Her Console: My Mass Effect Playthrough

I started my first playthrough of the 2007 game Mass Effect about a year ago but because school takes up so much of my time, I’ve just recently finished my first playthrough. It’s a really neat game that was made by the Edmonton studio BioWare and it involves space, so I had to play it.

Mass Effect is set in the distant future where humans have explored space and found some ancient alien technology that’s allowed them to travel around the galaxy in short order and meet aliens. You play as Commander Shepard of the Alliance Navy (basically the human space Navy) and you’re working to save all of human and alien life from destruction. You can see the trailer here or the satirical honest trailer here (warning: contains spoilers for trilogy).

In this article, I’d like to share some fun anecdotes and general impressions from my first playthrough. I’m going to try not to give too many spoilers, but some might come out so be warned.

First things first: a woman space commander with a gun!

There’s a really easy way to get me to play a game: woman + gun + space. That’s it. There are so many role-playing games and shooter games that give you one option for a protagonist: some grizzled white dude with a beard (or stubble) with a troubled past that’s made him tough. As a woman, I’d kind of like to play as someone who’s more like me. When I found out that you could play as a female Shepard, I decided that I had to play the game. Also, I like space. Space is cool.

Here’s my Commander Shepard. I went with the name default name, Jane, but then as I was playing I felt like I had to give her a unique name so I began to start lovingly thinking of her as Ana Shepard. I got to choose her background and military service profile so I chose to make her a war hero who grew up on starships while her parents served in the Alliance Navy. Through your decisions you can also choose to make your character a paragon or renegade (aka nice person who wants to help everyone or total jerk who still gets the job done). I’m too nice in real life so obviously I ended up being a paragon.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

If there’s one thing Mass Effect is known for besides being from Edmonton and being a critically acclaimed space adventure, it’s the sex scenes. The game was actually banned in Singapore because you could make female Shepard romance a female looking alien.  

There are two romance options for female Shepard in this game: Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, the hot biotic guy, and Dr. Liara T’Soni, who looks female but is actually genderless cause her species, the Asari, are monogendered.

Now, I wanted to be a female Captain Kirk and romance everyone but unfortunately the game makes you choose so I did what any reasonable person would do and did a twitter poll, as seen below.

(apparently not many of my followers care about my mass effect playthrough)

Now I respect democracy and went with Liara but then as I continued the playthrough I, the player, began falling hard for Lt. Biotic Bombshell Alenko and was regretting my decision. He hits all my weaknesses! Hot and muscular, kinda broody, has a troubled past that’s made him compassionate, he still genuinely respected Shep and wanted friendship when she chose Liara, and I’m also really into military aesthetic so that speaks for itself. After I finished this game, I did another playthrough where everything is the same except I romanced Kaidan.

Is this car janky or do I just suck at driving?

Sometimes when you’re exploring the universe, you need to drive around in a military vehicle called the Mako. Usually, you have to drive it through really bumpy terrain and the vehicle handles as if you’re driving on a trampoline. This led to Shepard driving like a crazy person.

Over time, I developed a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Mako. On one hand, it took down enemies that would have killed me had I been on foot. On the other hand, it was a pain to control. I had a bit of trouble getting used to the controls at first cause they’re not very intuitive but I eventually kind of got the hang of it (and learned how to do donuts in the Mako). The thing is, I’m not a patient person when it comes to travelling in video games, so I’d always try to take shortcuts. This led to a lot of car flipping and trying to drive up some cliffs. I was honestly surprised that the squad let Shepard drive the Mako at all.

Let’s get tactical

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a run and gun type of player. I like to go out into the middle of the battlefield and shoot at anything that moves until it dies. This is why I love chaotic games like Borderlands.

However, I quickly learned that run and gun is not a technique that works in Mass Effect. You need to be tactical, especially since you’re dealing with multiple squad members and a lot of tough enemies. I had to learn the concept of taking cover, even in smaller less difficult battles. I never mastered the use of sniper rifles but maybe someday…

The guns in Mass Effect also do this thing called overheating. Unlike most games, you don’t run out of ammo but if you fire too many shots consecutively, your weapon overheats, and you have to wait a little while before you can use it again. That wait could kill you if you’re not careful, so you need to fire in short bursts, taking cover in between.

I feel like these mechanics probably made me a better gamer. I had to be a bit strategic instead of letting my chaotic desire to just keep shooting at things run wild. I’ll be interested to find out how my new-found skills translate to other games.

My motto: puke n’ rally!

In combat, I had this ability to revive my squad every so often if they died. This ability is called “unity” but for some reason I kept remembering it as “rally” (as in ‘rally the troops’). So, using the words of the old drinking adage, I referred to reviving my squad in battle as the “puke n’ rally”, where dying = puke and using unity = rally. There were some particularly tough battles (particularly the final boss battle) where we were puke n’rallying a lot.

The Verdict

Mass Effect is such a neat game in so many ways. It has a neat story with rich lore, some neat characters, and the ability to shape your Commander Shepard into who you want them to be (in my case it was a charming space commander lady who couldn’t drive and definitely has a thing for blue aliens). I’m already playing through the rest of the series and I’m planning on doing many more playthroughs. I would also definitely recommend it to anyone who likes stories about space with a ton of lore to sink your teeth into. I’d also recommend it to any women like me who’ve always had dreams of commanding a space ship and saving the galaxy.

Photos are screenshots taken from my playthrough of Mass Effect and of my twitter poll.