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Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 2 late)

Staff Commander Mandala Shepard

(Profile #4 - Mass Effect 2 part 3)

Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game


The Staff Commander Mandala Shepard profiles are presented as a chronological series. So you really should read them in order, namely :

  1. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect.
  2. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 2 part #1.
  3. .
  4. Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 2 part #3.
  5. .



  • Real Name: Staff Commander Mandala Marie-Louise Kanitha Shepard.
  • Other Aliases: Spectre (Cerberus callsign), Captain Shepard vas Normandy (formal title for the Migrant Flotilla), Alison Gunn (cover identity), “Siha” (Thane Krios’ nickname for Shepard), “Shep” (Kasumi’s nickname for Shepard), Battlemaster Shepard (title used for Shepard by Grunt, and thus presumably the rest of Clan Urdnot except Wrex), “the first human Spectre”, Shepard-Commander (designation used by Legion).
  • Marital Status: Bondmate before the Code.
  • Known Relatives: Chief Sakun Shepard (father), Captain Jo-Hannah Traoré-Shepard (mother), Dr. Liara T’Soni (bondmate before the Code).
  • Group Affiliation: Special Tactics and Reconnaissance operative, agent of the Shadow Broker (Dr. Liara T’Soni).
  • Base Of Operations: The SR-2 Normandy and Dr. Liara T’soni’s secret base on Hagalaz (Sowilo system, Hourglass Nebula).
  • Height: 5’8” Weight: 145 lbs.
  • Eyes: Pale, reflective grey Hair: Jet black

Powers & Abilities

Shepard has gone from being arguably the best fighter humanity has to offer to being a super-soldier. Though her nature as an undead cyborg is no longer visible her speed, precision, strength, endurance and acumen are all at least peak human.

She also remains extraordinarily charismatic and exceptionally intelligent. And she keeps her N7 training — the highest military special operations qualification — sharper than a really sharp thing.

Commander Shepard leverages her alacrity through aggressive, high-tempo tactics requiring a tremendous level of training to execute properly. These excel at completely ruining the opposition’s battle plan within seconds as Shepard and her fire team spot a weakness and relentlessly bulldoze through it, then keep moving as the opposition is still trying to decide what to do.

Even well-trained forces will generally lose their cool and fail to keep up, as they are essentially moving in slow motion compared to Shepard and her crack operatives.



The Serrice treatment enhancing Shepard’s musculature has been brought to a successful conclusion, allowing her to lift four times her body weight. And as a cyborg she’s heavier than she looks.

This is a startling sight if she power-lifts out of armour – though she has whipcord-like muscles and is highly athletic Shepard doesn’t look particularly buff or ripped. She’s a soldier, not a bodybuilder, and clearly favours endurance over bulk or definition.

At one point she is seen lifting a metallic plate weighing hundreds of kilos to free a trapped comrade, without extraordinary effort.

Commander Shepard establishing a rapport

The enhanced Shepard’s power-to-mass ratio allows her to perform startling dashes. Kasumi Gōtō, who uses a similar trick through different means, helped her practice “doing the cheetah”. To capitalise on this, the artificial musculature of Shepard’s Kestrel armour has been reinforced and supplemented with some light Mass Effect mass negation inlays based on the technology used in Kasumi’s suit.

This allows Shepard to dash at superhuman speeds even when hardsuited and carrying her arsenal. Such bursts of speed work well with Shepard’s aggressive, storming-based tactics.

Arsenal, part 1

This higher strength, further enhanced by her armour, also allows her to wield a Revenant light machinegun without sacrificing speed. Shepard’s loadout has continued to evolve and now revolves around her cherished Revenant and a Viper semi-automatic precision rifle.

The Revenant is named ผีดัง (“phi danh” – well, technically pheeR dangM – meaning “loud ghost”), which was the nickname of Mandala’s grand-uncle in the Thai military ; the Viper doesn’t have a name yet.

Her sidearm is a Phalanx hand cannon, usually used for medium-range precision shooting since unlike the Viper it can be drawn and shot while still holding the Revenant with her other hand. The Phalanx was not deployed before Illium since Shepard needed to train with the old-fashioned laser sight it uses in lieu of the usual HUD targeting. See our Mass Effect 2 Weapons Locker article for more.

A reinforced Scimitar shotgun rides on the small of her back for close combat, and her usual heavy weapon remains her favourite M-100 grenade launcher – which oddly enough has not yet been given a name in Khmer either.

Arsenal, part 2

Kasumi has also started training Shepard in advanced omni-blade techniques, though Shepard has not used one in combat yet. This was prescient – Shepard wanted to use this rare for very convenient and efficient weapon when beset by husks, which is the exact same decision all major militaries would take about eight months later.

The Commander is practically always armed. Even when she was uncomfortably stuck in a tight little black leather dress on Bekenstein, she had a garter holster high up her left thigh with a collapsed heavy pistol – worn over biker shorts to diminish chafing (and avoid embarrassment when drawing).

Shepard has also continued to train with Jack and her warp ammunition technique. Now her bullets imbued with a miniature biotic warp can detonate free Dark Energy on impact. This makes her projectiles significantly deadlier when hitting a target in the grip of biotic telekinesis.

There were giants in the earth in those days, part 1

Shepard seems to be some sort of cosmic anomaly. While it is impossible to define, it seems that the normal rules of the universe do not quite apply to her. Nobody is supposed to be that badass, that charismatic, that lucky and that competent, and certainly not all four at once.

The Commander is not just beating impossible odds. She keeps doing it, over and again, almost every single time. The Virmire suicide raid was unbelievable, and destroying a Reaper before it could take the Citadel offline was apparently never, ever done over millions of years of galactic history.

*Then* Shepard pulls off more impossible victories at Omega Four and by destroying the Bahak mass relay. While she greatly benefits from unprecedented Prothean intelligence about the Reapers, the odds of properly executing on it were absurdly low.

Interestingly, in one of the DLCs of Mass Effect 3, a primeval god-like creature outright calls Shepard “an anomaly” without further explanation, and without any special reaction on Shepard’s part. E.D.I. also remarks that she computed the odds of Shepard still being alive after all she’s been through, and that these are astronomically low.

In narrative terms, it can be compared to having Grant Morrison’s Batman erroneously end up in a gritty, tragic 1970s Peckinpah war movie with a doomed cast and proceeding to win the war by himself. Or, to use a RPG metaphor, it is as if a cosmic administrative mistake had resulted in an Exalted character inexplicably ending up in a classic Traveller campaign.

There were giants in the earth in those days, part 2

In game terms, Staff Commander Mandala Shepard’s Hero Points total is way higher than anybody else’s, and she gets a large stream of fresh Hero Points  from all the subplots, victories and powerful role-playing moments.


Commander Shepard with her Viper rifle

There are obvious limits. The Collectors did kill Shepard, and even her unbelievable exploits are merely pushing back a 50,000 years timetable by less than three years. Furthermore, she *is* an anomaly – nobody else is made of that stuff, though there are exceptional folks around such as Garrus or Liara.

The galaxy we see in the games is a generally ruthless and mediocre place, chiefly driven by greed and with obvious blind spots when it comes to facing harsh truths and serious problems. It’s the cyberpunk  version of a galaxy of shopkeepers, its head stuck in the sand, and its odds against ancient machine gods from dark space are abysmal until Shepard is factored in.

As the story subtly keeps reminding players, even an inexplicably epic heroine cannot fix everything by herself in an ordinary world. Feros may have been saved, but most people died, the survivors are sick, corporations are preying upon the colony and the invaluable Thorian had to be destroyed.

Noveria may have been won but many died (some at Shepard’s hand as they attempted to protect some miserable corporate secrets), the survivors are traumatised and most of the surviving Rachni have been turned into a maddened menace.

The Commander is but one person and the galaxy is vast.

Belief-defying, part 1

There might be some hidden reason behind Shepard’s impossible competence, but this is pure speculation.

