Dictator's Top 10 Favorite Mass Effect Characters

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After 5 years of perhaps not-so-patiently waiting, at least on my part, it is now down to less than a month until the release date for Bioware's latest installation in the sci-fi RPG series Mass Effect. Mass Effect: Andromeda is set 600 years after the events of Mass Effect 3, some 2.5 million light years away in the Andromeda galaxy, during a joint-species expedition to colonize a new galaxy as a future home for the various species of the game. This means that the game will be starting with a fairly clean slate, in terms of events and characters.

Mass Effect


While I understand the decision to leave it all behind, both in terms of game design and storytelling, I cannot help but feel like I am going to miss Commander Shepard and the various crew members of the SSV Normandy. After all, I have spent literally hundreds of hours with these characters. So, before we usher in new protagonist Ryder, I'd like to take a second and look back on the Top 10 Characters Of Mass Effect. At least, so far. A couple of disclaimers, before I start: This only includes characters from the main 3 games, it does not include characters who are exclusive to the books, graphic novels, films, or side games such as the IOS-exclusive Mass Effect: Infiltrator. Second, there are bound to be spoilers, so if you have not played the games yet, A) What are you doing with your life? and B) Proceed at your own risk.



Commander Shepard

How could I not include Shepard? The protagonist of the game is a hero before things even kick off in ME1, being a decorated soldier, a member of the Systems Alliance’s N7 special forces program, and a prospect to become the first human Spectre (an organization of elite agents who operate above the law and under their own jurisdiction, created by the various alien species that make up the Council.) He/she goes on to add quite a few notches under his/her belt throughout the game, including eventually saving the galaxy from the threat of the Reapers (giant sentient machines that kill all advanced sentient life in the universe every 50,000 years or so), which makes one wonder why exactly does Shepard never get promoted above the rank of Commander. Shepard is an example of the best that humanity has to offer. To his/her superiors they're the perfect soldier, to their enemies they're an unstoppable force, and to their crew they are the best commanding officer and friend you could ask for. They have an unwavering conviction to stopping the Reapers, even when everyone else is convinced that the Reapers are just an old myth. And the character can become what you want him or her to be, whether that's a hardline pragmatist who feels the end justifies the means, or someone dedicated to find a better way to handle things. They can be diplomatic, aggressive, or bitingly sarcastic. And Shepard always remains a real person, with their own set of weird faults and quirks, like their horrific dancing (which is a constant in-game joke) or the fact that they end every conversation with the weirdest parting line (“I should go.”)



The Illusive Man

His name is never stated in-game, instead just being referred to in intelligence reports as the Illusive Man. One of the most absolutely fascinating characters in the game, he founded and leads the organization known as Cerberus, a group dedicated to the advancement of human interests in the galaxy. The Illusive Man sees everything in the moral shade of gray that it is, and while his goal is admirable, his methods are often extreme or underhanded (although he justifies it by saying that other species are using the same tactics to undermine humanity). Still, he's not all bad, reviving Shepard from a premature death at the beginning of ME2 and taking action against the threat of the Reapers when the various human and alien governments are busy trying to pretend they do not exist. His whatever-it-takes attitude causes him and Shepard to part ways at the end of ME2 and he spends ME3 opposing Shepard, feeling that Shepard's plan of destroying the Reapers is shortsighted and that humanity could profit more from controlling the Reapers. In the end, The Illusive Man is even right, although by that point he has been so corrupted and lost sight of the true goal that he could never have achieved it. Also, I cannot talk about this character without mentioning his sense of flair: you typically hold conversations with him while he sits in the dark, with his back to a view of some blazing distant sun, while smoking a cigarette. And the voice acting, done by Martin Sheen, is top-notch, making him one of my favorite characters to listen to.



