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The Loyalty Missions of 'Mass Effect 2' (Part 3)

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Friday, Apr 2, 2010
You’re proving yourself as a leader and a lover.

This week I finally finish my look at the loyalty missions of Mass Effect 2 with Garrus, Jack, and Legion, as well as providing a few thoughts on how these missions play into potential romances.


Garrus
When we first meet Garrus, he’s fighting off three groups of mercenaries by himself. The rest of his team has been killed by a traitor, Sidonis, who then escapes, leaving Garrus alone in this tough situation. Of course, he gets out of it alive thanks to Shepard, but he feels personally responsible for the death of his squad and that guilt drives his desire for revenge.
  
Though perhaps “revenge” isn’t the best way to put it. Zaeed was driven by a selfish revenge, but Garrus is motivated by a strong sense of camaraderie. He doesn’t want revenge so much as he wants to avenge the death of his team. That camaraderie is everything to Garrus, he lives for his friends and teammates, so it makes sense that his loyalty mission would involve his old squad.


However, it’s also that camaraderie that ensures you can’t fail his mission. Like Tali, Garrus is already loyal to Shepard, which is why he returns to the Normandy even when so few others do. Because of this, he won’t suddenly lose faith in Shepard if we refuse to help him. He’ll still be loyal no matter what happens during his mission. Garrus may be highly motivated to kill Sidonis, but that need to avenge his past squad isn’t strong enough to compromise his loyalty to his current squad. This unresolved conflict is more of a distraction than anything else, like what Jacob faced, so getting rid of this distraction allows Garrus to place all of his attention on the suicide mission.


Jack
Jack joins our crew for one reason.  When she was a kid, Cerberus experimented on her and other children until she escaped in a violent riot, and now she hopes to use Shepard’s connection to Cerberus to track down that lab and destroy it. She has no loyalty whatsoever to us or our mission. 


During the actual loyalty mission, we learn that the entire facility revolved around Jack. The other children were experimented on in order to make sure that the tests weren’t too dangerous for her, and when the kids were made to fight, the scientists were focusing on analyzing Jack’s biotic powers. We learn that the other kids actually started the riot and that Jack escaped in the confusion, killing everybody as she ran. She’s upset by this revelation since it goes against her memory, but rather than let this inconsistency faze her, she remains determined to blow up the facility. The truth doesn’t matter to her. She wants closure, and for her, closure comes from action not knowledge. 


Her approach to this problem displays a very binary view of the universe, one in which everything is categorized by what can kill her and what can help her. Any information beyond that is extraneous. Knowledge by itself is useless to her. That’s why she wants the info about the lab but doesn’t care about the reasons for the experiments. One piece of information leads her to action, the other doesn’t. But this closure doesn’t prepare her for death, rather our role in helping her proves that Shepard is someone she can rely on, and she wants to return the favor with her loyalty.


Legion
In my opinion, Legion’s loyalty mission is the most interesting simply because it gives us a rare, in-depth look at the geth. All other loyalty missions revolve around something that the character cares deeply about, but what do the geth care about? “Unity” seems the obvious answer, which is fitting considering their hive mind: A single geth is weak, but put many together and they share processing power, becoming smarter. For the geth, community isn’t some abstract concept of togetherness. It is a purely practical goal with a physical, measurable effect on their intelligence. However, this unity is only a means to an end. Survival is their ultimate goal, just as any other race pushed to the ragged edge, and the future of the geth comes down to a single choice.


We learn from Legion that the geth that we fought in Mass Effect are not representative of the entire species. Those geth are actually considered heretics that worship the Reapers, while other geth, like Legion, are more apathetic towards organic life. We also learn that these heretics are creating a virus that threatens all geth, and because of that, they must be destroyed or rewritten. Either we protect the geth by destroying a major threat or we strengthen them by rewriting the heretics to follow the others.


So you’re not really helping Legion accept its possible death (after all it exists as a part of a hive mind, so if this body dies, Legion doesn’t die). As a machine it has no emotions, so the idea that you can engender feelings of loyalty and trust in it are at odds with reality. This loyalty mission actually has more in common with Jacob’s or Garrus’s, missions in which the character is already loyal to begin with. Legion has a kind of practical trust in Shepard. It knows that they share an enemy and that they can work better together. Legion even leaves that major decision regarding the heretics up to Shepard because the geth cannot come to consensus and he’s fought the heretics before. Clearly it has some kind of trust in Shepard regardless of the outcome of the mission, and yet Legion is not a loyalist like Jacob or Garrus because you can lose its loyalty later in the game. When it and Tali get into a standoff, if you side with Tali, then it will no longer trust you in the same way. It’s only as loyal to you as you are to it.


Loyalty and Love
All the loyalty missions fall into two very general categories: missions with a focus on gaining the character’s trust and missions with a focus on solving a problem. The two overlap, of course, but I think that there are really just a select few that focus on trust: Miranda’s, Tali’s, and Jack’s. One could make an argument for those involving Jacob and Garrus as well, but I think those cases are different because you start with their trust and you can’t lose it. Miranda and Jack are doubtful of Shepard until we complete their loyalty missions to prove his trustworthiness, but after completing both missions, that trust is put to the test. When the two women get into a fight about Cerberus we have to pick a side: Miranda or Jack. Whoever we side with, we’ll validate her trust in Shepard, but for the other, our choice is a betrayal. In Tali’s case, she trusts Shepard to begin with, but we can lose that trust during her loyalty mission by admitting her father’s guilt. Then our loyalty is tested again when she gets into a standoff with Legion.


Trust is important to these characters. Jack has made it a point in life not to rely on others, Miranda is a very guarded individual, and Tali comes from a naturally tight knit culture. For them the issue of trust is about more than leadership, it involves their relationships in general. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that they’re all possible love interests for a male Shepard and that you can’t even start romancing them until after you complete their loyalty missions. In this way, their loyalty missions become the first step in a possible romance. You’re proving yourself as a leader and a lover.


It’s strange then that there isn’t a similar treatment towards Thane, Jacob, or Garrus, the love interests for a female Shepard. There are never any moments when their loyalty is in doubt, and you can’t actually fail their missions once you start them. Trust is never an issue, so overall, the men are easier to romance than the women. Though again, you can’t start romancing them until after you complete their loyalty missions.


For every character, the loyalty mission stands as the starting point of their relationship with Shepard. We learn a little about them beforehand, but only when we’ve gained their loyalty do the real dialogue options open up and we begin to learn details about their past and self. These missions are major events in these characters’ lives, and their reactions, whether thankful or angry, talkative or silent, show that.

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