To: Bioware, From: Your Stepson

In: Uncategorized by David LaMont

9 Jun 2009

sheppardWhen you’re a toddler, there’s nobody bigger than your dad. He towers above you, glowers in a scary way when he’s angry, but he can pick you up and toss you so high you feel like Superman. To you, he is immortal. To you, he is infallible. To you, he is the greatest human being ever created.

One of the first steps of growing up is realizing that he is really not any of those things because one of the tenets of life is: Nobody’s perfect.

It could be a bitter pill to swallow, but it is a necessary one, and if you’re lucky, you figure it out in your early teenage years rather than visiting your dying father in a hospital bed.

I’ve been gaming for nearly 30 years, my father is Ralph Baer. Unlike life, with gaming, you could wind up with a ton of stepdads, like Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, Tim Schafer, Ken Levine, and of course, Bioware.

Bioware is the latest and to my mind greatest stepdad a gamer could ask for. Beautiful looking games, fun to play, well plotted, all around the greatest gaming developer ever created.

Until last night.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still Bioware’s bitch, but I do think that giving yourself over to any game company puts you into fanboy territory. I have voiced my disdain for these types of individuals on more than one occasion, and I always found it funny that no one ever called me on my irrational love of Bioware.

Perhaps most people agreed. Perhaps I’ve demonstrated that I don’t completely give Bioware a pass. Either way, I’m here to deconstruct my stepdad a little bit, simply because I noticed something quite distressing while playing Mass Effect last night.

A plot hole.

The unfortunate thing is that Bioware prides itself on its plots, so it was a bit of a shock realizing that the central plot of Mass Effect is flawed. It is because of my love of Bioware that it took me two years to figure it out, even though it is glaring and obvious.

In case you’re wondering, that was your Mass Effect spoiler warning. FULL spoilers ahead.

I’m not kidding.

Really, this is your last chance.

Okay, this is your last chance.

You’ve been warned.

Let’s start with Presidium early in the game. Eden Prime has just been attacked, Saren assassinated Nilius with only one unreliable witness. Humanity has failed to find any solid evidence to support Saren is working with the Geth, so your first task is to find that evidence.

This leads you to Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, a Quarian whose race originally built the Geth long ago. She is attempting to barter information about Saren with the Shadow Broker and is picked up by Shepard when the deal goes bad. (The Shadow Broker is an information gatherer, we learn nothing more about it in Mass Effect other than he or she exists.)

Tali, as she likes to be called, then lets us listen to her surveillance tape of Saren and Lady Benezia, an Asari matriarch, and it went something like this:

Saren: Eden Prime was a major victory, we’re one step closer to the Conduit.

Benezia: And one step closer to the return of the Reapers.

This information was obtained from a disabled Geth whose memory unit hadn’t completely been destroyed; now let’s break this down, shall we?

Tali found a Geth whose memory unit hadn’t been destroyed. Said Geth’s destruction was recent enough that it occurred after the battle on Eden Prime and before the Normandy arrived on the Citadel. (Easily explained, Shepard had been unconscious for days, Tali could have found or personally disabled a Geth in that time.)

Tali finds the information and comes to the Citadel to try to broker the information. (We’re not made clear as to motivation, but I’m giving this a pass simply because it may payoff in her character later in the series. It is also possible she was seeking Saren as part of her pilgrimage.)

Because the Geth are part of a neural network, the disabled Geth didn’t have to actually witness the exchange.

As to the conversation itself, this is where the first fail occurs.

If this had been a recording of the characters speaking over subspace relay, the structure of the conversation could easily be explained, however it was established that shortly after Eden Prime Saren was on Sovereign when Benezia personally came to tell him that a human may have used the beacon before its destruction. This implies that Benezia was on Sovereign when the attack on Eden Prime occured — meaning the entire conversation is pointless.

Why would Saren have to say something to Benezia that she witnessed first hand? It’s a decent chink in the armor of the plot. It’s not a killer by any means, I’m sure someone can come up with an explanation that may fit, but right now I can’t find it.

You want my hunch? During the early days of Bioware showing off Mass Effect, there was a scene where Shepard manhandles a bartender at Flux, and this bartender sends him to an Asari who gives information about the Reapers. I can only assume that the investigation into Saren was originally supposed to take longer and due to time constraints had to be shortened.

In the gaming business that’s not too unreasonable an explanation. It’s a ham-fisted way of doing things, but a decent compromise to get the game shipped on time.

The problem of course is, once I saw one tiny flaw in my stepdad, I had to wonder if there were more.

Yes, there are, and it’s a big one.

Saren seeks the Prothean Conduit, which is assumed to be a weapon but is actually a miniature Mass Relay that, in this case, allows travel from Ilos to the Citadel. Saren wants to use the Conduit to infiltrate the Citadel and start the process that turns the Citadel into a Mass Relay to let the Reapers into this universe and begin the purge again.

