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?
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 which were released 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 doesn’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 were their motives for doing so?
When I first played the original Mass Effect, 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 scenes for Ashley, Kaidan, and Liara were 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 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 scene as Kaidan and Ashley she wouldn’t be that much of an alien and BioWare might as well have made her look like Ashley.
However, the romance content in the later Mass Effect games strongly imposes 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. It’s 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.
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 undermine 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’s release, I’ve 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 the game, and can be considered amongst the strongest evidence that BioWare champions Liara’s growing prominence because she was the only squad-mate 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 addresses 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’s possible to have another romance scene with Liara if romanced previously and the right dialogue choice is selected. Liara’s role and appearance is nearly as significant as that of any regular squad-mates for Mass Effect 2.
As for those who romanced the Virmire Survivor, 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 players in the forums to describe any poorly executed character role or appearance. 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 to complete the game with the story-line I’d 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. There’s also no way 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 through the series, which include two well-written emotional scenes. Those scenes are available even if she was not romanced and they only vary slightly (if you’ve played, you’ll likely know which moments I’m referring to here).
Even if the asari archaeologist turned Shadow Broker isn’t your love interest, the content of those scenes strongly suggests the 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.
In the context of Liara’s role, the Refusal ending was pretty interesting. Liara was the one who spoke to beacon which 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, and in those expansions I think all of the possible love interests got more or less a fair share of time with Shepard. The 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 those DLCs (she did flirt with Shepard in Citadel regardless of whether you’ve romanced her before that point or not).
I only had one opportunity to spend time with her alone, when I had the chance to go on two dates with my favorite, Miranda. However, that still does not negate the arguments I mentioned above.
To summarize my points, (1) The major role of Liara’s character could help influence a player to choose her to maximize the experience and she is the only one you can have a romance scene with in all three games. (2) If she can die, then she is simply very, very hard to kill compared to other romance options and squad-mates. (3) There are numerous opportunities to establish and rekindle a romance regardless of who you chose and the occasions you reject her. (4) Her character is written in a way that suggests that she has strong feelings for Shepard regardless of her 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 wrote her in such a way that is endearing to many fans. (2) Through seducing players with ‘Liara specific’ content and opportunities, the asari’s 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 players in mind, I’m not saying that 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 story-line to tell you otherwise.
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