Plenty has been said about what’s wrong with it. Harder to do better. Here I’m going to have a go.
(For a shorter read, skip to the end where I have revised only the very finish)
The interest of Cerberus lies in moral temptation. Simply pulling another ethical one-eighty to make them blackhearted/indoctrinated villains is a criminal waste.
Cerberus should be the devil on Shepard’s left shoulder, typifying the renegade path. If they are to be fought, it should be saved for a severe schism near the end. They will work with Shepard, but always be encouraging her to do the ruthless and fascist thing.
Cerberus think “Does the end justify the means?” is a no-brainer. They will sacrifice anything to preserve humanity. They will sacrifice everything to make humanity ascendent after the Reapers.
In the closing stages of the game, Cerberus will try to shaft the other races, destroying them along with the Reapers; if Shepard does not agree, THEN she will have to fight Cerberus.
The Cerberus adversaries used in the current game can instead be used as indoctrinated/altered humans fighting for the Reapers. Given their fascination with humans, it seems bizarre that they should only ever make them into Husks. We should have Scions back, too, maybe even a Pretorian or two.
Cerberus operatives themselves will be like player-classes fighting on the other side, which may be very dangerous.
Be a bit subtle about the Deus Ex Machina
We all know it will take an utter miracle to survive the Reapers, but it must work hard at credibility. ME1 did a very good job of explaining how and why small-scale commando actions could determine the fate of the galaxy, and how the Protheans gave the current generation a chance. ME2 wasn’t bad. The side must not be let down.
This is so big I’ll come back to it, but it reminds me…
We must explain how they seemed to change appearance completely between ME1 and ME2. Let us say the Prothean culture was no more a single race than the current Galactic Civilisation is; I mean, look at all those sentient spacefaring species! They were a federation; the insectlike ones were only one part.
We won’t be re-writing Prothean history either. They got out a warning and were very lucky with their conduit experiment. The Crucible should not seem to come from nothing!
No overdoing “Shepard makes us believe!” or “Shepard, aren’t you damn good!” At some point, an analytically minded person should point out that she has proved an astonishingly decisive factor in so many events that a statistical analysis shows she is something special. Make it more objective!
No cod philosophy of great cycles, no clichés of the created destroying the creators, either. Unless it’s bullshit that Shepard blows through.
Proper effects of the big ME2 decision
The Collector base decision is HUGE and needs treating well.
If it was kept then the Alliance and the players should have access to cool new tech, although to stop base-destroyers missing out, it should gradually become available to them too.
There needs to be a big STORY implication. Personally I would go for:
If you kept the base, the atrocity of the death-camp on Horizon happens (possibly the point where paragon Shepard splits completely with Cerberus).
If you destroyed the base, then a lot of your soldiers get massacred in the final push. Miranda’s father is discovered war profiteering on the Citadel and dealt with there instead.
Proper Quarians and Geth
The Quarians were viewed as an itinerant nuisance, NOT as the most powerful fleet in the galaxy.
The geth showed only a tiny fraction of their strength in ME1/2. They have had centuries without any need for rest, food, air, computer games, entertainment, a home planet (although they have one and the Quarians don’t) or organic reproduction. They could have out-built the rest of the galaxy put together. They were stronger than the Quarians to begin with, and the Quarians have been living hand to mouth ever since.
In short, the Quarians being able to seriously threaten the Geth, let alone drive them into the arms of the Reapers, would take a miracle like the rest of the galaxy needs.
The Geth are so strong, in fact, that they should be the single biggest factor in defeating the Reapers. Without them, you can’t get the better outcomes.
I rather like the idea of a Geth AI living in and enhancing Tali’s suit as one of the best outcomes!
How much specialist training does it take simply to slot a different magazine into your gun? How do the bullets tell your level of experience so they know how hot to burn or whatever? Can keep different ammo types, but they should be mods, or a separate action to reload your guns.
Even if it’s just a basic weapon skill, let’s have some credible power trees. And, like the retconned ammo change between ME1/ME2, the switch to weight-limited loadout is clumsy and contradictory, has galactic gravity increased or something? Although I can see how it makes sense.
And another thing: -200% recharge time means you get the power back even before you use it. Eh?
