Hey, guys. I'm just looking for an opinion on what people play as during their Mass Effect saga. This is essentially a recap, with major decisions asked as polls, just so I can get a sense of what people normally play as. I don't mean to come off as boring, I just want to find out how we all play, and this is the best way I can think of. Put down your 'canon' ending, i.e. how you played first time around?
So here goes:
MASS EFFECT 1 Prologue
In the year 2183, a prototype Alliance warship, the SSV Normandy, travels from Earth's orbit to the Mass Relay at Charon. On board Captain Anderson is in discussion with Admiral Hackett and Ambassador Donnel Udina concerning Commander Shepard,
Shepard's past is brought into question:
Anderson, Hackett and Udina agree that Shepard is a perfect candidate, and make a call to the Council.
Shepard heads to the bridge where Joker, the pilot, guides the ship into the Mass Relay. Because of the presence of Nihlus Kryik, a turian Spectre sent by the Council to observe, and the famed Captain Anderson, several members of the crew think their true purpose at Eden Prime is far more important than a simple shakedown run. After making the jump, Captain Anderson asks Shepard to come to the comm room for a briefing. Nihlus has time to speak to Shepard before Anderson joins them. Together they inform the commander that a Prothean Beacon has been discovered on Eden Prime. Prothean technology has immense scientific value, but since Eden Prime is close to the Terminus Systems, the beacon is at risk from pirates and mercenary bands. This is the Normandy's true objective: recover the beacon. This mission will also be Nihlus' chance to observe Shepard in action, the first of several they will undertake together to assess Shepard's candidacy for the Spectres.
The briefing is interrupted by a transmission from Eden Prime that Joker patches through. The footage shows Alliance soldiers fighting on the surface, under heavy fire and requesting reinforcements. As Shepard, Anderson and Nihlus watch, they see a huge dreadnought hanging over the surface. Anderson orders Shepard to get ready—this is going to be worse than they thought.
As the Normandy touches down on Eden Prime, Cpl. Richard L. Jenkins, Lt. Kaidan Alenko and Commander Shepard prepare to head down to the planet. Nihlus is going groundside too, but goes on ahead. In the first few minutes on the surface, geth assault drones appear without warning and cut down Jenkins. Shepard and Alenko continue towards the dig site, discovering one of the few surviving marines, Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, who is being chased by geth troopers. Shepard and Alenko help her fight them off. Williams can't explain why the geth are here, but they've wiped out her whole unit.
Williams leads them to the dig site but the beacon has been moved to the spaceport. While they examine the nearby camp, the squad run into a group of Husks, human corpses reanimated by the geth, which they manage to kill. Shaken, they continue towards the spaceport where Nihlus agreed to meet with them. Meanwhile, Nihlus is surprised to see Saren Arterius, a fellow Spectre, at the train platform. Saren tells Nihlus he's got everything under control, but when Nihlus turns his back, Saren kills him and leaves, ordering the geth to destroy the colony with explosives. He approaches the Prothean Beacon, which reacts by lifting him off the ground.
After finding Nihlus's body, Shepard's team continues to the tram area where they defeat the last of the geth and disarm their demolition charges. Shepard sees the beacon and calls the Normandy while Alenko and Williams take a look at it. One of them gets too close and is caught in some sort of field—Shepard intervenes but is caught in the field instead, pulled off the ground as Saren was. The commander suffers a horrific vision—synthetics waging a terrible war—before the beacon explodes and Shepard is thrown to the ground, unconscious.
Aboard a huge dreadnought, Saren is given a report by an asari matriarch. The news isn't good—Eden Prime has been saved by Captain Anderson's crew, and one of them may have used the beacon. Saren flies into a rage but restrains himself from attacking her, ordering that this human must be eliminated.
Fifteen hours after the Eden Prime attack, Shepard wakes up in the Normandy's medical unit, much to the relief of Alenko and Williams. Doctor Chakwas says the commander is physically okay, but has increased rapid eye movement and unusual beta waves, indicating psychological trauma. Shepard mentions the vision but can't explain it. Captain Anderson briefs Shepard about Saren. He is a powerful and legendary Spectre but also outspoken against humans. If Saren is in charge of the geth, that means he has gone rogue, and they must tell the Council. Upon arriving at the Citadel, Ambassador Udina tries to convince the Council to remove Saren's rights and privileges as a Spectre, but only succeeds in getting an audience. Shepard, along with Alenko and Williams, continues to the Citadel Tower and meets Garrus Vakarian, a turian C-Sec (Citadel Security) officer investigating the charges against Saren. He hasn't found anything useful: Saren's Spectre status makes him untouchable.
The Council audience doesn't go well. The Alliance has little evidence and Saren—viewing the proceedings from a hologram—openly laughs at Shepard's vision. They need more to go on. Garrus, the C-Sec officer, might be able to help. Udina tells Shepard to find Harkin, a suspended C-sec officer who could help them find Garrus. Anderson also suggests speaking to Barla Von, a financial expert on the Citadel who works for the Shadow Broker. When Shepard hears Garrus was last seen in the Med Clinic, the commander intercepts a couple of thugs threatening Dr. Chloe Michel, and saves her with Garrus' help. From the two of them, Shepard learns that a quarian has recently arrived on the Citadel, claiming to have evidence of Saren's connection to the geth. However this quarian is being held captive by Fist, a local crime lord who used to work for the Shadow Broker, but who's now betrayed the Broker to work for Saren.
Along with Garrus, the group gains the aid of Urdnot Wrex, a Krogan Battlemaster, mercenary and bounty hunter who has been sent by the Shadow Broker to kill Fist. They raid Chora's Den and discover the quarian was supposed to hand the information over to the Shadow Broker, but this meeting is a trap. Saren's men will be the ones waiting. Shepard races to the meeting and manages to save the quarian, Tali'Zorah nar Rayya. They bring Tali back to the Ambassador's offices.
The evidence she found was an audio file she managed to save from a geth memory core, which has clear evidence Saren was behind the attack on Eden Prime. However, the file also hints that Saren is looking for something called the Conduit with the aid of a powerful asari called Matriarch Benezia, to bring about the 'return of the Reapers'. When the evidence is presented to the Council, Saren is stripped of his Spectre status, but they're reluctant to send a fleet after him to apprehend him. No interest is shown in the Reapers.
As people in the Chambers watch in amazement, Commander Shepard becomes the first human Spectre and is tasked with hunting Saren down. Captain Anderson steps down as commander of the Normandy and hands the ship over to Shepard, along with some useful leads. There have been reports of geth activity on the planets Noveria and Feros. Also, Matriarch Benezia, Saren's ally, has a daughter named Dr. Liara T'Soni, a Prothean expert who may have useful information. After giving the crew a speech, Shepard is now in command of the Normandy.
The Normandy tracks Liara T'Soni to Therum, a mining colony in the Knossos system of the Artemis Tau cluster, but the geth are already on the surface, taking over several refinery facilities and dropping Geth Armatures from overhead.
Shepard leads the squad to a mineshaft and down into a Prothean ruin, where they find Liara trapped behind a Prothean barrier curtain. Freeing her, they discover she is not in league with Saren and has no idea what the Conduit might be. As the squad leaves the ruined tower with Liara, they are confronted by a Krogan Battlemaster who is leading the geth and manage to defeat him as the unstable ruins begin to collapse. They escape just in time.
During the debrief, Liara explains her expertise is on the Prothean extinction. She has a theory they were not the first civilization to mysteriously vanish, and is amazed by Shepard's story of the Reapers.
Shepard arrives at Noveria and discovers that Matriarch Benezia recently arrived. She and Saren are investors in Binary Helix, which has a lab up on Peak 15. Benezia has gone there on business. However the lab has since issued a Code Omega signal, meaning there are critical problems, and a blizzard has cut off shuttle access. After wrangling with Administrator Anoleis, Shepard manages to get a garage pass and drives up to Peak 15.
The facility is deserted save for geth and bizarre creatures—the rachni—which have escaped from the labs. Shepard reactivates the station's VI, Mira, and goes up to Rift Station looking for Benezia. Rift Station is full of science staff sheltering from the rachni attack; Shepard can help them out but gets attacked by those loyal to Benezia. The squad finds out Binary Helix discovered a rachni egg that turned out to be a queen, and were trying to breed an army from her brood until the rachni turned on them.
