The Mass Effect series has fallen on hard times with the release of Andromeda, but the original Mass Effect trilogy is still considered one of the most engrossing series of games ever made. For the handful of readers who haven’t heard about the Mass Effect games, it is a third-person, cover-based, shooter set in the somewhat near future. The player controls Commander Shepard as he and his crew try to restore peace and order to the galaxy.
What sets this series apart from most is the ability to decide not only the direction the main over-arching story will take, but also what kind of person Shepard will be. Will you make good and lawful decisions and the path to being a Paragon; or will you do whatever it takes to get the job done and become a Renegade? Some of these decisions have side-effects that are felt throughout the trilogy and limit or expand on the decisions that come later. Here is a list of the ten most difficult decisions you have to make in Mass Effect. Before you continue reading be aware that there will be spoilers ahead.
10 Commander Shepard
The first set of difficult decisions in Mass Effect is presented before the game even truly starts. You get to decide what your Commander Shepard will be like; this includes choosing whether Shepard will be male or female, where and how they grew up, what character class they are, and their psychological profile. Each of these choices will affect the game in some way.
Want to be a soldier? Then this will almost certainly affect your choice of squad members on a mission. Each of the three choices for Shepard’s back-story will make certain missions available. Your choice of psychological profile will also affect what dialogue is available during conversations. This might be the toughest decision in the game.
9 Conrad Verner
You first meet Conrad on the Citadel in Mass Effect 1. He is a huge fan of Commander Shepard and asks for an autograph and photo. Then Conrad starts to get weird and asks if he can become a member of Shepard’s crew. The player has the choice of letting Conrad down easy, or showing him how dangerous being a Spectre can be.
The decision you make here actually has effects that show up in both Mass Effect 2 and 3. The wrong decisions regarding Conrad can actually lead to his death. If you make the right decisions, Conrad can actually help Shepard out quite a bit in Mass Effect 3.
8 Spare The Rachni Queen Or Not
The Rachni are large intelligent insects with vessels that are capable of interstellar travel. In the history of the Mass Effect universe, there was a war between the member species of the Citadel Council and the Rachni. By the end of the war, the Rachni had been wiped out and were thought to be extinct.
However, during the game Commander Shepard encounters a Rachni Queen and has to decide what to do. Do you potentially wipe out the last of a species and single-handedly cause a species’ extinction? Or will you spare the queen and hope for the best? Your decision here will have an effect later in the series.
7 Ashley Or Kaiden?
Just when you were starting to get to know your crew members Ashley and Kaiden the "Virmire: Assault" mission arrives. In this mission, you are attacking Saren’s base, and the only way to completely destroy the base it to plant a bomb at a strategic location. Ashley and Kaiden are both put in a certain death situation, and Shepard is suddenly faced with a Kobayashi Maru type scenario.
Commander Shepard can only save one of them, and the choice is given to the player. Obviously, this decision has a huge effect – you are permanently losing a crew member. There is no right answer, and your choice will always carry a little bit of doubt and regret.
6 Zhu’s Hope
When Shepard visits the Zhu’s Hope colony on Feros she/he eventually has to deal with the Thorian. The Thorian is a sentient plant with the ability to control other beings. Using this ability the Thorian has taken over the Zhu’s Hope colony. The Thorian forces the colonists to attack Shepard’s squad after deciding they can’t be allowed to live.
To get to the Thorian, Shepard must go through the mind-controlled colonists. It is at this point you have the option of using non-lethal grenades or conventional weapons. The fight is much easier when using lethal force. Will you have Shepard fire on the colonists to make his task easier; or will you use the grenades to subdue the colonists?
5 Save The Council Or Not
When Saren attacks the Citadel at the end of the game, the Council members are evacuated. The Council’s ship comes under heavy fire during the evacuation and won’t survive without assistance. The player is given the choice of letting the Council die or sending the Alliance fleet to help with the evacuation.
The Council was never very helpful to Shepard throughout the game, and their opinion of humanity is not very flattering. Is that enough to condemn them to death though? If you help the Council the Alliance fleet will suffer heavy losses, but will show the Council that humanity is worthy of a spot on the Council. If you don’t save the Council the Alliance fleet is able to provide support against Sovereign.
4 Rana Thanoptis
During the attack on Saren’s base on Virmire Shepard’s squad encounters an asari named Rana Thanoptis hiding under a desk. Rana is a scientist hired by Saren to study the “indoctrination” effect the Reapers have over living beings. The player is given the choice of letting Rana run for her life or shooting her for aiding Saren.
If the player spares Rana she can be encountered in Mass Effect 2, where she will give Shepard some useful information. If she is allowed to flee a second time it elicits some rather snide comments from your squad-mates. There is also a reference to her in Mass Effect 3 having finally succumbed to the Reaper’s brain-washing if she is allowed to run away.
3 Rescue Balak’s Hostages Or Let them Die
In the DLC titled "Bring Down the Sky" for Mass Effect 1 the player must rescue an inhabited planet from an asteroid impact. During the course of the rescue Shepard learns that a batarian terrorist named Balak is behind the attack. When confronted by Shepard, Balak forces the choice between capturing him or rescuing the hostages. If the player chooses to pursue Balak he detonates the explosives planted on the hostages.
If you let Balak go he will likely continue to terrorize human settlements. You can’t stop Balak and rescue the hostages. There aren’t really any effects to the events in the sequels regardless of your decision. If you do allow Balak to get away he can be encountered in Mass Effect 3.
2 Who Will Represent Humanity On The Citadel Council
After the final battle with Saren, humanity is allowed to have a representative on the Council. Because of Shepard’s actions, he/she is asked to recommend someone to serve on the Council to represent humanity. There are only two people the player can recommend: Captain Anderson or Ambassador Udina. Most players picked Anderson due to his friendly relationship with Shepard. Udina, on the other hand, seems like more of an antagonist to Shepard than an ally.
One would also think that having a military commander as humanity's representative is the smart choice considering how much conflict the Citadel seems to attract. This is a political position though, so maybe Udina is the better choice. This decision, while difficult, has surprisingly little effect later in the series.
1 To Romance, Or Not To Romance
One of the things players can do in the Mass Effect series is start a romance with one of the other characters. First, the decision must be made as to whether you want to have Shepard get romantically involved with one of the crew at all. Should you make that choice, the next decision is who you think is the best match for Shepard. The romance aspect is an interesting inclusion that really helps to draw the player into the game.
The decision must not be made lightly though; the choice in partner can make future decisions much harder. Of course, it can also make future decisions easier too. If you’re romantically involved with Ashley, then the choice between saving Ashley or Kaiden is suddenly not so difficult - and vice-versa.