Okay, enough complaining. Let's get back on track and finish the characters you're stuck with. Miscellaneous guys will be mentioned briefly in part 4, when I finally end this review... I hope.
Because this was my first Mass Effect game and it's the one I've played the most, I can say quite a decent bit about it. But is it my favorite in the franchise?
... We'll see.
Once again, SPOILER warning.
A Japanese infiltrator and kleptomaniac. She's so adorable.
Kasumi comes in the "Stolen Memory" DLC with a loyalty mission and the best SMG in Mass Effect 2: the M-12 Kassa Locust, the gun that killed two presidents. ...What? I love that gun. It doesn't hold as much ammo as the Tempest SMG, but it's much easier to use. Rather than have the accuracy of a drunken sailor, the Locust sits balanced enough to deal some damn good damage!
Why is the anti-shooter gamer comparing and talking about guns? ...Anywho.
Last year, I listened to the Vaudiosonic podcast in which some guys discussed Mass Effect 3, while referencing the past games. One of the guys commented that several characters in this universe are so interesting and dynamic that they do not always fit a role they have that can be littered in stereotypes. For example, a thief would be very secretive, very mysterious, and would refuse to let anyone get near them because of their shady background. NOT Kasumi Goto.
Despite her appearance, she so cheerful, informal, and snarky often calling the Commander, regardless of morality, personality, or gender, "Shep". The various memorabilia and art she keeps around in the Port Observation on the Crew Deck all have some kind of sentimental value to her. She develops a crush on Jacob, follows him around, and even writes silly little haikus about him. Depending on what missions you complete, Kasumi will often make comments about your teammates or cheer Shepard on if he/she is in a relationship with someone. Rather than being a quiet loner she's very observant and talkative whenever you want to stop by and say hello.
Kasumi is a personable and fun character who just happens to be a kleptomaniac and master thief. Even her being Japanese isn't a huge deal either. They don't define her, but they are auxiliary traits she happens to carry. And this is something Bioware tends to do a very nice job with for many characters. Easily, she's my favorite female character in the trilogy.
Gameplay-wise, she's fragile like Mordin both in battle and on the Suicide Mission. However, she is more tech-savvy when dealing with synthetics. Technically she's an Infiltrator, most notably with Shadow Strike, where she sneaks up behind an enemy and bashes them in the head. Other than this invisible cloak privilege her use of pistols and SMG suggest an Engineer. Overload is a given tech skill, but one of her best abilities is the loyalty-exclusive Flashbang Grenade. It disables any and all enemies by disrupting biotics, omni-tools, synthetic wiring and organic nerves.
Her being weak defensively doesn't overshadow (lol) her disabling skills. I bring Kasumi along frequently for this reason. As a bonus, she has some amusing comments on missions or in hub worlds. Overall, I saw her as a mischievous sister to Commander Shepard. The heist and party marked Kasumi's loyalty as one of the best missions in the game. She has plenty of room to snark and we see just her and Shepard kick a ton of ass.
... I was depressed when she wasn't a teammate again in Mass Effect 3. TT-TT
Tali'Zorah vas Neema nar Rayya
Try saying that name three times with a mouth full of grapes.
Like Garrus, Tali is back as a character, not a walking piece of exposition. A happy Fangirl this makes.
You first see her very early in the game, long before her recruitment mission is available. Tali is the first of the original Normandy crew to learn that Shepard is alive. This also marked the first appearance of other quarians, male and female, as they were investigating the same abducted colony Cerberus got a ping from. Freedom's Progress is another tutorial mission, but it definitely provides hints to Tali's reliability and leadership skills. Upon seeing what happens on this mission and on Haestrom, you ultimately realize her chances of surviving.
Speaking of which, her recruitment mission is infamous for possibly being relevant to the plot of the trilogy but ended up being dropped entirely. This is only if people want to believe the whole "dark energy" and "tech singularity" theory makes any bit of sense (1). But I'm jumping way too far ahead. All you need to know is that her reasons for not joining sooner can easily be chalked up to serving her people as best she can, even if they are total assholes to her on her loyalty mission. Cue the political nonsense that every character complains about at least once per game.
The political talk is the best part. For about half the mission, you are - for the only time in the series - overhearing and talking with quarians on one of their ships. You see a glimpse of how they live, and you can learn more about their culture. After taking the time to absorb the atmosphere, the artificial sunlight, the cramped living spaces, the lush plants, you better understand why their views of the geth are so conflicted. Some want to reclaim their home world from the geth, even if war breaks out. Others propose colonization as the safest alternative. You see how the quarians try to settle disputes so ingrained in their culture. Tali's trial may have been an excuse to shoe-horn exposition, but its so engrossing in how the geth-quarian story arc continues to grow. It ends up being one of the best written parts of the entire trilogy.
