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.
One of the most amusingly harsh moments for DGAFShep is no one contacts her to hang out. Because I never bonded with them, I didn’t get the main-game moments either; Liara’s star-chart, Garrus’ shooting practice; even DGAFShep feels a pang of guilt for not making more effort now. I’m tempted to just have a party with Glyph and his bow-tie, who needs them anyway. I can’t even invite my clone or Brooks because I killed them both. But I figure this is the one time I’m allowed to have fun; they’re an alright bunch. No crew stopping by means I miss not only Miranda in the red dress and Grunt's pub-crawl, but one of my favourite observations of Shep across the entire trilogy. When James and Cortez make a bet on the game, regardless of the outcome they both win; they weren’t betting on the winner, they were betting on Shep being able to spot a winning team. It’s a perfect nod to Shep’s inherent leadership. DGAFShep didn’t get that complement, but she got complemented by Javik – for her sexual prowess when they wake up together the morning after the party … Citadel might be my favourite DLC of all time. That group-photo is what it’s all about but for DGAFShep, it’s a harsh reminder of those she’s lost; there’s a lot of empty spaces.
As we reach the staging ground in London I don’t say goodbye to anyone. As they explain the scale of the attack, the odds, the forces we’ll be facing, it makes the Suicide Mission seem like a tutorial. This is gonna be … a standard two teammates mission? There’s a Reaper in the way and you think two followers will cut it? Everything has led up to this, every squad-mate would demand they do their bit just like happened at the end of ME2 but bigger - they wouldn’t just abandon their commander, DGAF or not – we’ve all come too far and it’s the first of many missteps ME3 takes as it reaches the end.
As Harbinger blows everything sky high, I say a goodbye to James – no cutscenes, no romance but the goodbye is still affecting. Both he and Javik survive (also, how come the Normandy doesn’t get involved earlier? You’d expect it to swoop down Millennium Falcon style and take out Harbinger while Joker tells me the blow this thing so we can all go home) and we’re zapped into the citadel. For various reasons, I don’t have paragon or renegade options during the Shep-Anderson-TIM showdown so I’m pretty much just along for the ride. I think this sequence (along with the next) coloured most of my previously negative opinion of ME3, and it’s doing so again.
Playing as DGAFShep has really brought this moment into a sharp focus. It’s gutting that TIM wasn’t an actionable alternative to the Alliance – their attitude is as single-minded and unshakable as TIM’s, and that’s what ME3 should have been about, the lesser of two evils; the true horror of war. This moment should have been Shep’s final decision, not the one that’s about to come. ME2 made Cerberus a tempting alternative and then ME3 pulls all that away and turns him into a boo-hiss villain; worse, it’s not even TIM and his ideals because he’s indoctrinated. He should never have been taken over by the Reapers, it should have been both of them trying to sway Shep to their side. Shep just mindlessly kills TIM and comforts Anderson; yes, yes it’s sad he dies, he was a father figure and a supporter but he could have been less than that, and TIM could have been more.
The Catalyst does have a Matrix Architect vibe about him, but it’s still compelling stuff. I like how an AI endlessly judges us, the irony of it killing trillions over and over to protect the universe is huge – on a galactic scale the individual is reduced to less than zero yet it falls to one to make the choice. Step forward DGAFShep. Uhho.
This has always been the real ME killer for me. The entire series is about choice, even if most of them didn’t really matter as it turned out, but this is one choice Shep shouldn’t make. Even Shep says it’s a decision no one person can make and the game should never have let us. Kid Catalyst should assume you are the best of us to reach here, and take Shep’s choices throughout the series to decide what happens next. It would have been truly stunning reaper-what-you-sow moment. Instead, even if you brokered peace between the Geth and Quarians, helped Legion understand humanity, taught EDI how to love, you have to kill them to destroy the Reapers? They’re not the same, the Reapers aren’t sentient, the fact that the Catalyst can’t be reasoned with proves it. Instead we’re supposed to sacrifice ourselves? A Renegade wouldn’t. This ending assumes you’re a selfless hero and yet, if we’ve learnt one thing, it’s that the universe can’t be boiled down to personal choice – there’s too many variables. That’s what ME is supposed to be about. The only way ME3 could work is if your actions speak for you. It’s an infuriating, simplistic cop-out to leave it up to you then make every choice have a downside.