However, at the start of the game, Saren is a Spectre who answers only to the council and gets carte blanche wherever he travels. He is also resourceful and cunning, yet his best idea to activate the Citadel is to go on a quest that could be discovered. This seems very out of character, and while you could argue that Saren’s partial indoctrination with Sovereign could have affected his judgment, that would only then serve to show that Reapers are idiots.

Consider the end of the game: Saren gets into the Citadel, makes it to the tower, meanwhile a Geth fleet, led by Sovereign, has begun an attack on the Citadel defense forces. Sovereign itself smashes through those defenses like a bear fighting gnats and makes it to the center of the Citadel to join with it when Saren hits the switch and closes the arms around it.

Considering that originally the Keepers did this, why did Saren need the Conduit?

He’s a Spectre, he could have just gone to the tower after hours on “Spectre business” and activated it while Sovereign and the Geth came into Citadel space. No one would have been the wiser until it was too late.

He didn’t need the Geth army to back him inside the Citadel, because again, he was going after hours when the guards are low, using his Spectre status to push his way in. The whole quest, and by that extension the whole game, is pointless.

You could argue that since Saren was trying to find ways of fighting indoctrination, he was also trying to delay the Reapers return. Hence the big ol’ quest, but that also fails because Sovereign should have easily seen through his explanation for the necessity of the Conduit.

Another argument could be made that he wanted to find the Conduit to destroy it so it couldn’t be used again, but this is something he could have done after the Reapers returned.

The only real argument you can make is that he didn’t know what the Conduit actually was and was looking into it to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with the Reapers return. This would be a rational and plausible explanation, but the game offers no real insight into it. There is no moment in the game that fully explains Saren’s motivation with finding the Conduit, instead Saren makes his task increasingly difficult in his quest to find it.

This diminishes both Saren’s character and the threat of the Reapers if they can so easily be distracted by something that, in the end, will have no bearing on the results they seek.

Maybe I’m missing an angle, or perhaps a bit of dialogue that would have explained away this rather large discrepancy, but as of right now this is what I see. I’m rather sad about this bit of knowledge, because it is a plot hole, and it invalidates the entire reason to play the game.

Perhaps I’m being too picky, and should just enjoy the big picture rather than point out when the headstones move, but plot is one of my favorite parts of gaming, and it is one of the reasons I gravitate toward Bioware.

Take that away, and what I’m left with is a fun but flawed game.

Of course I still love the game, the characters are really well fleshed out, as is the universe they inhabit. I love the combat and the missions, and I was genuinely crushed when one of my decisions led to a death, so of course I’m on board for Mass Effect 2

But this flaw is a good way of keeping me grounded, it’s also a good way of letting Bioware know that we’re watching them and we won’t be taken for fools.

A father, as I well know, just wants to be the best he can for his child. It’s something I never understood till I heard my son cry for the first time. I have no doubts Bioware wants to be the best, but, like a father, they are human and make mistakes. We as gamers need to hold them up to their mistakes so they don’t make it again, just as my son holds me up to mine.

I still love you very much, stepdad Bioware, but I’m a little bit skeptical about you.

Prove me wrong, please. Make it right this time.


Share the GameHounds love:
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Fark
  • N4G
  • Twitter

45 Responses to To: Bioware, From: Your Stepson


George Ettinger

June 9th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

though it’s been a little while since I played the last chapters of Mass Effect, if I recall, the implication was that, once the conduit was used, it would open access to generally unavailable areas of the Citadel.

As ME’s plot describes it, all the Reaper/Prothean technology such as the Citadel was developed blackbox-style, with minimal access available and no maintenance required so that the races using it would both rely on it and yet remain ignorant as to its functions and processes. The implication I took from Vigil’s rambling was that the conduit was a ‘back door’ into central areas of the citadel where only the keepers could otherwise go.

Mind you, that is how it was described, but that doesn’t hold up because the Mako comes flying out of the relay statue right on the presidium.

If we assume that was just for dramatic effect (after all, relays send you somewhere, they don’t have landing strips or whichever to determine the destination exactly,) its fair to think that Saren, who went through it first, emerged in some dark hidden corridor where he found what he was searching for.

BTW Hawkes, you read any of the Mass Effect books? They’re pretty solid, actually.


Cat / carocat

June 9th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

It’s been a while since I played it, so forgive me if I’m missing something.


This implies that Benezia was on Sovereign when the attack on Eden Prime occured — meaning the entire conversation is pointless.

Does it really? Could she have not just read the signs, felt a disturbance in the force, overheard someone talk about it? Or maybe she’s got spies in the C-sec or the Council or the Broker passed that info on to her?


