Mass Effect: Shepard is a Superhero
Shepard is a superhero. She has superpowers, sidekicks, an arch nemesis, everything that basically makes someone "super." But I have noticed over the years that some fans just don't really seem to grasp just how super Shepard is or why. So I'm going to break this down piece by piece, based on what I've observed over my years of playing the trilogy.
Even Shepard's Enemies Respect Her
Being able to lead people effectively and thus getting shit done, whether Renegade or Paragon, is but one of Shepard's many super powers.
She is highly charismatic and can even charm her enemies into liking her, respecting her, and joining her side.
Saren says at the end of the first game that Sovereign is impressed by Shepard and wants her to join him.
Later in the second game, Harbinger sends the Collectors to capture Shepard so that she can be turned into a Reaper. Instead, Cerberus -- another enemy of Shepard -- gets their hands on Shepard and forces her to join them.
Meanwhile, the geth -- who haven't attempted peaceful contact with organics in three hundred years -- decide that Shepard is awesome and they want to join her. She is the first organic (after Saren) that they have ever followed.
Later in the third game, the Reapers repeatedly attempt to indoctrinate Shepard through her dreams. The developers themselves hinted at this by stating they were going to have a sequence where Shepard became indoctrinated and the player lost control of her. They couldn't figure the mechanics out, so they cut the sequence entirely.
Rumor or not, Shepard's dreams and visions of the little boy (that no one else saw) felt very much like the Reapers trying to indoctrinate her over to their side.
Lastly, during the Leviathan DLC, the ancient aliens decide Shepard is so valuable that they try to keep her trapped beneath the sea as their servant. They are unable to, as her mind is so strong that they can not hold her (thus her nosebleed). She charms them into letting her go, and can even charm them into joining her side after what is probably for them millions of years of hiding.
Shepard is basically so awesome, her enemies are constantly fighting over recruiting her.
Shepard is a Genetically Enhanced Super Soldier
One thing most fans seem not to realize (largely because most fans didn't play the first game) is that Shepard is actually a genetically enhanced super soldier.
All Alliance soldiers are genetically enhanced, but Shepard is still special because she has the wits and charm and determination to go with it.
In the very first game, Shepard shows evidence of having these "super powers."
When Shepard first recruits Liara, she kills a krogan battlemaster. This is kinda a big deal, as krogan are really hard to kill and were the only ones who could defeat the rachni in the rachni wars. And yet, Shepard is killing them like chickens.
"If I flee, I might trip over all the krogan I killed to get here."
-- Renegade Shepard, Mass Effect 2
Shepard has enough physical strength and endurance to kill a krogan battlemaster in a one-on-one fight, alongside his deadly robot companions.
She also kills even more krogan throughout the game: another on Feros and (depending on the player's choices) quite a few on the Citadel.
She, at this point in time, does not yet have enough super strength to lift metal beams, but she can have the Citadel fall on her and only walk away with a broken arm. She can slaughter her way through droves of krogan. And she can storm her way through geth with ease.
Hearing people such as Conrad Verner make a big deal about Eden Prime in the first game is always pretty amusing. I always think to myself, "What? The tutorial mission? That was easy!" As the player, it's easy to forget that your character is doing amazing things that ordinary people gawp at. By extension, this is how the player is likely supposed to imagine Shepard feels: as someone that powerful, it's easy forget how amazing your feats are to normal people.
Shepard Has an Incredible Memory
Shepard also possesses a super enhanced memory, and there's a lot of evidence for this in the first two games.
In the first game, there are a few times when Shepard must remember long sequences of numbers and then recite them to VIs in order to unlock areas or disarm bombs. (This mostly happens on Noveria.)
In the second game, when taking the Paragon option to humiliate Khalisah (that annoying Renegade journalist), Shepard will recite the name of every human ship lost during the battle against Sovereign. Eight cruisers were lost, and yet she remembers every single one.
