So, most people who know me, know I’m a fan of the video game series Mass Effect…something I’ve discussed on this blog before as well.
Since it requires a good amount of time and dedication to enjoy the game, I thought I’d make a list of my favorite Mass Effect quotes for those who have never played it, and likely never will. Its story driven narrative make it compelling to the point where there are shirts indicating one’s preferred romance interest. Here’s a list of some of my favorite quotes, in no particular order. Also, some spoilers ahead…but it’s been ten years; having not-played it yet is your own fault.
Legion: “Human history is a litany of bloodshed over different ideals of rulership and afterlife.”
Legion is a great character, and I could probably make this list solely based on Legion quotes alone. While a gross oversimplification, this single-sentence summary of most of human history is sadly more accurate than not.
Tali: “Tali Zorah vas Normandy, reporting for duty.”
Like a number of other quotes here, there’s plenty of backstory required for this. Tali is a Quarian, a nomadic race who live on a flotilla after being exiled from their home planet. Their names reflect which ship of the flotilla on which they live and serve. Part of entering adulthood in their culture is to go on a pilgrimage, where they leave the safety of the flotilla and explore the galaxy on their own, looking for a contribution to bring back to the flotilla, usually a skill or technology or material the flotilla can use to trade with allies. When we first meet Tali, her name is “Tali Z’orah nar Rayya“, the ‘nar’ indicating that she hasn’t yet gone through her pilgrimage.
In the second game, she is accused of treason. You, the player, go on a mission with her and you act as her advocate in her trial. If you defend her successfully, and her reputation is restored, she chooses to leave the flotilla and, in her first decision of adulthood, becomes a member of your crew.
Javik: “My people would never let such monsters walk among them.”
Liara: “They didn’t care for the competition?”
There’s plenty of context to this one…but wow, this is probably the most savage line in the game.
Javik is a Prothean. Specifically, the last Prothean. He remained in stasis, and through a lot of luck and implausibility, survived cryogenically frozen for 50,000 years. We meet him in the third game.
Liara is Asari. She had a particular fascination with the protheans, and we first meet her on an archaeological dig where she is looking for prothean artifacts. She meets Javik along with the rest of the crew, and is a bit starstruck. However, that quickly fades, as Javik has her seriously reconsidering her concept of what the protheans were like. While she starts believing that they were technologically advanced and had a solid amount of culture behind them, Javik quickly fills in the blanks and made it clear that the protheans were apex predators who ruled primarily through conquest and subjugation – essentially the polar opposite of the Asari’s culture focused on philosophy and harmony.
The Ardat-Yakshi are a genetic aberration, a small group of deadly sociopaths who are both very powerful, and have zero remorse as well as an instinctive compulsion to violently kill. The Asari, being enlightened as they are, don’t kill them; instead there is a monastery on a remote part of their home planet, where, while they are forced to live there, they are not treated poorly otherwise.
So, put all that together – Liara, having learned that Protheans being a race whose culture is based upon conquest and militant colonialism, not only calls Javik out on his hypocrisy, but implies that, if he were to go toe-to-toe with an Ardak-Yakshi, would lose. Wow Liara, that’s definitely the comeback line of the game.
Mordin: “Had to be me. Somebody else might have gotten it wrong.”
Oh, this one is one of the more famous quotes, and it’s a tear jerker. I’m getting misty-eyed just remembering this scene…but again, lots of context.
The Krogan are a race of brute fighters with a thousand year lifespan. In the past, they were limited to their own planet, and going to war with each other. The Salarians watched from afar, and when a war broke out that they couldn’t win, they introduced the Krogan to space travel and pew-pew guns and a bunch of other stuff they weren’t ready for…but, desperate times called for desperate measures, so if the Salarians had a Prime Directive before that war, they threw it away. The Krogan won the war for them, and kept the space ships and advanced weapons…leaving the galaxy with a bit of a problem. Their answer was the genophage, a disease that made 99% of female Krogan sterile, keeping the population in check as a result.
The Salarians are a highly-pragmatic race that opts to resolve conflicts with stealth and science, rather than straightforward conflict. We meet Mordin, our first Salarian crew member in the second game, where he’s running a clinic in a sketchy back-alley medical facility on the Omega space station (think the Cantina in Star Wars or Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean, now run a Stat Health there). As the game progresses, we learn that the Krogan were beginning to develop a resistance to the genophage, and Mordin worked with a team of operatives to release ‘genophage 2.0’…and that they were successful.
