Late to the Game: A First-Timer Imposes Order On the Chaos of Mass Effect 1

Anticipation: Being able to romance Garrus in the next game.
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Welcome to new(ish) series Late to the Game, where Sarah Ingram of The Geekmates reviews games that she’s shamefully left unplayed up to this point. It’s like newbie recaps, but not. First was Dragon Age: Origins, and now, by popular demand, it’s Mass Effect 1. Scroll to the bottom for a few options as to what you can peer pressure Sarah into playing next.

Side note: I previously played Mass Effect 2 a couple years ago, but before the trilogy was available on PS3. SOOOO, I went into this knowing A) about “the choice” and B) the default choices for ME2 without importing a character are awful: Wrex dies, Ashley dies, and the Council dies, with jerk Udina in charge. Blech.

I intended to fix this.

I was super pumped (and secretly wishing) that Mass Effect would win the vote for my next catch up game for a couple reasons. I was on a BioWare high, I wanted to make more sense of ME2, and most of all I wanted to get my buddies Dave, Sam, and Ness off my back about it (love youuuuuu).

I tried to make my Shepard look like a mix of myself and Janeway, because Janeway is the best thing ever and I don’t really need another reason than that. I also chose a sexy red lipstick because I like to feel saucy when I’m killing bad things. I named her “Fem.” It seemed appropriate.


She ended up looking more like Summer Glau. I am not complaining.

OH MAN that game intro. I feel super badass without even doing anything, and I am already excited to kick lots of butts. The voice acting is on point in this, especially for FemShep—Jennifer Hale knows what she’s doing (I have a total lady boner), and it was especially refreshing after playing a silent elf in Dragon Age: Origins.

Game time! Anderson reminds me what’s on the go, and on I went to Eden Prime for my first mission. I have to say off the bat I am super suspicious of Nihlus. I know there’s a Turian that ends up being a super bad dude, and he definitely fits the bill. Like, give me a minute and wait for me, dude. I need to keep an eye on you. Kaidan is already giving me eyes, even now over Jenkins’ dead corpse. I can tell he’s gonna cause some trouble. If only he knew my heart already belonged to another…


I must admit I was having issues out the gate running and crouching. L3 is run, O is crouch, not the other way around, game! The industry needs a standard or something. C’mon guys. Overall, though, I was really impressed after the first mission. The combat felt good, and even though I don’t typically like shooters I like the feel of it (except when my weapons overheat: lame). All the characters have real, fleshed out personalities, and even though I barely know them, I care about protecting my team. My crew. The moment at the end of the Eden Prime mission when the beacon attached with Shepard—this, like, begins it all. I’m so excited for more.


Saren is quickly becoming the main threat, and in a great way, too. He’s not this “super evil” that we were after forever. He’s a rogue dude that got caught up on the wrong side of the tracks and is slowly getting more dangerous the longer things go on. It’s developed and complex, and there are so many questions to be answered. BioWare really knows how to tell a story.

After the end of the mission and getting to wander the Normandy, I finally got a chance to talk to some people. Talking to the crew members is so addictive. This is where you really learn about the huge backstory of not only the characters, but the species, the history of the world, and all of the little intricacies that make this game (and let’s be honest, most of what BioWare does) so special. It’s what keeps you coming back again and again, playing it differently, bringing other characters on missions and reacting in different ways to the same situations. It makes a game that millions play feel special to you—it’s your playthrough, your story, your universe.


The Citadel looks amazing, like a buzzing city in among the stars. I wandered for a while, got totally lost, and tried to talk to just about every single person, including my favorite new aliens, the Elcor. Oh my God they are the cutest and gentlest and I just want to cuddle them and have them tell me bedtime stories. And anytime the Ambassador says “chastising rebuke” I squee out loud and pout. Such an adult.






On the Citadel, I also got to meet Wrex (YAY), deal with the idiot council (dudes need to listen and not be dumb-dumbs), learn about spectres, and meet all the super cool alien species hanging out. And let’s not forget about the side quests. There is so much to do. Like bugging the Keepers. And then accidentally putting Jahleed in jail (I’m a bad guy oops). Oh, and let’s not forget Harkin: “Secrets are like herpes. If you got ‘em, you might as well spread ‘em around.” Ew. What a gross pig. I always lean paragon, but he got a full-on renegade response from calling me sweetheart, and Shepard’s “I’d rather drink acid after chewing on razor blades” line was simply sublime.

There is a really strong relationship between Anderson and Shepard. I want to defeat Saren mostly for him, to make him proud and to make up for what Saren did to him 20 years ago. Now, after becoming a spectre (go me!), I get to do some missions! And I was so excited. Until: The Mako. This might be the most infuriating game mechanic ever. I skipped so many side missions, died a ton, and rage quit several times because of that damned thing. Fuck you, Mako.


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Despite the stupidest driving machine that ever existed, I finally got Tali and then Liara. Having my full crew meant more chatting! Wrex’s backstory has to be my favorite thing of these little Normandy talks—his father, and the Crush, and the betrayal—he seems so much deeper, and sad, and less rough now. I also began to flirt with Liara. Who could resist?






I went to all the places the council suggested, following Geth and crazy scientists and gross monsters, and finished up at Noveria. And might I just say OMG THIS ONE STACKING PUZZLE KILL ME. Did anyone not cheat at this? Tell the truth. It’s like peeing in the shower. I also got a little confused here, to be honest, in terms of what I should have been doing. I was exhausted from long days and maybe didn’t pay attention too much outside of the fact that I was really there just to find Benezia once I knew she was around. One track mind.

