14 years later, I'm playing Mass Effect 2 for the first time and loving being a total Renegade

Mass Effect 2 Renegade
(Image credit: BioWare, EA)

Being bad has never felt so good. Watching my Mass Effect 2 FemShep single-handedly zap a Batarian mercenary before smoothly edging past him is all the reassurance I need that the Renegade path holds the superior dialog choices, and I plan on sticking to them for my first ever playthrough.

It's taken me far too long to finally sit down and play BioWare's beloved Mass Effect series. The first entry was a nice introduction to the Normandy and her crew, but with Mass Effect 2 lauded as one of the best RPGs ever, I know I'm in for a treat. That doesn't stop me from wanting to test the boundaries of badness when it comes to the game's morality system. Each dialog or QTE option shapes the future of my newly-resurrected Shepard and her budding partnership with Cerberus – but just how rogue is she willing to go? By testing out how "evil" ME2 would let me be, I've come to a triumphant realization: my Renegade Shepard feels more like an action hero than a supervillain. I've yet to finish the game, but right now, I'd take this guns-blazing, no-nonsense, quick-witted Shepard over a meek little Paragon any day. 

Hero, complex

Mass Effect 2

(Image credit: BioWare, EA)

From Baldur's Gate 3 to Hogwarts Legacy, my choice-based RPG mission has always been to do things most players would deem too cruel. No one likes upsetting their favorite NPCs, but I can't help but let curiosity get the better of me whenever a particularly interesting dialog option comes my way. These are roleplaying games for a reason, right? Why not go full method?

I'm aware that most ME players probably want to achieve the best endings for their Shepards. Me, on the other hand? I just want my synthetic zombie FemShep pseudo-Cerberus double agent heroine to have a rollicking good time. After all, you never know when your ship is going to explode on you again. I'm leaning into one roleplaying element to further explain her more brazen attitude in ME2 compared to a more even keel between Paragon and Renegade last time around: she's not fully human anymore.

After being killed in a deep-space collision, it makes sense to me that resurrected Shepard would be more than a little bit discombobulated to begin with. Then, I think she'd be angry. So angry, in fact, that she'd turn her back on The Alliance that once governed her shrewd military-minded protocols in favor of Cerberus. To an extent, anyway; I don't see myself having Shep indebted to the Illusive Man forever, but while our goals align, there's no harm in keeping the people with revivification abilities on-side.

So far in my ME2 journey, I've only reunited with one of my old compatriots. Garrus Vakarian, aka Archangel, is more than relieved to see FemShep again after hearing of her death. The best part is, though, Garrus is somewhat of a lawful evil type in himself, and makes an excellent ally for Renegade Shep. I considered Miranda as my third-in-command, but with Cerberus still firmly on my maybe list, I go for DLC character Kasumi instead. She's no goody-two-shoes herself, out on some kind of revenge mission following the death of her beloved. That's exactly the kind of unbridled angst I want fuelling my team. With that, I don a set of armor that makes me resemble a black and red Power Ranger and set out to see what the galaxy has in store for Shep.

Badass to the bone

Mass Effect 2

(Image credit: BioWare, EA)

Renegade Shepard feels more like an action hero than a supervillain.

In truth, it's been a rough ride for anyone who's dumb enough to piss off the ex-Spectre. 

I've seen what happens when NPCs get on the wrong side of Renegade Shepard, and I don't think Cerberus would enjoy it, should push come to shove. Blink-or-you'll-miss-it QTEs let me lean into the joyful chaos of the Renegade pathway; as soon as one flashes onto the screen during a cutscene or conversation, I can't squeeze my Xbox controller trigger fast enough. Whether or not you dependably have the stomach to be brutal in RPGs, you have to admit that untethered Shep is formidable. 

My girlfriend probably thinks I am the devil for making certain choices, and has full on prevented me from making others – "if you had killed Wrex in ME1 I think I'd have always been a little bit sad about it" – but I know I wouldn't be having as much fun with these games if I wasn't leaning into all of my options at opportune moments. It's the same reason a lot of people play Arthur Morgan just a touch meaner after their first Red Dead Redemption 2 playthrough: you want to give him that redemption arc for the sake of the story, your own moral quandaries be damned. I'm excited to see how Shepard develops over the course of the trilogy, and who knows? Maybe I'll want to be a Paragon purist after all come Mass Effect 3.

When it comes to ME2 though, one thing's for sure: reducing aliens to mumbling messes with a glance, forcing a racist bartender to die by his own poisoned concoction, headbutting a Krogan to assert dominance, blowing the head off a mech before it has time to panic…it can all part of the fun. If you forgive yourself long enough to join the not-so-dark side, of course.

Not all morality systems are created equal; I really wanted to be evil in Hogwarts Legacy, but the game just would not let me.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.