To play or not to play Mass Effect 1.VII – Spectre

Captain Anderson: Congratulations, Commander.

(Archived video available here).

In this part, we will tie up a number of side quests, have a showdown with Fist, rescue Tali, bring her evidence to the council, and finally be awarded the title of Spectre.

Before moving the plot forward, we will take care of as much as possible in the Wards. First, we will oblige Chellick; we need to head to the markets in order to meet Jax, the krogan contact, and obtain the (illegal) mods from him. The interaction is interesting, because it allows to either follow’s Chellick’s instructions, or to attempt to personally interevene. However, the setup is a bit frustrating, as it involves a pointless trip to the markets, just to backtrack to C-Sec right afterwards. There is nothing else of interest in the lower markets for us to do, and this quest has enough pre-requirements (talking to Rita in Flux, talking to Jenna, heading over to Chellick) that using it as a hook to visiting this area is likely moot. Going back to the action, we decide to play this one by the book (interestingly, the paragon option would lead to us attempting to arrest Jax, in direct violation of our directives), and pay for the mods before heading back to Chellick; this last one is going to let us keep something as a reward for not messing up. The quest itself is finished now, but we nonetheless head over to Flux to check on the initial quest giver, to find her relieved but not exactly ecstatic about the resolution – an endearing, interesting wrinkle.

Rita: I haven’t had a decent tip since she got back.

On the way here, we also encounter Schells the salarian, who is trying to develop a machine that will predict outcomes at quasar machines; we politely refuse to help him with his cheating.

We now need to head over to the corridor connecting the Wards proper to the Presidium, only to intercept another signal source. This quest is aggravating because, unlike most others, hints to further locations are spelled out only in the quest log (as opposed to having someone mention a hint in-game), so they are easy to overlook. This particular step is the worst, because this map is only reachable through two long elevator rides, and has almost nothing of interest in it, making it easily forgettable.

Having take care of all the side-business we can in the Wards, it is now time to head back, again, to Chora’s Den. The club is closed and Fist appears to be waiting for us, so we will have to force our way in, in order to see him. The fight is not too hard, though we meet here our first enemy Krogan, and learn that they can regenerate their health when dropped (though there are a few powers that can prevent this second phase). On higher difficulties, soldier-class enemies make liberal use of their defensive abilities, which means we will often see their health bars go white, a sign they activated their immunity, giving them significant damage resistance. It’s an incredibly useful ability to have, and a very annoying one to fight against. Once we break Fist’s defenses, we get to interrogate him, and find out he has sent our Quarian into an ambush. Being paragons, we let him live, though that would not be an option if Wrex were in the active party, and really, he did warn us about his intensions. We are now on an very generous 5 minutes timer to find the ambush and stop it. A grateful Tali agrees to come with us and present her evidence to Udina and Anderson.

Tali’Zorah nar Rayya: Then I have a chance to repay you for saving my life. But not here. We need to go somewhere safe.

The evidence comes in the form of an audio recording, scrounged by Tali from a geth, of Saren commenting the events of Eden Prime with someone. The Reapers and the Conduit are also mentioned and discussed. A few things bother me here; one is the, partly inevitable, yet absurd coincidence of Tali managing to extract precisely this vital bit of information from the geth’s memory core; to me, this breaks my willing suspension of disbelief, because it is functionally the same as a deus-ex-machina. Second, there is a problem of timing, already discussed earlier in relation to the C-Sec investigation: nothing in the game hints at any delay in the action between the events of Eden Prime and those on the Citadel; Shepard apparently was unconscious for some 15 hours, and in that time the Normandy reached the Citadel; after that, the events have been happening in quick succession. Yet, this was enough time for Tali to find the geth, escape to the Citadel to find refuge, for Saren to find out and buy Fist, for the Shadow Broker to find that out and contract Wrex, for him to arrive at the Citadel, for C-Sec to conduct its enquiry, and so on and so forth. The desire to keep the flow of the plot tight, for the players to feel on a race against time clashes here with the timing of the elements underpinning the plot. Finally, I find grating just how quickly everyone present here seems to just… accept the Reapers as actually existing. The reaction by the council later – stunned disbelief – seems the more natural at this stage of the plot. Of course, Shepard himself has seen the Beacon’s vision, so his acceptance is justified, but that of everyone else, and especially Udina, a consummed no-nonsense politician, feels forced. Be that as it may, Udina decides this is enough evidence, we accept Tali as our latest party member (after a bit of species-insensitivity from Ashley), and before heading to a new Council hearing, we take care of some business on the Presidium.

First,we head over to the Elcor embassy and explain to Xeltan what was going on (I personally like how the Elcor slowly shambles away at the end of the dialogues, and while we as players never see him, we can hear his steps); on the way out of the embassies, we promise mister Bathia help in recovering the body of her wife (who was one of the marines killed on Eden Prime), but we will actually go through with it a bit later. Next, we track the signal source in Barla Von’s office (and he really should employ better security, given his profession), and then we finally reach the culprit, an AI which lives in some machinery here and is attempting to escape. The whole backstory is a bit lacklustre, so I don’t explore it in the video, but is available here. Since there cannot be a pacific solution to this situation, I proceed to bumble my way through the disarming sequence and take care of the AI before it takes care of us. This short side quest introduces the problem of organics against synthetics which is of vital importance in the setting: AIs are forbidden in Citadel space, after the Quarians created the Geth as labor and they retaliated driving them out of their homeworld (and into a nomadic lifestyle); in this possible world, it seems that organics and synthetics cannot co-exist, but must eventually come into conflict.

Signal Source: I am not naive, human. All organics must destroy or control synthetic life forms.

Only one more stop before advancing the plot, and that means heading back to meet the Consort. Being paragons, we get a gift of words (“… alone”) and a mysterious trinkets for our troubles. With the correct renegade answer – “that’s it?” – we could initiate a more intimate encounter; risqué in its conception, but rather discrete in its execution.

It is now time to wrap this long act up, and head to the Tower to listen to the Council hearing. Here, finally, our evidence convinces the Council to strip Saren of his Spectre status; in a very political resolution, all parts are left both happy and unhappy with the resolutions stemming from this decision: no fleets will be sent to protect the human colonies and hunt Saren, but Shepard will be inducted as the first human Spectre, with the task of bringing the fugitive to justice. This scene is well orchestrated: the different characteristics of the Council members are on display, the tension between their established order and humanity’s vital push for expansion, the political solution of making us Spectres – at the expenses of the player’s potential wish fulfillment no less! – all contribute to creating an interesting, vivid dialogue. The introductory speech is vibrant with buzzwords and high concepts, just as it should be. Overall, a very good way to wrap this act of the game up.

One thought on “To play or not to play Mass Effect 1.VII – Spectre

  1. Pingback: To play or not to play Mass Effect 1.VII – Spectre – Hamletic Tortoise

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