With Shepard's story finally at an end, it's nice to look pack and remember all the good times we had. Namely, all the times that didn't involve this. One of the things I loved most about this trilogy as a whole is that it really let us roleplay. Through its moral dilemmas, space adventures, deep customisation, and character interaction, I truly got the feeling I crafting a dynamic character. Few games can really achieve that.
Mass Effect isn't the type of open world sandbox where you can screw around doing nothing for hours, but it is so chock full of memorable moments and characters that you can look back on your character's playthrough and feel an earnest sense of achievement unlike any other. Looking back, I'd say it was a hell of a ride, notwithstanding the terrible end. In the case of Mass Effect, the journey definitely beats the destination.
But I'm rambling. I'd like to share my Shepard's story, as well as give you guys a chance to do the same in the comments section below. Fair warning: this blog is probably less organised than my others, and it may be a tad similar to my "How Do You Play?" blog. I'll probably end up going into a segue or two about decision-making in games. As such, it may not be as analytical or even as enjoyable as my others. Also, expect there to be lots of polling. Glorious, wonderful polling.
Games like Heavy Rain, The Walking Dead, and of course Mass Effect, are games you truly only play once. For the most part, ignorance in a narrative can help heighten the enjoyment and immersion into the story. The less you know, the better it becomes. You have to put yourself in those scenarios, and forget all else you know of gaming. You can't go through these story-driven games with a strategy guide in hand and a plan in mind. You simply have to let go, enjoy the ride, and let the story unfold around you. When you play this way, it's ok to make mistakes, because that's only human. Having a happy go-lucky "perfect" playthrough is fine the second time around, but how boring would it be if life were like that? Instead of trying to get the "optimal" ending or unlocking every trophy, you should simply enjoy the ride. And that is exactly how I experienced the Mass Effect universe: with blind, ignorant bliss.
Because I'm the kind of person who creates 10-20 characters per RPG, I'm just going to stick with my first one. As I've said, your first time is always the most important. No not sex, you pervert! Your first playthrough!
I acquired my copy of Mass Effect last November, and I was sucked in right away. With a freshly opened can of Mountain Dew in hand, I started up my copy of Mass Effect 2 for the PS3 and began to play God.
Since I'm a PlayStation fanboy, I have the PS3 port. Luckily, I was able to make all of the important decisions through a neat little comic book. Of course, this made a huge impact on how I saw the Mass Effect universe. So I gotta ask:
Mindoir, a human colony. But Shepard was a survivor. He was saved by a passing Alliance patrol, and thus began his career two years later. Seeing as how his family was killed by slavers, Spartacus seemed a fitting name. Survival was an instinct that came naturally to him, but this was also his tragic flaw; he could survive any situation, but he could never save the ones he loved. Spartacus was always last man standing, and with each life lost, he bore another burden.
After an hour or so fiddling with the character creator, I finally felt satisfied with my hero. I wanted to go for a more flawed, tragic hero, so I chose Colonist as my background and Sole Survivor for my psychological profile.
Spartacus was as skilled in biotics as he was engineering. The Sentinel class then, was just his style. During his time in the Alliance Marines, Spartacus was stationed on Akuze to make contact with the pioneer team. Somehow, he managed to survive a Thresher Maw attack. Once again, he was the sole survivor. Despite this, the young Spartacus Shepard pressed on.
So you've heard how my Shepard's story started out, what about you?
The Space Adventures of Spartacus Shepard!
Note: I'm not going to give you a detailed biography here. I'm simply going to list some of my career highlights, and give commentary on the development of my character. If you haven't played through Mass Effect 2 and 3... well, you probably shouldn't be here in the first place.
Considering his long troubled past, Spartacus was a bit of a renegade. He wasn't strictly evil mind you, but he was absolutely ruthless in battle. I suppose you could say he was a badass hero with a heart of gold (or whatever materials Cerberus used). Of course, this mixed morality would lead to some problems down the road. Because Spartacus was a mix of renegade and paragon, he had to make sacrifices, with each major decision leaving a lingering doubt.
