Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mass Effect: Who Is Shepard?: A Reaction

**WARNING: Some Reaper-sized spoilers ahead!**

I haven't used my power to post on this blog yet, but I thought I'd add something to the ongoing conversation about Mass Effect 2. I haven't played through the game three times the way his Lordship, the Baron von Chop did. I have only done so once, and to tell you the truth, as much as I love the characters and the story, I don't relish the thought of doing three times the hunting for raw materials on planets, playing the world's most boring metal detector simulator. I feel that if the game let you launch probes rapid-fire, instead of making you wait for each one to load, that mini-game might almost have been tolerable.

Because a game can only be so different, I had pretty much the same playthrough experience the Baron did, with one obvious exception: I had my own Shep. His life story is one filled with hardship and a remarkable change of heart. He was born in space, and his mother was (and still is) an officer in the Alliance Navy. At the beginning of the war with the geth, Shepard was best known for his heroic defense of a colony under attack, holding off the assault single-handedly and earning himself the reputation of a war hero. This experience, along with a long service in the Navy, made him think of himself as a career soldier, one who follows orders and does what is expected of him. He wasn't afraid to do what the mission required. Though obedient to his superiors, he also expected a lot of those under his command, and wasn't afraid to yank them back when they stepped out of line. He believed in heavy armor and bullets, especially his sniper rifle/assault rifle combo, and thought biotics are fine... for other people.

Shepard's method of dealing with obstacles: "Did you shoot it? And it's still a problem? Are you sure you shot it ENOUGH?"

Shepard changed in the course of the mission to prevent the rogue Specter Saren from completing his mission. The key moment came when he was unexpectedly faced with a choice which was, as he would have put it, way above his pay grade. He had to decide whether to destroy a rachni queen, possibly the last surviving member of an entire species. He knew the destruction caused by the Rachni Wars, but he chose to release her. Though at the time he did so with the attitude that he would gladly kill them all again if they made trouble, it started him seeing himself in a new light. He couldn't afford to be just a soldier any more. He would have to make difficult decisions and live with them himself. He began to grow out of himself and dedicate his mission not just to completing his objectives but to helping others, thereby making the galaxy a better place.

Shepard's transformation from hard-hearted grunt to a hero was cemented when he was given the opportunity to save the Council during the attack of Sovereign on the Citadel. He chose to send Alliance ships to save the aliens, whose actions had hampered him throughout his mission. He chose to send countless humans to their deaths to save people who had insulted and opposed him at every step. He did this because he knew it was the right thing to do. Most of all, his friendship with Urdnot Wrex, Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, and Garrus Vakarian had taught him the value of friendship with other races, and he believed aliens are worth no more and no less than humans.

Shepard, like an elephant, never forgets.

Over the course of his missions, he allowed himself to feel something for Liara T'Soni, whose sweetness and faith in him touched his steely heart. When she came to him before the final mission, however, he decided to turn her away as gently as he could. Facing what could possibly be his final mission, he wanted to focus everything on the mission. He put his ship before himself and his romance, a move which ended his relationship with the asari researcher.

When the Normandy was attacked by an overwhelmingly powerful enemy, Shepard sacrificed himself to save his crew. He believed this to be his final act of sacrifice, the death of a good soldier. However, Cerberus revived him, and Shepard took command of a new Normandy. While gathering his crew for the next mission, Shepard met Jack, aka Subject Zero, and felt an immediate kinship for her. She, like him, had been used as a weapon, and he felt that he could connect with her and help her rise above it. When he returned with her to the Cerberus base where she was tortured, he helped her put her demons behind her by preventing her from killing one of the others involved in the program. Although Shepard also felt a connection with Tali, whose gentle and sweet personality he had grown to adore, he knew that turning away from Jack would make him just another man who betrayed her, so he remained faithful to her. They had fought together, and Shepard never goes back on his word. Shepard also grew close to Samara, but he knew that, as they were both bound by their oaths to their warrior codes, their relationship could never go beyond that of close friends.

Shepard doesn't know when to let go.

Shepard's experience with Jack, not to mention the string of Cerberus bases he destroyed while hunting Saren, soured his relationship with Cerberus. Although he valued Miranda and Jacob for their combat skills, he kept them at arm's length for much of their mission. It wasn't until near the final confrontation that he made up his mind about them. They were willing to risk their lives fighting under his command, and this was enough to win Shepard's respect. He also had a rocky relationship with Mordin, especially after he discovered the salarian scientist's role in the genophage against the krogans. His friendship with Urdnot Wrex had shown Shepard how devastating the genophage is. When Mordin showed regret over the genophage and gave Shepard the chance to rescue some research on curing the disease, Shepard warmed to him. The salarian's rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan also helped.

In the end, when Shepard blew up the Reaper facility, he did it not just as a blow against the Reapers but also for Jack, eliminating a potential Cerberus resource.

Background: I patterned my Shep on Dolph Lundgren, and I even call him "Dolph Shepard" in my mind, though that's not the name I gave him. I did this because I wanted to go Renegade with him. This didn't last long, because I'm just too darn nice to my people. At the end, I decided to go full Paragon, because I wanted to be a good guy. This is how Dolph Shep went from being a hard-ass to a hero ready to save humanity and the galaxy, not for a medal, but because it's the right thing to do. He has a certain set of skills that mostly involve shooting things, and right now, that's what the galaxy needs.

Dolph Shepard, man of action.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to the Supervillainous staff, bluefish!

    Excellent post. Dolph Shepard is a badass.