Mass Effect 2: The Romance

It’s funny but whenever two people are discussing a recent BioWare game canonical question that always gets asked first is: “which character did you sleep with?” Mass Effect 2 is no different. In fact, it provides you more romantic options than the previous game. In ME1 a male character had a choice between romancing Liara (an Assari archeologist) or Ashley Williams (a human action girl). The former seemed to be the default relationship route for most people which is why I sort of went with the latter. Besides, Ashley was just a cool chick. She was tough as nails, brave but also somewhat introspective. She read poetry and philosophy and quoted her favorite works from memory on occasion. She had a family, sisters and crazy childhood stories she would share with you. She was also not devoid of flaws – among other things she tended to be a xenophobic loudmouth who distrusted all the aliens. She was a well rounded, well written, down to earth character. Liara was interesting but perhaps not as well defined as Ashley – at least in my opinion.

In Mass Effect 2 a male character you can flirt with the 4 female companions: Miranda, Jack, Tali and Samara as well as with Kelly Chambers – the Normandy Yeoman. The most popular romance option seems to be Miranda: a Cerberus operative with a figure and personality of a barbie doll and a major superiority complex and daddy issues. You see, Miranda is profoundly unhappy because she is just too perfect. Her incredibly rich and powerful father arranged for her genome to be custom-tailored to produce a prodigy child who would take over his legacy. She loves to complain about her shitty childhood almost as much as she hates being the smartest, prettiest and the most amazing person in the room. She often wishes that she could be super lame like all the other crew members, so that people would notice her for her personality rather than the stunning looks or brilliance she was gifted with. I can see where she is coming from, but I can’t really sympathize with her on that. She is stuck up, bitchy, self centered and spoiled brat. Good character concept but a lousy person.

Jack is on the other end of the spectrum. She is self destructive, nihilist with deep intimacy issue. Jack was hurt, betrayed and screwed over so many times she is permanently and almost irreversibly broken inside. She knows everything about pain and suffering, and nothing about love or friendship. She is a bit of a cross between River from Firefly and Chiana from Farscape. Like River she spent her childhood locked up in a lab being experimented on and trained to be the ultimate weapon. Jack however did not have a loving brother who could bust her out and take care of her – she had to rescue herself. She spent most of her life as a fugitive running away from something – her past, the law, relationship. Like Chiana she is tough, individualistic, strong minded and irreverent. She plays by her own rules and does not care about moral or social norms. She treats sex casually, and runs at the first sign of commitment. I found her genuinely interesting to talk to.

In fact, romancing Jack is a bit different from the usual BioWare formula. Usually you can win over every girl by being a super nice guy. With Jack however, you have to be a bit of a dick. If you are nice to her, she will just insult you. Actually, she will insult you no matter which dialog option you pick. But if you are confident, persistent and refuse to take shit from her she will slowly open up. Of course once Jack opens up to you, the game puts her on the relationship track. I never really intended to sleep with Jack to begin with. She was extremely unstable and emotionally damaged. It was clear to me that she wasn’t looking for a heated romantic fling. What she needed was normalcy and a genuine human connection. I just wanted Sheppard and her to be friends – not lovers. I wanted Jack to see that she was a valuable member of the team, and that someone can be interested in her as a person – with no strings attached. It seemed as if sex would actually cheapen the relationship the two of them have developed. The problem with scripted dialog trees is that they often don’t cover everything you would want your character to be able to say.

In fact, there is no “nice” way to let jack down. The best you can do is to have Sheppard blurt out something about having “other options” and Jack being a bitch for not putting out – which is probably the worst thing you can say to emotionally volatile woman who just let her guard down for the first time in her life. For the rest of the mission Jack would only say two words to me. One of those words was “you”. The other one was “fuck”. I really felt bad about this… But alas, I really wanted to pursue Tali’s romantic subplot.

You see, I always liked Tali. I thought she was a great character. In ME1 is was basically an idealistic teenager undergoing her right of passage. In ME2 she returns as a fully fledged member of Quarian society. However she is still the same polite, shy, introverted young woman. She tends to babble when she gets nervous, she probably understands machines better than people, she names her combat drones after Baldur’s Gate pets – let’s face it, Tali is a bit of a geek. In a good sense. Also unlike the other two characters I described above, she doesn’t have some major issues that plague her. She is just young, and inexperienced girl. She tends to be optimistic, cheerful and pleasant to talk to – as opposed to moody, obscenity spewing jack, holier than thou Miranda or fatalistic Samara. Tali is just Tali – competent, driven, reliable, idealistic.

