Games

The Loyalty Missions of 'Mass Effect 2' (Part 3)

You’re proving yourself as a leader and a lover.

This week I finally finish my look at the loyalty missions of Mass Effect 2 with Garrus, Jack, and Legion, as well as providing a few thoughts on how these missions play into potential romances.

Garrus

When we first meet Garrus, he’s fighting off three groups of mercenaries by himself. The rest of his team has been killed by a traitor, Sidonis, who then escapes, leaving Garrus alone in this tough situation. Of course, he gets out of it alive thanks to Shepard, but he feels personally responsible for the death of his squad and that guilt drives his desire for revenge.

Though perhaps “revenge” isn’t the best way to put it. Zaeed was driven by a selfish revenge, but Garrus is motivated by a strong sense of camaraderie. He doesn’t want revenge so much as he wants to avenge the death of his team. That camaraderie is everything to Garrus, he lives for his friends and teammates, so it makes sense that his loyalty mission would involve his old squad.

However, it’s also that camaraderie that ensures you can’t fail his mission. Like Tali, Garrus is already loyal to Shepard, which is why he returns to the Normandy even when so few others do. Because of this, he won’t suddenly lose faith in Shepard if we refuse to help him. He’ll still be loyal no matter what happens during his mission. Garrus may be highly motivated to kill Sidonis, but that need to avenge his past squad isn’t strong enough to compromise his loyalty to his current squad. This unresolved conflict is more of a distraction than anything else, like what Jacob faced, so getting rid of this distraction allows Garrus to place all of his attention on the suicide mission.

Jack

Jack joins our crew for one reason. When she was a kid, Cerberus experimented on her and other children until she escaped in a violent riot, and now she hopes to use Shepard’s connection to Cerberus to track down that lab and destroy it. She has no loyalty whatsoever to us or our mission.

During the actual loyalty mission, we learn that the entire facility revolved around Jack. The other children were experimented on in order to make sure that the tests weren’t too dangerous for her, and when the kids were made to fight, the scientists were focusing on analyzing Jack’s biotic powers. We learn that the other kids actually started the riot and that Jack escaped in the confusion, killing everybody as she ran. She’s upset by this revelation since it goes against her memory, but rather than let this inconsistency faze her, she remains determined to blow up the facility. The truth doesn’t matter to her. She wants closure, and for her, closure comes from action not knowledge.

Her approach to this problem displays a very binary view of the universe, one in which everything is categorized by what can kill her and what can help her. Any information beyond that is extraneous. Knowledge by itself is useless to her. That’s why she wants the info about the lab but doesn’t care about the reasons for the experiments. One piece of information leads her to action, the other doesn’t. But this closure doesn’t prepare her for death, rather our role in helping her proves that Shepard is someone she can rely on, and she wants to return the favor with her loyalty.

Legion

In my opinion, Legion’s loyalty mission is the most interesting simply because it gives us a rare, in-depth look at the geth. All other loyalty missions revolve around something that the character cares deeply about, but what do the geth care about? “Unity” seems the obvious answer, which is fitting considering their hive mind: A single geth is weak, but put many together and they share processing power, becoming smarter. For the geth, community isn’t some abstract concept of togetherness. It is a purely practical goal with a physical, measurable effect on their intelligence. However, this unity is only a means to an end. Survival is their ultimate goal, just as any other race pushed to the ragged edge, and the future of the geth comes down to a single choice.

We learn from Legion that the geth that we fought in Mass Effect are not representative of the entire species. Those geth are actually considered heretics that worship the Reapers, while other geth, like Legion, are more apathetic towards organic life. We also learn that these heretics are creating a virus that threatens all geth, and because of that, they must be destroyed or rewritten. Either we protect the geth by destroying a major threat or we strengthen them by rewriting the heretics to follow the others.

So you’re not really helping Legion accept its possible death (after all it exists as a part of a hive mind, so if this body dies, Legion doesn’t die). As a machine it has no emotions, so the idea that you can engender feelings of loyalty and trust in it are at odds with reality. This loyalty mission actually has more in common with Jacob’s or Garrus’s, missions in which the character is already loyal to begin with. Legion has a kind of practical trust in Shepard. It knows that they share an enemy and that they can work better together. Legion even leaves that major decision regarding the heretics up to Shepard because the geth cannot come to consensus and he’s fought the heretics before. Clearly it has some kind of trust in Shepard regardless of the outcome of the mission, and yet Legion is not a loyalist like Jacob or Garrus because you can lose its loyalty later in the game. When it and Tali get into a standoff, if you side with Tali, then it will no longer trust you in the same way. It’s only as loyal to you as you are to it.

Loyalty and Love

All the loyalty missions fall into two very general categories: missions with a focus on gaining the character’s trust and missions with a focus on solving a problem. The two overlap, of course, but I think that there are really just a select few that focus on trust: Miranda’s, Tali’s, and Jack’s. One could make an argument for those involving Jacob and Garrus as well, but I think those cases are different because you start with their trust and you can’t lose it. Miranda and Jack are doubtful of Shepard until we complete their loyalty missions to prove his trustworthiness, but after completing both missions, that trust is put to the test. When the two women get into a fight about Cerberus we have to pick a side: Miranda or Jack. Whoever we side with, we’ll validate her trust in Shepard, but for the other, our choice is a betrayal. In Tali’s case, she trusts Shepard to begin with, but we can lose that trust during her loyalty mission by admitting her father’s guilt. Then our loyalty is tested again when she gets into a standoff with Legion.

Trust is important to these characters. Jack has made it a point in life not to rely on others, Miranda is a very guarded individual, and Tali comes from a naturally tight knit culture. For them the issue of trust is about more than leadership, it involves their relationships in general. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that they’re all possible love interests for a male Shepard and that you can’t even start romancing them until after you complete their loyalty missions. In this way, their loyalty missions become the first step in a possible romance. You’re proving yourself as a leader and a lover.

It’s strange then that there isn’t a similar treatment towards Thane, Jacob, or Garrus, the love interests for a female Shepard. There are never any moments when their loyalty is in doubt, and you can’t actually fail their missions once you start them. Trust is never an issue, so overall, the men are easier to romance than the women. Though again, you can’t start romancing them until after you complete their loyalty missions.

For every character, the loyalty mission stands as the starting point of their relationship with Shepard. We learn a little about them beforehand, but only when we’ve gained their loyalty do the real dialogue options open up and we begin to learn details about their past and self. These missions are major events in these characters’ lives, and their reactions, whether thankful or angry, talkative or silent, show that.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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