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Thread: Taking Commander Shepard to the Super Bowl [Mass Effect AAR]

  1. ISO #1
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    Jul 2015

    Taking Commander Shepard to the Super Bowl [Mass Effect AAR]

    The Mass Effect trilogy are my favorite video games, and what better way to spice up a new playthrough than writing about it on an internet forum to amuse myself (and possibly others)?

    On my homesite, outside of the mafia forum one of my favorite things were video game After Action Reports (AAR). They've gone by the wayside with the advent of Twitch and Let's Plays, but the basic gist is someone on the forum plays through a game and shares screencaps and commentary to anyone who wants to follow along.
    For the uninitiated, Mass Effect is the first game in BioWare's Mass Effect series () of sci-fi RPGs, featuring third-person shooter combat. I will play Commander Shepard, a human military officer in a galaxy full of aliens and robots and chest-high walls. The games have a particular focus on interpersonal relationships and moral choices that ostensibly reverberate throughout the series. In theory, I would like to do a playthrough of the whole trilogy for this... we'll see if I have the energy for that. I don't hate Andromeda, but I don't think it would make for a particularly interesting AAR, and it's really long and I have no particular desire to replay it.

    From the Mass Effect wiki, here's an introduction to the world.

    The game is set in the year 2183 CE, 35 years after humans discovered the ruins of an ancient spacefaring race called the Protheans on Mars. With the technology from these ruins, humanity learned the secrets of mass effect physics and element zero, unlocking faster-than-light travel. Humans also discovered the mass relay network that threaded the galaxy, permitting instantaneous passage across thousands of light-years. Humanity began its journey among the stars, encountering various alien races and establishing itself on the galactic stage.
    In the interest of keeping my sanity and ability to actually deliver updates, I will be skimming over or outright skipping a good chunk of what I do in the game. I'm sorry, but I simply can't take notes/screenshots/etc. on every conversation or event in the game, I have to draw the line somewhere. It should still be an entertaining and fully coherent ride, but if you want the full experience - you'll need to play the games (and you should, they're great!). Also, this AAR will obviously spoil a lot of the content in the games, so fair warning if you do intend on playing them.

    If for some reason you want the code for my Shepard's specific face, here it is:

    Good. You opened this message. This isn't actually Shepard's face code.

    [That joke only makes sense if you've played Mass Effect 3.]

    Here's the face code.


  2. ISO #2
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    The adventures of Commander Shepard.

    Eden Prime and the Citadel

    1. Hello, I'm Commander Shepard
    2. Eden Prime
    3. The Citadel
    Last edited by Zack; November 21st, 2023 at 11:51 PM.

  3. ISO #3
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    Hello, I'm Commander Shepard

    I normally play a male Shepard, but I decided to go with the classic setup for this run. Female Shepard, mostly a Paragon (i.e. good, nice, classically heroic) though not necessarily always, and the Vanguard class (Jedi flying around with a shotgun, essentially - it's awesome, though mostly in the second and especially third game).

    For the crucial decision of what my first name that will never ever be used or referenced by anyone, I go with the obvious choice: Girlboss Shepard. My hair will be a pinkish-purple (or a purplish-pink).

    Okay, time to construct a background.




    (For the uninitiated, biotics are basically space magic - it's like the Force but purple*.)

    *If that confuses you, it might help to think of it as like the Force but blue.

    Shepard created, now it's time for some opening cinematics.

    Thank $%#! I got a window seat.


    Now that the faceless old men are finished mysteriously discussing me as a figure of importance, we're blessed with a slick exposition dump.

    The civilizations of the galaxy call it... Meat lump.

    Oh, that's what the title means!

    Pan the camera to a bunch of blue $%#!, also known as a Mass Relay. (It's basically a magic jumpgate portal for spaceships to travel long distances, except it's totally scientific and not magic, how dare you.)

    Pictured above: science.

    Pan to the cockpit of the SSV Normandy, where we briefly hear from the Turian Spectre, Nihlus, before he yeets out of there. (You might be asking: what the $%#! is a Turian? Or a spectre? Are you using the royal we? Hold that thought. The thoughts about Turian and Spectre, I mean.) We proceed to engage in chummy banter with the pilot, Joker, and Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, who for some reason is implied to be a co-pilot in this scene, even though this will never happen again or be acknowledged in any capacity. Captain Anderson (one of the ethereal voices from earlier, if you recall) requests Commander Shepard's presence in the comm room, and that's that.