One lead alluded to in the games is that Protheans might have tinkered with Human DNA – they are known to have surveyed primitive humanity, Shepard has a vision of one such mission using a recorder on Eletania, and during the second game Mordin makes a remark about superior Human genetic diversity that seems nonsensical from a real-world biology standpoint.

One might have fun with a sort of Merovingian-like hidden super-lineage (why is Shepard the one who finds the Eletania recorder, and why did the Consort knew she would ?). But Mass Effect Humanity might simply have a potential for people with nigh-impossible potential if the genetic roulette falls just right.

Belief-defying, part 2

Or Shepard might simply be a product of statistics. Human population is about 12 billion people, and though a vast gulf exists between the have and have-not it would seem that genetic therapy to treat common defects and diseases is accessible even to the poor.

Critical issues damaging hundreds of millions, such as poor access to clean water and education, may have gotten better since the XXIst century. Though the Systems Alliance is not generally portrayed as thunderously competent, their programs to identify potential recruits and provide proper education and training might be good, resulting in them actually recruiting the best and brightest (then hobbling them with regulations and politics).

That Humanity is heavily mixed by Shepard’s time probably doesn’t hurt either.

Commander Shepard talking

If the Humanity in the Mass Effect future can indeed draw from an immense population whose members have the level of health and education necessary to express their potential, and provides the best with a training and secondary education of unprecedented quality, then the right-hand tail of the competence level distribution is probably quite impressive.

And the rightmost point of the curve, many sigmas away from the mode, would be Shepard.

Shepard even has a non-trivial odd to be the most badass Human ever born. The population of Shepard’s time probably is something like 5% of the Humans who ever lived, which is considerable, and a far greater percentage of these folks have access to health care and education than at any point before – at least – the 2050s.

A very low percentage of Humans born during the bulk of History enjoyed these assets, and it is possible that in the Mass Effect future Shepard’s generation is the first where most people are actually given some chance to shine.

And just in time, too.

Shepard punch !

On several occasions, Commander Shepard takes by surprise very powerful opponents unaffected by her weapons, through the simple but unexpected expedient of punching them real hard in the face. This notably happens against Saren and the Shadow Broker.

In game terms this is the usual – Martial Artist EV sub, plus EV boosted with HPs up to Shepard’s STR. Since the first punch caught the opposition flat-footed in both cases it was a Blindside, allowing her to boost AV with HPs and do a Critical. Though this costs, it is a powerful attack.

This approach has the advantage of ignoring kinetic shields and biotic barriers (which can only stop so much mass), and can easily take people by surprise. Shepard is extremely fast and punches way above her weight class, especially after her Serrice muscle enhancement.

In both the cases mentioned above, the unarmed attacks also came when she seemed stalemated and thus not an immediate threat.

History – part 1

Meeting Liara T’soni on Illium was a serious blow for Shepard. Though for a few seconds Liara reacted as Shepard had hoped and kissed her, it quickly became apparent that she was seething with obsessive anger about something she wouldn’t explain.

She just wanted Shepard to help her in some vengeance scheme, and kept her emotionally at arm’s length.

Shepard agreed to just work with Liara as an ally. The Asari was now a reputed intelligence broker and had access to vast quantities of information that would be useful to Shepard to assemble and train her team.

The Commander continued to locate, recruit and train the people she wanted to have at her side to breach the Omega Four mass relay, though the friendship and support of her close friends Kasumi and Garrus was important to help her take the blow of Liara’s attitude.

Shep -e-eh — she’s a miracle

The Illusive Man then told the Commander that a Collector ship had been crippled by a Turian patrol. Though she found the information suspicious Shepard couldn’t pass up an opportunity to inspect a vessel of the mysterious Collectors.

After she and a few operators docked the seemingly immobilised ship, it was identified as the same warship that had killed the original Normandy. As she proceeded, Shepard grew certain that it was a trap – and she and her team suddenly found themselves surrounded by Collector forces.

However, the powerful Collectors had underestimated how tough Shepard and her special unit were — as well as the efficiency of E.D.I., the Normandy’s cyber-warfare A.I.. Shepard and her troops punched a hole through the Collector lines despite heavy opposition then reached the Normandy, which blasted out before the Collector ship could blow her to bits.

Liara and Commander Shepard having an intimate moment

During this mission significant information had been gathered as to how the Collectors could use the normally closed Omega Four mass relay and where it led. Some shocking facts were also gathered as to the nature of the undead-like Collectors.

Having seen that the Collector ship contained millions if not tens of millions of stasis pods to capture victims, and knowing that the Collectors were chiefly interested in capturing Humans, Shepard also strongly suspected that the aliens were planning to raid Earth. There simply weren’t enough Humans in the Terminus systems to fill a ship.

While scanning the data banks of the ship, E.D.I. discovered that, as Shepard had guessed, the message supposedly sent by the “Turian patrol” was a fake sent by the Collectors. There never had been a Turian patrol and the Collector ship obviously hadn’t been damaged.

More interestingly, the fake had encryption errors that couldn’t possibly have fooled the Illusive Man, who knew all along that it was a trap.

The Illusive Man admitted that he knew and had wanted to make it look like the trap had worked. However, his callous approach backfired. Shepard didn’t have much to do to use this information to further damage Miranda and Jacob’s loyalty toward Cerberus, as it was obvious that they would have done a much better job across the board if they had the full information.

Shep -e-eh — queen of the impossible

The Illusive Man also revealed that Cerberus had previously located the two-kilometers long corpse of a Reaper who had died about 37 million years ago. It had presumably been killed by the last act of defiance of an unimaginably ancient species that was then reaped in one of the cycles of galactic mass extinction.

Information gathered aboard the Collector ship gave solid clues as to how to extract from the Reaper corpse the means to cross Omega Four, but the Cerberus team aboard the Reaper had gone offline.

Trusting that the immense corpse wasn’t going anywhere after 37M years, Shepard doggedly stuck to building up her team. She put the resources of the Normandy behind each of her operators in turn, helping them settle accounts before they would brave a high chance of death.

More minor operations, at Cerberus’ request or at Shepard’s initiative, were also launched to accumulate shared combat operations experience and continue procuring the significant resources that Shepard’s extensive upgrade plans for the Normandy required. Tali, Garrus and Ee-Dee were instrumental in this complex naval engineering project, and Shepard had her whole team activate their contact networks to find what she needed.

Commander Shepard is sceptical

Once Tali‘Zorah and various crew members, allies and contractors were done, the Normandy had little in common in terms of firepower and durability with what she was when she left her Cerberus berth. She was now probably the most overgunned and overhardened frigate in the galaxy, and the small arms from its armoury were every bit the equivalent of Spectre guns.

Various advanced subsystems, extra fuel cells, probe bays, etc. were also added so the Normandy could operate on her own beyond Omega Four for as long as necessary – just in case.

A key development was the installation of a pair of prototype Thanix cannons, reverse-engineered by the best Turian military R&D skunkworks after clandestinely looting large chunks of Sovereign’s corpse. This procurement was arranged by Garrus.

Other assets included a cyclonic shield generator managed by Quarian multicore generator technology procured by Tali, and a carbon monotubes/synthetic diamond Silaris-class armour plating treatment arranged by Jacob.

Though she generally put the needs of her teams before her own, one of the accounts-closing missions launched from the Normandy was for Shepard’s own sake. Before the jump into the unknown and likely fatal through Omega Four, Shepard was determined to have a heart-to-heart with Dr. T’Soni.

Shep -e-eh — she’ll save every one of us

This specific endeavour was launched after Cerberus gave Shepard critical information about the Shadow Broker, which would allow Liara to locate her sworn foe.

T’Soni decided to go straight for the throat of the Broker, knowing that her ex would be there to back her up. Shepard indeed volunteered, wanting to free her former bondmate from her all-consuming vow of vengeance – and increasingly catching small clues that Liara actually still loved her.

Liara stopped by her apartment to prepare for the op. When Shepard got there she found the police at the apartment, which had come under fire, and T’Soni gone. A fellow Spectre was also there, Asari super-cop Tela Vasir.

Assuming Liara had left directions, Shepard searched the place, though she stopped for a bit as she saw that Liara had recovered the Commander’s old N7 chestplate and kept it under glass as an ubi sunt  in her loft.

