Mass Effect

After kind of a stressful week, I decided the best way to unwind would be to catch up with old friends in a new playthrough of Mass Effect

Liv Shepard’s Backstory

Naming my character Liv, I made her a redhead Renegade, just like my original Shepard. I gave her the same Spacer origin story, but this time with the Ruthless history.

Growing up with military parents in space, she spent a lot of time alone as a kid, daydreaming about having siblings or at least other kids to play with. Since she didn’t have her feet planted on the groundside of any planet, she became accustomed to exploration and action. This included being used to the strict regulations of military life, and her parents — while loving — weren’t exactly easy on her if she got into trouble. She’s also used to being around aliens and the military seeking diplomatic solutions much of the time.

All of this made her a dreamer, a thrill-seeker, and someone with thick skin. She understands how dangerous life in space can be, and she takes military discipline to heart. Loneliness growing up has made her a little immune to empathy, though she’s also open-minded when it comes to meeting other races and working together. She’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, yet getting to know the crew of the Normandy — experiencing that kind of loyalty for the first time — will definitely soften her over time.

Becoming a Spectre

1. Mass Effect Beacon
Beacon on Eden Prime

As a military commander, Liv is tasked with investigating a distress call on the colonial planet Eden Prime. There’s a Prothean beacon there — leftovers from an ancient alien civilization — but also geth and a Spectre who’s not supposed to be there. Spectres are special agents appointed by the Citadel Council, which rules all of Citadel space (including many alien races). The problem? This Spectre, Saren, kills another Spectre and seems to be working with the geth, turning humans he finds into husks.

Liv sees a vision when she touches the Prothean beacon, nightmares of the end of civilization. Traveling back to the Citadel, she tells the Council about Saren, but they don’t believe her until she finds evidence of his betrayal. This takes a little help from people who will become her allies and friends — like the turian C-Sec investigator Garrus, the quarian pilgrim Tali, and the krogan bounty hunter Wrex.

Along the way, two interesting things: Liv learns a little about the Shadow Broker, a mysterious figure (or figures?) who trades in information; and Liv visits the asari Consort, who at first glance might seem like some sort of, er, companion, but can actually be something different for each person. After Liv helps her with something that’s been troubling her — a meddlesome customer — the Consort gives Liv a fortune telling (or something of the sort). But then it’s implied that the Consort also takes Liv to bed. Which is not something I really wanted, but that’s video games for you.

The cool thing is that at the end of all this, Liv becomes a Spectre, representing humanity. And she becomes captain of the Normandy.

Recruiting Liara

The first mission Liv takes on as a Spectre is tracking down Liara T’Soni, an asari researcher last seen at a Prothean dig site in the Artemis Tau cluster.

This involves the first fun excursion in the Mako. I used to be terrible at driving the Mako — it’s slow, bumpy, and you have to slowly shoot at enemies while occasionally jumping to avoid incoming fire. However, I think I’ve nailed it now. My Mako barely gets hit the whole time in this mission.

It turns out Liara is trapped behind some sort of forcefield, which requires Liv to do some shooting and hacking to free Liara. After a battle with a krogan and geth — this planet is teeming with them — Joker flies the Normandy in to rescue everyone.

Liara onboard.jpgLiara has a lot of valuable information about the Protheans, as an archaeologist who specializes in them. When Liv tells her and the crew that the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime seemed to give her a vision, Liara says that makes sense; Prothean beacons were built to transmit information among Protheans. It’s rare to find one still intact, and what Liv saw was probably very jumbled, as she is a human.

Liara has never been my favorite squad mate or anything like that in Mass Effect, but she is an interesting character. As an asari who is about one century one, she is very young for her species — and therefore not taken all that seriously — yet she’s clearly very intelligent. Her nerdiness is one of the things I love most about her.

