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Mass Effect: A Retrospective

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This is a weird gaming emotion post. If you’re not into video games, or just don’t feel like reading something not about programming, I won’t feel bad if you leave. I just wanted to post this here as it’s my main blogging platform, and it’s about computer stuff so why not.

Spoiler Alert

I’m going to write as if you know Mass Effect already. There will be spoilers (even if you’ve played it all the way through, I talk about other things you can read in walkthroughs or alternate playthroughs), and I will assume prior knowledge of the game. On with the show.

I had a good ole’ man cry

When I finished ME3, I cried. Not like a happy I-can’t-believe-we-did-it-cry, and certainly not because I thought the ending was terrible, but a genuine deep emotional cry.

I teared up a little during the ending cinematic and watched the credits for my friends.1 I put my controller down after the father and child bit, sighed a big sigh, and just up and cried. I think it was because now I could finally reflect on what happened in the past hundred or so hours of gameplay over the course of three games. In the first game, I sucked it up when Ashley died, because we had bigger problems to deal with. I didn’t concern myself with the immediate results of decisions because there was always a more immediate threat. With the Reapers and Shepard dead, I could really look back on what I had done, the decisions I had made, and the final consequences they had resulted in.

To really understand why, I had to look back on Commander Shepard’s history.

Mass Effect

Kaiden and Ashley

Early in my journey, I didn’t pay much attention to Ashley. I played a female Shepard named Tara, so I spent more time dealing with Kaiden in order to get the Paramour achievement. In retrospect, Ashley aligned more with Tara’s values, and Kaiden got annoying. He seemed more concerned with doing the right thing right now for every person that came along, as opposed to a more Star Trek like approach of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I tried to see the big picture and left no option off the table when it came to stopping Saren. Ashley was a soldier first.


Garrus was always at my side. From the initial missions on the Citadel, right up until the last dash past a Reaper to the beam. His sniper rifle was always ready to take out whatever came our way. He was a good friend.


Wrex always made me laugh, and never gave up. Shotgun in hand and witty lines on the tip of his Krogan tongue, he didn’t take shit from anything or anybody. I was immediately sympathetic to him and wanted to cure the genophage, but you can only do so much in one game. I prevented Ashley from putting a bullet in his head and he remained in the universe.


You meet Tali in a dark alleyway getting jumped by thugs. She kicks ass and takes names, and holds her own. I always thought of Tali like a little sister or something. Her Quarian respirator gave her a vulnerable quality that I felt I needed to protect and look out for. On the other hand, she’s quick with her Omnitool and is quite useful when the mission calls for an engineer.


A sexy blue scientist trapped in a mine. With Liara’s brain comes her biotic brawn too, and you quickly learn she can be a formidable ally in combat. Her biotic powers make quite a mess of foes especially if paired with Garrus or another non-biotic as your other squad member. She was always very calm and collected, and was a bit of a moral compass for me. She was more rational than Ashley, but still saw the big picture. For the first game she was a valuable member of the team, though I never pursued any relationship with her until the third instalment.


The key part about Noveria was that I opted to kill the Rachni queen. Who needs that shit running around the galaxy? I surprised myself a bit when I opted to ally with the Rachni in ME3. Back in the first game, the problems didn’t seem so big, but now shit’s getting real, so we’ll need a bit more help. Besides, if they get out of control, I’m sure the Krogan will have fun keeping them in line.


This was tough. You never really had to make these kinds of choices in video games before. You develop relationships with these characters, and now you get to choose who lives and who dies. I was working on a romance with Kaiden2 so I chose Ashley to stay behind. That decision haunted me throughout the series whenever I had to listen to Kaiden whine. I didn’t want to leave anybody behind, but I believe Ashley was the better soldier in the end, and she should have been there with me for the rest of the mission.


In the end, I felt sorry for Saren. He was being controlled by Sovereign, and (brutally) died twice because of it. I felt like I was doing him a favor; putting him out of his misery. Through the whole game you’re led to believe your chasing after this madman. Turns out you’re trying to save a puppet.

Mass Effect 2


Initially I thought Mordin would be more of a nuisance than useful but he quickly became a source of engineering smarts and entertainment. He became a good friend, helped out in any way he could, and even related to Grunt and Garrus.


The best description of Jack is the badass biotic. Tattoos and an attitude, she always had something to say, and it probably involved swearing. I liked Jack but she wasn’t too fond of me, being a girl and all. It was good to see her in the third game as a teacher, and she kind of opened up, and shed some of that harse exterior. I’m going to play through again as a male Shepard and see how the romance plays out with her.