Down in the labs through the maintenance area, Shepard finds Benezia with the Rachni Queen. The matriarch attacks the squad, but after a fierce battle Benezia manages to overcome the indoctrination that Saren has used to control her, and tells Shepard the truth. Saren wants the location of the lost Mu Relay, and sent her to retrieve it from the queen's genetic memory. Benezia doesn't know what else he is planning. She hands the coordinates over to Shepard, but becomes lost to the indoctrination again and the commander has to kill her. After deciding what to do with the Rachni Queen, Shepard leaves Noveria with Benezia's data and another piece of the puzzle.
Drawn to Feros by rogue geth activity, Shepard and the squad arrive at the Zhu's Hope colony, owned by ExoGeni Corporation. The colony has been suffering repeated geth attacks and the settlers there are acting strangely. Shepard clears the geth for the colonists and takes a Mako along the Prothean Skyway to the main geth base. The squad finds a small group of colonists who have become separated from the others, led by Juliana Baynham and a nervous ExoGeni rep, Ethan Jeong. Despite their situation these survivors seem to be coping better than Zhu's Hope. Before they leave, Juliana asks Shepard to look for her daughter Lizbeth, whom she believes to be still inside ExoGeni Headquarters.
After making their way inside the ExoGeni Headquarters, Shepard's squad finds Lizbeth, scared but alive. From the company VI, Shepard discovers that the corporation has been experimenting with a mind-controlling plant, the Thorian, and that Zhu's Hope is actually a testing ground for ExoGeni to study its abilities. Shepard disables the force fields that the geth have set up by knocking the geth dropship off the headquarters and returns to the Skyway group. Jeong has received word that ExoGeni wants Zhu's Hope destroyed. Shepard deals with Jeong and heads back to Zhu's Hope to find the Thorian.
Controlled by the Thorian, the colonists attack Shepard on sight. Some have been turned into Thorian Creepers. Shepard can use special gas grenades that instantly kill the creepers and harmlessly paralyse the colonists, then descends beneath Zhu's Hope to find the Thorian.
It is an enormous creature that looks nothing like a plant. It creates an asari clone to speak for it, but only to tell Shepard it's not interested in bargaining with 'meat'. After battling waves of Thorian Creepers and clones, Shepard manages to destroy the Thorian's neural nodes and kill it.
An asari emerges from a Thorian pod, and manages to explain what happened. Shepard learns that Saren sacrificed this asari ally, Shiala, to the Thorian to gain the Cipher. This is the cultural and ancestral experience of the Protheans, which is necessary to understand the vision that the Eden Prime beacon put into Shepard's mind. Freed from the Thorian, Shiala transfers the Cipher to Shepard. With it, once Shepard has had time to adjust, the vision will make more sense and hopefully lead them to the Conduit before Saren.
The Council contacts Shepard with a possible lead. A salarian espionage team on Virmire, investigating reports of Saren's activities, has sent a mission-critical transmission that was almost lost in static. Shepard heads to Virmire and meets the leader of the salarians, Captain Kirrahe. They have found a breeding facility for krogan that Saren is using to create an army.
Kirrahe, realising he's not getting the reinforcements he needs, asks for Shepard's help destroying it and they develop a plan. While the salarians distract Saren's geth, Shepard will take a team around the back and plant a nuclear device that will wipe out the facility. Kirrahe asks Shepard for a squad member to help him coordinate the attack—Shepard can send Ashley or Kaidan to help the salarians, but must also deal with Wrex, who is furious that Shepard is willing to destroy a cure for the genophage, a salarian bioweapon which makes Krogan breeding next to impossible. Shepard either talks Wrex into staying loyal, guns him down or allows Ashley to gun him down.
Leading the strike team, Shepard reaches the facility, but discovers its main purpose is not to breed krogan, but to study Sovereign's horrific indoctrination effect. In Saren's private lab, the team finds another Prothean Beacon that gives Shepard another vision, and they are confronted by a hologram of Sovereign itself, which is not a Reaper ship but an actual Reaper.
Shepard manages to get the nuke set up across the facility only to get a call that the salarians are being attacked with heavy losses. The commander takes a group to help them but as they leave, the geth start attacking the nuke site and Shepard has to choose: both Kaidan and Ashley are in trouble and there's no time to save both. Once the choice has been made, Shepard brings reinforcements in, only to be confronted by Saren. He tries to make the commander join his cause but Shepard refuses, fighting Saren off. Saren gets away and the team board the Normandy, escaping Virmire as the nuke destroys the facility, killing either Kaidan or Ashley depending on Shepard's decisions.
Commandeering the Normandy
Thanks to the undamaged beacon on Virmire, Shepard's Prothean vision is now complete. During the debrief, Liara touches Shepard's mind to interpret it fully. The vision was a distress call intended to warn the Protheans about the Reapers. Liara realises that the landmarks in the vision are on Ilos, a planet she has studied as part of her Prothean research. Ilos had been impossible to reach because it was only accessible through the Mu Relay, which is why Saren needed the Relay's location from Noveria. After the debrief, Joker has a message for Shepard from the Council: they're putting together a massive multi-species effort to face Saren.
Thrilled the Council are finally taking this seriously, Shepard returns to the Citadel, wanting to personally lead the assault. But once back at the station, Shepard discovers the Council are only putting up a blockade around the Mass Relays to stop Saren reaching the Citadel. Neither they nor Ambassador Udina believe Shepard's story about the Reapers and they refuse to send a fleet to Ilos. The Mu Relay is in the Terminus Systems and a Citadel fleet there could start a war. Shepard knows the Normandy's stealth systems can get them there discreetly, but the Council are getting tired of Shepard's insistence that the Reapers are the real threat. Udina, wanting to make nice with the Council, locks out the Normandy's systems and grounds the ship.
Frustrated, knowing Saren is close to finding the Conduit and they're losing time, Shepard is grateful when one of the squad offers support.
A real breakthrough comes when Captain Anderson gets in touch, asking Shepard for a discreet meeting at Flux. Anderson believes the commander's story and knows the Normandy is the only ship that can get Shepard to Ilos. He is going to unlock the Normandy's systems, allowing Shepard to steal the ship and take her to Ilos. Shepard is concerned that Anderson will be arrested and charged with treason—or worse—but Anderson sees his future as a small price to pay for stopping genocide on a galactic scale.
Shepard goes to the Normandy and waits with Joker on the bridge. With Anderson's help the Normandy's systems are unlocked and they escape the Citadel, heading to Ilos.
After Shepard's love interest spends a night in the Commander's quarters (may or may not happen; depending on player choice), Joker announces that they're about to pass through the Mu Relay, and they soon arrive at Ilos.
Shepard sees that Saren has already arrived with a fleet of geth dropships, though the Normandy's stealth system is keeping them safe for now. Navigator Pressly picks up some readings on the planet confirming Saren's presence. However, they can not find a landing zone. Shepard suggests dropping the Mako but they need about 100m of open terrain for a safe drop and Pressly can only find at most 20m. Joker insists that he can do it. The Mako is successfully dropped outside an ancient bunker, but Saren and his geth have already made it inside, shutting a heavy security door behind them.
The Ilos Archives Shepard looks for ways to get to the other side of the bunker doors. After fighting through the geth left on guard, Shepard and the squad find a security station and reopen the bunker doors. While in the control room, Shepard discovers an ancient Prothean recording which is heavily damaged. The Cipher allows Shepard to make out some of the words—it's another warning about the Reapers but it's just too broken up. They return to the Mako and enter the bunker. After driving past cryogenic stasis pods, all apparently shut down, Shepard sees a mysterious energy barrier. As the Mako reaches the barrier, another barrier appears behind them, trapping the squad inside. The only way out is through a door at the side of the wall. After heading down an elevator, Shepard finds an ancient Prothean VI named Vigil, who has information Shepard needs to stop the Reapers.