I think your second part can be explained with what we don’t know. We don’t know what happened to Saren between Revelation and the game and it’s 20 years.

I vaguely remember something Wrex said about him and Saren and some Mercenary freighter and how Saren was acting strange at that point already. He was a man possessed ever since he came across the research from the doc in Revelation. Sure, Sovereign kicks in a bit later, but overall it must have still been like the Dark Side [another SW reference, sorry] completely engrossing his character not allowing him to think about Spectre stuff any more.

As for the conduit, my memory’s too hazy on that, but I’m sure there’s a good reason for it. Perhaps he only realised on Ilos that the Conduit was actually pointless and was under the impression up to then that it was an important point.

Perhaps Sovereign sent him there and there’s more to it which we’ll find out in future games?


Cooper Hawkes

June 9th, 2009 at 2:00 pm


GEORGE! Long time no see, how are you!?!?

To respond: Your explanation COULD work, they certainly mentioned that there were areas of the Citadel that only the Keepers could access, but there was no indication that the use of the Conduit would suddenly open these areas. Also, with Saren working WITH a Reaper, couldn’t it have told him where he needed to go and how to access the hidden areas?

With regards to the books: Read them both, loved them both, can’t wait for ME 2! I wanna know who the Illusive Man is.. :)


Thanks for responding! With regards to part 1: I don’t believe so. Saren was on Eden Prime, told the Geth to set the charges then left. When we see them again, Benezia is walking onto Sovereign’s bridge (Establishing shot showing Sovereign) informing him that the beacon may have been used by a human. I guess it could imply that the conversation recorded occured BEFORE that, but the dialogue still felt clunky and could have been written better.

Part 2: I hope your right, that they flesh out some of the motivation behind it, it would make it easier to digest, but I get the feeling that’s not going to happen. Even if it was indoctrination, it still doesn’t explain why Sovereign wouldn’t have simply ordered him to the Citadel and into the hidden areas to activate what it needed.

Keep the comments coming, I love a good debate!



June 9th, 2009 at 3:05 pm

I think it’s great to see this level of criticism and scrutiny of a game. Too often, publishers and developers try to get away with levels of writing quality and plot coherence that wouldn’t even make a good mindless summer action flick. “Well, this game is really about the multiplayer experience” is a cop-out which covers a multitude of sins, and even the few consistently-good storytellers (like Bioware) can stand to be reminded that there’s a market for a well-crafted experience that puts the characters and plot at center stage.

That said, I disagree about the dialog being out of place, though I certainly agree that it is on the clunky-forced-exposition side of “quality writing”.

Consider that it could have been an exchange in a longer, in-person dialog that got distributed over the Geth hivemind. Something like this:

Benezia – I think we should suspend the search for the Prothean Conduit until we find out what this human knows. He could be trouble.
Saren – Ridiculous! [Eden Prime was a major victory! We're one step closer to the Conduit.
Benezia - And one step closer to the return of the Reapers.] But until we know what the human learned from the Conduit on Eden Prime, we cannot be sure that our plans are safe!
Saren – Nobody will listen to a *human*. I’ll find him and kill him later — after we find the Conduit.
Benezia – What if the Council gets does listen? What if they get to the Conduit first, and use it to find the Reapers before they awaken?

Etc., etc. – End Boss and Penultimate End Boss argue over tactics in a stilted and stunningly expository way, while kicking it on the bridge of Sovereign. Some Geth overhears this debate, it gets copied out over the Gethwork, and Tali later finds a Geth with part of it stored in memory.

I am also in the camp that vaguely recalls the use of the “backdoor” ME relay being a necessary part of the Citadel’s activation, but I can’t say for sure. Currses, Hawkes, now I’m going to have to go back and finish my Renegade playthrough just to find out! :)


Jonathan Butler (Hunterchief117)

June 9th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

God damn Hawkes, you do know how to pick’em. Here is some rebuttal:

A. He did not know what the conduit was, or how it functioned in the return of the reapers, he just knew that he had to find it. I assume, that he was never told by sovereign, because sovereign did not want him to know everything in case the indoctrination failed, because he is so strong willed.

B. He never knew (no one knew) what the keepers were really built for, or what they were really doing on the citadel, other than keeping it working. Because of this he would not have known to “go in after hours” and flick the switch.

Those are just my thoughts, and I know they are not fully explained in the game…several things are not, but I leave that up to inference and future games…

Please by all means shoot them down, I love a good debate!


Jarvis Slacks

June 9th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

I actually thought of this once or twice, but never this deep. Nice work, Hawkes. I do think that it is a plot hole, but not nearly as epic enough to warrant the game being broken or unplayable. If anything, you showed how lazy the writing was in places. Still, I enjoy the fact that we can still debate and love a game that came out almost two years ago. That is the power of Mass Effect.