At first, Mordin defends his work – a galaxy full of Krogan would be bad for everyone, he wasn’t killing them with weapons of war, their culture adapted to it, it wasn’t straight-up genocide…everyone wins. Over the course of the game, he comes to realize that he crossed the line between pragmatism and playing god. His story arc usually (though not always) ends with him looking to right his wrong.
The player has an opportunity to work with Mordin to cure the genophage. In doing so, Mordin chooses to sacrifice his own life to ensure that the cure is released and the Krogan are cured. Depending on one’s perspective, one could take the quote as Mordin acting as God up until the very end…but my takeaway of it was Mordin saying that he was committed to doing the right thing, and doing it correctly, as his penance and intent to undo the damage for which he was responsible.
Shepard: “That doesn’t explain why you used my armor to fix yourself.”
Legion: “…There was a hole.”
Shepard: “But why didn’t you fix it sooner? Or with something else?”
Legion: “……No data available.”
Earlier in this discussion with Legion, we learn that Legion is over a thousand different artificial intelligence entities, occupying a single physical ‘platform’. We also learn that Legion processes thoughts at speeds well in excess of organic beings. Finally, this discussion takes place toward the end of the second game, and we are told that Legion has been watching Commander Shepard, from a distance, since the events of the first.
So, Legion ends up with a hole as a result of a blaster shooting right through him. Legion ignores it for a bit, until a piece of Commander Shepard’s armor is available and fits nicely over it. Legion uses that piece of armor for a cosmetic fix, and Shepard calls Legion out on it, but Legion doesn’t have a good answer. This is funny, interesting, and mind blowing at the same time. Given what we’re told, in the 3-4 seconds Legion pauses before responding (the only instance of this happening in the game), 1,183 distinct AIs compared their data and deliberated to try and find an answer to this question. The answer, obvious to organic life, is that Legion admires and adores Shepard. Since this doesn’t make any logical sense to the Geth programs, however, they realize that there is…no data available.
Captain Kirrahe: “You all know the mission, and what is at stake. I have come to trust each of you with my life. But I have also heard murmurs of discontent. I share your concerns. We are trained for espionage. We would be legends, but the records are sealed. Glory in battle is not our way. Think of our heroes: the Silent Step, who defeated a nation with a single shot, or the Ever Alert, who kept armies at bay with hidden facts. These giants do not seem to give us solace here, but they are not all that we are. Before the network, there was the Fleet! Before diplomacy, there were SOLDIERS! Our influence stopped the Rachni, but before that, we held the line! Our influence stopped the Krogan, but before that, we held the line! Our influence will stop Saren! In the battle today, we will hold the line!”
This speech, given just before Kirrahe and his troops go on a suicide mission to stop Saren in the first game, is not done justice by the transcript; you have to watch the video. This particular speech is referenced by Mordin in the second game, and if Kirrahe survives, he ends up as an NPC on a mission in the third.
Jack: “I never had a family…and these guys…if anyone messes with my students, I will tear them apart!”
When we first meet Jack, she is a pent up ball of rage that is so dangerous, even the guards in the prison she’s kept in are terrified of her, and the end of her recruitment mission ends with the whole prison getting blown up. In her loyalty mission, we learn that Jack was referred to as ‘subject zero’ by Cerberus growing up; they wouldn’t even give her the human dignity of giving her a name. She was poked and prodded throughout her childhood by Cerberus to become the most powerful human biotic ever, and trained to fight using narcotics as motivation. It’s an incredibly sad story. Over the course of her time with Shepard, she rediscovers the concept of self-worth and purpose. Even so, when Jack says “I will tear them apart”, she’s being very, very literal.
The mission in which Jack says this takes place in the third game. A set of students who are learning to be biotics themselves are being taught and trained by her to improve their abilities. We see Jack with a pony tail and…wearing something that resembles a uniform. She has a certain maternal connection to these students and shows that she genuinely cares about them; an incredible contrast to her ME2 character that didn’t even care about herself.
Commander Shepard: “Nobody ever fell in love without being a little brave.”