Garrus Vakarian

The turian known as Garrus Vakarian is the ultimate bro. Very early on in ME1, Shepard encounters Garrus serving as a police officer on the massive Citadel space station, frustrated by bureaucracy preventing him from doing his job. He almost immediately quits and joins Shepard, feeling that he can help Shepard and do more good for the universe. Despite being somewhat rash and hotheaded at times, Shepard can usually talk him down. And in return, Garrus always listens to what Shepard has to say. No matter what decision you make, no matter the consequences, Garrus always understands your logic and can see why you made the choice that you did, which is a lot more than you can say about some of Shepard's other more opinionated compatriots. He's also not above occasionally poking fun at Shepard and giving them a little verbal ribbing, and is usually the one urging Shepard to take a break from the usually considerable strain he/she is under. He's also a crack shot with a sniper rifle, arguably as good as or better than Shepard. And his in-game ability set makes him suited to taking on a wide variety of enemies, making it a good idea to always have him with you.



Jeff “Joker” Moreau

Excellently voiced by Seth Green, Joker is the wise-cracking pilot of Shepard's ship, the SSV Normandy. Not a situation goes by where Joker does not have some off-the-cuff hilarious remark, making every conversation with him a treat. That's not to say that Joker never takes thing serious though. Joker proclaims himself “the best damn pilot in the galaxy”, and the fact that he has the hot seat on the most advanced ship in the human fleets means it's not just empty bragging. This is shown off a number of times through the series, particularly during the skirmish at the Collector Base, where he takes down a number of Collector fighter craft and their much-larger, massively-powerful capital ship, all while flying through an incredibly dense debris field. Joker is also incredibly devoted to Shepard, always carrying out his orders even if he questions them, and when the original SSV Normandy gets destroyed and Shepard joins up with Cerberus, Joker follows suit, getting the opportunity to pilot the new SSV Normandy SR-2 in the process.



Miranda Lawson

This is, I'm sure, a bit of a controversial one, as I know that a few people do not care for Miranda, but personally, I really liked her. And this is my list. Miranda first pops up in the beginning of ME2, discussing Cerberus recruiting Shepard with The Illusive Man. The Illusive Man is certain he'll join and help out, Miranda is not so sure that Shepard would put aside Cerberus' sketchy background and is not convinced that Shepard is even necessary. After Shepard's untimely death at the beginning of ME2 at the hands of the Collectors, Miranda is put in charge of bringing him/her back from the dead and helping them assemble their new team. Initially Miranda is not exactly friendly towards Shepard, feeling that she could have handled the situation herself and worried that Shepard will displace her as The Illusive Man's go-to agent, but over the course of the game the two establish a better rapport, as Miranda realizes that Shepard is a natural-born leader and she lacks the ability to inspire people to follow her. Despite her friendship with Shepard, other members of the team, such as Jack aka Subject Zero and Tali'Zorah nor'Rayya, remain wary of her on the best of days, feeling she is blind to Cerberus' misdeeds. She eventually confides her background to Shepard, in that she was genetically-engineered from the ground-up by her ego-maniac father, who was concerned about “his legacy”. This makes her more intelligent than the average person and she possesses far greater strength and abilities. Upset with his attempts to control her future, Miranda ran away and joined Cerberus and has spent her adult life trying to thwart her father's efforts to regain control over his “dynasty.” By the end of ME2 she has realized that Cerberus also isn't what she thought it was and decides to leave with Shepard and friends. Sadly, her role in ME3 is drastically reduced, with her not being a part of a team and only showing up occasionally throughout the entire game. Like Garrus, Miranda also possesses an ability set that gives her an advantage against most enemies, making here a frequent choice in gameplay.



