In this final part of FBT’s Mass Effect playthrough, he and Ash get into it, Tali breaks his heart and Javik pays the kind of compliment you can’t come back from.
So far, ME3 has been an up-and-down game. It’s not followed through on any of ME2’s promise but it’s a tight, fast moving game that keeps the pressure on. With all the ME2 deaths and impacts indifferently accounted for, all’s that left is the Reapers. And Ash.
DGAFShep and Ash haven’t really been seeing eye to eye. When we draw our guns on each other, it hits home; Ash would believe we’re behind this attack, all her fears realised. I’m dreading this; if it doesn’t go the way DGAFShep needs it to, chances are I’ll shoot Ash like she’s an Asari - on top of which, this time Udina has Kai-manipulated footage of me killing the councillor. Ash takes aim, I have no choice but to Renegade interrupt and … she backs down. I have no idea why, or what I did (or what more I could do to provoke her), but after I shoot Udina, which I really enjoy, I dismiss Ash with a curt ‘told you so’ and leave.
Later, I find her outside the Normandy and we have a tense conversation where I insist she join Hackett. It makes more sense. It’s selfish to keep her there when Hackett needs a Spectre and I’d be holding her back. She’s outgrown Shep. We firmly handshake and I never see her again. Not even at the Citadel party (Sorry James, DGAFShep is also CockblockerShep), but it feels right. DGAFShep might not care, but I do. Hope she makes it.
Oddly, I disagree with the survival of one squad-mate; Grunt. It’s such a great moment when he chooses to stay and give Shep a chance to escape, and his fight-to-the-end is a startling moment that brings home the sacrifices Shep is asking of people. That he rocks up again is great, but it just undermines that moment. He does have one of the best moments in the Citadel DLC so I’m looking forward to that but still, he should die. That’s Loyalty for you. Also, for DGAFShep the non-sacrifice doesn’t really add up to much. Since I gassed the Rachni Queen in ME1, the game has to explain all the Reaper forces and it turns out they just cloned a Queen to produce foot soldiers. This is turning in Borderlands with its respawning mini-bosses. This time I save the Queen and send her off to the Crucible project - where she becomes dangerous and the Alliance kill her. Well done DGAFShep, you wiped out the same species twice. And it causes my War Readiness to drop. More bloody work to do.
Despite that staffing issue, the War Readiness is growing nicely. Without even realising, it gets past ‘minimum’ which feels like DGAFShep’s target. A large reason for that is my new appreciation for ME3’s missions. I avoid the random and emotional stuff but if the Alliance needs boots on the ground I seem to find myself doing them, rather than working through a list of mission-triggering chores like ME2 just to get things moving. And they just get more and more epic like the Asari home-world and the Reaper fights; it’s exciting and fun (not fun as in causing all those Asari deaths, honest). Before I know it, DGAFShep has inspired the universe and aced the war readiness; I even managed to save Miranda from her dad (And another Kai fail). This time I let her hug her sister. DGAFShep is getting soft in her old age.
Nearing the end, we’re off to Rannoch to help Tali reclaim her homeland. I’ve already tangled with the Quarians but managed to keep them on side - by punching that war-hungry General. I even get to dish out some sass to the downed Reaper, taunting “Tell your friends we're coming" before another bunch of rockets hit it and I mutter "Never mind, I'll tell them myself." Badass.
The Quarian’s planet reclaimed, I meet an excitable Tali. I always felt bad about Legion but it’s a great sacrifice – once, I lost Legion in ME2 and another Geth took its place. Despite all the Paragon chat and doing its side-mission it still tried to kill the Quarians and Tali killed it while saying “Legion would have understood” which was affecting; this time though, with Legion loyal and the Quarians onside, we should be good. As I watch Legion upload the code, I start to notice the dialogue is different. Still, sure there’ll be an interrupt where I force that punched general to stand down.
He’s not standing down. Legion’s going to attack the Quarians. My Mass Effect life flashes before my eyes and I realise that without her ME2 loyalty mission, Tali has no sway with the fleet, that she and Legion didn’t patch up their differences, that I didn’t do Legion’s trip into Geth subconscious; because of me, Legion and Tali don’t understood each other. Oh … oh shit. I only have a millisecond to interrupt – but which? For DGAFShep, the Geth are a better option; they have the Reaper code and stronger military. I don’t stop him and the Quarians are wiped out. As I stare at Legion’s body, Tali looks at her beloved planet littered with debris from the fleet … then removes her mask and -just to make it ten times worse- apologises before she jumps.
Tali must really regret throwing in with Shep. In ME1 she brought us the proof of Saren’s treachery which justified Shep's actions - she gave us what we needed to get here and she's been by our side from the start, but I never let her complete her pilgrimage or exonerate her father; because of me she gets excommunicated then sees her people destroyed. She’s easily the most tragic of all DGAFShep’s followers and it's a horrible moment. But, this is how all of ME3 should have gone – that impact, the repercussions of our actions. ME3 should be Shep’s choices coming back tenfold, and narrative wise, the only time we really see tragedy is the fall of Thessia, which is a distant event. Tali was up close and personal. This was Shep’s fault. Seeing Tali die affected me for the rest of the game. I don’t want to be DGAFShep anymore.
What I need is a party to cheer myself up. But who is going to come?
The Citadel DLC is completely justified for DGAFShep – she’s hardly going to turn down a free apartment and some shore leave. The entire DLC is wicked fun; yes, it’s comedy is at odds with the rest of ME3’s stoic, stone-face nature, but on this playthrough I’ve noticed some gallows humour in Shep and this is just an extension of that. It just works so well, you can feel the steam being blown off. You can play it a hundred times and still catch new moments (This time I realised Javik refused to be in Team Mako or Hammerhead and is just Team Prothean, which still gets more kills than the other two). We get to partner with ‘Uncle’ Rex and every character gets their own great moment; when they grumble about never getting picked for missions the meta-humour gets almost too much. There’s loads of jokes and in-jokes, Shep and her ‘dancing’, the digs about breaking the fish tank, EDI going screwy when she loses connection to the Normandy, and the line ‘if you told me this morning a toothbrush was going to save the Normandy, I’d be very sceptical’. And when the caper is over the party begins; no other game gave the characters -or the fans- this much love. There's more characterisation in this one DLC than most games manage in a GOTY edition.