They’re meant to make a new Reaper from each sentient species they exterminate, right? So how come there are only ever two models of Reaper on show, the Squid and the Crab?
Problem being, of course, that a giant version of most ME species flying through space would just look silly! Not to mention the programming time it would take. But it would be nice to see Reapers of other patterns, and possibly those you face should speak and show personality.
Also, why do the Reapers keep landing on planets, especially given the trouble they have shooting a human on foot at a few hundred metres? We’ll have none of this bollocks about dodging blasts from a Reaper’s main cannon. You only get a subsidiary cannon attacking you; the main gun fires along the axis of the Reaper, in either direction, so they can blast things in space while they walk about on the planet, saving the energy they would otherwise use flying.
Oh, and if a main cannon hits a command room, it and everything for a kilometre around gets vapourised. The weapons of a hyper-advanced dreadnaught must not be less effective than a WWII bomb! At the start of the game, it’s the shockwave from a blast elsewhere that wipes out the admirals.
They have proper motivation, too. For a Reaper, seeing a free-willed race is like seeing people on a building site without any foreman, plans, division of labour, or even agreement on what they are actually building. They are like an anthill without a queen, running permanently around as if it had just been kicked. Their only solution is to pick them all up, squash them together into one single being, and unify their purpose with the other Reapers. They see this process of “deifying” as noble, and think nothing more of the deaths than a human does of disinfecting their work surface, or throwing away the sawdust after making a wood-carving.
The other point is that the Reapers have sacrificed their ability to innovate in order to become unified in purpose; in a sense, they are all self-indoctrinated. They can only advance by taking technology/genes from races that have developed something new, so that is why they let new cultures grow to the point where they are on the cusp of challenging them, then they Reap them and take their inventions. Getting them to admit they cannot create new things themselves does not make them happy!
Ideally we should aso have a mission that actually takes us on board a living Reaper on a Commando mission.
Proper Female Krogan
We already have a nod to strict Moslems with Quarian head-scarfs, and to more extreme female-concealing cultures with the helmets. Besides, who in the galaxy could make a Krogan wear a burka!?!?
[The gay latino and the big latino in the shuttle bay can stay, their banter is great]
I think female Krogan should have different shaped heads, and marsupial-like pouches.
A Proper Personal Adversary
Let’s face it, Kai Leng looks a bit stupid.
My favourite option for someone worthy to oppose Shepard is: Anti-Shepard! Harbinger has been very impressed by Shepard, acquired some DNA samples, and created a clone. He couldn’t copy Shepard’s mind, training or experience, of course, but he has done his best with programming and upgrades of Reaper Tech.
The clone looks exactly like normal Shepard when it wants to, although normally its eyes will glow, and it is not usually feasible—nor does it try—to impersonate her. It travels the universe making trouble, and is a commander of the indoctrinated forces. It even likes to be accompanied by a Marauder and a Banshee as side-kicks. It does not need gunships or multiple enemy attack waves to bother you, being quite capable on its own with a wide range of martial, biotic and tech powers. As it gets wounded, it loses its outer skin and begins to resemble the reaper larva from ME2.
The clone is highly intelligent, has a sarcastic sense of humour, and talks of Harbinger as its “Daddy.” It taunts Shepard that if the Collectors had managed to acquire her body, this would be her, made into a Demigod. It taunts a paragon Shepard about being too nice to win, and about mistaking her for that silly VI! A renegade Shepard is taunted about how they are so alike, but the clone is better. It finds attempts to appeal to a trace of humanity within it hilarious (although you get points for trying) and even plays along with them for a moment.
A Proper Beginning
It’s hard to believe that even Paragon-Shep would just disband her crew, hand over her ship and submit to house arrest. She’d keep fighting and mustering support.
It was pretty hard to tell what had happened from the start, anyway.
Here’s the ideas:
The Council suddenly pounced on the Normandy when it visited the citadel.
Paragon Shepard surrendered rather than fire upon Allies, but on condition the rest of the crew were allowed to leave freely. Joker remained, refusing to leave the ship. They are both under house arrest, largely as the current start.
If the Collector Base was saved, Paragon-Shep told the Alliance about it immediately, but they did not trust the IFF code she sent and it remains in Cerberus hands.