Jarvis Slacks

June 9th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

I actually thought of this once or twice, but never this deep. Nice work, Hawkes. I do think that it is a plot hole, but not nearly as epic enough to warrant the game being broken or unplayable. If anything, you showed how lazy the writing was in places. Still, I enjoy the fact that we can still debate and love a game that came out almost two years ago. That is the power of Mass Effect.


Tray D

June 9th, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I love the step dad reference. It really ties your article together. Great piece of writing brother!

Its always good to be skeptical about things, and the fact that you noticed this is great. Some times in games, movies or plays these holes are filled in with the atmosphere of the rest of the story, and can possibly add to the aura of the story. Having moments that people can debate over can bring back the excitement, and motivation to play the game again. Maybe thats the master plan of the wise ones at BioWare. ;)



June 9th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

We are also assuming the time goes buy as fast as it does in the game. Shepard was out for 15hrs. That was also the time it took to get to the Citadel because when he woke up they were there already. they also had to dock, meet the ambassador, arrange a meet with the council, meet Harkin, add some members, and go after Fisk to even get to Tali. Tali also could have been closer to the citadel than them and I haven’t even started on the elevators.

That seems like plenty of time to me for her to get the info off the MU, get to the citadel, and arrange a meet with the Shadow Broker


Maj malfunction

June 9th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Holy Shit!! George!!!


George Ettinger

June 9th, 2009 at 10:40 pm

@Maj malfunction



Cooper Hawkes

June 10th, 2009 at 2:41 am


Well that’s an excellent explanation for the first part of my plot hole issue! Not a whole conversation, just parts of it… That’s really smart.. About the only problem that remains is the delivery on the part of the actors made it seem like that was the entire conversation. I concede your point!!

Another thing occurred to me with regards to the second part, if the Prothean’s were able to replicate a Mass Relay to get INTO the Citadel, why bother even reprogramming the keepers, why not just implode the entire station? I’m sure scientists could have figured out a way if they can figure out how to reprogram keepers.

Excellent points though! Keep it up! And thanks!


A good thought, but Saren was well aware of the purpose of the Citadel, he even explained it to Shepard in an effort to get Shepard to join him. I’m reasonably sure he knew the function of the conduit as he had an army with him Ilos for the invasion of the Citadel. Both Sovereign and Saren were very arrogant, I don’t feel like Sovereign would have even considered that Saren would stray from indoctrination.

As for the second part, again, Sovereign could have easily told him what to do to save the trouble. In the 20 years since finding Sovereign and gathering the Geth he could have build a device to help him control the keepers, perhaps even break the programing done by the Protheans.

Thanks for bringing your opinion to the table!


I wouldn’t necessarily say lazy as much as necessary given time constraints, considering the richness of the galaxy and it’s characters, I can’t help but think we missed some items that would have fleshed out what I’m talking about.

Thanks for the kind words!!


I hope it is Bioware’s plans! :) Thanks for the props!


I have no complaints about Tali finding or disabling a Geth in the time between Eden Prime and the Citadel, it’s as you said, plenty of time for her to do so.

Thanks for writing!

Give me more!! :)



June 10th, 2009 at 2:48 am

The exact convasations you mention, I’m hazy on, as it was a while ago, but here are a few thoughts on the matters.

The protheans where metioned to have tampered with the keepers (stopping the “summon the reaper” signal or somthing) and hence the citidal.
It would make sense that said tampering would also block access to the required parts of the citidal. Therfore requiring the conduit or brute force for access.
If Saren where to start tampering with the Citidal systems I’m sure that there would be quite some oppersition, considering that even Shepard as a spectre as to scan them with a bit of subifuge.

Assuming that Sovereign is anything like most evil entities, I doubt it would have revealed all the info to Saren, and as it didn’t know what the conduit was, covering all the bases can’t be a bad plan

These poorly argued (and mostly rehashed from others) points I think help to paper over the main plot hole you discuss, but as for the Tali one, I’ll forgive one lapse in writing quality compared to the abundance of stela work in the game.

The Mako teleporting into the presidium made no sense, but it did look cool. Mabey they were given the Pothean access codes by that V.I.

However, the moron who wrote the controls and physics for the Mako should be locked in a room with Gary’s Mod, portal, and any vechical game that requires aiming, until he weeps for the travesty he has created.


Bioware: Ti ho amato ma… | Wiips360 _ Tutte le news sulle console next gen!

June 10th, 2009 at 2:50 am

[...] …ora non più…è quello che si apprende in una retrospettiva di un videogiocatore che ha amato alla follia Mass Effect…  “Bioware is the latest and to my mind greatest stepdad a gamer could ask for. Beautiful looking games, fun to play, well plotted, all around the greatest gaming developer ever created. Until last night” Volete scoprire il perchè? Andate QUI [...]



