Warning: This is a wall of text with massive spoilers to anyone who hasn't played through the entirety of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The following is a post that I began doing the groundwork for in March of 2011, following the release of Mass Effect 2's "Arrival" DLC. I drew a great deal of information from a thread on the Bioware Mass Effect forums, entitled The Worst Possible Playthrough Import Guide for ME3, so if this is an experiment that you'd like to replicate, I highly suggest reading through the (exhaustive) resources provided therein. The idea at the time was to create the worst possible opening scenario in which to begin playing Mass Effect 3, hopefully ensuring what would eventually be the worst possible configuration of decisions spanning all three titles. I finished these Worst Case Renegade runs in late February of 2012, mere weeks away from the launch of the trilogy's final chapter. Having played through a majority of Mass Effect 3 at this point, and having seen a majority of the affected decision trees and outcomes, I've realized that while the decisions made for Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 were certainly terrible, there are different choices that can be made to ensure far more terrible outcomes in Mass Effect 3. This means that in order to do this properly, I'm going to have to completely restart the entire three game run. The leg work that went into this, however, was extremely informative, and I would still like to share the results with friends who have expressed an interest in how it had gone up until Mass Effect 3's release. For the purposes of personal posterity and reference, here is the original article in its entirety.
I love the Mass Effect series; when the first game was released, I went out of my way to power through to max my Infiltrator out at level 60, and before Mass Effect 2 was released I powered through it again to do every single possible mission and have a complete Paragon run. After Mass Effect 2 was released, I followed the same idea, making sure to have an ideal Paragon run with every possible crew member surviving while maintaining Shepard's romantic relationship with Liara from the first game.
When Mass Effect 3 was announced, Bioware also gave an idea of the sheer number of variables that would be taken into account between the first two games, and I realized that I'd theoretically played half the game, and that's not even taking into account the prospect of playing other classes. With perfect Paragon runs completed, I figured I should start back at the first in the series and make a Renegade of Shepard.
But with the possibility of losing crew members at the end of Mass Effect 2, it dawned on me that it wouldn't be enough to just make my Shepard a simple Renegade. There are a lot of things that you can get away with screwing up, and really, why wouldn't I try to screw up as much as possible? With Mass Effect 3 lurking in the distance, the time had come to make Shepard into a perfect asshole.
I've included my own observations and thoughts about the run following the full list. I found that despite my best efforts, I still could have done a much worse job if I'd known in advance exactly which early decisions influenced later ones; this even spills over into decisions made between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, where even worse Renegade decisions were denied me based on decisions made in the first game. Those mistakes are also noted below with their corresponding assignments.
So for those interested, here are all the things I did and didn't do, and the terrible and not-as-terrible decisions I made on the way, about as close to being in order as I can muster. All opportunities for Renegade dialog choices in general conversation were taken, and this run was done with a level 60 Infiltrator with maxed out Charm and Intimidate stats.
Mass Effect 1 Completed Missions and Assignments
Prologue: Find the Beacon ●I was cruel to Ashley in every conversation had on Eden Prime. Once you've woken up after the mission, you're given the option to say something either nice or terrible to her (or Kaiden if you're playing Shepard as female), which acts as the opening move in a possible romantic relationship. Obviously, we never made it beyond that step, and I never spoke with her again outside of post-mission debriefing. Romance avoided.
Citadel: Garrus ●Approved of all of Garrus' cowboy antics with no regard for anyone else's safety.
Citadel: Wrex ●Took Wrex along to get information from Fist, approved when Wrex killed Fist.
Citadel: Expose Saren Citadel: Scan the Keepers ●I didn't know this at the time, but apparently if you ignore Chorban when you first see him, you have the option to kill him later. A missed opportunity on my part; talked to him immediately, gained and completed this assignment.
Citadel: Presidium Prophet ●Intimidated the C-Sec Officer, allowing the hannar to stay and preach.
Citadel: Reporter's Request ●Made specifically sure to be a jerk to Emily Wong before attacking Fist, then intimidated her for extra money before giving her Fist's OSD.
Citadel: Signal Tracking Citadel: Rita's Sister is Safe ●Instead of helping Chellick, I berated him to make him release Jenna from her position as an informant, then "helped" him anyway.
