Who the Hell Is James Vega?

Mass Effect 3 opens in a ham-fisted, blundering way, mostly because EA insists upon delivering crucial plot points outside the main games.

by

To be perfectly honest, I can't muster much enthusiasm for most of the issues people are having with Mass Effect 3. If you want to rail against homosexuality or sequels or unhappy endings, then to you I say, "OK," and then, "I'll be over here." The problem here--the real problem--with Mass Effect 3 can probably best be summed up by the question, "Who the hell is James Vega?"

In the beginning of Mass Effect 3, there's me, Commander Shepard, messianic intergalactic badass on a bit of a tear, up in my office, alone. I'm staring out the window at a small boy playing in a nearby park. Why? That's not important. James walks in.

"Commander."

"You're not supposed to call me that anymore, James."

"Not supposed to salute you, either…"

First of all, who is this hulking Herc of a man that's in my office? Second of all, why is he talking to me like he knows me? Third of all, why am I in an office and not on the Normandy? Fourth of all, how long will that child be alone? And then Admiral Anderson comes striding up in full Systems Alliance Navy regalia to tell me I look fat. And that I've been relieved of duty.

Meet James Vega. You and he get in a fistfight-for-bros within the first hour of Mass Effect 3.

Wait, what? Umm, no, I'm sorry. You seem to be mistaking me for someone who hadn't just blown up the Reaper flagship Sovereign and then, basically immediately after that, blown up the Collector base, saving the known universe in the process. Someone who hadn't just leapt over a chasm to put Jessie Owens to shame, onto a ship with my full crew alive and accounted for, to give the Illusive Man a couple of these ,,|,, ,,|,,. Sure, I was flying the colors of a mercenary at the time, but what the hell who cares I've just saved the known universe.

Let's start with that first question. Who is James Vega? Crap, the official Wikipedia page has no idea. Let's try Wikia. There we go. James Vega is a prison guard assigned to keep tabs on Commander Shepard. I'm in prison? Weird, I thought I was a messianic intergalactic badass on a bit of a tear. What's up? To the YouTubes. Hmm, it would appear as if I destroyed a Mass Effect relay gate in the batarian system, killing approximately 300,000 poor batarian bastards in the process. Mother of god.

How does it happen that I don't know that I've killed 300,000 batarians??

The explanation for these lacunae is that I never read the Mass Effect mini-comic Conviction, which according to Dark Horse Comics is only available through participating comic retail stores, and I didn't play the Mass Effect 2 add-on Arrival, which cost $7 and received a 5.0 (aka mediocre) review score from GameSpot. And just to be clear, I don't plan on picking up Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, a FUNimation-produced anime that shores up Vega's "not supposed to salute you" and won't even be out until later this year.

What else do I not plan on picking up? Well, there's Mass Effect Galaxy, an iOS game set between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 that Jacob Taylor, Miranda Lawson, and the aforementioned quad-ocular batarians (IGN gave it a 5.0, we didn't review it; not currently available in the US, previously $5). There's Mass Effect: Infiltrator, also for the iOS, which follows Cerberus operative Randall Ezno as he uncovers weird Cerberus science experiments ("one big mess (effect)"--SlideToPlay.com; $7).

Right now I'm reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. Before that, I read Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending. I get it. I'm kind of a prick when it comes to books. But that is what it is, and it basically precludes me from picking up the Mass Effect books written by Drew Karpyshyn or William C. Dietz (four books, combined cost = $24). It also means I'm not going to get Admiral Anderson's backstory (Mass Effect: Revelation); Paul Grayson's and the Illusive Man's stories (Mass Effect: Ascension, Mass Effect: Retribution); and Kai Leng's story (the reviled Mass Effect: Deception).

SO MANY COMIC BOOKS.

And then there are the add-ons for the games themselves. This rundown is becoming dreary, so I'll leave you all to Wiki them yourselves. However, I would like to point out that their quality ranges wildly (from 5.0 to 8.5, according to GameSpot) and in Mass Effect 2: Arrival, Commander Shepard, messianic intergalactic badass on a bit of a tear, kills 300,000 batarians. One other shocker from Mass Effect 2 downloadable content: Liara T'Soni is the Shadow Broker. Crazy! I had romance with that alien! How do you relegate such a central mystery from the first two games to a $10 add-on?

