How the story plays out is really up to you. Choices are presented throughout the game, both large and small, that completely change the future of the series. What you say to different people can effect how they treat you in the future, and which characters you side with will change the galaxy’s perception of your Shepard. It’s empowering to know how much of an influence you have over the events of a game, and made us feel much more connected to the story than we may otherwise have been.
Which makes it all the more difficult to deal with the fact that Mass Effect 2 is a suicide mission. Shepard is instructed by the Cerberus leader, the shadowy Illusive Man, to assemble a team to travel through a mysterious Mass Relay (see: giant space portal) that might hold the answer to preventing the Reaper invasion.
That ending – oh god, that ending. Mass Effect 2’s conclusion is as brutal and personal as we’ve ever experienced. The promise of Shepard’s endgame being a “suicide mission” was not, in any way, undersold, and the final hour or so could change completely depending on the preparation and choices of the player. Go in without upgraded shields and the Normandy might take so much damage during the initial approach that a crewmember could die before the suicide mission even begins. Send the wrong character back to help escort survivors and it might be the last time you ever see them.