Vigil unveils a startling revelation. The Citadel is actually a trap; a huge mass relay linking to dark space, outside of the galaxy, where the Reapers are waiting. The keepers are presumed to be one of the earliest races to be indoctrinated by the Reapers, who set them the task of maintaining the Citadel and activating the Citadel Relay when Sovereign signals them. It is also revealed that Sovereign is the vanguard of the Reapers. After every Reaper attack, they leave behind one of their kind to act as a vanguard and to monitor the development of the galaxy's races. Once the galaxy's races are sufficiently advanced, the vanguard will activate the Citadel Relay and usher in the next genocide. The reason the Reapers harvest the galaxy of all advance organic life approximately every 50,000 years is currently unknown. According to Vigil, not even the Prothean scientists could comprehend why they do it. They may be driven by goals that organics find impossible to understand. Once the galaxy is harvested, the Reapers return to dark space to hibernate and conserve energy. In this state, they are apparently vulnerable, so they always seal the Citadel Relay behind them.
When the Reapers last attacked about 50,000 years ago, their genocide of the Protheans lasted for centuries. Ilos' personnel hid in cryogenic stasis, watched over by Vigil. However, as his energy reserves ran low, he followed a contingency plan by shutting off pods of non-essential personnel to conserve energy, hoping that when the time was right, he could safely open the pods. In the end, Vigil managed to save a dozen scientists. The few remaining Protheans on Ilos traveled to the Citadel through the Conduit—a small prototype mass relay, built by the Protheans, enabling a one-way link from Ilos to the Relay Monument in Citadel Presidium. The survivors altered the signal that the keepers respond to and prevented them from activating the relay to dark space.
Vigil also explains that if Sovereign assaults the Citadel alone, the combined power of the Citadel Fleet would be enough to defeat the single Reaper. However, if Sovereign is able to direct an agent to go through the Conduit as a back door and transfer control of the Citadel back to Sovereign, it will be able to manually activate the Citadel Relay and bring in the rest of the Reapers. Sovereign had possibly planned this for centuries after discovering the Protheans' sabotage plan.
Vigil gives Shepard a data file that will give the commander temporary control of the Citadel to stop Sovereign. After leaving Vigil, Shepard heads through the archives, down into an old aqueduct guarded by geth, and reaches the Conduit. Saren had already gone through, leaving geth to stay guard.
Meanwhile, Sovereign begins its assault on the Citadel, escorted by a large geth fleet. The commander of the Destiny Ascension attempts to close the Citadel but the station doesn't respond—the operators at Citadel Control are all dead. Saren has begun his attack from within.
Back on Ilos, Shepard sees the Conduit is closing fast. Rushing to the Conduit, Shepard evades the geth in the process and drives the Mako through, just before the relay closes.
On the Presidium, now burning and heavily damaged, two geth troopers notice a blue glow around the Relay Monument. When they go to take a look, the Mako suddenly bursts through and crushes them, before rolling over and crashing against a wall. The race to stop Saren is on.
Battle of the Citadel
Shepard and the team manage to get out of the overturned Mako and use the nearby malfunctioning Avina terminal to get a sit rep. Saren is heading toward the Council Chambers and the whole station is infested with geth. The squad tries taking the elevator to the Citadel Tower, but it stops halfway when Saren locks down the station's systems. Shepard tells the team to suit up and blows out the elevator's glass with a shot. They have to walk the rest of the way in zero gravity with their boots magnetized.
Meanwhile up in the Chambers, Saren—angrily shooting keepers as he goes—reaches the central console and uses it to take control of the Citadel. As Sovereign gets closer, crushing the Citadel Fleet ships in its path, Saren closes the Wards, creating an impenetrable shell around the Reaper and the Geth Dropships already inside. Sovereign settles on top of the Citadel Tower, preparing to open the Citadel Relay once Saren transfers full control.
Elsewhere Shepard and the team are fighting for their lives against the geth and Saren's krogan warriors out on the Citadel's exhaust plains, trying to get to the Chambers. A geth dropship appears and starts unleashing shock troopers on them; Shepard activates the Citadel's defense turrets, and with their cover fire, takes the dropship out. Further along they run into several powerful geth turrets and have to use cover to get close enough to destroy them, or manage to sneak down a side route where Krogan Battlemasters are waiting. Eventually they reach a maintenance hatch that leads down into the Council Chambers, now burning and full of Saren's geth. The stairways provide some cover as the team fights towards the central console.
At that moment Saren appears and throws a grenade. Shepard's team are blown aside while the commander takes cover close to Saren. He urges Shepard not to be a fool—everything is lost if Shepard continues resisting Sovereign. Saren boasts that his faith faltered but Sovereign has implanted him, made him partly synthetic, perfect. This is the future of organic life. Shepard can't believe Saren allowed Sovereign to implant him. Shepard can attack Saren straight away, or try talking him down—the more Shepard talks, the more Saren is convinced, but his Reaper implants cause the turian intense pain when he begins to agree with Shepard. With enough convincing, Saren thanks the commander for freeing him before shooting himself in the head.
Whether Shepard kills Saren or Saren kills himself, he then falls to the bottom of the Chambers, falling through the glass floor and being impaled by a large shard.
Using the central console, Shepard uploads Vigil's program and gains control of the Citadel. With advice from the team, Shepard opens a communication channel and gets Joker... who has the Fifth Fleet just waiting for the commander's word once the mass relays are unlocked. Shepard has to decide between sending the Fleet to defend the Destiny Ascension and save the Council, letting the Council die, or focusing on Sovereign.
Once the orders are given, Joker brings the Fleet through the nearby mass relay as Shepard opens the Citadel's ward arms.
As the Fleet engages the ships outside—geth dropships and Sovereign itself—Shepard tells the squad to check Saren and make sure he's dead. They drop down to the bottom of the Chambers—one coldly shoots Saren in the head, while the other confirms the kill to Shepard. Suddenly Saren's body begins to twitch as his implants fire up, burning his flesh away until he is a cybernetic construct like a Husk, completely possessed by Sovereign. The shockwaves from his transformation cause the platform to collapse and Shepard falls into the bottom of the Chambers. The squad fights back against the creature, but it is fast and deadly.
Outside, the Normandy is leading the attack against Sovereign. The Reaper unleashes a terrible weapon that burns through several Alliance ships, but the Fleet is slowly getting the upper hand. As the squad finally destroy the cybernetic creature and it burns away to ashes, Sovereign begins to weaken under the Alliance attack and releases its grip on the station. A blast from the Normandy is the coup de grace and the Reaper is destroyed.
In the Chambers, Shepard looks up to see a huge piece of debris from the Reaper heading straight for the Tower. The commander yells for the squad to take cover, just as it hits.
Much later, rescuers enter the Tower looking for survivors. Under a pile of rubble they discover Shepard's team... two of them, badly wounded but alive. Leading the rescuers, Captain Anderson helps them out, assures them that it's all right, and asks where Commander Shepard is. One of the squad looks sadly across the Chambers, where the Reaper debris has crashed into the floor. It would have crushed anyone standing under it. The rescue team helps the squad out of the Chambers, reluctantly believing Shepard died in the crash. Anderson looks back—to see someone moving. Commander Shepard, with an injured arm, manages to climb out from behind the debris, limps toward them, and smiles.
MASS EFFECT 2 Awakening One month after the Battle of the Citadel, Shepard is sent through the Terminus Systems to flush out any remaining geth loyal to Soverign. While searching the Amada system in the Omega Nebula, Joker picks up a strange signal, identified as an unknown cruiser. The cruiser then attacks the Normandy, heavily damaging it. Most of the crew, including Shepard's old team, Chakwas, and Adams make it off, but Pressly and some crew are killed, and Shepard is spaced while rescuing Joker.
Commander Shepard awakens in the year 2185 aboard a Cerberus space station, a research facility of the Lazarus Project, which is under attack by hacked security mechs. After the Commander aids Cerberus agents Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor in escaping, Shepard is taken to a headquarters of Cerberus and granted an audience with the Illusive Man, who explains that Shepard was revived and "upgraded" in return for the Commander's aid in combating a new threat in which human colonies have been attacked, their colonists deemed missing.
Shepard and the team are dispatched to investigate the recently attacked colony of Freedom's Progress, located in the Terminus Systems. There, the group encounters Tali'Zorah vas Neema, one of Shepard's former squad members, and discovers that the mysterious insect-like Collectors were behind the attack and are responsible for the further abductions of other human colonies.
Shepard reports this to the Illusive Man, who then places Shepard in command of the Normandy SR-2, a larger ship modeled after the original Normandy SR-1. With the guidance of the Illusive Man, Shepard begins traveling across the galaxy to recruit a new team for what is assumed to be a suicide mission.
