Commander Shepard, hero of the Citadel, last hope of humanity, could well spend the rest of his or her life rotting on a hard drive.
With most games, the characters live on well after people have stopped playing the game, even if the gaming systems on which they first appeared have long since broken or been tossed out. Alyx Vance and Morte the floating skull don't really stop existing just because we erased Half-Life 2 or Planescape: Torment from our hard drives. They live on in our imaginations, but also in tangible ways, archived forever across the internet.
But the hero of Mass Effect, Commander Shepard, is different. Each Commander Shepard is, at least in some ways, unique. We've talked at length about why we love our own Commander Shepard, and a lot of you have shared your naming proclivities. But it's also worth remembering that because we each made our own Shepard, we each have to be responsible for preserving that character's memory.
To kick off Mass Effect week, I had thought it'd be cool if we at Kotaku could all pull together our own Shepards and collect them for one final tribute. But when I asked around, it turned out several of our staff have already lost their Shepards; corrupted saves and reformatted hard drives have wiped away any memory of the heroes alongside whom they spent a couple hundred hours fighting Reapers. Their Shepards are already gone forever.
In an effort to preserve the commanders we have left, here are Kotaku's remaining Commander Shepards.
Name: Samus Shepard
Backstory: I'm not sure, but she dated Liara exclusively.
Favorite Memory: My Shepard always looked like she was frowning, which made Mass Effect 3 all the more sad, but also made her friendships seem all the more touching. The toughest decision I'd had to make with her was deciding whether to kill the council in the first game (I/she killed them), but the sweetest moments were her saying goodbye to old friends. The Thane farewell was the saddest. I had her do 60 pull-ups. That was enough. Oh, and I still get confused when I see Mass Effect trailers featuring a man called Shepard. Just who IS that guy?
Which ending you chose: Synthesis.
Name: Evan Shepard
Backstory: Colonist and Sole Survivor.
Favorite Memory: Losing Wrex, bookended by reviving the Krogans.
Which ending you chose: I wound up playing all three but I stand by Synthesis.
Name: Jennifer Shepard
Backstory: Earthborn/Sole Survivor
Paragon/Renegade 90% Paragon (Basically all Paragon except I let Garrus kill Dr. Saleon, let Kasumi keep the graybox, let Zaeed get his revenge, choose Morinth over Samara, and totally Renegade-interrupted Kai Leng to kill him.)
Favorite Memory: The final battle with the Shadow Broker is one of the most awesome and intense fights of the series. Sure, there are several bigger, more epic battles, but the Shadow Broker boss battle is different in one key way: how it made me feel about Shepard.
In all other battles in the series, Shepard wins because of her equipment and skills: her guns, armor, and biotic/tech abilities. But really, anyone can take down a reaper if one has a big enough gun. To beat the Shadow Broker, however, guns and abilities will only get you so far—the only way to really hurt the Shadow Broker is to physically attack it at the right moment.
Nothing in the entire series made me feel more badass and unstoppable than when my Shepard, diminutive and weak-looking by comparison, walked up to the spider-creature easily twice her size and punched it in the face without a moment’s hesitation. It made me feel my Shepard wasn’t just some soldier with a gun, she was special. She was utterly and completely without fear and no matter the fight, no matter the handicap, she would face it head on.
Which ending you chose: Upon reaching the infamous red, green, blue choice of ME3, I ignored synthesis because I didn’t trust the Star Child. And as I felt that eternal enslavement of the reapers was a far greater evil than genocide, I chose destroy. Besides, even the Star Child admits that AI can still be created, so I felt it was only a matter of time till EDI and the Geth were back up and running.
In the extended cut I also went with the destroy option, but this time due to my firm belief in Indoctrination Theory. Destroy is the only way to win—the only way for Shepard to “wake up.”
Name: Tina Shepard
Backstory: Tina Shepard is tough, but has a soft spot. So she errs on the side of leniency, choosing to save enemies when given the chance. Except that reporter. She got slapped hard, and she deserved it. Shepard flirted with romance, but was ultimately torn between Garrus and Thane, and lost her chance with both. She managed to keep all of her companions alive.
Favorite memory: Sitting with Thane in his section of the Normandy, while he told me stories of his life and called me Siha.
Which ending you chose: Didn't. My save disappeared before I could finish the game.
Name: Commander Kate Shepard
Backstory: Colonist, War Hero. Infiltrator. Garrus romancer.
Paragon/Renegade: About 80% Paragon, 20% Renegade across all 3 games. (Well. Full paragon bars in 1 & 2, plus 20% in the renegade bar. 85% / 15% in ME3.)
Favorite Memory: This feels like a cop-out (because it's most recent), but that might actually be everything in Citadel, which had so much amazing character payoff from across multiple games that I just felt giddy, comforted, and nostalgic the whole time I played it.
Which ending you chose: Destroy (red). She'll sacrifice herself to save the universe if she has to, but by god, she'll go down fighting.
Name: Sarah Shepard
Backstory: Earthborn and Ruthless.
Paragon/Renegade: ME1 Renegade, ME2 Paragon, ME3 Paragon
Favorite memory: All of Mass Effect 2.
Which ending you chose: Synthesis (I may be the only one). (You're not alone, Toshi! - Kirk)
Name: Is'byala Shepard (Shut up, I like to cram apostrophes into my video game character names.)
Backstory: Ruthless Spacer. She fell in love with Thane, then he died, so on that fateful morning in the third game, she woke up alone.
Favorite Memory: Tough call. This one's got the advantage of being freshest, but there's something about that conversation with Joker at the end of Citadel, when you're looking out at the Normandy. You're telling each other lies about how everything's going to be fine, and for one minute, Shepard breaks eye contact. Such a lovely and sad white lie from a woman who was usually so direct.
Which ending you chose: Destroy. She went down shooting, like I always knew she would.
So there they are; our Commander Shepards, preserved for the record. How about you? Are you able to salvage your Shepard file, or have you got some images saved somewhere? Do you still remember your backstory, or have any particularly fond memories? If so, we hope you'll share below.
It's Mass Effect Week at Kotaku. All week, we'll be taking a look back at the last five and a half years of galaxy-saving heroism, cross-species romance, and awkward dancing. You can follow along here.