Urdnot Wrex

Wrex is a member of the krogan species, a race of large, long-lived, hardy, powerful, war-prone beings . They are both respected and feared by the galaxy and have been infected by the Council races with the genophage, an engineered virus by that suppresses reproductive rates as a result of their propensity for war. When Shepard and Wrex first cross paths in ME1, he is serving as a bounty hunter searching for a small time criminal. With his bounty collected, Wrex decides to lend considerable extra muscle to the team aboard the Normandy and tags along. At an estimated 1200-1400 years old, Wrex is the oldest teammate and his continuous dry wit, blunt nature, usual cool temper and tendency to solve problems with his shotgun make him an interesting, if controversial, addition to the team. At one point, during a mission to the planet Vermire, Wrex and Shepard even have a terse showdown, with guns drawn on each other, before Shepard talks Wrex down. Still, Wrex considers Shepard one of his best friends and Wrex is arguably one of his most important allies. After the events of ME1, Wrex returns to the krogan homeworld and takes control of Clan Urdnot, then unites many krogan clans and begins repealing old krogan traditions that have long kept them a divided race, in hopes of rebuilding their standing in the galaxy and creating a new future for his race. It shows that despite his status as the team “bruiser”, Wrex is also an intelligent and shrewd visionary who cares for his race, a unique twist on the archetype. By ME3 he leverages the other species' needs for the krogan's might into a cure for the genophage, promising to leave the old grudges in the past and help the krogan take their place in the galactic community. Sadly, after ME1, Wrex is busy with uniting the krogans and is not a selectable teammate, although he returns as a teammate in ME3's Citadel DLC, during which he provides a wealth of comedy. At one point he tries his new catchphrase of “Uncle Urdnot has a present for you” while running around body-slamming panic-stricken enemies and laughing maniacally.



Legion

Legion is by far the most interesting teammate you receive in the series, at least in my opinion. Part of the geth, a synthetic race of robots created by the quarians to do menial tasks, their hive-mind operation eventually allowed them to achieve true artificial intelligence when in a large enough group. The quarians, frightened by what they had done, tried to shut the geth down remotely, which the now-sentient geth viewed as an attempt on their life, leading them to launch an all-out war and oust the quarians from their own homeworlds and view all organic life with suspicion. Throughout ME1 and most of ME2, the geth are a frequent threat to Shepard and friends, until he meets a mysterious geth platform with a chunk of Shepard's own armor affixed to it. Not only is this the first geth to not immediately start shooting at them, it is also the first to communicate with them and certainly the first to join the team. The geth platform, dubbed Legion by the Normandy's shipboard computer, as it contains 1138 separate protocols in one platform, has spent years searching for Shepard, as it believes the geth are being manipulated by the Reapers. Offering a unique viewpoint on organic life forms ( At one point, upon entering a night club, Legion remarks "We do not comprehend the organic fascination with self-poisoning, auditory damage, and sexually-transmitted disease.") as well as a different perspective on the Geth-Quarian War, every conversation with Legion is fascinating, if a bit frustrating, as he requires specifically worded inquiries to get any sort of answer. Legion's presence does cause considerable trouble with just about every member of the crew, who are inherently uneasy around geth, especially quarian crew mate Tali'Zorah. Still, Legion never betrays the team and lends his considerable intelligence, technical expertise, and perfect marksmanship against any enemy, even including other hostile geth. Legion returns in ME3, although no longer a selectable teammate, during the renewed Geth-Quarian War, trying to put an end to hostilities that does not result in the destruction of either race. Sadly, Legion is one of the characters you spend the least time with, as he only becomes available near the end of ME2 and is only around for a brief part of ME3