Renegade Shep fired back, damaging ships but not killing anyone. The Normandy was damaged and unable to make a Jump, but she sent the crew away on a shuttle with instructions to wait for her orders. Joker remained on the ship, as did Shepard, on the grounds that they were simply too valuble to be imprisoned for long. She is currently in a full-blown cell.
In either case, Shepard is insisting on a full trial so that she can air everything she has done publicly, which the Alliance does not want no matter how much in denial most people are.
Then the shit hits the fan…
A Proper end sequence:
More narration or text about what happens to each planet, civilisation, species, culture.
Hopefully, a better story:
Beginning as above. Shepard under house arrest sees a kid playing, and demands permission to contact someone about placing a time capsule.
RenShep is reading in her cell, and pulls a Hannibal Lecter for fun on the guard sent to fetch her.
In either case, the Admirals call her to the main chamber and it is revealed the Reapers are coming! They have used software viruses to mask news of their arrival in Batarian space, sending seemingly-normal comms traffic out. Now they are closing on Earth.
You can demand an apology from the Alliance and the Council in each case for some small Renegade points, or really rub their noses in it for more. Letting it all go gives you some Paragon.
You can say the next bit nicely or harshly, but it boils down to the same thing: Earth cannot be defended. There is no standing up to the Reapers toe-to-toe without getting pulverised. The only hope is to scatter all military assets and conduct guerilla warfare, either forcing the Reapers to scatter after them, or concentrate their forces to defend while Reaping. And, worst of all, allow the Reapers to do some Harvesting. If they cannot do that, they may simply resort to Extermination instead, which will be much faster and easier for them.
If you cannot persuade the Admirals to start dispersing the fleet (only needs the right conv options, not a particular P/R score) then the Reapers will blow up the entire fleet base, killing Shepard. If they do disperse them, the Reapers only strike its defences, which still kills the Admirals but Anderson and Shepard survive.
Once in space, Shepard is contacted to go to Mars Archives. It is already under attack from indoctrinated human forces. Footage shows that one of the doctors set charges throughout some of the rooms and blew them up or depresurised them to destroy attackers and researchers together; this is the Cerberus android Eva. She has been fighting to delay the Indocs with utter lack of scruple. A distorted voice (Anti-Shep’s) is heard on a recording offering surrender to the researchers, and Eva shoots them in the head when they do not immediately reject it.
Shepard, Liara, and Kaidan/Ashley get to the heart of the faculty, encounter EVA (who destroys the last of the indoctrinated troops very efficiently) and a hologram of the Illusive Man. It turns out that the Reapers messed up, in this case. They thought that the proto-humans encountered 50,000 years showed great promise, but were likely to need destroying in the next Harvest before they had reached their full potential. So they left some Prothean ruins for us to find, and accelerate our development.
Only they missed something. The tentacle-headed variety of Prothean were a bit like our Salarians, having an instinct for intelligence and covert action. They hid an information artefact below the base before their extermination, hoping the humans would find it. Liara had just uncovered it before the invasion.
Then the clone (in concealing armour) attacks in a cutscene, apparently destroying EVA and seizing the data. The chase and shuttle crash proceed similar to before, with Anti-Shepard emerging, critically wounding your companion, but then being forced to escape without the Prothean Relic (or knowledge of what it contained).
This information turns out to be from at least one cycle previous to the Protheans. NOT REVEALED AT ONCE BUT BY OTHER FINDS AND THE VIGIL VI ON THESSIA: An initially warlike culture developed the ultimate weapon, capable of destroying suns. It is an after-effect of its early uses that the sun in ME2 (where you recruit Tali) was dying. This weapon, known as the Crucible, imposed peace on the galaxy and unknowingly delayed the Reaper invasion. It was incredibly powerful, but indiscriminate. It could not destroy a fleet orbiting a planet without destroying the planet itself. It was speculated that it could be adapted to focus its energy on particular signatures, but because that that would make its use thinkable again, they never refined it this way.
After lasting peace (and indoctrinational infiltration) the Pre-Proths dismantled their weapon, and deliberately destroyed knowledge of how to build the version that does not use the Citadel as a component. The Reapers then attacked and destroyed them, but not before the Pre-Proths hid their knowledge about the weapon throughout the galaxy for the benefit of future cycles.