But I'm jumping ahead once more. *backpedals*
Like in Mass Effect 1, Tali remains an Engineer, making her best suited to fight synthetic enemies. She uses Energy Drain, which steals shield energy from an enemy to recharge hers, and AI Hacking, turning enemy machines against each other. To make up for her disarming skills, she wields pistols and shotguns, her signature weapon, like Garrus' sniper rifle. Yet another techie, Tali is used frequently, despite her overall average to weak offense and defense. But what is her greatest trick up her [figurative] sleeve?
Oh, Bioware, you and your silly inside jokes...
Tali's the third romance option for a MaleShep. I sometimes wonder how so many people talk about Miranda being the chick every guy wants their Shepard to bed... but Tali/Shepard is one of the most popular and insanely defended pairing in the Mass Effect fanbase. But for some odd reason, many players seem to pick an alien over a human. (2) In this case I think guys dig the fact that no one knows what quarians look like under their masks.
Nope. Not going there.
Damn it. But we still love you, Tali, no matter how weak you are.
Time for the terminally ill, emotionally weak love interest who can't be saved from death by a pocket watch!
I meant the badass with a dark past full of pain and regret. But deep down he's a kind, contemplative soul who secretly has the hots for his leader and has trouble suppressing his urges by luminously blushing like a grade school girl when around his sweetheart...
I MEANT the awesome squadmate who joins up late, but kicks a ton of ass. Sniping from afar, biotically throwing Collectors off ledges, protecting the weak at all costs, wearing a badass long coat, dealing mighty headbutts to send punks flying, taunting "Adios asshole" when dealing a final blow -
|Damn you, Grant George! >_<|
Fangirl. Calmense, por favor. Calmense... Focus on Mass Effect. Think cosmic horror space opera from masters of western RPG storytelling. NOT an apocalyptic, adolescent melodrama from masters of organ-taseringly difficult Japanese RPGs.
... I hate my brain.
Speaking of which...
That wasn't just random nonsense I spewed back during my Persona 3 review, you know. As I re-played Mass Effect 2 recently, my mind immediately jumped to Shinji-kun when Thane says "I'm dying" during his recruitment mission. Ever since, I couldn't un-see Shinjiro sitting around in the Medical Bay eager to chat to a curiously open-minded leader prepping everyone for a life-or-death mission.
Seriously, a terminally ill man joins the team late, enjoys spending time with the female protagonist and slowly falls in love with her, even when his death would cause the short-lived relationship to end in heartbreak. With Persona 3 still fresh in my brain after the mind rape known as October-the-superior-being(s)-damned-4th, can you blame me for spotting similarities between these two characters?
Unfortunately, this random comparison only amplified my original apathy to Thane Krios. He's just so... forgettable. And infuriatingly overrated.
First off, Thane was designed mainly to be a love interest for a FemShep. And Bioware is NOT subtle about it. Characters within the game (i.e. a few salarians from the recruitment mission, Kelly Chambers, Mordin, etc.) make comments about how "cool", "mysterious", "scary", "dark", "complex", and "sexy" he is. Even Joker even points out that he must be quite the cuddler [albeit sarcastically].
Oh, Thane! The leather! The raspy voice! The slightly exposed chest! The poetic curtesy and mannerisms! My, you are sooo undeniable! Please take me now!
|Even Naruto fangirls don't analyze Sasuke Uchiha's|
badassery as much!
Maybe because based on how much backstory she provides, the nature of her father, and the circumstances of her and Oriana, the "I'm perfect but insecure" angst holds enough water to be reasonable. It might not make Miranda 100% likable, but her story arc is better established and presented. Plus, some fans laughed that Garrus' "Some women find facial scars attractive" comment to a FemShep was the least subtle sign of being interested in a relationship. Oh, how some "unsubtle" things slip under the radar while others don't!
Second, his character is hard to relate to. As a spiritual man, he speaks very poetically. Rather than give explicit details of an event, he can reference a quote from a piece of literature, or draw a comprehensible example to illustrate his point. This is admittedly, a refreshing break from the common-speak of other characters. However, Thane oftentimes suffers the problem of detaching himself from a tale to the point that you cannot fully understand his feelings on something. Think of it as a painter who creates an intricate piece but lacks the "emotion" and "soul" to captivate the viewer.
|Thank you, SMeyer. I now see the evil of Twilight in|
Reason? When he first met his wife, she awakened him from feeling lifeless, letting his body act on its own without his soul being involved. It's the typical "you brought light into my life." So when she died, it's understandable that he'd feel lost and consumed by grief. It'd make sense to feel the need to detach yourself from your body, acting on its own volition.
