5. Ashley Williams (Mass Effect)
|Wait a second...That's Victoria from How I Met Your Mother. Apparently, her actress is Ashley Williams.|
|No, that's Ashley "Ash" Williams from Evil Dead|
|There we go! Who knew there were this many famous Ashley Williamses?|
Ashley is a woman of tradition. In many ways, her views are old-fashioned, but understandable and easy to relate to. She comes from a family where generation after generation has served in the Alliance military (which is impressive considering that the Alliance is just 40 years old by the time of Mass Effect 3). Unfortunately, she has the ignominy of being the granddaughter of the only human to surrender to aliens. But rather than perpetually complaining about it like certain Kaidans who won't be named, she uses that as motivation to try harder. She's also a poetry enthusiast and enjoys the works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, who was all about sucking it up and winning one for the team. Since she's the only soldier on the team, that makes her a warrior poet, which means that she must also fight like a true Scotsman (according to Braveheart, at least). Lastly, she's the only character who openly admits to being Christian and is not a villain, and that could be in any game, not just Mass Effect (Shortest Top Five Ever: the Top Five Christian Protagonists in Video Games. Off the top of my head: Ashley, Liam Neeson in Fallout 3, Cole Phelps from L.A. Noire,is Batman a Christian? I think he celebrates Christmas, and ummmm... a fifth guy). She's the most familiar thing to the player in an entire galaxy of strange aliens, cultures, and emotionless "wounded soul" guys.
But I digress. The best moments for Ashley comes when she realizes that the Reapers are actually a race of sentient warships who predate time itself and whose power is beyond the scope of human comprehension. I'm going to paraphrase here, but she says that "my rifle may as well be a pea shooter if I'm up against a warship" but won't give up the fight. That is the ultimate sassback in the line of duty. "I'm hopelessly outgunned and certain to die, but WHATEVA! I DO WHAT I WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNT!!!!"
|Apparently, Spectre's get free makeovers|
Most importantly, Ashley's survival means that Kaidan dies. Ignoring the previous 800 words, this act alone makes her worthy of a top five spot. In fact, let's watch that glorious moment together!
YES YES YES! NOTHING IS LEFT OF KAIDAN BUT MEMORIES! ANGSTY, ANGSTY MEMORIES!
4. Mordin Solus (Mass Effect 2)
|"Hard to see big picture from behind a pile of corpses" - Mordin Solus|
When you first meet him, he's running a free clinic on Omega (which is like a combination of Detroit and Afghanistan). In his spare time from discovering a cure to a plague genetically engineered by a species older than time, he guns down some mercenaries who were trying to rough up his patients. After that, he decides to go toe to toe with the Collectors secret weapon: a swarm of bugs that freeze you in stasis when they sting you. And once again, Mordin bests the species that has the most advanced technology in the galaxy and develops an effective countermeasure (although it turns out to be a sci-fi bug repellent). In between, he is both very insightful and somewhat humorous in a dry manner. But that's not what makes Mordin a great character.
What makes Mordin a great character is how he represents the moral ambiguity of the universe. Before running a free clinic on Omega, Mordin was a member of the Salarian's secret agent program. Their greatest assignment was to modify a biological weapon called the genophage, which was used to keep the population of a warlike species (the Krogan) in check. The problem is, as Ian Malcolm would put it, life finds a way and the genophage began losing potency. While they successfully deployed the new virus, there was a lot of soul searching about if it was the right thing to do. While Mordin understands the necessity of this action, he feels tremendous guilt about the cost of it. Every year, he would return to the Krogan homeworld and examine the results of the new virus himself. Opening the free clinic on Omega was an act of penance. In a world of ambiguity, Mordin believes that medicine is the one true good. I could go into why he believes that or I could show you this relevant video.
The cost of Mordin's cure is the complete erosion of hope among the Krogan people which leads to desperate and violent acts that are common when you've got nothing to lose and nothing to live for except revenge. The best part is Mordin's character development hinges upon Shepard's (i.e. your) influence. You can convince him that the genophage was too brutal and he should design a cure or that it was a necessary to protect the galaxy. It's the perfect integration of storytelling and player control that makes Mass Effect one of the best series.
And now it's time to address the elephant in the blogosphere. Apparently, there's a consensus going around that I'm like Mordin. Well of course this is absurd. Sure, we're both highly analytical and prone to go off on tangents at the slightest provocation. And sure, we both have reputations for being someone who will talk ad nauseam (a direct quote from one character about Mordin: "Don't get him started talking. He'll talk your ears off"). And yes, we may both be even tempered. But come on! It's not like he is prone to burst out into song randomly with lyrics he wrote himself.
