Sunday, April 17, 2011

Commander Shepard: COSMIC BADASS

Your Critic's husband continued to roll his eyes at the way K. Shepard navigated her choices.  "You're so nice," he complained.  "You're always negotiating and diplomatic."

Well, yes.  Don't like it?  Go back to M. Shepard.

However, his criticism was silenced in one surprising, pivotal [SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS] moment: 

After traversing interstellar space in a terrible dune buggy and landing in the middle of the Presidium, we arrived in the Citadel Tower.  Here it was: the final confrontation with the arch-enemy we'd been chasing since the prologue.  Of course, we have to duke it out one more time verbally before we get to the boss fight.  But there were an awful lot of charm (blue) and intimidate (red) options.  And through a masterful application of both... I convinced Saren to kill himself.  That's right: boss fight entirely averted, purely through dialogue.

I certainly didn't see that one coming!  I also got +25 Renegade points for it, which shut up Your Critic's critic for a while.  He'd actually had to do the gunslinging for that one on his play-through, and didn't know that victory (such as it is) through negotiation was even possible.

As it turns out, I've gotten very attached to K. Shepard.  Everyone's talk about "my Shepard" makes sense, because, well -- she's Commander Shepard, Cosmic Badass!  Let there be no argument!  She is just that good!  I'm ready to save the galaxy from Reapers, bring it ME2!

But then... there was this.

You know what that trailer is?  That trailer is boring.  That trailer is generic and could be for almost anything.  Woohoo, stereotypical-looking boring white dude with boring voice leads plucky group of whoever to do whatever and makes out with a good-looking woman along the way.  YAWN.

Thank goodness for this version:

Truth be told, though, I'd have been happier overall if none of the marketing materials focused on Shepard that way.  President Bartlett there in his voice-over could have said, "one person," rather than "one man."  They could have continued to focus more on the threat, the ship, and other characters.  (I might have cheered when I saw Garrus.  Turns out I like him.)

I love how the game feels with a female Shepard -- and it's a pretty universal opinion that for ME1 at least, Jennifer Hale did the far superior voice acting job.  It frustrates me to no end that EA / BioWare feel compelled to put in all of their advertising a boring, generic, seen-him-before space marine dude.  That's selling both the game and the audience short.


  1. I'm in complete agreement. I don't understand why it's so hard to advertise both versions of Shepard. Wouldn't advertising a player-defined character be good for business? I always thought BioWare would do better with an ad campaign that featured fans and their Shepards. Each fan could say something like, "I'm Commander Shepard," and at the end, you could have a huge shot of all of them, and some slogan like "You Choose" or something like that. It seems odd for them, since in many ways, they are very progressive. None of their ad campaigns for games where you can choose the gender of your character include women. :(

  2. If they could do multiple boxes for Warcraft 3, it would seem to have been a no-brainer to have two different boxes for Mass Effect 2, since they put so much effort into recording so much dialogue twice. It's not THAT huge an expense to simply make another cover shot, with different supporting characters, and you would easily get the superfans buying multiple copies or people hunting down and paying more for the box art they preferred.

    As far as a bad promo, I'm not sure what promo they could have done that wouldn't have sold the game short, since it's actually a much better game. Most of the time the promos make the game look better than it is, which is why I never bother watching them, or just about any game promotion material.

  3. Yes, something like that Call of Duty: Black Ops ad with Kobe etc.

  4. I remember a commercial (and I remember actually seeing it on TV) that aired -- it focused on a Krogan basically saying, "Yeah, I follow Shepard, and here's why."

    I think a series of companion / Council / Alliance / enemy spots like that -- "here's why I follow / want to kill Shepard" -- are sufficient. And the ME3 teaser trailer (with London being decimated) was in the same vein. It feels like a disappointment that they'd depart from that to Generic R Us.

  5. Dude. That is an awesome ending.

  6. So for the record, this comment e-mail popped up in the corner of my PC at the exact instant that the premiere episode of Game of Thrones concluded and cut to credits. Some timing, haha.

  7. Yeah, I wasn't sure whether Saren or myself was more surprised when I talked him into killing himself.

  8. I hate you.

    I say that in the most loving, internet friendly way.

    /envy off.

  9. Yeah, I didn't expect that actually to work. I just thought it was the drama before the fight, like on Virmire or in every action movie ever. That I side-stepped the fight altogether left me sitting there at the PC, momentarily slack-jawed.

  10. Annnnd people are emailing me this morning asking if I saw it. This is going to be the longest wait for DVD ever.

  11. It also twists his character in a fascinating way full of all kinds of body horror. Saren makes his Faustian pact in order to save the galaxy and slowly begins to realize the implications of his bargain and yet he is no longer able to reverse what has been done. He goes from being an Iago-level professional jerkwad to awfully tragic and sympathetic.

    In Dragon Age: Origins, you could find evidence of the other starting characters as you went through--without Duncan's arrival (and without the benefit of being a PC), the other 5 proto-characters are killed. Saren feels like that: a Renegade Spectre who didn't have the requisite plot armor to avoid falling off the deep end.

    Then again, I played both of my cosmic badasses as Bart Mancusos. The only reason I didn't unequivocally preferred FemShep was I could never get her face to not look goofy (they didn't hire a model for the mapping, unlike DudeShep). The more powerful customization in ME2 should fix that. I guess that means I'm shallow?