The Quarian environment suit gives gives her that mysterious quality. For all we know, she can be a stunning beauty underneath that mask. Sadly, most of the time we can merely glimpse outlines of her eyes and her nose through the helmet. Her predicament reminds be that of Rogue from X-men. Intimacy and closeness are never casual for her – they carry great risks. She can never touch or kiss anyone without some preparation, and risking a serious infection.

That said, the “love scene” was rather underwhelming:

I was really hoping they will at least show us her face. I guess they didn’t feel like spending a long time modeling her head from scratch for a few seconds of optional cut scene. Perhaps they didn’t want to ruin it for us. I mean, by the end of the game, most people probably imagined how she might look underneath the helmet based on the outlines visible through the semi-transparent face shield. No matter how pretty or interesting they would make her look, it would probably be a let down. Maybe it it’s a little bit of both. It’s a cop out though – I was disappointed.

I didn’t really have a chance to unlock all of Samara’s dialog options or get to the romance part because she was the absolute last person I recruited and did a loyalty quest for before the suicide mission. Then she died eaten by the collector swarm for absolutely no reason. Similarly, since I played a nearly straight paragon I didn’t even have an option to recruit Morinth.

I also found it funny that you can blatantly flirt with Kelly – your Yeoman and personal assistant and she seems to love it. Half the lines you can say to her would count as blatant sexual harassment in most professional and military type environments. But one of the first things she lets you know when you board Normandy is that Cerberus does not really have any strict fraternization rules. She will also dance for you and feed your fish – gotta love that girl. And she seems to swing both ways, unlike other ladies of ME2.

On my second run through the game I was really bummed out that not a single female character had a lesbian romance option. That’s seriously lame my friends. My female renegade Sheppard is into ladies. This is why she made sweet, sweet love to Liara in ME1, and wanted to sex either Miranda or Jack in ME2 but the game wouldn’t let me. Sleeping with a dude would be out of character for her. Thank God for Kelly at least.

Who did you romance in Mass Effect 2 and why?

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10 Responses to Mass Effect 2: The Romance

  1. Macedoneus Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I romanced Tali for many of the same reasons you did, though I have to admit I was always fascinated by Tali and her culture. While I would skip conversations with other crew and team members in ME1, I always took time to visit Tali between missions. She always had something interesting to say, a unique viewpoint on things that the Sheppard, and myself as a player, tended to take for granted (The Normandy being ‘too quiet’ for instance). Seeing the Migrant Fleet in ME2 was a real treat, and interacting with other Quarians was just cool.

    Also, for a bit more background on the ME universe, I highly recommend the two ME novels, Revelation and Ascension, set before and after ME1. Both give detail to the universe, and each reveals details about certain events mentioned in both games.

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  2. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Macedoneus:

    Agreed. She was my favorite character from Mass Effect 1 as well. I pretty much completely ignored Garrus and Kaiden in my first playthrough and basically chatted with Ashely, Tali, Liara and Wrex.

    I haven’t actually considered reading these novels because I usually stay far away from such publications. You almost never see a book based in a video game based universe to have any kind of literary value. Are the novels any good? Or are they cringe worthy?

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  3. Zel FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I don’t know what you saw in Jack that can be considered interesting. She’s a fairly typical emo bitch with a touch of psycho and some bland justification for her act (:sob: she was a lab experiment, life was tough for her :sob:). She’s not an interesting ‘evil’ character to talk to like HK47 or Wrex, she’s just going on and on about how her life sucked and how she has and will make the world pay for that. She doesn’t seem insane, which would be interesting, she’s just being a bitch on purpose. I don’t know what she says if you romance her, but I doubt it flies any higher.

    Anyway, back to your question: on my first playthrough (female paragon Sheppard), I romanced noone, because Jacob is too generic, Garrus is just… no (even if he has reach), and assassin-Drell-whose-name-escapes-me too angsty. On my second playthrough (male renegade Sheppard) I romanced Tali just to see what was behind the mask, you can imagine my disappointment.

    Maybe that’s why I don’t find the characters interesting, I’m just not into any of them. At least in ME1 most of the recruitable NPCs provided exposition for the universe, whereas in ME2 they mostly talk about themselves.

