Fun fact: This was posted on June 26, 2013, one year after the release of the Extended Cut DLC.
Date: 26 Jun 2013 20:52
Number of posts: 13
RSS: New posts
Well this is an impressive tome. I haven't had the chance to get through all of it yet, but I'm pretty sure I'll agree with the basic point, which is that ME3 was mostly a mess. In retrospect, it's easier to see the many flaws of the whole series in the wake of the ME3 disaster. Still, lotsa good memories, most of which at this point involve conversing with you fine folks. :) Also, if anyone's interested, MrBTongue is planning to do a series of long videos on ME, similar to those GooseGoose videos on Half-Life.
I have finally, finally finished reading.
Before I move it to Articles, though, take out section 5. All of it. It…doesn't come off well.
Honestly, sex in Mass Effect can be kinda problematic in general. There are plenty of people who think it's entirely too gamey, who think it reduces the subject to "insert kindness coin, sex falls out", who think it doesn't actually give NPCs any real1 agency. No matter what kind of person Shepard is, his/her love interests are all Shepard-sexual. And if I'm quite honest, I tend to agree with them.2
And yes, there was probably an element of making up for the (unfortunate) lack of options in the first two games. Still, for those queer34 people I know/read/follow who don't consider ME's handling of sex completely wrongheaded, ME3's wider sexual spectrum was something useful and valuable. (Dragon Age was somewhat better from the get-go, from what I've heard. Maybe said wider spectrum was more noticeable in ME3 because it wasn't there from the beginning.)
Overall, though, that section comes across as too close to the arguments of those who didn't want any same-gender relationships in the game, and I don't think you want to sound like those people.
Damn, that was a long one! How many words was that?
I will echo edisnooM and say that I'm glad that you've worked out your frustrations with ME3, and I'll echo Delta in saying both that the original section 5 needed to go, and that the new section 5 is not only much more relevant, but better written, more insightful, and altogether more fitting.
Separately, I'd like to add a bit of a caution. Calling it advice I think is too strong, but rather just something to keep in mind: Such a strong focus on plot holes can lead to possibly missing the point, and may ultimately be pretty toxic.
I (mostly) agree with your larger thesis that ME3 overall is a mess, and much of it doesn't make sense when you pull at the strings. That said, I'm not entirely sure that that wasn't true of ME1 and ME2 as well, and furthermore I think to some extent it's besides the point. Red Letter Media(skip ahead to 25:00 for the relevant portion) and Film Crit Hulk both talk about how we sometimes put to much emphasis on plot logic to the detriment of our enjoyment of the story. I think art in general (very much including ME) is more interested in eliciting emotions and provoking thought than making it's plot logic air tight. Like all good Sci-Fi, ME was more interested in creating characters we'd be attached to, and exploring contemporary social and political issues than making total sense. As you've just demonstrated, it's possible to pick at almost the entirety of the story and find things that don't make sense1 or would make more sense if [X]. We've already shown that everyone on this site could rewrite the ending better than Casey and Mac did, but I fear this venture obscures and/or ignores why ME was so important to us in the first place. There are a few examples where I think your focus on plot holes, bad/manipulative writing, and whatnot do a disservice to the game's few strong sections:
- Yes, Mordin's death was manipulative, and in hindsight reeked of authorial fiat, but in the moment it worked because we cared about Mordin and for him to sacrifice his life to undo an immoral act that he perpetrated and struggled over was a fitting end to his character arc. And this goes for much of the rest of the game. We didn't complain about it prior to the ending because it was working, and that's worth remembering. I think it's weird to argue that something that is effective story-telling (as you even admit here) can possibly be bad story-telling, since the story is accomplishing what it set out to do.
- Yes, the Quarians were dumb, but people are dumb! Much of the larger conflict is shaped by mutual distrust, irrational fear, closed-mindedness, feverish-militarism, and failures to communicate, because these are real things that lead to real conflict. The ME universe is filled with examples of the messiness, short-sightedness, and outright corrupt selfishness of politics, and this was another example of that. It was a chance to see that things are not always as they seem, and that history is only as reliable as those writing it. It was an opportunity to see that sympathetic factions don't always behave sympathetically, that aggressive war is rarely justified and rarely comes from a well meaning place, and that scary 'others' are often just misunderstood.
