The lights are on
Years have passed since my trek to Zorya in Mass Effect 2, but I still can’t get Zaeed’s loyalty mission out of my head. I vividly remember dropping my controller, filled with conflicting emotions. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not endorsing Zaeed as a strong character; in fact, I find him weakly-written. He had potential, but BioWare never tapped into it, and his loyalty mission didn’t exactly win him supporters. Do I find Zaeed’s loyalty mission absolutely brilliant? You bet I do.
Traveling to Zorya was the first mission to change the rules. Up until then, Shepard’s goals were simple: gain the loyalty of as many shipmates as possible so they’d risk their lives to save the galaxy. I gladly helped anyone that came along, if it meant I had a better chance for surviving the suicide mission. I even maxed out my paragon meter just so nobody would get left behind. But something interesting happened Zaeed’s mission: I wavered in my mission and questioned whether I’d gone too far.
Minor spoilers ahead, read at your own risk.
Zaeed is the antithesis of what my Shepard stands for: he clings too tightly to grudges and fails to see the bigger picture. In Zaeed’s mission, he’s after his ex-business partner, Vido Santiago, who shot him in the face. As a way to trap his nemesis, Zaeed starts a facility fire, which spreads, trapping many innocent people. Instead of doing the noble thing and saving those that he’s trapped, Zaeed urges you to press on and leave them to die so he can have his vengeance.
In this brief moment, I knew everything I needed to know about Zaeed. I didn’t want him on my squad. Who wants a soldier who won’t take accountability for his actions? I don’t care how awful Vido is, those innocent people should not become casualties in the name of revenge. Of course, I chose to save the people, which angered Zaeed because it caused him to miss his confrontation with Vido. But that showed Zaeed’s true colors, because he didn’t second-guess his actions or show any remorse. Now, if you have enough paragon points you can talk some sense into Zaeed and still gain his loyalty, but I was so repulsed that I wanted nothing to do with the jerk.
And this is why this loyalty mission is brilliant; usually we find redeeming qualities in the majority of BioWare’s characters, and here we’re thrown a curveball. For instance, Jack has a tough exterior from being experimented on at a young age. But Zaeed? I know getting betrayed and shot in the face must have sucked, but I’ve never had a character’s actions repulse me so much that there was no chance for redemption. I could even see past Ashley’s xenophobic ways because I knew her upbringing influenced it, and there was a chance she could change.
The trying part of Zaeed’s mission is that we’re supposed to want everyone’s loyalty. For the first time, I didn’t, and it created a conflict between what my conscience and the game wanted. Any time a game can make me think this much about what I should do, it’s done a wonderful job; if it can rock the boat of what’s expected, that’s even better. I may not have gained Zaeed’s loyalty, but he proved to me why he wasn’t important. Surprisingly enough, he made it through the suicide mission, which as many know, led to him gracing my presence in Mass Effect 3. I wasn’t happy about it, but if I wished him dead, I’d be no better than what I’m accusing him of. I just never went out of my way to help him…even if it meant missing out on an achievement.
Check out the scene below in paragon form.
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