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Critical Discussion Games

Thoughts on Destiny 2 Season 8

Tomorrow, Destiny 2’s Season 8 concludes, and Season 9 begins. 8 served as the opening season of Year Three, and marked a transition for the game from a “traditional” update method of small DLC packs spaced out within the year to one large DLC pack and small-purchase seasons to fill in content droughts.

I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on it from the last ten weeks, divided into some of the major aspects of the season. I’ll try to keep this about things particular to this season and not to things that were big sea changes from Shadowkeep.

What I’ll touch on:

  • Vex Offensive
  • Iron Banner
  • Eriana’s Vow
  • Eververse and the Season Pass
  • Ritual Weapons
  • Undying

Vex Offensive

The big “seasonal activity” going away tomorrow is Vex Offensive, and it’s an amazingly mixed bag. For the most part, the activity itself isn’t bad. It’s a progressive arena shooting bit, with a timer that doesn’t impact a whole bunch other than whether you get good drops or not? (I’m not really even sure about this because it’s very not obvious what it does. It’s not a fail state.)

Things warp in, shoot shoot, bang bang, run bounties, get a weekly challenge out of it or two, get a bunch of weapon drops, rinse, repeat.

Normally, a fairly inoffensive horde-style mode, which at this point is generally what we are getting out of seasonal stuff (cf. Menagerie, Forges, probably Sundial). It gives a rather generous number of random roll drops, which is good and gives you a chance to find a roll you like from grinding out the weeklies for drops. The mechanics of the encounters are fairly easy to grasp.

I think Vex Offensive is a very good start for the type of seasonal activities we’ll be seeing that come and then go after each block of time.

There are some problems here, and they are more issues with the current design philosophy of Destiny rather than the activity itself:

Almost every bounty and triumph connected to the mode requires you to be an active jerk to your teammates.

This is now a rather frequent problem Destiny as a whole. It forces you into matchmade team activities, and then gives you objectives to complete that push you into doing things that take away from your teammates’ ability to accomplish exactly those same things. Bounties and triumphs requiring “final blows” instead of participating in defeats of enemies with assists mean you’re competing with others in what’s ostensibly a cooperative mode.

The only real way to progress on these goals is to go Peak Titan and charge ahead of all of your teammates, grabbing the glory for yourself. It’s enormously frustrating, and for more friendly players who might otherwise enjoy the game and the cooperative nature of these activities, is a huge drain on enjoyment.

Because of Champions, a team can drop into Vex Offensive that doesn’t have a realistic chance of completing it well.

The Champion mechanic is a new one introduced with Shadowkeep. In Vex Offensive, the two enemy types requiring specific weapons or mods to defeat efficiently are Barrier and Overload “Champions.” You can outdamage or stagger these enemies and circumvent the weapon mechanic, but for a team of random players to have a reasonable chance at a good run, the team should have a distribution of both anti-Barrier and anti-Overload weapons equipped.

The simple problem is that many players just don’t pay attention to this. Whether it’s because they are trying to complete triumphs that require specific weapons, some classes of which can’t even equip the necessary mods, or because they are ignorant or unbothered by the mechanic itself, I know of many runs where only one or two of us were doing all of the work against the champions, which then slows down the activity entirely. The game doesn’t prevent you from loading in without equipping the tools necessary to have the best chance at a good completion.

The annoying thing here is that I believe Champions are an overall positive addition to the game, especially in things like the raid and the Nightfall strikes. They add a layer of tactical complication that makes previously rote sections of content more interesting in terms of the weapons you choose and how you construct a team, but they appear to be mystifying matchmade teammates in many activities.

Destiny 2 needs more prescriptive instructions to players that teach them how to play the game “properly.” Especially with the entrance fee to Destiny now being free-to-play, I believe there are many players in the game today that don’t understand many of its basic mechanics. More tutorial content—or better yet, less inscrutable information in-game—would go a long way to making activities less annoying to run.

Iron Banner

I mostly had fun in Iron Banner this season, but then again, I usually have fun in Iron Banner. Power Level matters, but it’s not insurmountable, grouping is advantageous so I enjoy running it with my friends and clanmates, and it provides an excuse to run around with dumb weapons in PvP and escape the PvE grinds for a while.

