The Best of Mass Effect- #5 and #4
Where I rank my favorite Mass Effect missions. Spoilers abound.
#5. Mass Effect 2: Archangel
One of the delights of Mass Effect 2 is how it works in nostalgia from the first game so deftly. Early in the game, you are assigned a group of people specially chosen by the Illusive Man to recruit for your team. One of them is a mysterious Turian vigilante known only as Archangel. Almost right away, it seems pretty obvious who this Turian is, but getting to that reveal is still a ton of fun.
To find Archangel, you join a mission on Omega, which is like the Citadel only basted in grime. The mission is the joint effort of the three primary criminal gangs Archangel has been screwing with plan to finally take him out. This is a terrific storytelling device. For starters, it introduces us to the criminal underbelly of Omega, which the gangs- called Blood Pack, Blue Suns, and Eclipse- typically battle for control over. That they’ve joined to fight Archangel tells you all you need to know about why you want him on your team. Of course, you also know that you will soon have to join Archangel in fighting all three of these gangs, making that eventual betrayal of them that much more memorable and intense a moment.
Few firefights in the Mass Effect games are as entertaining as this one, as you make a run for the apartment where Archangel is holed up in, before making use of every space within it to fight off the hordes of attackers. Mass Effect battles are rarely this breathless. You scarcely have time to notice how rapidly the action ratchets upward, and before long you are gunning down mechs and gunships as attackers rappel through the windows.
Of course, the climax of the mission is the revelation that Archangel is actually Garrus. It’s not a surprising revelation, but it’s a deeply satisfying one. Of course, the mission ends with Garrus taking a rocket to the face, but it only leaves him scarred and more motivated to join your team. Archangel finds the perfect balance of nostalgia, exciting combat, and the sort of incredible forward momentum that RPGs all too often lack in their early stages. Mass Effect 2’s propulsive narrative never looks back from this terrific mission.
#4. Mass Effect 3: Priority: Tuchanka
Try to describe “Priority: Tuchanka” in one word. My choice would be “unrelenting”. This level goes for every part of the jugular. Shepard heads to the Krogan homeworld to finally put an end to the Krogan genophage, and a moment so huge in the game’s mythology gets a mission to match. Not that it simply turns the volume to 11 and leaves it there. A journey through a long-forgotten underground Krogan temple provides a nice respite from the action, and a hint of possibility that the Krogan might just succeed at revitalizing their war-torn planet.
No mission packs quite so many cinematic moments into such a short amount of time. There’s the aforementioned trip through the underground Temple. There’s a speech by Urdnot Wrex (if he survives the first game) and Eve, a female Krogan who becomes a beacon of hope for the entire species, urging the clans to finally put an end to their endless warring. There’s a desperate run through an ancient religious site as reaper Brutes descend on you in droves as you attempt to summon a titanic thresher maw. Said thresher maw kills a damned Reaper.
A giant thresher maw kills a damned Reaper!
And amazingly, that’s just when it starts getting good. The true climax of the mission involves Shepard’s decision of whether or not to end the Krogan genophage. And it’s not necessarily an easy choice. If Wrex survives ME1, he takes up leading the Krogan by ME3, and his plans call for peace with the other species once the war the with Reapers is over. It’s a no brainer to end the genophage and let the Krogan have Krogan babies again.
But if he dies in the first game, his brother Wreav- a warmonger with none of Wrex’s wisdom- is the dominant clan leader. And he plans all-out war with the other species once the genophage is cured. Additionally, Eve, another voice of wisdom and a powerful figure among the Krogan, can die during the mission. A future with Wrex and Eve leading the Krogan is a vastly different one than one with Wreav alone.
If that’s not enough to chew on, there’s also the matter of Mordin Solus. The brilliant, Gilbert and Sullivan-loving scientist Salarian was beloved fan favorite from Mass Effect 2. By Mass Effect 3, he has become guilt-ridden about the genophage, and will do anything to cure it, including heading to the top of the crumbling tower that will be its delivery system, where he will certainly die. You can try to talk him out of it, ending the hope for the genophage being cured. If you are a truly evil Shepard, you can kill him to prevent the genophage from being cured. Or you can bid him a final farewell and let him carry out the mission. It’s a lot to grapple with in a short amount of time, and the sheer variety of choices and the reach of their implications is what Mass Effect provides at its very best.
Tomorrow: #3 and #2.