Recruiting A Team The Illusive Man initially provides Shepard with four dossiers regarding potential recruits: a salarian scientist, a mysterious vigilante called Archangel, a krogan warlord, and a powerful but psychotic biotic. The salarian, Mordin Solus, is found on Omega and is working to stop a plague engineered by the Collectors but distributed throughout Omega by the vorcha. The vigilante Archangel is also on Omega, holding out on his own in a battle against three mercenary gangs. After reaching Archangel's hideout, Shepard learns that Archangel is actually Garrus Vakarian, one of Shepard's previous squad members. Garrus is seriously injured while battling the mercenaries, and, although he is permanently disfigured, he survives and joins the team. The krogan warlord, Okeer, is found attempting to create the perfect krogan through unethical genetic research. When the warlord is killed, he leaves his creation, Grunt, under the care of Shepard.
The biotic, Jack, revealed to be a woman, is also known as "Subject Zero." Cerberus arranges for her to be purchased from the prison holding her; Shepard travels to the Purgatory prison ship. Once there, however, Shepard is betrayed by the warden as he attempts to capture Shepard for a bounty. Shepard manages to escape the trap and rescue Jack, who joins the team despite an initial distrust of Cerberus operatives.
After the recruitment of the four characters, the Illusive Man reveals that a human colony called Horizon has come under Collector attack, and he dispatches the team in an attempt to save the colony. He also notes that one of Shepard's surviving crew members, either Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams depending on choices made in the first game, is stationed at the colony to oversee the construction of massive defense towers. Shepard arrives with his/her team and battles the Collectors face-to-face; the group appears to have arrived too late as half of the colonists have already been taken away. Shepard's team is able to activate the colony's defense cannons and turn them on the Collector ship, which then flees the planet under heavy fire. Shepard later reunites with the former ally, who leaves feeling betrayed by Shepard working for Cerberus.
After returning to the Normandy, it is revealed that the Illusive Man allowed the Collectors to attack Horizon by leaking a tip to the Alliance that Shepard is alive and working with Cerberus. The Collectors intercepted this message and attacked the colony. The Illusive Man suspected the Collectors were looking for Shepard or people connected to Shepard. It soon becomes clear that the Collectors are targeting Shepard. Shepard is provided with dossiers on three more potential recruits: an asari Justicar, a drell assassin, and Tali. Shepard finds the Justicar, Samara, on Illium. She joins the team after Shepard investigates the Eclipse mercenary group and its involvement in a murder. The drell assassin, Thane Krios, is also found on Illium and is in the midst of completing an assassination contract on Nassana Dantius. After learning of Thane's next target, Shepard fights resistances along the way to the top floor of the tower complex where the target is located. Shepard encounters Thane, who successfully dispatches his target and joins the team, as Shepard can provide him with a purpose. Tali is found on a geth-occupied quarian colony world, Haestrom, where she is researching the system's rapidly dying sun. After she is rescued from an immense geth force, she agrees to join Shepard.
Collector Ship The Illusive Man informs Shepard that a turian patrol engaged a Collector ship, and managed to disable it before being destroyed, and that the Normandy should take the opportunity to investigate the ship before the turians respond, and find any data or technology that can help them on their mission. Upon boarding the ship, Shepard discovers many empty collector pods, as well as the bodies of dead human colonists, apparently subjected to various experiments by the Collectors. Shepard then discovers that the Collectors had also been experimenting on their own, with EDI saying that they appeared to be researching their own genetic similarity to humans. EDI's genetic analysis of the deceased Collectors reveals that they are in fact the long extinct Protheans, having been subjected to extensive genetic modification to alter them for the Reapers' purposes.
As Shepard proceeds deeper into the ship, Joker discovers that it is in fact exactly the same Collector vessel responsible for the attack on Horizon and the destruction of the original Normandy, which Shepard remarks is far too uncanny to be coincidence. When Shepard's team reaches the center of the ship, they discover that it contains millions of empty pods, more than enough to hold every human in the Terminus Systems, thus indicating that their ultimate target must be Earth. Shepard is able to link EDI with the Collector ship's systems in order to search for any useful information, but she is quickly interrupted as she discovers that the ship is not disabled, and the Collectors have drawn the Normandy into a trap. EDI also reveals that the Illusive Man knew all along that the "disabled" Collector ship was a trap but still sent Shepard and the Normandy to the ship in order to gain information. Shepard and the squad fight their way out and escape from the ship on the Normandy before the Collector vessel can bring its weapons to bear. After escaping, Shepard speaks with the Illusive Man, who admits to sending the Normandy into an obvious trap in order to gain information, and says that it was necessary in order for the Collectors to believe they have the upper hand and telling Shepard about it would have tipped the Collectors off. After talking his way out of the argument, the Illusive Man reveals the data gathered by EDI has led to the discovery of the Collector's means of traversing the Omega 4 Relay, an advanced Reaper IFF system. EDI is also able to calculate the location of the Collector homeworld from their ship's navigational data, and reveals it to be within the galactic core, an extremely dangerous area, which likely accounts for the fact that no ships ever return from the other side of the Omega 4 Relay.
The Key The Illusive Man then reveals that Cerberus has located a derelict Reaper orbiting a remote planet, evidently destroyed millions of years beforehand, and sent a science team there to recover the device required to pass through the Omega 4 Relay—a Reaper IFF transponder. During the course of the investigation, Shepard discovers that the Cerberus science team members had all been killed before their arrival. Video logs left by the science team make it evident that even though the Reaper is no longer sentient or functional, the indoctrination effect that emanates from all Reapers is still present. The derelict ship automatically activates its shields, isolating Shepard's team from the Normandy and thus making their only means of escape to destroy the ship's power core, which is also powering the ship's latent mass effect fields and preventing it from plunging into the planet below. Battling their way through the Husks on board, Shepard and the team are assisted by a single geth, somehow able to talk and also apparently friendly. Shepard and the team recover the IFF and fight to the core of the ship, where the mysterious geth assists them once again before being disabled. As the Reaper's core is destroyed, its shields disappear and Shepard's team are able to escape to the Normandy before crashing into the planet, along with the disabled geth. Following the mission, Shepard may choose to either turn the geth over to Cerberus for research or activate it. If activated, the geth will be named Legion by EDI and joins the team against the Collectors.
Shortly after, Shepard departs with the recruited members on a shuttle towards their next mission as the Normandy prepares the IFF for testing in their absence. However, EDI discovers a hidden signal after activating the IFF, and realizes that the IFF is broadcasting the Normandy's position. This turns out to be another trap set by the Collectors, as their ship is able to surprise the Normandy with Shepard's entire team absent. Collectors board and seize control of the ship, and Joker is forced to give control of the ship over to its on-board A.I., EDI—a potentially dangerous move. After successfully regaining control of the ship, EDI manages to pilot the Normandy away from the Collectors and rid the ship of all enemies, but the entire crew barring Joker is taken by the Collectors. Upon returning to the ship, Shepard's hand is forced—the Commander can either continue completing secondary missions and sacrifice the captured crew, or to go through the Omega-4 relay immediately to rescue the Normandy crew members.
Beyond the Relay
Eventually, Shepard must decide to travel through the Omega 4 Relay. Whether this is done immediately or after a delay since acquiring the Reaper IFF will determine how much of the Normandy's crew is rescued from the Collector base. When Shepard decides to proceed, the Normandy activates the Reaper IFF and engages the Omega 4 Relay. Upon exiting the far side of the relay, the Normandy appears in the midst of a vast debris field containing the wreckage of thousands of ships, presumably all destroyed attempting to traverse the relay. The Collectors have stationed automated defenses in the debris field known as Oculus, which the Normandy must fight off. After defeating the Oculus and reaching the far side of the debris field, the Normandy discovers the Collector base, a giant space station orbiting a black hole. The Collector Cruiser is dispatched from the station, and the Normandy engages and destroys it, but as it explodes the blast cripples the Normandy causing it to crash land on the outer surface of the base. Depending on the upgrades applied to the ship over the course of the game, up to 3 crew members may be killed while fighting the Oculus and Collector Cruiser.
