(Warning: Big ole Mass Effect spoilers, and minor to moderate Mass Effect 2 spoilers)
So when Liara comes to my door at the end of the first game I’m all like “what”, because I certainly hadn’t planned on this. But if you exhaust everyone’s dialogue trees then someone’s gonna make a booty call before the final mission. It could’ve been Kaiden, but I’d accidentally killed him on Virmire when I meant to choose Ashley. I didn’t bother reloading because the choice between “most boring character in the galaxy” and “space racist” isn’t all that exciting. Now, if I had to choose between Wrex or an identical clone of Wrex I might’ve lost some sleep over it. No Kaiden means no hetero-lovin’ for me. I get Liara, the blue alien chick with the bicycle helmet for hair. She wants my body, and I can’t blame her because I look adorable in my regulation N7 navy blue t-shirt. So I say “yeah, okay, whatever” because I got nothin’ better to do and we have our four seconds of sex with the schmaltzy soundtrack and the one second of female butt in the lower left corner of the screen. Let us never mention it again, because we have a galaxy to save.
When I start Mass Effect 2 Liara’s like “I’M NOT LEAVING YOU IN THE EXPLODING SHIP I LOVE YOU” and I’m wishing there’s an option that says “I do it with Asari chicks all the time, so don’t worry about it. Seriously I thought we were gonna die anyway. Remember that one on the Citadel? Well, I didn’t do her sidequest, but I was THINKING about it. And since I was renegade, you KNOW she would’ve been all up in my business.” When I’m resurrected two years later (I got exploded to death) her picture sits on my captain’s desk in my new spaceship and I’m all like “Pshhaw, she wasn’t all that.” And that’s how I feel, too! Isn’t this supposed to be roleplaying? Why can’t I act like she was just another mind-melding blue bitty that I picked up on a random mining planet?
We reunite on Ilium and I’m kind of surprised she’s giving me the cold shoulder. Now innocent little Liara is hangin’ with the big boys. Doesn’t have time for Commander Shepard. Well that’s fine, I didn’t like you anyway! Don’t act like your sex scene was that great! I got better pawing through scrambled cable channels as a teenager. I never really got into your awkward archaeology nerd persona either. Now you think you’re cool because you run a shadow organization and hack data terminals and kill people who’ve betrayed you? I do that stuff before breakfast! Remember who shot a mining laser at a cavern wall to get you out of an ancient civilization’s high tech jail cell? That was ME! Pssh! I was gonna ask you to come along on my suicide mission, but I guess you’re just too busy! Whatever!
Later I’m innocently tooling around on the ship, TOTALLY NOT THINKING ABOUT ALIEN SEX, and Garrus kind of blinded-sides me. I’m basically done with the game and out of nowhere I realize I’m flirting with him. You wanna talk about bicycle helmets for hair? Garrus has the meanest slicked-back pompadour in the known universe and it’s made of out chitin. Who decided this guy would be a romance option?
I always though of Garrus as sort of the “also ran” of the Mass Effect universe. The coolest character that nobody actually used. You can get downright creepy with him when you decide whether to shape him into a by-the-books detective or a uncompromising vigilante. It’s difficult to shout “BUT IS THIS JUSTICE???” when the object of Garrus’s murderous intent is an evil doctor who keeps slaves as organ farms. So, yeah, I might’ve looked the other way when the time came to talk him down from the precipice. My Garrus was uncompromising, but did I detect a bit of mourning for his straight-laced life? Regret. That’s what I like in my six feet tall bird men.
When we accidentally stumble into this affair, with him it’s more like “why the hell not?” where with Liara it was like “yeah, I guess.” And I realize that Garrus is sort of this helpless nerd of a guy who tries his best, but keeps screwing up. And his screw-ups lead to dead people. And he’s got the guilt to back that up. He comes into my quarters the night before his final mission and does his little dance, and when he realizes his seduction routine isn’t “all that” he begs me not to leave him hanging. Almost verbatim he goes, “God dammit, why am I such a screw-up?” And that’s the kind of melodrama I like in my space video games. So what is a girl to do? He tried his best. And when he’s there, doing that song and dance, I kind of get that “two lost, lonely souls amidst the big black galaxy vibe” even if he is a six foot tall exoskeleton-having birdman which, when you think about it, is kind of nasty. But it’s also kind of okay… I don’t know. There wasn’t any naked fem-butt in this game’s sex scene. At least not for me. Turns out I’m cool with that.
Asari can get anyone in the galaxy. Not only are they physically compatible with everyone, but they fit the mold of the “Captain Kirk Alien Conquest” to a tee. And they’re pretty boring in their Mary Sue-level awesomenees. Yeah, I get it, it’s so cool how you all spend a hundred years being strippers and mercenaries before you settle down to spread your teachings across the galaxy and everyone totally respects you as an ancient and wise race. And you’re all perfect in whatever you do. Garrus isn’t perfect, and you can’t help but feel for him. When I beat the game and return to my cabin, the picture of my erstwhile Asari girlfriend is face down on my desk. That feels like roleplaying to me.