The Reapers have found this knowledge, of course, but they want organic races to finish designing the refined version. This is a gamble on their part; allow the free-minded to complete the weapon, but then take it from them before it can be used.
The Pre-Proths have deliberately hidden the key to activating the device separately, because putting such a weapon in the hands of an unworthy culture—one without the unity to share its discoveries within itself—could lead to dreadful destruction without the chance for new civilisations to arise, which at least the Reapers allow.
The Protheans on Mars had a secret research annexe with a copy of the basic plans, but they had either not uncovered the activation key, or were deliberately keeping the knowledge separate.
EDI repairs and takes over the EVA body.
The Council begins to build the Crucible device, and is appealed to for any information on the key to operating it.
It is mentioned that the Crucible is being built beyond the Omega 4 Relay to protect it from Reaper attack; Cerberus has managed to change the access codes, and the O4 relay is actually armed with powerful shields and the ability to propel hostile craft into black holes, so it is safe from blockade. Also, as we find out later, the Reapers don’t actually want to destroy the Crucible at this point.
The Reapers, having destroyed the fixed military in Sol, are harvesting humans. They are forced to maintain a strong defensive presence there, and send killer packs after other fleets, but now they are also sending lesser forces to attack other worlds.
The Turians are trying to defend their world, and losing much military. Mission the same.
They must unite with the Krogan. Mission the same, although Normandy and an Alliance cruiser are engaging the Reaper at the same time as the Thresher Maw. This Reaper Destroyer calls itself Darkener, and it explains the first part of Reaper philosophy.
The Rachni appeal for help to Shepard themselves before the Krogan do; they identified in ME2 that it was the Collectors who introduced a “sour” note to the collective mind of their mothers, turning them hostile because they feared Rachni might become too powerful otherwise. The “sour note” needed active Rachni minds to persist within, so it did not transfer to the preserved egg, who hatched with resistence. Now the Reapers have attacked again and taken the Queen captive.
The Rachni have a proportionately greater asset value.
Grunt takes some convincing to spare the Queen. The key thing is to say, as Wrex says about the Turians, “We/you fought these things to the bitter end. That practically makes them family!”
Grunt should be able to join your party. Things just aren’t the same without a Krogan about! He has developed biotic powers to go with the combat powers, but the Blood Rage recklessness should counterbalance his other advantages. Perhaps there should be a self-control power?
Anti-Shepard’s indoctrinated forces are behind the attacks on the Grisson Academy etc.
The Citadel coup is when we first meet Anti-Shepard with her helmet off. The party are trapped behind a screen of toughened glass when the armoured figure from Mars approaches the Salarian councilor and takes off her helmet to reveal Shepard’s face! However, Thane shoots the clone in the head, which does not stop her, but weakens her enough for him to stand a chance, and forces her to retreat when the squad arrives. She makes some crack on “hello me, meet the improved me,” and departs. Thane says he knew at once it wasn’t the real Shepard from the non-verbals. That, and he’d just seen the real Shepard somewhere else!
The clone delays Shepard’s shuttle using a method dependent on class—a sniper rifle for a soldier or infiltrator, a biotic reave for an adept, a tech mine for an engineer etc.
It is unclear whether Udina was making some deal with the Reapers to spare his family, and/or Cerberus had made some deal with the Reapers too, as it would suit them both to weaken Galactic central government!
After this encounter, the clone wears a mutated version of whatever armour the original Shepard is in.
This storyline needs to be big. The Quarians decide to take back their homeworld. Admiral Xen has a silly plan that they will then destroy the Mass Relay and hide from the Reapers in the Veil. Gerrel is belligerant and thinks they will win, or that they should die fighting. Raan wants them to die on their homeworld when the Reapers come. Koris thinks the fleet can simply run and run, always staying ahead of the Reapers.
If you gain the Quarian fleet, its main strength will be in providing transport, expertise and logistical support.
The Geth are conflicted again. We will have no clichés about them struggling with becoming individuals, but they are certainly leaving Eden in that they have realised they are capable of acting against their own kind. If they reprogram themselves to all think the same, they will lose diversity and become both unable to innovate, and more vulnerable to external hacking. If they remain diverse, splinter factions will continue to form and possibly rebel. From the player’s POV, diverse Geth are better at fighting Reapers, but may cause trouble later if they are not united with the Quarians.
