With Bioware releasing the “Extended Cut” DLC, I’ve popped back to the single player campaign of Mass Effect 3 to see the new versions of the endings. Haven’t got terribly far yet, being distracted by The Secret World, but I thought I’d go back to a save game at the temple at Thessia to get a decent run up to the finish, and try and remember what was going on.
(This post is spoilery, in case you still haven’t played ME3 and are thinking you might want to at some point.)
I’d mercifully forgotten about perhaps my least favourite element of ME3. Never mind the ending(s), never mind schlepping around scanning the galaxy for random tat and playing “dodge the reaper”, what really wound me up was Kai “Sodding” Leng. A Cerberus assassin, he turns up and evades your clutches at the Citadel earlier in the game, stabbing one of your chums in the process, then just as you discover the secret of Thessia he crashes the party and spoils your day in a scripted encounter that you have no control over. That’s a little irritating in itself, but such is life in most games with cutscenes; you get captured, a key villain escapes your clutches, you just can’t save somebody, you pick a jacket that *really* doesn’t go with those trousers. Something happens in the story, regardless of what you do as a player. If Our Hero suffers setbacks along the way, it makes the eventual triumph sweeter, fine. Trouble is, so far as I can make out, Kai Leng is A Dude With A Sword. While battling horrors beyond imagination that are wiping out all life across the entire galaxy, you, Commander Shepard, Commander “Wipes Out A Couple Of Geth Fleets Before Breakfast” Shepard, Commander “Punched Out A Reaper” Shepard *and* your two elite highly trained companions are unable to stop one dude. Who doesn’t even have a gun. From a spot of Googling he seems to be in a couple of the tie-in novels, but from the perspective of the game he turns up with little fanfare. No massive build-up of what an awesome foe he is, not a returning nemesis from the first or second game, just A Dude With A Sword. Sure he’s above average when it comes to stabbing people with said sword, there’s a good chance he was voted “Most Likely To Stab Lots Of People With A Sword” in high school, but before that encounter you’ve been taking out gigantic truck-sized Brutes, twisted, mutated Banshees, big stompy Cerberus mechs with rocket launchers. If they wanted A Dude With A Sword (Oh All Right And A Few Psionic Powers) to be one of the toughest opponents in the game, he really needed a bit more build up. Or a much bigger sword.
I say “one of the toughest opponents”, he manages that by cheating; knock down his shields and he calls in backup in the form of a flyer that shines a bright light at you, proving Shepard really should’ve gone to Specsavers for free reactive lenses. Leng’s shields regenerate, and you get to do it all over again a couple more times; a fairly standard boss fight mechanic, but a little unusual in ME3. There’s a sort-of similar previous encounter when you’re using a target designator on a Reaper, but that’s a planet-destroying nightmare from space, not A Dude With A Sword. As boss fights go it’s not quite as jarring as the widely reviled encounters in Deus Ex: Human Revolutions, but it’s a bit of a faff. Though if you’re packing a massive sniper rifle and heavily geared for devastating headshots, three bullets interspersed with heavy sighs are enough to see him off.
Leng turns up once more, when you finally get to kill him off (or do you? Ahhh!) (Yes, you do.) (Or maybe you don’t?) (Except you really do.) (Don’t you?) I thought there might be some revelation; while Cerberus were monkeying around at the start of ME2 they used your DNA in a super-clone project (“Shepard… I am… your brother!” “NOOOOOOOOOO!”) Nope. Just a dude. With a sword.
So. Farewell then
You were a
Dude. With a sword.
Keith’s mum did not have
A sword, but apart from that
Would have been about
As plausible as a
E. J. Shepard, 17½.
I loved the Mass Effect games. While I despised the ending (Because of how it went down, multiple choice, yada yada, not because it was insufficiently “happy” – been discussed to death elsewhere) they’re still in my Best Gaming Experiences Ever hall of fame.
But seriously, Kai Leng was terrible. He felt, every time you encountered him, as A Boss added to the game to make it more gamey. He could have been entirely removed – not replaced by anything at all – and the game would have been better off.
He was a hollow shell, had no personality whatsoever – he was, as you put it, Dude With A Sword. Sure, I’m certain that lots of anime loving folks thought he was entirely badassed, but to me the whole sword wielding badass in a scifi setting like that is just silly. I just think of Indiana Jones in the knife fight – you know the scene I mean.
If they made him a real character, gave him a real story that preferably spanned the trilogy, then he may have worked out better. But, no, he was just a silly anime Dude With A Sword who was entirely out of place in the game.
The Thessiacoptor fight? As an Adept with the Energy Drain bonus ability I didn’t even realise I’d come up against a boss fight. Energy Drain + coptorsigh x 3, the end. The same occurred during the Cerberus Base assault, except that I rounded it out with a few biotic pimp slaps to his sunglass-grafted face.
I personally hated Kai Leng mainly because they used him as a plot device to kill off *spoiler* Thane. Well, that and the remarkable difficulty of the boss fight he was in. Something of a pain in the ass if you ask me.