I know eight doesn't seem like a lot, but to the regular human being, it is. I can't even name Ariel's sisters from The Little Mermaid.
Most human beings have a crappy short term memory. This is what makes witness testimony such a precarious thing. And yet, Shepard can remember with startling ease things that most people simply can't. It's just not the way the human brain functions. Even photographic memory is rare.
Either Shepard's ability to recall was genetically enhanced so that she could better perform her job or this is just another natural talent that makes Shepard super.
Shepard is the Most Powerful Human Biotic in the Galaxy
Yes, even more powerful than Jack. Jack's powers are purely restricted to cut scenes, and we all know cut scene magic doesn't count. Once you have Jack in your party, it is very, very disappointing just how weak she actually is as a biotic.
For this reason, Shepard is easily the most powerful human biotic there ever was. This is truly remarkable, considering how difficult it was for humans to first develop biotics and then train them.
In the first game, Kaidan gives a lot of perspective on this, explaining how most biotic kids don't survive the training. He also makes a comment about how high Shepard's powers spike.
As the games go on, Shepard just gets more and more powerful. It's just a shame we never get to see Biotic Shepard actually use her power in cut scenes. Maybe lift a few cars. Break a few windows. At least flip a damn table.
Shepard is an Army
Shepard is famous for massacring large groups of people by her onesy and does so several times throughout the trilogy. As a result of this, Liara can refer to her in Mass Effect 3 as "the most deadly Alliance soldier in human history."
This is why Anderson had no problem sending Shepard up the most dangerous part of London during the end of Mass Effect 3. Shepard wasn't fighting alone, as you could sometimes look to the left or right and see Alliance soldiers or rovers following along with you. Shepard had merely taken point as the Alliance's greatest weapon.
If Shepard has the War Hero background, then she is famous for fighting through 10,000 space pirates mostly alone. (It's implied that the civilians who helped her didn't last long or survive and that she wound up holding one area by herself.)
If Shepard has the Sole Survivor background, it's implied that she killed three thresher maws on her own after they had slaughtered her entire unit of fifty marines.
Killing thresher maws is kinda a big deal, as even most krogan die doing it. Wrex and Grunt are two of the rare krogan in existence who can kill a thresher maw. It's just something that usually can't be done, especially by a human. Yet Shepard can kill several thresher maws on foot in the first game, and one in the second game -- again, something entire groups of krogan simply can't seem to do.
If Shepard has the Ruthless background, she sacrificed her unit to take out an entire bunker of batarian slavers and was one of the few people to survive. It's implied that she did the heavy lifting.
During the DLC, Arrival, Shepard carves her bloody way through droves of indoctrinated soldiers all by herself. If Shepard doesn't help Hackett, then the Alliance sends an entire unit to do the same thing, and they die doing it where Shepard escapes alive.
During the DLC, Omega, Aria recruits Shepard to basically be her personal army against Cerberus and the Reapers.
If Shepard does not help Liara against the Shadow Broker in the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, then Liara has to recruit an entire army of mercenaries in order to do it herself.
Biotic or not, Shepard is a one-woman army, and for this reason, is seen as a useful tool by most of the galaxy. It is a part of her character arc that she must struggle to be seen as a person and not a powerful weapon.
Shepard is an Indestructible Cyborg
By Mass Effect 2, Cerberus has made Shepard pretty much unstoppable. She is barely even human anymore, as the cybernetics glow through her eyes and scars.
In the second game, she is more parallel to Saren than she ever was: exiled by the council, living on an AI ship, working with geth, altered by her enemies with tech, and possibly brainwashed by those same enemies and even working with them because she believes she must to protect her people.
But unlike Saren, Shepard is practically indestructible.
Shepard's bones are metal.
Shepard's bones in Mass Effect 2 are some kind of metal alloy (I can't remember off the top of my head). They basically fixed her so that she could fall from great heights or have the Citadel drop on her without her sustaining a scratch. She can also now wield the Claymore, a krogan shotgun that would break a normal human's arm.
