Mass Effect Choices & Consequences: decisions that matter across the trilogy
If the Mass Effect Trilogy is famous for anything, it's for its use of choices and consequences, where there's a great range of decisions for players to make throughout the series, with decisions having repercussions not just in the game where you make them, but also often in recurring storylines across all three games.
Now, it's true that much of this choice and consequence is simply smoke and mirrors; say you kill one character and their role in the next game is still present, just replaced by a slightly-different character - but ultimately many of these decisions do add up to make for a satisfying and unique-feeling experience across all three games in the series. All of this is retained, of course, in the newly remastered Mass Effect Legendary Edition - except now, it's all in one handy package.
On this page, we break down every major choice in the Mass Effect trilogy that severely impacts the story and carries from one game to the next. You can use this page to cross-reference or plan your approach in your save - and understand what actions are going to have the most wide-reaching consequences. Any choices not listed on this page don't have a major impact on the over-arching story. In order:
- Mass Effect Save Import - how stats, levels, credits and more transfer to ME2
- Major Choices & Decisions in Mass Effect that have consequences in ME2 & 3
- Mass Effect 2 Save Import - how stats, levels, credits etc transfer to ME3
- Mass Effect 3 Choices & Consequences
When the time comes to transfer from the first Mass Effect to the second, you’ll be able to import your save and continue on with your same Shepard.
At a basic level, this infers some mechanical bonuses, though because the systems of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 are quite different, many things don’t map 1:1. Outside of story, this is how the ME1 to ME2 transfer works:
- A small amount of your Paragon & Renegade scores will carry over, meaning that you’ll have a representation of roughly how you acted in ME1 right away.
- You’ll be granted XP based on your character level in Mass Effect 1:
- Level 1-49 ME1 characters will get 1000 XP (raising you to ME2 level 2), 20,000 credits, and 2500 of ME2’s upgrade resources.
- Level 50-59 ME1 characters will get 2000 XP (level 3), 30,000 credits, and 5000 of each upgrade resource.
- Level 60 ME1 characters get 4000 XP (level 5), 50,000 credits, and 10,000 of each ME2 upgrade resource.
- In Legendary Edition, this will be adjusted to match if you play on the new Legendary Level Scaling, which sets the level cap instead at 30 and rebalances progression. Being at level cap will give you the same rewards, with the bounds adjusted down from there.
- If you’ve amassed 1,000,000 credits in Mass Effect to get the ‘Rich’ achievement, you’ll begin ME2 with an extra 100,000 credits.
- This will all function slightly differently if you use the rebalanced levelling found in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, but you will still get XP, cash, and alignment bonuses based on your actions in ME1 when importing to ME2.
Service History & Psychological Profile
In your character creation, as well as crafting Shepard's face you'll have to choose a 'Service History' from three different options and a 'Psychological profile' from three other options. There is no right or wrong answer here; each is slightly different and unique. We've got a guide explaining the difference between the Spacer, Colonist, Earthborn, Sole Survivor, War Hero, and Ruthless backgrounds - and whichever you choose will follow your Shepard all the way through the trilogy.
Shepard’s choice of romantic love interest from Mass Effect carries over into Mass Effect 2. If you romanced a character who has a reduced role in Mass Effect 2, you will have the option to stay loyal to them or to pursue a new relationship.
That, in turn, will have an effect in Mass Effect 3, or in the case of Liara, in the ME2 Shadow Broker DLC story.
Kaidan or Ashley on Virmire:
The choice of whose life to save during the mission on Virmire will obviously determine which character appears in both ME2 and ME3. Whoever you choose to save in the Virmire choice has a reduced role in ME2, but a larger role in ME3 where they can even be a squadmate again.
Wrex’s fate can be wildly different depending on your actions in ME1, as recruiting him isn’t even mandatory.
- Recruiting Wrex: if you choose not to recruit Wrex at all in ME1, the subsequent games will work the same as if he dies during ME1.
