One of the many incredible features of the Mass Effect games is the decisions the player must make that will have a lasting impact on not only the remainder of the game, but potentially the rest of the franchise as well. It’s this kind of storytelling that has made the franchise have massive replay value.
One of the most iconic of these important, game-changing decisions takes place in Mass Effect, the first game of the franchise, where the player must choose to save either Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams. The other will be left to die on the planet Virmire. For new gamers playing the game for the first time, here are some things to consider before choosing who to save.
All squad members in the Mass Effect franchise come with their own set of skills that the player can upgrade and customize as needed. As such, both Ashley and Kaidan have different skill sets that can benefit Shepard in the later stages of the game.
As a biotic, Kaidan functions more as a control and support type character, with abilities like Throw and Lift that can stun and disrupt enemy movements. He also can help heal squadmates quickly with his Medicine talent, which lowers the cooldown of First-Aid. On the other side of the coin, Ashley is a combat specialist and the only squadmate in the first Mass Effect game that can use all four weapon types. Her abilities are more focused on dealing lots of damage quickly, making her proficient in tanking damage and dishing it back out. When making the choice, players may need to consider whether it’s more useful to have another soldier or a biotic to assist them in fighting Saren.
The romance mechanic in Mass Effect has always been an interesting topic of discussion. The romance subplot of the game may not seem to have lasting consequences, but if the player romance Kaidan or Ashley, this might be a factor when making the final decision on who to save.
Both Kaidan and Ashley are some of the best romances in the franchise, but unless certain tricks are used, same sex relationships are not an option in the first game. As such, players will be limited to romancing Ashley as a male Shepard or Kaidan as a female Shepard. If players want to continue the romantic subplot with these characters, then they may wish to consider saving the love interest over the other character in the end so that they can see where the relationship leads – both in Mass Effect and throughout the rest of the original trilogy.
Unlike later installments in the franchise, Mass Effect has an armor system, where players can equip and upgrade better armor as they acquire them throughout the game. Certain gear types and upgrades can also be found and equipped to various squadmates as well.
Unfortunately, this does mean that this is something to consider during the mission on Virmire. Given that the squadmate that’s left behind will die, players will lose all the gear and armor they had equipped to that character. When considering who to save, players may want to take this into consideration, especially if they’ve equipped powerful armor to a certain character. Or, alternatively, if players already know who they want to save, they may wish to change that character’s loadout and retrieve all the important items before sending them to their doom.
At the start of the game, players get to create their own Commander Shepard, choosing gender, backstory, and, most importantly, class. Like all squadmates, Shepard has his own class with a particular set of skills to choose from.
When considering who to save on Virmire, players may want to take Shepard’s class into consideration. Since only two squadmates can accompany players on missions, having two people of the same class may not be as beneficial in missions, especially within the remainder of the game. If Shepard shares a class with either Kaidan or Ashley, players may want to consider leaving that character behind and save the other in order to tilt the odds ever more slightly in their favor.
One of the most important decisions to make in Mass Effect is choosing a morality path. Taking the Paragon path puts players on a more peaceful and cooperative path, while Renegades tend to be more aggressive and intimidating.
Kaidan and Ashley both have their own morality at the start of the game, though they can be influenced to change over time. Kaidan follows more of a Paragon path, willing to cooperate and work with aliens better than most. Ashley’s distrust of aliens and focus on humanity puts her in more of a Renegade position. While these are just their starting feelings and Shepard can convince them to change their mindsets, players may think that it would be easier to leave behind the character that does not share their morality.
Mass Effect and the Mass Effect franchise is famous for creating a number of great characters that become part of Shepard’s team. Each one adds a bit of skill and personality diversity to the team.
This could be yet another point to consider when deciding between Kaidan and Ashley. Squad composition is key to completing the game, especially on higher difficulty levels. Given the levels and the skills of the rest of the squad, players may consider choosing Kaidan or Ashley depending on how much support power or attack power the rest of the squad can dish out. If the squad has more attack power, players may want to save Kaidan to get his support abilities into play; squads with more support powers may want to have Ashley to get more raw attack into battles.
At the start of the Virmire mission, players can choose either Kaidan or Ashley to go with a squad of allies led by popular NPC Major Kirrahe to assist them while the other will eventually stay behind to defend a bomb site. Even this decision could play into who players want to save.
When it’s time to make the choice, players will either go back to the bomb site they had just left or continue on to the AA gun where the other squadmate is with Kirrahe and his team. From a strategic standpoint, going to the AA gun is a better option; there are more allies and more cover, while going back to the bomb site would mean fighting off more enemies and having fewer resources to choose from. Considering what difficulty level players are playing on, it might be better to consider going the easier route.
A key highlight in the Mass Effect games is that the decisions that the player makes in one game could impact later games in the series. This decision is no different.
No matter who is saved, the guilt of having to leave someone behind will haunt Shepard through the rest of the trilogy. If a love interest is saved, it can help save that character’s life in Mass Effect 3. The survivor will also act distrustful of Shepard in later games due to working with Cerberus in Mass Effect 2 until the player can prove themselves. No matter what though, the survivor from Virmire will be feeling their own guilt until Shepard can talk them down. That said, the character who died will forever be honored throughout the rest of the franchise and will be a driving factor for Shepard to take down the Reapers.
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Author: Matthew Demchak