You know that feeling you get when you leave your home and think you've forgotten to do something important? Be it turning off an appliance, or forgetting your wallet, you just can't shake the thought that you didn't do something you were meant to do. Well, this is the kind of thing I contend with every time I leave for a mission in Mass Effect 2, and it's all thanks to Commander Shepard's fish tank in the captain's cabin. Should you choose to purchase some fish to reside in the rather aesthetically pleasing aquarium built into the wall, you'll have to put in some effort to keep them there. See, every time you return from a mission, you have to remember to feed your fish. If you forget just one time, it's all over; your fish will have passed to the great beyond and you'll have to clear out your tank and purchase more.
When I first played the second entry in the series all those years ago, keeping my fish alive throughout the entirety of my adventure became a personal challenge. I was hellbent on having a full tank by the time I reached the end of the game, and when I did in fact succeed, I was so proud of accomplishing my goal that I had to share it with the online world (opens in new tab). Fast forward to the release of Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and I find myself feeling the need to try to keep my fish alive all over again.
Mass Effect 2 is an absolutely stellar adventure that's most famous for its high-risk stakes and loyalty missions. And sure, the Illusive Man pits you up against impossible odds against the Collectors, and you find yourself getting caught up in an unforgettable suicide mission, but keeping your fish alive? That's the real challenge. I always thought the effort was worthy of awarding you with a trophy or achievement, and I did have some small hope when the remaster was announced that maybe, just maybe, one would be added at long last. Sadly, no such achievement materialized, but really, seeing your fish alive and well as you set out for that famous final mission is its own reward. So, as I begin to relive Mass Effect 2 all over again, I'm determined to maintain a healthy, thriving fish tank throughout.
The first chance I get, I make my way to purchase some fish from the Citadel to start putting my own personal challenge in motion. From the aptly named Citadel Souvenirs store, I pick up some Illium Skald Fish. These blue finned-friends are now in my care, and it's up to me to make sure they're well-fed every single time I return from a mission. Trouble is, it's all too easy to get caught up in the momentum of the story and find yourself diving straight into the next assignment on the galaxy map.
After joining up with Cerberus, you're given several dossiers to recruit more crew members to join your cause. Just like the first Mass Effect, these characters are at the heart of what makes the series so memorable and enjoyable, and I could hardly wait to reunite with them all over again. In between seeing my beloved Garrus on Omega and recruiting Mordin Solus to my team, I did well remembering to pop back to my cabin to feed my Skald fish companions. Upon returning from Mordin's mission, though, I'm all too eager to head to Purgatory to see Jack without a moment's pause.
As I'm making my way through the maximum-security prison to once again see the badass biotic I love so much, a sinking feeling washes over me. Oh no. Did I remember to feed the fish before I left? With Jack now aboard the Normandy, I run up to my cabin only to have my worst fear confirmed. I'm met with the most dreaded sight: My Skald fish are floating at the top of the tank, with a prompt to clear out the dead fish. I had already failed so early on. Determined not to let my past self down, I immediately go back to the Citadel to make another purchase. This time, I won't make the same mistake again. Now practically hardwired into my muscle memory, each and every time I come back to the ship after a mission, I turn right around and head up to my cabin. No more fish are going to die on my watch.
As Mass Effect veterans may know, yeoman Kelly Chambers can offer to feed your fish for you if you develop a relationship. The thought did cross my mind, but my heart was too committed to Garrus. Besides, in the past, I'd managed to achieve it without Chambers' help. I knew I could do it again. As I progress, my Skald fish are joined by some Prejek Paddlefish I picked up on Illium, along with Thessian Sunfish. Talk about high stakes. Now if I forget to feed them, I'm letting down a whole school of fish.
After the previous disaster, I'm a lot more mindful of making sure I always go to my cabin between missions. Throughout my feeding routine in Mass Effect 2, I caught myself wistfully thinking about the Aquarium VI introduced in Mass Effect 3. There are more varieties of fish to add to your tank in the third game in the trilogy, and happily, Shepard can buy an automatic feeder from the Citadel. As the description for the Aquarium VI reads, it will help you maintain "the ideal aquarium". This nifty device will allow you to try to save the galaxy from the Reaper threat without ever worrying about dispersing fish food, meaning you're "free to enjoy your aquatic friends without fear of killing them." I always appreciated how Mass Effect 3 pokes fun at some the trademark moments in the previous games, and the VI itself is a fun little nod to the feeding requirement in Mass Effect 2.
By the time I'm about to hit the Omega 4 relay and take on the Collector base in the final showdown, I don't even think about feeding them anymore, I just do it on autopilot. My aquarium residents are still swimming strong as I set out on the suicide mission. Like all those years ago, I'd managed to keep them alive for (mostly) the entire stretch of the adventure aboard the Normandy SR2.
I know it's a cosmetic thing that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but I just can't help but love the little decorative touches in Shepard's cabin. At least if we do forget to feed our fish companions, we'll always have the little Space Hamster who can seemingly take care of itself without the need to be fed. Even after all these years, I still get the same sense of satisfaction from knowing I can keep my fish alive against all the odds. Pulling off my own little personal achievement is still worth the effort.
Check out our Mass Effect Legendary Edition review to find out why it's "the only way to play an unmissable series".