- Wrex on Virmire: if Wrex is killed on Virmire, he is replaced by his brother Wreav in ME2 and ME3. Wreav has a very different attitude to Wrex, and his presence means your options with the Krogan in ME3 are quite different.
- Wrex’s Armor: in ME1, Wrex will eventually offer up a side quest where you can retrieve his family armor. If you complete this quest, he can mention the fact you did under certain circumstances in ME3.
- More on this can be found in our guide to the Virmire choices, which has a whole section on Wrex.
Like Wrex, you can technically skip recruiting Garrus at all in ME1 (however you must pick up one of the two), but what happens after that is more clear-cut than with Wrex. If you do recruit him, there’s a subtle choice at play:
- Recruiting Garrus: if you skip recruiting Garrus, he will still end up on Omega in ME2 where you re-encounter him - but obviously, if you’re old friends and squadmates, the dialogue & dynamic is very different.
- Paragon or Renegade Garrus: throughout ME1, you’ll be able to have mild philosophical debates with Garrus. In these conversations, you can push him towards a more Paragon or Renegade mindset with your dialogue choices. This will be reflected in his ME1 dialogue, but also in his attitude when you meet him in ME2, and what actions he took between the two games.
Tali & the Geth Data:
When recruiting Tali, you’ll have the option to give her the Geth Data, in order to help her with her pilgrimage. You can also give her Geth data acquired during a certain side mission. This has no major story impact, but Shepard can then mention this act of kindness during ME2.
Feros - Colonists & Shiala:
During the Feros: The Thorian mission, you’ll have the opportunity to save the lives of the colonists of Zhu’s Hope, and Shiala the Asari Commando. If you save the majority of the colonists, you’ll meet a representative of them on Illium in ME2 and get a side quest from them. If Shiala herself survives, she will be that representative.
Further, in ME3, if living, these colonists add to your War Assets.
Noveria - Gianna Parasini:
Shepard can encounter Gianna Parsini on Noveria. You’re invited to join her for a drink at the hotel bar, and learn about what she’s doing there. If you choose to help her, she will appear on Illium in ME2 to offer you a side quest.
In ME3, she will email you again, asking for further help, which you can do with your Spectre credentials.
Noveria - the Rachni Queen’s Fate:
The fate of the Rachni Queen is a major plot point in the first Mass Effect, at the culmination of the planet’s main mission.
- If you spare the Rachni Queen:
- In ME2, you’ll meet a character and receive a message from the queen on Illium. If she survives Noveria, Shiala will be the messenger. This grants a sidequest assignment.
- In ME3, you will meet the Rachni Queen on a side mission, and again choose if you want to spare the queen and have her join your side, or kill her. If spared again, she joins you fully.
- If you kill the Rachni Queen:
- In ME2, your actions will be acknowledged in news reports overhead in ambient dialogue.
- In ME3, you’ll end up meeting a clone of the Rachni Queen. You can choose to spare or kill the clone, but if you spare the clone and try to have it join your side, it will betray you.
Virmire - Rana Thanoptis:
On Virmire you’ll encounter Asari scientist Rana Thanoptis, and you’ll have the opportunity to spare her or shoot her. If you spare her, she will show up in Mass Effect 2. She will then go on to be mentioned in a report in Mass Effect 3, but not seen.
Virmire - the fate of Captain Kirrahe:
This iconic Salarian Captain talks about holding the line. If he survives, this will be reflected in dialogue with Mordin in Mass Effect 2.
You can then meet Kirrahe again in Mass Effect 3, assuming he survived. Additionally, Kirrahe is one of two characters (the other being Thane) that can prevent the death of another character in ME3. If Thane is dead, Kirrahe will save that character’s life. If neither is alive come ME3, that character will die..
The Tale of Conrad Verner:
Conrad Verner is Shepard’s adoring fan. You can resolve the quest kindly, or by threatening Conrad, and this impacts the following games:
- Due to a bug, Conrad will always accuse Shepard of threatening him when you meet in ME2.
- In ME3, he will apologize for that accusation if it was incorrect, and if you’ve completed certain other assignments he can add to your war assets.