If I’m going to PvP, I generally prefer that PvP to be Iron Banner.

The armor was a new set that rolled pretty high stat packages most of the time, and reputation packages from Saladin had a decent chance at dropping Enhanced versions of armor mods, which gives a greater number of players access to these without having to play competitive PvP or high-level non-matchmade activities. This was good.

The weapons were the same ones we’ve been using for over a year, so not super-exciting. They could definitely use a refresh.

Even the bounties for pinnacle gear were halfway decent. One required final blows, one required assists, one required zone captures, and one required ability kills (more on this one in a second). Most players are capable of completing two of these given a decent amount of time in the mode, and a decent number of others probably capable of nabbing three each Iron Banner. Two to four pieces of 950-960 gear three times in 10 weeks is pretty great.

The ability kills bounty should have been rotated out early in the season.

This was even a known problem! It was admitted that they were aware the bounty was causing trouble because the number of kills was very high (200), and the bounty was quite difficult to complete, especially for some classes that have poor supers, poor neutral game, or both.

The API indicates there are three more bounties available to be rotated in, none of which made an appearance in any of the Iron Banner weeks of Season 8. It would have been a great solution to rotate those bounties in once the problem was known and admitted. (Perhaps this is actually quite difficult to change without a risk of breaking things, in which case, OK.)

The “kickoff quest” for Iron Banner was too much.

For the first time, there was a quest that had steps necessary both to earn the Iron Banner armor for the first time for the season, and even to unlock the ability to turn in tokens for reputation drops. If you hadn’t completed the quest, you could do nothing with the Iron Banner Tokens you’d had drop from either wins or losses.

This was unfortunate, and I think a mistake. Here were the steps:

  • 10 zones capped, 30 opponents defeated, 3 Super final blows
  • 6 matches completed, 20 zones captured, 25 pulse rifle final blows
  • 20 fusion rifle final blows, 30 zones captured, 100 opponents defeated
  • 15 SMG final blows, 15 Super final blows, 40 zones captured
  • 50 zones captured, 15 matches completed, 10 grenade launcher final blows

(The fifth step was altered after the first Iron Banner of the season to remove the grenade launcher step due to a bug.)

Here again, we see the ugly monster of “final blows” rearing its head. Bungie, I love you, and I love Iron Banner, but please stop with this. There are many players who will gladly hop into Iron Banner for a chance at some drops and to chip away at some progress in things like assists bounties or capping points, but if they weren’t able to nab final blows, and in some cases with fairly technical weapons like fusion rifles, they were unable to claim even a single drop from the vendor.

If you want players to be in PvP and be cannon fodder for other players, or—better yet!—to learn how to PvP over time and maybe begin enjoying the mode, you have to give them something for their time. Making this multi-step quest the barrier to entry, and making it character-bound on top of it, is too much to ask of infrequent PvP players.

It will not move them to improve. It will instead drive them away from the mode and potentially the game.

Eriana’s Vow

This gun is amazing. It steps outside the weapon class and archetype, has one of the new anti-Champion aspects baked in, and hits like a truck. Has a great risk/reward profile for bringing it with you. More like this, please.

The quest for the catalyst was not amazing. It required ludicrous numbers of “ritual” event completions to complete the quest to even get the catalyst to drop, and then required you to get a bunch of kills with it to finally slot the catalyst.

I played hundreds of hours of Destiny over the last ten weeks, and I still don’t have this done.

Eververse and the Season Pass

I could write several thousand words on how Eververse is missing the boat, but I’ll save that for another time. I’m sure many of you are aware of its problems.

The season pass track was actually mostly well-done.

This is also very much a part of Shadowkeep and not the individual season, but I think they hit this one at about 80%. The ranks felt like they moved along quite a bit, it rewarded me for engaging with various kinds of content and especially bounties, and it was very doable to get it to 100 within the season. (I hit 150-ish.)

There are some things I’d definitely change about it:

Season pass engrams were rarely rewarding. They should have a very high chance or maybe even a guarantee of rolling with high stats or even specific high stats, to make them aspirational. Exotic engrams should never drop as a weapon, due to the new important of armor random rolls.