Symbiosis is not what DGAFShep would chose, she wants to survive, and she wouldn’t want to become their consciousness either. That’s a full-time job. Plus, do we want DGAF Reapers? Those endings completely discount all of Shep’s actions, her attitude. Why would you risk a Renegade running the universe? What to do. Then I realise Destroy is also the only one where Kid Catalyst doesn’t imply death. Since DGAFShep only cares about herself, that means…
I chose Destroy and along with the Reapers, EDI - although I don’t see a death scene for her, which I kinda did and didn’t want to see, I’m gutted to have killed her. Everyone else survives and I watch Hackett give a surprisingly upbeat voice-over about rebuilding with a promise not to repeat our actions. I doubt it and wonder what will happen when another AI war wages and the Reapers aren’t there to stop it. For the first time really, I get that the Reapers were right and all it took was not caring.
As the Normandy blasts off, we pause at the wall of death. So many names this time - Cortez is on there too, which is saddening. Anyway, Garrus goes to place Sheps name alongside the (large) number of crew casualties - but pauses. What’s that all about? I’m a goddamn DGAF hero! Get my name up there! It’s sobering they chose not to honour her. Yes she shot people in the face, destroyed the Quarians and ignored a crew that constantly laid down its life for her, but she got the job done. Well shit. But then, the shot pans through the rubble of the Crucible to Shep’s N7 tags and … she takes a breath!
Holy shit DGAFShep survived. I had no idea there was even a survival option but I’m pleased. She deserves a beer. She may owe the Asari one too. I guess Garrus paused because he suspected I’d survived. Well why didn’t you rescue me instead of getting my name printed for the dead-board?! You’d better not have the wake at my apartment.
And that was DGAFShep’s playthrough. It was a huge red-eye-opener. ME1 is still a brilliant, pure sci-fi game. One of the greats. ME2 is epic in scale and impact, but arguably, it’s where the rot sets in; if only we could have sided with TIM it would be beyond brilliant. As it is, it’s just brilliant. And ME3 … it had an impossible task bettering ME2’s legacy, but I’m undecided on if it even really tried. Once it settled on the idea that we were saving the galaxy, it relaxed, as if that was enough – it wasn’t; ME was about how Shep would somehow find a way to cure the genophage and still think to check Liara wasn’t upset about something.
And then there’s the choices we’re tricked into stressing about. Everything we did in ME1 and 2 should count towards how easy Shep’s mission is in ME3 – the only reason to send Shep on her fundraiser is because she has history and sway with everyone. Past interactions should be their first reaction to her requests, not ‘go do this chore and we’ll give you troops’. Some don’t even make sense – why cure the genophage to get Krogan on Palavan so the Turians can bolster earth? Just ask the Krogan to help earth. And what the hell did TIM do with the Human Reaper? It’s easy to argue the sheer number of interactions, dialogue choices and Asari to shoot would make the final stages impossible to pull together but really, that’s as bigger lie as Garrus claiming to the best shot on the Citadel. A few more dialogue choices, some additional side missions and a few alternative cutscenes and it would have all pulled together. Other series’ have managed branching storylines and impacts but ME3 just doesn’t want to be bothered – it’s as DGAF as Shep was, and you often see little nips and tucks, shortcuts and reskins. It’s a good try though, and at least we have the Citadel, which is the best afterparty ever. The only thing that could have made that DLC better is if Conrad turned up.
Despite all the hardships (mostly around not sleeping with crew mates; I’m amazed I resisted Trainor, no idea how I kept her out of my shower) playing as DGAFShep really refreshed a series I’ve played about as many times as the Reapers visited. I thought I knew it but I don’t – and when I consider all the fantastic moments, intimacies and friendships DGAFShep missed (and I discovered this time) I wonder what else there is to discover; this was just one playthrough, there’s hundreds more – TheMorty talks about his experiences as if we played different games, and he had no idea about some of the impacts and issues I faced - Mass Effect is a series that can be played forever.
There is a galaxy out there and no matter your disposition, it’s great saving it.
Mass Effect 2007 | Mass Effect 2 2009 | Mass Effect 3 2011
platforms; Win/Origin, PS3, X360