Over the course of the rest of the mission, the rest of the squad, including Shepard, may all be killed based on personal decisions and their loyalty. Shepard and the team enter the station and battle their way through the Collectors to the station's core, rescuing the surviving Normandy crew as they go. Upon reaching the heart of the station, they discover that the Collectors have been constructing a new human-like Reaper, made from the genetic material of the abducted humans and fused with the advanced technology of the Reapers. EDI hypothesizes that the Reapers attempted and failed to create a Prothean-Reaper, and instead enslaved them and turned them into the Collectors, and that they are now facilitating the Reaper equivalent of reproduction. EDI also guesses that due to its human appearance, Reapers are crafted to resemble the race from whose genetic material they are created. Shepard targets the weak supports of the contraption, which is in the very early stages of its construction, and it is seen collapsing into the lower confines of the area. Shepard then sets about with the plan to destroy the station.
At this point, the Illusive Man contacts Shepard and suggests that instead, use a radiation pulse be employed to kill all of the Collectors on board, but keep the station intact to allow Cerberus to research its technology. The Illusive Man notes that any information obtained from the Collector Base would be very valuable in the coming war against the Reapers, in addition to strengthening humanity's position in the galaxy against other races. Shepard may choose to either refuse the Illusive Man's advice and destroy the station or use a radiation pulse to kill all surviving Collectors thus allowing Cerberus to take control of the station.
After Shepard makes the decision regarding the station's fate and begins the countdown, the Human-Reaper resurfaces from the depths of the station and attacks Shepard's team. After Shepard and the team destroy the Reaper, the surviving squad members escape to the Normandy and leave. Aboard the Normandy, Shepard converses with the Illusive Man a final time, who is either thankful or extremely angry with Shepard depending on the choice regarding the station. Shepard can either cut the Illusive Man off or promise him that they'll find another way to stop the Reapers with or without the Illusive Man's help or involvement.
A final cinematic shows the Normandy undergoing repairs following the mission and concluding with the Reapers awakening from their hibernation in dark space.
MASS EFFECT 3 Return of the Reapers
Six months have passed since the events of Arrival. Commander Shepard has been relieved of command and detained in a Systems Alliance facility in the city of Vancouver on Earth. Without warning, Alliance deep space outposts beyond Sol begin to go dark. Admiral Steven Hackett, the head of the Alliance military, begins to prepare for an imminent invasion. Admiral David Anderson arrives in Vancouver and escorts Commander Shepard with Lieutenant James Vega to a meeting with an Alliance defense committee. Shepard confirms their worst fears: the Reapers have returned to the galaxy and are on their way to Earth.
At that moment, contact is lost with Luna Base and news reports begin to surface of an unknown alien force landing in Earth's cities. The Reapers have already arrived. A Reaper capital ship then descends through the clouds over Vancouver and blasts the Alliance building, killing the defense committee and Alliance staff. Shepard and Anderson survive and contact Ashley Williams or Kaidan Alenko (whichever survived Virmire), telling them to get to the Normandy. As Shepard and Anderson make their way from building to building to get to the spaceport, Anderson tells Shepard that they have to get to the Citadel and seek help from the Council. They reach a comm set near a crashed gunship and hail the Normandy to evacuate. After holding off an attack from Cannibals, the Normandy bombs the area clear of attackers. As Shepard boards the ship, Anderson informs the Commander that he will stay behind to lead the resistance, and hands over Shepard's dog tags. Shepard protests, but Anderson charges Shepard with getting as much help as possible to save Earth and stop the Reapers.
As the Normandy lifts off, Shepard witnesses a child running to an Alliance evacuation area and boarding a shuttle. As the shuttles lifts off, a Reaper destroyer emerges from behind a cluster of buildings and targets the shuttles, killing those who were aboard including the child. Distraught, Shepard steps away from the open shuttle bay doors of the Normandy, and the ship escapes Earth as more Reapers and the wreckage of Alliance ships rain down upon the planet.
The Crucible Shortly after escaping Earth, Shepard orders Joker to divert to Mars after receiving a communication from Admiral Steven Hackett, ordering the commander to the Prothean Archives on Mars. Hackett insists that Liara T'Soni has found what may be the only way to defeat the Reapers.
Upon arrival, Shepard, James and either Ashley or Kaidan take the shuttle down to the planet, receiving a warning from EDI that the base is not responding. They soon discover the reason why upon witnessing Cerberus soldiers executing surviving Alliance personnal; the group fight their way through the enemy, inferring from the small size of the Cerberus force that they must have had help from the inside. Ashley/Kaidan is also surprised Shepard is unaware of this, given their past association with Cerberus, and Shepard must convince their squadmate they have cut ties with the extremist organisation following their defeat of the Collectors.
After entering the station and arriving in time to witness Liara biotically overpower and execute her pursuers, Liara explains why Hackett sent them to find her; she has found in the Archives blueprints for a Prothean device that might allow them to turn the tide against the Reapers. Unfortunately, Cerberus has learned of it too, and now they must hurry to recover the necessary information before Cerberus can. Sending James back to the shuttle to secure their escape route and prevent Cerberus from doing so, Shepard, Ashley/Kaidan and Liara fight their way through the station to the main Archive, discovering along the way the identity of the traitor in the station: Dr. Eva Coré, supposedly a recently arrived researcher, but in truth a mole who sabotaged the station's defences to allow Cerberus entry.
Reaching the Prothean Beacon at the heart of the Archives, the Illusive Man contacts them by hologram, mocking the Alliance for failing to take advantage of the wealth of information the Protheans left behind and commenting that Shepard is fighting a losing battle. He also explains his new motivation; to find a way to control the Reapers and thus use their power to advance humanity to a new level of evolution and above the other races. Deriding the Illusive Man's plan as madness, Shepard vows to use the information to destroy the Reapers and dismisses the Illusive Man's warning not to interfere in Cerberus' plans anymore. The group then encounter Dr. Coré, who had been trying to upload information on the Prothean device, but her upload is interrupted by the squad and she tries to flee. Although Coré is able to reach a Cerberus shuttle, James disables it with a kamikaze attack before it can escape, having also alerted the Normandy to extract the squad. Coré, revealed to be an android by the explosion, emerges from the wreckage and attacks, critically injuring Ashley/Kaidan before being disabled by Shepard. The Normandy arrives to extract the team just as Reaper forces begin landing on Mars.
Having escaped Mars, Shepard forwards information on the Prothean device to Hackett, orders Liara and EDI to begin extracting intel from the android and orders the Normandy to the Citadel.
Uniting the Galaxy Upon arrival at the Citadel, Ashley/Kaidan is taken for medical treatment at the nearest hospital and Shepard conveyed to a meeting with the Council. Upon arriving, Shepard is quick to see the Councillors are looking to their own borders, despite Udina's insistence that Earth is bearing the brunt of the attack and needs the most help. The salarian Councillor explains that if the worlds of the other Council races can be secured, then they can divert military forces to Earth, and that a summit is being convened to discuss strategy. The Council is also unimpressed by the Prothean device, insisting it must be flawed as it failed to save the Protheans from extinction at the hands of the Reapers, but Liara explains that a missing component referred to as "the Catalyst" prevented its completion.
Upon departing the meeting, Shepard and Udina are met in his office by the turian Councillor, who explains that Palaven's ruler, Primarch Fedorian, didn't escape the system before the Reapers arrived, and requests that the Normandy extract him from his current location on Palaven's moon Menae, explaining that Fedorian will be a useful ally in accruing support for Earth. Before departing, the Councillor informs Shepard that the Council has agreed to uphold/reinstate their Spectre status, granting them the benefits of the position.
The Normandy enters the system to find Palaven and Menae under heavy attack by the Reapers, with the turian military under immense pressure and taking heavy losses. Upon landing on the moon at a turian base, Shepard learns from the commanding officer that Primarch Fedorian is dead, having been killed an hour before Shepard's arrival and they have no idea who has succeeded him because their communications with Palaven Command have been cut. Fighting through swarms of Husks to the comm tower and repairing it, the turians soon learn that General Adrien Victus, a popular military commander with a reputation for playing loose with strategy, has been named as Palaven's next Primarch; however, he is fighting at a base several miles away, with which radio contact has been lost. At the same time, Shepard receives a message from Joker that EDI and the Normandy are acting strangely; Liara returns to investigate, while Shepard's old squadmate Garrus Vakarian joins them, both to help fight and to lead them to Victus's position.