June 10th, 2009 at 3:17 am

I’m also a Bioware fan but I found Mass Effect got very boring – last half of the game felt like a chore.

I enjoyed KOTOR and Jade Empire much, much more than Mass Effect.

I’m hopeful about Mass Effect 2.



June 10th, 2009 at 3:39 am

At no stage could Saren just have walked up to the council chambers and used the computer terminal.

I mean, think about how hard the human abadassor hard to fight just to get an audience. The place would have been heavily secured, CSEC guards and the like.

Even Spectres with all their freedoms can’t do what they want, for example Shepard’s ship get locked down. So he couldn’t have just come in later, security forces never sleep, especially for something as important as the seat of galactic power.

No, Saren needed to get a small strikeforce onto the Citadel, to fight his way up to control pannel. I mean when you walk up the citadel tower, you can see evidence of some heavy destruction, pillars are knocked over, there’s fire everywhere. Sure you could blame the attack for the damage… but indoors? To that degree? It looks far worse than the outside of the tower did.

Granted, you can walk up there as Shepard without a reason, but for gameplay so liberties must be granted, Shepard wouldn’t be really walking around the Citadel throwing grenades at civilians as it is possible to do.


Gemini Ace

June 10th, 2009 at 4:04 am

I think you missed the point. That guy IS Keyser Soze!



June 10th, 2009 at 4:14 am

well, i played the first title and it was good untill you get to battle
i mean that the game is so cold and the grenades sucks
i also hope for louder weapons
and don’t tell me that in the future weapons will be weak and silent
let me control the Normandy( that will be very nice to do)
feature blood in the game just more blood
less boring dialog just make them more interesting
how about a futuristic rocket launcher
a better shooting system
better frame rate
better AI
bigger machines to fight
if they can make these things the game will absolutely be cool



June 10th, 2009 at 4:44 am

There’s gonna be plot holes in every story that’s as big as Mass Effect’s.. Sure, there may be plot holes, but in the end, would you rather the game lasted two hours and Saren just owned Shepard at the end?



June 10th, 2009 at 5:26 am

Hawkes….. just love man, just love

“ook into my eyes – you will see
What you mean to me
Search your heart – search your soul
And when you find me there you’ll search no more

Don’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
You can’t tell me it’s not worth dyin’ for
You know it’s true
Everything I do – I do it for you

Look into your heart – you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am – take my life
I would give it all – I would sacrifice ”


Barla Von

June 10th, 2009 at 6:04 am

If it’s plot-holes you want, what about this one:-

When Shepherd Goes to Eden Prime he watches a distress communication from the outpost showing Sovereign in the sky – but later when he reports this to the council they accuse him of dreaming or of being somehow influenced by Saren, and that they can’t be sure Sovereign even exists. Why not just show them the video of Sovereign right there in the sky?

The distress communication is completely ignored. What’s up, don’t they have recordable video in the future?

I played through ME six times and this one really bugged me every time.


george washington

June 10th, 2009 at 6:09 am

i think the dialog makes sense. they could of just eeb having a conversation over some tea. no big deal. it seemed a little forced, sure. but it was neccisary.

as for the conduit, thats a tough one. because the conduit was built by the actual protheans and not the reapers, sovereign wouldn’t of actually known what it was, therefor Saren would know either. they might of thought that it was more significant than it really was. idk. its an interesting little knot in the plotline, but still i dont think its serious enough to get our pantys in a bunch. and im sure it will never be answered at this point. id rather just ignore it and continue to enjoy a still fantastic game. ill bet if you kept digging you would find more little errors like that. but none of them are big enough to ruin the game, so maybe its best to just leave it alone.

all brilliant stories have flaws. like in starwars, how did darth vader know that padame had twins? he knew she was pregnant but he didnt know they were twins. and if he knew all along that leia was his daughter, wouldnt he have done something about it in the first movie when he had her captured and everything? or did he somehow only find out after the events of the second movie? seems unlikely. but im saying this because i just wanted to show how interesting plot errors are still very insignificant in the grand picture.


Anunaki 25

June 10th, 2009 at 6:39 am

It’s funny you bring these plot holes up, I was just discussing similiar things with my buddies. Mass Effect is an awesome game, but as good as it is it feels sterile , cold, and unforgiving as the space in which it’s set. I always took it as the geth module was damaged so an actual time and continuity(sp) of the conversation could be flawed.

I was also under the opinion that what Saren needed to access was only possiable through the conduit.

I also kind of thought a lot of the plot holes were do to time restraints and that the quests and conversations got cut and shortened but not fixed to make them totally coheisive.


Eric Jewett

June 10th, 2009 at 7:02 am

Hawkes, I love you, but you’re wrong.