Which gets me back to my actual point. When Mass Effect 3 executive producer Casey Hudson came onto my show two weeks ago (see video above), he downplayed the idea that those who just play the three flagship Mass Effect installments will miss out on crucial plot points.

"It's not about missing out, but obviously…So an example would be we introduced the Illusive Man in the novels, so that doesn't mean that when you get to Mass Effect 2, you don't know what's going on, and 'Who is this guy, or whatever?' But you do get some backstory on him before you actually meet him in Mass Effect 2," he said.

When I caught back up with Commander Shepard, messianic intergalactic badass on a bit of a tear, I had no idea what was going on with him. I didn't know I had been kicked out of the military or would be facing a court martial or had made a new BFF in James "Growth Hormone" Vega or had killed 300,000 batarians. And what the hell, Liara's the Shadow Broker?! You're just going to casually drop that line in there in a, "So, how's that working out for you?" conversation not long after catching back up with her on Mars? We had romance! How am I just finding this out?!

Look, I understand the games industry is going through some growing pains and EA feels it needs to turn a dime on this transmedia business. I'll even give it the Mass Effect novels and its Paul Grayson storyline--more story delivered in creative ways is great. But after purchasing Mass Effect 3, I'll have spent nearly $200 on this franchise. I shouldn't have to spend nearly $100 more to find out fundamental details that directly impact my experience of Commander Shepard and his merry band, especially when a surprising amount of that content isn't even any good.

Discussion

404 comments
isshiah
isshiah

having played all the dlc, i knew most of the important stuff. having not read the books, however, i didn't know that the illusive man served under commander williams (ashley's father) at one point. also, it is possible for you to only have 3 squadmates for most of the game. that is ridiculous.

madgame23
madgame23

*Contains Spoilers* I agree with this article 100%. I dont like reading books based on games because for the most part it retreads narrative from the game. Sometimes its cool, others not. Halo was good, but I already knew what would happen in the books. Here, they make content then dont give you info. In Mass Effect 2 after Sheppard died, Liara and several others actually had to fight the collectors to get the body, which was never discussed in the game, in alot of the side content major events occured, new characters were referenced, events played out that were not referenced in ME3. Then you have the endings that were a let down, in that in all of them, you die, and the all the mass relays and the citadel all explode. I have played ME3 yet, but ive been reading about all the commotion and, at first I said it was Bioware's game to create, but from the events of the first 2 games and the ability to change outcomes its a let down that you really have no ability to shape it better. All endings are at earth, all destroy the relays and the citadel, and sheppard dies. So what will happen to all the stranded people around the universe with no relays?

spoonybard-hahs
spoonybard-hahs

@Gelugon_baat I did. And you know what was the first thing that came to mind? Why couldn't he have put a little more effort into his article. How hard would it have been to ask the one(s) who did teh reviews what happened? Hell, he could have have even downloaded them himself. His argument is against transmedia storytelling; Arrival and LotSB are DLC to the core game play. His argument is lazy at best. He's railing against something that really has no value to the core story. James Vega is ultimately an incidental character: he's one-dimensional and has no impact to ME3 as it is. So knowing who he was before ME3 is therefore moot. Especially when the character even explains exactly what had happened in the first place. And everything else the author complains about gets explained practically as soon as it comes up. The comics and books - while interesting diversions and expansions on the universe - do not feature Shepard The exception of course being Redemption, which features Liara working with Cerberus to reclaim Shepard's body from the Collectors. But do you even really need to know that? ME2 opens with Shepard dying and then being resurrected, by a terrorist group that was only mentioned a handful of times in ME1. If the complaint here is the disconnect that occurs from plot advancements occurring outside of the games, I get it. However, it's a pointless one, since all of the extra plot threads do not concern Shepard, the character we all identify with.

skrat_01
skrat_01

Damn good article Mr Magrino.

Charlatan89
Charlatan89

I agree with everything you said, adding also the ridiculousness of having a day one dlc which is crucial for the story, like arrival :(. Second, I liked Vega, the only thing that pissed me off was that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't shag him in the game.

Spybreak
Spybreak

I was just thinking this, the Prothean was a better and more suitable, in terms of story context and usefulness, sqaudmate than Vega was. Make Vega the squadmate you can get with DLC, his part seems on the side lines anyways.

smithboy1177
smithboy1177

You have a point about tie-ins. However, Liar of the Shadow Broker is the best part of Mass Effect 2. Simply amazing. An 8.5 score doesn't do it justice. Also, I could have done without Vega.