Garrus was a nice familiar face, which helped keep things relative with the new crew members. He was Tara’s romance in the second instalment opting to cut Kaiden loose. His sniper rifle was once again very useful.

Collector Station

Who needs that shit lying around? I destroyed it, like a boss.

Mass Effect 3


How do you make artificial life sexy? Put it in a rockin’ robot body. I sort of steered her away from Joker, even though I thought it would be good for him. It seemed like it could be a bad idea for some reason. Maybe because she was Cerberus technology, but something just didn’t seem entirely honest about her. She turned out alright in the end.


Liara seemed more mature in the third chapter. Something about her, maybe her clothes, or just her general attitude, but something stuck out. I gravitated to her and she became my final romance in the series.

I’ll miss her the most.

Mordin and the Krogan Genophage

I was hellbent on curing the genophage since the first game, but this became a harder decision when the shit hit the fan and Mordin would have to stay behind to finish the process. I don’t know how I would have felt in the first game had I known a character I didn’t know yet would have to die. I really liked this part of the choice system, since I had already made my decision in the first game, but it’s not until the second game where you meet the character that has to do the deed, and you don’t understand the connection until you’re in the process of going through with it. Mordin was always a moral character3 which helped me deal with having to leave him behind. He wanted to do the right thing, though the Solarians weren’t very happy.


It was good to see him cut loose a little bit and bust a move on the dance floor. Not literally, thankfully.


What a dick, though it was pretty hilarious hearing about how the Solarians used to eat flies.

Legion/The Geth and Tali/The Quarians

Wow, this one was tough. I wanted to free the Geth from the beginning. I told Legion to take care of business and told Tali to get her people to stop, otherwise they’d be wiped out by the Geth. That failed, and Tali took off her respirator and stepped off a cliff. I started to freak out a little in this scene, and try as I might to save her, I couldn’t and instead could only watch as my friend fell to her death, because of a decision I made. Legion would be sacrificed in freeing the Geth as well, so that was two friends and an entire race in one decision. This decision also ties into the ending.

The End

In my ending, I had about 4800 points with a rating of 50% (I charged through the game, with no multiplayer), so I ended up with two choices: destroy the Reapers or control them. I followed through with my mission from day one and opted to destroy them. This left earth saved but in ruins, and destroyed all synthetic life (including the Geth and EDI) and wiped out the Mass relays. Let’s discuss.

Now I didn’t think this was a terrible ending. From the beginning of ME2 (you know, where you die) I had accepted the fact that this was going to be a suicide mission at some point.4 I made sure to talk to all of my friends and ship mates, say my goodbyes, before heading out on the final push to the beam. I sort of took the ending at face value, in that I (Shepard) actually did what happened in the final moments.

There is the indoctrination theory which basically says that Shepard was being indoctrinated and these last moments were your subconscious dealing with said indoctrination, and by destroying them you are fighting off their control (possibly surviving). The other options were control (an illusion by the Reapers, perhaps?) and depending on your points at the end, synthesis (accepting the indoctrination?). I like that theory myself. Think back to Saren and The Illusive Man. Saren was indoctrinated, The Illusive Man chose control, and both failed.

So regardless of all that, I chose to do what I came to do, and destroyed the Reapers. This had a number of consequences.

  • The Mass relays were destroyed, leaving everybody in the system they were in. The fleets that came together to help with the final battle (um, all of them) are basically stuck in our solar system. Ouch.
  • The Normandy went down on a planet in who-knows-what system, which might not even be inhabited, so they could be there until their death. This is the one thing that did bug me a little bit, because it seems a little weird that the Normandy would be running through a Mass relay at that time.
  • All synthetic life was wiped out, including the Geth, which I previously saved at the expense of two friends and an entire race. FML.

So the galaxy is safe from the Reapers, but at what cost? Friends have been lost, races have been wiped out, systems have been cut off, and Earth (among other planets) is in ruins. They can rebuild, the Mass relay technology was invented once, so I’m sure somebody can invent it again, but it won’t happen overnight. I can take a quantum of solace in the fact that Javik is around, and might be able to assist in some way the rebuilding of Mass relays. It will take time, but with the Reapers gone they’ve got all the time in the world.

There’s a lot to do to rebuild the galaxy, but they’ll have to do it without Tara Shepard.

1 Disclaimer, I worked for BioWare as an engineering coop student, and have many friends that work in the Edmonton office.

2 #FemShep FTW

3 Except possibly for one part. I seem to remember him wanting to kill somebody in ME2, which I might have let happen. Will have to see on another play through.

4 ME2 was a suicide mission for some people.