Sunday, 26 September 2010

The lesser of a whole bunch of evils

My course (web applications development, since you ask) begins in earnest next week, so I've been trying to get some reading done in advance.

Still playing Mass Effect 2, and I'm having a bit of trouble trying to decide who to have a romantic relationship with.

Edge magazine uncharitably refers to "the existential horror of a Bioware romance subplot", but I'm not sure it's all that bad. Still, you'd think that as a star ship commander with a hot body and galactic fame, I'm have a few more options. Not so.

Please be careful if you haven't played Mass Effect 2, the following paragraphs contain spoilers

If you decide to play Mass Effect 2 as a man, you're spoiled for choice. I could complain about the lack of homosexuality in the game but I won't because a) Bioware have explored homosexual storylines at great length before so it's not as if they're avoiding it and b) my Commander Shepherd might swing both ways, but if the women on her crew don't find her attractive, that's no-one's fault. You can't accuse someone of being homophobic/racist/sexist/agist/whateverist just because they don't fancy you. That will never end well.

Moving on.

As a male Commander Shepherd, on one hand you have the pragmatic yet sensitive Miranda, whose soft Australian accent would melt even the most metallic of space commander hearts.

On the other, we have Jack. She's not to everyone's taste, granted, but she has a vulnerability I found strangely charming. Plus, she manages to wear a top made out of a couple of belts and not look like Jodie Marsh, an achievement if ever there was one.

If neither of them float your boat, there's always Tali. There is one major obstacle as far as a relationship with Tali goes, and that is the fact that as a quarian, her immune system is so weak that she cannot remove her environmental suit.

But she's sweet, clever and funny, and I could talk to her all night.

Unfortunately, I decided to use my savegames from the original Mass Effect, which means that my Commader Shepherd is a woman. Here are her options:

1 - Jacob Taylor

As the only human option, Jacob is the obvious choice. However, he is utterly humourless and profoundly dull, which is a shame. It's like having an awesome-looking sports car with comfy seats but then finding out that its top speed is 30 miles an hour.

2 - Garrus Vakarian

Well clearly he isn't human, but more on that later. My objection to Garrus is the fact that as an ex-policeman, I cannot help but picture him with a Magnum PI mustache. He's pretty awkward (which isn't his fault), but I was rather put off when the ship's doctor told me to "avoid chafing" before giving me a dossier full of "positions that are comfortable for both species", which is all very well but it sounds like a lot of hard work, and when I get home from a hard day saving the galaxy, the last thing I want to think about is logistics.

3 - Thane Krios

Thane is a lizard-like drell who is slowly dying of an incurable respiratory condition (nice). He is also an ex-assassin who describes his body as a "tool" and has a habit of slipping into trance-like memories which he experiences in real time whilst his spooky eyes go translucent, making him rather difficult to talk to.

And yet he is still the most attractive prospect of the three. I'm currently putting off my crew's near-certain death by mooching around remote star systems and collecting bits of "Element Zero", but sooner or later I'm pretty sure Thane and I are going to do the sideways space-tango.

It's funny, although I found myself squirming as I watched the stilted dialogue between Mass Effect 2's various potential lovers behind my fingers, I can't help but applaud it. My heart went out to the pathologically awkward Garrus as he told me that he would "find some music and do some research to figure out how this should work".

As I said a few days ago, I'd just finished reading Perdido Street Station. At the heart of this book is a powerful and touching romance between a human, Isaac, and a Khepri, Lin. Khepri women have human female bodies, but have giant scarab beetles instead of heads.

They're based on the Egyptian gods of the same name.

Interspecies romance is something that can only exist in fantasy or science fiction. This is because love is dependent on (amongst other things) a shared understanding, empathy and desire, and in "real life", humans can only have that with other humans.

It's an interesting avenue for fiction to explore because it questions the nature of love and attraction. Complicated though qustions of genetics and reproduction are (although Mass Effect has an answer for that as well), why shouldn't two sapient beings of different species fall in love?

As Garrus so sweetly said to me before the "Press B to continue fondling" sequence (above), "It will either be a night to treasure or a horrible interspecies awkwardness thing".

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And I've written some stuff about Los Angeles on The Westward Expansion. It's probably not very interesting unless you're my mum but I just thought I'd link it anyway.


  1. Jacob for me. Under that cool exterior is a hot potato, no question. Mr Smouldering. Fraternizing with staff never ends well, however, so no romance for my Shepard.

  2. Such discipline Salaryn!

    Sadly I did not have the patience to unwrap Jacob's potato from beneath the layers of ever-so-serious aluminium foil.

    Also I thought:

    "Hey, you know what? You only live once. I mean twice. And my last relationship with a human (Kaidan) didn't go so well. If you can't spend your final hours in the slightly scaly embrace of a man in a frogsuit, what's the point?"

    I rest my case.