[Note: This story does contain spoilers about Mass Effect 2. You have been warned.]
I finished Mass Effect 2 once. The suicide mission was, in my eyes, a one-time deal, an all bets are off descent into the madness of destroying The Collectors and delaying the Reapers, one where I lost a few friends in the process.
Neither character is with me in Mass Effect 3, which I started on Sunday afternoon. They will never have a cameo in my Mass Effect 3.
I'd purposely waited to play Overlord (fantastic), Lair of the Shadow Broker (great) and The Arrival (disappointing) until just before Mass Effect 3. Having a few hours to brush up on the universe before the apocalyptic Mass Effect 3 seemed appropriate. I just didn't realize how much I'd miss a virtual mass of pixels branded Miranda.
Our relationship ended on a sour note. Just prior to embarking on the suicide mission, I was doing my rounds on the Normandy. “How are you?” “Are you ready?” “We’ll get through this.” Miranda and I had one last chat. I can't remember what I said, but I'm sure it was flippant. It's probably because my Shepard got busy with Jack in the Normandy’s basement, and she found out. I didn't think she would.
Secretly, though, I knew which character my Shepard wanted to be with, and I’d upset her. I hadn’t considered she might run out of dialogue eventually, and now I had no more options. My response pissed her off, and she turned away. No matter how many times I tried, she wouldn't budge. There was nothing more to be said, and unless I loaded a save, this was the end.
My last save? Long, long ago.
An hour or so later, she took a bullet to the head. We never had a chance to smooth things over.
Every time the squad screen popped up while finishing up Mass Effect 2, I was reminded of my ill-timed mistake. Miranda doesn't disappear from the squad screen, she's simply covered in a red hue.
If you’re like my friends, you went through the suicide mission more than once. Maybe you did it just to see how else it could play out. Most players I know found a walkthrough to learn how to keep everyone alive, hoping to bring everyone along for the final ride against the Reapers. It's true that I don't play many games twice, preferring to mosey on, but I avoided playing the suicide mission again out of principle.
Consequence in games is important. At the very least, it's interesting. It's one thing to have a new character have a new experience, it's quite another to exploit--and that's what it feels like, exploitation--a saved game and have everything turn out the way you wanted, rather than the way it happened. It'd be great if BioWare had went a step further and ensured a character died no matter what, and made it completely random. It makes no sense everyone should survive a supposed "suicide mission," unless it happens by sheer chance. Victory would be sweeter.
But perhaps I'm looking at it the wrong way. Making a conscious decision to not fit Mass Effect 2's ending neatly into my own desired conclusion when the game lets me do so lends the consequences more weight. I've decided to move on, and moving on is meant to be hard. It's much easier to reload, pretend it never happened.
Believe me, I’ve considered going back, despite being 10 hours into Mass Effect 3. I’ve run into other members of my Mass Effect 2 posse, but I’ll never run into Miranda. It feels terribly strange to write about a digital character like this--shameful, even. Am I upset over not seeing content that other players will? That’s the easy rationale. The harder one is that I feel bad Miranda and I did the Mass Effect equivalent of getting into a fight with your significant other and going to bed.
You never know what might happen, and in this case, I can’t make up for it.
Given the promises BioWare made about Mass Effect in the beginning, this feels right. If I want to know what it’s like to have Miranda giving me a peptalk as the universe ends, I’ll see that when I play through Mass Effect again. Or maybe I won’t, and this will be the one, permanent journey I have through BioWare’s drama. That, too, feels right.
In my Mass Effect, Miranda died, and there’s nothing I can do about that.