Warning: SPOILERS and a Very Long Post
TL;DR: Most important things you need to know for the fan fiction rapid fire and summarized: Female Shepard, romanced Liara all the way through, chose to destroy the Reapers, do not hold to Indoctrination Theory, the fan fiction will include a little extra explanation about the ending.
Read on below if you wish.
Greetings! Welcome to my currently untitled Mass Effect FanFiction! This will be the first entry, though it will include little to no story. The Intro will serve to build a base of understanding so that we can all be on the same page. I will briefly dictate the decisions I made that are important to my story.
That being said, if you have not played the series, I highly encourage you to do so. It is old enough now that if you wait around for sales you could potentially buy the entire trilogy for just over $7 like I did (PC).
Note: The playthrough that my fanfiction is based on only included the following single-player DLC: Zaeed – The Price of Revenge (ME2) and Normandy Crash Site (ME2). However, I find the concept of Arrival (ME3) intriguing and may look into incorporating it into my story. I may also look into incorporating Kasumi and Javik in there too, but I have to do more research (or buy the relevant DLC) before then.
THE REST OF THIS POST WILL INCLUDE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. REPEAT. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD.
Cue Mass Effect, game one. I styled my character similar to the one pictured above, choosing female Shepard because I’d rather listen to Jennifer Hale all series long than Mark Meer.
Mila was the first name that popped into my head, so I went with it. It’s not really important within the game so I didn’t put much thought into it. However, checking later, I realized that, depending on what sources you trust, it points to meanings like “miraculous” and “favored”. Pretty appropriate for the situation, if you ask me.
Now we get into the story. For Mila Shepard’s background, I made her a Soldier, Earthborn, and Ruthless. She gets the job done no matter the cost. It sounded like a good quality for a galactic savior to possess.
Keeping in mind her get-the-job-done mindset, for ME1, Shepard focused on neither Paragon nor Renegade, though Paragon came out higher than Renegade. Her focus wasn’t to be saintly or bitchin, she just wanted the job done and done well. War has a habit of bringing out the grayness in morality. She’s a soldier who understood that.
Shepard acquires a full squad for the Normandy SR-1: Kaidan, Ashley, Garrus, Wrex, Tali, Liara.
Shepard, when on Noveria, seeing an opportunity to make a powerful ally, spared the Rachni Queen. Seeing another opportunity for future gain, Shepard spared Shiala. Quality assets are important when Reapers are a galactic threat.
On Virmire, Shepard convinced Wrex to follow her lead. When it came time to plan the course of the battle, Shepard sent Alenko with the Salarians due to his being a ranking officer. His experience would make him a better fit to leading a squad of troops. This meant that it was Williams who was guarding the nuke when the time came to blow the facility. Shepard chose to protect the bomb, guaranteeing the job was done successfully and preventing any chance Saren or the Geth may have had to disarm the bomb before it could blow.
On the way to Ilos, Shepard and Liara made it clear that they felt an affection for each other greater than friendship and camaraderie.
During the battle for the citadel, Shepard made the call to leave the Council to live or die on its own. While others may have interpreted this decision as selfish and pro-humanity, Shepard merely was guaranteeing that they would have enough firepower to bring down Sovereign.
In tune with all her previous decisions, Shepard endorsed Captain Anderson for Councilor, believing that he would be more trustworthy and effective than Udina.
Having made some hard judgment calls and sacrifices along the way, Shepard was neither Renegade nor Paragon, though she was considered more heroic than dastardly by those who knew her well.
Mass Effect 2
Shepard, knowing it is important to have a well equipped and filled out team when saving the galaxy acquired a full Crew (Garrus, Tali, Jacob, Miranda, Mordin, Jack, Samara, Zaeed, Thane, Grunt, Legion). In the same mindset, Shepard set out to gain the loyalty of each member. She was successful in completing each mission, but due to a spat between Jack and Miranda (and my not focusing solely on either Renegade or Paragon), Miranda’s loyalty was not obtained. I felt this was okay and fitting. The tension between them had always been pretty high because of Cerberus. Considering that Miranda joined Cerberus at a young age, it would take a lot for Miranda to put Shepard as her highest loyalty. More on this under Mass Effect 3.