Well... um... I... I guess the consensus is right. (P.S. An hour after writing this, I tried texting in pure Mordin speak and no one noticed a difference. Spooky.)
3. Liara T'soni (Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2)
|Look, being #3 is very good. Most biotics would kill to be in the Top 5... POOR CHOICE OF WORDS! SORRY!|
|I'm still waiting for this to be announced as DLC for Mass Effect 3|
If that had been the end of Liara's story, she would have finished a respectable middle of the pack. In a depressing alternate universe where Mass Effect had no sequels, she would have been 4th out of 6 (and this blog would be much less demanding of my time). But then Mass Effect 2 came out and, over the course of two years, Liara dialed up the awesome to 11.
In between games, she successfully navigated her way through Omega, which is a space station that combines the criminal elements of The Godfather with the anarchy of Lord of Flies. In Omega, there is only one rule: sucks to your assmar! In the process of screwing with the most powerful crime lords in the galaxy and allying with a more different kind of crime lord, she also made a mortal enemy of the Shadow Broker, who has all the power myths the CIA gets attributed with but on a galactic scale and is actually real. And why did she do all of that? Just to save Shepard's body so that he could come back and play the rest of Mass Effect 2. Without Liara, Mass Effect 2 would just be an incredibly detailed Dying of Asphyxiation in the Vacuum of Space Simulator.
|Admittedly, the Dying of Asphyxiation in the Vacuum of Space Simulator genre is very underused.|
As a final cherry on top, Liara is also responsible for what many people consider to be the best DLC add-on ever made (in the prestigious six year history of DLC): The Lair of the Shadow Broker. In this add-on, you quit talking about how much Liara wants to get revenge on the Shadow Broker and actually go track him down and crack some heads in the process! I don't want to spoil things for you, but there are hover car chases, burning buildings, fighting robots across a spaceship while its flying around in a perpetual lightning storm, and finally, out-Shadow-Brokering the Shadow Broker. But then it turns out that Shadow Brokers operate under the same principle as the immortals from Highlander and, by killing him, Liara has gained his powers and becomes the new Shadow Broker.
2. Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2)
|How do you beat dialing it up to 11? DIAL IT UP TO 12!|
|"Hopelessly outnumbered, surrounded and about to die? Eh, I've had worse."|
|I am vengeance. I am the night. I AM... GARRUS!|
There is only one thing better than a badass. And that's a badass with a heart of gold. These are almost impossible to find because you have to carefully balance the amount of damns you give. With Garrus, there are two prime examples. The first is from the excellent Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. You find out that Garrus' sister thinks he's a good for nothing layabout who quit the police force while their mother is suffering from an incurable terminal disease. What does Garrus do? He uses his friendship with Mordin to donate some of the bodies of the alien monsters he's killed to a medical facility. In exchange, the medical facility puts his mother into one of the trials for a cure to the disease. And he does all of this anonymously. Next, there's his romance with the Lady Shepard. Not being a Lady Shepard myself, I feel it would be irresponsible of me to say that Garrus' effort at romance is one of the sweetest moments in the game. However, I would like to say that it was one of the most emotionally driven moments of the game (skip to 5:38 for the great part).
Garrus, who is the author on the book of badass, is a complete fish out of water when it comes to emotions that don't revolve around revenge, justice, or calibrations. But he wants to. And no amount of Jacob's abs can replace passion.
And your #1 Mass Effect Squad Member is....
1. Urdnot Wrex (Mass Effect & Mass Effect 2)
The best part of that is when he smacks down Kaidan down for being such a whiny wimp every single time they ride in an elevator together. Wrex is the epitome of the Krogan Warrior culture. He's one of the toughest fighters out there, is a powerful biotic, and, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, knows when to hold em and knows when to fold em. When his confidence was betrayed, he revenge killed the other Krogan during the ambush with nothing but a knife and still escaped with his life. Wrex can bring a knife to a gunfight and still win! But that would only make Wrex a very good character, not the best.
Wrex may be the epitome of a warrior culture, but he's smart enough to realize how that culture is flawed. He knows that if the Krogan keep fighting everyone else's battles, the entire species will be extinct in a generation because of the effects of the genophage. Wrex may be a badass, but he's a badass with a cause: the preservation of his people. Wrex is shrewd, but he loses it when it comes to the fate of his people. See what happens when he finds out that Saren has a cure for the genophage.
|What is best in life? That's a stupid question to ask.|
Last, but certainly not least, I found a picture of Wrex wearing a top hat and a monocle while gathering pictures for this update. It is too cool not to share with you.
On an unrelated note, I never want to write a blog post this long again. Your ocular fortitude is to be praised if you read all of this in one sitting.