That being said, he never gave a good reason to just abandon his kid. Sure, not everyone can "snap out of it", but it's baffling how there is no indication of Thane attempting to find his son or communicate with him before you meet him. Hell, not even a sign that the relatives tried to get in touch with him at all over the years. Worst of all, I don't sense palatable conflict within Thane over whether it was right or not to abandon his kid. Chalking it up to feeling numb a la Linkin Park can only last so long before you have to be accountable. And Thane finally and ONLY gives a shit when his son is an adult and signing up as a freelancing gun-for-hire. And neither a Paragon nor Renegade, male nor female Shepard calls out on Thane's incompetence.
Maybe I'm a bit bitter. Maybe I'm biased. My parents are divorced. I'm not very close to my dad, BUT we make the effort to keep in contact via phone or email. Sometimes we don't contact each other for a long while. Regardless if it takes days or weeks to catch up, we at least show an attempt to communicate. AT LEAST we recognize that the other person is still alive and has some involvement in our life. Kolyat and Thane DON'T have that AT ALL.
One minute... What. It's resolved in... One. Minute. WHAT?! THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE YOUR DECADES-LONG ABSENCE AFTER YOU KILLED THE ASSASSINS AND LEFT YOUR SON, YOU SON OF A -
*slaps self* *cools down*
No matter how I tap into the many facets of my inner self, I feel no pity for Thane. I only feel bad for his son, who has every #@$%ing right to be pissed at his father. I'm shocked Koylat didn't beat the shit out of him. I'm baffled there was no screaming. And the reunion? Too short, too anticlimactic to settle what could be twenty years of distance and lack of communication.
Sheesh. For father-son relationship troubles, How to Train Your Dragon, a family-friendly movie, is superior to this highly acclaimed mature-rated action RPG. Even the freaking Harry Potter-esque Fullmetal Alchemist had Ed and Hohenheim and their extremely distant and misunderstood relationship being told far better. That's right. A kid's movie and an anime. By society's standards of mature, serious, and "realistic" stuff like Mass Effect is a trillion times superior to happy, kiddy stories with pollyannas hoping for good luck and the power of friendship until they cry themselves to sleep. If the supposedly inferior trend trumps the glorified status quo, someone should get fired for screwing up a "sure-fire" business decision.
Third, if I want a strange character with a sad backstory that I can actually sympathize with emotionally, I have... Snape from Harry Potter, Sasuke, Neji, Gaara, and many more from Naruto, Lon'qu from Fire Emblem: Awakening, Shadow from Sonic the Hedgehog, Natsume from Gakuen Alice, too many characters in Fruits Basket to name here, Kurosaki from Dengeki Daisy, the seven homunculi in FMA, three fourths of the cast of Elfen Lied... the list goes on.
Fourth, if I want an optional tragic romance that would only end in death and heartbreak, just like the above points, there is at least one that just does it far better.
Now somebody PLEASE punch me before I continue to mistake this boring, whiny, incompetent father for a badass, battle-axe-swinging high school drop-out. A lobotomy, a few sessions of therapy, and multiple wrist slitting failures were more than enough for me. @_@
So, ladies and gents, you can keep your dying man in Thane. I liked mine back when a black horseman burst from his soul after he repeatedly shot himself in the head. Meanwhile, my FemShep will settle with the forever faithful best friend who survived a rocket to the face. Otherwise, I'll deal with Mark Meer's still annoyingly bland voice and settle with MaleShep and Tali.
As for how Thane plays in combat... he's an Infiltrator like Garrus, only he uses submachine guns, sniper rifles, and biotics. He comes in so late in the game, I rarely use him. He's redundant when many Shepards I play are Adepts or Vanguards. However, Thane can be particularly helpful as a squadmate in the Derelict Reaper and Suicide missions. Throw is far more effective than Pull, as the former can knock numerous enemies off ledges. If Jacob or Grunt aren't around with Incendiary Ammo, Thane's Shredder Ammo is pretty effective against organic enemies. Unlike Garrus, Thane tends to last longer in fights and his AI doesn't throw him in the middle of the fight with no cover in sight.
That's the extent of my praise. Sorry. It took me many hard months to figure out who would be my least favorite teammate. You just finished reading about him.
To be honest, it's baffling how a fanservice character with a woe-is-me sob story screaming with stupidity is so well-liked among male gamers. This walking pair of boobs just doesn't understand...