●Killed Jax despite being told by Chellick to just buy arms from him and report back.
Ctiadel: Jahleed and Chorban ●Having already talked to Chorban in Citadel Tower and accepted the Scan the Keepers assignment, I wasn't given the option to turn him in or kill him. Instead, the two made up, and I got them their keeper data.
Citadel: Schells' Scanner Given Away ●Just because it was funnier than helping him cheat.
Citadel: Xeltan Convinced ●Sure, completing this was automatically a nice thing to do, but saying "Whatever" at the end of the conversation negates Paragon points.
Citadel: Asari Consort ●Intimidated Septimus to get him to man up.
●Completed "Xeltan Convinced" before completing this assignment to collect the Trinket.
●Expressed dissatisfaction with the "gift of words" to collect the sex.
Citadel: Homecoming ●Intimidated Samesh Bhatia to allow him to leave the body of his wife, Nirali, with the Alliance for research purposes.
Citadel: Doctor Michel is Safe ●Trash-talked Banes' krogan representative to get him to back off.
Find Liara T'Soni ●If I really wanted to be terrible, I would have left recruiting Liara as the last task before going to Virmire. Didn't even think about it until I already had her; if you haven't tried it, you should, because it's hilarious.
●Recruited immediately after leaving the Citadel.
●Chatted her up until she expressed an interest in Shepard before dashing her hopes on the rocks and telling her to leave Shepard alone. Romance avoided.
UNC: Distress Call UNC: Missing Marines UNC: Privateers UNC: Missing Survey Team UNC: Rouge VI
Citadel: Snap Inspection ●This assignment doesn't appear in the journal once it's completed! You get an equal number of Renegade points whether you, A: let Mikhailovich inspect the Normandy and choose Intimidate responses to his remarks, or B: flat out refuse to let him make the inspection. I opted for flat out refusal.
Citadel: The Fourth Estate ●You can get a fair chunk of Renegade points for using Intimidate responses to Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani's questions, but come on, seriously? I will punch her in the face every single time.
Citadel: Old Friends ●Special assignment specifically for players who choose the Earthborn background. It would have made a lot of sense to side with my old gang member Finch to release one of his friends, but really, he was blackmailing me, and that's a problem. I took the Paragon points for tipping off the guard in exchange for the opportunity to kill Finch when he found out I'd betrayed him.
Citadel: Planting a Bug ●Lied to Emily Wong about planting the bug.
Citadel: Family Matter ●Intimidated Michael into letting Rebekah make the choice about in utero gene therapy.
Citadel: The Fan ●There's a pretty hilarious glitch relating to Mass Effect 2 here; if you follow the conversation branches all the way through, regardless of whether you Charm or Intimidate Conrad Verner into leaving you alone, there's a flagging error on the decision that causes him to show up in ME2 as though you had used the Intimidate option. On my second visit with him, I was nothing but rude with him and killed his hero worship right then and there, resulting in no ME2 appearance at all. I would have rather gone all the way through to the Intimidate option, because if you're continually mean to Conrad in ME2, he is eventually killed by his own delusions of grandeur. This is the point in case example of how being a jerk in the first game can prevent you from being an even bigger jerk in the second.
UNC: Asari Diplomacy ●Opted not to Intimidate Nassana afterwards to reap Renegade points instead of the Armali License.
UNC: Hostile Takeover ●Killed Helena Blake's competition, Intimidated her to convince her to disband her gang, threatened to arrest her anyway, and killed her when she refused to go quietly.
UNC: Hostage ●Intimidated the L2 terrorists to convince them to release Burns; would have rather sacrificed the Renegade points and simply attacked, resulting in the deaths of the L2s and Burns, thus eliminating the possibility of reparations for other L2 Biotics.
UNC: Cerberus UNC: Hades' Dogs ●Sold the Cerberus information to the Shadow Broker agent. A fat lot of good that did me.
UNC: Dead Scientists ●Had sufficient Intimidate skill to kill the scientist myself instead of letting Corporal Toombs do it.
●Had no idea that Toombs could potentially kill the scientist and himself, otherwise I would have let that happen.