Since I started this character with Mass Effect 2, I'll start there.
The first stop in was Omega. There, he met the best squadmate of all, Mordin Solus. Mordin was a character with whom Spartacus could connect, despite the obvious sexual tension between them, of course. Sparta would have lengthy conversations with Mordin, and through those talks, he understood the need for a genophage. Having nearly killed his old friend Wrex over it, Spartacus was beginning to question the need for it. Mordin however, persuaded him otherwise.
Naturally, when Mordin asked him for help saving Maelon, he made it a priority. Luckily, this coincided with Grunt's puberty ritual, so Spartacus decided a quick detour to the Krogan DMZ would be a nice change of pace from killing Collectors. Touching down on Tuchanka, they met up with Wrex, an old friend of Shepard's. He informed them of the situation, and they later set off to save Mordin's old friend. After slaughtering waves of krogan, they found Maelon, unharmed and unwilling to leave. Spartacus backed his friend in saying the genophage was the right call. Despite his pragmatism, Spartacus believed in mercy. He stopped Mordin from killing his former student, and allowed him to leave. Now he was faced with a data dilemma. Spartacus knew the necessity of stabilising the krogan, even if his dear old friend Wrex didn't like it. He assured Mordin that destroying the data would be in the galaxy's best interest, and so it was done.
Before coming into contact with Mordin, he met a renowned mercenary, a veteran soldier of fortune. As per the Illusive Man's agreement, Spartacus needed to help Zaeed Massani in tracking down Vido Santiago. After some other business was cleared up, they landed on Zorya, hoping to kill him.
Due to Zaeed's impetuousness however, Spartacus was left in an uncomfortable position. Save the workers and risk losing Vido, or let them die and fulfil the veteran's bloodlust. Well, Sparta wasn't about to have another group of people die on his account. With a good punch, Spartacus reminded him who was boss and proceeded to save them. Unfortunately, Vido got away. Zaeed confronted Spartacus, but the fire he started caused a metal beam to fall and pin him. Though they didn't see eye to eye, they agreed to put vengeance aside...for now.
Lovers in Exile
After a somewhat traumatic experience on Horizon (involving a hurtful conversation with his old friend Kaiden Alenko), Spartacus learned the location of his old friend Tali. With that knowledge in hand, he headed to Haestrom in hopes of recruiting her to the cause. Once on the ground, they proceeded to fight their way to Tali, whilst also trying to avoid a very nasty sunburn. With a new quarian ally at his back and his old buddy Garrus by his side, he made the final push to get to her. With a little help from his friends, he conquered the Collosus, but Kal'Reegar died defending Tali'Zorah nar Rayya. With her entire squad dead, she left the planet and joined the space adventurer Spartacus on the Normandy.
It wouldn't be long before their reunion turned sour, however. Tali'Zorah soon received the disturbing news that she was being charged with treason. Spartacus always had a soft spot for the machinist with a cute tush, so he ordered Joker to turn the ship around and head for the Flotilla. Upon arrival, they were immediately set upon marines, who apparently didn't share the sentiment that bringing a geth onboard was a great idea. After some careful diplomacy, he managed to get in for the trial. At the trial, they learned that a ship in the quarian fleet was taken over by the geth. To Shepard, this was an everyday thing.
With the ship cleared and the truth unravelled, Spartacus and Tali returned to the trial, and Shepard had a choice to make: reveal the truth to the admiralty board, exonerating Tali and sullying her father's name, or lie, and allow Tali to be exiled. She begged him not to bring forth the evidence, even if it could save her from exile. Sparta just couldn't say no to her. Without anyone else to speak on their behalf, she was found guilty of treason, and the two left the Flotilla forever.
Not long after, a budding romance ensued. She had always admired the Commander, and he always wanted to date a quarian. The two flirted, and she expressed her desire to link suits with him....
Trouble on the Normandy
The journey to stop the Collectors however, was not a smooth ride. There were conflicts between the crew, and not all of them could be solved amicably.