The mid-levels felt like they didn’t give me anything of note. There was a stretch from the mid-50s through around level 70 where the rewards were pretty much a wasteland. I wouldn’t take anything away from other levels, but if I’ve paid for the $10 season, I’d like to feel there are significant rewards along the way.

The seasonal armor drops were pointless. I was receiving drop after drop of these in the wild, usually with much better stats. Other than being a guarantee that I could check them off in my collections badge, dropping them from the season pass was not interesting.

The amount of Bright Dust given on the track was a complete joke, as were the BOYO 2 bright engrams. C’mon, Bungie. If you are going to reward me with in-game currency, the value should be at least what I have paid you for the season, to encourage me to grind at it and get my value back out of it. A few hundred Bright Dust is insulting. The Best of Year 2 engrams every five levels were probably much better for players new to the game, but I already owned everything in them, so there were very wasted on my account. I’m interested to see what next season’s bright engram is.

A bunch of this gets down to core problems with Eververse as it stands right now. Some brief thoughts on that for now:

The amount of design work going into Eververse while in-game sources of gear go untouched or “reprised” is a really bad look. I get that Bungie needs microtransaction income to pay their employees and grow at this point, and I don’t really have a problem with some cosmetic things being pay-only, but the disparity and the level of detail going into one versus the other is really bad.

The Bright Dust economy is now pathetic. In previous seasons, if we worked fairly hard, we could nab just about anything from the in-game store we wanted, whether with Bright Dust or with bright engrams. Now, you’d never be able to earn even a quarter of what’s available cosmetically in a given season, even if you did nothing but grind out bounties that provide the currency. Weekly bounties provide 200 each, and repeatable mini-bounties provide 10. Even bumping this to 500 and 50, or raising the chances of receiving Bright Dust in a bright engram, would go a long way.

Bungie touched on this in this past week’s blog update, and now more of the Eververse inventory will be making it out as Bright Dust purchases: 80% or so rather than 50%.

What if they took that extra 30% and channeled it into in-game accomplishments, rewarding you for doing grindy or challenging things with a cosmetic thing? I’d much rather see that.

Ritual Weapons

Bungie got tired of Pinnacle Weapons ruling pretty much every mode, which was absolutely happening due to the unique traits of those weapons, so now, we have Ritual Weapons instead. Each is still a unique weapon you can only get from a specific quest, but they’re no longer creating special perks that can only roll on those guns.

What I didn’t expect is that these weapons were—in at least one case—even harder to acquire than the Pinnacle Weapons they replaced.

I think it’s still kind of amazing that even with ditching the overpowered Pinnacle weapon system, the Crucible gun and quest were still the most ridiculous of them all, though this time, I don’t think the Crucible one was the best PvE weapon for a change, as that honor probably goes to Exit Strategy from Gambit.

All three weapons are pretty decent. Edgewise is another high ROF machine gun in an element we didn’t have for add clear, and Exit Strategy has a pretty great perk selection for any SMG not named “The Recluse.”

Holy cow, though, y’all – Randy’s Throwing Knife had a steep quest. And it’s one of the best weapons in its class. Again.

Randy’s Throwing Knife—if you can hit your critical hits with it—is a beast of a weapon that has no peer in its archetype. It also has one of the better flavor text selections of the past year.

BUT the Randy’s quest was just beyond what it needed to be or should have been. 450 final blows with a scout is something that we essentially needed Momentum Control as a game mode to complete in a lot of cases, and the medals/kills requirement was yet another “percentage-based” one where medals counted, but not all medals, and not all medals that did counted for the same amount

Exit Strategy had a lot of the same problems. I ground that one out this past week, and some post-match medals didn’t count at all. I had more than once match where I was certain I was done, but yet another match waited for me to complete it.

In the future, when quests have “percentage” completion bars, it’d be really nice to have a guide somewhere that tells us what counts for how much progress.

The guesswork necessary to complete these things efficiently is a huge part of the frustration with them.

Undying

Look: I ground out Undying this season, but I would not recommend it for most people. On the surface, the first time I looked at it early in the season, my reaction was “this isn’t that bad, and I think most people should be able to complete it.”

