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Is Kai Leng really necessary in ME3?

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Well, at this point he's the only named opponent you ever face (Eva Core doesn't precisely count since her "battle" is just shooting her with your pistol before she can get to melee range with you).

But other than that, no he's not really necessary to the story and just serves as probably the most annoying example of plot armor in the series. 6thLyranGuard

  • It is possible to face Jack and Legion as well, but I think only idiots would have had to face them. Anish
  • Morinth can also be found (and has to be fought) as a Banshee. LeoJo

Let's see. Yes, Kai Leng is an annoyance, but he's only annoying because he's just as strong as Shepard, just working for the enemy. He's TIM's right hand and carries out his will ever since ME: Retribution, so his presence in ME3 is more than justified. Yes, he has plot armor, worst one of the kind, but it only adds to the anger towards the character. Nobody would be so satisfied to finally kill him if all he'd do would be leading the assault on the Citadel and killing a few C-Sec officers. Land Raider

  • Except he's not as strong as Shepard- he's given blatant cheats (temporary invulnerability being the biggest one) so that the battle follows a tight script regardless of your actions. Taking him down wasn't satisfying because the challenge he presented was entirely artificial- he wasn't a tough, powerful enemy that you had to be smart to overcome, he was an annoying pest who spent most of his time running away while trying to pretend he was better than you and only "won" one fight by the actions of an entirely different character during a cutscene. 6thLyranGuard

Kai Leng is valuable for ME3 is several separate ways. He represents an action-focused, fighter type human antagonist, which complements the intellectual type of Jack Harper. He also serves as a personalized focus for your hate of Cerberus, amplified by the feel of defeat you suffer from him several times. Kai Leng is portrayed as an extraordinarily capable operative, with an aura of strength surrounding him from the novels, which is necessary for the player to feel threatened by him, due to our due overconfidence in Shepard's ability. Additionally, since the series establish a human (Shepard) as the galaxy's best, the player would feel the most threat coming from a powerful human foe. In the world of aliens, it is almost like a mirror fight. All in all, I liked the inclusion of such character, regardless of his roots (I haven't read the novels), and feel it's been worthwhile for the narrative. And as a bonus, he is voiced by a supremely awesome voice actor. Mitranim

  • I was thinking about an eloquent way to express my opinion and weigh in on the matter, but MIT read my mind and beat me to it. Byrdology

I actually like Kei Leng, even though he is kind of a jerk sometimes. I feel that if you have good enough skills to carry a sword into battle against futuristic technology, then you deserve to be a worthy foe. Also, he presents a singular focal point to direct aggressions against. You can't exactly walk up to the Illusive Man and shoot him, nor do you actually see him face to face. Also, what voice actor is Kai Leng? I thought BioWare blew their budget on good voice talents with the likes of Martin Sheen, Jennifer Hale, Seth Green, etc. Thunder

  • He doesn't have enough lines in ME3 to gauge his performance, but he voiced Scoundrel in Diablo 3, who talks a lot, and I love listening to him. It's an absolute blast. One of the best VAs I've heard. Mitranim
  • Kai Leng's voice actor is Troy Baker, also known for voicing Snow in Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2.

IMO, No - I think Kai Leng wasn't necessary and his position could've been filled by any Cerberus Soldier. Also, I have the Art of the Mass Effect Universe (big version) and in it are concepts which would've made his image fit into the ME Universe better than what is currently in-game. His VA seems good, but it's like he could only do so much with the lines he was given. But like I said, my opinion only. - BBL96

Of course Kai Leng is necessary. I hate his guts when I'm playing, but I love having someone to hate in a game. Even my Paragon Shepards take the Renegade interrupt at Cerberus HQ. Beating him is very satisfying, as is Shepard's dialogue during the fight, when s/he taunts him about running away all the time. ME2 was sorely lacking this quality. Harbinger seemed borderline incompetent, getting beaten over and over again. Harbinger never really felt like a threat, and it never murdered one of Shepard's friends or managed to keep Shepard from any specific goal. Niquorebel Cousland

  • Except in ME3, where it murders the entire Hammer force within seconds, kills two of your friends if your EMS is low and forces them to retreat and leave Shepard alone in the final confrontation. I'd say Harbinger made up for all his incompetence in ME2 in those five minutes, but that's barely relevant to the topic. Land Raider
  • True enough, but Harbinger could have been just any other Reaper in ME3. Kai Leng had a face, a voice, and a superior attitude that he backed up with results, providing a focus for the player's aggression. Finishing him off felt pretty good. Niquorebel Cousland
  • You're forgetting the part where Harbinger just sat there while the Normandy took a solid 60 seconds to land, evac Shepard's squard, and fly away at a snail's pace. RShepard227