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Zel:

    Jack is a bit emo, that’s true. But I kindoff liked the fact that once you get through the bitchy exterior there is a vulnerable, young woman inside. If you talk to her enough, you realize that she is the way she is because everyone she has ever trusted has fucked her over big time. Of course it is partly her own fault because she tends to associate with precisely the kind of people that would use and abuse her.

    I don’t know – she didn’t seem that shallow to me. She seemed like a well designed character. Initially I was sort of expecting a tough psycho-chick but was pleasantly surprised that she was not just a criminally insane individual. I was sort of able to see how she became who she was – I could relate to her story.

    I don’t know – maybe I just like this character archetype.

    I sort of liked the snake boy too. Then again I have a soft spot for the hit-man with morals type characters ever since I watched Leon the Professional. :)

    My favorite character out of the whole game must be Mordin though.

    Oh, and I never really considered Wrex to be evil. He was just a Krogan. If we must talk about his alignment he was more like chaotic neutral to me.

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  5. Macedoneus Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ Luke Maciak:
    Not really cringe worthy, but nothing really deep either, some parts are a little bleh, but others are quite interesting. I did feel they were a little short, I plowed through both in one evening, but that may just be from how fast I read, so your mileage may vary.

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  6. Pingback: Mass Effect 2: The Good Parts « Terminally Incoherent WordPress

  7. Karthik UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Fedora Linux says:

    Tali. For the reasons you mention, mostly. She also had a soothing voice; she was fun to talk to.

    My Shepard was fond of her in a platonic way until her loyalty mission. You really get to bond with her after you defend her in court. I think the moment I finally realized she had a thing for Shepard was when you say “You deserved better” (than her father screwing over both the Geth and the Quarians), and she replies: “I got better, Shepard. I got you.”

    Man, that was some good writing!

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  8. BrianL UNITED STATES Safari Mac OS says:

    Liara is the best romance in the game hands down tali is annoying IMO Miranda is ok I cheated on liara wit her b4 the dlc lol but that dlc was perfect really I hope da next game has more missions with that cinematic quality that puts sum movies to shame

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  9. Fredrik Bendz SWEDEN Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I’d liked to have a romance with Jack. Like someone said, once you get behind that facade she’s upholding, she’s a very vulnerable young woman. I liked her both for her tough attitude and the humanity behind the mask. Unfortunately, I literally fucked up that relationship.

    Samara seemed reluctant to have a relationship so I asked about her thoughts on casual sex. What came out of Shepard’s mouth wasn’t really what I wanted to ask, so I fucked up that one too. I didn’t know you couldn’t have several romances so I romanced Miranda. Had to load a save to pick Tali instead. I didn’t find Miranda attractive at all. Her personality was rather unattractive, she had a flat ass :-) and she wasn’t particularly beautiful either. Tali was much more interesting, even though you couldn’t tell much about her looks.

    If I played a female Shepard I would probably have pursued a romance with Thane (the lizard guy). I liked that he was such a philosophical guy. I didn’t expect those kind of deep thoughts from someone who kills for a living (pun intended). If I were female IRL I believe I would go for Jacob. I don’t know which male characters you can romance, but Mordin was kind of creepy, and who would romance Grunt?

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    @ Fredrik Bendz:

    I think what Jack really responds too is genuine friendship. Just being supportive, non-judgmental and genuinely interested in getting to know her as a person without any sexual overtones. When you try to be direct she bristles up and pushes you away, because she assumes all you want is sex. Unfortunately I genuinely wanted a friendship with Jack and romance with Tali but that did not work out because Jack kinda got attached, and then got really, really mad when I turned her down.

    I didn’t really even think to try with Samara. She seemed so distinguished and mature that I figured she was completely out of Sheppard’s league. Also, her personality completely did not fit the outfit with the mega-cleavage. And yeah – I love how half the time the stuff that comes out of Sheppard’s mouth has nothing to do with the chat wheel. :P

    Miranda was my least favorite character in the entire series. She annoyed me to no end, had terrible personality and constantly reminded me of that whole Cerberus thing that I was trying not to think about while doing cool missions.

    Tali was always my favorite. I actually tried to romance her in Mass Effect 1, but ended up with Ashley because I was always going to the engine room to talk to Tali and if she had no new dialog options I would stop by Ashley on the way back. :P

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