Kind of like Thane, I didn't care much for Samara [but her eyes sure are gorgeous!] Once Mass Effect 3 came out, however, my opinion changed. I want to go back in time and punch myself for thinking Samara was a boring character. Like Jack, her use in combat is limited when I play an Adept or Vanguard, but her story arc is simple and sweet.
The only problem Samara can have, which lies more on the game's pacing rather than her character, is that she appears so late. By the time she shows up, most of the main story and loyalty missions are done. The next big mission railroads to the event that demands you to launch the suicide mission for optimal success. In other words, minus the DLC, ME2 game is definitely past the halfway point. As a result it's hard to care about newcomers when the plot is so far ahead of them. They have to be brought up to speed with what's going on and they're surrounded by old friends of Shepard and strangers. Best of all, everyone is as much of a misfit as her - if not more - with so many issues that only Kelly and Shepard are the closest thing to therapists (but only if you bother to invest your time in such services.)
But I digress...
Unlike some characters, Samara reacts noticeably differently around Shepard, depending on his/her morality. Paragons earn her undying respect from the get-go. Even if their methods of stopping the evil are completely different, their goals and sentiments are very similar. She dislikes the ruthlessness of a Renegade and she vows to defeat him/her someday if he/she crosses the point of no return. Until then, she supports Shepard because he/she is the only one capable and reliable enough to defeat the Reapers.
She's introduced as a powerful warrior with incredible manipulation of biotics. She is quick and efficient, but swift and elegant in combat. Most of her skills, like Pull, Throw, and wielding SMGs, point to her being an Adept. However, Reave, which drains barriers and health of enemies to rejuvenate her, and assault rifles suggest otherwise. She's not necessarily a Vanguard or a soldier focusing on pure direct-fire. Samara's biotics emphasize too much on crowd-control and disabling enemies. Fans can argue about this all day, and it won't change the fact that many of these teammates do not fit the six-class mold.
Once she greets Shepard, she gets straight to the point. She hunts a dangerous woman gone rogue who is known for killing anyone she attracts. Worst of all, this threat is one of Samara's daughters, peaceful, but also capable of murder if their genetic impulsions are left unmonitored. I love how Samara's entire character arc in the trilogy is set up so early on. It has no direct (if any) correlation to the Reapers, but the thoughtfulness and respect to a small, optional piece of story is very welcoming. There's no beating around the bush: all missions relevant to Samara deal with her looking after her daughters from a distance. With one concept to focus on, Samara's story is so condense and well-paced. Nothing feels like filler.
At the end of the day, if I play both ME2 and ME3, I do like Samara. You really can't have one without the other to enjoy her presence. But if you only pick up this installment, she does manage to be essential on the Suicide Mission if you pick roles carefully. Plus, she's one of the top five people likely to survive at the last phase of the mission.
This bounty hunter is so ruthless he could star in The Expendables with Grunt, ground the hammiest cast members to dust, chew out the scenery, spit it out and blast it with a shotgun. Heck, this dude survived a gunshot to the head! The HEAD! He's a monster! The second soldier in the group with a very high defensive score in the Suicide Mission, Zaeed Massani is purely optional but entertaining as hell.
His loyalty mission has him taking revenge for the leader of the Blue Suns kicking him out and crossing his name off as a founding member. The mission is pretty fun, and it can diverge in two paths and lead to at least three possible endings, depending on your Charm/Intimidate score and when the mission is completed. Whether he kills the leader or not ultimately does not matter in the end. Mass Effect 3 does nothing to follow up on it by creating a whole new leader for the Blue Suns mercenary group. Worst of all, Zaeed barely gets any screen time unless you downloaded the "Citadel" DLC. But even then, like they did with Grunt, Bioware capitalizes on the badass bounty hunter blowing stuff up and taking names rather than creating a character.
On the other hand, it doesn't always hurt to have "the tough guy" in a story...
To make up for his lack of development, he has a bunch of stories to tell. Zaeed has a lot to say about the members of the squad (like praising Garrus' sniping skills and Jack's destructive biotics) or the main missions and Cerberus. He's that kind of guy who just loves sharing his experiences to anyone who'd listen, and many of them are pretty awesome. Heck, he even reminisces over his favorite assault rifle he named Jessie. There's something admirable about that kind of dedication he has to his work.
Despite him being a downplayed, strong, well-adjusted clone of Jack, Zaeed's pretty decent. He passes in my books.
