Creating your own version of Commander Shepard is part of the magic of Mass Effect, and the character creation process begins with selecting a pre-service history, psychological profile, and military specialization. While Shepard remains largely the same as a character in everyone’s playthroughs, you do have some say in their background and history prior to joining the Alliance military. These background decisions don’t affect a whole lot, but there are some unique perks and quests attached to each one. Here’s an explanation of every pre-service history, psychological profile, and military specialization in Mass Effect Legendary Edition.
Pre-service history details Shepard’s life before joining the Alliance military. This will determine if Shepard’s family is still alive, where they grew up, and what their childhood was like. There are three options for pre-service history.
- Spacer: Both of your parents were in the Alliance military. Your childhood was spent on ships and stations as they transferred from posting to posting, never staying in one location for more than a few years. Following in your parents’ footsteps, you enlisted at the age of eighteen.
- Earthborn: You were an orphan raised on the streets of the great megatropolises covering Earth. You escaped the life of petty crime and underworld gangs by enlisting with the Alliance military when you turned eighteen.
- Colonist: You were born and raised on Mindoir, a small border colony in the Attican Traverse. When you were sixteen slavers raided Mindoir, slaughtering your family and friends. You were saved by a passing Alliance patrol, and you enlisted with the military a few years later.
Your pre-service history doesn’t have any real effect on your character outside of a few minor dialogue changes here and there. Your past may be brought up by some characters throughout the trilogy, but nothing will change in the grand scheme of things. The main thing that each pre-service history choice offers is a unique sidequest depending on which one you choose. These side quests are all available in the Citadel and become available after completing a few main story missions.
- Spacer: Unlocks a quest called “Citadel: Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things” in which an Alliance lieutenant claims to know Shepard’s mother and asks them for money
- Earthborn: Unlocks a quest called “Citadel: Old Friends” in which Shepard is approached by a former gang member for assistance in freeing a captive friend
- Colonist: Unlocks a quest called “Citadel: I Remember Me” in which a suicidal girl that was taken during the same slaver raid from Shepard’s childhood locks herself in the Citadel docking bay
While the pre-service history choice unlocks a unique side quest depending on which one you choose, your chosen psychological profile will only give you a few starting morality points. This is a good way to get a headstart on Paragon or Renegade points if you want to specialize in either direction, but you can also choose a neutral option to start the game with an equal amount of morality points on each side. There are three options for psychological profile.
- Sole Survivor: During your service, a mission you were on went horribly wrong. Trapped in an extreme survival situation, you had to overcome physical torments and psychological stresses that would have broken most people. You survived while all those around you fell, and now you alone are left to tell the tale.
- War Hero: Early in your military career you found yourself facing an overwhelming enemy force. You risked your own life to save your fellow soldiers and defeat the enemy despite the impossible odds. Your bravery and heroism have earned you medals and recognition from the Alliance fleet.
- Ruthless: Throughout your military career, you have held fast to one basic rule: get the job done. You’ve been called cold, calculating, and brutal. Your reputation for ruthless efficiency makes your fellow soldiers wary of you. But when failure is not an option, the military always goes to you first.
As stated above, these choices only give you a small amount of Paragon or Renegade points. They’re mainly used for role-playing purposes, but they do grant access to unique dialogue options in certain missions. They won’t make a huge difference and you won’t be able to make any grand changes to missions because of your choice, though. Here’s what each choice gives you.
- Sole Survivor: Shepard starts the game with an equal amount of Paragon and Renegade points.
- War Hero: Shepard starts the game with bonus Paragon points.
- Ruthless: Shepard starts the game with bonus Renegade points.
Your military specialization is the most important choice you’ll make during character creation. This is essentially your class, dictating which weapons and abilities you’re able to use. There isn’t a class that excels at everything, but you’ll be able to make up for any weaknesses with your squadmates. There six military specialization classes to choose from.
- Soldier: A well-rounded class that can use all weapon types, has improved health, can equip medium armor, and can train to use heavy armor.
- Engineer: A tech-centric class that specializes in pistols and light armor, but makes up for its combat weaknesses with hacking abilities that can disrupt enemies and heal allies.
- Adept: A Biotic class that specializes in pistols and can only wear light armor, but has access to powerful Biotic abilities like Lift, Throw, and Warp.
- Infiltrator: A long-range class that specializes in sniper rifles and pistols while also being able to utilize some disruptive tech skills. This class specializes in light armor but can train to use medium armor.
- Sentinel: A class that combines tech and Biotic abilities at the expense of weapon training. This class can only wear light armor and receives no weapon training, but gets access to the best abilities from the Engineer and Adept classes.
- Vanguard: A close-range class that specializes in shotguns and medium armor while also having access to Biotic abilities. This class focuses on debilitating foes with Biotic powers and then closing in with a shotgun for added damage.
Your class will determine your playstyle, so be sure to choose one that sounds interesting to you. The Soldier class will make Mass Effect play like a standard third-person shooter, while something like the Sentinel will lock you into basically only using abilities for your whole playthrough. Remember, you can offset your weaknesses with the right squad members anyway, so you’ll have access to a wide array of skills and abilities regardless of which military specialization you choose.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Check out our review of the game here.