UNC: Rogue VI:
This side quest is minor, tasking Shepard with taking out a rogue Virtual Intelligence (VI) that is present on Earth’s Moon. It doesn’t actually have any story consequences, but completing this quest unlocks some notable dialogue options in Mass Effect 2, all of which relate to a major artificial intelligence presence in the latter two games. Further background information on the project can be found in ME3.
Bring Down The Sky - Balak’s Fate:
In Bring Down the Sky, which was originally a DLC, you’ll stop a Batarian scheme on an asteroid. At the end, you’ll have the opportunity to kill Balak, the ringleader, or spare him. If Balak survives, news reports in ME2 will mention he is at large, and then you can meet him on the Citadel in ME3, where he can become a War Asset.
The Fate of the Council:
Your decisions at the end of ME1 will determine the make-up of the council in subsequent games. This has a minor impact on dialogue going forward:
- If you save the council:
- In ME2, there will be minor dialogue differences. Notably, the council will reinstate your Spectre status as a show of good faith.
- In ME3, the Destiny Ascension, the Council’s flagship, will appear in the final space battle, and is a war asset - but this is balanced out by a lessening of alliance war assets.
- If you let the council die:
- In ME2, there will be new council characters. They won’t feel inclined to reinstate Shepard’s Spectre status.
- In ME3, your Spectre status is finally reinstated. In the final battle, the Alliance war assets are stronger, but you do not have the Destiny Ascension.
Anderson or Udina for Councilor:
In the original version of ME1, this is actually bugged; your choice doesn’t save, and so you’ll get to choose again in a ‘memory test’ at the start of ME2. However, here's what to expect depending on if you choose Udina or Anderson for the councilor post…
- If you choose Udina, he is hostile to Shepard. If he sits on a new council, your Spectre status won’t be reinstated until ME3.
- If you choose Anderson, your Spectre status will be reinstated regardless of if the original council survived or not. By ME3, Udina will have replaced Anderson as Ambassador anyway.
The following characters will unlock some exclusive nods in future games if you interact with them in ME1.
This changed interaction might result in exclusive lines of dialogue when you meet the character again, or alternatively might simply take the form of an email from the character or overhearing something about them on the news - presuming that you spoke to them and/or completed their quests, and they survived the fact.
These don’t institute any major changes, but exactly what dialogue appears in ME2 and ME3 will vary based on what you say and do with or to these characters.
- Barla Von the Volus as found in the Citadel Presidium
- Cerberus (the organization) from UNC: Missing Marines, UNC: Cerberus, and UNC: Hades’ Dogs
- Chairman Martin Burns from UNC: Hostage
- Chorban from Citadel: Scan the Keepers
- Corporal Toombs from UNC: Dead Scientists
- Dr. Chloe Michel from Citadel: Doctor Michel
- Emily Wong from Citadel: Reporter’s Request
- Fist from the main Citadel quests, if you let him live
- Han Olar the Volus on Noveria
- Harkin in the Citadel’s Citadel Chora’s Den, as part of the quest to find Garrus
- Helena Blake from UNC: Hostile Takeover
- Khalisah Al-Jilani, the journalist who asks to interviews Shepard on the Citadel
- Major Kyle from UNC: Major Kyle
- Nassana Dantius from UNC: Asari Diplomacy
- Samesh Bhatia from Citadel: Homecoming
- Sha’ira from Citadel: Asari Consort
- Sirta Foundation (the organization) from UNC: Besieged Base
- Finch from Citadel: Old Friends (Earthborn background only)
- Hannah Shepard (mother) from Citadel: Old, Unhappy, Far-Off Things (Spacer background only)
- Talitha from Citadel: I Remember Me (Colonist background only)
Things are much simpler transferring over to Mass Effect 3 than they are going from the original to ME2. Your Shepard carries over directly; so if you are at the level cap of 30 in ME2, you’ll begin ME3 at level 30 with a new cap of 60. You’ll have a chance to change Shepard's class if you want, however.
Other elements have individual circumstances and setups:
- Any credits will not carry over.