I will say that while I was writing my Mass Effect guide for GameFAQs I listened to every last piece of dialogue in the game, so I can tell you that you aren’t missing some crucial nugget of information that would fill you in on these supposed plot holes. However, I have to disagree with your assessment that they even exist.

Let’s start with the “conversation” between Saren and Benezia. You are correct that Benezia was on the ship with Saren, so he would have no need to inform her that “Eden Prime was a major victory.” But read what they said again. It doesn’t sound at all like they’re talking to eachother, it sounds like they’re talking to a third party, perhaps even Sovereign itself. Your supposition that they are the only two people in the conversation isn’t justifiable based on the information we have. Once you assume that they are both informing another entity of their success the dialogue makes perfect sense.

I also don’t agree with your characterization of Saren. Eveything we know about him suggests that he is actually a coward. He blew up the refinery on Camala, he shot Nihlus in the back, and he makes every effort to avoid confronting Shepard directly. He has a reputation for “ruthless efficeincy,” but we’ve never actually seen him do anything particularly dangerous himself.

This is important, because you also underestimate how easy it would be for him to access the master control unit by himself. He is a Spectre, so he could probably get into the tower, but if he activated that platform that no one had every seen before, you’d better believe the C-Sec guards would start asking questions. The amount of time he needs to undue what was done by the scientists from Ilos is not insignificant, either. Eventually he’d have to start killing people, reinforcements would be called in, and he’d ultimately be gunned down. After all, we learn in the first twenty minutes of the game the Spectres aren’t invulnerable.

This is why he and Sovereign had been plotting to find another way to activate the relay to Dark Space, this search led them to information about the Conduit. It’s reasonable to assume that Saren–who had been allied with Sovereign for an indeterminate amount of time–knew exactly what the Conduit was at the start of the game, just not where to find it. We can be sure of this, because Shepard gets every piece of information Saren gets during the course of the game (the two beacons, the Cipher, the location of the Mu Relay). Therefore, Saren must have had prior knowledge about the Conduit in order to know to bring the strike force with him, and to coordinate his attack with Sovereign and the geth fleet. It’s obvious he’s been preparing for this assault for some time: In addition to allying with the geth, he also starts breeding a Krogan army. Let’s face it, the geth are slow and pretty easy to kill, but as Shepard remarks, a Krogan army would be almost unstoppable.

I can’t belive you would say this plan makes the Reapers look like idiots. It worked for the Achaeans! A back door onto the Citadel to sneak in your krogan and geth forces while your fleet distracts the defenders? It’s a pretty darn good plan that was only undone by Saren’s failure to take the threat posed by Shepard seriously.

Don’t get me wrong, Mass Effect is a heavily flawed game, but Drew did a good job with this one, and the examples you gave aren’t compelling enough to justify statements like “the whole quest, and by that extension the whole game, is pointless.”



June 10th, 2009 at 11:06 am

In regards to the last plothole. What if the Reapers needed more then one console activated on the Citadel? That would require Saren sneaking in at least a few Geth into the main area, which would be nearly impossible due to Citadel security. As for the recording plothole, maybe this conversation occured while Lady Benezia was on her way to Noveria, which should have occured a reasonably short time after Eden Prime.



June 10th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

If he could have just walked in and flipped the switch, then someone else could have just walked in and flipped it back off. Saren’s search for the Conduit was so that he could pop into the Citadel with a full force of Geth as a surprise attack, killing anyone who might have been able to turn off the process.



June 10th, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Great article and great debate.

I’d like to weigh in on the part about whether or not the relay to the citadel event was required…

When the Prothean scientists tampered with the Keepers, this apparently removed them from being controlled by the Reapers. Therefore, there was no way for Saren/Sovereign to open the relays to dark space without some other plan. It seems illogical that 1 Spectre could compromise the entire Citadel himself “after hours”. If an entire race of creatures was required to keep the thing going, then I just don’t see how that could ever happen, even with his clearance level.

I agree with the others above that taking a small army through the relay was a great plan to take the Citadel from within while the fleet was being distracted.

Now for something I haven’t seen mentioned yet…

Tell me if I’m wrong but… I believe Sovereign wanted to replace the Keepers with the Geth since they could be programmed and were combat-ready. If so, then this would further enhance the plausibility of Saren’s plan to relay into the citadel with a Geth army. He needed a strike force, AND they wanted to replace the Keepers with the Geth.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a perfect game before, but I don’t think that Drew missed something this big here. He is an excellent writer, and his books are quite good.


Sanzee Boy

June 10th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Dear God,

Thank for allowing me to live long enough to see this day–the day where I would finally meet someone who loves Mass Effect as much as I do. And he’s extremely witty too! Eek!

