A Tale Of Two Shepards: Sometimes The Journey Means More Than The Destination

With all the hoopla in the gaming community over Mass Effect 3’s ending, it can be difficult to remember the personalized rollercoaster ride which were the games themselves. That is, regardless of your thoughts on the ending of ME3, you still have to give it to Bioware for creating a universe that we were all invested in, while other companies struggle with making only continents or worlds that are believable. Even though I’m not an avid Codex reader, I still know the origin, cultures, and names of close to a dozen different races across Mass Effect’s intricate universe.  Bioware is the first video game company to ever create a series of games that successfully allow the player to experience one continuous story that was created by the choices you’ve made over these last few years.

I remember the first time I experienced the “My Shepard” effect while playing and talking about Mass Effect 2 with friends. Suddenly, this experience was mine and the branching off between our thought lines is what gave us ownership our individual stories. My first Shepard started off in Mass Effect as a Han Solo type that made most of her choices for personal gains. With ME2, a sudden change occurred and I found myself going on a strictly renegade path except when dealing with my crew. Relationships grew as Jenna (My Main Shepard) wreaked havoc across the universe with her motley crew  close at her side. This diversity in 2 also gave me a reason to come back to the game and create a Paragon Shepard that was named Jareth.

Jareth was the polar opposite of Jenna Shepard as I went completely Paragon with him and was very choosy with which crew members I befriended, which made for a somewhat catastrophic last mission in Mass Effect 2. This final playthrough was completed a couple weeks before I got Mass Effect 3 in my hands but the groundwork was already laid for the distinct tales that were naturally created as I made my way through the series. I saw Jareth as the hard choice making type that was singular in his pursuit of completing the mission with little regard for personal  gain or loss. Jenna’s was a more personal path through ME2 that had form bonds with her crew that withstood the many hard choices she was making while out on the field.

This brings us to Mass Effect 3, and the interesting thing that occurred while sitting in front of  the character import screen for Jenna. I changed the hard-ass bob that Jenna sported for the first two games and replaced it with a tight bun that somehow made her look even more stern than before. I felt the need to showcase change in Jenna physically and little did I know just how much change occurred naturally through my play through.  Due to my want to be as prepared for my mission to save the universe, I found Jenna choosing Paragon choices more often than her usual Renegade. This painted a character arc of a woman that learned to be a better leader through the hard choices made over the last few years.

With Jareth’s import, I found myself aging him in his face through pock marks and added a salt and pepper look to his hair. Jareth suddenly became the spitting image of Edward James Almos in Battlestar Galactica. I felt Jareth’s pure Paragon path through ME2 would take quite the toll on someone’s physically and mentally. This is what eventually brought me to making mostly Renegade choices whenever I was faced with decisions that held any kind of weight. This Shepard is fed up with his life over the last few years and just doesn’t care how humanity comes out in the end, as long as the ordeal is finally over.

These unique experiences were only available due to Bioware’s success in giving me ownership of my path through the vast universe and story that they have created. This is why I can’t hold the folks over at Bioware over the coals for too long because of the lackluster ending to Mass Effect 3. Instead, I have to applaud them for setting out to create a sci-fi epic that hinged the choices made by players customizing their experience throughout the story. My ride through these games are more important to my judging of the whole than my feelings on how the 3rd game ended. I am by no means giving it a pass, but I can’t be too negative to a company that has given me a universe worth investing myself in. Just like with LOST and Battlestar Galactica, sometimes you just have to remember how good the ride is rather than let yourself become embittered by it not ending the way you would like.


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  • The journey is meaningless, if the destination is somewhere I never wanted to be.