Otaku313
Otaku313

They mention the Batarian causalities at the end of Arrivial, right? You criticize the game for not telling you critical information, yet you didn't play the DLC said information was in?

Spybreak
Spybreak

Good point and considering I was a soldier in my first playthough, (the one I had taken from ME1&2), I never used the guy. I did buy the DLC and even picked up the books (I really liked exploring the Mass Effect universe/ these are for extras for fans, not required reading) so I can see where this question comes from. However it's true Liar of the Shadow Broker was great and got the deserved critical praise but Arrival was great in its own way. You can't compare that DLC to Shadow Broker and that's why the score was so low however it was a vastly new and unique experience to ME2.

Dreamagus
Dreamagus

Really, I don't know what's worse in this game: the ending or the - "hey, let's take out half of the squad; including badass characters like Thane, Legion, Mordin, Zaeed and Jack and put an 'worse-than-Jacob, almost-devoid-of-personality' character that anyone is never going to use through the whole game except when there's no option to replace them. This will surely make the players more satisfacted!" - that the developers have thrown on it. Well, at least we've god EDI with a body but, AI for AI, I still prefered Legion for a long shot...

kingsc453
kingsc453

It was a good game but not as good as ME2 or ME1. It was way to short

BradBoye
BradBoye

Whole article is spot on.

Barrakas21
Barrakas21

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

TheTrueObelus
TheTrueObelus

You know I had small nitpicky things that bothered me about ME3 but overall I thought it was an amazing achievement. I never wanted it to end. Then I actually got to the end. W...T...F Seriously those ME3 endings could collectively be the defintion of WTF.

don4r
don4r

what ever you think... its a great game and way better than some other overhyped EA games ^^

mkchew
mkchew

@imuthis, the closest I can think of is a game book... those where you DON'T read from first page to last. You flip to the page according to the choice you made. Now, when you buy the book, it was said that there are x number of page with Endings. Which one you get, depends on your choice. You bought the book, and play the game. You found all the Ending pages, and realised that they are so similar that the real diff between them is only 1 sentence. ... that is it... how I felt regarding the ending.

The-Techspert
The-Techspert

"How do you relegate such a central mystery from the first two games to a $10 add-on?" This. This is what I've been saying for the past year. Mass Effect, first and foremost, is a game series. I shouldnt have to pick up central plot points by reading comics, buying DLC or playing iPod games. I still cant believe they wasted the shadow broker - one of the coolest characters in the first game simply because you knew so little about him (fitting for an information broker) yet could still tell his importance - on a DLC pack, released months after many of us had already beaten and shelved ME2.

peterfaj
peterfaj

@idioticbobsaget: I don't think Gamespot is a person.

idioticbobsaget
idioticbobsaget

I find it interesting how GameSpot is complaining about Mass Effect 3 in two articles. Then all of a sudden, post an article why Mass Effect 3's ending should not be changed. By the way, the Lair of the Shadow Broker was one of if not the best DLC for Mass Effect 2. I understand about having to buy the books and the comics; I would not buy those. GameSpot, can you get your priorities straight? Do you like the game or hate the game?

imuthis
imuthis

Honestly speaking, I find all this angst over a really good game with a supposedly not so good ending surprising and a bit disturbing. A game is like a book. You buy the book, read the book, immerse yourself in the book, maybe ponder on it during a coffee break, finish the book, and then put in a safe place if you want to reread it some other time. It isn't suppose to raise your blood pressure or make you sleepless at night or make you lose your appetite. It's a game, people! A game should be played and enjoyed. It shouldn't even matter if you finished it right now or a month later. I'm pretty sure that none of us had been forced to go out and buy the game! Unless... Bioware incorporated some kind of mind-control program in Mass Effect 2 that made us all rush to buy ME3 with our hard earned dough... Hmm... Anyway, the point here is this: Don't let the game (and the developers) play you. Simply play the game, finish it on your own time and for the sake of finishing the game, place it somewhere safe if you want to go through the experience again, then go on with your life. Sell/give it away if you hate it. Don't burn or destroy it! Think of the money you bought that thing with! We're in the middle of an economic crisis here! A game is a game; it's FICTION. Move away from your consoles and pcs and go take a dip into non-fiction for a while.

Brettsky128
Brettsky128

Sorry, if you didn't play Shadow Broker DLC, you missed one of the best parts of the whole Mass Effect trilogy.

