Spacer. War Hero. Vanguard?
I put a considerable amount of time into designing Natalia. She’s loosely based on Planetary‘s Kim Suskind, and named for my favourite badass, Natalia Romanova A.K.A. Black Widow. I could perhaps have spent more time reading up on the class descriptions though.
While I sort of made Vanguard work in Mass Effect, the introduction of Charge in Mass Effect 2 threw me. I have to confess that Natalia ended up an Infiltrator for my first playthroughs of ME2 & 3 because I sucked so much at the Vanguarding. On a guilt-induced second run with Natalia I mastered charging and the rest is history.
What is a Spectre anyway?
Gianna Parasini: You can’t bludgeon your way through bureacracy, Shepard.
Commander Shepard: I can bludgeon pretty hard.
Shepard’s background suggested a Paragon approach to me, and she largely made the ‘good’ decisions: spared the Rachni queen, saved the colonists and spared Shiala, talked Wrex down, tried to talk Saren down, saved the Council, and suggested Anderson for Human Councillor. Her Spacer background suggested that she would be used to the diversity of races in the galaxy, so groups like Cerberus, and Humanity First, got short shrift. Since Natalia is impatient by nature, her frustrations with bureaucracy gave me opportunity to deploy some much needed sarcasm and violence, and take the edge off all the Paragon-ing.
Behind Enemy Lines
“Sorry for the inconvenience, ma’am. Our scanners are picking up false readings. They seem to think you’re, ah, dead.”
I really couldn’t see Natalia willingly helping Cerberus. I felt that she would see it as being stuck behind enemy lines, and doing what she had to, with the end goal of getting back to the Alliance. The reactions of past companions, and the growing bonds with the crew, greyed things considerably. Not enough to leave the Collector Base, or David Archer, in Cerberus hands, but she certainly returned to Earth with a healthy skepticism toward the Council, and the Alliance. And a long list of allies who had survived what should have been a suicide mission.
“Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.”
There really weren’t enough opportunities to say “I told you so” in Mass Effect 3. Natalia took all of those chances, but she also got on with the business of saving the galaxy. Which included curing the Genophage, saving the Council (again), and making peace between the Quarians and the Geth. All of those came at the high cost of people she loved, and I played Natalia with a sense of growing anger and weariness. The decision to use the Crucible to destroy the Reapers flowed from that outlook.
The Dream Team
I tend to play with a balanced team for Mass Effect. Since Natalia is a Vanguard, that meant Kaidan and Garrus. So there’s a logic to them becoming the boyfriend, and the best friend.
Commander Shepard: You want me to sit there and watch you cook?
Kaidan Alenko: You’re not watching me cook, you’re helping me drink beer. Now sit your ass down.
I could see Natalia justifying saving Kaidan over Ashley due to his being a L2 biotic, but second-guessing herself because she likes him. Of course it’s complicated: fraternisation, death, resurrection, working with terrorists, but eventually Kaidan put his trust in Natalia, and returned to the Normandy. Since he was a Spectre by that point it seemed ridiculous that he would be tagging along on Shep’s missions. James kept his spot, and I choose to believe that Kaidan led occasional missions with his own team, but mostly kept things running smoothly on the Normandy.
“We’re a team, Garrus. There’s no Shepard without Vakarian.”
Ah, Garrus. The best of friends. In ME, Garrus looked up to Natalia as a role model. By ME2 they were on more even terms, and their friendship really grew out of that unquestioning loyalty that sees him follow her into hell. And back. By ME3 Garrus was the right-hand man, BFF, and the only person to whom Natalia would intentionally lose a shooting match.
One story ends so another can begin
“You did good. I’m proud of you.”
While my Galatic Readiness was high enough (second time around), to get a final cutscene of Shepard under the rubble, taking a ragged breath, I believe she died there. Even allowing for the Extended Cut revision to the damage taken by the Normandy, I don’t see them getting there in time. And, honestly, I think that was a good ending.