She also tells Liv all about asari traditions, including mating customs. Physical contact doesn’t have to be involved — it’s more of a mind-meld kind of thing. All asari are female. It’s become common practice for asari to mate with other species, as this passes along traits from the other species to their offspring. It’s a way to learn more about other species, too. Liara is rare in that she is a “pureblood,” whose father was an asari. “Pureblood” is an insult among asari, because this implies that her parents, in both being asari, gained nothing from their union, and Liara has nothing special about her.

She’s also an interesting character. As an asari who is about one century one, she is very young for her species — and therefore not taken all that seriously. However, she’s clearly very intelligent — even nerdy. That’s one thing I love about her.

After the mission, I take a few minutes to hunt down Kaidan Alenko for a chat.

Now, in the past, Garrus Vakarian has been my man in Mass Effect. I did romance Kaidan in the first Mass Effect game, because he’s the only male option in that game — plus he’s cute. But once I saw Garrus was available in ME2, he felt like the one for me. Garrus is also a great choice for a renegade Shepard, because he’s so badass and sarcastic too. In fact, I feel that he and my canon Shepard — renegade but with a heart of gold for her crew and making the best choices for all the races — shared the same soul.

But this time around, I want to romance Kaidan. As a biotic lieutenant, he is handsome, charming, sweet, and a little awkward at times. He has a good head on his shoulders, and clearly a good heart. I think he’ll be a great balance for my renegade Shepard this time around, and I really want to experience the full Kaidan romance, from start to finish — no straying just because (spoiler!) he won’t be around much in ME2.

kaidan.pngIt’s fun to flirt with Kaidan, and while I’m sure it’s lovely to be very “paragon” in conversations with him, it’s really a lot sexier to be “renegade.” Kaidan reacts surprisingly well to some ribbing.

In this first conversation with him, Liv hears about his history as a biotic. His implant gives him migraines, but he’s lucky compared to some — the implant doesn’t always take. He mentions a girl he was close to (but didn’t sleep with) during his biotic training. And hearing all about his training — as well as his reasons for being drawn to space travel (the romance of it!) — is pretty cool.

Noveria

Games_Video_game_Mass_Effect_Noveria_071147_.jpgNoveria is one of my favorite planets in the Mass Effect series, and it’s the next stop for Liv and the Normandy crew. They are tracking down the asari matriarch Benezia — who also happens to be Liara’s mother. At first, I’m going to roll with Kaidan and Wrex on Noveria, but when Kaidan mentions to Liv that they might want to bring Liara along to speak with her mother, I swap Wrex for Liara.

Kaidan is so smart. He’s also like the voice of reason — or the angel on my renegade Shepard’s shoulder. Whenever I tap him to hear what he has to say, something dorky or sweet spills out. Something about how he should’ve packed a sweater like his mom told him to. Or about how nice and peaceful the Citadel is. Or about how he likes the tasteful decor around here.

Compare that with Liara, who has some doomsday sort of complaint every time I tap her on Noveria. She says she can’t wait to get off this icy planet, and that the place is full of dark secrets. I guess she’s a tad dramatic.

Anyway, there are several side missions to complete on Noveria, which I’m happy to do as I love spending time here. It takes an hour or two, but Liv picks up an illegal shipment intended for a krogan bounty hunter, helps a lady gain some intel on a weapons merchant, and steals information that helps put away the corrupt leader on Noveria. (The planet, free from the laws of the Citadel, makes its own rules regarding trade, but that leaves it very open to local corruption.)

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My first Renegade option!

As a snowy planet with a storm raging outside, Noveria has just one big old building complex, as well as several research centers scattered about. Apparently Benezia showed up a few days ago with a host of asari commandos as her bodyguards, to go to Peak 15 and do some sort of research nobody really knows about. Liv, Kaidan, and Liara take a Mako up to Peak 15 to find her.

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Just trying to stay warm here…

Along the way, geth nearly destroy the Mako. I thought I was becoming an expert with this thing, but apparently my handling is a little jumpy. I forgot how challenging this whole Noveria section of the game is, especially if it’s one of the first places you hit. (Saving it for last is smart, with regards to difficulty!)