I really like having an antagonist which really makes you wanna hate him/her for doing so many bad things to you, like ruining your mission or taking away loved ones from you. Look at GLaDOS from Portal for example, she was a well-crafted villain, she will do anything to kill you. Kai Leng has a similar agenda in which, he will do whatever it takes to defeat Shepard and further Cerberus'/The Illusive Man's cause. Kai Leng was mostly one step ahead of Shepard, like Shepard failing to save the Salarian Councilor (only if Kirrahe and Thane are not there). But even so, Kai Leng would have killed a friend of Shepard. And then, Kai Leng managed to steal the Prothean data cache from right under Shepard's nose. It just wants you to hate him so much that you will kill him without a thought. Orbrital

  • The only reason Kai Leng succeeded in any of his tasks was because of cutscenes where Shepard became completely incompetent and Kai becoming invulnerable to damage when his shields dropped below a certain point when you were fighting him. Shepard could have easily shot Kai half a dozen times (or more, depending on which gun you were using) when Kai was fighting Thane instead of just standing there dumbly. On Thessia, at least on my playthroughs, Kai never actually touched me before I knocked his shields down and he ran away while calling in his inexplicably invulnerable gunship. We weren't given a "real" feeling confrontation with him at any point, we were given some artificially scripted events where the programmers had to blatantly cheat in order to bring him up to even close to Shepard's level. 6thLyranGuard
  • Yet again, Plot Armour BS, I managed to drop Kai Leng's shields so many damn times. =/ Orbrital

Thought it was just me, but I too felt like Shepard suddenly became incompetent during several cutscenes. I mean I've got a Valkyrie slung over my shoulder, why do I pull a Predator and have a stand off with a guy carrying a sword when I can just double tap him in the skull. When he moves away from Thane after their first exchange of blows and before the second would be another great time to shoot him. Then in the police car shepard tries shooting through bullet proof glass? Instead of pulling the magic Shuriken that Shep had in ME2 he uses the pistol to shoot a few pot shots at Kai's shield before watching him cut the engine and walk off, I thought I trained you better than that one shield destruction Shepard.... As you can see I hate Kai Leng's plot armor and how he makes my Shepard's look like a green recruit all the time, but I do still feel he is necessary. He gives a face to the countless armored Cerberus forces and acts as an enemy you want to fight, where TIM is someone youre more likely to have a conversation with since he would probably be pathetic in a fight.KaedAemoh


And what would you have done instead, hm? Make him only show up once? That would've made him just another Cerberus soldier. Make him one of those characters who owns your ass all the time because he only ever fights you in cutscenes? You'd have complained about that too, no doubt. This isn't D&D: the writers can't improvise a new bad guy to adapt to whether or not you kill one of them sooner than they'd planned, and the only other thing they could've done is that annoying thing where he's one of those enemies where 0hp is just where he stops fighting rather than where he dies. It's a funny thing about video games: if the scripts demands that a character survives then there's no clean way of doing it. Shepard gets it too, you know? The script says he doesn't die yet, and so time turns back in order to allow him another chance. Every character whose death isn't meant to happen yet is prevented, even when it is most unlikely, there is no clean way to do it, it's a video game. The only games in existence where the script needs protect no-one from death and can instead rewrite itself around the unexpected death of a character are D&D and similar games, and unless someone invents a true AI to "DM" video games, that's not changing any time soon. The script needed him to survive. Granted, he is always very underhanded and only can't wriggle his way out in the last fight because he made the mistake of allowing himself to be cornered, but I think they wanted to bring attention to that difference between Leng and Shepard.


Is he necessary for the story? No. Is he a good villain? I'd say yes, because you REALLY get to hate his guts. And the sign of a good character is that you have a strong emotion for him, no matter if positive or negative. The scene alone where you finally kill him, and Shepard says "That was for Than you son of a bitch" is worth his inclusion, that was SOOO much satisfying. IIRC that's pretty much the only instance where Shepard really curses, showing how much he too hates him. ~~Aether

I have never encountered in my entire life a more out of place villain than Kai Leng was in ME3. His whole presence was a direct failure because he was designed for one specific purpose: to be the opposite of Shepard. Now the first though can be that this is actually pretty interesting but the problem is that there is an opposite of Shepard: The Illusive Man! TIM isn't just a renegade version of Shepard, no matter how you play Shepard, paragon or renegade, you are against controlling the Reapers and sacrificing millions of human life to achieve this goal. Therefore it would have make much more sense to battle TIM on Cronos station instead of Kai Leng and after getting the Reaper implants it was actually possible for him to fight. That being said let's look at the so called character Kai Leng. I say "so called" because he is arguably not even a real character. He absolutely has no personality. He is just military arm of TIM and that's it. The only purpose of him is to pop out of nowhere and than frustrate the hell out of the player. Is it a good characteristic for a villain that you hate him? It can be. Is it good if it is his only characteristic? Absolutely not. And if your personal definition of a good villain is that you can hate him and that's it than he's probably necessary for you and a he than truly is a good villain. But for me that's not the case. I remember Mass Effect 1. There the non-reaper villain was Saren and he was nothing but perfect because he was absolutely not a one dimensional villain. He actually was a pretty tragic figure since his purpose was not seizing control over the galaxy or destroying it, quite the opposite: he wanted to save life and could therefore at the end of the game even persuaded into stepping back of being a villain.

