WARNING: THIS NOTE CONTAINS LOTS OF MASS EFFECT NERDINESS, SPOILERS, AND FANBOYISM.
On the eve of Mass Effect 2, which I can decidedly say I am preordering, I've returned to Mass Effect 1, in one part to refresh myself on the story, and in one part to gauge the flaws and the good parts of the first game and see if the next game is really an improvement or just a continuation. As I get more in-depth with the characters than I did on my first playthrough a year and a half ago, though, I've began to recognize something. Something bad.
No, it's not the shooter controls, which feel like they're patched on.
It's not the relatively linear scale of the areas in a supposedly open-ended game.
No, it's not the forced cover mechanic.
And no, it's not the obnoxious Mako driving sections.
It's the fact that Bioware wouldn't let Shepard get his (or her) freak on with the truly interesting characters in the cast, but settled for the relatively unlikable ones.
And by "truly interesting characters in the cast," I mean "wacky space aliens.
Mass Effect gave you three basic options for the romance subplot:
Ashley Williams, an assertive, confrontational, and utterly racist human army girl, saying such gems as "I can't tell the aliens from animals," (for males),
Kaidan Alenko, a human "biotic" (read: space wizard) who cooked up a lot of drama about being superpowered and talked in this gravelly voice like he was running his throat over a belt sander, and yet somehow managed to remain completely boring and not at all masculine (for females),
and Doctor Liara T'Soni, whom I will from this point forward refer to as "Dr. Smurfette," who fit the 'innocent, naive, childish outsider' trope to a T. She was extremely quick to jump on Shepard, and often serves as an obnoxious Deus Ex Machina, interpreting Shepard's situations for him/her and ruining all the dramatic value. Although technically an alien, she was essentially a very pretty human with blue skin and tentacle hair. She can also functionally mate with anyone, which is basically a cop-out to make Shepard fuck her (for both genders).
Now let's look at the three main characters that Shepard couldn't
Urdnot Wrex, a man who comes from a proud warrior race that refuses to accept quietly that it lost its major war, despite the fact that the remaining toxin from said war has found its way into the genes of his species, slowly killing them from the inside. Although a mercenary, inside he has a heart of gold and recognizes what's truly right and wrong in the world.
Garrus Vakarian, a down-to-earth cop with a commanding personality, but not without his flaws. Impetuous and quick to anger, but also hold's Shepard's words to great worth, and strives to become a better person. He comes from a cop family, and sometimes his legacy is a matter of worry.
Tali'Zorah nar Rayya, a girl who has just reached adulthood and hence has been cast out of her ancestral home on a long pilgrimage. Her people are nomadic, but also keep very much to themselves, so for generations their immune system has atrophied, forcing her to wear a hazard suit at all times. She is keenly interested in the workings of the world, albeit at times overeager, and is quick to confide her concerns in Shepard.
Now, do the last three characters seem far, far
more likable than the first three? I thought so. There's only one wee little problem.
Wrex is a reptilian, cold-blooded biped, something like a giant space toad with a camel-hump.
Garrus is an avian humanoid, functionally a tall, thin dinosaur-man.
Tali is mammalian, but resembles something considerably more kangaroo-like than a human. She also has hips that would make Butch Hartman cry.
But, frankly, I don't see their species as an excuse.
Now, I know you'll be screaming, "But, Liam! The uncanny valley effect would make it inherently unnerving to have a romantic relationship with anything that isn't of our own species! This is not to mention that Garrus and Tali are dextro-amino-acid-based, and thus have inherently incompatible metabolisms and biological processes to humans! And Wrex is a lizard! His species probably lay eggs!"
Yet more of you are going "Ew, you would fuck an alien?"
To you I have an assortment of answers, in no particular order.
-Romance doesn't have to involve the literal, biological act of mating; it's more of a mindset. I only used "wacky alien sex" for the sake of humor.
-The uncanny valley doesn't stop people from committing necrophilia and bestiality, although that's a terrible analogy.
-No, I would not personally want to fuck an alien. However, for the sake of the story that Bioware is conceiving here, I would much rather hook Shepard up with a real alien rather than one of two unlikable humans and a blue-skinned space chick who happens to be entirely compatible with Shepard in every way.
-Wrex, I may be willing to drop as a romantic interest. Because he's grotesque. I mean, like, really. Not to mention he's a lizard.
I see no good reason to not include Garrus and Tali as viable romantic interests in Mass Effect 2, however. Well, Tali (because she's returning in the sequel) and whoever replaces Garrus, that is. I'm assuming Thane, the fish-dude assassin, is probably Garrus' de facto replacement.
If you need a biological excuse rather than "for drama," Quarians (Tali's species) are mammalian humanoids, and thus would be at least somewhat familiar to the (human) Shepard. Over the course of the series, Turians (Garrus' species) have expressed clear sexual interest in both Asari (Dr. Smurfette's species) and Quarians, and at least in one case it isn't considered (in-world) to be a deviancy, making a jump to humans, another warm-blooded mammal, not that unlikely. And, all this considered, it's still sci-fi. The writers can literally make whatever they want happen.
And frankly, they should have given Shepard the chance to get romantically entangled with the likable characters. From a story standpoint, I'd take the legitimately masculine, problem-solving bird over the whiny, obnoxious dude any day. Likewise, I'd take the bubbly, intriguing foreign kangaroo over the racist bitch with a gun or the damsel-in-distress Smurfette (hilariously, Bioware failed both at the "assertive" and the "submissive" woman, when you look at it) in a heartbeat, even though the latter two were basically human.
So here's hoping for some wacky alien sex.
Shepard's earned it. read