Liara had indeed left a secret message, and with Vasir’s help Shepard rushed to the place where T’Soni was meeting an analyst working on Cerberus’ intelligence. However, as the Commander arrived, the building office was gutted by an explosion. Mercenaries had just blown up three whole floors to kill Liara, murdering and wounding dozens to keep the Broker’s base’s location a secret.

Commander Shepard points a M-5 Phalanx pistol

Shepard rushed in, eliminating mercenaries looking to check their kill, but didn’t find her favourite Asari. As the two Spectres were deciding what to do next, Liara came out of hiding, pointing her gun at Vasir and telling Shepard that her colleague was the sniper who had tried to kill her at her apartment.

Vasir narrowly escaped with the location data, but was intercepted after a high-speed chase amidst the Illium flying cars traffic. Shepard forced Vasir’s car to crash, seriously wounding her.

As they were closing in, Shepard and her operatives came under attack from squads of Shadow Broker operatives attempting to relieve Vasir, but the Commander and her forces terminated them – then took down Vasir despite her vast biotic power.

The dying Vasir readily admitted that she had been working with the Shadow Broker for years. The underworld network provided her with intelligence she used to take out threats to Citadel Space, and she saw the occasional bit of wetwork — like being ordered to kill T’Soni — as a fair tradeoff for all the lives she was saving.

Shepard was appalled at this abuse of Spectre authority, but before passing on Vasir bitterly pointed out that Shepard’s arrangement with Cerberus was even worse.

This clash of titans led Commander Shepard to reaffirm her ethical principles – both because she saw in Vasir a reflection of herself and her tortuous alliance with Cerberus, and because she was worried about Liara’s increasingly ruthless and violent attitude.

Commander Shepard aims a M-97 Viper sniper rifle

The victory against Tela Vasir was followed by a lightning assault on the hidden fortress of the Shadow Broker. The spearhead team (predictably nicknamed “the Three Graces” by Joker as it consisted of Shepard, T’Soni and Lawson) banked on its speed to outflank the extensive security, and successfully reached and engaged the mighty Shadow Broker after heavy fighting.

Miranda was knocked out and trapped under broken metallic furniture, but after a brutal mixture of firefight and hand-to-hand combat, Mandala and Liara killed the Broker.

The quick-minded T’Soni secretly took over the Broker’s entire operation, using the extensive encryption and masking to become the Shadow Broker. As she started facing the enormity of what had happened within the last few minutes Dr. T’Soni melted into tears out of nerves, leading to Cdr. Shepard gently taking her in her arms then a long kiss in the ravaged command and control centre.

Though Dr. T’Soni was terrified of losing Shepard again to whatever laid beyond the Omega Four relay, they had a series of discussions and Liara made a leap of faith – the pair became a couple again.

The Normandy stayed docked at the Shadow Broker’s hidden fortress just long enough for the assault teams to recover. She then left to investigate the eons-old Reaper corpse, intending to salvage the systems there that would allow for crossing Omega Four.

Shep -e-eh — saviour of the universe

Finally reading the briefings about the Cerberus team that had gone offline within the Reaper corpse horrified Shepard – having more experience with indoctrination than practically anyone, she had little doubt that the full-sized research team was now a small army of ravaged husks.

She thus went in with Massani and Grunt to do a sweep for survivors in case of a miracle, but mostly to salvage all the research material she could find. She hoped that this way the scientists would not have been expanded by the Illusive Man for nothing, and to burn their grotesquely animated remains as a funeral of sorts.

Welcome to the fold

Reapers corrupt and destroy minds with their mere presence. Being near a Reaper or certain types of Reaper machines (perhaps communication devices) will result in a buzz in the back of one’s mind, which gradually turns into voices that destroy the sanity of the person and make them into an agent of the Reapers.

The process can be gradual, or conducted to overwhelm the person within a few days – but the latter results in a dramatically shortened lifespan.

This process, called indoctrination, resembles cinematic versions of schizophrenic symptoms – such as visibly deranged persons ranting about how the voices keep telling them to kill, or wanting to know first-hand the glories of the death gods from dark space.

It also results in a horrific loss of identity as members of the same species become psychically linked and unable to determine if their memories and sense of self are theirs or those of the person next to them.

As indoctrination progresses, physical symptoms appear as bands of skin start decaying and being replaced with a grey matter similar to the skin of husks and other Reaper constructs. However, indoctrination is quite different from the process to create husks and other undead monsters – the latter requires impaling persons on spike-like machines to colonise their bodies with Reaper technology.

It is possible for very strong-willed persons such as Shepard to resist indoctrination for a good while, and other persons with great willpower, such as Saren or Matriarch Benezia, could briefly shake off indoctrination even after lengthy exposure. 99+% of people don’t stand a chance, though.

The strength of indoctrination also seems to diminish as the Reapers are further away, the exposure recedes in the past, and in some cases if the Reaper’s focus shifts away from a key agent such as Saren.

The fighting within the Reaper, dead but still dreaming, was brutal. Especially since some husks had been merged together into grotesque giant creatures of superior durability and firepower.

After a lengthy, careful slog and thousands of rounds fired, reams of unprecedented research had been salvaged, as well as key circuitry. It was a sort of IFF system  that allowed a ship to cross Omega Four without being destroyed on arrival. It was necessary to destroy the Reaper corpse, however.

During the fighting, a friendly sniper in the hull infrastructure provided occasional support against the husks. When the team made visual contact with the sniper, the incredulous Shepard realised that it was a geth – who clearly greeted her as “Shepard-Commander” before disappearing again in the infrastructure.

The geth later helped Shepard gain access to a well-defended part of the Reaper corpse, but was overwhelmed and taken down by husks before Shepard could come in.

Liara and Commander Shepard riding in a shuttle before a mission

Shepard had Grunt carry the inexplicably helpful geth to the Normandy. Though Miranda insisted that it should be shipped to Cerberus for study and Jacob wanted to space it ASAP, Shepard ignored their advice as she wanted to do her usual thing – talk to it. The reactivated geth readily agreed to work with her, and was christened “Legion” by E.D.I. based on his runtimes count.

Establishing contact with Legion revolutionised the understanding of the geth, as it was the first time since the fall of Rannoch, three centuries ago, that an organic person could communicate with a geth.

Shepard then used intelligence collected by Legion to locate the stronghold of the geth survivors of the Sovereign-led attack on the Citadel. Shepard used the facilities to destroy this faction of geth, called the heretics, who were about to brainwash the rest of the geth with a Reaper virus.

Though it was technically possible to use their own weapon to rewrite the core functions of the heretics and make them reject worshipping the Reapers, Shepard refused this approach. She was willing to kill armed, fanatical enemy soldiers with whom negotiation was impossible, but not to brainwash people – even if they were synthetics.

Interlude — The wild bunch

As the Normandy approaches Omega Four, the following persons have been added to Shepard’s special tactical force :

  • Tali‘Zorah vas Normandy, callsign Nomad. Quarian, technological genius, Shepard’s protégée and a veteran from the Saren Plot campaign. Hacking and intrusion specialist, Chief Engineering Officer of the Normandy.
  • Thane Krios, callsign Assassin. Drell, probably one of the best hitmen in the galaxy. Superhuman agility and reflexes, martial arts master, extraordinary marksman and intrusion expert. Thane Krios has but months left to live due to a medical condition.
  • The Justicar Samara, callsign Justicar. Asari paladin bound to an ancient Code of justice, crushingly powerful biotics. Death on two legs. Justicars are very rare but occupy a unique position across Asari cultures.
  • “Legion”, a geth humanoid platform running an order of magnitude more runtimes than the average unit. Legion was specifically sent to track down Shepard after the destruction of Sovereign, and contact with Legion revealed that the organics’ previous understanding of the geth was almost completely wrong. Legion is an extremely efficient special operations trooper and sniper.

Furthermore, the A.I. of the Normandy, Ee-Dee (Enhanced Defense Intelligence) has been jailbroken and is now considered a key member of the crew. In many respects, Ee-Dee is the Normandy.