This all being said, I have to say that I did read Mass Effect Retribution and I liked the character of Kai Leng. There he (and Cerberus) wasn't really a villain because he actually tried to do what's best for the galaxy. Back in the book he actually did have a personality and even quite an interesting one albeit not the most fleshed-out, maybe this could have been maintained if you at least had the possibility of talking to him instead we got a cheap attempt to establish nonsensical space-ninjas in a world where guns do fire so fast bullets that they literally blow your head or limbs off without protection. Zero7


He's neither necessary to the plot nor a good villain. To anyone who neglected to read the novels, he has no backstory. No depth. He's this suddenly relevant and competent foe who appears to have absolutely no motive for what he does, except for loyalty to TIM. Motiveless villains are poorly written villains, and nearly every other villain in the series either has a motive or is a mindless robot. Looks at Saren: he wanted to save lives. TIM? Wanted power for humanity. The Collectors were mindless robots for the Reapers, whose motive was too deep for organics to understand (or something like that, whatevs). Plus, Leng's plot armor makes him even more unbelievable, and that stupid player-controlled fight on Thessia makes him even worse. I realize that they had to put a wrench in Shepard's progress somehow, but by putting in a depthless cretin who is apparently invincible they seemed like they used the boring, easy way out. Perhaps TIM could have reanimated the squadmate who was killed on Virmire as a cold, ruthless killer? That would have been a heart-wrenching battle. More so than Leng. Or on Thessia, what about the fact that there was a freaking reaper above their heads or a short distance away? I realize they had to begin the Cerberus assault somehow, but still. Either way, Kai Leng is a terrible villain in ME3. Maybe he was alright in the novels, but by not giving him any of that backstory in the game, they made him shallow and pathetic.

  • This. "Motiveless villains are poorly written villains" That's all what there is to say about Kai Leng. Zero7
  • Mass Effect series have always been about knowing what happened before the current game, no matter how much EAWare tried to convince us that you can just jump into ME3 without playing ME1/2 first and having as much fun as the old players (well, they kind of achieved that goal by lowering the overall quality of the game, but that's beside the point), but it's not true. On the other side, I do agree that people who never read the books would have no idea about KL's motivation. I read Retribution and Kai Leng makes a lot of sense to me. I wouldn't complain about bringing in another character who was in the game media before. And by the way, prior to ME3 release everyone wanted him in game. Now people complain... Land Raider


I fall squarely in the "Kai Leng is crap" field. I find it amusing how many people apparently had a strong emotional response to him, none of what he said or did really mattered to me except for killing Thane, and since it was done in such a terribad cutscene (if I was controlling Shepard then I would have burned through a full clip and whatever powers I had on hand as soon as Thane knocked him down the first time) that didn't make me hate him as much as it made me disappointed at the writers who failed so hard. His difficulty was purely artificial so he wasn't an organic threat or a satisfying boss, he was a minor impediment with plot armor. My joy at the renegade interrupt on Cronos station was purely borne of the fact that I knew I wouldn't have to dominate him over and over only to have him turn invincible and regenerate his health yet again.

