Most action RPG fans consider Mass Effect to be the cream of the crop of the genre. There is no shortage of reasons why this game is given this status. Among the many reasons why this game wears this prestigious crown, the morality system is at the top. Mass Effect allows players to live out this grand space fantasy either as a Renegade or a Paragon.
Good or bad, compassion or wickedness. Any way you steer your morality is up to you. So let us look into some of the differences between the Renegade (bad) and Paragon (good) paths in Mass Effect.
We have listed 11 differences between choosing the Renegade or the Paragon side in Mass Effect, including differences in their charm, popularity, and how they represent humanity and interact with a lot of the other characters throughout the game.
Before we dive into the differences, we should unpack the morality system to get an understanding of what it is all about.
The morality system in games usually refers to choices presented to the player where they have to opt for either a good action or a bad action. The action results in different outcomes. In Mass Effect this system is divided into two opposing moralities dubbed Renegade which is evil and Paragon which is good.
Unlike other games with this system, Mass Effect rewards players with either Renegade or Paragon points depending on their actions. These points are tracked in separate meters in Shepard’s section of the Squad Menu.
Some of the things to consider regarding this morality system:
- Renegade: If you want to play as a more aggressive and confrontational character, choose the Renegade path. Your decisions and dialogue options will reflect a desire for immediate results and a willingness to use force if necessary.
- Paragon: If you prefer a more diplomatic and compassionate approach, choose the Paragon path. Your decisions and dialogue options will reflect a desire to preserve life and minimize violence.
- Reputation: Your reputation as a Renegade or Paragon will affect your relationships with other characters in the game. This can impact the outcome of events and determine which characters live or die.
- Dialogue options: When faced with a moral choice, look for the red icon (for Renegade) or blue icon (for Paragon) in the dialogue options. Choose the one that aligns with the moral path you want to follow.
- Outcome: Your decisions as a Renegade or Paragon will impact the outcome of events in the game, leading to different possible endings.
You can shape the game’s entire story and the relationships you build throughout the journey using this system.
Charm / Intimidate
Amongst the many talents of Commander Shepard is their ability to either Charm or Intimidate their way in certain situations. Filling the morality meter i.e. Paragon or Renegade meter will unlock these points and these have specific uses and rewards.
The points can be earned through multiple means:
- Dialogue Choices (Red or Blue)
- Pulling Interrupts
- Choosing Charm or Intimidate options. Unlocking Charm / Intimidate Points to buy in order to clear Persuasion Checks, combat buffs, and Morality-specific Missions.
Below are the levels of morality and the respective reward you receive:
|Percentage/Level||Paragon Reward||Renegade Reward|
|10% filled||2 Charm slots, 1 free Charm Point||2 Indimidate slots, 1 Intimidate Point|
|25% filled||2 Charm slots, 1 Charm Point, -10% First Aid cooldown||2 Intimidate slots, 1 Intimidate Point, -10% weapon power cooldown|
|50% filled||+10% maximum health||+1 health regeneration per second|
|75% filled||+2 Charm slots, 1 Charm Point, -5% powers cooldown||2 Intimidate slots, 1 Intimidate Point, +5 weapon/power damage/duration|
|80% filled||UNC: Besieged Base – Mission||UNC: The Negotiation – Mission|
Commander Shepard is not just another cog in the Systems Alliance, he is very much the ambassador of all humanity. Since humans arrived late to the galactic scene, they are always under the judgemental eyes of the “superior” alien races. You are the one who sets the course of how humanity will be considered in the grand scheme.
A paragon Shepard will work towards building trust with other aliens and cooperating with them. A renegade Shepard will put humanity’s interest at the forefront without any remorse. He will make enemies with any race that contradicts his views. Such actions will be broadcasted all over the galaxy thus lowering humans in the eyes of the masses.
A survey was conducted which concluded that gamers are likely to choose good over bad in games that provide them the choice. It is fairly evident when Mass Effect was put through the same test through a poll and Paragon came on top of Renegade. Gamers are generally quite averse to conflict and it is reflected in these results.
The reason for this imbalance is that the renegade side is filled with all kinds of abhorrent behavior which might seem out of place in this rather galactic diplomacy-led game. These choices incite more harm than good and thus the paragon Shepard is the way to move forward in the future.
If you are one to appreciate snappy one-liners then renegade Shepard is the right path for you. This side of the Commander is bursting with all kinds of striking smirky speech. He will let lose some of the most offensive dialogues in all of gaming in just a few words.
Paragon on the other hand is your goody two shoes and will have the typical keep every side happy kind of response. How boring!
One of the renegade’s most famous exchanges with a crime lord under interrogation is when he says, “I’ll cut your balls off and sell them to a Krogan!”. Do not expect this dude to show respect.
