The Chopping Block: Mass Effect’s Cut Content

Mass Effect Legendary Edition is out now, and fans are diving back into the classic sci-fi RPG rollercoaster, seated next to the robotic Reapers, pesky politicians, and awkward alien pals. The whole trilogy is up for grabs with crisper graphics, a photo mode, controller support, and more, but there’s still so much that was cut from the original games that provide us with an intriguing peek behind the curtain into what nearly was.

This content varies from snipped dialogue, cut dossiers, axed emails, omitted codex entries, ditched planets, and so on. Like any other game, BioWare’s odyssey into space was rich with concepts that were left on the cutting room floor.

We’ve already covered some of this at TheGamer, but given that the Legendary Edition bundles together three entire games, there’s a wealth of content to dive into and pick apart. Let’s start at the beginning. Spoilers ahead.

TheGamer’s own features editor Cian Maher talked with some modders who have discovered a slew of audio that was cut from Mass Effect and is now able to be restored in the Legendary Edition via mods. Fans discovered unused dialogue referencing a war between the hanar and the Lystheni along with ‘Global missions,’ which Maher described as “massive, sprawling side quests designed to take you all over the galaxy.”

Then there’s Virmire, where you’re presented with a choice of whether to save the plain cream cracker that is Kaidan or the slightly irritating Ashley. Yet there was very nearly an option that let you keep both of them around. There are mods that re-enable this for the original game, but it doesn’t carry over when importing saves to the sequels.

Speaking of Ashley, she originally had a different voice actor. In the final cut, she was voiced by Kimberly Brooks, known for her work as Barbara Gordon in Arkham City, but it was a role nearly handed to Elizabeth Daily, otherwise known as Tommy Pickles from Rugrats. That’s not the only vocal shift-up that almost occurred either, as the turians were initially envisioned as making clicking noises when they spoke. This was ultimately deemed too distracting.

Finally, in the Legendary Edition, the Pinnacle Station DLC could not be recovered from the damaged source code – it would have needed to be remade from the ground up to include it. There are also some things of note like a different armor set for Garrus, an alternate Galaxy Map, the ability to play as your teammates, and a drastically different UI. Stepping into the shoes of Garrus certainly would’ve been intriguing.

The second game opens with the Normandy being torn apart and Shepard dying, waking up two years later with Cerberus having resurrected them. You’re immediately thrown back into the thick of galactic war, fighting off an invasion that nobody else seems to give a damn about. To do so, you need to recruit yet another ragtag team of soldiers with questionable ethics. This is fractured in the final cut, with certain dossiers being handed out at different times, leaving you with a limited pool of characters to use from the get-go. The initial concept had it so that every single squad member would be available for recruiting as soon as you boarded the new Normandy.

On the topic of squadmates, Kasumi and Zaeed’s loyalty missions were initially much different. The former would have seen you stopping a corporation that wanted to use bioweapons against the Alliance rather than conducting a Hitman-like espionage heist. The latter was all about tracking down a bounty hunter who had gone ‘clean’ and was now working for a business. This would have ended with you faking Zaeed’s death. Instead, we went after a Blue Sun who scarred our gruff ally. Mordin and Grunt also had a voiced confrontation cut, which makes sense given the role that the former played in enacting the slow-moving genocide of the krogan people.

There were other characters envisioned too – some came to life, some didn’t. These were detailed in 2021 to market the Legendary Edition and were conceived as archetypes, frames to build from. For example, Cerberus Superwoman and Bodyguard went onto become Miranda and Jacob, respectively, both of whom clearly fit those roles. With the cut content, there was an idea for Grunt to be a “Design-a-Krogan” not unlike a Build-a-Bear. You got the chance to choose his father outright, meaning that Grunt could have very well been Wrex’s son unless you killed him in the original. Then there was the Quarian King, Mad Bomber, Techno-Hippie, Shipjacker, Crusader, Tank, and more.

Lastly, one of the worst examples of cut content in the games industry comes from Mass Effect 2. Fox News called the first game a “sex simulator,” and rather than disputing the claim, BioWare caved and made Jack and Jacob straight when they were originally pansexual and bisexual, respectively. Unfortunately, this was not rectified in the remaster, and so they are still heterosexual even in the current build. Cian Maher also talked to the modders who discovered cut homosexual dialogue for Thane and Tali. This was speech for the first romance scenes in each arc, such as when you kiss Miranda or flirt with Jack, but it never went beyond that. Still, there was a glimmer of potential for more LGBTQ+ relationships.

Mass Effect 3’s opening begins with Shepard grounded on Earth right before a terrifying invasion showcasing the Reapers in all their glory. This was always going to be the case, although the buildup changed from what it was initially. In early drafts, Mass Effect 3 began with Shepard on trial. This trial would’ve been a significant way to showcase the repercussions of the second game, but rather than going to prison and being sentenced for your many crimes, the whole ordeal was interrupted by the attack of the Reapers. This forced Shepard and Captain Anderson to contact the Normandy like they do in the final cut.

Its ending was drastically different in a variety of ways too, with The Art of Mass Effect 3 revealing that, in original drafts, the Illusive Man was going to be the final boss, transforming into a Reaper-like creature. There was also a cut choice that would have allowed Shepard to give in to the Reapers, having humanity suffer the same fate as the Collectors. Alternatively, they could destroy them entirely. This was dubbed ‘Dark Energy,’ giving off major Half-Life 2 vibes. There was also a concept that had EDI sacrifice herself Holdo-style by launching the Normandy into Harbinger at full speed. However, it never made it out of that concept phase as the devs figured it’d be better to keep her alive as a means of showcasing the potential for friendship between AI and organics despite the tension between them in the first two titles. Well, alive if you don’t bring her with you during the final hoorah on Earth.

Eden Prime was initially going to be an integral part of the story, too, and not optional DLC. You’d have found a statue of Shepard and bumped into either Ashley or Kaidan. There was also a choice to save Javik that could have resulted in Cerberus framing you for the casualties there, stripping you of your Spectre status. Javik would’ve been an essential squadmate as a result, while Thane was intended to have his own mission where the two of you would look into a device used to indoctrinate people. There are a lot of story beats that were changed, cut, streamlined, or altered in Mass Effect 3, far more than the other two games.

One of the biggest pieces of cut content comes in the Legendary Edition, though, with the original multiplayer component being completely omitted, but this is something BioWare has said it will bring back if enough fans want it. Like with many games, perhaps we’ll see some of these ideas resurface in a sequel, repurposed to fit a new narrative down the line.

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