Lastly, Dr. Liara T’Soni is a very close ally who can supply precious resources and intelligence to her bondmate.

History – part 2

As the crew was installing the IFF systems salvaged from the dead Reaper, Shepard and her squad left with the shuttle for an undocumented mission. However, the IFF emitted a pulse once it was powered, then bollixed the engines – and a short time later the Collectors boarded the Normandy.

With the tactical force gone, the crew was completely overwhelmed within minutes and dragged off the ship kicking and screaming.

(“An undocumented mission” is papering over the main problem with the storyline – the events at this point do not make sense, and convey the strong impression that a mission was meant to take place but had to be cut due to deadlines. But when narrating *this* playthrough, it is always possible to make something up.)

(For instance, one secondary quest line concerns a VI defect that makes combat robots go rogue, and Shepard tracking the problem back to the factory to shut it down. An imaginary fix could be that taking over the factory was a much bigger job than the scenario in the game, as Shepard actually hijacked the entire factory for several hours, continuing to produce inactive but defective robots as her specialists were cleaning up the systems and hunting down stray robots.)

(In this made-up scenario, the robots were then put in shipping containers, stocked aboard the Normandy, and released in a section of the Collectors base (see below) to create a second front. The robots being uncontrollable, the Collectors were forced to fight them for a while, significantly hampering their ability to respond to Shepard’s actual forces.)

She saves with a mighty hand, every man every woman every child

However, the flight crew’s desperate resistance bought just enough time for Joker to sneak into the bowels of his ship despite his medical condition.

E.D.I. had a plan – if Joker gave her full access to the Normandy, she could kill the hostile software that had been lying in wait within the IFF’s hardware for millions of years and help him initiate manual procedures to cycle the engine back on.

Though completely jailbreaking the AI was clearly a bad idea on paper, Joker didn’t have any choice. Furthermore he and EDI had developed a complex relationship akin to flirting, and a high degree of trust.

Joker reluctantly jailbroke Ee-Dee, then dragged his fragile body within maintenance shafts whilst dodging Collectors. EDI destroyed the Reaper software thanks to her own Reapers-based intrusion countermeasures, then depressurised the entire ship except for the engine room where Joker was standing.

With all the Collectors aboard the Normandy thus spaced, Ee-Dee hit the figurative gas and the Normandy escaped from the Collectors then rendezvoused with the shuttle carrying the tac force.

With full access to the Normandy, Ee-dee could manage the ship along with Joker even with the rest of the crew gone. Shepard had the Normandy dock on Liara’s fortress for 12 hours, to treat wounded tactical operators with Dr. T’Soni’s help and have an integrity review done on the Normandy’s hardware and software.

She wouldn’t wait one minute longer – the Collectors held her crew, and she was coming for them. The Normandy jumped to nearby Omega Four, where it made another mass relay jump – the one no ship had ever come back from.

Commander Shepard face 3/4 view

Omega Four’s exit point was at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy. The density of black holes there normally meant that a ship would be torn apart within, at most, minutes. However, impossibly powerful Mass Effect generators maintained a large sphere free of hypergravity around a space station.

The normal drift from a mass relay jump meant a high probability of appearing outside the sphere, but with a Reapers IFF system to convey instructions to the mass relay appearing in the safe zone was guaranteed, allowing Sovereign and its agents to use Omega Four.

However, the remains of at least 50,000 years of failed attempts to enter Omega Four were floating around, and only Joker’s quick reflexes prevented the Normandy from crashing into a sea of spaceship debris.

Several occuli — the Reapers’ techno-organic equivalent of a heavy fighter — intercepted the frigate, but though they damaged the Normandy Joker outmaneuvered them in the debris field. One repeatedly made it through the hull, but was repelled by Shepard, Grunt and Garrus – who eventually destroyed it.

When the Collectors scrambled their cruiser to swat the Normandy, Joker adopted an aggressive firing trajectory and Garrus’ Thanix artillery pieces proved to be more than even a Collector warship could take. However, by this point the Normandy was too damaged, and had to crash-land on the Collectors’ base.

Determined to rescue all test subjects within the Collectors’ space station, Shepard went in immediately while Joker and EDI did what they could to repair the damage.

The Commander had the invading forces run a number of tricks and diversions which kept the Collectors off-balance. Apparently no plan existed to defend an unreachable base, and the opposition was outmatched when it came to tactics. The entire crew of the Normandy could be rescued, but it was too late for the previously kidnapped Humans.

Shepard had Dr. Solus escort the rescued crew back to the ship, so they would receive immediate medical care. She decided to forge ahead with Samara and Legion, leaving the rest of the team to set up a chokepoint to stop the pursuing Collector forces.

Exploring, Shepard discovered what the genetic material of the colonists had been used for. She then destroyed the thing – though she had long wished to use the immensely destructive M-920 Cain railcannon in the field, the context of this use gave her little joy.

Commander Shepard finds her beloved Revenant

As Shepard placed a charge that would detonate the base’s power core, the Illusive Man argued over her comm channel for keeping the base, in order to study its secrets to turn them against the Reapers. Shepard refused.

She absolutely did not trust the Illusive Man or his politics, she knew that indoctrination was almost guaranteed to turn such studies into an horrorfest, and she needed to see the installations where such untold atrocities had taken place annihilated.

The Normandy left as the Collectors’ base exploded, marking the end of the alliance between Shepard and the furious Illusive Man.

The flight crew was weak and traumatised, and most tactical operators had been wounded, with Miranda having been badly shot while leading one of the diversionary moves. Shepard had the Normandy make another pit stop at Dr. T’Soni’s secret base for repairs and a second short round of medical care.

The Cerberus flight crew was then flown to a hospital for counseling and to minimise long-term psychic sequellae – presumably Grissom Academy, since Shepard seems to have contacts there and they specialise in exceptional cases.

Shepard left most of the tactical force with Liara for treatment and recuperation, having her ship operated by Joker and E.D.I.. She had one last job to do, but it was solo work.

Just a woman, with a woman’s courage, but she can never fail

Hackett had informed Shepard that a Systems Alliance special operations team led by Dr. Amanda Kenson had gone silent while on a covert op in Bahak, a far-flung Batarian system. Kenson was a friend of Hackett, who asked Shepard to rescue her as a personal favour – Shepard having both the necessary skills and a stealth ship capable of crossing Batarian Hegemony turf.

Hackett requested that this be a solo operation – one person would be deniable, whereas more operatives would make this rescue a Cerberus or an Alliance op, leading to serious risks of a Batarian/Human war if exposed. The Human/Batarian situation had been very tense for many years, and it would only take a small spark.

Shepard had delayed this risked mission until the Collectors’ base had been destroyed, but she intended to help Hackett. She sneaked into the prison, then broke Kenson out. To her surprise, Kenson knew about the Reapers, and explained that the mass relay here in the Bahak system, on the galactic rim, was the one the Reapers would use to enter the mass relay network and lay waste to the galaxy.

Kenson’s team wanted to destroy the mass relay, slowing the Reapers down by months or even a year. Though relays are practically indestructible, their plan was to affix engines to a huge ferrous asteroid and drive it straight into the relay at maximum speed, which was expected to do the job.

However, the explosion of the relay was expected to be of supernova intensity, vaporising the entire system – including the 300,000 Batarians toiling to establish a colony. Everything had already been set up by the time Kenson was captured.

Liara and Commander Shepard embracing after killing the Shadow Broker

Questioned by Shepard, Kenson explained that she had learned about the Reaper and their procedures from an artefact called Object Rho, found near the relay – claiming that it gave her a vision similar to the one Shepard experienced from the Prothean beacon on Eden Prime. According to Kenson’s calculations, the Reapers’ arrival was but two days away.

Increasingly distrustful, Shepard soon determined that Kenson and her entire staff had been subtly indoctrinated by exposure to Reaper tech. Trapped in a room, Shepard fought her fellow Marines Special Operations troops, now servants of the Reapers, inflicting major casualties before they overwhelmed her.

