Part two of FBT’s Mass Effect playthrough sees DGAFShep thin out her team and gets angry playing hide and seek with a kid in a forest instead of stopping the Reapers.
So far, despite not caring in the slightest, DGAFShep has stopped Sovereign and is about to stop the Collectors.
Here we go - Goddamnit I need to do a side mission to trigger the IFF. Begrudgingly I do Miranda’s loyalty mission, as she’ll make a good consigliere for my gang and looks better in the black outfit - but I force her to kill that guy and cut her sister out of her life; once you join The Red Sheps, you join for life.
With less than half the team loyal, I know this will be a blood bath. I’d upgraded the Normandy (self-preservation) but expected someone to get offed on the approach. All present and correct. As we head into the base, it’s as tense as my first playthrough – it really is a suicide mission. Ironically, not doing the loyalty missions has distracted me as much as they are; I want to work out how to make everyone survive but DGAFShep wouldn’t care so I pick who I think is best suited and hope for the best. As we cut through the Collectors, I’m on edge - each cutscene is fraught as I watch to see who falls.
It’s not until the seeker level that the team starts to fracture. As my consigliere, Miranda was constantly in charge of the fire team so I didn’t have a loyal biotic. Jack did her best but eventually dropped her shield and … Thane didn’t make it, swept away as we reached the door. One down, loads to go. I always felt ME2 was overstuffed with squad-mates anyway ... I didn't even let him connect with his son. I'm a monster.
This is it. The final push. I chose Samara and Jacob, while Grunt takes the crew to safety - I’d default saved them by immediately going to the base. The biotics take care of the collectors and I take out the giant Terminator. TIM pops up to plead for the Collector base. I’ve always destroyed it and earned his wrath, but this time I think he’s right; let those deaths count for something … okay, the base is yours. Anything to get DGAFShep out of this.
The base falls apart and Jacob goes sliding off the edge of the platform and … I catch him! I expected him to fall but no. Wow. Maybe it’s not going to be as harsh as I – Oh. In the aftermath I find Jacob’s body. Poor Jacob; he was a character I always struggled with. A committed soldier throwing in with Cerberus, it seemed as if he was supposed to be a friendly face versus the ultra-loyal Miranda, but it never quite gelled; he always seemed too straight-laced to defect; he was deluded if anything, so I never saw him as a Shep-lite. As I help up Samara, I figure one out of two isn’t so - Samara dies in my arms. I should go. As I escape, I ask for an update and … Mordin didn’t make it either. Harsh, I lost a third of the team but DGAFShep did what she set out to do, and made TIM very happy. I wonder if there’s a romance option with TIM in ME3?
I have mixed feelings about ME2 now. It started well, but TIM-related Renegade options are for rebelling against him rather than aligning and that makes them Paragon from an Alliance perspective, while Paragon options just have her forgiving rather than siding with him. A renegade should fall in with Cerberus, become what Ash alluded to. Instead, they just part on wary terms; TIM should want Shep to stick around and Shep knows nothing’s changed with the Council; why give up when things are just getting started? It’s fine if Shep is a girl-scout at the end of the day, but ME1 had a lot of grey areas – If she’s a linear hero then really, Renegade and Paragon are just cosmetic choices and TIM’s sermons hollow. Choosing Cerberus could still mean reaching the end goal – stop the Reapers, and being a Spectre allows Shep to take whatever route she sees fit, not try to earn Anderson’s approval.
DGAFShep in ME2 wasn’t really evil enough to warrant the glowing eyes either; even the people she kills deserved it. Her Renegade interrupts are more DGAF than ‘you die now’ - One time, I get a renegade option to shoot a mech. Wow. Instead of visiting my favourite store on the citadel I just bully the owners into a discount. Shep’s just indifferent; I didn’t stop that kid while taking down Archangel (Garrus shot him not me) and I let that high-as-a-kite Volus get killed.
ME2 assumes I care and want to help squadmates gain closure. Yes you can mess their missions up but that’s not Renegade, it’s just petty. Surely Renegade is a dangerous option, not just a bit stroppy. Shep’s refusal to interact does impact the characters though; Jack and Miranda never get into it and neither do Tali and Legion.
Focusing purely on the main mission, I more readily noticed that ME2 lacked a clear villain. TIM isn’t revealed as such and the Collectors aren’t really doing much for most of the game - a human reaper is terrifying but rather than just a larva I’d have loved to see that thing blast out the Omega 4 relay and attack like Sovereign did, or speak up – The Reaper is people; it might have an interesting take on things given Harbinger was just a disembodied voice.
The biggest let down though is the lack of impact from ME1 moments. I got stopped by an ex-ExoGeni employee to tell me how well the colony is doing (Colony of one with no water or food you mean?) and that’s it, other than a few ‘remember me?’ moments. Also, I find it hard to believe the Alliance would still trust Shep. I sided with avowed terrorists and Saren would be proud of how I abused my Spectre status yet Hackett still sends Shep to sensitive bases full of stuff Cerberus would kill for. I would have loved to see the ME story branch out – Miranda gives you Cerberus tasks instead, exploring their goals and ideals, let you to decide if TIM maybe has the right idea – or at least a more effective end-game than the Council’s ignore it until it goes away.
Oddly then, I’m really looking toward Mass Effect 3 to pull it all together. For all its faults, ME3 relied heavily on ME2 actions – what about Thane stopping TIM’s prancing emo sidekick? What will happen in the Asari monastery with no Justicar? Who’s going to cure the genophage? And Jacob? Erm … I’ll get Miranda to hook up his girl with iPartner Connections. I also realise DGAFShep has made things more difficult – I missed Arrival, and Liara never became the Shadow Broker (why would I ask her about her personal problems?) Also, David is still trapped in the Geth AI machine somewhere - and it’s a testament to that mission’s moving story that I genuinely feel bad about it. It all has an impact in ME3, not to mention I left Reaper tech intact for TIM to sift through; that’s new and now he owes me one, surely? Coming for you, TIM. I mean the Reapers, I'm coming for you, Reapers.