UNC: Geth Incursions Tali's pilgrimage ●You don't have to do this if you don't find the geth data in the assignment "Geth Incursions." I picked up the data specifically so that I could refuse when Tali asked for a copy of it.
UNC: Espionage Probe UNC: Major Kyle ●Intimidated Major Kyle to surrender.
●Refused to give Major Kyle an hour to prepare for his surrender.
●Killed Major Kyle and all of his "children."
UNC: Lost Freighter ●Cut Jacob's life support.
UNC: Lost Module ●Killed the space monkeys instead of searching them for the data module.
Feros: Varren Meat Feros: Water Restoration Feros: Power Cells ●What's interesting about the three above listed assignments is that simply talking to the colonists puts them in your journal, and once they reach a point where they can no longer be completed they are listed as "Complete." So these are listed in my journal, complete on the grounds that they can't possibly be done. Completing them would have been pointless given that…well, it's just unnecessary, really, for reasons found under "Feros: Colony Gone."
Feros: Data Recovery Feros: Colony Gone ●Killed Ethan Jeong, every last one of the colonists at Zhu's hope, and -- once she'd given Shepard the Cipher -- the asari Shiala. In short, utterly wiped out the whole of the colony.
UNC: ExoGeni Facility ●Threatened Doctor Ross after her attempted bribe, resulting in her death and the deaths of her scientists and mercenaries.
UNC: Colony of the Dead UNC: Derelict Freighter Garrus: Dr. Saleon is Dead ●Talked to Garrus only enough to squeeze this assignment out of him. Much like Tali, I only picked it up for the purposes of slighting him; killed Saleon, but didn't bring Garrus along for the ride.
Noveria: Smuggling ●Agreed to smuggle the package in for Opold, then went around him and sold the goods directly to his krogan buyer, Inamorda.
Noveria: Espionage ●Agreed to help Calis engage in some corporate espionage, instead tipped off her mark, Vargas, and then lied to Calis, saying I'd done what she asked and leaving her to receive false information.
Noveria: Lorik Qui'in ●Returned the evidence to Lorik Qui'in, then Intimidated him to convince him to testify. Not that I needed him to, given what happened to Administrator Anoleis and Gianna Parsini immediately after.
Noveria: Leave Port Hanshan ●Ratted out Parsini to Anoleis, leading them to kill one another.
Noveria: Peak 15 Noveria: Reconnect Landlines Noveria: Contamination Noveria: Rift Station Noveria: Death of a Matriarch ●Killed the Rachni Queen.
UNC: The Negotiation ●Thought about pulling an inversion and agreeing to a trade agreement with Warlord Darius, but decided to play it straight, killing Darius and his men.
UNC: Listening Post Alpha UNC: Listening Post Theta UNC: Depot Sigma-23 UNC: Survey is Complete (Minerals and Elements) UNC: Entire Collection Found (League Medallions and Salarian ID Tags) UNC: Collection Complete (Asari Writings) UNC: Collection Complete (Turian Emblems) UNC: Collection Complete (Prothean Artifacts)
Virmire: Wrex is Dead ●The saddest decision I had to make. Not only did I kill Wrex, I also told Ashley to dump his body instead of giving him the proper respect.
Virmire: Assault ●Sent Kaidan with Captain Kirrahe.
●Didn't disable the geth communications, didn't take out the geth satellite uplinks, didn't take out the flyers, and set off the alarms on the other side of the base, resulting in the deaths of Kirrahe and most of his men.
●Left Ganto locked in his cell, doomed to be reduced to cinders.
●Killed Rana Thanoptis in her office.
●Abandoned Kaidan to die in a nuclear blast.
Virmire: Kirrahe's Team Rescued ●But not the good Captain himself!
Citadel: Our Own Worst Enemy ●Endorsed Charles Saracino of the Terra Firma Party.
Citadel: Negotiator's Request ●Intimidated Keeler into getting treatment. Should have agreed to buy him the stims, which would have given me the option to instead buy him a sedative for bonus Renegade points.
Ilos: Find the Conduit
Race Against Time: Final Battle ●Intimidated Saren to convince him to shoot himself.