After saving Oriana Lawson and blowing up a Cerberus base on Pragia, a catfight broke out betwixt Jack and Miranda. He knew he had to take a side, and knowing just how crazy the biotic prodigy was, he went with the option that didn't get the ship blown apart. Despite their friendship, Miranda started giving him the cold shoulder after that. He just hoped he made the right choice....
Trouble was still brewing however, and Spartacus' troubles were far from over. After choosing to destroy the geth heretics, Tali confronted it in the AI Core when she caught the geth platform leaking data about the flotilla. For once, Spartacus was able to make peace. If only it would last....
Calm Before the Storm
Not long after retrieving the Reaper IFF, the Normandy was attacked by Collectors again. With Spartacus and his squad gone, it was up to Joker to save the Normandy. It was a difficult choice to make, but he knew the only hope for survival was venting the airlocks. Naturally, Spartacus was pretty pissed. He was in an unfortunate position. He knew delaying a rescue could cost lives, but he had to be prepared for the Omega-4 relay. He didn't know whether it was the right thing to do, but if this mission failed, the entire galaxy could be at risk....
After a few other important missions were cleared up, he told Joker to head for the relay. With a couple of hours to spare, he went up to his cabin for some much needed rest, but he wasn't going to get much sleep. Tali came up, and the two embraced each other, for what could be the last time. Most importantly, he finally got to see what those quarians looked like under their masks.
The Suicide Mission
The time had finally come. After a sleepless night with Tali, Joker hit the Omega-4 relay, bringing them straight to the galactic core. With the Collector Base in sight, the Normandy closed in, ready to finish the mission. Before they could reach the Collector homeworld however, they were attacked.
Jack was the first to die. An Oculus beam hit her, and, much to Shepard's disbelief, she died instantly. Shortly after, there was an explosion in the engine room. The damage was contained, but Kasumi Goto was killed in action. Joker quickly flew into an asteroid field to escape the attackers. Without the proper armour upgrades however, the Normandy took heavy damage. Just before they were clear of the debris field, Thane was impaled.
With three people dead already, Spartacus was determined to avenge their deaths. He gave a rousing speech and split up his squad into two teams, with Miranda as second fire-team leader. Somebody had to infiltrate the station's vents-practically a suicide mission. Jacob volunteered, and Spartacus agreed. After fighting waves of Collectors, and narrowly avoiding death, Jacob was shot in the face just before the door closed. The death of his friend only hardened his resolve. He would shut down the Collectors, or die trying.
The death toll had reached four, and Spartacus promised himself he wouldn't lose any more. Once they escaped the Collectors that were attacking them, they came across a horrific site. They encountered pods made for processing humans into... something. Before they could rescue the abducted crew and colonists however, Yeoman Chambers was liquefied. Ken, a few of the crewmen, and Doctor Chakwas survived.
Now even more had died, but another dilemma arose. They survivors had to be escorted. Spartacus ordered Zaeed to accompany the others to the Normandy for extraction. Now, they would have to make the long walk to the centre of the base, the only problem with that being the way was blocked by seeker swarms.
With Jack dead, the only other biotics left were Miranda and Samara. He ordered Samara to create a biotic bubble to protect him, Miranda, and Grunt from the swarm. Considering his expertise, he selected Mordin as the second fire-team leader. Everyone had a task, and so they split up.
As they slowly walked across the base's harrowing halls, Mordin would report in, and they weren't good reports. He needed the commander's help, but he was trapped. Slowly, they pressed on. They were set upon by waves of husks led by Harbinger, and after a few close calls, they managed to escape.
Sadly, just as they were in sight of the exit, Grunt was carried away by the seekers. Another pang of guilt came over Shepard, who ordered Grunt to cover his six. To make matters worse, EDI informed him that although the survivors made it to the Normandy, Zaeed had died. Ironically, he gave his life to protect a group of people he didn't even know.
Things were only going to get worse from there. Rushing to the door panel, Miranda opened the door and let the second fire-team in. Alas, it was too late. Mordin's shields went down, and he took fire. As he staggered in, Spartacus came to his side. He uttered the words "Tell them... I held the line." just before he died. But there was no time to mourn. He had to move on.