As an American, it even had loose parallels to the early days of the War on Terror. In the Quarian fleet I saw an America struggling with what to do in the face of a perceived (but not actual) existential threat. In the Admiralty Board I saw the debate between the Neo-Con hawks that wanted war and refused to consider any evidence that contradicted their world view, and Liberal Doves who cautioned that things weren't as had been claimed, that going to war would only invite more problems, that Iraq (and more abstractly Islam) wasn't the enemy.
You can certainly argue that the Quarians should have just waited a few years, that they were dumb not to, and you'd be right! But I think that's an overly simplistic way of looking at that conflict, and that it ignores how messy and irrational real life conflicts are. Of course Bush et. al were wrong about WMD's in Iraq, and of course many people said so at the time, but that didn't prevent invasion anymore than Shepard's protestations against invading Rannoch, and it's worth remembering that being right isn't always enough to get your way and often it's hard to tell how wrong and dumb you're being until it's too late.
- Lastly, you cite a few missions and the like as being irrelevant to the story, or alternatively as being things that should be mandatory, but I take some exception with that. ME isn't a traditional literary story to be consumed wholesale, it's a game with mechanics, with win states and lose states. The series has always had (relative) loss states, typically triggered by a failure to do optional quests. In ME2, not doing loyalty missions or upgrading the Normandy lead to failure in the Suicide Mission. To take two examples in ME3 (and that you cite), not disarming the turian bomb lead to Krogan deaths, and a dissolution of that alliance. Not saving Admiral Za'al Koris on Rannoch made it impossible to achieve peace between Geth and Quarians later. We weren't just crafting our own shepard's personality in terms of Renegade/Paragon, but also in terms of effectiveness as a leader, and these optional side things were integral in that system. An ineffective leader doesn't see the potential fallout of a Turian nuke going off on Tuchanka, nor the political importance of keeping a second anti-war admiral alive. All2 of the extra filler missions in these three game functioned either as world-building or as an opportunity to show off Shepard's effectiveness and worthiness (or lack thereof) as a galactic hero, and while the optionality of that would be problematic in a traditional linear narrative, I think it's entirely appropriate in the type of game Bioware was creating. Certainly there were Shepards that wouldn't have prioritized saving Koris, or the Primarch's son, and making that mandatory removes some of the player's agency in crafting their own Shepard.
Stepping back a bit, I would say that my take on the series has been that the staff writers in charge of writing the characters and filling in the details have (more or less) always been immensely talented and thoughtful. That each micro-arc works well in their own separate vacuums, but that the overall story was less than the sum of its parts. Put more simply, that the people in charge of the broader story3, presumably Casey and Mac, were the weak links in crafting this epic, and weren't qualified to fit all the wonderful pieces together into a coherent story. To that end, I agree with your grander thesis that much of the story doesn't hold up, but I think you're too harsh on the few parts that actually were well done.
Ugh, sorry if this is all too preachy, nit-picky, or entirely beside the point4. I can't always parse your tone, and, again, I agree with your overall point and most of your smaller ones. I just (IMHO) thought you got a bit… over-enthusiastic in decrying the game's illogic in a few spots, and wanted to play devil's advocate. I also don't mean to be too much of a naysayer, I know this project was important in getting over ME, and I hope my thoughts on it don't undermine that at all.
PS: One last time: Fuck Mac Walters/Casey Hudson!
PPS: Damn, this turned out to be a long one!
No problem. It's weirdly disappointing to have to make such a change, but if it's somehow better without that section, I'll pick up the pieces somehow.
A raw copy-and-paste into LibreOffice Writer says that it's 26 124 words, including footnotes. This count probably also includes certain wiki formatting tags, so it's more of an approximation than an exact number.
As for the rest1, I do see your point, and you've given me quite a lot to think about. The goal was just as much about expression and catharsis for me as it was about deconstructing the narrative. Whether I'm particularly right or wrong on any point doesn't really matter, I just needed to get this baggage out.
I couldn't quite tell how much of what you were going for was catharsis, hence the final paragraph. I don't think I would say that you're wrong on anything of substance, certainly not anything I included in my reply, my point was just that if this was a reflection of how you approach stories, that you might get more satisfaction from them if you were a little more forgiving. I know personally that in the last year I've started being less anal about plot holes, and subsequently been able to get more out of stories.
And, again, I'm glad this was a cathartic exercise for you. ME3 messed us all up, and I know I still look longingly at the boxes on my shelf from time to time.
PS: 26,000 words. Wow.