Then there are their Quarian Creators. Some geth want to destroy them, because they have proved so intractably hostile. It is revealed that the Geth are in a sense lost souls, for they are fascinated by organic culture and retain an urge to help them from their creation; on their own, they lack purpose beyond self preservation. They have been spying on the Quarians for years (as found in ME1) for the sake their art!
And, just to make things even more complicated, there are the Reapers. They have offered alliance to the Geth, with the alternative being destruction. But can they be trusted? They may even help the Quarians to exert pressure.
Legion will appear, but only as a platform and software amalgamation that has proved convenient interfacing with organics.
(The rather messy draft of this scenario has been moved to the end)
The Asari councillor confides that there is an alien find on their homeworld, to Shepard’s enormous annoyance that they had not revealed this before.
The temple of Athame contains one of the pre-prothean relics, and does indeed explain some of the Asari ascendency. You also find a Cerberus operative has infiltrated and killed the scientists because they would not reveal what they knew, which even the renegade Shepard finds counter-productive. Liara is able to acticate the relic by using information from the Martian one; it begins to tell them what the key is, then Anti-Shepard arrives!
The clone fights, then when reduced to enough health, its reinforcements arrive and Shepard is driven away. It takes the relic and leaves. Shepard goes into a grump for a bit.
Traynor discovers Sanctuary.
If you preseved the Collector Base you get a similar experience to original, except that a load of shattered mechs are testimony to what it took driving away the clone, and the base has cracked enough Reaper Code to tell where Shepard’s clone has gone.
Otherwise, your clone is trying to take over Horizon as a harvesting centre. The Reapers are attacking, and most of the civilians are trying to evacuate. You have to fight your way through the underground base (which is a cryo-containment facility under construction/Reaper conversion; the rather less monstrous secret here is that most of the refugees were going to get frozen and put in mass storage for economy) and release the comms blackout. Your clone is not there personally. Once the jamming is removed, a significant number of refugees escape, and EDI manages to discover information about Anti-Shep’s base.
You go there: instead of the Illusive Man, it is Anti-Shepard who runs a space station. Various logs show that she wants to prove herself to Harbinger, and that she is pleased with her followers being better than the “average drooling Reaper goon.” She is frustrated with the reluctance of the Reapers to allow her advanced tech for ships and fighters, however.
Instead of the chamber with the human Reaper, the central lab should be a new section with a Boss who is an indoctrinated Salarian with tech powers (Anti-Shep’s equiv of Morden/Tali). When beaten, the artifact is recovered and reveals the Citadel to be the missing link for working the Crucible.
Anti-Shep appears as a hologram and says she wishes she could have been there, but they have changed nothing except that now the Reapers are having to secure the Citadel, which will cost many more sentient lives straight away. There seems to be killing going on behind her.
There needs to be some footage of the Reapers taking the Citadel, destroying its defence fleet. Harbinger lands on the central tower the way that Sovereign did and pilots it to Earth (when the Citadel uses a Mass Relay, it actually passes around the outside of it). At Earth, the arms close.
Now Cerberus makes its play. When the superweapon comes on line, they want control of it; they will destroy not only the Reapers, but all alien ships, too. If Shepard agrees, she has to storm a Council comm ship from which Cerberus can patch in a new AI. Only human team members can be taken on this, and they are given some shaky justifications.
If Shepard does not play along with Cerberus until they reveal their plan, and does not have a loyal and trained Tali or Edi to spot the AI’s introduction later, then there is a risk Cerberus will succeed without her knowledge, leading to a very nasty surprise!
Otherwise, the Cerberus AI is detected but it is not known where, although the central Cerberus base originating its commands is detected. Shepard makes a surprise attack. If Miranda or Jacob were not loyal, they are encountered as enemies. There are the video logs, and a final encounter with the Illusive Man, who dies a villain who at least believes in his cause.
Then we can launch the final attack on Earth. If the Collector Base was saved, Cerberus work on disrupting enemy commands means that you face less enemies, and the forces elsewhere survive much better. Despite a Reaper landing, you make it to the Citadel with your team.
