A Mass Effect DGAF playthrough - Pt1

In a special 3-part playthrough, FBT takes on an unconventional approach to the classic sci-fi series; FBTShep isn't renegade or paragon; they just don't give a f...

I’ve played the Mass Effect trilogy more times than I can remember. But never as a Renegade; all my Sheps have been good Sheps. Not intentionally, but the unfolding of a galaxy-wide threat drew you in as you grew into the role of saviour - playing any Renegade options just seemed a dick move. About the only renegade thing I do is dump Ash for Miranda and be rude to Udina. Thing is, even Renegade Shep wants to save the universe; but what if Shep didn’t actually give a shit? If they weren't good or evil, just indifferent? If the series is all about choice, how easy would it be to save the world if the only person for the job threw a sickie?

I was also curious about how the Reaper invasion would play without any distractions, romances or side-missions. Should Shep really be wasting time chatting to adoring fans, trying to bed the crew and doing personal admin while Reapers are decimating the universe? A large part of Mass Effect is the experiences, the moments, the family feel that comes from Shep’s George Bailey impression. What happens if the universe is in the hands of a DGAFShep?

I decided a few rules – I know how this story plays out, but DGAFShep doesn’t, so;

  • unless it’s described as Reaper-related, Shep doesn't get involved.

  • I use interrupts if a situation threatens the mission otherwise it plays out as neutral.

  • I use interrupts if it gets Shep what they need to progress - otherwise neutral.

  • no conversations, side missions or loyalty quests

  • no romances.

  • DGAFShep isn't renegade/paragon, they just wants to get this done and crack a beer.

  • I should go.

Mass Effect 1. DGAFShep is an Earth-born orphan who ran a street gang before joining the Alliance to escape. I chose femShep to avoid the Ash v Miranda trap again (just have to resist Trainor). Anderson describes me as a soldier who gets the job done no matter the consequences – in reality I don’t care, but a bad rap helps cut to the chase. I even adopt a skinhead look, just to appear meaner. Don’t mess with DGAFShep.

It’s been a few years but ME1 has held up really well. Now a decade old, it’s basic but a detailed, convincing future. And being rude in the future is easier than I thought. There’s some good cut-the-bullshit lines, and it’s fun to not put up with Joker’s shenanigans. Mostly though Shep just holds everyone to an impossibly high standard; she has no time for the crews concerns and is pissy with an unarmed dock worker who smartly ducked a fight between Spectres. I also feel a bit lonely; I miss chatting with the excitable Tali, reassuring Liara and breaking down Garrus’ cynicism. One thing I hadn’t counted on - is DGAFShep pro-human? Paragon Shep put human interests aside in favour of the galaxy, whereas the Renegade options turn her into misanthrope. That’s not DGAFShep, she just wants out, so I take John Lennon’s approach - ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me’. Didn’t imagine her as a Beatles fan.

If missing the gossip speeds up Shep’s progress, avoiding the side missions and searches has turned ME1 into a speed-run. Suddenly it’s all about the Reaper threat and I quickly stop pining for missed missions and moments; this is intense. Events like Virmire come up so much quicker when I’m not spending hours staring at the Mako’s arse, while avoiding chat and side-missions makes stuff like Noveria race by – I develop a sense of urgency that wasn’t there when I was off looking for that Admiral’s team then figuring out where he’d gone too. Finally, Shep’s “I should go” sounds right; I should. When I make my stop at Feros I drive right past the ExoGeni group and just drop off the daughter and depart. I only picked her up because it’s scripted, otherwise I’d have left her to the Varren; Shep’s not bad, she just DGAF. But when Shep is bad, she’s very very bad.

Killing the Rachni Queen was harsh. I coincidentally took Rex and he made a compelling case for wiping it out so I had to go through with my first truly DGAF choice. She was a possible risk, so I gassed the bug. The Thorian Asari tries to convince Shep she’s as changed on the inside as the outside by turning her back and kneeling, letting Shep decide. Seems like proof enough to me that she’s innoc – Shep just executed her! Holy shit. In the back of the head, while kneeling. She was a danger hence following Renegade but I thought we’d arrest her, not blow her head off.

Only one Feros colonist survived and I don’t fancy their chances since I didn’t do any of the side-missions there. On Virmire Shep shoots another Asari in the back as she runs off. No wonder Liara always looks worried. Sometimes it wasn’t even my fault; it was a complete coincidence I took Rex on the Fist mission, forgetting he was contracted to kill him. Rex is clearly a bad influence.