Fighting their way through Reaper forces, Shepard, James and Garrus arrive at the base and after helping Victus and his soldiers fight off their attackers, relay the news to the General that he is the newest leader of his people. Victus is dubious about his ability to lead, claiming to be no diplomat and unwilling to leave his men, but he reluctantly agrees to accompany Shepard to the summit, but insists that he can't divert troops to Earth until Palaven can be secured, something beyond the turian military's ability to do now. Victus insists that the turians will need reinforcements, namely the krogan to succeed.
Upon returning to the Normandy, Shepard and the crew discover the earlier power fluctuations were caused by EDI implanting herself in Eva's body, a process which has completed successfully and given EDI more options, namely the ability to leave the Normandy and accompany Shepard into combat. Soon after, Shepard receives words from Admiral Hackett that Alliance Research and Development has begun construction of the Prothean device, dubbing it "Project Crucible".
Aiding the Krogan The decision to involve the krogan in proceedings causes major problems; the asari pull out of the summit altogether, believing turian-krogan relations too fragile for anything to be accomplished. A diplomatic meeting is held between Shepard, Primarch Victus, Dalatrass Linron, the leader of the Salarian Union and the clan chief of the krogan, either Urdnot Wrex or his brother and successor Wreav if Wrex is no longer alive. The dalatrass is openly hostile and insulting to the krogan leader, who is ambivalent to the plight of the turians, insisting that the Reapers are moving on Tuchanka and refuses to provide military assistance unless their own demand is met; that a cure is created for the genophage. The dalatrass flatly refuses to agree to such a demand, arguing that what Shepard and Victus are planning to do in curing the genophage is the same rash mistake the salarians made when they uplifted the krogan to fight against the rachni, while Victus believe the plan impossible because it would take years they don't have to synthesise a cure.
However, Wrex/Wreav reveals intel he has received that following the experiments of a salarian scientist into curing the genophage on infertile krogan females, an STG team rounded up the survivors of the experiments- a group of now fertile females who are also immune to the genophage- and took them offworld. The dalatrass, under pressure, reluctantly reveals that the females are being held at an STG base on Sur'Kesh and acedes to their release, though she insists that curing the genophage will have dire consequences for her people.
Shepard, their squad and the krogan leader arrive on Sur'Kesh to oversee the exchange, meeting up with former team mate Mordin Solus who has been put in charge of caring for the krogan females (and is revealed to be the source who leaked information on their existence to the krogan). However, as a side effect of the cure, the females suffered from weakened immune systems and only one has survived. At the same time, a Cerberus strike force hits the base, seeking to kill the surviving female and stop any hope of a cure for the genophage. Shepard and their squad are forced to fight off Cerberus troopers deploying into the base as Mordin and Wrex/Wreav attempt to extract her.
Upon successfully escaping Sur'Kesh and after Mordin synthesise a cure from her tissue, the Normandy deploys to Tuchanka, (recapturing an ancient gound-to-space cannon from Cerberus and preventing the terrorist organisation from detonating a turian bomb planted to prevent further uprisings after the Krogan Rebellions along the way) where the Reapers have begun attacking in force; the plan is to release the cure from the Shroud, a salarian structure built to repair Tuchanka's atmosphere that was used to spread the genophage virus originally, combining a turian airstrike and a krogan ground attack to draw away a Reaper destroyer guarding the tower. En route, Shepard is contacted by Dalatrass Linron, who insists Shepard cannot go through their plan to cure the genophage and reveals that STG sabotaged the Shroud years ago to prevent it being used for such a plan. The dalatrass offers Shepard a deal; prevent Mordin from repairing the Shroud, thus causing the cure to fail, and in exchange, the salarians will provide military support and technical expertise to help construct the Crucible.
The team arrive on Tuchanka, but the Reapers destroy much of the air and ground forces before much damage can be done. Shepard and the squad improvise a new plan; luring the Thresher Maw Kalros into attacking the Reaper destroyer to buy them time, Mordin and Shepard enter the Shroud and Mordin explains that the cure has to be released from the top of the tower; a task that, with the tower collapsing as they speak, is essentially a suicide mission. Shepard must decide whether to let Mordin sacrifice himself to spread the cure, or convince him not to.
The Citadel Coup Following their mission on Tuchanka, Shepard is contacted by the salarian Councillor, who requests they come to the Citadel to speak with him/her. The Councillor explains that it concerns Councillor Udina, who has been moving vast sums of money and the Councillor wishes to discuss where it is going, claiming that Shepard "won't like the news".
Upon arriving at the Citadel, however, the station is worryingly silent. Upon scanning emergency channels, the Normandy receives a transmission from an old companion of Shepard's (either drell assassin Thane Krios, who has retired to the Citadel to enjoy his remaining life, or salarian Major Kirrahe, if either are alive) who explains that the Citadel is under attack; Cerberus has hit the station in overwhelming numbers and C-Sec are struggling to retaliate. The contact explains that Ashley/Kaidan (having recovered from the injuries sustained on Mars and been named a Spectre by Udina since then) has gone to protect the Council, while they are attempting to reach C-Sec Headquarters, since C-Sec cannot launch an effective counterattack while Cerberus holds it. Deploying in the shuttle, Shepard and their squad land in the middle of a pitched battle between C-Sec and Cerberus forces outside the headquarters, helping C-Sec Commander Bailey retake the office. Inside, Bailey uncovers intel that the salarian Councillor was meant to be meeting with the Executor, presumably to have someone important prosecuted. Given the message the Councillor sent to the Normandy, Udina is implicated.
Reasoning that the Councillor is likely holed up in the Executor's office, a fairly defensible position, Shepard's squad fight their way through Cerberus's troops, but when they reach the office and extract the Councillor, they come under attack from Kai Leng, who is under orders from the Illusive Man to assassinate the Council. The salarian Councillor also reveals that Udina is collaborating with Cerberus to stage a coup. If Thane or Kirrahe are not alive, Leng manages to assassinate the Councillor; if one or both are, then they thwart Leng's assassination attempt, but are mortally wounded in the process. Leng retreats to pursue the rest of the Council, with Shepard and company in hot pursuit.
Despite Leng's best efforts to slow down and stop their pursuit, Shepard reaches the Council ahead of him at a shuttle pad, locking the exits to prevent Cerberus troopers attacking and a tense standoff ensues, with Ashley/Kaidan standing in their way. Shepard reveals Udina's treachery to the Council and while he attempts to deny it, the rest of the Council, after all the times they didn't listen to Shepard, begin to believe them. When Udina tries to override the lockdown, Shepard must convince Ashley/Kaidan to get out of the way (either managing to talk them down or being forced to shoot them) and Shepard is ultimately forced to kill Udina. With Udina dead and their plan thwarted, Leng and the remaining Cerberus forces retreat, while C-Sec begins securing the station.
En route back to headquarters, Leng reports his failure to the Illusive Man, who assures his agent that Udina was expendable and he has other plans in motion, though the Illusive Man does admonish Leng for letting Shepard defeat him; Leng angrily promises it won't happen again.
The Quarian Offensive Following the coup attempt, efforts to speed the pace of the Crucible's construction and drive the Reapers back increase. Admiral Hackett contacts Shepard with news on that front, informing the Commander that while turian and krogan ground forces are making progress against the Reapers on Palaven, they need more support ships and the quarians are willing to talk. Hackett requests Shepard meet with the leaders of the Migrant Fleet but urges caution, as recent intel suggests suspicious activity along the geth border.
Meeting with Admirals Shala'Raan, Han'Gerrel, Daro'Xen and Zaal'Koris at a diplomatic ship in the Far Rim, Shepard learns, much to their chagrin, that the quarians are launching another attack on the geth, with the intention of retaking their homeworld Rannoch from their AI creations. The quarians pushed the geth back to the Perseus Veil when a mysterious signal began broadcasting to all geth forces, drastically improving their combat capabilities.
Shepard conclude that the signal is Reaper tech, which must be destroyed if the quarians are to have any chance of survival. The admirals explain that the signal is being broadcast by a geth dreadnought far beyond their ability to destroy. Shepard proposes that they and a squad board the vessel and disable the signal, throwing the geth into confusion and buying the quarians time to withdraw. The Admirals agree and offer Shepard technical support in the form of their newest member; Shepard's old crewmate Tali'Zorah, promoted to her late father's position based on her knowledge of the geth.
