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The surprise hit me when I was browsing an old Game Informer. It came out a couple months after Mass Effect 2 and had a flow chart describing how to save your teammates during the suicide mission. Only something was off about Samara's entry.
Turns out Mass Effect 2 has a whole extra character you can recruit for your team. The game gives zero indication that this is an option, but there is a way to pick Morinth over Samara.
This blew my mind. I've played Mass Effect 2 four times before my current playthrough. How could I possibly miss this?
Quick background: During Mass Effect 2, you travel the galaxy recruiting people for a suicide mission to save humanity. One character you find, Samara, enlists your help in hunting down a serial killer named Morinth.
Morinth is evil. She kills people for fun, just because it gives her a thrill. She's smart, cunning, and without remorse. She loves murder. In my previous playthroughs, I helped Samara bring Morinth to justice. Didn't think twice about it.
Turns out that if you have enough Paragon or Renegade points, you can turn the tables on Morinth and Samara. You get to pick which one to kill. The survivor joins your team. For me, when it came time to decide, I had to get Morinth. Sorry, Samara. It's just that much cooler having a serial killer on your team.
The Hidden Parts of Games
The Morinth revelation surprised me, though, because it changed my perception of a game I thought I knew. I've played Mass Effect 2 four times already. Surely there are no secrets left.
But then you'd be surprised what lurks in the game for those who care to look. Games are large, complex creatures with a lot of moving parts. What we see on the surface may only be a microscopic part of the whole. It's like seeing a shark's fin. You know there's more, but you can't see it.
Think of how large game worlds are, and how easy it would be to hide secrets in them. Eurogamer wrote a wonderful feature about Shadow of the Colossus fans who found a hidden garden.
This is Shadow Of The Colossus' biggest Easter Egg, teased by the mossy growths, handholds and ledges that weave around the exterior of the structure, but not actually reachable until you've completed the game multiple times. The Secret Garden, as it became known, is a final reward for the most dedicated of colossi-hunters: one last challenge and a glimpse of verdant green beauty in a starkly austere land.
It took fans years of collaboration to figure out that an area only glimpsed in a cutscene is actually a place you can go. And that's on a PS2 game that released nine years ago. Imagine how much a developer could hide on a current-gen game.
Then there are games like Fez, which require cryptographic analysis to decipher. That game is on another level when it comes to puzzles. Not only is the first ending not the real one, but the final Monolith puzzle has never been "officially" solved. A guy who got the solution from the developers shared enough clues on Twitter for people to guess the answer.
While it's frustrating to see the real endings locked behind puzzles, I like the mystery. Hiding bits of content is a great way to reward your most dedicated fans. Give players a secret garden for beating Shadow of the Colossus multiple times. Make Morinth a recruitable character for Mass Effect superfans with maxed-out Paragon meters. Keep a second, hidden ending for anybody who makes it through Fez.
The hidden unlockables and extra bits of content can keep somebody playing long after they may have normally given up. I'm playing Mass Effect 2 again mainly for Morinth's dialog and some side quests I normally skip. Sure, I could watch them on YouTube, but that's not as cool.
What are some of your favorite secrets? What are your favorite finds, the stuff you have to dig for?