- 15% of your Paragon and Renegade Points carry over
- Collectibles are reset, but can be regained either through buying them or finding them throughout the Normandy, including the Space Hamster, which is hiding in Engineering. If you’d asked Kelly to feed your fish, you can recover your fish from her by tracking her down.
- Some ship upgrades carry over, but others do not.
- Any leftover ME2 resources are converted into ME3 War Assets.
These are the major decisions you’ll make in Mass Effect 2 that will have a large, material impact on ME3 going forward:
Squad Member Fates:
In ME2, every single member of your squad can die in the final suicide mission, depending on which choices you make. Every living character that Shepard befriended in a significant way shows up towards the end of ME3, but several also show up before that. Naturally, the dead can’t appear. We've got more details on how the Suicide Mission works and what choices to make to have everyone survive on a separate page.
In addition, every character has a ‘loyalty mission’, which if completed makes the character… well, loyal. Loyal characters have a greater chance of surviving ME2's finale, where anybody can perish, and in several cases they go on to have some minor differences in ME3 when compared to if they're disloyal. You can learn more about this concept in our Mass Effect 2 Loyalty Missions guide, but just to summarize, this is what to expect:
- Shepard: if Shepard dies, you obviously cannot import into ME3 at all. Game over!
- Garrus: if he survives, he will be available as a squad member again in ME3.
- Grunt: if he dies, he will be replaced by a generic Krogan. If he lives but is disloyal, he can die in ME3.
- Jack: if she dies, she won’t be present in ME3 to save another minor character from death.
- Jacob: if dead, his role in ME3 will be replaced by a minor character.
- Kasumi: if dead, or if skipped, she won’t appear in ME3. If living, she gives you a side quest, and her loyalty status changes some of its dialogue.
- Legion: if killed, it is replaced by a weak replica in ME3. If given to Cerberus, it will appear as an enemy in Cerberus HQ during ME3. Legion’s Loyalty Mission can have an impact, too - as described below.
- Miranda: if dead, she won’t appear. If not loyal, she can die during the events of ME3.
- Mordin: if he dies, he will be replaced by either Maelon or Wiks, depending on who survives his loyalty quest - as described below.
- Samara: if she dies in the suicide mission, she’s absent from ME3 entirely, and isn’t replaced. The outcome of Samara’s loyalty quest will also have an impact on ME3, described below.
- Tali: if she survives, she will be available as a squad member again in ME3. The outcome of her loyalty mission also has an impact on ME3, described below.
- Thane: if he dies in the final mission, he won’t appear at all. Thane has a major side role to play in ME3, and if both he and Captain Kirrahe from ME1 are dead, a major NPC will die.
- Zaeed: if he is skipped or dies, he won’t appear. If he survives, you will meet again during ME3, regardless of loyalty status.
Normandy Crew Status:
The rest of the NPC Normandy Crew can live or survive ME2 depending on how events play out. If Dr. Chakwas, Ken, and Gabby survive the events of ME2, you can re-recruit them in ME3.
If Kelly Chambers survives ME2 and if you accepted her dinner date invitation, you can meet her again on the Citadel in ME3.
As in ME1 your romance status in Mass Effect 2 will carry over to Mass Effect 3. You will have the opportunity to continue any relationship started in ME2 in the next game. If you choose not to pursue a relationship in ME2, this counts as staying ‘loyal’ to your ME1 love interest, if you have one, allowing you to continue that relationship instead.
Old Blood - Mordin, Maelon & the Research Data
Mordin’s loyalty mission takes you back to the question of the Krogan Genophage. Salarian scientist Maelon has been working on a cure to the genophage. You’ll have the choice between saving the cure research data or destroying the data. In addition, Mordin moves to kill Maelon, but you can interrupt to save his life.
- If you save the cure, it can naturally lead to a better relationship and chance for the Krogan in ME3, also gaining their support in the war - but this will lose you Salarian War Assets.
- If you delete the data, you can instead fake the Genophage. This lets you gain the Krogan war assets without losing Salarian support, but only if Wrex also died in ME1 - otherwise, it can have grave consequences.