●Recommended Hackett order all Alliance ships to hold until the Citadel's arms opened, resulting in the destruction of the Destiny Ascension and the death of the Council.
●Massive Renegade score results in Udina replacing the old Council with a new, all-human Council
●Selected Udina as the chairman.
Assignments not done
Noveria: Quarantine ●My entire plan was to wipe out everything and everyone at Noveria, so it would have been a waste of time to do this; I instead opted to let the scientists presumably die as a result of their sickness.
Noveria: Hot Labs ●Didn't do them before fighting Matriarch Benezia; after learning that I could have had a much worse outcome by going there first, I decided to simply skip the assignment entirely. So…the lab-bred rachni live on?
Wrex: Family Armor ●The only reason to do this is to make Wrex easier to deal with on Virmire, and I didn't really want that. In hindsight I'm sure I could have done it and still killed him, but in the end I guess I just didn't want to do anything nice for him.
X57: Bring Down the Sky X57: Avoid the Blasting Caps X57: Missing Engineers Pinnacle Station: Combat Missions Pinnacle Station: Convoy Pinnacle Station: Vidinos ●All of the X57 and Pinnacle Station assignments were left incomplete simply because I never bought them. I'm a bad consumer, I guess.
Mass Effect 2
Prologue: Save Joker Prologue: Awakening
Freedom's Progress ●Took Veetor to be interrogated by Cerberus.
Dossier: The Convict Dossier: Archangel ●Encouraged the kid with a newly purchased gun to enlist, resulting in his unceremonious death by lead poisoning.
Dr. Okeer's Legacy Dossier: The Professor Omega: The Professor: Missing Assistant ●Allowed Daniel to be killed by Batarians.
Citadel: Captain Bailey Citadel: The Council ●Specter Status denied as a direct result of both killing the Council and putting Udina in charge.
Citadel: Krogan Sushi ●Spoke with the Presidium Groundskeeper, purchased a souvenir fish, and sold it to the krogan after telling him the lie that it had come from the Presidium lakes.
Citadel: Crime in Progress ●Returned Kor Tun's credit chit without making any effort to side with or help Lia'Vael.
Normandy: Special Ingredients Normandy: Serrice Ice Brandy Omega: Batarian Bartender ●Forced Forvan to drink his own poisoned beverage, killing him where he stood.
Omega: The Patriarch ●Convinced the Patriarch to go out in a blaze of glory.
Omega: Archangel: Datapad Recovered ●Handed over the information to Aria and accepted her reward, "just like that."
Normandy: FBA Couplings Dossier: The Master Thief Omega: Aria T'Loak
Illium: Medical Scans ●Even if you wipe out Zhu's Hope in Mass Effect, this assignment is still available. I don't know whether I simply wasn't accessing the right combination of conversation options, but I remember that during my Paragon run (in which both Zhu's Hope and the asari, Shiala, survived), I was given the option to side with the Baria Frontiers representative, Erinya, to keep the current contracts and screw the colonists over. No such option made itself available to me on this run, leaving me no choice but to help the colonists.
Illium: Blue Rose of Illium ●Advised Ereba to lose her krogan boyfriend.
Jacob: The Gift of Greatness ●Left Ronald Taylor with a half-charged pistol, inferring his suicide.
Dossier: The Assassin ●Let the Salarian on the first floor die without giving him any medi-gel.
●Shoved the Blue Sun merc out a window using the Renegade interrupt.
Illium: The Assassin: Salarian Family Data Dossier: The Justicar ●Killed Elnora before discovering that she had assassinated Pitne For's partner.
●Let Niftu Cal, "biotic god," lead the way into battle.
Illium: The Justicar: Stolen Goods Found Illium: Indentured Service ●Intimidated the slave broker to release the quarian from her indentured service contract, only to intimidate the Synthetic Insights rep into buying her contract anyway.
Miranda: The Prodigal ●Allowed Miranda to kill Niket.
●Simply left without convincing Miranda to talk to Oriana.
Illium: Lost Locket Found Dossier: Tali ●Avoided Paragon interrupt for Kal'reegar, then took as long to take down the Geth as possible to ensure his death on Haestrom.
Jack: Subject Zero ●Convinced Jack to kill Aresh.