I am less than happy to admit that I was very wrong concerning this point.

The Vex Offensive portions of it weren’t horrible. I thought they’d be the worst, but other than what I mentioned above regarding having to step in front of teammates (and that’s a big “other than”), those bits were very doable with enough time spent in the mode.

The same thing applies to the Moon-related ones for just doing stuff using specific element-based classes. Grenade kills? Melee kills? Super kills? Can do.

In the end, the unreasonable bits for Undying came down to a single triumph:

The Collections badge.

To complete the Collections badge for the season, you needed:

  • the ship that drops from completing a 980-difficulty Ordeal Nightfall,
  • all three steps from all three ritual activity seasonal quests (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit),
  • the exotic quest for the season,
  • all three ritual weapon quests completed (see above), and
  • every weapon and armor piece that can drop from Vex Offensive.

This was a lot of work, and worse yet, not completable as a solo player. (The 980 Nightfall and some aspects of the Strikes seasonal quest spoil it.)

I just looked up the badge on BrayTech, and was astounded to find that the lowest completion rate in their records is actually for the Strikes seasonal quest, which I can agree was a horrible slog. You can only receive strike scoring for Nightfalls, and the only way to get those done without having to get a group together—for most players—is to run the Ordeal version of the Nightfall, so this past week, my son and I ran Savathun’s Song something like seven or eight times in a row.

It was mind-numbing and the second worst part of getting the title. (The worst was getting the medals in Gambit for Exit Strategy, which took about double the time I wanted.)

This was the first “seasonal” title that required players to engage with all three “ritual” activities in large amounts.

I’m not sure what I think about this, especially given that each of those grinds required a certain amount of proficiency to complete. Personally, I prefer seals and accomplishments that are grinds proficient people can complete somewhat quickly, but determined or dedicated people can complete with a lot of effort.

In this case, Undying was only really completable by proficient people who also had a lot of time to grind at things, and that strikes me as the wrong way to go about it.

I’d like to see future seasonal seals focus more on that season’s unique activity, rather than forcing us into ritual activities that we may not wish to engage with.

That way, if the seasonal thing isn’t my bag, I can just nope out of it early and not bother with the seal. If I really enjoy it, or it’s significant to me, it gives me something long-tail to strive for before the season is over.

As it stands, this season, I spent more time in ritual activities grinding away at the same strikes, the same Crucible maps, and the same Gambit matches I’ve been running for over a year, instead of engaging with anything new or unique to the season.

This doesn’t feel like an effective use of the concept.

Closing Thoughts

I’m mostly looking forward to seeing what Season 9 has in store for us starting tomorrow. Season 8 was a decent first attempt: some solid core ideas, with portions of execution I found wanting.

I didn’t think it was a home run of a content slice, but I also didn’t think it was a complete disaster. It’s weird to have an activity in-game that’s completely ending forever, and not taking up space in the Director for the rest of the life of the game. There’s a lot of potential here if Bungie can change course rapidly enough to respond to feedback.

It’s notable that Season 9 is scheduled to be three weeks longer than Season 8. It’s my hope that spacing things out a bit more will give the activities room to breathe, and not that we’ll be looking at even steeper grinds for the next quarter.

I’m hoping to get back into the practice of writing some guides for Season 9, and I’ll likely focus first on some suggestions for grinding the seasonal title. I’ll know more tomorrow when I get a look, and plan on publishing a guide to the patch notes sometime tomorrow afternoon as well.

As always, thanks for reading. See you out there.

Categories
Fails High Fives

Our Community Chased wundergeek Out, And Perhaps That Bears Reflection

(title borrowed contextually from this tweet)

I’m really sad about this. wundergeek is closing up her blog Go Make Me a Sandwich, from which I have learned quite a lot over the years about how the gaming (both video and traditional) industry treats women both in depictions and in (lack of) inclusiveness.

