So if you've been following along, you've probably noticed that I was spoiled for the choice that Shepard has to make on Virmire. We were able, at least, to spare Wrex; he and Shepard had a pretty good rapport, and her Charm skill was just about maxed out, so the outcome of that conversation was never in doubt. Then we sent Ashley with the salarians, fought our way inside with a team of Tali and Wrex (a nicely balanced party, especially for fighting geth), had our conversation with Sovereign -- interesting to have it essentially confirmed that the Reapers are running the show, no matter what Saren thought -- and made our way to the decision I've been dreading for a good 40 hours.
T was holding the controller at that point, and he was not spoiled for the outcome, so I let him make the call, and he decided that our Shepard would go back and save Kaidan. If it had been my call, I would probably have done the same thing, but I would have hated myself for it. But then I would have hated myself for saving Ashley and letting Kaidan die, as well. Awful as it was, though, I can only imagine that it would have been a thousand times worse if I hadn't known to brace myself for losing one of them from the day I started the game. For the most part, I wish I had gone in unspoiled, although it's somewhat comforting to know that we didn't screw up somewhere, that there is no secret trick to saving them both.
So before I go on, let me take a moment to appreciate Ashley Williams: great character, a staunch supporter, and a good friend to my Jane Shepard, even if they didn't always see eye to eye, particularly on the issue of alien cooperation. Their push and pull was really interesting to me, and I'm bummed that I won't get to see that relationship develop into future games. If I ever replay the series, learning how it plays out with Ashley on board will be a major motivator.
We were basically done with plotty sidequests at that point. There were planets we'd never scanned, probably side missions we'd never triggered, but we decided it was time for endgame. So we busted out of the Citadel, headed for Ilos, and hooked up with Kaidan on the way. Their relationship got sweeter and a bit more engaging during this time frame; I got the sense that their decision to make a move was, in part, tied up with their grief for Ash, but we also got a near-declaration of love out of Kaidan on the Citadel (he checked himself and corrected the word choice to "appreciate", but not before the first syllable was half out of his mouth, which was pretty adorable).
And then we went down to Ilos with Wrex and Liara, and we never saw him again.
I did like endgame -- the battles on Ilos were tough enough to be satisfying, all the revelations about the Protheans from Vigil were pretty fascinating (and I liked how excited Liara was to be learning about them, despite the dire situation), and driving the Mako through a mass relay was, I have to admit, pretty badass. Then we fought our way through the Citadel, where we saved the Council, got Saren to shoot himself, and encountered a bug where the final battle against husk!Saren kept crashing the PS3 -- when we died, in the midst of battle, as the in-battle cutscene triggered, and once, most annoyingly, after we beat him. We even went so far as to delete the game and reinstall it, and that didn't even fix the problem. But the second time we won, the game let us continue. Finally. We recommended that Anderson be named to the Council (our most-paragon-of-all-the-paragons Shepard may have respect for the rule of law, but she resents Udina for grounding them and otherwise being a general pain in her ass) and then flew off into the metaphorical sunset, ready to convince the galaxy that the Reapers continue to be a true threat.
So overall, I'd say I enjoyed the game, certainly enough to continue on to ME2. Gameplay was pretty fun once I got used to the controls, although it helped immensely that I could hand the controller off to T whenever I got frustrated. And I did get frustrated, particularly when the Mako was involved. (Believe it or not, Mako missions were his favorite thing.) If I ever replay, it will definitely be on Casual (we played on Normal with the targeting assists turned on). Good characters, story with a few twists on the usual expectations, the sense of a deep and interesting universe that I hope I get to explore more. I haven't fallen in love the way I did with Dragon Age, but I suppose time and future games will tell.
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