However the Reaper controlling Kenson, Harbinger, decided in a fit of pique that Shepard, the killer of Sovereign, should be alive to witness the arrival of the Reapers.

That was a mistake. Shepard regained consciousness faster than expected, hacked her way out of the medical block, fought her way to the controls and switched the thrusters to full burn, sending the planetoid on its course. By this point there were but hours left, leaving Shepard with no choice, and her attempt to warn the Batarian colony was jammed by Kenson.

Kenson attempted to manually detonate the drive cores mounted on the asteroid, but despite heavy resistance from indoctrinated troops Shepard manually lowered the control rods, then reached Kenson. She was forced to shoot her, but Kenson dropped a grenade that knocked the Commander unconscious.

By this point the asteroid — larger than even a relay — couldn’t be stopped, and there were but minutes left before the Reapers’ arrival. Shepard fought her way to a communication array that could broadcast her position to the Normandy, and was picked up and flown out in the nick of time. The explosion did pulverise the entire system.

No one but the pure of heart

In the wake of the destruction of the Bahak system, Commander Shepard had an off-the-record face-to-face debrief with Admiral Hackett.

Though Hackett knew that Shepard had done the right thing and would have saved the colonists if but the shadow of a chance had existed, the situation with the Batarians was very tense and it was indispensable that Shepard be tried for the events in Bahak – if only to make it clear that it had not been a Systems Alliance mission, which would be a clear casus belli.

(The events between ME2 and ME3 are left undetailed in the games. The following is logical extrapolation *for this specific playthrough*, though the mention of Anderson and Sanders is about events that occur in one of the novels.)

Shepard agreed with Hackett and told him she’d surrender to Alliance authorities in two weeks on the dot. During these two weeks, Shepard had personal conversations with all members of her team.

She also had Lawson and Drs. Chakwas, Solus and T’Soni perform every test they could think of to determine whether repeated exposure to Reapers had indoctrinated her, so as to avoid any sort of psychic contamination of Liara. Though the tests couldn’t be 100% conclusive, Liara decided to take the risk – as she noted, her mother had been able to partially resist Reaper indoctrination even after living within Sovereign for weeks.

Commander Shepard ME2 face closeup

Suspecting that she’d end up in a brig for a while, Shepard made Dr. T’Soni the lead in the preparations against the Reapers. Liara would refocus her Shadow Broker resources on finding ways to fight the coming annihilation, and continue to coordinate with Shepard’s two main allies – Admiral Hackett and Councilor Anderson.

During this stage Shepard might, at best, help as just another agent gathering thin intelligence – and that was assuming that the Systems Alliance miraculously let her go after the trial. Since finding more Prothean resources was the most promising angle, Liara as the new Shadow Broker had the best resources and capabilities one could possibly hope for.

Meanwhile, Councilor Anderson was attempting to rally political support among the Council, but it became clear that progress was too slow to be useful. Anderson gradually left his advisor, Donnel Udina, take the lead since Udina had more traditional diplomatic skills that were likely to work better.

After Anderson authorised a series of Turian military strikes against Cerberus, there was a scandal and he resigned, resuming his military commission. Admiral Anderson was nearly killed fighting Cerberus forces along with his lover Kahlee Sanders, but made a full recovery.

Before surrendering to the Alliance, Shepard finally had enough face-to-face time with her bondmate to seriously talk about their experiences and feelings, and reforge their couple. During this phase, most of the Normandy tactical force dispersed – the job was done and their fearless leader would soon be in a brig.

Once most were gone, Shepard and T’Soni took a three-day vacation on Virmire. Between the traditional long walks on the beach, they erected an unmarked stele to commemorate the sacrifice of Gunnery Chief Williams. Both knew that a measly three days was probably the best real downtime they could hope for given their responsibilities.

Mere hours before returning to face military justice on Earth Shepard dragged T’Soni before their ally the Justicar Samara, who agreed to declare them “bondmates before the Code”, a sort of engagement vow.

The vow itself has no grand origin. It was made up millennia ago by a medieval ruler to expedite a politically-arranged marriage, and seldom used since – if only because there are so few Justicars. However during the long course of Asari history some couples of elite Huntresses have sought out Justicars to have the declaration made as they considered it more romantic, so there is some precedent.

This declaration has no legal value in itself. However, Shepard knows that Asari courts treat the word of a Justicar as law – and the Systems Alliance would never risk the diplomatic shitstorm of refusing to acknowledge Asari traditions they know next to nothing about, especially over something so trivial.

Mandala Shepard then packed her dress blues and left Liara’s hidden fortress to return to Earth.


Shepard is now entirely healed and has regained her full weight. Miranda Lawson’s “improvements” are now fully apparent, especially given the very tight cut of most clothing in the Mass Effect future, and the previously lean Shepard sports more marked curves.

She doesn’t have time to care about that though – she has a major mission to run 24/7, and she barely had time to grab new athletic underwear, have her armour suits adjusted and pretend not to hear a few off-colour comments by Joker before resuming her pace.

Commander Shepard with a shouldered Revenant machinegun

Kasumi Gōtō continues her campaign to get the Staff Commander to wear civilian clothing. Thus, Shepard now owns a pair of artisanal Asari long dresses – the Asari equivalent of a tailored business suit. Those were bought after Kasumi dragged her to go shopping on Illium to change Shepard’s mind after reestablishing contact with Dr. T’Soni.

Though Shepard doesn’t feel comfortable in a dress yet, these are gorgeous pieces of clothing and she’ll wear them when an uniform would make her too recognisable — since these dresses are about the only pieces of civilian clothing she owns – -or when dressing up for Liara. Shepard’s dresses are in cold, uniform-like colours such as grey-blue or off-white.

She usually wears combat uniform trousers underneath in case of a problem. The long, heavy, tight dresses are impossible to move in and would have to be quickly rolled up – and unlike some science fiction heroines Shepard doesn’t see value in running around in her underwear.

Initially, Shepard wears a sleek white and grey Cerberus officer uniform for the crew’s sake, but after reaching Illium she starts wearing her old Systems Alliance utility blues and ugly naval boots – without any rank insignia since she’s AWOL.

While these are… less elegant, it makes it clear that she’s not Cerberus, and by this point the crew trusts their CO enough to see this as controversial but not insulting.


As her Revenant is quite larger than her Mattock (it is larger in collapsed carry mode than the Mattock is when deployed) and her humongous Phalanx sidearm doesn’t have a collapsed carry mode, the field-ready Shepard looks even more like a walking arsenal than before.

Her indifferent makeup skills haven’t improved, except for the one of most import to her – speed of application. Likewise she’s still a truly terrible dancer – Shepard may be incredibly fast, precise and coordinated, but she’s about as graceful as an industrial soldering iron.

Shepard’s oversized cabin on the Normandy now hosts a part of Tali’s starship models collection, since there is a transparent casing of about the right size that the Commander wasn’t using.

Other curios include her old, damaged N7 combat helmet (salvaged from the wreck of the original Normandy), a Prothean artefact sphere saved for Dr. T’Soni, a frame with Shepard’s recovered Star of Terra medal (procured by Liara in circumstances she didn’t elucidate), Thessian sunfishes in a huge aquarium and a gift from Garrus – a miniature giant space hamster whose squeaks sound oddly familiar.

Commander Shepard aims a heavy pistol

When they get to share some downtime, Cdr. Shepard and Dr. T’Soni are frequently holding hands. This is almost reflexive – an habit developed to ward off memories of the difficult times that resulted from Shepard’s death.

Being about the same size and owning minimal wardrobes, they also share clothing, though in practice that mostly means Liara doing her office work in Shepard’s Systems Alliance Marines tank tops and fatigues – and losing an alarming number of Shepard’s socks.

Traditionally, each class passing the N7 Special Operations Certification chips in a symbolic sum to have their support engineers flash-build an embroidering gadget for the highest-rated person in the class. This little device can quickly adorn almost any piece of clothing with the N7 certification badge in a variety of sizes.