It was now time for the final push. He would have to select two others to accompany him to the centre of the Collector Base. Garrus and Tali were the two he trusted most. He left Samara, Legion, and Miranda to hold the line. After defeating several waves of Collectors, Harbingers, and even one Human-Reaper, The Illusive Man contacted him and ordered him to preserve the base for use against the Reapers. Spartacus wasn't about to let that happen. Many people gave their lives to get him there, and he wasn't going to back down now. He planted the bomb and prepared to leave. Just then, the base started to come apart, and the three were thrown down from the platform. Amazingly, all three survived.
With only seconds to spare, the trio made their way to the Normandy and made their escape mere moments before the Collector Base exploded. Sadly, Miranda died holding the line. They completed their mission, but at great cost.
Spartacus Shepard survived the suicide mission, along with Samara, Legion, Tali and Garrus. With so much free time, he was finally able to rescue that woman Hackett was on about, or maybe track down that Ardat-Yakshi. The galaxy was wide open, but most of the crew was gone.
The last thing Shepard did before returning to earth was to erect a monument for all those who sacrificed their lives for the Normandy. It was the least he could do.
The Reaper War
Note: Again, I'm not going to chronicle every detail about my playthrough. The parts below are the more important choices I've made.
Fate of the Hanar
After the business on Mars was complete, Spartacus and co. headed to the Citadel to gather support for the cause. There he met Jondum Bau, a Salarian Spectre. He sent him on a wild goose chase for an indoctrinated Hanar diplomat. Sadly, Kasumi Goto couldn't be there to help. They confronted the vile jellyfish, but it was too late. He already started uploading a virus that would leave Kahje defenceless against the Reapers. Suddenly, a man standing in the back grabbed Jondum and started strangling him. Without thought, Spartacus sprang into action. He saved the Spectre, but by the time he was saved and Zymandis was killed, it was too late. The Hanar homeworld was lost. Ironically, his survival instict led to the downfall of the hanar homeworld.
The Cure, Part II
Palaven needed help. Before they would help the turians however, the krogans themselves also needed help. Of course, the task of helping fell to Spartacus Shepard. Though he didn't agree with the idea, Wrex wanted to cure the genophage, and that's what they needed. Dalatrass Linron offered him another deal, to sabotage the cure. This left Spartacus in a pickle.
On the shuttle ride to Sur'Kesh, Wrex confronted Spartacus and told him that he knew what happened with Maelon's data. Spartacus was at a crossroads. He paused and pondered his decision. He suddenly began to doubt whether the genophage was the right thing to do after all. After what seemed to be an eternity of awkward silence, he apologised, and promised he would do his best to make amends. Wrex was sceptical, but they were friends once. Even so, they needed this alliance. After dealing with the Cerberus troopers, they managed to save the krogan female, with a little help from some salarian whose name escapes me... we'll just call him Not Mordin.
Over the course of a few more adventures, Not Mordin synthesised a cure for the krogan populace. After a few missions on the krogan homeworld, the time had come to distribute the cure via the Shroud. At first, he tried to warn Eve of Linron's offer, but they were intercepted en route. When another opportunity arose to say something, he lied. Despite everything he had been through, he still was unsure of what he was going to do. He wish it didn't fall to him, that it wasn't his decision to make.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much time to think about morals when a titanic Reaper was shooting laser beams at him. Using his keen survival instincts, he managed to outmanoeuvre the horde of Brutes that stood between him and the Maw Hammers. Despite his deep hatred of Thresher Maws, he took a great deal of pleasure in watching that smug Reaper get a Thresher Maw to the face.
With the Destroyer out of the way, they could finally enter the Shroud. Not Mordin discovered an anomaly. Spartacus made his decision. He warned him about the sabotage. In order to ensure the cure's vitality, Not Mordin would have to go into the towering inferno above and manually override it. Spartacus asked him not to go, but once again fate deemed he lose another close salarian buddy. He had grown rather fond of what's-his-name, but at least he died giving the krogan hope. In the end, Sparta was rather happy that the choice fell to him. After all, someone else might have gotten it wrong.