At Peak 15, Liv and party encounter some giant insect-like aliens they have never seen before. It’s like they’re infesting the place. Eventually, they come across the staff and learn that attacks by these aliens are frequent, and many have died. The people who are left there are jacked up on stims to stay up for extra shifts. The AI also informs Liv that there is contamination at the facility. Clearly something is not right.

rachni.jpgUpon reaching Benezia, they learn that Saren has indoctrinated her. She tries to fight it, but he’s in her head. She’s also housing what could be a secret weapon for Saren: the rachni, an ancient race of aliens (the ones who look like giant insects, hope that’s not too racist here) who were thought to be extinct.

Benezia
Benezia, indoctrinated

Liv kills Benezia. It’s a little sad, but it has to be done. Her indoctrination is irreversible. Having Liara there, Benezia tells Liara that she is proud of her, and Liara tells her to fight Saren’s control over her — but it’s not possible.

Critical Mission Failure.jpg
My favorite thing to see.

In other news… this fight is hard. I die many times. Several waves of asari commandos and geth snipers come at you, and I’m constantly managing my medkits and Unity power. I also notice that despite playing as a Sentinel, I don’t have the Warp ability in this game. As an Adept, Liara is able to use it, but I guess I have to wait until Mass Effect 2 for Liv to pack it in her arsenal. (It’s always been my favorite power in the games. I Warp everything.)

The other thing I forgot about Mass Effect — the first game, that is — is just how awful the save points are. Or the lack of save points. This is before games gave you saves to keep you going, so you have to manually save your progress. And if you die before a big fight like this Benezia one, you do have to go through the whole long conversation leading up to the fight, again and again, dialogue choices and all. It’s pretty irritating, but I skip through the dialogue one line at a time, as fast as I can.

What I didn’t forget is how clunky Mass Effect feels. The first game is just terrible in that respect. Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but compare it to any other modern shooter out there, and it feels about a hundred years old. The targeting system is barely there. It’s supposedly cover-based, but there’s just an awkward crouch that doesn’t really help, and most of the time, you have to physically squat your way out of cover to aim at anyone. Instead of bullets, you just have to worry about your weapons overheating — and they overheat a lot. I thought I would get the hang of it, but apparently that’s not a thing. You’re just going to overheat your weapons. It’s going to happen. Shooting feels slow and clunky as a result, and there’s no satisfying difference in sound or feel between weapons — everything is kind of the same, and none of it very realistic. Besides that, the game screen frequently goes blurry when a lot of action is happening onscreen. I don’t know if that’s because I’m playing the game on Xbox One, or if that’s just original Mass Effect for you.

After killing Benezia and her many asari commandos, Liv faces the rachni queen, houses in a tank and wanting to be free. The rachni were once a great threat to all other species, killing everyone until the krogan finally eliminated them in an awful war. Liv might be a fool to release the queen, but how can she commit genocide? Both Kaidan and Liara want to free the rachni queen, and the queen tells Liv — using the body of a dead asari commando to give her voice — that she understands why her species was killed in the past, and things will be different now.

Crew Chats & Side Missions

Liv spends a little time getting to know the Normandy crew now.

Tali talking.pngTali talks about her pilgrimage. For three centuries now, her people, the quarians, have lived in ships as part of their Flotilla, and when they come of age they go on a pilgrimage to bring something of value back to the ship they want to live on. That’s what she’s doing now. She’s also a tech nerd and very interested in the Normandy, which is cool. I love Tali’s character. But the most interesting conversation we have is about the geth, VI who turned into AI and, once they were able to start questioning their place in the world, took over the planet and drove the last of the quarians out to space. The fact that they kill everyone they come into contact with — except Saren — is suspicious and disturbing.

Garrus talks about his time at Citadel Security and all the red tape he had to go through as he moved up in the ranks. Liv assures him that as long as he does his job well, he’s cool.

Wrex talks about the genophage, a virus created by the salarians and then used by the turians against the krogans. It’s essentially a genetic mutation that causes only a few in thousands of their children to be born. Most die before birth or are stillborn. It was used to reduce their population, and now breeding for the krogans is almost impossible. It’s interesting because the krogans are warriors, so they could easily overrun the galaxy, conquer all, even wipe out everyone else. (Kind of like the Rachni?) But it’s also so wrong to force this virus on them.