She writes:

Before Origins, I ended up crying in a bathroom as I chatted with friends online about the vitriolic response to a thing that I’d written. It made me doubt myself so much that I actually wondered if it would be worthwhile going to Origins. Would I even be welcome there? (Spoiler alert: I was.) Fast forward two months to a different crisis before a different convention, which saw me crying for more than a week in the runup to that convention. Truth is, I’ve done a lot of crying about my blog in the past year. But I didn’t let myself think about that, because I had to keep moving forward. I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I had to keep my head above water and just. Keep. Fighting.

Or at least that’s how I was approaching things until several weeks ago, when the final straw happened. As is the way with such things, it was so small. Such a quiet thing those most community insiders, even, probably missed. Really, it doesn’t even matter what the event was. What matters is that it represented a tipping point – the moment in which I finally had to confront the fact that I haven’t felt passionate about what I do here for a long, long time. And for most of this year, I’ve felt only resentment. That this stupid blog has cost me so much, and I feel trapped by it. A victim of my own success – forever tarnished by my connection to it, and yet dependent on the income it provides, that I require because of the damage it’s done to my reputation. (See what a vicious cycle that is?) The final straw made me realize that I don’t want to do this anymore, and indeed, that I was rapidly approaching a point where I couldn’t do it anymore.

Of course, this is made harder by the fact that I hate losing. And there will be people who will celebrate, people who call this a victory, which only intensifies my feelings of defeat. My feelings of weakness. I feel like I’m giving up, and it kills me because I’m competitive! I’m contrary! Telling me not to do a thing is enough to make me want to do the thing. I don’t give up on things and I hate losing. But in this situation, I have to accept that there is no winning play. No win condition. I’m one person at war with an entire culture, and there just aren’t enough people who give a damn, and I’m not willing to continue sacrificing my health and well-being on the altar of moral obligation. If this fight is so important, then let someone else fight it for a while.

There’s a lot more on the original post, which you should read, because it underlines in very stark detail what the problem is and how pervasive it is within gaming culture.

I could share a bunch here about how I’ve read it over the years, how it helped bring these things to my attention, or how proud I always was that it was on WordPress.com (NB: I work for the company that runs WordPress.com). But I won’t.

Nor will I say that she needs to keep going, keep fighting, because at the least she has realized that doing so is not a healthy option and is choosing to cut it out of her life to move forward in other things. We should support that.

What I will say is that as a community, we need to take a look at this, realize that people within our community have chased off yet another person who stepped up and said hey, something is wrong with what we are doing and how we treat people, and realize that when we see that kind of crap behavior, we need to call it out and condemn it for what it is.

Because the more this happens, the greater the chilling effect that stops other people from raising their voices and bringing unique viewpoints to the table.

And that harms us all.

Categories
Markel!

Shepard vs. Xzibit: The Mass Effect 3 Extended Cut

If you’ve read this blog over the past few months you no doubt ran headlong into my rather lengthy deconstruction of how Mass Effect 3 went off the rails story-wise in the last 30 minutes or so.

This week, BioWare released a 2 GB add-on for Mass Effect 3 that padded the ending of the game, adding a pretty significant amount of voice acting, cutscenes, and rearranged bits to the game. I ran through it myself and I certainly see what they did and how they filled in the gaps. There are indeed several questions I raised in my own review that have been answered by the updated ending, including:

  • Why the Normandy was getting out of Dodge at the end
  • How your team in the final mission in London ended up on the Normandy
  • How screwed (or not) the galaxy is after the events of the ending
  • A few other things here and there that were either poorly or simply not explained

Even with those, we’re still left with some other questions, and more importantly, something that’s been made significantly worse.

Let’s talk.

What BioWare Did Well

There was clearly a lot of effort put into this extension of the original ending. There is some pretty fantastic added voice acting that fits with the original tone and was (once again) expertly directed and acted. I think the VO studio at BioWare is the best in the business.

There is some additional dialogue (if my memory serves me correctly) during the conversation with the Illusive Man at the end that is well-placed and increases the desperation of the moment as well as providing some additional insight into TIM in his final moments. I still think TIM was a bit wasted in the end, but more is never a bad thing.

The new cutscenes, beth rendered and in-game, are as well-done as the rest, and there is an additional sense of closure after the Space Magic does its thing. Some added details and a few changes to the original cutscenes (like the shift in who appears when Shepard makes his run to the final decision) are well-placed and extremely thoughtful.