When on Freedom’s Progress, Shepard chose to send Veetor home with Tali. When obtaining Tali’s services, Shepard managed to keep Kal’Reegar alive. Both were thus present and helpful during Tali’s loyalty mission and assisted in acquiring a full pardon for Tali without exposing her father’s actions.
During the rest of the loyalty missions, Shepard called a few important shots. During Thane’s loyalty mission, the assassination attempt by Kolyat was thwarted. On Mordin’s loyalty mission, she spared Maelon and saved the data. Despite the nefarious circumstances under which the data had been obtained, it was hard to argue against the possibility of it being useful down the road. As seen before, Shepard does her best to consider the future. During Legion’s loyalty mission, Shepard made the call to exterminate the heretical Geth. The chance that the Geth could potentially side with the Reapers in the future was not a chance Shepard was willing to take.
Shepard learned and grew from seeing the reactions of friends to her survival and placed a high priority on relationships. It was one of those things that she decided to work on now that she had a second chance. This paid off and the entire crew of the Normandy was saved and everyone survived the suicide mission.
The Collector base was destroyed. Partially this was due to the unease of leaving a partial Reaper laying around, but mostly due to Shepard’s distrust of the Illusive Man.
Shepard finished Mass Effect 2 almost at full Paragon status. She was less split than at the end of Mass Effect 1, but still had a healthy dosage of Renegade. Shepard also remained loyal to Liara T’soni.
Mass Effect 3
Shepard, after the events in Vancouver and finding Liara and the plans for the Crucible, began putting together her team again. The first major decision coming during her interactions with Wrex, Eve, and Mordin. Shepard, who has become entwined with the future of the Krogan, chooses to continue to support their survival, ending the genophage. Mordin Solus sacrifices himself to do so. Due to Maelon’s data being saved, Eve survives and the cure is effective. Overall Salarian aid was lost.
The next mission carries them to the Citadel where Udina’s plot is foiled. Shepard kills Udina and Ashley finally starts to get over her mistrust of Shepard in relation to her dealings with Cerberus (she survives this encounter).
Shepard goes to the aid of the Quarian Migrant Fleet, rescues Legion, supports Legion’s bid to improve the Geth, and convinces the Quarians and Geth to end their war. Peace is achieved. Quarian and Geth aid is won. Legion dies, sacrificing himself for the Geth improvement.
At some point, a few missions and events take place with certain levels of importance to my story (most of which have yet to be figured out). During the mission with Grunt, Shepard spares the Rachni Queen again, sacrificing Aralakh Company. Grunt survives. During the Ardat-Yakshi mission, Shepard stops Samara from killing herself. Falere stays behind. In the Grissom Academy mission, all the students are saved. Shepard recommends that they be allowed to fight. Due to the Zhu’s Hope colonists and Shiala being saved, they join the fight. Shepard requested both Ashley and Dr. Chakwas to serve on the Normandy again.
In the final push to retake Earth, Cortez dies going down with the shuttle. Liara and Garrus take part in the final assault with Shepard, charging the beam. Both are injured but survive. Shepard reaches the beam…and chooses the destruction option.
Mass Effect 3 Ending
Note: This is based on the Extended Cut ending.
I do not think the Indoctrination Theory is accurate. I did…for a while. But the more and more I think about it, the less satisfying it is. But, the actual footage should not still be taken at face value.
It is important to understand that the Reapers and the Catalyst were not omniscient. They were limited in their knowledge. This is important. The Catalyst did not fully know the scope of the Crucible. It admits that “with each passing cycle the design has no doubt evolved”. It also admits it had thought the design had been eradicated. Yet it survived. And, this cycle itself has improved the design even more. (Note: The Catalyst also ignores the fact that EDI exists and partners with organics as well as the possible peace between the Quarians and Geth)
On top of that, the Crucible changed the Catalyst. It said so itself. The three options were not all there previously. Especially synthesis. The Catalyst said it had not known it was possible. So, the Catalyst is not an entirely trustworthy narrator here. Shepard should not assume that everything it said is true. Plus it was clear the Catalyst was attempting to steer Shepard toward Control or Synthesis. It had an agenda: survival. Destruction was purposefully put in the worst light.