Ashley says something about not trusting the aliens being onboard the Normandy, since the Normandy is such a special Alliance ship. Liv tells her she’s out of line, and Ashley gets all scared, apologizes, and salutes her. It’s kind of hilarious. I don’t mean to be so hard on Ashley, but she’s just easy to dislike, especially in the first game when she can come off a little racist. However, I get her point. These races have been at war with each other, so I can see why you need to be careful — it’s not just about them being aliens, but about the history there. Whatever. Liv isn’t going to be best friends with Ashley anyway.

Kaidan talks about cutting corners and the dangers there. He says he gets concerned with someone “special” to him — meaning Shepard. She says he’s not out of line for saying that — she’s interested in him — but now is not the time. I’m kind of playing it cool at first here. But Kaidan is so handsome. As much as I’ve loved romancing Garrus in the past, I’m really more in the headspace to romance Kaidan right now, so this is going to be very fun.

I’m also interested in leveling up with some side missions, since I don’t want to blast through the main missions quite yet. There’s a lot to do in Mass Effect, and the stories are always engaging.

One interesting quest here is when Liv, Kaidan, and Tali go to Ontarom to see what’s going on with a doctor there. The combat is hard, so I’ll be honest — after dying five times here, I turn down the difficulty from Normal to Casual. I honestly don’t feel bad about this. The original Mass Effect game is haaaaard. It’s just because of how outdated it is; the controls are so clunky, and there’s no easy way to take cover.

Cerberus.pngIn any case, once Liv and crew get into the main room to see what’s going on, they find a soldier, Toombs, holding a gun to the doctor’s head. He says that the doctor let thresher maws kill his crew in the name of research and experimented on him. I have a Renegade option to kill the doctor myself, but I let the soldier do it. Toombs then commits suicide. Also interesting here is that Toombs mentions Cerberus, which I believe is the first time we hear of this group.

Toombs soldier.png

Can I also just say how much I love Alliance command and Admiral Hackett? They’re the ones giving Shepard all these extra missions, and they’re also so supportive of everything she does. It’s like, Oh, the person you were sent to find was killed? That’s fine. You did what you had to do. Oh, you were the one who murdered him? That’s cool.

Another set of missions — slightly more fun — that I undertake is with Helena Blake, a crime boss who wants Liv to take out her two corrupt partners. Apparently they deal in a drug called red sand, and they sell anyone who can’t pay to slavers. Something like that. Bad, bad guys. She wants to take over the syndicate, and of course she’ll keep on with the crimes — she’s just going to focus on smuggling illegal tech and more savory things like that.

Normally in these missions, I kill the other crime bosses and then force Helena Blake to disband the group. However, this time around I ignore the Renegade dialogue option and instead agree that she can keep running things, as long as she sticks to what she says. If Liv gets a whiff of drugs or slavery, she’ll hunt Helena down. Liv believes in shutting down corruption but she’s not naive enough to believe that she can wipe it out completely. Keeping Helena Blake in check feels like the smart thing to do here. We’ll see how this plays out!

Shepard Normandy inspection.pngWhen Liv goes back to the Citadel, she is also faced with a formal inspection of the Normandy. I’d forgotten about this bit of story, but it’s fun to encounter because by now, Shepard has some pretty cool Renegade dialogue options she uses to defend her alien crew and the Normandy itself.

Feros

Mako on Feros.pngNext up is saving some colonists on Feros. This is an ExoGeni colony there, Zhu’s Hope, created to explore Prothean ruins in the area. (Seems like a cool job — I’d totally move there for work!) Apparently there have been geth attacks, so Liv brings Wrex and Kaidan with her to see what’s up.