I’d forgotten about Mass Effect 3’s cherubic, innocent child that gets offed then haunts Shep’s 80’s music video dreams. A wise man (TheMorty) once said that the role would have been better filled by whichever character you let die on Virmire and that made sense. There's millions Shep can't save, but Kaidan represents what she sacrificed and to have her guilt actually explored with a familiar face instead of chasing a brat around a forest would have been more interesting and tied it all in. But ME3 is less about tying in, it’s about tiding up.
Anderson pulls us from jail to speak to Earth defences, and just as I start thinking ‘why would they want to see a renegade terrorist traitor’ Anderson bellows “I don’t know why they want to see you after all the shit you did!” Oh. Finally, an impact. Sort of. As I tell the earth council they’re idiots for not listening to me two games ago, the Reapers attack. We leave earth and Anderson expects us to get help. You thought that through Dave?
Hey, TIM! Hows it going, you mounted that Reaper head in your office? Remember the time you and I – wait, why are we villains to Cerberus now? Shep’s done nothing but make him proud. It’s the first flag that ME3 doesn’t care so much about your choices as it does keeping to its own narrative. Even if TIM’s indoctrinated by this stage, the Reapers would be desperate to do the same to Shep. Hero of the Citadel as a Reaper spy? Regardless, there’s no reason why ME3 couldn’t have split into two plots, Cerberus and their Reaper-control plan vs Alliance’s destruction – ME3 should be a constant emotional battle for Shep; she wants to save the universe, but it’s going to cost. Going free-agent and having Cerberus missions as well as Alliance could have created entirely new experiences; the foxy Eva instead of EDI for one. Switch allegiances back and forth as you gather forces before committing to one side’s solution. Skyrim did it. But not Mass Effect; a game renowned for it's choices and impacts. TIM hates me for no reason other than the plot demands it and we blindly support the council who caused this mess. But I shouldn’t be disappointed in the linear story – not when I have choices to be disappointed by.
It would be great to see one seemingly small ME1 event having huge impact, but ME3 doesn’t really have time for that. The war has levelled everything, and nothing except stopping the Reapers really matters – I guess that works for DGAFShep, she’d ignore the repercussions anyway, but it would have been nice to see the actions Shep set in motion become sizable barriers or shortcuts now. Least we still have the old gang, right?
I accept most of the ME2 Dirty Dozen have moved on but Miranda? This will not stand. She was a Cerberus loyalist and we followed the Cerberus party line to the end. There’s zero reason why Miranda would go on the run in this playthrough. Imagine Miranda in the Kai Leng role, hunting us down. Whoa. The game is quick to replace dead characters with clones, there’s no reason Miranda couldn’t have been the one to try and stop us. It would have been amazing!
First off, Kai is a terrible villain. He fails in every encounter until he has a gunship behind him; you wonder what TIM sees in him. He usually gets beaten by a bedridden lizard who can’t breathe – He even got shot by Anderson once; well, twice. Miranda as the antagonist would be a viable threat; she knows us – inside and out, literally. It would turn ME3 into something much more wrenching and intimate to see them go at it, tied into choices with her loyalty mission. Given the unending adulation the rest of the team doles out, can’t just one of them not fall in line? The only time I seem to really piss off the crew is during the Leviathan DLC; I force the daughter to maintain her connection even though James warns me I’m killing her. Afterwards he stroppily marches off grumbling I went too far (and it's implied she died later, whoops). Aside from that, I can’t bolt around the Citadel let alone the Normandy without some squad member wanting to reminisce about stuff we didn’t do and make deep, meaningful observations. Except Ash.
One of my favourite moments in ME2 is Ash rocking up just to tell us to piss off. I loved that Ash was angry Shep fell in with Cerberus – she was right to be. Ash was pro-human until Shep influenced her (DGAFShep didn’t but still) and in ME3 it’s awkward - Ash says ‘I used to’ when asked if she knew the commander; the tension continues and DGAFShep’s STFU responses don’t placate her (and I don’t visit her in hospital either). We’ve seen Ash grow; she was full of self-doubt in ME1, found herself in ME2 and in ME3 it’s like we’re equals; and DGAFShep has done nothing to convince Ash she’s still the skipper - but I’m getting trigger-happy-ahead of myself; Shep’s barely warmed up.
The renegade options do make Shep see red again, but rather than murdering people, DGAFShep’s rants are just taken as inspiring honesty; I don’t think rousing a squad of Turians with tough talk really deserves glowing eyes. There’s one flash of genius where we go round two with al-Jilani, who ducks a punch so Shep headbutts her. Nice. I have that General on the Citadel assassinated to save running about and as I issue the kill order, he thanks me for helping him see sense back in Cora’s Den. I never spoke to him before. People just can’t stop crediting Shep for stuff she didn’t do. Maybe I have a clone running about somewhere.
As I accept that my previous actions don’t really count in ME3, I concentrate on uniting the universe - and realise that means doing everything since it all relates to the war effort. Still, with the straight-arrow mindset and avoiding small talk, ME3 accelerates as fast as ME1 did; I hadn’t really noticed it before but everything has a dangerous or desperate feel to it. The losses, the determination, it really starts to grip when you’re not scanning for a Volus’ missing laundry; DGAFShep’s ‘get the job done’ attitude works so well - there’s fricking Reapers landing Joker, haven’t got time to groom EDI for you.