Tali’Zorah nar Rayya

Tali’Zorah nar Rayya is the character who you see grow the most throughout the series. When you first meet the young quarian in ME1, she’s a scared adolescent traveling alone as part of her Pilgrimage (a quarian coming-of-age where they travel the galaxy and return home only once they find something useful to their people, at which point they are then considered an adult), and happens to have landed in the crosshairs of some mercenaries. After Shepard and friends rescue her, it turns out that she unwittingly recovered some data that indicts primary antagonist and rogue Spectre, Saren Arterius, and convinces the Council to send Shepard after Arcturius. Tali’Zorah decides to tag along on the mission and her expertise on shipboard mechanicals and geth proves invaluable. She returns, older and much more respected among the quarians, in ME2, heading up R&D into geth countermeasures, along with her father Admiral Rael’Zorah, in hopes of retaking the quarian homeworld, Rannoch. Despite her intense hatred of Cerberus, over their pro-human stance and a scuffle they had with the quarians at some point, she joins up with Shepard and sets aside her grudge with Cerberus for the good of the galaxy. Her ability to forgive and understand is actually a common theme. For example, the quarians are often treated like third-class citizens, viewed as scavengers and nomads and disliked for setting the geth loose on the galaxy, and Tali is no exception, but she never holds it against anyone and simply strives harder to improve the quarians standing in the galaxy instead. And while she is part of the quarian faction pushing to destroy the geth and reclaim Rannoch, she later changes her stance, after speaking to Legion and realizing that maybe there is another way, and that a new Geth-Quarian War would leave both sides weakened to the impending Reaper invasion. By ME3, she has taken her father’s place as Admiral after he dies in a controversial experiment gone wrong, and is leveraging her position to try and get the quarians to stop the futile war that they launch despite her and Shepard’s warnings. The always good-natured quarian considers Shepard her role model and her best friend and has an unadulterated crush on male Shepards or Garrus, depending on certain choices. She is also the only teammate other than Garrus who is part of Shepard’s team in all 3 games. Unfortunately, Tali’s weak stats and a skillset geared largely towards handling geth, makes her a poor choice for most missions.

Urdnot Grunt

Another member of the clan of Urdnot, Grunt did not start out that way. Nor did Shepard even set out to recruit him when he joins the team in ME2. Instead, searching for an ancient krogan warlord named Okeer, Shepard found him but he died soon after, entrusting Shepard with “his legacy”, a genetically-engineered krogan supersoldier created from the greatest bloodlines in krogan history. Almost like Hitman’s Agent 47, if he was a giant, bloodthirsty, maniacal, shotgun-wielding brute. Initially a bit hard to control, being described as “not a stabilizing factor” by Joker, Grunt eventually decides that his purpose in life is to find someone stronger than them and fight them, leading them to decide to follow Shepard. Preferring to let others do the hard thinking and decision-making, Grunt is happier to wade into a battlefield, shotgun blazing, and mow down scores of enemies. He ends up joining Wrex’s Clan Urdnot and understanding a bit more about krogan culture and taking some pride in his species, but still is not hung up on tradition or history like others, including his creator Okeer. Grunt’s quirky sense of humor, non-existent social skills and his view of Shepard as a parent-figure make conversations with him always interesting, although he’s often not one for talking. By ME3, he has returned to the krogan homeworld and leads Aralakh Company, a team of the best very krogan soldiers. This duty keeps Grunt from serving with Shepard again though, meaning you have limited exposure to him in 3, only showing up for a single side mission. He does get some time with him the ME3 Citadel DLC though, where you have to bail him out of trouble with the police after his krogan buddies take him to celebrate his birthday (a hilarious story he recounts to you nonchalantly) and then serves as bouncer at your apartment, denying entry to anyone and everyone.

Thane Krios

Joining the team aboard the Normandy in ME2, Thane Krios is a legendary assassin who is part of the drell species. Thane is interesting in that, unlike most assassins, he prefers not to eliminate his targets from a distance, utilizing a mixture of stealth, hand-to-hand combat, firearms and biotic abilities. Thane is also a deeply spiritual man, praying for success before a mission and the forgiveness of both himself and his target afterwards. When you meet Thane he is dying of an incurable disease specific to drell, and he decides to sign on with your team, stating that he has done so many dark things in his past, perhaps it is time for him to bring some light into the galaxy in his last job. Speaking with Thane frequently reveals a tormented man with a depressing past and quite a few skeletons in his closet. By ME3, he can no longer serve alongside of you, due to the progression of his disease, but he will still covertly watch after one of your teammates when they get injured and end up in the hospital. He also keeps you apprised of a developing situation on the Citadel and hacks doors open for you, before facing off against an assassin attempting to kill the Council.



So, there it is, my ten favorite Mass Effect characters. Which ones do you agree or disagree with? Are there any you feel I missed? Stay tuned as I will being creating a few ME-centered entries as the countdown to Mass Effect: Andromeda continues.
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