How Mass Effect Mods Resurrected My Shepard

Like many people out there, I lost my Shepard in the time between Mass Effect 1 and 2—probably because I forgot to back her up before formatting my computer or some such nonsense.

So after Mass Effect 2 came out, I discovered to my great sadness that I would be starting a new female Shepard. Resigned to my fate, I booted up the game, hit “New Game” and began my playthrough.

In practically every way, though, this Shepard was not my Shepard. This Shepard (or FakeShep as she will be henceforth referred to) killed the counsel in ME1. My Shepard did not. FakeShep killed the last Rachni Queen while my original Shepard chose to spare it. FakeShep was pure Renegade, while my original was completely Paragon—except for Garrus’ side mission. But worst of all, FakeShep had done none of the side quests; and thus all of the missions that continued from ME1 were absent from my Mass Effect 2 experience.

I enjoyed the game, but always felt that I wasn’t playing my Shepard. And when Mass Effect 3 began to loom on the horizon, I felt that I really wanted my original Shepard for the final chapter. But replaying both Mass Effect 1 and 2 just for that? That seemed like an order far too large for me to fill.

Then it hit me. I couldn’t be the only one who had lost his or her Shepard. Surely some kind individual had, in the past, uploaded their own ME1 Shepard to help someone like me. Sure, it wouldn’t be my Shepard—it wouldn’t have her name or face—but the most important aspect of the character—her choices—would be preserved. That is when I came upon the aptly named MassEffectSaves.com. In no time at all, I found a save that was exactly like my original playthrough. And then I noticed the link to MassEffect2Faces.com at the top of the page.

How Mass Effect Mods Resurrected My Shepard

My original Shepard’s face was truly gone. I had no screenshots or other pictures of her. And when I tried to remake her from memory, the results were… “lacking” to say the least. So instead I trawled through MassEffect2Faces.com to pick a face I wanted. Maybe it was the fact that the hair was awesome or maybe it was the fact that this Shepard actually had the same name as my original Shepard (“Jennifer” after FemShep voice actress Jennifer Hale); but regardless, it was the one I chose.

Those of you who have messed around with the character creator at length might notice that this short spiky hair is not one of the choose-able options in the game—in fact it is an NPC only hairstyle in Mass Effect 2. Getting this hair style was my first introduction to hacking Mass Effect with the Gibbed Save Editor.

After following a simple tutorial, I had changed her hair. And because I liked the idea of my Shepard looking not quite 100% normal after the Lazarus Project, I gave her a pair of glowing white eyes to go with the trauma of being brought back from the dead. I was quite happy with the result; and after using Gibbed to rename my Shepard and change the backstory from that of the downloaded save, I began my second playthrough of ME2. Needless to say, it was much better the second time around.

How Mass Effect Mods Resurrected My Shepard

Of course, this is hardly the tip of the modding iceberg when it comes to Mass Effect 2. Using Gibbed you can easily make the game think you are the opposite gender, opening up same-sex relationships the game never intended (though the romantic scenes will be unvoiced as the related lines were never recorded). There are also amazing HD fan-made skins you can put into the game and make it look absolutely amazing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this Mass Effect nostalgia has made me decide it’s time to start my Mass Effect 3 modding experience—with the latest release of the Mass Effect 3 Happy Ending Mod.

With the release of the final piece of DLC, the Mass Effect trilogy has finally concluded. And so we've decided to spend a week taking a look back: It's Mass Effect Week at Kotaku. All week long, we'll be revisiting the last five and a half years of galaxy-saving heroism, cross-species romance, and awkward dancing with new articles and some classics from years past. You can follow along here.