As always, victory came at a great cost. In addition to Not Mordin, Eve died just before the cure was distributed. Spartacus felt a pang of guilt. He knew that Eve died because of his actions, because he thought destroying the data was the right thing to do. Not only that, but it would certainly hinder their chances against the Reapers. Despite the sombre occasion of Eve's funeral, there was still hope. Mordin would have been proud.
The Tuchanka portion of the game is by far one of the best in the Mass Effect trilogy. It was the culmination of everything that involved the krogan, salarian, and genophage sub-plots. It took into account many previous actions, which could then in turn the many outcomes for the Tuchanka mission. It also had one of those rare moments in a game where I actually felt guilt over a past decision. When Wrex confronted me on the shuttle ride, I actually took pause and thought about what I was going to do next. At the time of playing Mass Effect 2, I took the pragmatic route and sided with Mordin's beliefs. When I got to Mass Effect 3 however, I couldn't do it. However, doing a 180 on my belief system wasn't possible; this isn't Fallout 3, where the destruction of an entire town can be forgotten by giving water to vagrants. I could still cure the genophage, but I was denied a happier ending because of my previous actions. That is how decision making should be done in video games.
Spartacus was needed in the Far Rim. The quarians needed help, but then, everyone did. What really caught his attention about this mission (other than the potential for adventure and riches) was that his girlfriend was a quarian. Despite being exiled, the admiralty board still needed her for her expertise. Disregarding the irksome hypocrisy of the board, he was overjoyed to see her, just as she was to see her "dirty little secret". Once again, neither of them got much sleep that night.
After another sleepless night with his favourite quarian squeeze, it was time to help the war effort. Admiral Zaal'Koris vas Qwib Qwib ship crashed planetside, and of course, it was up to the Commander to save him. As usual, complications arose. What did seem out of the ordinary was that he didn't want to be saved. He begged Spartacus to leave him and save the crew. Once again, he was in one hell of a pickle. Koris could do a lot of good for the quarians and offer great aid in the fight against the Reapers. To save him however, he would have to let non-combatants die. Spartacus was hardended, but not cruel. Even if it was for the greater good, he couldn't leave those men behind. He let Qwib Qwib go out in a blaze of glory, and managed to get those men to safety. Doing the right thing it seems, comes at a great cost. If it was the right thing to do....
War and Peace
The tension between the creator and the created had reached the boiling point. Spartacus, Tali, and Garrus were sent on a mission to destroy the Reaper base, freeing the quarian fleet in the process. Along for the ride was old friend Legion, one of Shep's four surviving squadmates from the suicide mission. Fighting through waves of geth primes wasn't easy, but after a few close calls, they made it. What they found however, wasn't a Reaper base, but rather, an actual Reaper. As it came to life, Spartacus made the order to run like hell. After a daring and narrow escape, he insisted that the would stay behind and fight, knowing full well he could die doing so. Before leaving, Tali finally said "I love you."
Spartacus faced down the Reaper, and without fear, he aimed the targeting laser at it. After a few orbital strikes, the Reaper fell. Even with the Reaper dead however, the war raged on. Legion wanted to upload the Reaper code, granting the geth true intelligence. However, with the geth still shooting at the flotilla, that would spell certain doom for the quarian people. He believed the geth had been wronged, but he couldn't sacrifice the quarians. Once again, it was impossible for him to say no to Tali.
He apologised to Legion, but it didn't want its people to die either. Legion retaliated, grabbing Sparta by the neck and holding him up over the edge of the cliff. He wasn't sure what hurt worse: the machine choking him out, or the sting of betrayal-his betrayal. Thinking quickly, Tali'Zorah finally made use of that knife of hers, and stabbed Legion in the back, both literally and metaphorically. As Legion fell to its knees, it begged the question "Does this unit have a soul?", to which Tali tearfully replied "Yes." It was hard enough eradicating an entire race, but seeing Legion die in front of him made it hit home.