  • That's just it. The game not letting you kill him makes it even more irritating. However, I don't see why people don't complain about, for example, Tela Vasir, whose barriers and armor were plain ridiculous. I'm quite used to games not giving me a chance to kill someone - it's not like Shepard charging KL over and over again is realistic either, you know. Land Raider
  • Vasir was a minor enemy who you only fought one time (and killed her) and only appeared in DLC content in the first place, so we killed her and that was it. There was never the hamfisted attempt by the game to bludgeon her into the spotlight as the OMG Ubervillain that Kai Leng received, which helped keep her from being as much of a Scrappy Villain. 6thLyranGuard
  • Parent poster here: Tela Vasir was an organic threat, she didnt' have blatant plot armor, she was merely very strong, and rightfully so since she's a Spectre. In fact I would argue that there should be MORE like her.
  • So a Council Spectre is a minor enemy? Hell, she was the toughest enemy in the whole game (health-wise, not difficulty-wise - just like Kai Leng). You're saying that she's "rightfully strong" just because she's a Spectre? That's simply not true. She's tough because of her experience. Spectre is just a title, that's all. Kai Leng is one of the most experienced assassins in the galaxy, he's augmented with Reaper Phantom-pattern implants and he's an N7 graduate, so technically he's an evil counterpart to Shepard (who's one of the most experienced soldiers, is augmented with cybernetic implants and is an N7 graduate as well). I'd say that qualifies him for being "rightfully strong". Land Raider
  • I never said he shouldn't be, he just isn't. He isn't strong, he's plot armored. Without the terribad cutscene on the Citadel he'd be Swiss cheese, without the gunship on Thessia he would have been dead in seconds, without his magical shield of invulnerability on Cronos he would have died in the first wave. Plot armor != strength. Kai Leng SHOULD have been challenging due to his strength, instead he's challening due to bolt-on plot armor.
  • Ah, that's understandable. BioWare had that going ever since NWN:HotU, annoying nemeses with plot armor instead of actual skill (Sabal, for example). Last enemy who was challenging due to its nature was probably resurrected Saren. Land Raider
  • Hah, Tela Vasir! Now that's some fun memories of modding the coalesced to allow powers through armor and shields, then throwing her around like a doll. 1 well placed push and she rag dolls over the side of Azure only to jump back to the roof for more fun. I think my most hate filled fight with Kai Leng was on my Vanguard.... I was literally standing over his rag dolled body with a Claymore to his face and half barrier left for another Nova and couldn't kill him. They could have easily given him a huge health bar, strong shields, and made the fight difficult, but still winable. If you kill him you still go to TIM and Cronos station to follow up and take them out of the fight before the reaper assault. Moving the citadel can be explained either through TIM's actions or Harbinger being smart and using their pre established plan to control the relay's using Citadel and acquire information on the current cycle. I wrote their plot for them and I'm not even a writer, Im sure there were better ways to handle Kai Leng but it can all probably be blamed on EA's handling the project.KaedAemoh
  • What would have been nice is if it was obvious that Kai Leng had a power like Defense Matrix, visual effect and all, and players could see that it was active in the battle. Once his shields went down, he'd detonate the armor and climb up to a platform, destroying the ladder or other path he used to get there. Then he'd hide behind heavy cover that couldn't be charged through until his Defense Matrix-like power recharged. Once it did, he'd jump back down and rejoin the battle, further justifying Shepard's taunts about how he's always running. Then he wouldn't seem to have temporary invincibility, he'd just be beyond Shepard's reach while his power recharged. Since Defense Matrix is capable of making Shepard all but invincible when used correctly on anything but the hardest difficulty, Kai Leng's plot armor would at least have a known game-play mechanic to justify it. After Thessia, EDI could inform Shepard that she may be able to find a way to counter Leng's shield technology if she is allowed access to battle data from Shepard's omni-tool, or that she is analyzing the data she collected herself if she was present in the battle. Before Horizon, she could tell Shepard that her analysis is complete, and having discovered a similarity to the abilities found in her new body, she had run various trials and now believed she could temporarily disable Leng's defenses. EDI would then program Shepard's omni-tool to hack Kai Leng's 'plot-armor.' Seeing him in the vids on Horizon would build the player's anticipation for a fight that would now be weighted in Shepard's favor. Once the battle actually occurred at Cerberus HQ, EDI could attempt the hack, and find that his abilities had been recently upgraded, requiring additional time to account for the changes. Shepard and the other squadmate must survive and distract Leng from downing EDI while she re-worked her method for disabling his defenses, allowing the battle to last for more than a few seconds. Niquorebel Cousland
  • Monica, I would very much like to have you as a game writer. This would be a very nice explanation to plot armours and so. :D Orbrital
  • I appreciate the compliment, Orby. =D Much of of the writing in ME3 felt like it could have used a bit more outside analysis before the game reached alpha build status. I'm sure the writers could have come up with something even better if EA had given them enough time. Niquorebel Cousland
  • Agreed, I can't believe EA turned BioWare into their cash-cow, and I swear, if they mess up Dead Space 3, I bet a lot of fans are going to freak out and flame EA. This is the reality of the internet today though. Orbrital

It looks like different people are focusing on different aspects of the character. Some appreciate his inclusion, his place in the story, impact on the narrative. Others seem to be focused on how his battles were handled, the fight on Thessia in particular, measuring the character by the amount of health and shields he was given for that fight. It boils down to the ability of game developers to properly handle the recurring enemy, and the willingness of the players to close their eyes on some tropes and narrative devices. Unwinnable boss battles are nothing new; think of it as an interactive cutscene. Mitranim

  • It's not that it was an unwinnable boss battle that makes it annoying, it's that it was set up as an unwinnable battle even if you're blatantly kicking Leng's ass from one end of the battlefield to the other while he's unable to get a single counter in, yet he still "wins" despite the utter curbstomp he's taking. 6thLyranGuard

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