In BioWare’s sci-fi video game trilogy Mass Effect, the player assumes the role of Commander Shepard, a soldier in the Alliance Navy who is about to make galactic history. The Commander’s face, sex, combat style, and personality are up to the player, but in all cases, the Commander is a true war hero.
But even legendary figures like Commander Shepard sometimes face defeat; it wouldn’t be much of a story if Shepard could crush everyone with impunity. Despite it all, the Commander is human like anyone else, and he or she sometimes faces setbacks or defeats or has to make impossible choices. So, here are five times when Shepard enjoyed a total victory and five different times when things didn’t go the Commander’s way.
10 Victory: Defeated Saren
Saren Arterius is a rogue Turian Spectre in the first Mass Effect game, and he’s using the geth (robots) to ransack the galaxy on his quest to find the mysterious Conduit. Commander Shepard is sent to stop him, and the Commander learns the horrible truth along the way.
The Reapers are coming, and Saren, being heavily indoctrinated, wants to open the floodgates. But just in time, Commander Shepard confronts him in the Citadel while it burns, and takes him out before the Citadel can open up for the Reapers.
9 Defeat: Collector Ambush
One thing was a comforting constant in the first game: the SSV Normandy. This stealth frigate could get Shepard in and out of any combat situation, and this ship alone was able to pursue Saren on Ilos to find the Conduit.
That feeling of invincibility was shattered in Mass Effect 2 when the Collector battleship ambushed the Normandy in a remote system and blasted it apart with a laser beam. Most of the crew survived, but Commander Shepard was KIA (until the Lazarus Project started, that is).
8 Victory: Destroyed The Collector Base
There is an option to simply neutralize the Collector Base so the Illusive Man can get his hands on it, but either way, the destruction of the Collectors was an act of sweet revenge for the original Normandy‘s destruction two years prior.
Commander Shepard storms this eerie space station to take out the Collectors then faces and neutralizes a prototype human Reaper. Then, when the explosives are set (over the Illusive Man’s protests), a Paragon-minded Commander Shepard can reduce that base of evil to smoking bits.
7 Defeat: Eden Prime Mission
This is Nihlus, the first Spectre and first alien ever seen in the Mass Effect games. He’s supposed to oversee Shepard’s pickup of a rare Prothean beacon on Eden Prime, but that mission went got a lot more complicated in a hurry.
Shepard did salvage the situation; he/she can get a vision from the beacon as a clue, but otherwise, the situation’s bad: Eden Prime burned, Saren got what he wanted, Nihlus was killed, and the Council was not impressed. Ambassador Udina was right to say that this was a disaster.
6 Victory: Genophage Cure
For many centuries, the Krogan suffered the ill effects of the genophage, which restricted their birthrate and results in a lot of stillborns. This caused great despair and self-destruction among the Krogan, and they seemed doomed.
Until Shepard, Mordin, and Wrex put heads together to cure it. With Eve’s and Wrex’s tissue samples, Mordin synthesizes a cure, and Commander Shepard wins the ground battle that paves the way for Mordin to dispense that cure. In most cases, Mordin loses his life in the process, but there are few ways to spare his life. Either way, Shepard becomes a hero to the entire Krogran race.
5 Defeat: Fall Of Earth
Commander Shepard can’t be blamed for this one, but all the same, the Commander was on the ground when the devastating Reaper invasion was launched, and it was with great reluctance the Commander fled the planet under Anderson’s orders.
Seeing the carnage first-hand gave Commander Shepard some psychological scars, especially that mysterious boy in the gray hoodie who shows up in Shepard’s nightmares. Like Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3 starts on a grim note.
4 Victory: Quarian/Geth Unity
In some cases, if Commander Shepard had made the wrong decisions in the past, then he/she will be forced to save either the warring geth or Quarians at the expense of the other during their bitter war over Rannoch. But what if both can be saved?
If Commander Shepard plays his/her cards right, then it is possible to negotiate a peace between the creator and the created, and if so, the geth go a long way in helping rebuild Rannoch, as Tali later explains. Together, both races are much stronger, and they pledge their fleets for the battle to retake Earth. Nothing like turning the geth against their former Reaper masters.
3 Defeat: Thessia
This was a real blow to Commander Shepard and the overall war effort. The Asari are famously powerful in the galaxy, but their homeworld, Thessia, came under Reaper attack, and Shepard paid a visit to get vital intel on the Crucible.
Too late: Cerberus got there first, and Kai Leng stole the data and made off with it. This jeopardized the entire war effort, and Shepard was pushed to the breaking point after this bitter defeat. It was lucky that Shepard didn’t snap or completely lose hope.
2 Victory: Stopped The Illusive Man
There’s more than one way how this endgame conversation can take place, but at any rate, the indoctrinated human supremacist Illusive Man is finally taken down during his and Commander Shepard’s only face-to-face meeting.
The Illusive Man was convinced that the power of the Reapers could unlock humanity’s future until Commander Shepard and Anderson talk him down. In some cases, the Illusive Man can even be convinced to end his own life to break free of Reaper control. At last, Cerberus is extinguished.
1 Defeat: Suicide Mission
The suicide mission to destroy the Collector base is central to the plot of Mass Effect 2, and Commander Shepard spends the entire game preparing for it. Even with an elite squad, it’s likely that a few crewmates are going to perish in the line of duty.
Commander Shepard usually survives this mission, but if all the factors are against him or her, then it is possible for the Commander to also die in this endeavor. If so, then it is Joker who reports back to the Illusive Man. Shepard came back to life to fight the Collectors… then died once again.
Here are five times when Mass Effect's Shepard enjoyed a total victory and five different times when things didn't go the Commander's way.