Playing as a complete git wasn’t my intention, but quickly I’m consumed by the chase - anything that might distract from stopping Saren gets put down quick. I barrel through speech options, don’t get emotionally involved and it becomes much easier to make the tough calls. I don’t even know why but at Peak 15 the security guards turn on me. Obviously I said or did something I shouldn’t but that never happened before, and it doesn’t bother me; they’re between me and my goal of leaving work on time. I’m unstoppable, and this new-found personality really comes into focus on Virmire; I expect to put Rex down - I never spoke to him so not like we’d built a bond and I don’t have time for his tantrum so use Renegade options, but after some home-truths he backs down; it’s brilliant. I don’t even have the option to talk Saren around, we just insult each other. Oddly though, Captain Kirrahe died? Not sure how I contributed to that; I sent a team member with him as always. It’s interesting how those subtle changes to Shep’s approach have larger impacts. I picked Kaidan to die simply because Ash was guarding the bomb (convenient). This play style also has an impact on me; I’m nowhere near the usual XP levels so we’re getting through a lot of medigel and I don’t have the cash to buy the high-powered weaponry. Not caring takes a lot of work.

While I get into Shep’s Dirty Harry-style approach and the new-found urgency, what is disappointing is how everyone just takes the rudeness on the chin. Shep criticises Ash for losing her team on Eden - where Shep herself just lost a squad-mate - but I'm still the best commander ever, and I tell Liara her psychic link is a waste of time but she does it anyway. Anderson just nods sagely at my extremism (tellingly, Udina is the only one to call me on my bullshit). They just don’t get shirty or in my face - I was expecting more backchat, or a questioning of my orders. No time to care what they think though, I’m right on Saren’s tail and so caught up nothing else matters. When we get grounded in the Citadel, I’m actually furious and tear Udina a new one. DGAFShep smirked when Anderson laid him out.

The ending though. I didn’t have the option to convince Saren to kill himself, so I had a fight with him that I’d not had before, and let the council die to concentrate on Sovereign. Not because I dislike the council but if Sovereign goes, I go home. I chose Udina to lead the council because I thought he’d protect me. It was the best/worst choice I’d ever made. He hilariously/terrifyingly turned into The Emperor, raging about how the galaxy will bow before humans and his new council will wage war on the Reapers as we dominate the galaxy. It was great if ominous, and instead of walking off heroically, Shep just stood there giving the best DGAF face I’ve ever seen. It’s beer o’clock.

While I didn’t miss scanning the collectors or spend hours dressing each crew member, it was tough to pass up missions and moments; but it was worth it to discover the backbone of ME1 is a pure thrill-ride that didn’t sag; it became as exciting as the first time I played, and I can’t wait to see how this attitude plays in ME2 - and how DGAFShep treats The Illusive Man (aka TIM).

In ME1 Shep was a borderline psychotic. She wilfully murders people, even when it’s certain they’re no longer a threat. DGAFShep is more dangerous than a Renegade, so I wonder how she'll fit into TIM's ranks. He likes things just so. In that mindset, I look for a way to leave Joker to his fate at the start of Mass Effect 2 but I have no choice. I’m not happy about killing myself to save Mass Effect’s Claptrap, but it’s worth it for the medicinal sponge baths I imagine Miranda gives me during my rebirth. As the memories come flooding back, I worry it’s going to be hard work to be indifferent in ME2’s world. Even though I’m now a terrorist.

This whole aspect of ME2 always sat a little uncomfortably for me; Cerberus was extreme in ME1 and it always felt wrong that Shep wouldn’t just return to the Alliance – that the Council refused to accept the invasion, leaving the Reapers as Shep’s personal battle and Cerberus her only option always felt a bit convenient, but this time that won’t be a problem after Udina’s crowning; I’m a war hero, an icon, the council’s champion … right?

Wrong, and that annoyed me. The Reapers have still been suppressed by the council who send us on a dead-end mission to get us out of the way. What? What happened to Udina using the Reapers to exert power? I was hoping to see the Krogan statue changed to Udina, a militaristic council with him as a power-mad dictator and Shep feted as a beacon of human might rather than hope. It feels a bit of cheat, something I never thought I’d say about ME2. It also bugged me that the crew fell in with Cerberus just on Shep’s say-so, especially Joker who’s argument that he joined a despicable terrorist group because they rebuilt the Normandy makes him more DGAF than I am. Thankfully, it works perfectly for DGAFShep too; she only cares if the cheque clears.

Dealing with TIM is strange this time around. Normally I tolerate him with a few put downs, but he actually works for DGAFShep in a way that I never got as Paragon Shep. TIM thinks –or wants me to think– our goals are aligned and that suits DGAFShep. After a while, I become indoctrinated. We both have a goal to reach and the quickest way is a straight line. Even when he sends us into traps, I have to agree with the plan and I start to see the Cerberus light. I’m not pro-human, but his ‘sacrifices must be made’ approach is compelling. When I visit Anderson I defend Cerberus and slap Ash down for her naivety. Later, DGAFShep shares some Fake News posts on Facebook with a fumin’ emoji.

