I love sandbox games: the more optional content, the better. Well, the more optional content that gives me a greater feel of the game’s universe, the better. While Mass Effect may not be a sandbox game like, say, Fallout: New Vegas, it does have a pretty extensive set of side missions that, while not necessarily required to complete the game, they shine lights on characters’ histories, worlds’ mysteries, and they give you experience points. Now, instead of choosing just one side mission, I’m going to list my favorite from each game, which I think is a bit more doable than narrowing it down to a single one.
Poor, poor Talitha.
If Bioware was trying to desensitize people to the annihilation of the batarians at the beginning of Mass Effect 3, this was the most effective way to get that ball rolling. After living the life of a batarian slave from a very young age, Talitha manages to escape but does not know how to exist in a world where she isn’t considered an animal, a thing. True, there’s no shooting or running from a volcanic explosion, but hearing Talitha tell her tale with the mental state of a victim is just as engrossing. Despite the short time I spent with her, I was delighted to get that email from her in ME2.
I don’t know if you remember me. I had a gun and you stopped me from hurting myself. My doctors say I am doing better. One of them works with the people you work for. He told me he could get a message to you.
I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t talked to me that day, but the doctors are helping me. I am getting better. They put me in a special school, and they say I am doing good. The doctors say that other people are getting taken like I was. I hope you can help them like you helped me.
It actually reminds me of when I worked at the Department of Human Services. A nineteen-year-old girl came into an interview with me, very nervous, and when she refused to explain how she was paying her rent, she nearly broke down into tears. She then just started babbling, saying that yes, she did turn tricks, but she never put her babies in any danger. I took a deep breath and told her, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to set you up with a three-month certification period for your food stamps and Medicaid and get you an appointment with our Families First department, so they can help you get a job. But until you do get a job, I need you to keep receipts. Or a ledger. It doesn’t really matter what you write on it, either, just as long as I get an idea of how much money you make, okay?” She was so surprised that I didn’t threaten to turn her into the police, and eventually, she did stop prostituting. But that wasn’t the best part. About a year and a half later – she had been working at a Wendy’s, if I recall, but still needed help covering food costs, childcare, and medical insurance – I got a phone call from her, and she proudly announced that I could shut off her food stamps.
“Well, I most definitely can do that! What happened?”
“I got me a real job! I’m now a legit massage therapist!”
She then went on to explain that, because I had treated her like a human being, she felt confident in herself and had gotten a scholarship to attend a tech school. It just filled my heart with joy knowing that I had any affect on that young woman’s life so that she could, ever so gradually, realize her worth as a person. Probably one of my favorite moments from my life.
Mass Effect 2
Say what you will about Conrad Verner, but I absolutely adore him. He’s just so gloriously naive and foolhardy, and he seems so blissfully unaware of everything that it’s amazing he can figure out how to put his armor on. Or walk in a straight line, for that matter. I love that we find out in ME3 that he has a doctorate in xenoscience. It’s just like, “Of course he does.”
I look forward to this side mission on Ilium every time I play the game, and I’m not exaggerating. Seeing him pretending to be Shepard (even if it’s not accurate to how my Shep treated him in the first game) in the bar is just so damn delightful, and honestly, I never had the heart to be mean to him, so I always leave him to remain ignorant of the fact that he’s a dumbass. I think I need to go watch videos of how a renegade can handle him, though – even if I’ll never be able to do it.
Mass Effect 3
I’m nothing if not consistent when it comes to the krogan, I guess. Not only do I resolve Char and Ereba’s relationship from ME2, I get to see Grunt again! This mission is also why I chose to kill the rachni queen in the first game; I didn’t want Grunt mad at me because his whole team is lost. Unlike the other two side missions on today’s challenge, this one focuses more on action than story, and I’m actually okay with that. I mean, this is Grunt, after all. Plus, without this mission, we’d never get to see this:
“Anybody … got something to eat?”
I love you, Grunt.
Art Credit: eTeknix