The Least Suicidal Suicide Mission Ever

Attacking the Collectors’ base in Mass Effect 2 is far from suicidal. If I have even a vague sense of what to do, it’s easy to keep everyone alive.

At the climax of Mass Effect 2, you lead your team in an attack on the Collectors’ base. This mission has been hyped up throughout the game as a crazy, dangerous, near impossible suicide mission. People can die, people will die, and it all depends on you.

My first time through this end game was a thrilling experience, knowing that my squad could die gave every fight a heightened tension. In that regard, Mass Effect 2 accomplished the very thing that most war games try and fail at, character development through conflict. I had bonded with these characters through firefights and missions, so I didn’t want anyone to die. I cared about all of them. However, none of that tension holds up a second time through the suicide mission because of how the mission is structured. If I have even a vague sense of what to do, it’s easy to keep everyone alive, and this supposedly dangerous mission ends up as the least suicidal suicide mission ever.

It begins with the loyalty missions. Every squad mate has a personal problem that must be dealt with before they’ll be ready to risk their lives for Commander Shepard. These are intimate missions that act as the central means of character development for the entire supporting cast, completing them successfully ensures that the squad mate is loyal to Shepard. Loyalty is important because whenever someone can die during the suicide mission it’s always the disloyal squad mate that dies first or that gets someone else killed. Completing everyone’s loyalty mission therefore gives you a major advantage because if everyone is loyal than everyone automatically survives as long as you make the correct decisions (more on that later).

Killing disloyal squad mates first, in any situation, is a bad idea from a narrative perspective because they’re precisely the people that I don’t care about. Since the loyalty missions are so important in developing characters, skipping one makes it hard for the player to get emotionally attached to that character. That death won’t have any serious impact because the player obviously wasn’t very close to the character. I care about saving the people I like, so if I don’t like someone and purposely skip their loyalty mission, when they die it won’t be depressing or dramatic, it’ll just be the death of a minor character that I was never very interested in to begin with. A death is only emotional if I care about who dies, so the loyal squad mates should always be the first to go in order to heighten dramatic tension.

Another major problem with the structure of the suicide missions is that the game uses specific decisions to decide who lives and dies, buying upgrades for the Normandy, choosing who will infiltrate through the vents, who will lead the fireteams, who will create a biotic shield, and who will hold the line in the end. There are right and wrong choices for each of these scenarios. Choose wrong and someone will die. The problem is that the answers never change, so once you know who’s best for the job that you assign to them, you can actually keep everyone alive even if half the team is disloyal. There’s no tension during a second playthrough.

Instead, these scenarios should be based on player skill. If we were timed, if we had to fight our way through the ship on a strict time limit similar to Dead Rising, or if we couldn’t revive any character that went down in battle, if who lived and died depended on what we did during combat itself, then it would have been far harder to keep everyone alive. This is supposed to be an epic suicide mission, so it should be hard no matter what playthrough I’m on. Basing survival on player skill would ensure that the difficulty remains consistent.

My favorite part of that final mission (and the most consistently intense part) is when Shepard has to hit switches to open a path for the vent specialist. If you take too long, the vents will overheat and the specialist will burn. Naturally the switches are surrounded by Collectors, so each firefight becomes a race against time. You’re given plenty of time on lower difficulty levels, but on "Insanity", the enemies are harder to kill and the time limit therefore seems shorter. In this one instance, the challenge of keeping a character alive actually scales with the difficulty.

“No One Left Behind” should have been the hardest Achievement to unlock considering how much the final mission is hyped up, but once you know what you’re doing, it’s actually quite easy. No one in your crew is actually suicidal, just because some people accept that they might die on a mission doesn’t make it a suicide mission, and the results speak for themselves. Attacking the Collectors’ base is far from suicidal. At least with Commander Shepard in charge.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

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

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.