So, why did Harbinger not just kill Shepard? Why even allow Shepard to get close to the destruction option? The reason is simple, though I’m still slightly unsatisfied. Harbinger missed. We already saw that Shepard was able to dodge Reaper shots when on Rannoch. Shepard dodged enough of the shot to survive, but Harbinger got close enough to injure him. Harbinger thought the immediate threat was over and thus left to protect the Citadel again.
So, next question. Anderson. Illusive Man. How the frick are they on the Citadel? Well, Illusive man is simple, we’re told when we assault his main base of operations that he already fled to the Citadel. His case is solved easy. But Anderson? Tactics. Let me explain. If you watch the cutscenes, the last we see of him is at the top of the hill before we charge down. Harbinger has just touched down immediately before we see the last of Anderson. Anderson knows the likely-hood of them getting there is slim to none. The first wave of troops sent is a feint. But it’s got to be a convincing feint, so Shepard, as the Reaper’s biggest enemy, goes with. Harbinger misses Shepard, Shepard is wounded, presumably dead in Harbinger’s mind. Major Coats moves forward with the plan, calling for everyone left to retreat. Harbinger is convinced that he has killed everyone near the beam and no one else is charging it just yet, so he goes back to rejoin the defense. Anderson then sends in, including himself, the second wave. Since we can’t see this wave, and since Anderson is the only one who joins Shepard on the Citadel, we can safely assume that Harbinger or another Reaper that had originally left the fight to protect the beam returned and gave stiff resistance. Cue phase three of Anderson’s plan: Major Coats once again leads a retreat, distracting the defending Reaper enough that Anderson makes it to the beam. So, Anderson and Illusive Man and Shepard are on board the Citadel. Everything proceeds as we have seen.
This is where the player choice comes in. Shepard either gives in to the Catalyst’s guiding and chooses control or synthesis, or Shepard resists the Catalyst’s leading and destroys the Reaper. Or Shepard ignores the three presented options and walks away. In that case, the Reapers continue on harvesting the galaxy. The one question then is what about the Crucible? The Crucible supposedly changed the Catalyst. My guess is that the Reapers figure out how to disconnect and destroy the Crucible because oh look, once again organics weren’t ready to synthesize, not even Shepard. Gotta keep on keeping on.
So, Shepard chooses to destroy the Reapers and the Catalyst. Boom. All other synthetic life is then terminated, yes? Maybe. The Catalyst was not entirely certain about how the Crucible would work. The language it used was always slightly uncertain. The changes this cycle made it knows little to nothing about. If I recall correctly, the members of this cycle were already aware of the need to focus the Crucible to take out only the Reapers. It is safe to say they paid a little attention to that aspect. Shepard’s survival could be handwaved away by saying that she was only part synthetic so of course, she survived. However, EDI’s name was on the memorial wall on the Normandy. And she was shown along with Legion and Mordin while Hackett talked about those who died. Yet the Geth were not shown, only Legion. What I’m saying is it is left up to interpretation. And that is precisely what I’m going to do: interpret. You’ll have to read my Fan Fiction to know what that interpretation is though. 😛
Last thought. Starchild. Why? Simple. The child was real. The child died. Maybe the dreams were partly affected by Reaper influence, maybe they weren’t. I think the child symbolized the weight of leaving Earth behind and the weight of the galaxy. The Catalyst chose to take the shape of the child because it knew the importance the child bore in Shepard’s mind as well as because children symbolize innocence. If it took the shape of a Reaper, Shepard would have been less likely to follow its guidance.
Okay. I think you know everything you need to for my Fanfiction. I don’t even know if all of it will be important, and it is possible that I missed some too, but I did my best. I am sorry this post got so long. If you include all the hours of gameplay as well as the hours spent thinking and researching, I’ve spent over 200 hours getting to this point. I needed to be thorough for the sake of my own sanity.