Note to Reader: This article was originally published on Commander Bedlam with the same title on the date of March 28, 2012. Parts of this post were edited and expanded upon to include the author’s opinion on the DLCs that came out after this article was written with regards to Liara’s role. Thank you and enjoy the article!
Arguably, Liara T’Soni ranks among one of the top love interest preferences for Mass Effect players. Who wouldn’t love the asari right? They’re smart, powerful and attractive. Did we fall in love with Liara’s character on our own? Or did BioWare just give us a push by seducing us with content specifically made for one character? If true, what are their motives for doing so? The following article reflects my own opinion and theories. Consequently, I do not claim this opinion as a fact but merely a theory devised by an ardent fan.
When I first played Mass Effect 1, I explored each romantic option for Shepard to get the most out of the story. Early on in the trilogy, there is little bias present to indicate that BioWare favors Liara as a romantic conquest. Sure, there was the quest in Noveria with Matriarch Benezia that provided additional content and dialogue for Shepard and Liara but I thought nothing of it. The final romance scene for Ashley, Kaidan and Liara was fairly similar EXCEPT for the fact that Liara’s was longer and featured more nudity.
In my opinion, the integral attractiveness of pursuing Liara’s character was the allure of an exotic inter-species romance. A tryst with an alien? That sounds like the ultimate science fiction experience to me. Isn’t fiction often times our escape from reality? To imagine, create and experience a whole different world from our own. Giving Liara a unique romance scene is not being biased on BioWare’s part because if she had the same scenes as Kaidan and Ashley then she wouldn’t be that much of an alien… might as well make her look like Ashley.
However, content beyond the first Mass Effect strongly implements Liara’s prominence throughout the whole trilogy’s narrative. First, we have the comic book Mass Effect: Redemption which cleverly weaves a story where Liara T’Soni stops at nothing to retrieve Shepard’s body. Clever because the story flowed without conflicting any player’s canon whether they romanced Liara or not. In the comic, Liara does not declare her affection for Shepard but it is evidently seen how much she cares for the Commander throughout her adventures in Redemption.
Interestingly, If this story applies to everyone’s canon narrative then how about the Shepards who fell in love with Ashley or Kaidan? Their absence in the search for Shepard’s body could dangerously imply the validity of their feelings toward Shepard. Players might start doubting pursuing the Virmire Survivor once more, and might even consider pursuing Liara. Ever since Redemption came out, I started to believe that Liara harbors strong if not romantic feelings for Shepard regardless of who you chose to pursue.
Moving on with Mass Effect 2, I really thought that I would be able to choose Miranda Lawson as a new love interest for Shepard due to Liara’s minimal role. There would be no guilt hovering around me or new content to keep me interested in the Liara storyline. However, when Lair of the Shadow Broker came out… it was a whole new equation. I believe LotSB was the best DLC for Mass Effect 2. LotSB can be considered one of the strongest evidences that BioWare champions Liara’s growing prominence because she was the only squadmate from the first game to have their own DLC with substantial content to flesh out her character and relationship with Shepard if she was pursued.
If you were unfaithful, she address your infidelity with humorous, memorable yet painful one-liners. There are also key moments in the game where BioWare pulls the guilt card on you by showing how much Liara was saddened and changed by your temporary death. In addition, it is possible to have another romance scene with Liara if romanced previously and the right dialogue choice is chosen. Liara’s role and appearance is as nearly as significant as any other regular squadmate for Mass Effect 2.
So, back to those who chose the VS as their love interest. Unfortunately, you only encounter them on the planet Horizon for a very short time with a lot of bitterness and thus the term “Horizon treatment” was born. “The Horizon Treatment” is a infamous phrase usually used by several players in the forums to describe any poorly executed character role or appearance. Also, most new romantic options in Mass Effect 2 include more content for romance *cough*engine room*cough* but Liara’s DLC reasserts her rank with content as well.
For Mass Effect 3, I was determined with my storyline that I planned out. Previously in my canon, Shepard chose to stay friends with Liara to pursue Miranda. I stuck with Miranda on my first playthrough but it was not easy. Early on in the game, I was surprised that it was still possible to rekindle a relationship with Liara despite making it clear through the meanest renegade responses that it was over. Your decision during the current conversation is not yet locked and final and you still have another opportunity to rekindle a romance. Other romantic options such as Miranda just ask you once and if you reject them… they’re through with you.
Liara is also the only love interest who is available from nearly the beginning and can stay with you all throughout. Also like Mass Effect 1 and 2, there are no ways to directly or indirectly cause her death except for the EMS rating that applies to everyone in the squad. Arguably, Liara has the most interactions with Shepard which includes two well-written emotional scenes. Those scenes are available even if she was not romanced and they only vary slightly.
Even if not romanced, the content of those scenes strongly suggests that strong feelings Liara might have for Shepard. In addition to Liara, Kaidan and Ashley have the most substantial final romance scenes. Liara’s is slightly different mainly because of the unique method of Asari bonding.
The Refusal ending was pretty interesting. Liara T’Soni was the one who was talking in the beacon that was meant to communicate to the people of the next cycle. It might sound like it’s nothing, but she’s pretty much the spokesperson/voice for the last civilization. She’s speaking for humanity, the asari, krogan, and all the other species. This doesn’t have anything to do with Shepard’s love story, but it’s still another strong testament of her importance as a figure in the Mass Effect franchise.
To be fair, I played through the Extended Cut and Citadel DLCs. I think all of the possible love interests got more or less a fair share of time with Shepard in those two expansions. Extended Cut still largely ignored the Mass Effect 2 love interests, but Citadel did make up for their glaring absence in the third game. My point is Liara did not steal the spotlight from anyone else for the most part of these DLCs.
I mean I only got to hang out with her once, when I had to chance to go on two dates with my favorite GMO Miranda Lawson. However, that still does not dispute the arguments I mentioned above.
To summarize my points,(1) The massive role and content of Liara’s character could help influence a player choose her to maximize the experience.(1.5) She is the only one you can have a romance scene in all three games. (2) If she can die, then she is simply very, very hard to kill. (3) Numerous opportunities to establish and rekindle a romance despite of who you chose and times you rejected her. (4) Her character is written in a way that suggests that she has strong feelings for Shepard regardless of status as lover or friend.
Lastly, why would BioWare ever want to influence our decisions? No, they’re not evil or trying to mess with our minds. I do have two theories why! (1) Possibly, because the writers really favor Liara’s character and hadwritten her in such a way that is endearing to many fans. (2) Through seducing players with these “Liara specific” content and opportunities, Liara’s growing popularity makes it easier to establish a canon romance in other mediums such as the upcoming film.
Her popularity might overshadow the inevitable discontent from fans who chose otherwise. With these in mind, I’m not saying if you did not romance Liara… you’re screwed! Go ahead, choose who you want your Shepard to love. The game is your story to tell after all, don’t let anything like a movie with a fixed canon storyline to tell you otherwise.
Buy your copy of the Mass Effect Trilogy from Amazon.com now!
- Incredible Mass Effect 3 Fan Art from Patryk ‘Garrett’ Olejniczak (epicagames.com)
- BioWare Artist Reveals Early Mass Effect, Dragon Age Art and Ideas (escapistmagazine.com)