    On the way, we overhear Navigator Pressly's skype call with Engineer Adams voicing his distrust of Nihlus and his suspicions there's more to this mission than we've been told.

    Look, I'm not being racist, I'm just saying I'm a little unueasy at the presence of the shadowy government agent (Spectre) from a race of fascist bird-people who started a war with humans as our first contact with aliens less than 30 years ago (Turians). But also, I am being a little racist.

    After that, we stop by a new recruit and the ship's doctor. Corporal Jenkins is eager for some action, while Doctor Chakwas preaches caution.

    This is NOT a Mexican standoff.

    Jenkins' abs are so powerful and yoked that his six pack is practically bursting through the fabric of his fatigues. Combined with the cargo pants, I do believe we are in the presence of a bona fide alpha male. Regardless, we tell him to hit the bricks kid. Jenkins nerds out about how cool Spectres are, which Chakwas describes as "a shadow organization with a mandate to preserve and protect galactic stability." I'm sure that never causes more problems than it solves.

    We finally make it to the comm room, where Nihlus awaits.

    I hope he's not about to ask for my number.

    He prattles on about whether humanity is ready to prove its mettle on the galactic stage or whatever until Captain Anderson arrives.

    Turns out, we're making a covert pick-up on Eden Prime, one of humanity's fledgling colonies. A research team unearthed a Prothean* beacon, and our job is to pick it up and bring it back to the Citadel** for study and science and stuff. Anderson talks about how great it would be to have a human Spectre, which neatly segues into Nihlus revealing that he's here after he put our name forward as a candidate for the Specters, and he's here to evaluate us.

    *Protheans are the precursor civilization from 50,000 years ago that was super advanced and built the Citadel and mass relays, and whose ruins on Mars jumpstarted humans onto the galactic scene; their technology is the basis for everything in the galaxy worth beans, basically.

    **The Citadel is the capital of the Citadel Council, the governing body of most of civilized space in the galaxy. It was built by the Protheans long ago.

    Above: Nihlus solves racism.

    Joker interrupts our meeting of the minds to inform us that $%#!'s gone crazy on Eden Prime. There's a garbled transmission of Alliance soldiers under attack...

    This movie sucks. I can't follow the plot at all and the cinematography is amateurish at best.

    ...and a big strange ship thing that's ominous as $%#!.

    Anderson sends a strike team of us/Alenko/Jenkins to secure the beacon; Nihlus will go on his own ahead to scout or something.

    NEXT: Eden Prime

  4. ISO #4
    Low Hanging Fruit LordQuas's Avatar Game Manager
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    Formerly Seattle
    always enjoy a zack aar

  5. ISO #5
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    Eden Prime

    In 2148, humanity discovered the remnants of advanced technology left behind by an ancient spacefaring civilization, the Protheans, hidden on Mars. This quickly led to the discovery that one of Pluto's moons, Charon, was in fact a mass relay: part of a massive network built by the Protheans, enabling instantaneous travel between the stars. Humanity starts to survey and colonize systems outside of Sol (Earth's sun), and forms the Systems Alliance to serve as the representative body of the nations of Earth on the galactic stage.

    In 2152, a beautiful garden world dubbed Eden Prime is one of the first extra-solar human colonies.

    In 2154, Shepard is born (that's me!).

    In 2157, the Alliance makes first contact with aliens: the turians, a race of bipedal avians famed for their militaristic culture. The turians are one of the three races with a seat on the Citadel Council, the preeminent governing body in the Milky Way. Turian ships observe human explorers trying to activate a dormant mass relay - which, unbeknownst to them, is forbidden by galactic law - and open fire. Depending on your point of view, these are either the opening salvos of the First Contact War or the "Relay 313 Incident". Before long, the turians besiege and occupy the human colony of Shanxi as both sides prepare to escalate the conflict into full-scale war. Thankfully, the Council intervenes and brokers peace, then introduces humanity to the wider galactic community.