Arriving in the middle of a pitched battle between the geth and quarian fleets, Shepard, Tali and their squad board the dreadnought and make their way through the ship, fighting off geth crew to reach the drive core, where the signal is being broadcast. Inside the drive core is another of Shepard's old crew, the geth platform known as Legion, who has been hardwired into the drive core to amplify the Reaper signal; Legion explains that despite their efforts to turn the geth away from serving the Reapers, the quarian attack drove the geth into an alliance with the Reapers in order to save themselves. At Legion's direction, they shut down the drive core, freeing Legion from its shackles, who in return disables all shields and weapons aboard the dreadnought. At that point, however, Admiral Gerrel deviates for the plan and launches a full attack on the dreadnought, hoping to destroy the crippled geth flagship. Shepard and their squad narrowly escape the vessel in time.
After returning to the Normandy and either accepting or condemning Gerrel's explanation of his actions, Shepard requests information from Legion.
To the horror of the Admirals, Legion explains that the dreadnought's destruction has only severed the Reaper signal at long range; a base on Rannoch's surface is still transmitting the signal at short range, and the geth will soon recover from the disruption. After breiefly diverting to rescue Admiral Koris, who had been stranded on the planet surface after sacrificing his ship to destroy a geth planetary defence cannon, and shutting down a geth server controlling fighter craft threatening quarian liveships, Shepard and a squad, accompanied by Legion hit the geth base, intending to expose the transmitter to a bombing run by the Normandy. The plan works, but the Reaper tech broadcasting the signal turns out to actually be a Reaper destroyer that emerges to attack, pursuing Shepard's squad as they flee in a geth shuttle. A chance weapons strike from the Migrant Fleet reveal a weak point in the Reaper's defences; that the firing chamber is vulnerable when priming. Using a handheld laser guidance system and dodging the Reaper's attacks, Shepard directs the Normandy and Migrant Fleet's weapons against the Reaper, eventually severely damaging it.
Following its defeat, the badly damaged Reaper and Shepard exchange barbed words; the Reaper, recognising Shepard from Harbinger's description, asserts that Shepard's opposition to the Reapers is pointless, that they are preserving organic life from chaos and that the cycle must continue if organics are to be saved from destruction. Shepard dismisses the Reaper's warnings and assures it that the races of the galaxy will continue to fight until a way to defeat the Reapers is found. With nothing more to be said, the Reaper 'dies'.
With the Reaper destroyed, the geth fleet is left disabled and vulnerable to the quarians, but Legion requests permission to upload a modified form of the Reaper code to all geth that would grant them true intelligence. Sehpard must choose whether to allow this upgrade or not, and if it is, to convince the quarians to cease fire and make peace with the geth, or to stand aside and let one race be destroyed by the other. Whatever Shepard decides, the conflict between the quarians and geth that has raged for three centuries is brought to an end, and the support of one or both races acquired against the Reapers.
Thessia's Fall Following the resolution of the quarian-geth conflict, the asari councillor requests that Shepard come speak with her on the Citadel. Though the Crucible's construction nears completion, the absence of the Catalyst makes it still useless against the Reapers. The Councillor reveals to Shepard that there is a highly classified artifact located on Thessia that may help the Commander identify the Catalyst; however, she urges haste, as the Reapers have descended on Thessia in droves, seeking to annihilate the most advanced race in the galaxy.
En route to Thessia, Liara who insists on coming to help her homeworld, explains that the artifact is housed in the Temple of Athame, a deity whose worship is nearly as old as the asari, but has fallen out of practice. Arriving on Thessia to find the asari military fighting a losing battle against Reaper forces, Shepard and the squad fight their way to the temple, where a science team is waiting for them there. They arrive at the temple to find a security field blocking entrance, strangely high security for a temple of a dead religion. When Liara deactivates it, they enter the temple and find the scientists dead, but not at Reaper hands. They search the temple which houses artifacts related to Athame's worship, including ones that look suspiciously Prothean. While Liara explains the temple's history, Shepard comes to a realisation; the artifact the Councillor sent them to find is a Prothean Beacon hidden within the temple. Considering the temple's age, the beacon is likely the reason why the asari are technologically and scientifically ahead of the other races and its high security is in order to prevent anyone discovering the asari were withholding Prothean technology in violation of Council law. The squad search the other artifacts to activate the beacon, and when it does, it reveals a Prothean VI referring to itself as Vendetta. Establishing that it is in a post-Prothean cycle and detecting nearby Reaper forces, it attempts to shut down, but Shepard insists that it wait and provide information on the Catalyst and Crucible.
Vendetta explains that the Crucible is not of Prothean design, but had been created by countless galactic cycles stretching back millenia. The Protheans themselves never used it because their efforts were sabotaged by a splinter faction who (like Cerberus in the present cycle) argued the Protheans should control the Reapers, not destroy them. By the time it was discovered the separatists were indoctrinated, it was too late; the Prothean order of battle was irreparably fractured.
Vendetta also mentions that the Protheans learned that similar patterns of evolution and dissolution occur in every galactic cycle, with each path of advancement and conflict happening differently but in fundamentally similar ways - too similar to be merely chance. Vendetta infers that the Reapers are "servants" of the pattern, not its creator, but cannot identity their true master or motive, only its intention: galactic annihilation. Before Vendetta can specify what the Catalyst is, it detects an indoctrinated presence nearby and shuts down.
The intruder is revealed to be Kai Leng who demands their attention, pulling a drone from his coat and remarking that "Someone would like to talk with you". The drone projects a hologram of the Illusive Man, who has learnt of the Thessia beacon from the Mars Archive and mocks Liara for missing it. The Illusive Man goes on to expand on his belief and convince Shepard that controlling the Reapers is the best course of action and that the Thessia beacon contains the information to do so. Shepard asserts their conviction to destroying the Reapers and dismisses the Illusive Man's scheme, accusing him of being indoctrinated. Rebuffed, the Illusive Man orders Leng to kill Shepard and recover the data; a vicious battle ensues, but Leng is unable to gain the upper hand. Leng calls in assistance, ordering a Cerberus gunship to destroy the temple's structural supports, forcing Shepard and their squad to focus their attention on escaping the temple and allowing Leng to access the beacon. By the time Shepard has regained safety within the collapsing temple, Leng has already acquired the data and fled aboard the gunship. Shepard and their squad can only watch helplessly as Leng's ship escapes and more Reapers descend to complete the destruction of Thessia.
After escaping to the Normandy, the asari Councillor contacts Shepard, though the Commander delays the meeting out of reluctance. The Councillor eagerly requests information on the Catalyst and when it will complete the Crucible, but Shepard is forced to tell her of Cerberus's interference and their failure to acquire the data. Realising that asari civilisation, maybe all civilisation may now be lost, the asari Councillor cuts communication, leaving Shepard to brood sadly on their failure.
Chasing Cerberus Following the disaster on Thessia, Shepard angrily asserts, backed up by their crew, that Cerberus needs to be destroyed before the terrorist organisation's interference does any more damage to the war effort. The Normandy's communication specialist Samantha Traynor alerted Shepard to the fact she had traced the route taken by Leng's shuttle as it fled Thessia as far as the Iera system, but she had lost it there, because the signal was being actively blocked. Despite the fact the only thing of note in that system was Sanctuary, a refugee camp on the planet Horizon for those fleeing the war, at the insistence of Traynor and EDI that the lead was worth investigating, the Commander agreed to check it out.
Upon arriving at the facility, Shepard and their squad find signs of battle between Cerberus and Reaper forces, a surprising discovery given Cerberus's collaboration with the Reapers. Investigating the facility, Shepard found evidence left by former squadmate Miranda Lawson and her sister that the 'refugee camp' was in truth a Cerberus laboratory run by their father Henry Lawson, working for the Illusive Man. Further evidence uncovered that the refugees were being experimented on and ultimately turned into husks, in order to further Cerberus's research into indoctrination, before revealing a bombshell; a signal being broadcast from a tower within the facility, using Cerberus research, had allowed Cerberus the ability to control the husks created in their horrific experiments. Lawson had been working on the Illusive Man's orders to find a way to transfer this process to the Reapers themselves before the facility had come under attack, the Reapers seeking to destroy any potential weakness that could be used against them.