This place is a maze. I forgot how long the mission takes, partly because of how many sections there are — first you’re in the colony, then you’re in the Mako fighting geth, then you’re in some tunnels, then you’re tracking down a giant Thorian that’s been living underground there. But in the midst of all this action, it’s also just a huge, sprawling place where every tunnel and turn kind of looks like the last one, so it’s easy to get lost. I kept opening up the map, but even that didn’t always help me figure out where I was going or what my next objective was. At some point I was turning on water valves. I also found a crazy guy down there, as well as, in another spot, a researcher.

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Liv, Kaidan, and Wrex — the Barrier buddies

There’s a lot of story here, but the biggest discovery is that a Thorian is living underneath the colony, and the colonists are getting sick. They’ll turn into creepers eventually — they’re all over the colony, husk-like things who used to be human and run at you with melee attacks until you shoot them, which makes them explode — so you can just go through the colony killing them all if you want. However, when Shepard gives this order, Kaidan — ever the pragmatist and good guy — reminds her that they can use anti-Thorian gas in grenades to safely knock out the colonists when they attack.

So Liv says that’s cool. Then she proceeds to kill all bout five of the colonists, because she runs out of grenades and I didn’t realize you can also melee the colonists to knock them out. Oh well. That’s a Renegade Shepard for you.

The Thorian.png
The Thorian!

Taking down the Thorian itself is pretty fun. I used to find this mission very difficult, because you have lots of Thorian creepers coming right at you, as well as a few asari clones who throw powerful hits and are harder to kill. But I guess I’ve gotten better at shooters — even clunky ones like this Mass Effect — because I enjoyed running from level to level, shooting my way through. As you go, you shoot the Thorian’s tentacles (I guess that’s what they are?) until you finally kill it. It is a big, ugly creature that has an asari inside it.

Thorian and Prothean.png
“The Thorian was here long before the Protheans built the city. When they died, it consumed them. They became part of it.”

Once the Thorian is dead, the asari is free. She’s come out of her trance. Her name is Shiala, and she explains to Shepard that Saren sent the geth here to take down the Thorian a creature who has been alive for some 50,000 years. That’s long enough to know what happened to the Protheans. She mind-melds with Liv, but the flashes of Prothean memory that she shares doesn’t make a lot of sense right away.

Back on the Normandy, Liara is there to help Liv unscramble the vision. She also mind-melds with Liv (I’m sorry I don’t know the right term for that), and it becomes clear that the Protheans were wiped out by a race of machines: the Reapers. Liv has already been thinking this, but now it seems there is more evidence.

Saren is after the Conduit. That’s some kind of link with the Protheans — or maybe the Reapers themselves. We need to find out what’s going on once and for all.

Back on the Normandy, I spend some time getting to know the crew again, checking in with them about the last mission. Kaidan mentions Liara being interested in Shepard — it’s like he’s jealous or something. He keeps poking around trying to figure out where he stands with Liv. Once she makes it clear she’s not interested in Liara but likes flirting with Kaidan, he opens up more about his old turian commander on Jump Zero, Vyrnnus. He was a real asshole, and when he almost broke the arm of the girl Kaidan liked, Kaidan reacted in full force — and killed him. Apparently that scared off the girl, too. It’s kind of sad, but it shows that for all of Kaidan’s sweetness, there’s a badass underneath who will break free if somebody messed with the ones he cares about.

More Side Quests

It’s time to prepare for the big Virmire mission. Before going there, I want to check off a few side missions in hopes of gaining some extra experience.

One mission involves Shepard saving a chairman (Burns) being held hostage by a human man with an L2 biotic implant. The man claims people need to know about L2 side effects, and this is a way to get his message across. Liv, being all Renegade-y, is able to talk him out of shooting the chairman, saying his action will only make people think all L2s are criminals. Kaidan also pipes in, reminding the guy that everybody already knows about the side effects. Liv gets a nice message from Hackett for her non-violent handling of the situation.