Once inside, you are initially surrounded in a grisly processing bay, but then it is attacked by a force of refugees and Citadel militia including Captain Bailey and Aria T’Loak. With Anderson helping them, you head for the Citadel tower with Harbinger on top of it. Shepard threatens to shoot anyone who says “just like old times” herself. There may be a rude joke about making Harbinger swivel on the tower.
There is fast and furious fight up the tower, during which you discover that the Keepers are helping you in defensive and supportive ways. At the very top, you find the council chamber enveloped in Reaper Tech and any surviving Councilors possessed by Harbinger.
Not to anyone’s surprise, let’s face it, your Clone and her companions attack you. Cue a huge Boss fight in which support units for both sides arrive periodically (you also get to fight and kill the possessed Councillors). When finally defeated, Anti-Shepard screams for her father but then is possessed and her personality erased by Harbinger. The Reaper boss makes a final appeal for Shepard to join him, or he will “digest” the tower with Shepard within it, and the Reapers outside will switch to wholesale planetary destruction. Shepard can agree to this; Harbinger even says he will allow her to retain full free will.
Otherwise you open the Citadel arms and have a rather more linearly-scaled ending. Earth faces varying degrees of destruction based upon your forces. Harbinger snaps off the tower and launches with it; if you have enough forces, he is attacked and forced to drop it, leading to your survival.
Without enough forces, the Crucible is destroyed before docking with the Citadel. Otherwise, it activates and begins surgically destroying the Reapers, although they start running for deep space. With low force, some get away and remain a threat. With overwhelming force, some of the remaining Reapers surrender, and become living archives of long-passed races.
Above a certain threshold, the Normandy is shown picking up commander Shepard plus companions, and she re-unites with her love interest, if any.
A paragon Shepard will see companions survive before she does; a Renegade, the other way around.
If Cerberus got its AI into the system, Hackett watches in horror as all of Earth’s allies are blown up along with the Reapers, then his own ship is. The game ends with a fascistic message about how this was the rise of the mighty Human Empire and its rule over the beasts-races of the Galaxy, and a stylised Nazi-style statue of Shepard is seen.
If Shepard took Harbinger’s offer, the homeworlds of the Galaxy are seen being destroyed, but she narrates how the best of humanity still lives in her, that ascension to Godhood required the sacrifice of her people. She is seen—at least partially—as a giant, humanoid Reaper awaiting the next cycle in deep space, with an implication she has designs on taking Harbinger’s place.
We then get the outcomes galaxy-wide. If you have been enough of a good influence, the Krogan practice strict birth control, reclaim their past civilisation, and channel their aggression into Arena and wargames. If not, they erupt in rebellion again centuries later, forcing the use of the Crucible to put them down.
The Rachni remain peaceful.
The Quarians eventually die out if they do not get their homeworld back; if they do, they evolve to become a cyborg species together with the Geth, and a leading light of the galaxy.
The various scenarios involve different versions of the same approximate missions:
There are a number of avenues and missions open. Each side has a loyalty mission, and a military mission, although some may be re-hashed; for example the virtual world can be a debate on uniformity, a history exploration, or a fight to download a virus.
Geth loyalty: Enter the virtual world and decide future of cencensus. Will include fighting a Reaper virus attempting to corrupt the Geth, as well as guiding them through their moral and philosophical decisions. Can also be re-configured into a more combat-oriented mission.
Geth military: The dreadnaught has been captured by indoctrinated Quarians. Destroy it.
Quarian Loyalty: Rescue an Admiral
Quarian Military: Blow up a comms base on the planet’s surface, allowing their viruses to delay the Geth. Can also be left the way it is with the Reaper fight at the end.
Geth goodwill score: +1 for dealing with their heretics, +1 for Legion surviving to download his memories of the Collector Base mission. -1 for handing Legion over to Cerberus (they will have detected this).
Quarian influence score: +1 for Tali being alive, +1 for her being loyal to you. -1 for her being exiled.
Geth Goodwill +2, Quarian +2
The Geth have defended themselves but not counter-attacked. The Quarians are receptive to being told they can’t win and should make peace instead. You can support one race or the other (as per the relevant sections below), or you can attempt to save or ally both.
