A few days ago, BioWare announced the upcoming Leviathan DLC for Mass Effect 3. Gamers paying attention to the news know that this is anything but news due to the fact that some curious fans were poking around the code of the Extended Cut ending for the game and found a rough script which reveals… a rogue Reaper… as a potential ally… against its own kind…
We have inconsistent technology, inconsistent themes, inconsistent story elements–everything. And now BioWare has decided to humanize their cyborg-Lovecraftian-space-horrors. I’m not the first to say this reads like fanfiction.
What can I say? Mass Effect (3) is the gift that keeps on giving. What’s also really funny is we all know what the DLC is all about, and BioWare is trying to pretend it’s still a mystery in their announcement.
This is pretty much what happens when you have multiple writers with different ideas working on a series, especially when the lead writer (Drew Karpyshyn, in this case) jumps ship. There is a loss of focus–in cases like Mass Effect, the main plan also gets thrown out the window last minute–as well as things like fan pandering, and overall just erosion in general.
I thought the original idea of the Reapers was to be mysterious, unknown, completely alien, and a representation of the galaxy’s horrors–everything that is wrong and unnatural. Whatever happened to their hive mind aspect? The “one will but many minds” thing? “Beyond our comprehension”? And so forth. I thought the overarching goal was to stop the Reapers here.
If you want to maintain your cosmic horrors, then doing things like “fleshing them out” ruins that. Making a “good” one, definitely so in this case. If you were to implement cosmic horrors like these into a long running series, you keep them in the background as legends and boogy-men; a threat that never materializes, at least until the end as the series comes to a close. What is more effective, I would say, is to insert them into a much shorter story, like say, a trilogy where you learn of the threat in Act I, learn how to deal with it in At II, and finally stop it in Act III.
The Reapers don’t need a complex motivation. The focus is on the characters–Shepard and his friends–as they try to deal with the problem.
That’s the idea here, right? No? Okay…
It really breaks my heart to say this, but Mass Effect stopped being a coherent universe a long time ago.
I guess if I were to implement the “Leviathan of Dis” as a working quest and an asset against the Reapers, I wouldn’t make the Leviathan a Reaper. References to this “living ship” have been around since the first Mass Effect when the batarians first discovered it. It does turn out that it was, in fact, a Reaper the batarians were studying when it indoctrinated the research team and used them to lower the batarian homeworld’s defenses for the invasion in the third game, and if this recent DLC had never come into being, I would call that perfectly legitimate. However things have taken a completely different turn and I’m talking fixes here.
Getting back on track, instead of the ship being a Reaper, what if the Leviathan was comprised of a race from a previous cycle that tried to “fight fire with fire” so to speak? Kasumi reveals in ME3 how Alliance teams were spying on the Batarians who discovered Reaper tech–the implication being the Leviathan (which, remember, we changed to not-Reaper in this scenario)–hm… interesting. What if we had a quest to negotiate with the batarians on a collaborative effort on the Leviathan to use it against the Reapers? This could play out a couple different ways depending on how we interpret this new ship idea:
I. Is the Leviathan alive, but dormant? A possible scenario could be that negotiations are cut short when the ship finally “wakes up”, escapes, and we have to chase it down. A final confrontation would be us finally speaking with Leviathan and it telling us about the Reapers, and the desperate measures taken: it processing its own race into one big ship, and becoming very similar to that which it was trying to fight. Somewhat Nietzsche…
II. Is Leviathan “dead” but still usable? If the idea that Leviathan was dormant for a billion years (that’s 20,000 Reaper cycles) and now it finally decides to wake up is a bit too contrived for you, the thing could be dead but still working–or at least, it could be fixed up and made working again. There could possibly be on-board records of the fate of the race Leviathan once was, as well as information and speculation on the Reapers (yeah, still Nietzsche). This scenario might call for a more diplomatic Shepard, since the idea of capturing such a massive ship from the batarians isn’t really feasible what with diplomatic incidents and the threat of war when the galaxy already has bigger problems.
The very idea of capturing it could possibly be feasible though. In the Ghosts of Onyx Halo novel, a small team of Spartan-IIs fight there way onto a Covenant cruiser, hack into the system, and vent all the air out of the ship, leaving them the only ones alive and in control. An interesting idea, but as I said, too difficult (maybe impossible) to implement in a way that makes sense.
There could be other ways to implement this idea of the DLC, but that’s what I came up with off the top of my head.