In other news, I’ve officially worn out my welcome with the Normandy crew. Everybody Liv tries talking to gives her the hand or the shoulder or some other unwanted body part. Garrus is just like, “Nice to see you,” without looking up from his work. Kaidan says he’s wasted enough of Liv’s time. Ashley says she has to clean some rifles or something. Wrex just says hey with nothing else. Whatever. I guess they’re all talked out and Liv is totally not hurt because she grew up as an only child in space with soldier parents and so she doesn’t need anybody anyway. Yeah.

Rogue VI

I always thought this was an important mission and was wondering why it wasn’t cropping up in my mission list. I finally happened upon it in my assignments, which is where all my side quests are. But believe me, if you play the first Mass Effect game, you don’t want to miss this one!

A rogue VI has taken over an Alliance training ground on Earth’s moon. Liv needs to go take it out. The reason this mission is so important is that it allows Shep to unlock a specialization. You receive this mission once you hit level 20.

Earth.jpg
Not a bad view

Driving the Mako up to the training ground is nice and relaxing. Then the towers almost take out the Mako. Then I enter the facility with Kaidan and Ashley backing me up, and we get wiped out by the little drones all over the place — fast. This is a hard mission, guys. (Luckily I saved as soon as I entered the facility.) And can I just say how much I hate that the weapons overheat so fast? I’d rather run out of bullets.

Of course, as is so often the case, all that’s required is a little tactics. Using my Barrier, busting out some of my tech powers, and keeping my friends alive was all that I needed to do to get through the combat. Also, backing away and hiding.

Ah the drones.jpgThis is kind of a rinse and repeat mission where you have to enter three different buildings around the site and do pretty much the same thing in each in order to take the VI offline.

For my Sentinel, I then get to choose between two specializations: Bastion (biotics for defense and immobilization opponents) and Medic (tech and healing). Since I’m already a pretty good healer and I’m not playing on the easy difficulty, I’m going the Bastion route. I don’t need all that extra med boosts — I’d rather have fun with stasis and use Barrier to avoid damage to begin with. To be honest, I’m not that excited about either subclass, but we’ll see how it goes.

Virmire

Wooooo, it’s finally time for Virmire! In this mission, Liv is looking to take down Saren once and for all. Of course, it’s not that easy.

mako.pngJoker picks up a distress call from a salarian on the surface, and it looks like there are heavy defenses all over. After landing on this jungle planet, Liv takes the Mako for a spin. There is heavy fire, leaving the vehicle pretty much totaled. Well, on fire. That’s nothing new for our crew, though.

Eventually, they make it to the beach where the salarians have made camp. Captain Kirrahe is here, hoping for help from the Council. When he learns that Shepard and the Normandy crew are the only ones coming, he’s disappointed. Geth reinforcements are everywhere guarding the base, and apparently Saren has been doing research here and found a cure for the genophage, which Kirrahe wants to destroy. Because Wrex is in my party, he gets up in Kirrahe’s face about this. I mean, this cure could save his people, and Kirrahe has the nerve to tell him the krogan are a mistake.

Liv gets some time in with Kaidan and Ashley to discuss what to do about Wrex. It’s some of their last moments together. (If you haven’t played Mass Effect, this is a major spoiler which will be detailed soon!) They encourage Shepard to talk to Wrex.

But when Liv approaches her krogan friend, Wrex pulls a gun on her! I almost forgot about this super tense moment between the two of them.

wrex-momentWrex says if Liv agrees with the salarian about destroying the genophage cure, he’s done with her. Liv says that this is bigger than that. They have a mission, and Saren’s cure isn’t about saving the krogan — he wants to use it for his own purposes, controlling the krogan through indoctrination. Wrex finally agrees with that, at least. But seriously. My heart.

Anyway, Kirrahe has a plan to distract Saren and the geth, which will give Shepard and her team time to sneak in and plant a nuke to destroy the base. But he wants either Kaidan or Ashley on his team. Liv sends Kaidan, since he has leadership abilities and can work well with anyone. Even though that means splitting up with him for the rest of the mission, it’s fun to hear Kaidan’s voice through Liv’s comm, working with the salarian squad, giving orders, and providing updates. He knows how to take charge. It’s kinda hot.