If Maelon survives and Mordin dies, Maelon takes his place throughout ME3. If both are dead by the end of ME2, they will be replaced by Wiks.
Treason - Tali, exile and her father
Tali’s loyalty mission sees her put on trial, with Shepard acting in her defense. If you are able to have Tali found not guilty and prevent her exile from the fleet but without implicating her father, you’ll have an easier time brokering a peace between the Quarians and Geth in ME3.
Subject Zero - Jack & Aresh
During Jack’s loyalty mission, Subject Zero, Jack will come face-to-face with Aresh Aghdashloo, another child test subject. If Shepard can persuade Jack to spare Aresh, you can hear about his exploits saving lives during ME3.
The Ardat-Yakshi - Samara vs Morinth
Samara’s loyalty mission sees her tracking down her own daughter. In the mission, you’ll face a choice between helping Samara, or betraying her in favor of her daughter.
- If Samara is saved from Morinth, she can go on to the suicide mission. If she survives that she will appear in ME3 to help, and also be a war asset.
- If Samara is killed and replaced by Morinth in ME2, Samara of course won’t appear in ME3. Morinth will send you an email, but will later be encountered as a corrupted, warped Banshee enemy on earth, having been taken by the Reapers.
A House Divided - Legion & the Heretic Geth:
In Legion’s loyalty mission, you will have the option to rewrite and reset the ‘Geth Heretics’. Your choice will not impact Legion’s loyalty, but it will impact ME3 somewhat.
- If the Heretic Geth are rewritten, in the next game the Geth war asset will be more powerful, but the Quarian War Asset will be weaker.
- If you destroy the heretics instead, you have a greater chance at being able to broker a peace between the Geth and Quarians in the next game, and the Quarians will have a stronger war asset.
Shepard’s Spectre Reinstatement:
Depending on what happened with the council during ME1, you may be offered the opportunity to have Shepard’s Spectre status reinstated by the Citadel Council. You can accept or not; it only has a minor immaterial impact on ME2 dialogue, and then in ME3 you’ll be reinstated again regardless.
The Continuing Adventures of Conrad Verner
You can meet Conrad again on Illium, assuming you came into contact with him during the course of the first Mass Effect. Completing his little quest here will make him reappear on the citadel during Mass Effect 3.
Khalisah al-Jilani - the journalist
You should’ve encountered al-Jilani in the first Mass Effect. If you’re again interviewed by her in ME2, your response will be noted and impact your final encounter in ME3.
Fate of The Collector Base
The biggest single choice you have in Mass Effect 2 is the fate of the collector base at the end of the game.
- If you keep the Collector base, you’ll get some more War Assets for it. If you reach the end of ME3 with a very weak fighting force, keeping it ensures you have access to the ‘Control’ ending.
- If you destroy the Collector base, you lose those assets. In a situation where you reach the end of ME3 with a very weak fighting force, destroying it means you will only have access to the ‘Destroy’ ending.
DLC Completion Impact
Several of the Mass Effect 2 DLC episodes have minor impacts in Mass Effect 3 if you choose to complete them. Here we list those changes by DLC:
- Zaeed - The Price of Revenge: Zaeed appears in ME3, assuming he survives the events of ME2.
- Kasumi - Stolen Memory: Kasumi appears in ME3 if she survives ME2, and provides a side quest. There will be slight dialogue and story differences depending on if you chose to keep or destroy the graybox.
- Operation Firewalker: causes some minor ambient dialogue aboard the Normandy in ME3.
- Overlord: Gavin Archer will appear during a Mass Effect 3 mission. His dialogue varies depending on how Overlord ends.
- Lair of the Shadow Broker: change some dialogue throughout ME3.
You can transfer into Mass Effect 3 with just one game of history behind you in ME2, or you can transfer in with a save file that began in ME1 and then journeyed through ME2. Regardless of which way around that goes, the save import functions in broadly the same way - and this time it’s very simple:
Other elements have individual circumstances and setups:
- Shepard carries over directly with the same level and skills, though you can respec if you wish.