Barrakas21
Barrakas21

gamespot why do you continue to feed hate for mass effect??and why are 2 articules at same in the spotlight bashing mass effect?? get your prioritys right.

Dan11223344
Dan11223344

actually if you havent played arrival it says in the galaxy at war map that the 103rd marines blew up the batarians. You lost your command because you worked with a pro human terrorist organisation (unless ofcourse you did the dlc in which case its the whole batarian thing)

Kenicavus
Kenicavus

Who gives a crapper about "Who is James Vega" its just a new character in the series. You know its very common a new series gets a new character. Which cave you're from?

IntricateDetail
IntricateDetail

When the Batarian incident was first brought up in the game, I had no idea what the hell the NPC was talking about and I just rolled with it, not even caring about the consequences of something I didn't remember doing. I knew about Liara being the Shadow Broker, it was obvious that she was on the "Information Dealing Highway" in ME2, so that wasn't a big deal. And James? I really didn't care who he was because I disliked him almost as much as I dislike Garrus from the moment he appeared on screen. I mean, he's an idiot. The only thing I can say about DLC content, is go the route of the Dragon Age: Origins DLC, Awakening. It was completely standalone and set in a different time/location, but still had ties to the original game. This makes it not critical to any sequels, not that it mattered with Dragon Age 2, but more of an expansion on the facts already presented in the original game.

hemoleech
hemoleech

EA: Integrity? We don't need no stinkin' integrity! We're milking our customers like cows!

JohnZord37
JohnZord37

Umm...he's a NEW character for a NEW game...For those who did not get "The Arrival" and were a little lost as to why Shepard lost his command, that's what the DLC is for. To fill in those holes. If you never get all the DLC then you won't know everything. It doesn't mean you have to buy all DLC it just means you won't know all the story lines. It's something extra.

scratchisme
scratchisme

I just assumed he was from the DLC I didn't play.

lamprey263
lamprey263

Dang, who is James Vega... played through the game twice and still was digging in the back of my mind for an answer... but damn, who cares, even he makes me want my FemShep to deter from her quasi-lesbian inter-species relationship for a roll in the sack with him, such a stud, he can call me Lola all he wants. He even looks more manly stacked up against Kaiden's ass who is sensitive to a fault.

Magrino
Magrino

@SPCLong We're a schizophrenic bunch.

wasakawaka
wasakawaka

Good article and well said! I just thought I was losing my memory.

liketires
liketires

@nathangray What's it like being a jaded a$$? Yes fans have the right to critique the game, but they also have the right to defend it. Plus the fact that you're one of those "oh gaming sites take bribes for good reviews"guys is just so annoying. As for blaming the sites for defacing gamers, if you dont like those sites/shows, don't associate with them.

GohanRuleZZ
GohanRuleZZ

@Gigga_Jabba NO, actually you don't get to continue playing the game after the stargazer vid, you are just ported back to before you assaulted the Cerberus base. At first I thought, maybe I'll get to continue if Shepard survives, but no sir. Even if you survive you still don't continue. Obviously there will be a storm of DLCs since the Normandy still has some leftover space for rooms. Unless they decide that they've made too many people hate them so the Paragon "Create DLC cause people will buy them" option is grey.

StonedGladiator
StonedGladiator

Had it been 300,000 Salarian, Turian, or Asari then it would been... a different story and probably much better too!

StHapns247
StHapns247

Who the hell is James Vega? He's the guy I never choose to take on a mission.

fieryermine
fieryermine

Yah. I did buy all the DLC for ME2, but I know what you mean. Also, Shepard killed 300000 people and the player had no choice in the matter. It honestly never seemed like a good idea especially for a character that I had been playing strictly as a Paragon. Also, the whole reason for killing the Batarians was to prevent the invasion of the reapers, which apparently happens at the very beginning of ME3. So Shepard killed 300000 people for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. Not quite the hero I wanted to play, and kind of a lame setup for ME3, which I haven't played yet, but inevitably I will when I can get it for a good price.

