“Make me proud. Make yourselves proud.” That’s the kind of thing you’d like to hear before going into battle. I didn’t say it, Commander Shepard, the star of the Mass Effect series did. As the player you can pick your own type of response in dialog scenes throughout the game, and your dialog options increase as you perform various actions. The script changes enough that It’s like acting in a living movie where you control the star. Plenty of sites are dedicated to the quotes, but let’s talk about what’s so great about the character.
You Are Above The Law
Early on in Mass Effect, you are promoted to the galactic Special Tactics and Reconnaissance (Spectre) unit. A concept that changes your living movie from a standard role playing game into a different animal. Spectres are not trained, their chosen – you can go anywhere, carry weapons, shoot anyone that gets in the way of your mission, and not be subject to any interference from law enforcement.
There Is No Medal
Mass Effect 2 was the best video game I’ve ever played by far. You spend the entire game battling against an insurmountable foe in an adventure that you may not survive. In fact it is made clear to you early on that you’re on a suicide mission. What happens if you succeed? You get to say you did the right thing, that’s it. No parade, no trophy, no commander Shepard day. Throughout the game the official governments of the galaxy block your progress while society as a whole is apathetic to your mission. Depending on how you played the first game you could actually be operating outside any authority. Your victory is within and doesn’t connect to any external validation or even notice.
You Remain Cool
Despite balancing the weight of the galaxy your character remains calm. Sometimes obtusely funny, sometimes cruel, you are always able to deliver your message in a calm and effective manner. It’s an inspiration to any professional that has to maintain a calm demeanor.
Your Problems Are Real
As Commander Shepard you deal with the gamut of human problems. From racism and discrimination, petty and violent crime to terrorism and genocide on the largest scale. In fact it’s the human race that is subject to genocidal actions, and in the final chapter you’re the only one who can deal with it all. Underlying the main plot are a myriad of subplots in which you can choose to help or hurt your fellow beings, with the game tracking your overall ethical sway. Do you want to be a paragon of virtue or is there a renegade streak within you that you can indulge through the game? Play for a little while and you might be surprised.
A great character makes you want to be like them while still letting you know that you can’t. This always give you something to strive for in the game and in life.