ME2 does look and play as beautifully as it did on release. It’s streamlined yet feels so much bigger. Shame I’m ignoring most of it. Still, I realise what a task DGAFShep has ahead of her; ME2 is where Shep evolves from solider to hero, how is it going to play out if I’m anything but a hero? It’s a lot tougher to keep focused – you gain missions just walking within earshot, you’re constantly pestered by Hackett and Kelly, and Shep’s become a control freak; why in the hell am I piloting the ship around? And scanning the planets? What do I keep EDI and Joker around for? As DGAFShep it’s insanely frustrating and makes no sense the ship’s commander would be doing those chores.

I avoid everything I can; those Krogan will never know if there’s fish on the Citadel, Chakwas never even gets to ask for brandy and the crew continue to eat slop. I can’t resist taking down al-Jilani though – Shep gives the gutter-press harridan an actual bloody beat down. But the biggest issue with not caring is everyone assumes I do – even the game.

While Shep’s Renegade interrupts are occasionally a bit mean, the Renegade dialogue options aren’t anywhere near as spiteful or fatal as ME1; they’re more Tough Love than Tough Shit. I have to be actively mean; it takes more effort to let the guy in the Omega slums die than save him - which is then excused by a team mate saying ‘doubt they had any useful info anyway’; whoa, is my DGAF rubbing off on the others? No. Regardless of my behaviour in ME1 the crew all greet Shep like we spent most of ME1 having Pyjama Parties and promising to be BFF’s. Liara comes in for a hug, Ash exclaims Shep’s more than a commander to her -even though I never once talked to her- and Rex uses me as an example of a selfless leader. Even Garrus explains that without my example, he became a burnout. Who are you again? Even sending someone to their death is tough; I leave Reegar to provide cover, assuming he’ll die – yet he limps in at the end. Dunno if he made it home though, I never went to visit the fleet. But, as my Renegade slowly rises, Shep’s brutality literally shines through.

By not bothering to fix my scars (I’m not scanning a dozen planets to get a nose job), red light bleeds through and her eyes start to glow. She looks dangerous and that starts to inspire me to behave even worse. I’m so evil I let my fish die – only kidding; I didn’t even buy any. Kelly still offers to feed them though. DGAFShep starts to teeter on a real Renegade playthrough; I’m actually nasty to Tali. What a monster. I have to keep reminding myself I don’t care rather than I’m a bully. But the game has ways to corral those urges.

Unlike ME1, the main mission - stop the collectors - is often stopped in favour of being nice. TIM won’t give me new missions until I complete side-quests, forcing me on detours. ME2 assumes I care; I don’t. As a result ME2 doesn’t have the zip that ME1 did. Occasionally events happen and you can’t get out of them, which always sent me into a panic originally but now I’m like ‘finally, some action’ – ME2 teases who the collectors are and what their Reaper connection is which is a very different experience to ME1; I’m clawing rather than chasing.

Still, the main missions are solid fights and the companions much more aware and involved, firing and flinging biotics all over the place; in ME1 they would often wait for commands and get shot but this time, picking your pals is much more critical and exciting on the battlefield. To DGAFShep they’re just bodyguards, picked for their prowess not because I want to hang out, and if they fall, I often leave them to smear their own Medigel. They’re not having mine.

Eventually I reach the infamous IFF Install mission. But I can’t trigger it until I’ve done missions and don’t have any Collector-related ones. I’m stuck wondering where DGAFShep is going to have to compromise, until I remember she came up from a street gang; I’ll rebuild it. I chose to make loyal the criminal element only, so Zaeed gets his brutal day in the Blue Suns while Kasumi gets her revenge - although I force her to destroy the Grey Box; I want her thieving for me, not having VR sex. I contemplate Thane and Jack but they’re looking for absolution and there’s no place for that in my gang. Still no IFF so I do Legion and Grunt, figuring they’d make great Enforcers for the Red Sheps. I wanted Samara’s daughter as well, she’d be our assassin but DGAFShep would be unaware of that option and no way she'd want the sanctimonious mum in the gang. Just as I’m contemplating turning Mordin into the gang’s torturer, EDI pipes up that the IFF is installed. Finally. With Shep looking like a Terminator and backed by a team of scoundrels, we start the DGAF suicide mission.

Read part two of FBT’s brutal Mass Effect playthrough – will the entire team commit suicide? Will ME3 be any better on a DGAF playthrough? Can’t be any worse.