As for Liv, she rolls with Garrus and Wrex for the rest of the mission, killing geth and krogan everywhere they go. At some point, they come across indoctrinated salarians. They also find an asari researcher who is afraid that Saren will eventually indoctrinate her, too. She gets them into Saren’s private lab, and then Liv tells her to run before they nuke the place. That scares the lady half to death. I love Garrus’s comment aftewards:

beacon-twoAfter much fighting and exploration, they come across another Prothean beacon, like the one on Eden Prime. Liv connects with it, seeing flashes of destruction like she did before. And then a hologram appears — of Sovereign, a massive ship that’s not just Saren’s ship, Reaper. It tells Liv that its intent is to wipe out all civilization, as a sort of purge. It does this every 50,000 years. It’s a cycle that cannot be stopped.

Liv is not cool with this.

The Normandy is able to swoop in with the nuke, which Ashley helps plant. But Kaidan comes in on the comms, saying they’re pinned down and can’t hold out much longer. Liv goes for him. But before she can reach him, Ashley comms in to say enemies are coming and she needs to set off the nuke, now, if she’s going to do it.

Liv has a choice: Save Ashley or Kaidan. She chooses Kaidan. Ashley has the nuke, she knows the risks and must sacrifice for the mission.

kaidan-or-ashleyI forgot how awful it is. I knew going into this quest that I would be faced with this decision, and I knew I’d choose to save Kaidan — but it’s still hard. Watching Ashley’s last moments of fighting are as heartbreaking as they are inspiring. I feel bad she and Liv didn’t get along better. (Also, that I never really liked her that much myself.) She can be a badass when she wants to be.

saren-faceThen it’s time to face Saren. He explains to Liv that he is an ally of the Reapers, because nobody can win against them. Totally an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-em situation. Liv questions whether he, too, is indoctrinated by Sovereign. (Indoctrination happens from being around the Sovereign Reaper ship, and it takes away a person’s free will.) But Saren says he knows the difference, and right now, the Reapers need him to help them find the Conduit — hence he still has his mind.

Liv tries to shoot him down, but Saren is a tough old turian and also takes flight on a hovercraft. (It looks kinda funny, actually — this badass turian on a flying scooter.)

Although Saren isn’t defeated, at least the nuke goes off.

Back on the Normandy, Liara mind-melds with Shepard again to access the memories from the Prothean beacon. It becomes clear that what the Reapers are after is on the planet Ilos — so that’s where we are headed next.

council-talkWhen Liv tries to tell the Council about all this madness, they don’t believe her. At least not officially. There’s not enough evidence to back up her claims about the Protheans and Reapers, they say — yet they also tell Shepard that is the reason they made Spectres. If Liv thinks Saren and even the Reapers are a threat, she has the authority to go take them down. I like to think at least some Council members (well, maybe just one?) believe Shepard is onto something, but they can’t admit it publicly. Something this big can’t be on the records.

Ilos & The Citadel: Taking Down Saren

It’s time to find the Conduit! But before heading to Ilos to track it down, Shepard starts freaking out. She’s tired — from the missions, from the Council not listening to her, from the huge responsibility that’s placed on her shoulders. Kaidan finds her and talks her through some of this, and they share a moment in which they almost kiss — except that Joker interrupts them. Apparently Liv needs to go to Flux to talk to Anderson privately.

At Flux, Captain Anderson tells Liv that he has a plan. He’s going to break into Councilor Udina’s office to free the Normandy to head to Ilos, even though the Council pretty much has the Normandy (and Shepard) locked down. Liv okays the plan, but I have to say, I expected Anderson to sneak into Udina’s office; instead, he blasts in there, punches Udina in the face, and hacks his computer. He’s such a badass. A little over-the-top at times, but then, so is Liv Shepard.

That night, Liv and Kaidan finally have some privacy, and Kaidan makes his move. Shepard basically has to tease him into it, because he’s a careful, respectful kind of guy — or lieutenant. Kaidan expresses a lot of love for Shepard here. Well, he doesn’t say “love,” but he clearly cares for Liv and says he couldn’t take it if something happened to her. Awwww.

