Are You A Mass Effect Paragon Or Renegade?

Are You A Mass Effect Paragon Or Renegade?
Image: BioWare

It’s time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.

This week we Ask Kotaku: Are you a Mass Effect Paragon or Renegade?


I play Paragon. I do this for one reason: I don’t enjoy being mean. Most people don’t, based on the overwhelming number of them who pick “good” options when playing games with moral choices. I recognise that the Paragon/Renegade divide is not strictly a good vs evil thing, but picking Renegade basically means you believe the ends justify the means no matter what, and hey, most people who think like that are arseholes!

That said, at this point, I generally feel like Paragon and Renegade choices haven’t really aged well. Many feel contrived, like they were designed to fit into a binary system rather than to force players into truly tricky moral territory. If we’re talking choice in games, I’m a much bigger fan of the more modern approach — no meters, just choices — or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, which included a black and white morality system, but pointedly coated its story in shades of grey.

Screenshot: BioWareScreenshot: BioWare


It’s very rare that I’ll do multiple playthroughs of an RPG, and though I feel like a weenie admitting this, I gotta confess I always choose the goodie-two-shoes path of light, justice, and overly simplistic moral clarity.

The question then raised is if I did a second playthrough, would I stray from that path? First of all, damn you for asking. Second, maybe? Ugh…probably. The only reason I’d replay an RPG I’m not super into — and I’m not super into Mass Effect, having only played part of the first — is to get a noticeably different experience. Beyond class and companion choices, a key way you accomplish that in a Mass Effect is by bein’ rude and edgy instead of affable and supportive.

Playin’ that Renegade role really doesn’t suit my real-life persona though, and in RPGs I tend not to role-play characters that fall far outside of my real personality. I guess I take the approach that that is “me” in the game, and less some fictional avatar with their own personality, foibles, and potential dark side. I can definitely be something of a people pleaser, sometimes to my chagrin. I really need Liara to like me, ok?

Image: BioWareImage: BioWare


No questions asked, I’m a goodie-goodie in Mass Effect. This isn’t surprising to folks who know me or who read my answer in a previous Ask Kotaku. I’ve tried to be evil in Mass Effect (and other games) but always feel weird, gross, and shitty. So I tend to stop playing and either restart as good or load an old save and try to rehab my character’s bad behaviour as best as possible.

Something interesting, the Mass Effect series was one of the few games that could, from time to time, tempt me away from my good side. Being able to hang up on the council or punch someone who was annoying or mean was often too hard to resist. So I never finished a Mass Effect run purely good. I always had a few bad points. But nobody’s perfect, right?

Image: BioWareImage: BioWare

Lisa Marie

I’ve never been a big Mass Effect person, but that doesn’t matter because the answer is the same regardless of the game. Paragon all the way. Every time a game sets up choices for me whether it’s in a Mass Effect Paragon vs. Renegade option, a Fallout karma-based system, the tree of choices presented in a David Cage joint, or even the reputation system of The Sims, I have trouble playing the bad guy.

I always set up my first run-through playing as myself, or as close to that as possible, and I like to think I’m a pretty good person! This leaves me in solid Paragon territory. Inevitably, I hype myself up to do an evil playthrough, the rugged, don’t-care attitude all the way. And then shortly after I’ve started, I begin to feel bad. And my character softens, and I’m a Paragon again.

Image: BioWareImage: BioWare


Ugh, Paragon but I wish I weren’t. In real life, I am clinically too nice, which is often a problem for me, and as much as video games should give me an outlet to shake that off, I just can’t stand being rude, even if it’s as a digital avatar to a bunch of other ones and zeroes. One day!

Screenshot: BioWareScreenshot: BioWare


Like most of my colleagues here, I, too, am a Paragon. But I’m finding myself slowly adopting Renegade tendencies against my will. What frustrates me most about the morality system in these games is that the dialogue wheel isn’t always a good representation of what comes out of Shepard’s mouth. I could choose a response that sounds totally even-keeled and come out looking like either a massive dick or a boot-licking tool.

For example, when talking to the intractable Council after a mission there might be an option to disagree with their assessment of a situation. The dialogue choice will read something like, “I disagree,” but Shepard will actually say something like, “Get fucked you shit-eating arse heads.” The result has been my Paragon Shepard unwittingly accruing Renegade points.

However, those unintentional points are not to be confused with the totally intentional Renegade choices I’ll make like pushing a mercenary out of the window or exploding the gas tank under a monologuing krogan — those are just too fun to pass up.

How About You?

Kotaku’s revealed itself as a staff of goody-two-shoe weenies, but are you? Do you revel in the role-play? Let us know! We’ll be back next week to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!


  • Paragon every time. My consequence-free power fantasy is to be able to help everyone.

    Mind you, there are a few Renegade/Dark Side choices that are too much fun to pass up; shooting that pipe in ME2, or spacing Mandos in a SWTOR flashpoint, for example.

    • Pretty much this. There is no real fantasy in a crapsack world where might makes right, the bad guys win, and the good guys are crooked, selfish, or just plain broken assholes. That’s real life.

      A world where doing the right thing actually pays off? That’s my impossible fantasy.

  • I played through OG as Paragon, but if I was to do a re-play, I might go through as Renegade. Be interesting to see. Mind you, I tried doing KOTOR2 as dark side once. Could not do it… lol

  • i lean paragon, as ive heard most players do. first playthrough was primarily paragon, but have also done playthroughs 100% paragon and 100% renegade. i do prefer my femshep to be paragon and my dudeshep to be renegade, mostly due to voice line delivery.

  • I’m a mix, although I lean towards Renegade particularly in the later games. Basically anything about Authority, Renegade, anything to do with shipmates or alien species, Paragon.

  • Paragon as well apart from bad guy Krogans who like to monologue who get incinerated in ME2 and the odd mouthy mercenary who kicked booted through a skyscraper window

  • It’s been a while so I can’t remember the intracacies, but I remember ME1 wouldn’t even let you do certain Paragon/Renegade options without putting enough points in them first. So with the first run to level 50/2nd run 60 approach, I did a renegade run first, then a paragon run second to max out both (but take the paragon character into ME2).

  • I’ve played Paragon, even though, as I said in another thread that:

    “So, my first run was with DudeShep. Turns out he was a ruthless spacer infiltrator but strangely, maybe, he was Paragon, so I didn’t really follow through on the whole “ruthless” business”.

    That first run was on ME2, due to the ME1 situation for PS3 (ain’t gonna happen, they said).

    Ash’s comments echo my own reaction to what came out of Shepard’s mouth after you chose particular dialogue options.

    Maybe the Renegade options don’t allow for Shepard to become an equally valid hero but with different choices. In other words, you hate the choices Renegade forces you to take. For minor things, I might do something Renegade, like punching the reporter, perhaps. Maybe I’d do that and then go to an earlier save and not do that. I forget.

    Another odd morality aspect to the game: on ME2, for the quarantine zone, on one game I don’t think I had Shepard take some stuff from a safe in an apartment there, as the occupants were right there, with Shepard. There would have been no consequences for Shepard for stealing their stuff, right in plain sight of them, as far as getting Paragon or Renegade points.

    Since I started from ME2 or maybe for entirely different reasons, I had no issues about being friends with everyone in the trilogy, from the Arachnai queen, to the Geth to whoever. I just never saw the need to, e.g. shoot Wrex on Virmire or wherever, same goes for other moral ‘quandaries’.

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