The first time I land on Feros, a planet that's home to the Zhu's Hope colony in Mass Effect, it's not long before I start to feel uneasy. The unsettling feeling grows when I see colonist Calantha Blake lying on a sickbed. She doesn't open her eyes to speak as I approach, but for a just brief moment, Calantha tries to tell me something. "But they should know…", she says, before her voice strains for reasons unknown. With a shake of her head, the colonist avoids saying anything more. This person is clearly in pain, but the cause is a mystery. As I leave the room, my mind is consumed with thoughts about what it was she was trying to tell me.
Shepard is led to Feros because of the presence of the synthetic race of AI known as the Geth, but there's more to all this than meets the eye. Something about this colony doesn't seem quite right. Just like Calantha, no one in Zhu's Hope is willing to tell me anything. Every colonist I speak to is evasive - they dodge telling me any personal information about themselves, and ask me to direct any questions to the colony leader, Fai Dan. Why the secrecy? Just what has happened to these people to cause this strange behavior? I'm all too compelled to get some answers.
If you're playing Mass Effect for the first time and wish to avoid any story spoilers, it's best to turn back now.
Unravelling the mystery
Of course, I know the reason behind all of this by the time I experience it again in Mass Effect Legendary Edition. I've been revisiting all of the missions in the first entry thanks to the remaster, but even after all these years, the Feros mission still grips me more than any other. At this point, it's practically seared into my mind. Returning to the adventure with all of its improvements is a potent reminder of why this one mission has stuck with me for so long.
Firstly, it has to be said that the original Mass Effect tells an engaging and well-structured story throughout, with plenty of twists and turns. But there's nothing quite like a good mystery to pique your interest, and trying to solve it is a great motivator. This is partly what makes the mission on Feros so engrossing, but the sequence also exemplifies BioWare's ability to draw you into the plot as you seek to discover the truth. What starts out as an investigation into the Geth presence on the planet turns into something so much more, and the way in which it unfolds is expertly done. Hitting you with revelation after revelation, the uncomfortable truth of the story starts to come to light. Everything begins to escalate in unpredictable ways that succeed at holding my attention from start to finish.
Feros is covered with ruins of an ancient race known as the Protheans. It's thanks to these ruins that a corporation called ExoGeni decides to fund the permanent residence of the Zhu's Hope colony. With this funding, the company hopes to see if the colonists can find anything of significance among the old structures. After clearing out a tower of Geth and assisting the colonists with a variety of problems - such as water and food shortages - you make your way to an ExoGeni building. Everything takes a turn when you encounter scientist Lizbeth Baynham, who is the first person to mention the Thorian - an indigenous life form ExoGeni is studying. The Geth want to get to the Thorian, too. It's all very suspicious.
With more questions than answers, the story pulls me along by my desire to find out more. Even after knowing the outcome when I revisit the mission in the Legendary Edition, I still find myself getting swept up in the plot all over again thanks to the mission's excellent pacing. Since you have to navigate your way through each area, you have plenty of time to soak up and dwell on everything you learn along the way. In between taking down Geth, hacking terminals, and trying to take down the enemy shield blocking my path, I still feel a sense of urgency to get to the bottom of the mystery behind Zhu's Hope, Feros, ExoGeni, and this Thorian creature.
Making a choice
This Thorian creature turns out to be an ancient plant with telepathic capabilities. By dispersing spores, the Thorian is able to control anyone who inhales them and inflicts pain on those who try to disobey. Worse still, this sentient life form with its meandering tendrils is rooted below the colony. Suddenly, everything starts to click into place. The colonists' strange behavior, the evasiveness, ExoGeni, the Geth interest - it's all tied to the Thorian and its abilities. Instead of fighting against the Geth, I'm now up against a huge plant with tentacles that snake throughout the structure underneath Zhu's Hope. As I venture below the surface, I'm greeted by motionless, grey figures huddled over on the ground. The eerie atmosphere is palpable as I inch past these unmoving corpse-like forms. Unfortunately for me, they don't stay still for long. Known as Thorian Creepers, these horrors slowly begin to rise when I inflict damage on one of the writhing tentacles of the Thorian. Before I know it, a group of them are running right at me, throwing up clouds of toxic green spores.
The Thorian Creepers are undoubtedly some of the most unsettling enemies in Mass Effect overall, and thanks to the improved graphical enchantments of the Legendary Edition, they're all the more horrifying. Both the design and surrounding atmosphere of the creepers, and the mind-controlling plant bringing them to life, makes for one of the most memorable fights in the first entry, but the true terror of Feros actually lies with ExoGeni. The corporation is aware of the Thorian's infective hold over the colonists. Instead of helping the settlers, ExoGeni decides to turn them into a control group to study the creature's abilities.
As if all of these revelations and dangers weren't enough, you're then faced with one final task. Armed with Anti-Thorian gas grenades, it's up to you to decide whether you make use of this ammunition to protect the colonists who will attack you on site. Trouble is, creepers are running at you, and it's very easy to accidentally hit an innocent victim. It's actually a bit of a challenge to save all of their lives. Instead of making a dialogue choice, you have to actively work to save them, which makes it all the more rewarding if you succeed.
When I first landed on Feros, I could never have imagined the intricate web of secrets that were about to unfold before me. But that's precisely what makes the mission so hard to forget. It's a great example and reminder of just how inventive and engaging the storytelling is in Mass Effect. By actively working to help this colony, you come to truly care about their wellbeing and the outcome of your battle against the Thorian. After all, these people are innocent victims who were just trying to make a new home for themselves, and merely got caught up in something far sinister. They become nothing more than subjects to ExoGeni, and your part in making sure they don't come to real harm makes the build-up to the end of the mission so rewarding. There are many memorable moments in Mass Effect, but the adventure on Feros is one that will never stop haunting me.
As we wait it out for Mass Effect 5, watch the video below for a recap of the Mass Effect timeline.