I felt super bad for her. A powerful matriarch, reduced to a slave doing something she knew she shouldn’t be but that was completely outside her control. With all this dialogue and everything I realized I made a huge mistake not bringing Liara. I know that this would have been an amazing scene. I will need to play this again and make sure I bring her with me. (Or Google it. Because, you know).

After returning from Noveria I was approached by Kaidan and Liara, and I had to choose. I wooed them both on purpose because, selfishly, I wanted them to fight over me. But in the end I obviously had to choose Liara. Kaidan is kinda one-dimensional, and why choose a boring boy when you can have a really cool archaeologist (hello????). He didn’t put up much of a fight. I made the right choice. Now I’m batting eyelashes.


I headed to Virmire and OMG did not mess up the Mako mission part (learning!). I met Sovereign (AAHH!), calmed down Wrex (phew!), got the stuff ready, and ran all over the place getting the Normandy in and prepping the bomb. And then, of course. The choice.

I find it hilarious how video games have timers or high pressure-type moments, and then you just pause and think about it. I did it in the The Walking Dead, I did it in Dragon Age, and yes, I did it in Mass Effect. For like 20 minutes (yeahhhhh, indecisiveness).




In the end, I saved Ashley. The bomb had to go, and it made sense to go to her and let it explode no matter what. Also this is the opposite choice from what the game makes for you if you start with Mass Effect 2, so I wanted the other option. It was hard though. I didn’t particularly like how racist she was towards my boy Garrus, and I didn’t really have that big of a connection to her, compared to Wrex or Liara or Tali. But I liked the idea of going with her and then helping her come to grips with her prejudices against alien races by working with them cooperatively. She’s gonna come round—or else.

Then, SAREN!!! I went with every renegade dialogue option, because fuck that guy. The fight was pretty intense, even on casual, but he ran away on his little scooter before I could finish him off for good, and all I could think about was how much he looked like Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man.


Honestly I’m getting a little sick and tired of reporting to the council. I see why they let you hang up on them all the time. Like, I am trying my best and telling you EXACTLY WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN AND HOW CORRUPTED SAREN IS, and you can’t be bothered to listen. You all suck and I probably should have let you die, but I didn’t because that would make me a bad person. But we will get to that.

Captain Anderson is super badass and cool, and I love him so much. I wish he hung out in my room on the Normandy and fed my fish and would just be like “you’re doing great work for the Alliance, Shepard” every time I came into the room. Helping me break off the Normandy when it was grounded? Yes! I couldn’t have had a bigger grin on my face when he confronted Udina.


Once I was back on the Normandy Liara came to me, and it was time to get it onnnnnn. It was pretty good and a sweet moment between them, but honestly I know what it’s like with Garrus, and it just couldn’t compare to his vulnerability and pure love for Shepard. It kinda seemed like it was happening more because a dangerous mission was on the horizon and because Shepard was touched by Prothean technology than because either one of them was ready. Still, super happy I chose her and not Rumpledink.


It is finally time to go to Ilos. And so much happened. Vigil. The Mass Relays and ther Citadel being like a super covert backdoor. The keepers?! (They seemed so innocent and now it’s just sad). Vigil knows, like, everything about the reapers and Sovereign and the Protean scientists’ sacrifice, and even though we were supposed to be chasing after Saren I stood there for a good 10 minutes asking all the questions. So, technically, Saren should have won and the Reapers should have got us all. But video games so WHEEEEEEE!



I finally caught up, raced towards the conduit (almost missed it), and then get to the Citadel just to see Sovereign get in as it closes. Friggin’ butts. The scene confronting Saren was incredibly sad. I wanted to renegade the crap outta him, and I did quite a bit, but then when I realized he was fighting I chose every Paragon option I could. And then he shot himself. I had a lot of tears.



I decided to save the council (after first accidentally sacrificing them and reading about the consequences LOL), and then…


God, I really hate boss fights with guns, and holy hell he would not hold still. Even on casual, this took me forever, and every time there was a cut scene it threw me off and his shields came back and I pretty much just ended up spinning around a whole bunch just looking for the jerk.

Finally, it was over, and we get covered in Reaper rubble. When Garrus shakes his head “no” to Anderson like I didn’t make it, and then Shepard jumps over the reaper guts: that is the moment when Garrus falls for her, I know it. After saving the alien council and risking it all for everyone, not just humanity, she broke though his rough exterior and then will someday have sexy times with him. Sexy, sexy times.


I (of course) suggested Anderson for the Council (screw youuuuu Udinaaaaaaaaa), and I am incredibly excited to play Mass Effect 2 now for a couple reasons. 1) I can import my Shepard, 2) I get what’s happening now, and 3) the crappy default choices of Mass Effect 2 are all fixed! Wrex was calmed, Ashley is saved (yay?), and the Council is finally not so hard on humanity.

I am so disappointed in myself for not playing this sooner, and now more than ever I can’t wait to replay ME2 and play ME3. And then play them again and again (hopefully on my PS4, BioWare, hmmmm?).

But my next game is up to you! I’m going to carry over the leftover four from my last post about Dragon Age: Origins, and I’m adding a new one to fill the space.

  • Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition
  • Portal 2
  • Uncharted
  • Bravely Default
  • Asura’s Wrath

Maybe someday I will share the whole list of backlog games I’m pretty darn ashamed of. But not today…

Sarah Ingram is part archaeologist, part geek, and mostly runs on coffee and red wine. She is a historical archaeologist obsessed with seventeenth-century colonial taverns and social interaction; hosts a technology news and reviews show called Tech Up; and podcasts on The PVP Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter (@Cerajoy) if you enjoy a lot of Futurama quotes, wine musings, and Sony fangirling.

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