Since it was a gift Shepard feels compelled to use hers, and almost everything in her small wardrobe, down to the socks Liara keeps losing, thus has a small N7 logo. Even Shepard’s Asari dresses have the badge, though it’s a small one inside the collar.


Staff Commander Shepard has fully recuperated and is on a roll, working like a woman possessed and running a tight ship and nearly flawless shore missions.

The initial reunion with Liara on Illium leaves her feeling half-depressed, but though Commander Shepard doesn’t see much value in hiding her emotions she’s simply swamped in high-intensity, critical work and can’t afford the time to dwell on her feelings.

Though her closest friends are aware she isn’t feeling too great, to everybody else Shepard is an amazing presence – relaxed, never missing a beat, demonstrating impossible acumen, warm and friendly, heavily charismatic, razor-sharp, a mistress of strategy, etc.

Despite the accruing stress from commanding her critical mission, Shepard’s tone is less curt and commanding than ever. With her friends, or when reaching out to someone, she can sound almost sweet and nurturing.

This seems to be a side effect of her maturation and experience – by now Shepard simply doesn’t need to sound in charge to be obeyed, and doesn’t need to sound intimidating to impose her charismatic presence. Her general policy is now closer to “speak softly and carry a half-dozen cannons”.

Paragon reborn

As she hits Illium, Shepard has been examining the nuances of grey that have been creeping into her methods and is increasingly rejecting them, in good part because she sees how a more ends-justifying-the-means approach could make her very much like the Illusive Man.

As she thus reflects upon her methods, Shepard is reminded of how Saren Arterius sincerely wanted to save the galaxy. She also learns more from Samara about the Spectre who should have been her mentor, Nihlus Kryik, a man used to questionable ethical choices.

The final step is Shepard’s confrontation with a fourth Spectre, Tela Vasir. Shepard can only condemn Vasir’s arrangement with the Shadow Broker to better serve as a Spectre, but it is impossible to ignore that her own dealings with Cerberus to save the galaxy are similar – if not worse. Vasir is the sort of pragmatic Spectre Shepard might have become had she not reaffirmed her ethical commitments in the wake of that encounter.

The last component of Shepard’s return to being a moral paragon and exemplary heroine was her concern over Liara having become so ruthless. As she rekindles her ties with Liara, Shepard reflexively finishes returning to her old ethical standards so her bondmate can rely on her moral centre.

Liara and Commander Shepard after killing the Shadow Broker

In particular, Shepard continues looking for ways to avoid violence. Though there’s often no choice (especially against Reapers agents such as Collectors), she takes pride in defusing situations by talking and negotiating whenever possible.

Some of her more brutal allies will often grumble that just shooting up the place would work better, but it’s difficult not to admire Shepard’s nobility and poise when she manages to find a peaceful solution.

Her reputation is also beginning to help – some of the people she runs into are aware that attacking Commander Shepard and her tactical operators is an extremely bad idea, and that listening to her is much more likely to result in survival. Shepard is generous to a fault in such circumstances – she’s willing to let people who were determined to kill her go free and unscathed, provided nobody got shot on her side.

During one mission, a recurring antagonist even expresses relief that it’s Shepard who’s storming the place, as she knows she’s guaranteed to be treated fairly and will likely be left to flee if she surrenders and immediately volunteers enough useful intelligence.

Shepard is almost comically embarrassed by her cabin on the Normandy. It’s way larger and more luxurious than normal crew accommodations, and offends her egalitarian sensibilities as a Systems Alliance Marine since it’s obviously meant as an ostentatious display of status.

Shepard thus collectivises her cabin as she hosts Garrus’ space hamster, displays Tali’s model ships, agrees to have Kelly run the aquarium, lets Kasumi stashes recent acquisitions of uncertain provenance under her bed, etc.

The ties that bind, part 2

Shepard’s relationships with the new members of the tactical force go along these rough lines.

Tali‘Zorah vas Neema (callsign Nomad)

Tali is still Shepard’s protégée, especially as she experiences difficult losses during this era. Shepard’s attitude toward Tali oscillates between being the cool big sister and being motherly – with Tali occasionally making fun of the latter, as she can tell that Shepard and she now look about the same age.

Shepard wants Tali to be happy and realised, and the two continue to bond. Tali eventually makes weighty decisions and chooses Shepard as her Captain — in some respects the equivalent of a feudal lord — and the Normandy as her ship – in some respects the equivalent of a country.

Much of a Quarian’s life and loyalty lie with their ship, and Tali‘Zorah vas Neema becoming Tali‘Zorah vas Normandy (and thus a “citizen” of Shepard’s “nation”) is a serious matter.

Shepard tends to let Tali handle all the engineering stuff – while the Commander is certainly no slouch with computers and electronics, her Quarian protégée is a genius.

Thane Krios (callsign Assassin)

There’s a certain tenderness and immediacy between Thane and Shepard. Were Shepard not already in a relationship, something romantic might have happened.

Shepard is genuinely sorry to see an ethical and wise man about to die, and to Thane’s eyes she fits to a T with the mythological figure of the female warrior-angel (“siha”) whom he always loved in older Drell legends. Shepard is his personal valkyrie as he’s about to pass on.

Shepard wants to make Thane’s last few months worth it and a good epitaph, and the ever-civil and classy Krios only alludes to his affection for her in order not to make her uncomfortable or sadder.

Commander Shepard and Joker in the Normandy helm

The Justicar Samara (callsign Justicar)

Samara is happy to have found a peer and a leader – it has been centuries since she met somebody like that. She and Shepard gradually form a solid if usually laconic friendship, but there are awkward bits — Samara and Shepard have a strange succession of moments where they deeply connect, and of moments where they have no idea how to behave toward each other.

Samara has trouble wrapping her head around Shepard being so young by Asari standards since she’s not used to meeting aliens, and Shepard doesn’t want to bother Samara too often with the mountain of questions she has about Asari traditions and the Code. Though they have a lot in common as greater-than-life warriors and saviours, their experiences and roots are so different that they take it slowly.

There were hints of mutual attraction early on, which would have been a difficult situation – but this is solved when the relationship between Shepard and T’Soni resumes.

Even Liara lives in a different world than Samara – to her meeting Samara is basically like meeting the Lone Ranger, complete with horse and six-guns, and the notion that the Lone Ranger takes orders from her bondmate is even weirder.

Enhanced Defense Intelligence

Shepard treats E.D.I. like any other crew member – or rather like an exceptionally competent crew member whom she particularly values, much like Joker or Dr. Chakwas.

The Commander seems supremely indifferent to the fact that Ee-Dee is an A.I. and never takes her for granted – for Shepard a person is a person. This complete lack of prejudice seems to play an important role in Ee-Dee’s loyalty toward Shepard and the Normandy.


Legion are the most alien member of the squad, and the ones with whom relating is the hardest. However, Legion are a huge fan of Shepard in a way they cannot explain – their admiration for the Commander is outside of normal geth OS functions.

Shepard is aware that Tali is quite unnerved by Legion’s presence, but Legion are effectively an ambassador from a previously unknown, non-hostile geth faction and establishing a peaceful relationship with these is of critical importance.

Like with E.D.I., once Shepard has had explained how the geth function and what they value, she treats them without any prejudice. They’re not “persons” as such, but it’s close enough as far as she’s concerned, and with her high intelligence Shepard has little problem adapting to their logic.


Shepard can be a tad overprotective toward her bondmate Liara and her protégée Tali, to their mild annoyance. Though both Dr. T’Soni and Tali‘Zorah are redoubtable fighters, Shepard occasionally comes across as the 6’2” 230 lbs. marine/weightlifter protecting her nerdy kid sister.

Kiss-kiss bang-bang

After landing on Illium, Dr. T’Soni coldness and anger about matters she won’t explain leave Commander Shepard reeling – it hits her with devastating force. She slides further into depression and ends her flirting with Yeoman Chambers, as her state of emotional vulnerability would leave her easily manipulated if Chambers is indeed acting on orders from the Illusive Man.

Shepard is also gripped by irrational guilt as it seems likely that her death hurt Liara badly and is responsible for her current behaviour.