- The new level cap is level 60.
- No cash or collectibles carry over, but you can regain them by buying or finding them.
- Some ship upgrades carry over, but others do not.
- No cash carries over.
- 15% of your Paragon or Renegade points carry over.
- Any leftover ME2 resources are converted into ME3 War Assets.
Obviously there’s no fourth game for Mass Effect 3 to import into (at least, not yet, and quite probably never) - and so you don’t have to worry about what carries forward to the next game. However, a number of key choices throughout the game’s story do feed directly into the later events throughout its runtime, and of course into the ending. Here, we run down those:
Ashley or Kaidan on Mars
You’ll encounter Ashley or Kaidan - whoever survived the events on Virmire in ME1 - on Mars right at the start of ME3. They join you as a squad member, but it’s a temporary arrangement. Kaiden or Ashley will be watching you in this mission...
- If you choose primarily Paragon (Blue) dialogue options, they will be more friendly towards you, which has a significant impact on events including them later in the game.
- Meanwhile, if you choose primarily Renegade (Red) dialogue options, they will be suspicious and distrusting of you. This has an effect later, and can even potentially lead to their death.
Conversations with The Illusive Man
While he’s not as ever-present as in Mass Effect 2, throughout ME3 you’ll have a number of provocative conversations with The Illusive Man. One specific aspect of these conversations will deeply impact one final conversation with him towards the end of the game.
What you need to do, to keep your options open, is make sure that you use a Charm (Blue) or Intimate (Red) dialogue choice every time you have the opportunity to in every conversation with the Illusive Man. If you do this, you will have access to more dialogue options in a final conversation with him near ME3’s climax, which will allow you to save a friend from disaster.
Grissom Academy & Jack
So long as Jack survived ME2, you’ll be able to meet up with her again during the Grissom Academy: Emergency Evacuation side quest. This mission is time sensitive - it can expire if you don’t get to it in time.
- If you go there and complete the mission, Jack and her band of students will become War Assets. Jack will also appear in the Citadel DLC mission and towards the end of the game. Additionally, you’ll have to choose where to deploy the Students:
- If you keep them in a support role, they will live, which is referenced subtly in some endings.
- If you send them to the front lines they will perish, likewise referenced in certain endings.
- If you fail to go there, they will be captured by Cerberus and brainwashed. Later in the game, you will have to kill Jack, who appears as a generic Cerberus enemy.
Tuchanka and the Fate of the Krogan
You’ll return to Tuchanka in Mass Effect 3, and finally come to a conclusion in the ongoing storyline of the Krogan and the Genophage. This mission has several variables that depend on the events of ME1 and 2. The basic choice is between warning the Krogans or not, however.
- If you warn the Krogans, the sabotage will be undone so the Krogans can get their cure. You will get the Krogan support for the war, but no Salarian support.
- If you do not warn the Krogans, the events depend on Wrex’s status and your actions in ME2:
- If Wrex is alive or if you saved Maelon’s data during Mordin’s ME2 loyalty mission, the scientist with you will realize what is happening and make an attempt to stop it; you can either let him fix it (losing Salarian support), or stop him (keeping Salarian support but losing/weakening Krogan support.
- If Wrex is dead and you also didn’t save Maelon’s data in ME2, you can talk the scientist around to supporting the act of sabotage, keeping Salarian Support and some Krogan support.
- If the cure goes through as intended, without sabotage, you will always lose the support of the Salarians. However, if Wrex is alive, the Krogan support is worth more.
Kallini, the Ardat-Yakshi, and Samara
So long as Samara survived the events of ME2, a way into ME3 you’ll get a mission where you’ll meet her. In a scene towards the end of the mission, there will be a Paragon Interrupt to save Samara’s life.
If Samara is dead, you will also have to decide the fate of her daughter, Falere. Your choice has no greater impact on the rest of the game.
You’ll have several conversations with Miranda on The Citadel throughout ME3 if she lived through ME2. In order for her to live, you have to say or do certain things in these conversations.