SPCLong
SPCLong

So Gamespot has one article up defending the devs freedom to end the game how they want and another article about how they screwed up the beginning? Nice.

sorintitus
sorintitus

+1 StanleyL ! I couldn't have said it better!

lnknprk_45
lnknprk_45

Did I want to buy the Arrival DLC? No, but it was made clear that it was going to be a lead in to ME3, so I bought it and played it. The Arrival served no purpose other than to tie into ME3. If you had any intent on playing ME3, that was the DLC to play. They all play some part in ME3, but that was the one that would have avoided the WTF moment in the beginning.

slyguy65
slyguy65

Um WTF you smokin i started at level 30 when importing my ME2 character maybe yours was just wimpy and only knew how to start at level 1 BURN

nathangray
nathangray

I love how suddenly, after fan complaints, known gaming sites and blogs are turning around their prior "THIS GAME IS GOD" arguments and suddenly noticing all the very things wrong with this franchise and its penchant for plot holes. Meanwhile, gamers have been getting nothing but derided and called names just for standing up for the very things you are all only now getting wind of. The lot of you have the right to be pissed about the plot holes, the extra media that ~supposedly~ 'has nothing to do with the main storyline' when in fact it does, etc., but you should also be apologizing to all of the people you made fun of and were condescending to, when all they were trying to do was make you aware. If you ask me, it's not pre-orders, it's not the extra media, it's not even DLC that's ruining games and hurting consumers, it's Gamespot, IGN, G4TV and all those other sites that ride the hype, take money for over-inflated reviews and defame gamers who have the gall to share their opinion. I hope you enjoy the monster you guys have created.

liketires
liketires

@bambu5 1) You mustve changed your class when you imported your Shepard into me3, because if you import and keep the same class you were in me2, then you will be whatever level you were when you finished me2, with the same skills and everything. Plus there is new skills, maybe you were just blinded by rage to notice. 2) Sci Fi means science fiction, meaning that the writers and developers create the story that makes sense to a degree. Having a giant cannon that shoots radioactive chickens wouldnt work in the ME universe. Besides, compared to the first 2 games, the weapons (all fired the same way in ME1, and only had like 10 weapons total in ME2) are way more balanced between the first two games. 3) Reviews are there to give you an idea of what the game is like spoiler free, so I dont have to go watch an hour of spoilers to see if I want it. 4) Shut up.

stabby_mcgee
stabby_mcgee

Playing "The Arrival" raises more questions than answers. For one, why didn't anyone think to destroy the Relay as the Reapers are arriving so that the explosion would take them out too? @bambu5 I don't know which version of ME3 you're playing but I imported an ME2 save and I started at level 30.

bambu5
bambu5

1) every one complaining about the (back)story. Now lets have a look at character progression...at wich level did you finish me2? 25? 30?... all abilities at max? Then i ask you why in the third game with an imported character do you have to start from level 1?... no new abilities - just the old ones only slightly re-worked, recycled?! For me that IS also a major dissapointment. I think Sheppard died between 2 and 3, again and got re-cloned or something, Right? Must be it:) 2) weaponry, they shoud spent more time developing them...these days are all pretty standard... pistol,shotgun,rifle,sniper-r,bazuka(where are the exploding sinthetic chickens). In a sci fi, i expect more. I dont say it simple to create something new, but is it impossible? mass effect was released in 2007, 5 years ago... 3) game-scores, reviews i DONT trust them, most of them at least. Go to youtube watch 1 hour of lets play and then decide, if you like it, buy it. Simple. 4) ...im bored...

StanleyL
StanleyL

@howie1926 This isn't a matter of why didn't Tom didn't play the DLC if it was reviewed well and "it's his job". The relevant issue is that someone who goes from ME2 to ME3 without any DLC or supplemental media will be severely lacking in story context. EA fails to acclimate the audience to the drastic changes that take place between ME2 and ME3 without resorting to the expectation of requiring someone purchase all the products in between. The transition from ME2 to ME3 should not have to depend on anything else. At the very least ME3 could've started with a short intro summarizing all the story that EA claims aren't "crucial plot points."

blueboxdoctor
blueboxdoctor

Well, guess I ended up making my own conclusions or forgot the end of ME2. I just assumed they thought Shepard was truly working for Cerberus. Though, it does make more sense now knowing what was really going on. However, it just seemed like the Vega guy was someone she ended up meeting between the 2nd and 3rd game, they never made it seem like he was a prison guard, more like friends. At least it's only the introduction that seems to have been done not so well, as I'm 13 hours in and it's all been making sense.

lcrava
lcrava

Even tough I am compelled to agree with this article, none of it matters, just like the rest of the games once you get to that incredible end...

Gigga_Jabba
Gigga_Jabba

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Aiberg
Aiberg

And that's what I hate about this game! Yet, I'll still play it... What else can I do?