Digital Tabletop: Bad Romance Mass Effect Style

So a few months ago I asked myself, after playing yet another round of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, how can I really get back into the single player? I didn’t want to run through my import from the first two games again and wanted to try something a little different at least, but I still wanted to have a character I’d brought through two other games living and breathing in Mass Effect 3. So I set myself a challenge. Play through Mass Effect with a class I’ve never completed it with and pick a different romance while basically playing with my own morality and letting it develop as I move through the games. This has had the effect of basically making me focus on the romance aspect of this since picking a class and making my choices has become pretty much old hat. Not romancing the same person I always do? That’s hard.

I’ve played the hell out of Mass Effect since I first got it back in November of 2008 for PC. I’d initially run through, as I’m sure most guys do, as BroShep, the male version of Commander Shepard. I got curious to see what was different and played it again as FemShep and have basically played it that way ever since. I lost my hard drive just before Mass Effect 2 came out and with it all my saves from Mass Effect, which masseffectsaves.com helped with a great deal, but I ended up just playing through with FemShep, never touching BroShep, or at least completing any of the playthroughs with him. To me Shepard has become this bad ass female hero out to save the universe and I’ve gotten so used to that idea that playing as BroShep just seems off to me now. One thing has remained constant through all my runs through from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 and into Mass Effect 3, I always romanced Liara.

There was the exception of that first run through Mass Effect 2, before Lair of the Shadow Broker where you couldn’t and I’d tried romancing Samara (anyone who’s tried knows how that goes) and had thought about finishing through with Thane and Garrus, but then my house got broken into and the laptop I played the game on was filched along with a bunch of family memories, games and of course game saves. So after I got a new gaming laptop again I went to town running through the first and second game to prep my romance with Liara for the third game, only this time I had the added benefit of all the DLC for Mass Effect 2 so there wasn’t really any hesitation on keeping true to her. Mass Effect 3 hits, and I’ve only run through it once with what I consider my default FemShep and followed through on my Liara romance. None of my other saves were really ready for import and I didn’t feel like importing the save games I’d downloaded from masseffect2saves.com, so I came up with my little challenge.

I like the new default FemShep in Mass Effect 3. She has a unique look to her and she just has that, “I’m not going to take your shit” look but could also pull off caring and loving when she feels like it. There’s a fantastic recreation of the default Mass Effect 3 FemShep done up in Mass Effect 2 that is damn close to her look in Mass Effect 3, so I converted that over to the Mass Effect sliders and set out creating Christina Shepard, a Spacer and War Hero, and for once I was going to go through the first game entirely as a Soldier. You can find that femshep by ELE here. I’ve yet to play through as an Adept either so that might be a challenge for another day. I was going to try running through playing how I wanted to though, with my own set of morals, Renegade and Paragon be damned, and I was going to romance other people throughout the three games, besides Liara.

I’ve had mixed results.

Right now I’m nearing the end run in the first Mass Effect. I’d held off doing Feros and Noveria until the very end and went through and did all my side quests first including the Bring Down The Sky DLC. I did use some PC tweaks, like upping the hell out of my levels since I’ve played the first game so many times anyway now. I also cranked my Paragon and Renegade options through to the max you can make them and upped my Charm and Intimidate through artificial means. I wanted this to be a breeze and to just be able to play how I wanted, and so far that part of the goal has been met, which doesn’t sound much like a challenge, but getting me to finish through with it; that will be. I finally popped over to Feros and went through defeating the Thorian and decided at that point my Shepard has had it with corporate types playing with people’s lives and any chance to screw them over if they were dicking about was going to be my new method instead of arbitrating. She’s much harder than I’ve played her before, well with people outside her squad and crew. Maybe I’ve just gotten more cynical as I age, or maybe I’m just tired of putting up with the bull.

I’ve always loved that big confrontation scene in the first game when you’ve tried to play both sides and romanced both of your available options, and after the update with the Council on the Feros situation, it popped up just like I expected it to. It was then I realized why I’d always romanced Liara here with FemShep. Kaidan comes off like a total ass. Sure he gets all sugar sweet again after, no matter which way you choose, but during that choice I just want to punch him in the face for being a confrontational prick. Even Ashley deals with it better than he does on a BroShep run. I can understand jealousy; I’ve been there, but wow. I decide I will follow through with my original plan though. Or so I thought. I pick Kaidan and break the poor Asari’s heart. I go below decks and talk to both of them, then I found myself saving my game, making a note of which save game it’s listed as, in this case save 63, and then loaded up the one from Feros just after I’d talked to the colonists, boarding the Normandy and triggering the reporting cutscene again and of course the confrontation. And then I pick Liara and save the game right after. Save 64. It’s at this point I realize that not only am I probably going about picking a different love interest the wrong way, but that I’m really stuck on Liara.

It’s at this point the challenge morphed into romancing all available love interests with the least amount of imports from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2 and then into Mass Effect 3, all with basically the same character. I decided if I’m going to go about doing it this way, with two separate import saves from here out, I need a better way to keep track of this or its going to get screwed up and I’ll end up killing my love interest on Virmire as I plan on ditching Kaidan for my Liara romance as I think Ashley is a more interesting character and is named after one of my favorite film characters. Spreadsheet it is. It was at this point my wife decided I was taking this to creepy levels. I mean here I am plotting out a spreadsheet not for more major decisions like Wrex or the Collector Base, but who I’m romancing, and at this point, not who I was going to cheat on, but cheat on with because not cheating using this method was not an option. I’ve since grown my plans to include a default BroShep run as well, because of my incessant need for completion, but that will have to wait.

Now, I’m very much not into the whole cheating thing. I’m a one partner kind of guy in real life, but let’s face it sports fans, an apology e-mail just won’t cut it from the way Ashley and Kaidan treat you on Horizon, and Liara more than makes up for it with the Shadow Broker DLC, and, to paraphrase Ron White, if you stop having sex with me altogether, I’m going to have sex with somebody else. I know, I’ve seen me do it.

With either a Kaidan romance or a Liara one, Femshep can romance Samara and still keep her romance going as well as Kelly, though you can’t invite Kelly up if you’re romancing anyone else on board after. Not that Kelly or Samara count towards paramour, but I’m odd. Like I’m not romancing Jacob. Ever. And it’s not even that he drops Shepard in Mass Effect 3, I’ve just never been interested in him with FemShep. The dialogue between them is so stilted when she goes to talk to him in the armory, practically throwing herself at him when I just want to make sure I get his loyalty mission trigger and he’s just so stand off-ish I always just check him off the list as non-romancable and move on. So the plan is to end up finishing Mass Effect 2 with a Garrus romance from the Kaidan import, romancing Thane, Samara, and Kelly first, dropping Thane after the Suicide Mission, and then picking it up with Garrus before I do the Arrival DLC and head into Mass Effect 3. Probably going to have a strictly Garrus romance on the side too. I’m going to need another tab in that spreadsheet.

Then of course I’ll have lots of options in Mass Effect 3 and lots of reasons to go through with the one character import from Mass Effect 2. Confused yet? Scared? Hey wait! Where are you going? I haven’t even covered how I’ll tackle my BroShep run yet! Yeah, my wife is right. I’m totally creepy with this Mass Effect romance thing.

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