    The year is now 2183. Humans and turians still don't exactly love each other. Humans view turians as aggressive assholes who have it out for them; turians view humans as aggressive jumpstarts with much to learn. A turian and Council Spectre named Nihlus visits a new state-of-the-art Alliance frigate on its shakedown run, his purpose obscure. The reactions from the human crew range from suspicion to awe to indifference.

    Nihlus and the Normandy's decorated captain, David Anderson, explain to Commander Shepard this is no simple shakedown run. The Normandy is on a covert mission to retrieve a recently discovered piece of Prothean technology; further, Nihlus is here to evaluate Shepard for her candidacy to join the Spectres as the first human in their ranks. In the midst of this discussion, the mission parameters suddenly shift - Eden Prime is under attack by an unknown force, featuring a large ship of mysterious design. Nihlus and a strike team led by Shepard head down to Eden Prime to navigate the chaos and locate the Prothean beacon, hopefully still intact.

    After we touch down on Eden Prime, our first order of business is to assemble the squad for a selfie.

    Left to right: Richard L. Jenkins, Girlboss Shepard, Kaidan Alenko

    Second order of business: murder harmless native wildlife for no reason at all.

    Cue joke that Zack is also a harmless gas bag.

    Third order of business: take care of a few wayward drones that should be easy pickings for our elite swag squad. Jenkins promptly sprints out of cover with no apparent plan, gets lit the $%#! up, and dies.


    The 'L' stood for 'Leeroy'.

    After dispatching more drones, we come across a robot impaling a colonist on a huge spike. Not great!

    Fair warning, this might tickle a bit.

    After spotting us, the robots turn hostile and we teach them some manners down the barrels of our space guns. Shortly after, we spot a soldier in fashion-forward armor fighting off more robots. So far, the data suggests these robots are probably of the evil variety. Together we pew pew the evil robots, and the soldier introduces herself as Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams.

    Well, it certainly isn't Jenkins in charge.

    Williams explains that her squad was ambushed by the Geth and she's the only survivor. (Geth are robots who rebelled against their creators and then flew into isolation over 200 years ago, and haven't been seen since.) We agree to team up for the time being, and she shows us the way to the beacon dig site, which of course is swarming with geth. Ruh roh. After dispensing with the pleasantries, we take a look at the dig site and the lack of a beacon. Also, this.

    [potentially disturbing image]

    That doesn't seem good.

    Welp, the dig site's a bust. Lettuce check out the research camp and see if we can find any survivors who know what's what. As we strategically shuffle our way over, we discover the purpose of the spikes from [potentially disturbing image] earlier:

    Ooooh! It's for robot zombies!

    The robot zombies are called 'husks' (from the Latin for robot zombie, probably) and attack us in mindless waves. We mow them down with ruthless military efficiency and proceed to the research camp. Upon our arrival, we play a frogger minigame to unlock a secured door, as one does. Inside are two researchers who display remarkable calm at someone barging into their hideout after their camp was wiped out by killer robots.

    Ah crap, you blinked!

    More accurately, one of them was calm. The other was... not.

    Look man, your hairline receding isn't the end of the world.

    There's also an opportunity to be a huge asshole and punch him in the face, if you so desire.

    Dr. Warren informs us that the beacon was moved to the spaceport, and we head that way. Nihlus radios to let us know he's headed there too and we'll meet up once we arrive.

    Cut to Nihlus at the spaceport, where he runs across his old pal Saren. Nihlus gives a friendly hello to his colleague, despite his almost comically villainous appearance, then naively turns his back...

    Above: friendship.

    Our squad arrives at the spaceport, and we're treated to a view of the weird ship thing ascending to the heavens. It's huge.


    We clean up some geth and husks crawling around the spaceport, then find Nihlus' corpse at the spaceport.

    There's a guy hiding behind some crates nearby who witnessed a turian kill another turian. [He explains that he survived the robot attack because he was napping behind the crates during his shift: a win for both nap enjoyers and the ongoing war against our capitalist oppressors.] He also says that bigass "mother ship" came down and dropped all the geth on the colony, who proceeded to massacre everyone. The ship also had this strange effect that felt like it was trying to dig into your brain or some $%#!. That, uh, sounds bad.

    Our herioc crew fights our way through hordes of geth to get the beacon, as we're treated to a cutscene of Saren mindmelding with it.