Apparently he's the only known geth capable of auditory speech (because of unspecified reasons. Why wait this late?!). Basically, he is a representative of the "true" geth, the ones on the quarian homeworld. They isolated themselves and cared for whats left of the civilization of their creators for two hundred years. All they want is peace, like little kids wanting their parents to come home happy and understanding. They're not the real bad guys after all. The geth we've fought by this point were "heretics". Sovereign influenced them to attack organic life wherever they go in the galaxy beyond the Perseus Veil. Even synthetics are not immune to Indoctrination and mind control.
You meet him on one of your main story missions and decide to pick him up after he saves your team from a few Collectors. The crew has... mixed opinions about him. Legion's loyalty mission deals with the fate of a ship of heretics he found the coordinates of one of his journeys. It's a fun little quest with a choice I had to think through for several minutes on my first go. And because this will not be overlooked by the one quarian on the ship, Tali and Legion have an argument for you to stop. This is the hardest Charm/Intimidate checkmark in the entire series. It will bite you in the ass later.
As for personality, Legion doesn't really have one. Kind of. Okay, plates on his head move... like how we make facial expressions. It's clever.
This machine has other hints of having preferences and "opinions" (4), the most obvious being the piece of Shepard's old N7 armor he wears. He's aware of things happening in the galaxy by "overhearing" broadcast networks and the extranet with his platform. He's very familiar with Shepard's activities and asks to be an ally since they share the same enemy in the Reapers and the geth heretics.
Well, I can say more good thing about Legion than Thane. His existence and purpose in the narrative is a bit Mary Sue-ish, but executed effectively. He's compelling as a robot, having his own peculiarities, even if he still trucks along the overused robot-finding-a-purpose storyline used in all science fiction. The perspective he brings is refreshing and doesn't piss me off for irrational reasons. And he does make a lasting impression, no matter what direction the geth-quarian story arc goes.
Unfortunately, he suffers the exact same problem as Samara, only far, far worse. He comes so late in the game, it's impossible to enjoy him in the long-term. To get the best outcome, without resorting to cheats on the PC version, you must complete every loyalty mission for every teammate before recruiting him. Otherwise, you're on the one-way train to the end of the game with lousy chances of everyone surviving. This was Bioware's greatest mistake in ME2. They limited the sandbox too much. As a result, even as a biotic Shep, I found no opportunities to bring him along on missions. For shame.
From what I've seen from his loyalty mission, he's a competent combatant. But he has little time to show off how effective he is, especially when so many teammates and their skill sets start to blend together. He's essentially an Infiltrator Tali (Combat Drone, AI Hacking, and Shield Boost, Shield Drain's cousin) with Garrus' weapons. His survival rate is in the median range, and he can take a role on the Suicide Mission. Otherwise, he's a crowd-control pawn with more endurance than Garrus, but lacking some of the punch. Nothing else sticks out. It makes me sad.
I don't think he's as awesome as some fans clamor, but I invested in Legion much more than I did for Aigis in Persona 3. He needed a lot more screen time for me to call him a favorite. He just needed to talk. Maybe interact with others a bit more. Watch him bounce off other characters. Because he has little room to be a character rather than the mouthpiece for what could have been a nonexistent group of so-called "peaceful" geth.
Oh well. At least you can fix that in the PC version.
Poor thing. :'(
Holy crap, I'm almost done! YAY! This took way too long...
Anywho, next time is wrapping up Mass Effect 2 with all the details that matter little, but can affect the final score. Is this really the best game in the trilogy? ... Looks like you gotta wait some more!
Until then... ANOTHER MEME!
(1) - According to some, the original plot of Mass Effect would revolve around the Reapers trying to prevent a technology singularity in the universe... or something. I never took physics, and a simple google search made me want to grate my brain into cheese. So, these will explain it better than I can. BE WARNED OF ENTIRE TRILOGY SPOILERS.
(2) - *looks back at part 2* Yeah... I have no room to talk... stupid turian... T-T
(3) - "I had to meet her. The memory possessed and endowed me. I fell on my knees before her, begged her pardon. She introduced me to the world beyond my work. Eventually she forgave me. Later, she loved me."
... ... ... Something about the wording here rubbed me the wrong way. It's one thing if she was someone he knew for a while, but a total stranger? It gives off vibes I don't like... Am I overthinking this? Probably. But my gut instinct the first time I heard it was to feel very creeped out by this. Despite reading many logical, reasonable explanations and interpretations from others, it hasn't lessened one bit. So sue me.
(4) - Ah, the geth consensus... It might as well be a very, very logical process of elimination mixed with crunching numbers. But in the end, to the organic ear, it sounds a lot like an opinion.
(4) - Ah, the geth consensus... It might as well be a very, very logical process of elimination mixed with crunching numbers. But in the end, to the organic ear, it sounds a lot like an opinion.