Move, Point, Click, Add URL to Favorites – (The disgruntled stepson of gaming websites. Also known as the mailman of gaming websites)



June 10th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I don’t remember all of the game, but I think AramZS has a point. Because it is the Citadel , there would be a good chance that there could be other Spectres there. Saran needed an army that couldn’t have gotten through security otherwise. C-sec had a sizable force itself. He would have needed more people if the process was long and he would have a prolonged fight.

The other thing I was thinking was about the way Sovereign might have worked. The normal procedure could have been to have the person it used to find the Conduit because it might not be guaranteed that they would have access to the Citadel on there own. It found a Spectre this time. In the past, or in the future, Spectres might not exist. So there is just a generic program to find the Conduit by any means.

But another thing I wondered about was the Keepers. Why are they never destroyed. It’s like the Reapers and the Keepers play a sick game where they build up the universe and then destroy it for fun.



June 10th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Wow, you’re the biggest loser ever.



June 10th, 2009 at 5:27 pm

I always thought finding the conduit was necessary to take control of the Citadel away from the keapers, who no longer responded to Sovereign’s commands.

I’m pretty sure Shepard was given an special access OSD from the sentient Prothean computer on Ilos, something Saren was probably also able to forcefully acquire himself.

The conduit was just a way to quickly get back to the Citadel and use the override commands.



June 10th, 2009 at 8:41 pm


Stories are supposed to be fun because you DONT KNOW WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN. Exploring every plothole (especially a story thats as grand as Mass Effect) will get you nowhere. Just enjoy the ride.



June 11th, 2009 at 2:28 am

Ok, all that’s fair enough, but here’s a glaringly obvious one that no one seems to have picked up. We all know that to explore a planet you descend in the shuttle/rover vehicle (sorry, can’t remember the name, Mako?). But here’s the thing, how does it actually get back up to the mothership again?
As far as I’m aware it’s never referred to and you never see it happening.

Answer me that if you dare!



June 11th, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Shit…. I need to buy Mass Effect. I have a feeling I missed out on something.



June 13th, 2009 at 7:36 am

I don’t know if anyone has considered this but…..there is a reason why sovereign would have wanted the Ilos conduit used. A pretty good one if you consider all the things that happened. What does Sovereign really know? He knows the Protheans somehow managed to alter the station’s inner workings, yes they could alter the station back to its original state presumably but the conduit is a loose end. A means by which future generations could do the exact same thing. I think the reason they went to Ilos was to find and destroy the conduit. They first were going to let the reapers through though.

Also, with all the Keepers running around, and Sovereigns new knowledge that the keepers don’t actually follow the reapers anymore, the conduit was the only way they could ensure a large force of geth could enter the citadel undetected, and keep the keepers from interfering with the activation of the relay.

As for how the Mako can get back up on the ship, if you read the info on frigates their the only class of warship small enough to descend into a planet’s atmosphere safely and land. Thats likely how its picked up.



June 13th, 2009 at 6:22 pm

The biggest problem I had with the game was that there was no way that Sheppard could have known that Saren was indeed, guilty, or even a suspect.

As a player, you see Saren kill Nihlus. Gee, you know. Does Sheppard? No. Does, he have any reason to so strongly, and ignorantly, claim before the most powerful people in the galaxy, that Saren was responsible? No. Does, he have any logical reason to believe that the Reapers are real? No.

The only reason this “plot” makes any sense at all is because Bioware spelled it all out to us, in their trailers and ads, before we even played the game! Ever wonder why they’d do that? It’s my humble opinion that it was the only way to make their game understandable to players and cover up the glaring plot holes.



June 20th, 2009 at 9:16 am

Now, I may be entirely wrong, but the Conduit was a Prothean creation after they realized the Reapers ran Citadel. It allowed them to covertly enter the Citadel and prevent the Reaper fleet from entering again. Presumably, Saren found out about this “Conduit” from Sovereign, who might have “interrogated” the Prothean remnant who made the suicide run to Citadel via the Conduit after waking up from stasis. Saren might have thought the Conduit itself was the problem preventing the Reapers return, only he found out that it was actually a convenient tool for getting the job done right.

Problem solved? Not really. But I suppose Sovereign needed info about the Citadel since the Keepers had betrayed him. Saren was the man for the job, and relying on organics was Sovereign’s downfall.



June 22nd, 2009 at 2:10 pm

They do explain why he tore Eden Prime apart instead of just sneaking in and discretely taking the beacon. They explain it the first 45 minutes of the game when Captain keeps talking about how he went all rediculous on the people during a mission they had done together. Blowing up a reactor core instead of just sneaking in and taking out the needed guards. He killed hundreds of civilians. He more than likely assumed he could do the same here. Explain it away and pretend he did the right thing to the coucil….them being the idiots they are, would believe him.