    The beacon also causes him to levitate.

    By the time we arrive, he's long gone. Kaidan wanders a little too close to the beacon and starts to get sucked in, so I (Girlboss Shepard) run over to grab him and fling him out of danger. Unfortunately, this means now I'm the one getting sucked in. I mindmeld (and levitate) with the ancient Prothean artificat, have nightmarish visions flash by at incomprehensible speeds, then collapse as the beacon blows up.

    Destroy the ancient Prothean technology the Citadel was desperate to study, that our sole mission was to protect and retrieve intact: check.

    The camera cuts to the big ol' mother ship thingy. Saren throws an incredibly childish tantrum after his alien lady associate informs him we saved the colony and accessed the beacon's secrets.

    Above: a terrifying mastermind and elite government operative.

    After that doozy of a mission, I wake up in the med bay - Kaidan and Dr. Chakwas are there to greet me. According to the fine doctor, I'm fine physically, although there was some abnormal brain activity while knocked out... I explain this was probably the disturbing visions I saw while unconscious, while everyone else nods sagely and takes a subtle step backwards.

    Captain Anderson shows up and requests a private word with me. He lets us know that Gunnery Chief Williams has officially been re-assigned to the Normandy as a permanent member of our swag squad. Anderson proceeds to warn us that the Citadel Council is prooooobably gonna be pissed that the beacon's $%#!ed, and they'll definitely be demanding answers. (Fortunately, as far as Anderson is concerned, we're big damn heroes who saved Eden Prime.) He further reveals that he knows Saren - a Spectre gone rogue who hates humans.

    I elaborate a bit on my visions: as far as I can tell, the basic gist was of synthetics slaughtering people en masse ('synthetic' is Mass Effect lingo for artificial lifeforms like the geth, i.e. robots/sentient AI/etc.). Nothing to worry about, I'm sure a horrifying vision of mass slaughter as a storytelling device is no cause for alarm.

    Our new mission: we must convince the Council that Saren is a traitor and needs to be taken down. Simple, right?

    NEXT: It wasn't simple.

  6. ISO #6
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    I had already played and prepared a bit before starting the thread, but going forward there will likely be around 1-2 updates per week

    Still working out the optimal ratio of what to translate from gameplay to the actual updates, and hopefully as I figure that out I'll be more efficient

  7. ISO #7
    Wants It More YOLOSWAG's Avatar
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    Jul 2015
    Guess who's off later this week on holiday and is going to read every word of this thread?

    I'm locked in for this adventure
    Quote Originally Posted by Chelsea (#735)
    The fact I am in harmony with YOLO the most out of everyone here leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Fate is a cruel mistress.
    jumpluff - Last Tuesday at 11:55 PM
    i never saw killthestory play
    i think i have seen yolo villa once also
    i dont have any meta on them i can only rea off your meta + their posting was what i meant
    Prada - Last Tuesday at 11:56 PM
    a lot of $%#!posting and really weird play in situations to clear himself by playing against the ideal play of lynches
    Quote Originally Posted by Secondhand Revenant
    In this world it's yeet or be yeeted
    Quote Originally Posted by moth (#476)
    Yolo is usually pretty lazy and then he catches scum and hes like that kid who won bingo one time and he still talks about it 11 years later

  8. ISO #8
    Zack's Avatar Game Manager
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    The Citadel

    Previously: Went to Eden Prime, $%#!'s $%#!ed with killer robots and rogue Spectre Saren, have disturbing visions and wake up in the med bay. We must convince the Council that Saren is a traitor and needs to be taken down.

    Outside the med bay, I chum it up with the crew, and we all express our sorrow over losing Jenkins.

    A little white lie never hurt anyone.

    After some pleasant small talk, we head to the cockpit and tell Joker to take this puppy to the Citadel (see the picture at the top of this post).

    Anderson, Kaidan, Ashley, and I head over to the Presidium (i.e. the classy part of the Citadel) to the human ambassador's office. We chill and admire the scenery while Ambassador Udina pleads our case to three holograms from the Citadel Council.

    The Council seems generally uninterested in playing ball, but they do promise a hearing for us to fully make our case against Saren. And here I thought for sure these bureaucrats would be eager to take down one of their top agents.

