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Continuing on from my blog of a few months ago, I thought I'd reflect a little more about how I think the third game will play out in terms of Shepard's allies and enemies. Once again this is full of ME and ME2 spoilers, so watch out.
It's somewhat obvious from the events of ME2 that a Reaper invasion of galactic proportions is imminent for our poor galaxy. Naturally, awesome as Shepard is, she or he can't take on the entire Reaper fleet alone. Barring some magical deus ex machima (which I'm not discounting, frankly, as disappointing as that would be), it seems to me that the trilogy is going to boil down to the mother of all space battles. By deus ex machina I mean some kind of magic solution that suddenly appears, be it a Reaper virus, exploding star, dark matter, etc. In my view this would be a bit of an anti-climactic letdown.
This mother of all space battles, of course, will require a fleet, and allies, for Shepard. Here's where things get interesting. Based on the choices of Mass Effect and its sequel, I've thrown up a list of what I believe will be these allies (and, in some cases, enemies).
Firstly, the 'major' ally (the human faction for which Shep is fighting). I envisage this 'allied faction' playing a similar role to the Alliance in ME and Cerberus in ME2 - providing missions to Shepard, outlining the 'broader picture' to the player and serving as the method for exposition (i.e. explaining the story). Will also probably affect the game's ending/
- Cerberus: This option is virtually assured to exist. A direct outcome of keeping the Collector base in ME2 and being nice to the Illusive Man. Does not necessarily mean sacrificing the Council (I'll get to this bit later). Insofar as Cerberus is shown to have the same, if better, intelligence-gathering capabilities as the Alliance (and indeed has spies within the Alliance), plus a Collector base to manufacture a fleet, I'm going to assume they are relatively interchangable in terms of military and espionage power (I don't like this conclusion, but it seems to be the one Bioware has forced upon us).
- Note: Based on the outcome of the N7:_Lost_Operative mission, valuable information about Cerberus may have been leaked to its enemies. I can only presume that this will weaken it in terms of an ally, and might even affect the game in surprising ways.
- Systems Alliance: This option is also virtually assured to exist. A direct outcome of destroying the Collector base and telling TIM to shove his cigar somewhere else. Like Cerberus, I envisage they will provide an information-gathering role in the early stages of the game, but direct military strength at its conclusion. One would assume they have greater military strength than Cerberus, but I think Bioware would want to be fair to those who backed Cerberus.
- Note: Akin to the Cerberus note above, the outcome of N7:_Javelin_Missiles_Launched may hinder the Alliance's military strength. I can only guess what would happen if the player hadn't done the mission, though.
- None: Something I'm not confident Bioware would implement, but it would be interesting. What if Shepard rejected both Cerberus and the Alliance and struck out on his own?
Secondly, there's the rag-tag bunch of allies that I envisage sending aid against the Reapers.
- Citadel species: A no-brainer. If Shepard has been warm and fuzzy over the last few games, and manages to finally convince the Council (whether alien or human) of their lack of foresight, I can only imagine that the Council would commit their entire fleet to stop the Reapers. Note that if the Council is human-dominated this impact would be less, and the Alliance's larger. Presumably if the player saved the Destiny Ascension it would play a large role.
- Rachni: Another no-brainer, and one that is even spelled out for the player in ME2. The rachni will be sending aid, if they survived.
- Quarians: Another ally the player gains in ME2, explicitly requested to help (if you follow the political dialogue choices) at the end of Tali's loyalty mission. It was even hinted (in my game at least, when I proved her innocent) that Tali could become an admiral of the Migrant Fleet. This is when things get complicated, however. The quarians, to my mind, have a few possible storylines in ME3:
- They enter a war with the 'true' geth (not the heretic ones) and are obliterated, in which case Shepard will lose them as potential allies.
- They make peace with the true geth, and either find a new colony world or remain on their flotilla. This would potentially leave their ships free for aiding Shepard.
- They take control of the geth using Tali's father's research (and Admiral Xen's leadership) and may not necessarily aid Shepard (perhaps depending on dialogue choices in ME2?)
- Krogan: A potential ally, but not one that is guaranteed. For the krogan to be truly effective as allies, I'd imagine that they'd have to have Wrex (expansionist visionary clan leader) as their leader, and the cure for the genophage developed by Mordin and kept by Shepard. They may play a smaller role if Wrex or the cure aren't present, but the mechanics of how this would work are difficult to think through.
- Geth?: An interesting ally, and not one that I'd envisaged before the end of ME2. The goals and methods of the 'true geth' - emphasized by Legion - are radically different to both humanity and the rest of the galaxy. Yet, they have an interest in stopping the Reapers as well. I'm putting a question mark behind the geth because they are a potential ally, but perhaps also an enemy if the integration of the heretics goes awry.
Thirdly, I'd like to mention some enemies (in addition to the Reapers) that Shepard may have picked up over the course of his journey, that may nevertheless drastically affect the events of ME3.
- Cerberus: Notably, when I destroyed the Collector Base at the end of ME2 many of my squadmembers suggested that I'd actually made an enemy of the Illusive Man and Cerberus. While I can't see them directly allying with the Reapers, Cerberus could be a major thorn in the side of Shepard's efforts to stop the invasion and may involve some kind of 'major side-quest'. Perhaps a sidequest to wipe out the other side (Cerberus if allied to the Alliance, and vice-versa) is required as part of the story?
- Systems Alliance: I can't imagine Anderson green-lighting Shepard's death, but relations could deteriorate to the point that the Alliance actively tries to stop the Commander (or shoves Anderson out of the way), if Shep is clearly allied with Cerberus by keeping the Collector Base.
- Heretic Geth: If Legion was ignored in ME2, or the decision was made to destroy rather than reprogram the heretic geth, the remaining pockets of geth heretics may ally with the Reapers. Perhaps solved through a sidemission?
How will these allies work?
- The only solution I can come up with is a scenario akin to the "Hold the line!" section of ME2's Suicide Mission.
- Essentially, the game would determine the final set of allies using the aggregated decisions of ME, ME2 and (where applicable) ME3.
- The strength of these allies is given a numerical value based on the decisions of the player and the outcome of missions
- The total of these values is used to determine the outcome of the battle (or, if the outcome is solved through Shep's actions or a deus ex machina, the fate of major characters, planets or factions).
- Using this method, it's possible to finely tune the outcome of the final battle. Higher or lower values (corresponding to stronger or weaker allies) could be used to create a range of endings, down to the extremely specific.
- In any scenario, Bioware will obviously still need to cater to those who haven't played either ME or ME2, or who have alienated/wiped out every potential ally they had. This leads me to believe that the final battle with the Reapers won't actually be decided by these allies - instead, the allies will affect the outcome of the Reaper invasion on the galaxy (simply put, who survives the attack and how much damage is done). The destruction of the Reapers and the survival of the galaxy will, perhaps unfortunately, have to be based on the decisions made in ME3 (much like your team's survival in ME2 has nothing to do with the decisions you made in the original game).
Thoughts/comments/rants? Have I missed an ally? Any other ideas as to how this will play out in ME3?