Things I’d like to see improved in Mass Effect 2 «

January 23rd, 2010 at 4:25 pm

[...] This. BioWare, please elaborate. This entry was written by Cat, posted on January 23, 2010 at 11:32 pm, filed under Bioware, Community and Games, Mass Effect, Xbox360. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Project365 week 2 – “The big freeze followed by the big thaw then some more snow followed by rain. What’s going on?” [...]



January 25th, 2010 at 10:20 am

Hello!! kinda late to the party but I did just complete my second playthrough of ME (although you wouldn’t know it since I got screwed out of a lot of acheivements) but I think I can help with one part of the post…

The “plot hole” of why Sovereign needed someone on the Citadel. Right before Shepard goes into the Conduit he talks to a Prothean VI or AI or something. It is the keeper of the tomb and admits to turning off peoples chambers as needed. It also states that “the Keepers are the key to the Citadel” and the they were just about to unlock the mystery of them and the Citadel when the Reapers showed up 50k years ago. The Protheans that lived traveled to Ilos and used the Conduit to go back to the Citadel to alter the Keepers. This would have prevented the cycle from repeating as Sovereign would not have been able to activate the relay. But Sovereign found another way with Seren and, as all bad guys do, Sovereign tried to do to much to plan for after the Citadel was open and Shepard caught up to him.

Now I don’t claim to know ME as well as the people this is intended for but that is my understanding of what went down…



January 25th, 2010 at 10:30 am


I know that story, but it still doesn’t explain why Saren couldn’t just go to the Citadel after hours and start the process so Sovereign could swoop in and dock. If you remember during the last scene, Saren even shoots a keeper as he’s walking to the council chambers. So he didn’t “fix” the Keepers, he just activated it himself.

Again: Why the plan? Why the long way around? Had he just gone in, activated it, and started the purge, no one would have been wiser. Fooling around trying to “sneak” into Citadel gave everyone time to catch up with him. He took the Mass Relay from Ilos and where did he wind up? The center of the Presidium, where he could have easily walked MONTHS before without being even touched.

That’s why it doesn’t add up.



January 25th, 2010 at 10:40 am

I see what you’re saying and that would make sense had the visit to Ilos actually done anything apart from just getting Saren deep inside the Citadel [where he could've gone to pre ME1] via the relay.

However, once an organic species has settled on the Citadel and reached the required level of technological advancement, the Reapers’ current vanguard – a single Reaper left behind to monitor the situation – sends a signal to the keepers compelling them to activate the inactive Citadel relay to dark space, and begin the process of genocide. The Protheans succeeded in altering this reaction to the signal, though too late to save the Protheans themselves from extinction at the hands of the Reapers. The keepers have changed and evolved so they only respond to the Citadel itself; they are now no longer under Reaper control and pose no threat to anyone.

The Protheans changed it as the guy on Ilos states, but that’s in the past and Saren didn’t change anything.

In the narrative sense the only reason Shepard went to Ilos just to talk to the VI and find how grave the situation is.



January 25th, 2010 at 10:58 am

Fine I see how ya’ll are…
while on the what if train…
What if…
any Bond villian actually pushed the button to kill Bond as opposed to taking the time to explain his evil play before hand?
the military lianson between human and cylons was a better kisser (new series)? would they still have attacked?

ya the last was a bit out there but you get the idea. without the delay there is no story! no reason to goto to Feros, Virimire, or Ilos. what kinda of a game would ME be then? lol.

what ya going do…


Maj Malfunction

January 25th, 2010 at 11:32 am

Perhaps Saren needed the back door to get in because he had already become suspect by the council.

Do we know WHEN Saren gained the knowledge of how to activate the relay to bring the reapers in?


Could it be if Saren broke contact with Sovereign from a long enough distance to just fly home to visit the Citadel could he have broken free from the brainwashing? Perhaps Sovereign needed Saren to gain a rapid entry and activation to be able to coerce Saren into summoning the reapers.


I may just be talking out of my ass.



January 25th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’m liking your second suggestion actually, Maj Malfunction. Both Benezia and Saren broke their indoctrination at the end and Benezia did describe that it comes from the ship Sovereign itself. I think the Asari with the Thorian realised the error of her ways, too.

I think I’m pretty satisfied with that explanation, thanks!

About GameHounds

Bringing you the latest in news, GameHounds delivers an adult perspective on the video game business and culture.

This podcast is explicit and is intended for adults ages 18 and older.


Subscribe in iTunes Full RSS Feed Podcast Only Feed

GameHounds Voicemail

Got something to say? Then leave a message on the GameHounds voicemail!

From your phone*, dial:

Skype users, click here:
Leave a voicemail for GameHounds!

*long distance charges may apply


GameHounds on XBox Live

Holy Goalie
Alsop Live