Sam Hulick outdid himself with the extensions on the music. “An End, Once and For All” remains one of the most directly tear-jerking and emotional pieces of music ever written for the medium and the added sequences don’t change that  bit even though they have to fill a lot more time.

I think some thanks are in order—regardless of what you think about what was changed or what we got—because if the tweets I have seen over the last few months are any indication, the Mass Effect team at BioWare poured serious amounts of overtime and love into this project. For that alone, and for the fact that they did anything at all, they deserve a pat on the back as I believe this situation is the first of its kind.

But now, let’s talk about the not-so-good of the Extended Cut.

Xzibit in Four Dimensions

After some distance from completing the game, I found that I really didn’t care too much about the actual endings because by that point they had already screwed up the narrative so much that it didn’t matter.

The real problem is the Catalyst.

Allow me to refresh your memory:

Remember that at the end of the game, after Shepard passes out at the Citadel control panel, he is carried up to the top of the citadel on the wings of angels using a magic elevator portion of the floor, where he meets the Catalyst, which was a ghostly apparition of the Child from the beginning of the game.

It wasn’t really clear in the original version who you were dealing with or what was going on, but it was presented as HERE’S THE REAL REASON PEOPLE ARE DYING, K and then after a very small amount of explanation you make the choice at the end.

Again, in my original critique, I said:

So a race of synthetics comes back every 50,000 years to kill a lot of organics so the organics won’t make synthetics that kill all the organics.

There’s a tiny bit of “yeah, OK, that kind of makes sense” in there, even though it’s a remarkably closed-minded and megalomaniacal viewpoint. At this point I want my Captain Sheridan Option to say “get the hell out of our galaxy”[…]

and later:

These choices are being handed to you by the very enemy that you are seeking to destroy. The Child says that he is in control of the Reapers. By this train of thought you should consider the child to be the most unreliable source of information possible. There is no narrative reason why you should trust a word the Child says. But that doesn’t appear to matter in this instance, as Shepard is just like “YEAH THAT’S COOL THANKS FOR THE INFO KID” as you trudge towards the ending of your choice.

I also hat-tipped the Indoctrination Theory in my post, and after the Extended Cut, I agree with Sophie Prell and think that BioWare missed an opportunity to utilize that idea of the ending and find the sweet spot.

So apparently the decision that was made was to add more exposition to the dialogues with the Child.

The problem with this is that they didn’t solve anything—they just made the narrative dissonance worse.

To the script! We get three new wheel options when responding to the Child at the end, just before the choices are revealed. They are, from top to bottom, Catalyst, Reapers, and Crucible. If you look at the script, there is a narrative flow to them if you go from top to bottom. So let’s do that.

Keep in mind our pal Xzibit up there. We’ll get back to him.

S: You said you’re the Catalyst, but… what are you?

C: A construct. A intelligence designed eons ago to solve a problem.

So we’re dealing with an AI of sorts. Which means the Catalyst is technically speaking a synthetic organism. OK.

C: I was created to bring balance, to be the catalyst for peace between organics and synthetics.

Hmmm… a synthetic life form was created to broker peace between organics and synthetics. Hope he’s not a hometown referee.

S: So you’re just an AI?

C: In as much as you are an animal. I embody the collective intelligence of all Reapers.

OK, so you are essentially the bad guys who have been trying to kill me for the last three games.

S: But you were created…

C: Correct.

S: By whom?

C: By ones who recognized that conflict would always arise between synthetics and organics.

So you mean some race who figured that their mistakes would be everybody’s mistakes. Closed-minded, and still doesn’t change the fact that I made peace happen without your help, but all right. Keep going.

C: I was first created to oversee the relations between synthetic and organic life… to establish a connection.

C: But our efforts always ended in conflict, so a new solution was required.

S: The Reapers?

C: Precisely.

Tell me more about these Reapers, young ghost boy.

S: Where did the Reapers come from? Did you create them?

C: My creators gave them form. I gave them function. They, in turn, give me purpose.

C: The Reapers are a synthetic representation of my creators.

Proving the Xzibit Logic as embodied above.

S: And what happened to your creators?

