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Mass Effect 2's Romance Options Were Almost Very Different

If you've ever wondered why Mass Effect 2 toned down the sex compared to the first game when it came out in 2010, you're not alone. Now, an interview in The Gamer has revealed more about the romance options that never were, as well as why they were nixed.


Back in 2008, after the first Mass Effect came out, Fox News hosted a segment that came off as pretty misinformed. Two of the commentators in the segment, who admitted to never having played the game, spread some baseless and incorrect information, calling the game "Luke Skywalker meets Debbie Does Dallas" and deriding it for its "full digital character nudity." While Geoff Keighly attempted an able defense of Mass Effect, he was constantly interrupted. Ultimately, the spot shaped how the Electronic Arts-published title was seen by the general public, if not by people who had actually played the game. And that whole brouhaha influenced the development of the sequel from BioWare.

Brian Kindregan, who was the lead writer for parts of Mass Effect, told The Gamer, "The development team of Mass Effect 2 was a pretty progressive, open-minded team, but I think there was a concern at pretty high levels that if [the first] Mass Effect, which only had one gay relationship ... had drawn fire, that Mass Effect 2 had to be a little bit careful."


Specifically, the character of Jack is clearly not solely heterosexual based on her own dialogue, yet can only be romanced if the player chooses to play as a male Commander Shepard. Apparently, Jack was written as pansexual and was supposed to originally be romanceable by a female protagonist as well. However, all that media coverage changed the way sexuality was portrayed in the Mass Effect sequel.

Kindregan, who disagreed with that decision, explained that "it wasn't like some anti-gay person high up on the Mass Effect 2 team saying, 'we're not going to have that[.]'" Instead, the executives of the company wanted to minimize the negative criticism that might be aimed at the title when it was released. He said, "The short version is, a lot of us were asked pretty late to focus the relationships on a more traditional kind of vector."

The actress who played Jack, Courtenay Taylor, confirmed Kindregan's words, though she didn't have the full story on why Jack follow the original plans. Taylor told The Gamer said she understood her character was meant to be pansexual and she was surprised that there wasn't a female-female romance possibility in the final product.

"That was, what — 2008/2009? The industry has changed exponentially since then, and BioWare was leading the charge on that," Taylor said. "I don't know if it came down to a budget constraint or maybe someone being like 'this is too obvious' because everyone was like 'of course she's a lesbian.' But my sense was always that she was [pansexual] and it just didn't get followed through."


While a few extremely minor and inconsequential non-straight romance options remained in the game, it's clear Mass Effect 2 was forced to make adjustments based on the unexpected backlash from the first game. Unfortunately, this probably won't be the last time video games become controversial because they're being criticized in an uninformed way.

Of course, if you'd like to relive the lack of full digital nudity in the Mass Effect trilogy for yourself, you can always preorder a copy of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, or wait for the new Mass Effect game to come along. Maybe this time, the romance options will be expanded.