    Right after passionately arguing our case to the Council, Udina turns around and admonishes us for $%#!ing up on Eden Prime and making his job hard. I'm too distracted by his metallic lips to get mad at this dressing down.

    If I could sum up Donnel Udina, it would be with this gif:

    Udina and Anderson head off to the Citadel Tower for the official hearing with the Council, and tell us to meet up with them there in a bit. Before long, Ashley makes some off-color remarks.

    Kaidan's definitely pretending he didn't hear that one.

    We take this opportunity to poke our heads in the office next door, the embassy for the elcor and volus.

    The huge guys are elcor. The small guy is a volus.

    The volus ambassador bitterly points out the elcor and volus have to share an office while humans get their own. This is only more insulting when you consider the elcor and volus have both been part of the galactic community for hundreds of years, and humans only just arrived on the scene. The dude is whiny and annoying, but he's got a point.

    I chat with the volus and elcor ambassadors about their races' histories and cultures: essentially, the elcor are big chill dudes, and the volus are ruthless capitalists. The elcor's speech sounds like a flat monotone to other species, so they always clarify their emotional context before talking. I can assure you, hearing a huge pile of muscle describe his "genuine enthusiasm" in a ponderous monotone is very amusing.

    After that, there's a blue (or is it purple?) virtual intelligence outside offering directions. [In Mass Effect, there's an important distinction between AI (artificial intelligence) and VI (virtual intelligence). An AI is fully self-aware and sentient, while a VI isn't. VIs are common, but AIs are generally illegal in Council space, or at least greatly frowned upon.)

    Which way is Burger King?

    I graciously decline their guidance in honor of the noble human tradition of winging it, and our squad takes a space taxi over to the citadel tower. Upon our arrival, we see two turians arguing with each other.

    Judicious eavesdropping indicates they're Citadel Security (read: cops) arguing about the C-Sec investigation into Saren. After his boss leaves, the other turian turns to us and introduces himself as Garrus, a C-Sec officer eager to bring Saren to justice.

    ...And vents at the difficulties involved with an investigation into a Council Spectre.

    Garrus expresses frustration at the difficulties of trying to make progress in his investigation, and wishes us good luck with our hearing. We're gonna need it!

    Anderon is waiting for us up ahead, and together we walk up to our hearing with the Council.

    Off to a great start. [Also, from left to right: the turian, asari, and salarian Council representatives.]

    Saren chimes in from Space Zoom to defend his good name.

    Saren makes some cutting remarks about me and Captain Anderson. Before long, he's going off on an unhinged rant against humanity at large.

    Definitely not evil.

    The council considers the evidence against Saren as insufficient, and the turian councilor in particular is dismissive and unreceptive to our arguments. As a desperation play, Anderson brings up my vision from the beacon, and honestly I can't fault Saren for his response here.

    The Council makes its decision.

    After, back in Udina's office, we learn that Anderson and Saren have a personal history and mutual hatred. Neat! Anderson recalls working on a mission with Saren twenty years ago, and paints him as a psychopath who revels in violence with no regard for collateral damage. And, yeah, that tracks. On that note, Saren seems like the absolute worst person to be a Spectre with all the privilege that entails.

    While contemplating our next step, Kaidan and Ashley bring up Garrus, the turian cop. It seemed like he may have been on to something with Saren, which makes him as good a place as any to start collecting evidence against Saren. Udina suggests talking to a human C-Sec officer named Harkin to find Garrus, but Anderson turns his nose up at that - Harkin is a dirty cop and an alcoholic. If we *really* want to talk to Harkin, he's probably at a dive bar in the Lower Wards (i.e. not the classy part of the Citadel) getting wasted, but Anderson suggests an alternative option: a volus information broker.

    Now there's an honorable profession.

    The Shadow Broker is an information dealer reflecting the seedy underbelly of galactic politics: through various underhanded means, they collect and sell valuable information to the highest bidder. Next to nothing is known about their identity, if it even is one person. I wonder what we'd need to give up to deal with one of their representatives.

    NEXT: Politics is a dirty business.

  9. ISO #9
    Low Hanging Fruit LordQuas's Avatar Game Manager
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    Formerly Seattle

    finally reading the latest post after a few days like

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