Spoiler warning: the following article contains spoilers for all three Mass Effect games.
Adieu to Shepard
It didn’t really hit me that we were seeing the last of Shepard and the Normandy crew as the Citadel DLC was downloading. After all I had made my peace months ago after completing the game. However, despite the Citadel DLC possibly been the funniest part of any game I have played, it was impossible not to be saddened in our hero's final scene:
“We had a good run, didn’t we?” – Random squad member.
“The best” – Shepard.
It was during this understated interaction that it finally slammed down on me that we were seeing the last of the characters that we had come to love. In all probability there will be a Mass Effect 4, but it seems unlikely that we’ll see (m)any of these characters again.
So it seems appropriate for this tribute to not focus on the controversy that inevitably comes to the fore when discussing Mass Effect, but rather celebrate the finest moments that Bioware managed to deliver. So here are my personal top 10 moments from this outstanding series.
10) Being made a Spectre
From the onset of Mass Effect 1 you are told the Spectres are the best of the best, a secret organisation with a mandate to do ‘whatever it takes’. Naturally you join them, but add to this the fact that you are the first Human Spectre and it’s a proud moment for your Shep.
9) The Lair of the Shadow Broker
Teaming up with ex-squad member Liara T’Soni to take down the secretive Shadow Broker? Yes please. Bioware dangled the carrot in the main game, and when they finally released the DLC with two epic boss fights included, it was a hit. Buzzing around Illium in a sky car is still a highlight for me, as well the nosiness of what my crew were extra-netting.
8) Retrieving the IFF
Fighting inside the dead Reaper was unsettling, but it was meeting Legion that really made this mission interesting. After battling the Geth in the original game, you almost assume they are singular in their goals. Learning that they are anything but was an interesting twist and led to some difficult decisions later in the series.
7) Introducing the Normandy SR2
A short but sweet moment when you meet the vessel near the start of Mass Effect 2. The music, along with Joker’s whimsical nature, makes the scene endearing.
6) The Citadel DLC
A last goodbye to the loveable characters that have been with us for years now. The main plot was dubious, but the party and accompanying humour made this piece of DLC one to remember.
5) Curing the Genophage
A key theme all the way through the series. Killing a Reaper by chucking a giant worm at it was immensely satisfying. Meanwhile, Mordin sacrificing himself to the ‘Vigil’ theme was a tear jerking moment. Some will have sabotaged the cure, but I am not one of them. I am such a boy scout (thanks Jack).
4) The Suicide Mission
The worry of whether your preparations had worked, the decisions of who does what with potential casualties left right and centre; the suicide mission was a real test. I’m ashamed to say it took a second attempt to get the ‘No One Left Behind’ achievement. You will be remembered Jack, Legion, Kasumi, Jacob and Thane! (I suck, I know).
3) The Virmire Mission
Virmire is where things really hit the fan. Convincing Wrex to help you destroy the (work in progress) Genophage cure, choosing who to save between Ashley and Kaiden, learning about the threat of indoctrination, fighting Saren for the first time, discovering that Sovereign is oh so much more than it appears. This is one of the most dramatic and action packed missions of the trilogy, and the revelations in it shape the rest of the story.
2) Resolving the Geth/Quarian Conflict.
Now this for me was the toughest of all the decisions you have to make in the trilogy. Being a Talimancer, letting the Geth upgrade was a major gamble for my Quarian-loving self, as it was strongly hinted that the Quarians would be wiped out. Nonetheless, by unabridged optimism was duly rewarded when I let them upgrade and shouted at Admiral Gerrel to stand down. The breath I let out was something that I doubt will be replicated in any future game.
1) Saving the Destiny Ascension
Sure you could let the Ascension crash and burn, but then you miss out on the cut scene of the Alliance swooping in to save the day. The subsequent inclusion of Anderson/Udina on the council was vindication for all your hard work during the first Mass Effect.
It was difficult to really only pick 10 moments; there have so many great moments - from Grunt’s last stand in 3, to the Illos mission in the original game, to Mordin’s loyalty mission in the sequel.
Some will complain that the ending ruined the series, but I find it impossible to not feel fondness for Mass Effect and the key events listed above. And while I retain a certain suspicion towards EA because of the recent upheavals at Bioware, I still look forward to the next Mass Effect instalment, even if Shepard isn’t there to lead the way.