C: They became the first true Reaper. They did not approve, but it was the only solution.

So the creators of the Xzibit Logic were themselves the victims of their own, slightly different Xzibit Logic? It’s like the Xzibit Logic has somehow bent back in on itself and created like an Xzibit Logic Tesseract.

The thinking of the Xzibit race that created the Catalyst:

S: You said that before, but how do the Reapers solve anything?

C: Organics created synthetics to improve their own existence, but those improvements have limits.

C: To exceed those limits, synthetics must be allowed to evolve. They must, by definition, surpass their creators.

So this AI is far from impartial. It assumes that synthetics are always the more evolved form of life. Sounds like I should trust him with the fate of all things.

C: The result is conflict, destruction, chaos. It is inevitable.

C: Reapers harvest all life—organic and synthetic—preserving them before they are forever lost to this conflict.

At least now we know what will happen to the geth, though I seem to recall that at some point there was a statement that the Reapers would just destroy the geth, not harvest them.

S: We’re at war with the Reapers right now!

C: You may be in conflict with the Reapers, but they are not interested in war.

S: I find that hard to believe.

C: When fire burns, is it at war? Is it in conflict? Or is it simply doing what is what created to do?

C: We are no different.

C: We harvest your bodies, your knowledge, your creations. We preserve it to be reborn in the form of a new Reaper.

C: Like a cleansing fire, we restore balance.

C: New life, both organic and synthetic, can once again flourish.

So… you are going to take peace-loving civilizations, process them, turn them into paste, then put them into a really big synthetic body—ALL OF THIS AGAINST THEIR WILL—and make them kill others without any free will of their own until the end of time? Sounds like a fun time; bet you’re a hit at parties.

S: What do you know about the Crucible?

C: The device you refer to as the Crucible is little more than a power source.

C: However, in combination with the Citadel and the relays, it is capable of releasing tremendous amounts of energy throughout the galaxy.

C: It is crude, but effective and adaptive in its design.

S: Who designed it?

C: You would not know them, and there is not enough time to explain.

Translation: I need to hurry this conversation up before you have time to think about what I have been saying.

C: We first noted the concept for this device several cycles ago.

C: With each passing cycle, the design has no doubt evolved.

S: Why didn’t you stop it?

C: We believed the concept had been eradicated.

C: Clearly, organics are more resourceful than we realized.

Translation: UH OH we didn’t think you would get this far.

The last part about the Crucible isn’t nearly as interesting as it’s largely just “hey, this is the MacGuffin, just roll with it,” which I don’t have much of a problem with.

Unfortunately BioWare took the Child/Catalyst that made no sense and dropkicked you into the decision and turned him into Exposition Kid who does nothing but give you more reasons not to trust him! Before, it was just “I know all this and here’s what we’re about, it’s cool, just go along with the plan” and now it’s more “my creators were a bunch of idiots and I do nothing but follow my own twisted and self-righteous ideals, but, hey, it’s OK, what’s the worst thing that could happen?” (Read my previous post for more on why the Catalyst never made any sense in the first place.)

Narratively, if you think you can trust even a word the Catalyst says in the whole conversation, I would argue that you have a moral obligation to choose Destroy—even more than the last time. (Again, this is borne out IMO by the breath intake after the ending and also by the fact that it squares best with Indoctrination Theory.)

Unless you’re pure Renegade, in which case you should pick control and become Alpha Reaper, crushing all resistance beneath your iron… fist. Leg. Thing.

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“Journalistic Values”

Glen Greenwald for Salon.com regarding WaPo’s Ruth Marcus’s column on Emma Sullivan:

Behold the mind of the American journalist: Marcus — last seen in this space three years ago demanding that Bush officials be fully shielded from all accountability for their crimes (the ultimate expression of “respect for authority”) — wants everyone to learn and be guided by extreme deference to political officials and to humbly apologize when they offend those officials with harsh criticism. In other words, Marcus wants all young citizens to be trained to be employees of The Washington Post.

Reprehensible, and a prime indicator of what is wrong with the current state of American journalism.

IMO journalism should have more critique and more expression of opinion, not less. The best journalism I have ever read consists of sharply-written, impassioned words.