From Romancing Jacob To Shooting Mordin, Here Are The Major Decisions Made By Five Mass Effect Devs
The Mass Effect series has long stood the test of time for its illustrious use of cause and consequence dynamics. Throughout the trilogy, you’re faced with a variety of different decisions that directly impact the world around you. Some of these choices affect the galaxy as a whole – do you cure the Genophage, allowing the krogan to amass humongous numbers again despite having almost conquered the galaxy in the past? And what about the geth? Can they be trusted to stay docile, or are they still susceptible to being reprogrammed by the Reapers?
Other choices are far more personal. In particular, Mass Effect is known for its lengthy romance arcs. If you’ve played the series yourself, you’ll probably have someone you consider to be Shepard’s canon partner. For me it’s always been Tali, although our own Stacey Henley recently called me out on that in her piece about why you shouldn’t romance Garrus or Tali in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, which makes an incredibly fair point.
All of this got me thinking: obviously the people who worked on Mass Effect played through the trilogy, so what decisions did they make? I spent quite some time speaking to Mass Effect devs a couple of weeks back, during which I learned that up to ten species were cut from Andromeda due to budget and… cosplay, as well as the fact that Jack was originally supposed to be pansexual, but was changed to a Male Shep-exclusive partner because of Fox News.
During these conversations, I asked five ex-BioWare devs about their canon Mass Effect playthroughs. Here’s what they told me.
“I played female Shepard,” Mass Effect 2 and 3 dev director Dorian Kieken tells me. Kieken rescued Ashley on Virmire, leaving Kaidan behind to die. He saved the council in the first Mass Effect game and romanced Liara, but went on to pursue a relationship with Garrus in Mass Effect 2 and 3. “I left no one behind on the suicide mission,” he says. “Cured the Genophage. Broke the peace between the Geth and Quarians.”
Mass Effect 2 and 3 writer Chris Hepler tells me that he tends to gravitate towards Paragon playthroughs. He pursued romances with both Liara and Ashley in the first Mass Effect, but ultimately ended up choosing Liara – but only for the first game. After moving on to Mass Effect 2, Hepler began a relationship with Jacob Taylor, to whom he remained committed right up until the end of Mass Effect 3.
“I did all the loyalty missions but ended up losing two or so people because I didn’t put a real leader in charge of the strike teams,” Hepler explains. “I just went with characters that seemed competent at first glance. It surprised me that the game was so reactive that it registered Garrus as a good strike team leader specifically because he lost his team once already and was determined to never have that happen again. That was a level of story and game coming together that I hadn’t seen before.
“In Mass Effect 3, I playtested the crap out of it, so I both cured and did not cure the Genophage. Philosophically, I supported not curing it, because as much as I like Wrex, he wasn’t going to be able to control the breeding of billions of krogan, and then the galaxy would be screwed once more.”
Meanwhile, Mass Effect 2 and 3 writer Jay Turner notes that he’s played through the series in several different ways. The two that stand out most ot him are a hardcore Male Shep Paragon run with Miranada, and a FemShep Renegade one with Liara. “Paragon Shep got everyone through,” Turner saus. “But Renegade Shep lost some people because I was blazing through and not researching upgrades to the ship.”
“Oh no!” Mass Effect 2 and 3 senior gameplay designer Patrick Moran says after I ask what choices he made. “I don’t think I even have a 360 anymore to load up my save on. This question makes me want to play through Legacy Edition again.
“I definitely played Paragon all the way. One of the strengths of the IP is the variety of races and genders represented, so I tended to sacrifice the vanilla action hero characters (which I can play in almost every other console game). I have a total TV crush on the actress who plays Miranda, so no one is sacrificing her. I cured the Genophage.”
The last person I spoke to was Mass Effect 3 senior writer Neil Pollner, who explains that he’s romanced pretty much every companion and can’t possibly pick a favourite.
“My favorite BioWare moments – Mass Effect or otherwise – are the big culminating decision moments revolving around the characters,” Pollner says. “The one that sticks out for me most in Mass Effect is when Mordin is taking off for the tower, and I have to decide whether or not to shoot him in the back. That was excruciating.
“I shot him. I tend to play Renegade.”
Next: No, Henry Cavill Probably Isn’t Making A Mass Effect TV Series
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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