“The Collectors killed you once, Shepard. And all it did was piss you off.” —Garrus Vakarian
During the recent Steam Summer Sales, I decided to pick up a copy of BioWare’s Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. I’d considered trying the game out for a while now, but my love of BioWare’s brilliant writing, character development, world-building, and storytelling in their games is in constant conflict with my hatred of Electronic Arts’ shabby treatment of their customers and developers. Hence the reason I tend to wait for sales and only buy games released for Steam. My grievances with EA aside, I will say that I enjoy both Mass Effect games so far and I look forward to where the stories in both are going.
I’ll be upfront and state that I find the female Shepard far more interesting a character than her male counterpart. To me, Commander John Shepard comes across as a fairly generic tough-guy soldier. Sure he’s a charismatic commander, but his personality strikes me as archetypical, for lack of a better word. And I thought some of his interactions with the female crew members on the Normandy bordered on sleazy—like he’s trying to get into their pants whenever he offers a compliment or moral support. (But maybe that’s just my interpretation. See comment below.)
Jane Shepard, on the other hand, feels like a more rounded character. She’s tough and battle-hardened from her training and combat with N7, her time as a System’s Alliance soldier, and later a Spectre for Citadel Council. With the fate of the galaxy on the line, I like that BioWare’s storytellers allow players to roll Shepard as benevolent or ruthless depending on the situation—I tend to think that a good leader isn’t afraid to be both if the situation requires. In Jane I find a competent heroine who places highest priority on the welfare of her crew and shows willingness to sacrifice her personal well-being for the sake of her people and the mission.
Shep’s default gear is the N7 Armor, a shielded battle suit for whatever mission profile our heroine takes on. The armor is modular, offering a variety of cuirasses, pauldrons, gauntlets, leggings, and helmets featuring different enhancements for different situations. Her default cuirass is made up of interlocking plates of ablated ceramic, designed to absorb energy-weapons fire. The plates are designed to be light and easy to repair or replace following a particularly nasty scrape. The same plates also protect the Commander’s arms and shoulders, preventing disabling or disarming shots from enemy weapons. Underneath her plating, our heroine wears a durable kinetic bodysuit for enhanced flexibility. Lastly, Shepard’s legs are kept safe by layers of fabric armor and kinetic padding, with additional kinetic layers lining the ablative plating. All in all, I find it to be an effective suit of sci-fi battle armor.
Though various helmets are available throughout the game, in the above image Shep opts for the Kuwashii Visor, a sensory-enhancing headset featuring a heads-up display for improved accuracy and a mike for coordinating with squad members. In combat the commander carries a full compliment of weaponry for every kind of enemy and situation. A weapon rack attached to her back armor offers quick access to an assault gun, sniper rifle, or heavy ordinance, while Shep’s shotgun attaches at the small of her back and her pistol clips to her left hip.
While I’m not super crazy about the sculpted boob-plate, the cleavage isn’t deep enough to risk breaking Shep’s sternum and the ablative plating is designed to absorb hits rather than deflect them toward her heart. Beyond that, I have only positive to say about Commander Shepard’s armor. It’s a smart, protective design, and I applaud BioWare for their decision to keep their heroines safe in the thick of battle.
Game and characters property of BioWare. All screen captures taken from game play.