●Following the completion of both this Loyalty Mission and Miranda's, I sided with Jack in the ensuing rumble, ensuring her Loyalty while destroying Miranda's. It's possible to retain both, but as you will see in the breakdown of the Suicide Mission, that wouldn't have been in my best interest.
Illium: Liara: The Observer ●Didn't bother hacking more than enough terminals to make an accusation regarding the identity of the Observer, resulting in the death of the wrong Shadow Broker agent and leaving Nyxeris to continue spying on Liara.
Tuchanka: Urdnot Wreav ●Because Urdnot Wrex is dead!
Grunt: Rite of Passage Garrus: Eye for an Eye ●Might've helped Garrus rough Harkin up.
●Let Garrus take the shot.
Citadel: False Positives ●Resisted the allure of further Renegade points, and instead was simply a jerk to the asari, Kalara Tomi.
Samara: The Ardat-Yakshi ●Purposely brought up bad points of conversation with Morinth, causing her to flee and ruining Samara's chances of killing her. Mission completed, but no Loyalty awarded.
Tali: Treason ●Hugs? No.
●Surrendered the evidence implicating Tali's father, resulting in the political fragmentation of the fleet, the posthumous exile of Tali's father, and a very unhappy and non-Loyal Tali.
Following the installation of the Reaper IFF and the abduction of the Normandy's crew, you have a three mission/assignment window in which to use the Omega 4 Relay. Jumping into the Suicide Mission within this window ensures that you have the chance to rescue at least some of your crew. Taking any longer results in everyone but Dr. Chakwas being being killed before you can save them. As you continue to read, remember that everything on this list is shown in the order in which is was completed. I'm a monster.
Thane: Sins of the Father ●Beat the tar out of Kelham to procure a confession.
●Shot Talid to prevent Kolyat from doing the very same thing. I was very much wanting to have a bad outcome and still attain Thane's Loyalty, but in retrospect (and considering the final body count of the Suicide Mission) I should have simply let myself lose track of Talid, allowing Kolyat to assassinate him and escape.
Legion: A House Divided ●Destroyed the station and the Heretic Geth inside.
Kasumi: Kinetic Barrier Kasumi: Voice Lock Kasumi: DNA Scanner Kasumi: Stealing Memory ●Convinced Kasumi to keep the box.
Lair of the Shadow Broker ●Wounded Tela Vasir's hostage.
Normandy Crash Site Tuchanka: Killing Pyjaks Omega: Packages for Ish ●Gave the packages to Anto instead of Ish, but only after extorting sweet, sweet cash out of him.
Project Firewalker: Rosalie Lost Project Firewalker: Volcano Station Project Firewalker: Survey Sites Located Project Firewalker: Geth Activity Project Firewalker: Prothean Ruins N7: Lost Operative ●Uploaded the data to Cerberus.
Overlord Overlord: Vulcan Station Overlord: Prometheus Station Overlord: Atlas Station ●Left David in the hands of Cerberus and Project Overlord.
N7: Wrecked Merchant Freighter N7: Abandoned Research Station N7: Hahne-Kedar Facility N7: Imminent Ship Crash N7: Archeological Dig Site N7: MSV Strontium Mule N7: Blue Suns Base N7: Javelin Missiles Launched ●Saved the Spaceport, allowed the Capitol City to be destroyed.
N7: Blood Pack Communications Relay N7: Blood Pack Base N7: Abandoned Mine N7: Anomalous Weather Detected N7: Captured Mining Facility N7: Endangered Research Station N7: Mining Canyon N7: Eclipse Smuggling Depot N7: MSV Estevanico N7: Quarian Crash Site
The survivors of the Suicide Mission are determined by a series of calculations based on current number of available party members, varying numeric values placed on characters depending on their Loyalty status, and an internal check of death priority pending Suicide Mission events and Loyalty. As such, if you want to complete the game with the minimum of two teammates required for Shepard to survive, you need to know before even beginning the game which teammates you want to live and which you want to die, and from there plan accordingly.
Non-Loyal Teammates: ●Samara: Loyalty Mission completed but purposely failed by blundering the seduction of her daughter, Morinth.
●Tali: Loyalty Mission completed but purposely failed by surrendering the information proving her father as a traitor.