Fighting their way through Cerberus troopers who hadn't evacuated in time and Reaper forces left behind after the attack, Shepard and their squad fought their way to the tower broadcasting the signal, as well as blocking all transmissions from the planet, finding Henry Lawson holding one of his daughters hostage and the other injured nearby. Lawson explained that despite his success, the Illusive Man had merely ordered Kai Leng to retrieve the data (the assassin having already been and gone) and leave the Lawsons to their fate, and tried to cut a deal with the Commander for his freedom. After executing Lawson for his part in the horrific war crimes committed, Shepard, with the help of Miranda, managed to use a tracer placed on Leng before his departure, as well as shipping information from Sanctuary, to ascertain the location of Cronos Station, the headquarters of Cerberus itself.
Alerting Admiral Hackett to this discovery, the Alliance began making preparations for an all-out assault on the station to eliminate Cerberus, and to recover the Prothean VI and any other information on the Catalyst. However, Hackett warns that once an assault on Cerberus is launched, the Reapers would take notice sooner or later; for all intents and purposes, the attack on Cerberus would be the first step in the campaign to retake Earth. Once military preparations were complete to Shepard's satisfaction, the assault begins.
Leading an armada to assault the facility, Shepard accompanied by EDI and another squadmate, infiltrated the station and fought their way through the labs and power core of the station, uncovering intel on EDI's past, Project Lazarus and Cerberus's new-found obsession with exploiting Reaper tech and indoctrination, as well as pieces of the Human-Reaper salvaged from the Collector Base after its destruction, the team reaches the Illusive Man's personal office, where the Prothean VI is likely being stored. The Illusive Man contacts Shepard again by hologram, sneering that he had already acquired the Catalyst and all he needed to control the Reapers, and despite Shepard's assertion, the idea behind Cerberus would survive even if the organisation itself didn't.
After the Illusive Man severs communication, the Commander's efforts to search through Cerberus databases for the Prothean VI is interrupted by Kai Leng, seeking to kill Shepard. Despite a close-fought battle, Leng is this time unable to get the upper hand and is left critically injured. When Shepard turns their back on the assassin to resume the search for data, Leng silently gets back to his feet and tries to kill Shepard from behind; in the nick of time, Shepard senses the attack coming and dodges, knocking aside Leng's sword and spearing the assassin through the chest with an omni-blade.
With the threat dealt with, Shepard and EDI are able to retrieve Vendetta, who explains to their shock that the Citadel is the Catalyst. When Shepard points out that the Reapers created the Citadel, Vendetta hypothesizes that at some point in a previous cycle, the Crucible was deemed to not be powerful enough, so the Citadel was incorporated into the design, using the Reapers' own technology against them. Unfortunately, it is too late; the indoctrinated Illusive Man has already alerted the Reapers, and they have moved the Citadel to the occupied Sol system to better protect it.
The Battle for Earth Shepard alerts Hackett and Anderson to their discovery of the Catalyst's identity and location. With no alternative, Hackett and Shepard order the forces they have gathered to the Sol system with the intention of taking Earth back from the Reapers. Hackett and Anderson brief Shepard on the three-fold plan of battle; 'Sword' Fleet will engage the Reapers in space, while 'Hammer' ground forces will land in London. When Shepard queries why London is their landing zone, Anderson explains that the Reapers have established a teleportation beam between the city and the Citadel to transport dead and living humans to the station, presumably to be harvested. The plan is for Hammer ground forces to fight their way through the city to the beam, and get as many people as possible on board the Citadel and find a way to open the station's arms. Once this is done, Hackett will signal 'Shield' Fleet, which will remain outside the Sol system protecting the Crucible, to deploy and clear a path for the Crucible to dock with the Citadel.
All forces deploy for the Sol System and a brutal space battle ensures between the fleets Shepard has gathered and the Reapers in orbit around Earth. The Normandy breaks off from the battle and descends to Earth, Shepard and several other squads having been ordered to take out Reaper Destroyers planet-side, fitted with anti-aircraft Hades Cannons that threaten Hammer's landing. After eliminating the destroyers, Shepard and their squad are extracted by Anderson and local resistance forces, who convey them back to their forward base. At the same time, Hammer troops begin landing en masse in preparation for the assault on the Citadel beam.
Once as much of Hammer has survived have deployed, Anderson briefs Shepard and the other commanders that they must fight their way through the city to the beam, though they will need to take out another Reaper Destroyer blocking their path en route. Using Thanix missile batteries and EDI'S guidance to overcome interference in the guidance systems from the Citadel, the Reaper is brought down, but by that time, Hammer's forces have suffered heavy casualties, Reaper reinforcements are en route and to make matters worse, Hackett warns that several Sovereign-class Reapers, including Harbinger, have broken away from the space battle and are descending to Earth. By the time the remnants of Hammer reach the Citadel beam's immediate vicinity, Harbinger has already deployed to protect it.
Hammer attacks, but Harbinger annihilates them; countless soldiers are killed and Shepard is critically injured. With its stealth technology activated, the Normandy moves in and carries Shepard's injured squad to safety.
Believing itself victorious, Harbinger retreats back to the space battle, not noticing Shepard managing to get back to their feet and stagger into the beam, along with Anderson. Upon arriving aboard the Citadel, Shepard and Anderson find themselves separated, dumped in what look like waste tunnels; keepers prowl about and there are human corpses dumped everywhere. Staggering to what looks like a control room, Shepard and Anderson are ambushed by the Illusive Man, the skin of his face and neck rotted and riddled with Reaper tech, who takes control of their motor functions, even forcing Shepard to shoot Anderson. The Illusive Man again asserts the necessity of controlling the Reapers and that the Crucible will grant him that power, but it is clear to Shepard and Anderson that he is deeply indoctrinated. Shepard can try to convince the Illusive Man, like Saren before him to fight his indoctrination, prompting the Illusive Man to commit suicide to escape the Reapers' control, or fighting off his hold, Shepard shoots the Illusive Man.
With the Illusive Man dealt with, Shepard opens the arms of the Citadel and Hackett orders Shield Fleet, along with the Crucible to move in. The Crucible successfully docks with the Citadel, but nothing happens. By this point, Anderson has died of his injuries and Shepard has passed out from blood loss. However, while unconscious, Shepard is transported to another part of the Citadel; when they regain consciousness, Shepard is confronted by an entity of energy, manifesting itself in the form of the small boy Shepard saw die at the Reapers' hands when they fled Earth. The entity explains that it is the Catalyst, the creator of the Reapers and architect of their galactic purges every 50,000 years. The Catalyst explains that the purpose of such genocide is to solve the problem it was created to stop; the creation of synthetic life by organics and the inevitable conflict that would ensue from such.
To prevent this, advanced organic species would be harvested at the apex of their civilisation, with millions of bodies and minds from each race being processed and converted into new Reapers, even as the Reapers themselves worked to destroy their civilizations. By doing this, the Reapers preserved the harvested races, while allowing more primitive races to advance and ensuring that the threat of complete annihilation of organics by synthetics was averted.
However, because the races of the present cycle have completed the Crucible, a feat never before achieved, the Catalyst no longer believes the cycle will work, and thus a new solution must be devised.
If Shepard chooses to destroy the Reapers, the Crucible fires a red beam of energy that destroys the Reapers on and around Earth and transmits to the mass relay network through the Charon Relay before damaging the relays and the Citadel as well. If Shepard chooses to control the Reapers, the Crucible releases a blue wave of energy that brings the Reapers under Shepard's control, damages the relays, and leaves the Citadel intact. If Shepard chooses to merge organic and synthetic life, the Crucible fires a green beam of energy that causes the Reapers cease attacking, but also damages the Citadel as it transmits the beam to the mass relay network.
While Shepard chooses how to activate the Crucible, Admiral Hackett notices the Crucible activate and orders the fleet to disengage and rendezvous outside of the blast zone. Joker hesitates until the last possible second, desperate to save Shepard, and reluctantly follows the fleet. The Normandy, trying to flee the blast through a mass relay jump, is caught by the energy released from the Crucible and crash-lands in a jungle on an unidentified world.
Just so we're clear, I just wanted to devise a study, and this is the best way I can think of.
By the way, please be honest. I don't want results to be skewed by, say, people crowding the Refusal ending and explaining their reasons as 'Trololol'.
EDIT: Yes, the Vanguard problem has been fixed, as has the lack of gender choice. Also, no raging about the ending. We have forums, and other websites for that.
EDIT: Wow, my writing appears to be worse than Bioware's. I've made SO many mistakes! Just tell me if I've missed any more, and they'll be fixed.