Favorite Mass Effect Moments
Counting down my top three moments:
3. Tali and Shepard in the Normandy Bar
Simply my favorite character-building moment in the entire Mass Effect series comes toward the end of Mass Effect 3, after the mission which reunites Shepard and his team with Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect 2. Afterward, you can find Tali in the Normandy’s bar, where she’s been drinking with the help of an “emergency induction port” (which Shepard insists is actually a straw). What follows is a fun discussion with a few different iterations: Tali will talk about her feelings about Miranda, primarily, but there are also goofy interactions with Javik from the From Ashes DLC you can overhear, and some slight differences if Tali and Shepard are dating. Overall, it’s a moment that highlights how strong, rounded and memorable the characters of Mass Effect can be. Plus Tali’s the best.
2. Sovereign Attacks the Citadel
The original Mass Effect had some incredible moments — the first time you dock at the Citadel, the first time you see the Geth turning humans to husks, to first time you interact with Sovereign — but nothing sold how incredible the galaxy was, or how frightening the Reaper threat, like Sovereign’s attack on the Citadel.
The specific moment that stands out in my mind was when Shepard and squad found their elevator shut down on their way to the top of the Presidium to stop Saren. They’re forced to put on helmets and venture outside, walking along the outer skin of the Citadel as they head toward the tower. At first, this is somewhat unremarkable, taking on yet another string of corridors in which players have to fight off Geth soldiers. But then, you round a corner — and see the entire Citadel stretching before you, with the mammoth Sovereign clinging to it. His huge finger-tentacles are smashing into the Citadel walls, laser beams are blasting attacking ships, and the sheer scale of the scene is incredible. It’s a mind-blowing sight: We have to stop that?
1. Shepard and Tali Decide Legion’s Fate
Perhaps the best-written, most powerful, most poignant moment in Mass Effect comes at the end of the Rannoch missions in Mass Effect 3. My experience during the scene was a very specific confluence of events. First, I rekindled a relationship with Tali from Mass Effect 2, who over the course of that game had become my favorite character in the series. Tali had my loyalty, even over other characters — she was my Shep’s girlfriend, with everything that that situation entailed.
Secondly, Tali and Shepard had shared several moments together that had rekindled the spirit of their relationship because I was lucky enough to fight through a side mission or two with Tali on the team before the final mission on Rannoch. So my loyalty to Tali was even stronger than it otherwise would have been.
And third, my Shepard was almost a full Paragon, with only a few stray decisions that had gone toward the Renegade end of the spectrum. I always try to play Mass Effect by considering each decision carefully, rather than opting for “always Paragon” or “always Renegade.” It’s a bit more of an involved role-playing way to take on the game, but by ignoring whether a decision is considered Paragon or Renegade, I was faced with some tough moral choices.
The hardest of all of these was deciding whether to back the Quarians or the Geth at Rannoch, in the final moments of that mission. On my first playthrough, I struggled mightily in choosing: side with the Geth, who deserve a chance at a real life and, in my estimation, were truly living beings; or side with the Quarians, and Shepard’s love, in the battle to retake the homeworld lost to them for more than 300 years.
In the end, I chose Tali and the Quarians, and I strongly urge anyone who has played Mass Effect 3 to go back to this moment and make the same choice, if only to watch the scene that play out. The gist is this: Legion does not accept Shepard’s judgment, and he refuses to leave the Geth without true sentience — “Is this justice?” he asks Shepard. Having decided that the Geth are too dangerous and cannot be trusted, and unable to side against Tali even though the Quarians seem to be wrong, Shepard and Legion struggle, and for a moment, it seems Legion means to kill Shepard if it means saving the Geth — that is, until Tali kills Legion, stabbing him from behind.
Shepard and Tali watch in sadness as Legion powers down, asking Tali: “Does this unit have a soul?”
The scene is made all the more powerful by a later Shepard/Tali moment in which they discuss what happened, and how the circumstances they were thrown into forced them to betray a friend. It was an incredible sacrifice and a hard decision to make — and for me, Mass Effect 3′s shining moment.