Hours after her failed reunion with T’Soni, Shepard ended up sleeping with Miranda Lawson after a night of heavy drinking as Lawson was also staggered by personal tragedy on Illium. Both were far too inebriated for anything sexual to happen – it was essentially a big shared cry and hug to evacuate stress, followed by drunken blackout sleep then embarrassment.

Commander Shepard with her visor on

Though it worked pretty well for Lawson, it didn’t help Shepard much. After this incident she starts wondering whether she was unfaithful to T’soni, and to worry that men she might be interested it will wrongly assume that she’s lesbian.

Both are irrational — nothing happened, and Shepard is very unlikely to develop romantic ties with any of the men aboard the Normandy — but these worries tend to pop in her thoughts at the oddest moments until the death of the Shadow Broker.

Within a few days of rekindling their romance, the effects of psychic melding again become apparent as Shepard and T’Soni regain their footing. A week after the victory beyond Omega Four, they behave as if they had been living together for years despite the major changes they have both been through.

When Shepard and T’Soni can spend time together, they generally live in their own private lovey-dovey world. Shepard has essentially no experience with the civilian world beyond low-key R&R, and Liara always preferred privacy and quiet. They also know that they’ll be separated soon for an unknown duration after the trial, and would rather enjoy what little time they have.

Shepard usually addresses Liara as “honey” and Liara usually uses a wide variety of pet names referring to cute Thessian animals, but in public they call each other “T’Soni” and “Shepard”, apparently as an unexplained private joke.

Though initially Liara was the starry-eyed romantic and Mandala the two-fisted woman in charge, there have been considerable evolutions. Shepard’s life has been over-the-top crazy since she boarded the original Normandy, and she’d like her downtime to be relaxing, romantic sweet time – which she didn’t care for much when she was younger.

Meanwhile, Liara has done a lot of growing up and is much more decisive, powerful and worldly than before. The power dynamics in the couple are thus much more balanced and sustainable than they originally were.

Gender bender

Shepard insists on correcting people who refer to Liara as her girlfriend or her fiancée, using the proper Asari term (“bondmate”). This is pretty much a lost cause, however – most of her associates just can’t help thinking of Liara as a woman.

After she and Liara are back together even Shepard occasionally slips and calls her her girlfriend – despite not wanting people to think of her as a lesbian, and despite having a hands-on understanding of the physiological and psychological differences between an Asari Maiden and a Human woman.

Binary genders are just too embedded in most Human languages, and nobody is going to refer to Liara as an “it” or a “they”.

Another point of dissonance is Shepard’s fascination with the Asari heritage. Most Humans just see Asari as sexy blue space chicks, scantily-clad exotic dancers in the red light district or haughty corporate snobs with too much influence — they keep mentally processing them as a large group of exotic women rather than as one of the key alien species in the galaxy.

By contrast, for Shepard the Asari are first and foremost a galactic species with its cultures, philosophies, strategies and tactics, immense history, advanced mental capabilities, warrior traditions and martial arts, etc. It’s no coincidence that her bondmate is an historian and a classically-trained biotic fighter.

Liara and Commander Shepard having a romantic diner

Another source of misunderstanding is the notion of what constitutes a couple. The fusion between partners that result from Asari telepathy is different from modern Human couples, of a more transient nature resting on market-like elective affinities.

The idea of having such a level of shared intimacy seems vaguely creepy and/or kinky for many Humans, and the idea of having sex that removes all privacy is disquieting to many. Shepard is comfortable with that, but hers is a rare level of steadfastness and she’s romantically… old-fashioned.

Or, to be more direct, she’s hopelessly naïve and girlish when it comes to love and her head is full of idealised notions about perfect romance and eternal love – though the original plan was more about tall dark strangers played by a young Clint Eastwood than blue monogendered telekinetic feminoids.

Shepard would have a hard time defining her preferences at this point, though she doesn’t feel particularly queer – but she’s not concerned about this. She’s a woman of action, and pinning little labels on her preferences to determine in which boxes she fits is not her thing.

Muddy water blues

Shepard is a genuinely empathic person struggling to save lives and fix problems – unlike Garrus she’s not here to shoot bad guys, she’s here to help.

Her quest to prevent galactic genocide and provide relief along the way does drag her through a lot of suffering and misery – hers and others. There are thousands of people she arrives too late to help, she deals with many shocked survivors, kills people she doesn’t want to kill but who leave her no choice, sees tragedy she can do little about since it’s too late, deals with a lot of greed and evil, etc.

Though Shepard possesses an amazing physical, mental and emotional endurance, this “war is hell” character to her adventures is harrowing, especially given the extremely aggressive tempo of the operations she commands. By the end of the Battle of the Citadel she’s something of a wreck who only survived the battle through a minor miracle, and after her resurrection she has to deal with being an undead cyborg.

Subsequent operations on Horizon, Illium, Pragia, etc. also take their toll. By the end of Mass Effect 2, Shepard has absorbed enough tension and stress to power the Normandy for a day, and is in dire need of R&R.

Commander Shepard in a Dirty Harry pose

Shepard generally holds together superbly, but there are low points where she needs a boost to retain the level of self-collection she needs to work. These have involved drinking binges, go-pills, relying on the friendship of rather disreputable individuals (such as Zaeed Massani) and obsessively pining after her ex for sweet psychic lovin’ and companionship.

These episodes are brief, though – it’s closer to swimming to the bottom of the pool and kicking it to firmly go back to the surface and swim harder. Shepard both endures well and recovers quickly… but there are nonetheless limits. Mentally and emotionally, she’s still Human.

These low points cease after Shepard and T’Soni are reunited – for the right persons, psychic fusion is one hell of a drug.

After Shepard’s exposure to Object Rho, she starts having nightmares where Liara suddenly turns out to be ardat-yakshi and kills her, and Liara soon gets nightmares where Shepard suddenly turns out to be Reapers-indoctrinated and kills her. The couple is well-equipped to deal with this problem, though.


“You kill people because you think they’re beneath you. I kill people because they leave me no choice.”

“I’m not with the mercs. I’m not here to kill you. I’m here to help.”

“I am Commander Shepard, and this is my favourite store on the Citadel.”

(Stinking drunk and attempting to order another drink) “Put… more of the stuff in the… the…” (woozily mimes drinking from a glass) “… thing… more stuff goes in.” (starts clumsily looking for her glass, which is right in front of her)

“Garrus, do you *really* think that killing Sidonis will make things right ?”

Liara (awkwardly trying to defend her previous attitude): “It’s been two years. I… I… didn’t want to put pressure on you.”
Shepard (roguish smile): “Hey, I recall enjoying the last time you put pressure on me.”
Liara (relaxing): “Heh. So do I.”

(During a high-speed chase in the midst of Illium’s flying cars traffic, a livid Liara sits next to Shepard who’s piloting like a maniac)
Liara (terrified): “Truck !”
Shepard (calm): “I know.”
Liara: “TRUCK !!!”
Shepard: “I know !” (avoids a collision by mere metres at about Mach .5)
Liara (reflexively covering her face in terror): “Yaaaaaaah !”
Shepard (triumphantly accelerating): “There we go !”
(T’soni looks at Shepard between her fingers ; Shepard is grinning like a lunatic)
Liara (resigned and mildly accusatory): “You’re enjoying this.”

Liara (anxious): “You’ll do the job. You always do. [But once it’s over…] Tell me what you want. If this all ends tomorrow, what happens to us ?
Shepard (half-teasing): “I don’t know. Marriage, old age, lots of little blue children ?”

Commander Shepard makes a long jump

T’soni: “His shielding just deflects energy and projectiles !”
Shepard: “Then we do this the hard way.” (rushes the enormous Shadow Broker and hits him real hard in the face with a one-two punch)

“I’ve got some of the best working with me. If we stick together, we’ll survive.”

(To Hackett, while still in medical care after a special op) “They died to save trillions. If there was but a shadow of a chance to save them, you bet your arse I would have.”