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This place is creepy.

Now Liv heads to Ilos with Kaidan and Garrus backing her up. The three of them make an excellent team, and because they all have some tech powers, they’re fierce when faced with waves of geth. I love this mission because there is a lot of squad interaction as they discuss what’s going on. Kaidan and Garrus balance each other well here.

Eventually, the team makes their way to Vigil, a virtual intelligence that gives them a ton of background on the Protheans and the Reapers.

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Speaking with Vigil

Vigil is awesome. It wants desperately to help Liv stop the Reapers by avoiding the mistakes that the Protheans made before. It tried to save Protheans there in the archives on Ilos, waiting it out in cryosleep until the Reapers were gone. But to conserve energy to last that long, Vigil had to shut off more and more pods, killing the more menial workers and leaving just the top scientists alive. Once the Reapers were gone, these Prothean scientists were able to travel to the Conduit and — here’s the big reveal! — hack the keepers on the Citadel, which is a dormant mass relay, so they wouldn’t allow the Reapers re-entry! Yep, the Reapers were going to use the keepers to come back and wipe out the galaxy. But thanks to the Prothean scientists (who sadly perished on the Conduit, unable to leave it after their work there), the Reapers are stranded — but Saren is planning to “fix” that problem.

Vigil gives Liv a code that will let her take control of the Citadel. But things are already unraveling. Liv, Kaidan, and Garrus jump the Mako through the Conduit, crash-landing on the Citadel as it’s already being invaded by the Reapers and their indoctrinated geth and krogan warriors.

citadel-being-torn-apartAfter fighting through the Citadel as it’s being torn apart, Shepard, Kaidan, and Garrus finally reach the Council chambers where Saren is waiting for them. He’s on his flying scooter, of course. He invites Shepard to join him in what would be indoctrination, but of course Liv nearly bites off the hand he offers her. There are Paragon and Renegade dialogue options here, but I haven’t leveled my Ren side quite enough to unlock this option. Too bad.

Then it’s boss battle time!

Saren on his flying scooter.pngThe first round against Saren is basically shooting him whenever the weapons aren’t overloaded, while he flies around on his scooter. It’s kind of a hilarious scooter, guys. This battle is easy but tedious, as your weapons keep overheating and not many powers seem to work against Saren. It’s a lot of waiting around for your weapons to work.

Once he’s down, Shepard hears from the Destiny Ascension, a ship that has the Council members onboard. It’s failing against the Reapers. Joker comes in from the Normandy, saying that he can go rescue the Ascension. But this is the big decision: Should Shepard rescue the Council, or let them perish while focusing attacks on Sovereign?

In past playthroughs, I’ve always been very pro-Council — I like the idea of aliens working together and humans being open-minded enough to support that — so this time, I’m doing the opposite. Liv tells Joker to focus on Sovereign and leave the Ascension to fend for itself. The Council dies.

Back on the Citadel, Saren comes back as some sort of electric husk type of creature. At least that’s how he looks at first, but he’s more like a geth hopper who jumps on the walls. The area is pretty tight for the fight, so Liv and crew have to stay on the move to avoid attacks. I use a lot of Throw abilities (Kaidan and Liv are both pretty good at those) so Saren stays back and weakened. It’s not too tough a fight, playing on the Casual difficulty as I am now.

Liv is able to take control of the Citadel, and with Saren gone, Sovereign’s shields are down. The Normandy and Alliance fleet are able to take down Sovereign once and for all. It’s a pretty epic space battle to watch!

Captain Anderson and Ambassador Udina meet Liv in a side chamber to discuss what to do now that the Council is gone. Udina wants a human Council formed. Shepard votes for Anderson to lead the way, and to be honest, I’m not sure about the all-human Council idea. I still want all of these aliens working together! But being Renegade, I think that’s what the way the chips are falling right now. A human-led Council made up of aliens — that would be ideal. We’ll see what happens in Mass Effect 2

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— Ashley

 

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