Thursday, April 16, 2015

Top 5 Party Members in the Mass Effect Trilogy

#5 - Legion: Though the Geth served as the primary enemy foot soldiers in the first Mass Effect, they were not of a terribly complicated nature. The Quarians crafted them many years ago, only to have things go horribly awry when the Geth declared themselves independent and war broke out between these mechanical creations and their organic creators. In Mass Effect 2, the hive-mind mentality of the Geth is expanded upon, and a ‘ghost in the machine’ emerges in the form of Legion, a Geth who has modeled his own form after Commander Shepard and would dare to question the behavior of his kin. Legion’s intellect borders that of his organic comrades, and Mass Effect 3 presents a particularly dangerous scenario where Shepard must side with either the Quarians or the Geth in the fight against the Reapers – though, provided his skills are sufficient, he can choose a third option that sees both sides unite in the effort to repel the Reapers’ onslaught of the galaxy.

#4 - Liara T’Soni: I did not get around to actually playing the Mass Effect trilogy until quite a few months after the third entry had been released, despite the series having been frequently recommended to me by friends. One significant benefit to this, I felt, was the ability to immediately jump into the next game, not having to wait years between releases like everyone else had. However, I was strikingly aware of the greater limitations the first title offered in gameplay, dialogue, and moral choices. I played as male Shepard my first time through the Mass Effect trilogy, and seeing as the first game only offered me two options for romantic partners, one of whom I left to die on Virmire on account of her being one of the least likeable characters in the franchise, I defaulted to Liara. Her nerdy, somewhat naïve nature was certainly preferable to the company of Ashley (or Kaidan, in the case of female Shepard), but I never felt like she came into her own until the second game, when she was pushed to a supporting cast member.

Where Liara did truly shine was during the events of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, where she shows Shepard just how much of a no-holds-barred badass she’s become in the Commander's absence. She’s broken out of her shell and then some, following a trail of digital breadcrumbs, tracing as many of the Shadow Broker’s contacts as she knows exist, helping save Shepard’s life (yet again), before making a seemingly-impossible assault upon the Shadow Broker’s carefully-hidden headquarters. By the time Mass Effect 3 rolls around, Liara has taken over the role of the Shadow Broker, keeping close watch on the web of information and trafficking of resources to aid Shepard and the crew of the Normandy. She also returns as a party member, still one of the most adept Biotics in the series.

#3 - Jack: The other great Biotic in the Mass Effect series is Jack, with her tattoo-decorated body, shaved head, and take-no-prisoners mentality. After being enlisted to help Cerberus per their bringing the Normandy’s famous commander back to life, Shepard is tasked with a number of missions to recruit highly-valuable and equally skillful individuals from across the galaxy. Recruiting Jack is a job that reeks of danger quite some time before it actually goes sour, with the crew of the redesigned Normandy SR-2 visiting a prison facility where the guards seem to be as ruthless as the prisoners they keep locked up. Before Shepard and company can reach their intended target, the warden informs them that he will be adding Shepard to the list of inmates, believing the commander’s notoriety will land him a hefty payout.

A skirmish with the guards later, and Shepard’s team makes it to the holding cell where Jack is being kept on ice. Upon awakening, she immediately enters a destructive rage, blowing holes through walls, and using her Biotic powers to blow away anyone who tries to get in her way. The trail of wreckage she leaves is plenty easy to follow, though it only adds fuel to the already chaotic fire that has erupted within the prison complex. While she is thoroughly reluctant to join a team funded by Cerberus, she proves an invaluable ally in the fight against the Collectors, using her Biotic powers for both offensive and defensive strategies during the Suicide Mission at the end of Mass Effect 2, and then going on to train a new generation of Biotics during the events of Mass Effect 3. She’s foul-mouthed, doesn’t much care what anyone thinks of her, and would much prefer to play by her own rules, but when Shepard is in a tight spot, he/she can always count on Jack to take whatever the enemy is throwing their way and toss it back in their face three-fold.

#2 - Garrus Vakarian: Garrus is one of those rare characters that proves so likeable in nearly every situation he and Shepard find themselves in. Whether scouting the seedy underbelly of Omega for shady characters, treading deep into abandoned mining facilities, or helping repel an invasion of Reaper forces, Garrus proves a trustworthy friend through thick and thin. His intimate knowledge of C-Sec formalities and Turian battle strategies makes him an invaluable asset with a rifle in his hands, but his cool personality and genuine advice led him to be equally valuable for personal support. Garrus is not without his own shortcomings, treading into some dark territory during the second game, and lacking finesse when it comes to charming the ladies. But all of these elements propelled him to become one of the most enjoyable personalities in the Mass Effect trilogy, as well as one of the most memorable characters in recent video game history, and I kept him in my company about as often as the games would allow.

#1 - Tali’Zorah vas Normandy: When Tali first joins Shepard’s crew aboard the Normandy, she is excitable, practically shoving her way past crew members to analyze the ship’s internal engineering. And while her understanding of the galaxy may be somewhat naive at the outset of her pilgrimage, she is not exactly an impressionable youth. She always has a couple of tricks up her sleeve, thanks to her long history of technical expertise. She was an enjoyable sidekick for much of my playthrough of the original Mass Effect, but when I started up the second game, I realized how much she had matured during her time away from Shepard and company. Working with the crew of the Normandy, she had found her own voice, become more cunning, and offered her fellow Quarians a unique view of the galaxy beyond their Flotilla home fleet.

Tali’s role as tech expert led her to prove an invaluable support party member throughout all three games, and alongside Garrus, served as my go-to ally for the vast majority of the story. She embraced her particular skill set while others preferred the spectacle of explosive weaponry or Biotic powers, and always looked up Commander Shepard as ally, mentor, and friend, holding a great deal of respect for him/her. She also was not afraid to voice her opinion in the event that she did not agree with Shepard or any one of the other crew members, with each concern she raised being very much valid. That is not to say that Tali shied away from some free-spirited fun, as she was always down to boogie in one of the Citadel’s many clubs, cracks some crude humor on occasion, and delivers hilarious drunken ramblings during Shepard’s house party in The Citadel DLC. While easily one of the most enjoyable characters in the first title, Tali’Zorah truly bloomed into one of my favorite RPG companion characters of all time in the sequel games, and was, for me, a no-brainer pick as Commander Shepard’s love interest.

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