“We don’t know how many persons the Collectors have stolen. Thousands, hundreds of thousands. It’s not important. What matters is this: Not. One. More. That’s what we can do here, today. It ends with us. They want to know what we’re made of ? We’ll show them, on our terms.” (beat, briefly looks at her BFG) “Let’s bring our people home.”


Our sample version of Commander Shepard is a woman. This option was inelegantly dubbed “Femshep” by gamers, to contrast with male options (called “Dudeshep”, “Broshep”, “Mshep” and a few others).

One does get the impression that a female version of Shepard was low-priority during the games’ development. The default Shepard character selection is male, there wasn’t a high-res default appearance for a female Shepard until the third game, a female Shepard only appears in the Bioware marketing material years after the release of Mass Effect, etc.

The impact of Shepard’s gender on the story is almost negligible. There are differences in possible romances (and even that was a late development, as romances seem to have been originally designed as gender-agnostic), but aside from these the changes amount to switched pronouns and a few sentences of dialogue here and there.

Even the facial and body animations of the female Shepard are exactly the same as those for the male model, with occasionally amusing side effects. There’s nothing to have “Femshep” conform to any gender expectation, since there’s almost nothing written for her in the game.

Commander Shepard in full Kestrel armor

Yet, the female Shepard has a powerful presence thanks to voice actress Jennifer Hale. Hale nailed the role of an intense, charismatic, intelligent military leader.

With the voiced dialogue being such an important part of the game, this leads to her character being clearly a woman with a strong emotional engagement with her actions and a commanding presence, but she’s cast in a story entirely written for a man — a situation not unlike the 2010 Salt action movie — and her gender never defines her actions, dialogue or attitude.

Since she receives the default uniform, the default female humanoid body, the default animations, etc. a female Shepard isn’t even particularly idealised by video game standards. Later Mass Effect games will attempt to make female cast members more conventionally sexy, but as she is introduced she’s just a fit soldier in a unisex uniform and with ugly military boots.

Thus was one of the most charismatic, most badass video game heroines created — as a combination of being an afterthought in the design process and of having made a good hire (though she already had been in a gazillion games, animes, cartoons and films Hale wasn’t as famous back then).

While Bioware does not always appear to have grasped what they created (the beauty pageant to decide the default female appearance in Mass Effect 3 was eye roll-worthy), nothing can stop “Femshep”.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Shepard (at the end of ME2)

Dex: 06 Str: 05 Bod: 06 Motivation: Upholding Good
Int: 08 Wil: 07 Min: 07 Occupation: Spectre, epic heroine
Inf: 09 Aur: 09 Spi: 08 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 027 HP: 140

Enchantment: 02, Kinetic absorption (Structural damage only): 05, Regeneration: 02, Running: 05, Skin armour: 02, Systemic antidote: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Enchantment can only be used on a projectile weapon’s attack power’s EV (usually Projectile Weapons or Shotgun Blast), but can be maintained as long as this weapon is being used.
  • The second AP of Enchantment can only be used when shooting a target currently affected by a biotic power (such as being lifted by a Biotic Pull or a Biotic Singularity).
  • Enchantment is a biotic ability, and the extra APs don’t work against ME2 Defenses of the Shield type.
  • Power Loss – Enchantment requires a specially-designed induction equipment connected to a weapon modified to route the Dark Energy to its projectiles.
  • Regeneration receives a special +10 Bonus when it comes to recovering from surgical procedures.
  • Running is a dash, and normally can only be used for two Phases followed by at least three Phases of normal movement.
  • Skin armour only works vs. blunt, unarmed and structural damage.

Acrobatics (Climbing, Dodging): 04, Artist (Bass guitar, singing): 00, Charisma: 10, Detective (Identification systems): 05, Evasion (Ranged only): 07, Gadgetry: 04, Martial artist: 06, Medicine (First aid): 03, Military science (Blitz, camouflage, cartography, danger recognition, demolition, field command): 07, Thief (Stealth): 05, Thief (Locks & Safes, Security systems): 06, Vehicles (Land, Water): 06, Weaponry (Firearms, Heavy): 08

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Gadgetry is limited to maintenance, repair and power user operations.
  • Shepard receives a +2CS penalty to all OV/RVs if she attempts to use Artist (Dancer) Unskilled in campaigns that allow for it.

Ambidextrous, Area Knowledge (Milky Way galaxy), Attractive (see below), Combat Shield Restoration, Conditional Soaking (Blunt attacks), Credentials (Council Spectre), Expertise (Military protocols and equipment, Special military operations, Military intelligence operations, Military instruction), Familiarity (Earth history, Galactic history, Wilderness survival, Military history, Zero-G combat, Asari lore and basic knowledge of Quarian and Krogan societies), Gift of Gab, Headquarters (Expansive – SSV Normandy SR2), Iron Nerves, Language (Khmer, Prothean, Council Trade, and some military vocabulary in Brazilian Portuguese, Tagalog, Standard Arabic, Russian and the major Asari language), Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Local Hero (Her fans and admirers), Luck, Schtick (Double-tapping).

Bonuses and Limitations:
Attractive is limited to compensating for negative reaction modifiers from most Asari whom Shepard meets.

Councilor Anderson (High), Admiral Hackett of the Alliance Fifth Fleet (Low), Crew of the Normandy SR-2 (High), Dr. Liara T’soni (aka the Shadow Broker, High), Aria T’loak (Low), Captain Bailey of Citadel Security (Low), Grissom Academy (Low), Justicar Samara (High).

Yeah, right.


  • HIGH-END ARMOUR WITH HIGH-END MEDICAL SYSTEMS [BODY (Hardened) 10 /BODY/ 04, Cling: 04, Cold immunity: 03, Flame immunity: 03, Invulnerability: 05, Lightning immunity: 03, ME2 Defense (Shield): 25, Radio communications (Booster): 02, Regeneration: 05, Sealed systems: 12, Shade: 02, Skin armour: 03, Medicine (First aid): 04, Limitations: Cling only works on metallic surfaces and reduces movement speed to 0 APs, Invulnerability takes five minutes per roll, Medicine (First aid) is Self Only, but works automatically, Skin Armour doesn’t work vs. Blunt or Structural damage].
  • BASIC OMNI-TOOL [BODY 01, Data storage: 12, Radio communication: 13, Superspeed: 01, Limitation: Superspeed only for tasks involving processing information using the omni-tool, Misc.: Translation databases].
  • M-5 Phalanx [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 07, Sharpness (Projectile weapons – only vs. heavy armour): 01, Range: 06, Ammo: 06, R#02, Drawback: Shield and Barrier RV is considered one CS higher against this weapon, Limitation: Projectile weapon has No Range, use the listed Range instead].
  • Geth plasma shotgun [BODY 04, Energy blast (Diminishing): 09, Range: 04, Ammo: 05, Schtick (Double-tapping), R#03, Drawback: Heavy Armour RV is considered one CS higher against this weapon, Limitation: Energy blast has No Range, use the Range listed instead].
  • M-76 Revenant [BODY 04, Projectile weapons: 11, Range: 06, Ammo: 16, Telescopic vision: 01, R#02, Advantage: Autofire, Limitation: Projectile weapons has No Range, use the listed Range instead].
  • M-97 Viper [BODY 02, Projectile weapons: 10, Ammo: 12, Telescopic vision: 03, R#02].
  • M-100 Grenade Launcher [BODY 03, Bomb: 12, Range: 04, R#03, Ammo: 15].
  • Kuwaashi Visor [BODY 02, Data storage: 06, Telescopic vision: 04]. In-universe, this visor would have other capabilities such as lie detection or alternative vision modes, but nothing of the sort exists in the gameplay, where it just provides a small damage bonus to headshots. Giving APs of X-Ray Vision and Life Sense to the visor would give Shepard a way to see the number, position, nature, etc. of enemy forces just before contact, and thus an interesting way to approximate the die-then-replay-with-a-knowledge-of-what-the-enemy-will-do gameplay during difficult encounters. Along with the huge HP totals, that would explain how she always reacts to threats just right – at least in the game that gets saved.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Mass Effect video game trilogy.

Helper(s): Darci.

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