Finally, during Grunt's loyalty mission, Shepard can headbutt a krogan without breaking her neck, which would basically have killed any other human. Shepard's neck is made of metal, though, so her furious outburst wasn't fatal.
Apparently, Aethyta can do this too, but maybe asari just have stronger bones than humans. Humans are pretty played up as physically weak and "squishy," and even husks -- the human Reaper foot soldiers -- are the weakest Reapers.
Shepard's skin is bullet proof.
Based on how much Heavy Muscle Weave the player upgrades, Shepard can pretty much walk through fire and the bullets bounce off. She can still get hurt if she's not careful, but for the most part, she is practically invulnerable.
This is partially what makes Shepard getting stabbed by Kai Leng and the phantoms in Mass Effect 3 sort of ridiculous. In the second game, a flimsy sword would have broken on Shepard's skin, and she would have shot a gunship out of the sky. In the third game, she is suddenly vulnerable to this crap?
Kai Leng and the phantoms are supposed to be such a menace, but Shepard can walk through a Reaper beam at the end of the game and survive due to her cybernetic upgrades.
Shepard has super strength.
In the first game, Shepard was physically strong enough to leave piles of krogan corpses in her wake. In the second game, thanks to her metal bones and Heavy Muscle Weave upgrades combined, she can lift metal beams with ease.
At the end of the game, Shepard is seen casually lifting a metal beam off one of her fallen teammates, and during Zaaed's DLC, she can lift a huge beam off him with her bare hands or else leave him to die.
Shepard is immune to poison.
In the second game, Shepard can be seen drinking ryncol, which is a krogan beer toxic to basically anyone but krogan. Shepard drinks it and survives, even though it was supposed to kill her.
In the Arrival DLC, she is captured by indoctrinated soldiers, who spend two days trying to keep her drugged. A datapad on the floor explains how they had to keep upping the dosage because Shepard's body kept adapting to the drug and she kept almost waking up.
Shepard can also be straight-up poisoned by a racist batarian on Omega, only to survive and come back for revenge.
Shepard's Mind is Strong
Probably the most notable thing about Shepard across the trilogy is her strong mind. She is repeatedly believed to have survived every obstacle in her life because of her determination and mental fortitude.
Because of her strong mind, most asari are drawn to her, and any asari that must join minds with her (Liara, Shiala) appears to develop feelings for her (as a strong mind apparently makes for very enjoyable mind melding, which is basically asari sex).
Morinth, a very powerful, very dangerous Ardat Yakshi, is particularly drawn to Shepard for her strong mind ("So strong! I need this!") and yet, even she can't get into Shepard's head depending on how many Paragon or Renegade points the player has.
Shepard's mind is so strong, she can come into contact with Reapers and Reaper artifacts on a regular basis without becoming indoctrinated.
Shepard's mind is so strong, she can resist being taken by the Leviathans, incredibly powerful ancient aliens who once ruled the galaxy.
Shepard's mind is so strong that, apparently, when the Collectors killed her, blood cells continued functioning, which is why Feron says in Mass Effect: Redemption that Shepard is "neither dead nor alive."
Damn. Look how powerful and invulnerable Shepard is. If she didn't have a male counterpart, she would quickly be deemed a "Mary Sue." Because, don't ya know, women aren't allowed to have power fantasies.
Shepard is pretty much a superhero with superpowers. There's practically nothing she can't do short of shooting lasers from her eyes. But it isn't superpowers alone that make a hero.
What makes Shepard a hero and not a villain is her decision to use her power for good, to protect people and life at any cost.
Standing alongside her is a cast of lovable characters, sidekicks and mentors ready to support and aid Shepard, no matter how high the stakes.
Some people are born great and some have greatness thrust upon them. For Shepard, it was a little bit of both.
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