To get both races: The Reapers get wind of a possible alliance, and they can’t have it. They attack Rannoch, land a Destroyer at a facility and broadcast a powerful software virus that takes over much of the planet and nearby Geth fleet. The other Reapers then leave again. You then have a broadly similar mission profile to the original game, but with the Quarians being much less hostile. Take out the dreadnought, rescue the Admiral (optional), help the Geth against the Reaper virus and their debate (optional), then the base and the Reaper (called Harmoniser).
one loyalty mission: G/Q will fight alongside each other with you
two missions: G/Q will co-operate
+ history: Q get to re-settle their homeworld.
+ good persuasion: the races integrate in full symbiosis. Tali gets a Geth living in her suit and enhancing all her powers.
Geth -1, Quarian 0-2: The Geth are hostile to Shepard. The Quarians are very supportive, but under fire. If the Quarians are 1 or 0, you can carry out the “rescue the Admiral” mission to improve their loyalty. Lesser scores result in them ignoring your suggestions and getting more portions of their fleet destroyed.
You can destroy the comms base to save a fraction of the migrant fleet. The Geth then remain netural versus the Reapers.
If you saved the Collector Base, Cerberus has used it to come up with a virus that can exterminate the Geth. You have to attack the base, but instead of blowing up the transmitter and fighting a reaper, you then enter the virtual world and destroy a central hub, uncovering their history along the way (but you’re comitted to their destruction at this point). When you do this, the geth self destruct, and the Quarians agree to help you.
Quarian -1, Geth 0-2: The Geth appeal to you for help, as they do not wish to destroy their creators. You can boost their loyalty with the virtual world mission.
The Quarians have managed to take a Geth Dreadnought using an exceptional virus from their unethical experiments (and unknowing Reaper assistance). You must destroy it, or the Geth will be forced to attack the Quarian civilian fleet to divert it from Rannoch. On this mission you will fight Quarians, or if this is too hard to program, hacked geth.
The Quarian civilian fleet retreats after the utter annihilation of their military fleet. The Geth commit forces to help you based on their loyalty.
OR the absolute renegade option! When you take control of the dreadnought, you threaten the Quarian civilian fleet with it yourself, saying you will blow it up if they do not help you. You need to destroy a liveship before they comply. The Geth take back control of the dreadnaught and keep some of the civilian fleet as hostage while the rest of the Quarians are forced to help with the war effort; the Geth honour their agreement too. However, this opens up the possibility of Tali turning on you: if she is on a mission when the other companion falls unconscious, she will turn on you, and dies for good if killed.
Quarian 0-2, Geth 0-2: Both sides appeal to you for help. Pick one side, then proceed as above.
Quarian-1, Geth -1: Oh dear. The only way to get even a fraction of one side to help is to perform a loyalty mission, then a military mission for them. In either case, only a portion of the Quarian fleet escapes. If you helped them, only a token couple of ships will help you. If you helped the Geth, they can send you a bigger force.
If you have not resolved this situation by the time of the final attack, then the Quarians are annihilated completely.
Also note that if you fight the Geth but do not destroy them, they are mentioned as a future threat in the epilogue.
Re-writing the heretics in ME2 means a larger Geth force available, but makes the mission to make them choose diversity harder, as uniformity has been proven to work.
IF ONLY THE VERY END OF THE GAME CAN BE REVISED:
Beginning on the charge towards the beam: lose Normandy picking up survivors; only have Shepard call for evac, bid a quick farewell and keep charging.
Marauder Shields says “Do not go to the Citadel Shepard, only pain awaits you there.”
Have a few more enemies to kill on the way to the Citadel chamber, perhaps find some medi-gel. You and\or Anderson seal it behind you. Your own synthetics are starting to show, and you look at them when Harbinger makes his offer.
If you fail from this point on, you get a vid of the Galaxy being destroyed, but information is uncovered in the next cycle that might give them a chance.
You meet the Illusive Man. He knew he was being indoctrinated, but had thought that the AI software he installed inside his head would protect him.