●Mordin: Opting for the greatest degree of completion possible, I was forced to skip his Loyalty Mission; there is no way to fail his Loyalty Mission or lose his Loyalty after the fact, and there was no way to ensure his death and the deaths of the other teammates without skipping the large majority of the other Loyalty Missions.
●Miranda: Loyalty Mission completed successfully, but I opted to side with Jack during an argument between the two in order to ensure losing Miranda's Loyalty.
●Zaeed: Not yet acquired, for reasons you will see following the Suicide Mission.
Total Loyalty Missions Completed: 11 out of 12, including the eventual completion of Zaeed's.
Throughout the course of the game, you have the option of researching and purchasing a number of upgrades for the Normandy, but only three of them are of critical importance: the Thanix Cannons, the Multi-core Shielding, and the Heavy Armor Plating. Purchasing each of these prevents teammates from being killed outright before you even reach the Collector Base, one teammate per upgrade. Foregoing the purchase of all of them results in...well...
The Suicide Mission ●Jack killed en route to Collector Base by Oculus beam.
●Oculus team: Kasumi and Tali.
●Legion killed en route to Collector Base in core explosion on Engineering Deck.
●Thane impaled and killed en route to Collector Base.
Collector Base: Infiltration ●Tech Specialist: Jacob. Anyone selected for this role other than Tali, Legion, or Kasumi will be killed, regardless of Loyalty.
●Alternate Squad Leader: Garrus.
●Team: Not relevant to outcome, but Tali and Miranda.
●Jacob killed via a rocket to the face while trying to close the security doors.
●Normandy Crew (with the exception of Dr. Chakwas) killed due to taking far, far, far too long to bother coming to rescue them.
Collector Base: The Long Walk ●Biotic Specialist: Samara. Failing her Loyalty Mission ensures that she is unable to maintain her focus, resulting in the death of a party member based on an internal death priority list.
●Diversion Team Leader: Grunt. Anyone selected for this role other than Miranda, Garrus, or Jacob will be killed, regardless of Loyalty.
●Dr. Chakwas sent alone without escort and killed before reaching rendezvous.
●Team: Kasumi and Miranda.
●Kasumi killed by Collector Seeker Swarms.
●Grunt shot and killed at security doors.
Final Battle: ●Squad: Samara and Miranda.
●Defenders: Mordin, Tali, Garrus. The low number of defenders coupled with the low overall Loyalty score ensures that one person will be killed, based on an internal death priority list.
●Mordin killed holding the line.
●Mission accomplished with Samara and Miranda killed in the explosive aftermath, as dictated by their non-Loyal status.
●Collector Base handed over to the Illusive Man and Cerberus.
●All survivors on board: Tali and Garrus.
Dossier: The Veteran Zaeed: The Price of Revenge ●Purposely left until after the Suicide Mission, due to the added prospect of completing the Loyalty Mission while simultaneously leaving Zaeed to die in a fire.
●Saved the factory workers, taking the Paragon hit in exchange for the opportunity to leave Zaeed to die in a fire
●Just to be clear, I absolutely left Zaeed to die in a fire.
Arrival ●Opted to ask the Normandy for pickup instead of attempting to warn the 350,000 Batarians in the system that they were about to be blown to smithereens.
I went into this with the specific intention of doing everything conceivably possible unless the completion of an assignment or mission made it difficult or impossible to do something terrible later. This would end up being more important in Mass Effect 2, specifically in the case of Mordin's Loyalty. All the same, there are a number of assignments in Mass Effect 2 that have no other outcome than Paragon points, but because they didn't influence the Suicide Mission I went ahead and completed them anyway. There were also a few opportunities where Renegade points were ignored specifically to allow something worse to happen, or where Paragon choices were made to allow for the opportunity to do some other terrible deed down the road.
I imagine that with Mass Effect 3 looming on the horizon that there will be a number of choices that could be altered in this run to make for worse situations than I am currently able to predict, but I suppose that I'll have to wait and see. For the time being, this is very nearly the best I can do for the worst I can be, and it's been an absolute blast. If I do end up needing to redo everything from square one, I feel like it will still absolutely be worth it.