The Krogan Race
Mass Effect will soon ask you to fill the shoes of the Krogan race savior. In Mass Effect 3, a mission will task you to help engineer a genophage cure, a mutation that is wiping out this species, with the help of Wrex. As paragon Shepard, you will save this entire race and earn Wrex’s undying loyalty.
However, if you have chosen the dark side as a renegade then you will be given another malicious task. If you accept it by Linron then you will put the kibosh on the cure and will essentially doom this entire race to extinction. Wrex will not take this decision lightly and things will get tense between you two.
Renegade Shepard Appeal
Based on their respective personalities and demands, the crewmates aboard the Normandy will prefer either paragon or renegade Shepard.
Shepard won’t be able to win over everyone, but some of the squad’s fiercest members, including Garrus, Urdnot, and Javik, will prefer the renegade Shepard.
Paragon Shepard will tire or frustrate these characters in Mass Effect, whereas Renegade Shepard will enable and validate these people, driving them to extremes. Grunt admires Renegade Shepard’s brutish pep talk, and Garrus admires Renegade Shepard’s “get sh*# done” attitude.
A petty crime lord named Fist gets entangled with Saren the rogue Spectre, the Shadow Broker, and Tali’Zorah aboard the Citadel. He attempted to play every angle to get ahead, but he paid the price. Shepard had him surrounded at gunpoint before long, but how should this be resolved?
Renegade Shepard will simply shoot and kill Fist out of viciousness and to close a loophole. Meanwhile, paragon Shepard will spare his life because he does not believe in unnecessary killing.
If he is spared, Fist will reappear in Mass Effect 2’s Afterlife nightclub, still resentful at the loss of his criminal empire.
However, if Wrex is at this party then Fist will get killed by him regardless of Shepard’s choice.
Commander Shepard was brought back to life with magical science-y technology in Mass Effect 2, however, the Commander will have a few facial scars to remind him of his terrible fate. These scars will heal over time for Paragon Shepard, but they will only intensify for Renegade Shepard.
In fact, renegade Shepard’s scars will begin to glow as though his corporeal body can’t contain the fire underneath. Shepard’s eyes will also begin to glow red like a certain cyborg from the future. It’s a terrible visage, yet aside from Dr. Chakwas, no one else notices it.
Commander Shepard will meet the game’s archvillain, Saren Arterius, again during the last battle of Mass Effect. Saren is completely controlled by Sovereign the Reaper, and both the renegade and paragon Shepard can persuade Saren to commit suicide in order to escape Sovereign’s clutches.
Paragon Shepard, on the other hand, can appeal to Saren’s good side, telling him that there is still good in Saren and that he can help rescue the galaxy by destroying himself as Sovereign’s puppet for the sake of others.
Given how harsh and icy Saren’s demeanor is depicted in the books and other lore, it’s astonishing that paragon Shepard can appeal to Saren’s seemingly nonexistent honorable side.
When Jacob Taylor and Shepard visited the crash site of the former’s father’s spaceship, the Hugo Gernsback, they were in for a surprise. Ronald Taylor and his crew did not perish; they were still alive as abused survivors, and Ronald had taken authority of the survivors as a self-centered king of sorts.
To say the least, Jacob was shocked. Renegade Shepard will take a more hands-on approach, while Paragon Shepard will ensure Ronald ends up in an Alliance prison.
Renegade Shepard provides Ronald a pistol with one charge, and he shoots himself before the angry survivors rush their fallen monarch and rip him apart.
During the events of Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard is forced to work with the Cerberus organization to combat the Collector menace, although Shepard’s attitude toward Cerberus is entirely up to the player. Renegade Shepard will even praise Cerberus or make justifications for the organization, but Paragon Shepard would not.
Instead, paragon Shepard will be extremely cautious with Cerberus and keep the Illusive Man at arm’s length throughout the game, not to mention criticizing the organization’s severe methods and borderline xenophobia.
Cerberus can become a genuine problem at any time, and Paragon Shepard is proven correct when Cerberus allies with the Reapers during Mass Effect 3.
There are many differences between these two morality sides. The general conduct of Commander Shepard is completely altered according to the side he has chosen. Even the game’s main ending varies due to the path you took. We do not want to spoil this major detail in the article.
Many of the Renegade and Paragon choices will have an impact over the course of the entire Mass Effect trilogy. So choose your course wisely as you definitely will have to live with the consequences later on.
Paragon seems like the right choice as it opens up a lot more avenues for the Commander but Renegade feels a little too fun to ignore.
You can however play the game again and live out both these moralities and choose for yourself which one felt more in line with your personality.