The damage was done. The quarians proceeded to annihilate the geth, and finally retook Rannoch. Shepard and Tali however, had just lost a dear friend. It was a bittersweet moment, but at the very least, he had love. Getting a planet is probably the best way to impress a girl.
The Final Fight
Many more battles came to pass before it was time to retake Earth. His resolve was hardended during the assault on Cronos Station, where he learned the Thresher Maw attack on Akuze was caused by Cerberus. Kai Leng was out of the way, but the Illusive Man had eluded him. In his old office, Spartacus spoke to the Prothean VI Vendetta. It told him that the Citadel was in fact the Catalyst, and it had already been moved to the heart of Reaper-controlled space. It tried to tell Shepard that the cycle was beyond hope, but he didn't care. After all he's been through, he wasn't about to let his friends' deaths be in vain.
In preparation for the final battle, he made a tour of the ship, saying goodbye to his friends and crew. He made sure to stop and apologise to Joker after their argument on Thessia. He knew the odds of survival were low, even for him.
Spartacus, alongside his most trusted team members, Tali and Garrus, headed planetside to join Hammer team. The planet had already been devastated, and was infested by Reaper forces. But then, fighting through dangerous monster-infested ruins was pretty much an everyday thing for Shepard, only now the stakes were much higher. It was good to finally see Anderson again, though he had absolutely no idea who that Hawke-sounding fellow was, or where he came from. He regrouped with the rest of the resistance and prepared for the final push. After a short chat with Steve and Samara (who somehow managed to survive this long), he gave his squad another rousing speech before bum-rushing no man's land.
After a few perilous gunfights, they had finally reached the Conduit. Just then, his old nemesis with the awesome voice descended onto the battlefield and proceeded to wipe out everybody in view of the beam. Shepard took cover, but Garrus and Tali were injured. He rushed to her side to make sure she was alright; he wasn't about to let anything happen to her. He called the Normandy for extraction, and sure enough, Joker pulled through. She refused to leave Spartacus behind, but he begged her to move on and return to Rannoch. Spartacus told her to go, knowing it would be the last time he would see her. Everything he did from then on was for her.
Spartacus stared Harbinger down, then rushed to the beam. Alas, just as he was a few metres away from reaching the Citadel, Harbinger hit him. Refusing to give up, he scrambled to his feet and slowly made his way to the beam. There he faced the greatest evil of all: Marauder Shields and the three Huskateers. With an unmatched rage he gunned them all down and headed up to the Citadel. Once there, he met with Anderson at the control panel. They weren't alone, however. The Illusive Man came out of nowhere and started ranting about Control or something. Spartacus wasn't really paying attention. He tried talking him down, but there was only so much crazy he could handle. When he was about to execute the admiral, Spartacus shot him. The Illusive Man was dead. He wanted to do that for a long time.
Drawing on his vast knowledge of alien technology, he opened the stations arms with ease. The Crucible could finally dock, and more importantly, he could get some rest. He sat down with Anderson, whose life was slowly fading. After he had passed, Admiral Hackett contacted Spartacus and told him that the weapon wasn't firing. It seemed as though the job wasn't quite done yet....
Spartacus collapsed in front of the panel. Luckily, he collapsed on the magical elevator panel that leads to the roof of the station. When he woke up, an apparition of a child appeared before him and started rambling about Synthetics and Organics. Spartacus could achieve Synthesis, or even Control the Reapers, but he knew how that worked out for the last two or tried to do those things. Spartacus didn't trust the Reapers. He knew the only way they could ever be safe was with them gone, even if it came at the cost of all Synthetic life. He made his way to the red light and shot at the pod. With that, the Reapers were defeated. The cost was great, but at least there was still hope.
Tali and the rest of the Normandy crew crashed on a distant world after escaping the Crucible's blast. They knew Spartacus was surely dead, but Tali was hesitant to put his name on the Wall of Fallen Heroes. As much as he'd like to be up there with Mordin, it wasn't quite time. His adventures weren't over. Somewhere on the Citadel, Spartacus sprung to life. There was only one thought in his mind; he had to find Tali.