- You must read up on Kai Leng using your private terminal aboard the Normandy and then warn her about him in your second conversation. This will later save her life even if she wasn’t Loyal in ME2.
- In your next conversation with her, give her access to Alliance Resources to continue her work.
- If you were romancing Miranda, you must not break up with her.
If she lives, Miranda can appear in the Citadel DLC, towards the end of the game, and as a war asset.
The Rachni & the Krogan in the Attican Traverse
When you head to the Attican Traverse to assist a team of Krogan warriors, you’ll encounter a Rachni - either the Queen from ME1 if you spared her, or a new Rachni leader. You’ll be faced with a choice, with the consequences depending on ME1 actions:
- If it’s the original Rachni Queen and you choose to help her, she will join the war on your side.
- If you killed the Rachni Queen in ME1 and choose to help her, she will later betray you, depleting a number of War Assets.
- If he’s alive, Grunt’s fate in this mission is determined by if he was loyal in ME2.
Geth, Quarians, and Events on Rannoch
This refers to two separate events and missions. First of all, there is a side mission, Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons. If you’re going to tackle this, you must do so before the Priority: Rannoch mission, as it can impact your choices in that mission.
- If you complete Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons, you will have the option to use that fleet in Priority: Rannoch. By doing this and having Tali and Legion alive, you’ll be able to avoid genocide.
- If you rescue Admiral Koris during the Rannoch: Admiral Koris side mission by using Charm/Intimidate to persuade, it’ll make getting this option easier, too.
- If you don’t do the Rannoch: Geth Fighter Squadrons quest, you will be forced to make an impossible choice that results in the death of a race and potentially a squad member.
- Allow the Upload will make the Geth kill all the Quarians. In this outcome, Tali will kill herself in response, regardless of your relationship.
- If you Stop the Upload, the Geth will die - including Legion - but the Quarians will survive.
Throughout pretty much all of Mass Effect 3, every choice you make will be raising or lowering your ‘Total Military Strength’. This stat represents your ‘fighting power’ in your final showdown with The Reapers, with the more people in the galaxy you convince to come help fight, raising the number.
Everything from which of your squadmates is living to minor side quests can influence this number, including many of the choices above. We've got a separate page explaining all the losses and gains you can make to the War Assets that influence your Total Military Strength, should you need it.
In the original game, your Total Military Strength then had a negative percentage applied to it based on your 'readiness rating', which was influenced by ME3's multiplayer mode. This would give you your 'Effective Military Strength', or EMS, which is the score that would be used to decide your ending. In the Legendary Edition remaster of ME3, that system has been removed, and your Total Military Strength alone determines your options and outcome in the ending of the game.
So, depending on the version of ME3 you play, at the end of the game your choices will vary based on either your EMS or your TMS. There are five different levels of choice in the finale - the higher the Military Strength, the more choice you have. Generally speaking, over around 3100 in the original game's extended cut and in the region of 7600-7800 in the legendary edition will be enough to give you all potential choices and give you the option of unlocking the best Mass Effect 3 Endings.
At the lowest EMS level, you won’t have a choice at the end of the game. Your ending will be either ‘Control’ or ‘Destroy’, with which determined by if you chose to Keep or Destroy the collector base at the end of ME2. Both endings take on a devastating form, ending many friendly lives.
At the next EMS level, you will get to choose between the ‘Control’ or ‘Destroy’ endings - and additionally, the ‘Destroy’ ending is less devastating to innocents.
Once your EMS gets into the medium range, which will be the mid-high 2000s in the original game and around 4000 in the Legendary Edition, you’ll still have a choice between ‘Control’ or ‘Destroy’, but they will no longer be devastating to anyone but the Reapers.
At the second-highest level of EMS, you will unlock a new option - ‘Synthesis’. Synthesis is the most positive overall ending. Additionally, if you pick Destroy, Shepard has a chance to live in a credits tease - but only if Anderson wasn’t killed by The Illusive Man.
At the highest level, you can choose between any of the three ending options, but also you will always see the end-game tease that Shepard lives on.