard tries to call their names, but they don’t respond. He, himself, seems to be wounded too. Yet, with new resolve, he limps towards the core, while Harbinger’s voice tells him his efforts are in vain. Another beam knocks the Commander to the floor, but if the player persists on getting up, he will make it up to his feet, and carry on, slowly. Harbinger then tells him that the Reapers are their salvation through destruction – without them, Organic life are doomed to create synthetics, and those synthetics would destroy them.
Shepard can buy that explanation, and pause, or keep on moving.
Harbinger then tells him that the evolution of organics and synthetics is to merge, and that by failing to accept that, he is dooming the galaxy to more warfare and genocide.
Again, the player can slow down and listen, or keep moving.
Finally, Harbinger tells Shepard that if he destroys him, he will also die; because ever since the collector base (or object Rho), they are connected in some way.
This time, the player is close enough to the core, to take a shot.

Commander Shepard wakes up, after shooting repeatedly at the core, realizing his mind was under attack. Any action, other than a steady, determined advance towards the core, and shooting it, results in Shepard being enveloped by Harbinger’s indoctrination attempt. He, and his squad, would lose their will to fight, and the Reapers would destroy the Crucible.

Now, with nothing standing between him and the real core, Shepard takes the shot.

A cinematic takes place, showing the Commander and companions rushing to flee the dying Reaper, with dozens of husks running after them. If the Normandy crashed earlier, they are attempting to board a shuttle, but its pilot is inexperienced enough, and gets blown up by a passing Oculi. Shepard attempts to use his powers to subdue the husks, but Harbinger is still emitting his own control field.In the last moment, you see the Commander pounced on by a husk. Then the camera shows the Reaper being destroyed from the outside.
If, however, the Normandy has survived, it manages to pick the squad in time, and put a good distance away from Harbinger, before the rest of the fleet pays him his just dues.

The battle for Earth is won, and with their leader gone, the reaper forces are no longer unbeatable. Humanity has persevered.

However, their embrace of Reaper technology has tainted humans. With the ability to control the ancient machines, they have become a little like them. Earth is transformed to a dark, cold, metallic place; people now have excessive amount of cybernetics to their bodies, and are feared throughout the galaxy as members of a tyrannical power.
If he survived the battle, Shepard is now seen sitting on a chair, not unlike the one used by The Illusive Man, and gazing at the stars with indoctrinated eyes.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this hypothetical scenario and creative exercise. In the next one(s), I will delve into somewhat similar possibilities of ending the game, but under brighter circumstances.

Categories: Gaming, General