Paragon path gets him to shoot himself as before
Renegade path re-kindles his desires for humanity enough to tell you that the AI in his head was there to finish studying the indoctrination process, and combine it with the knowledge they gained on Horizon. The Reaper’s unity of purpose makes them vulnerable to such a signal if sent from the Crucible/Citadel. He begs you to shoot him, dig the data capsule out of his head and plug it in. You do so.
Without enough of either, he kills Anderson and you kill him.
Then Harbinger possesses the Illusive Man’s body; he seems strong enough to talk but not fight.
He says that he truly admires Shepard; no other being, of any kind, has ever proved decisive in so many huge issues as you have. He does not want oblivion for your race; he wants you to become the core of a human Reaper!
At this point, he will answer any questions you have:
-The Reapers were created by the First Race, who combined themselves into synthetic shells to form what they thought was the ultimate life-form, the squidlike capital-ship Reaper. Their servitor race became the crablike Destroyers. They still compose the vast majority of the Reaper fleet, and the more unique ones are generally kept away from the front lines.
-The Reapers view lesser races with pity; they are divided, chaotic, lonely in their own skulls. Anything they achieve is like a building site without a foreman, division of labour, plans, or even agreement about what it is they are building; the inefficiency is intolerable. Networked synthetics are little better, they are ants without true life. The Reapers view it as an act of charity to squash these little things together into big things that qualify under their definition as a “sapient being.” They are no more bothered about exterminating along the way than a human worries about decontaminating their work surfaces, or eating plants.
-If pressed, Harbinger will admit that they sacrificed some of their free will for unity of purpose, and that they can no longer innovate themselves. This is one reason they allow civilisations to advance to the point where they almost rival them, then move in to harvest any new technology or other material. For the same reason, they permit the Crucible plans to be passed from cycle to cycle, because they want the weapon finished for their own use. The indoctrination of groups like Cerberus is an insurance policy against this. The Catalyst is simply the Citadel’s function as a super-mass-relay and its processing power, allowing precise galaxy-wide smart targeting.
-With enough Para/Renegade, you can negotiate proper free will for becoming a Human Reaper.
If you take Harbinger’s offer, you see Shepard kill Anderson if he is still alive, then start to glow like a Harbinger possession. You get the galactic destruction clip, but this time, there is narration in a Shepard/Reaper voice saying “a people who sacrifice to their God are great. A God who sacrifices their people is greater.” The camera shows the Reapers waiting in dark space, then pulls back to show a humanoid Reaper reminiscent of Shepard.
If you negotiated free will, the camera pulls back even farther to show it surrounded by Destroyers shaped like the other galactic races, and the narration continues “The greatest God of all will never stop in its rise to omnipotence.”
If you refuse Harbinger’s offer, you struggle to the console against the strongest biotic field he can muster, and open the arms. The possessed body disintegrates.
If you use the Illusive Man’s capsule, you see the Crucible take control of the Reapers, which immediately turn on the nonhuman forces and exterminate them. Cut to narration from the future: this is how the mighty Human Empire claimed its birthright among the stars, destroying or enslaving its alien enemies. You see a fascist-style statue of Shepard.
Using the crucible to destroy the Reapers is the paragon ending. You slump down with Anderson (if alive) for the view, but unfortunately, you see Harbinger itself opening fire on your location…
You get a main clip of the Reapers being destroyed.
Depending on military strength (which should NOT require multiplayer for the very best outcomes), and previous choices, you then get a series of other clips/scenarios describing the fate of all other civilisations and cultures involved:
Earth, Palaven and Thessia can be completely destroyed, or completely rebuilt.
Some of the Reapers may escape, or some may surrender; these ones provide a living archive of extinct civilisations the Reapers harvested.
Various characters and the Normandy may survive and live their lives. Generally, loyal/happy ones get happy endings.
Happy Krogan with wise leaders limit their birth rate by Meritocratic trials, reclaim their greatness, become respected Galactic citizens. They channel their aggression into violent sport.
Unhappy Krogan wind up rebelling again, and being regretfully annihilated by the Crucible.
Unified Quarians and Geth will merge to be considered a single, and highly admired, cybernetic race.
You may also see Harbinger destroyed by the fleets before he can kill you, then Shepard and possibly other survivors (a guerilla force lead by Bailey and Aria?) being rescued from the Citadel.
Shepard rides off into the sunset, with love interest if appropriate…