In the year 2148, explorers on Mars discovered the remains of an ancient spacefaring civilisation. In the decades that followed, these mysterious artifacts revealed startling new technologies, enabling travel to the furthest stars. The basis for this incredible technology was a force that controlled the very fabric of space and time.
They called it the greatest discovery in human history.
The civilisations of the galaxy call it...
The protagonist of Mass Effect 1, Shepard, is a military commander in the Earth Military, The Alliance's Elite ranks - named N7. A soldier through and through, Commander Shepard's task is to prove to the Galactic community that Saren is a traitor to be brought to justice. Humans are newcomers to the galaxy, untrusted, so the actions that Shepard takes on their adventure will reflect upon all of humankind.
As a character, Shepard can be customised heavily by the player. Gender, origin, powers, class; all of these can be altered to create a playable character that matches the way the player wants to play—Tech powers, Biotic powers, or straight up guns.
Male Shepard and Female Shepard are both as viable as each other. Both versions of Shepard feature the extraordinarily talented voice actors Mark Meer and Jennifer Hale (Although I think FemShep is a rad title for Female Shepard, just my opinion). Bioware made a distinct point of making this game inclusive to its large female-oriented audience, as well as others who want to see more heroines in their Sci-Fi RPGs!
This is the player's conduit into the world of the game. Through Shepard, we see the incredible worlds of the Milky Way, from the Citadel to Ilos. We also can interact and grow closer to our crew - forming relationships and even romances with them.
A Citadel-Security (C-Sec) officer is trying to bring in Saren. Garrus does not conform to the red tape and rule book pushed on the Citadel, the heart of galactic power in the Milky Way. He is ready to break the rules and join Shepard if he can make a difference.
As a Turian, Garrus is steadfast and firm in his militaristic view of the world - he wants things done. Turians hold the most extensive fleet among all the other races and structure their culture along the lines of their overwhelming military. Strong, sturdy and steady.
Garrus is a fan-favourite character, one of the few characters who can be on your team across all three games. In ME1, he is malleable and impressionable; he is ready to see some action, not just the top side of an office desk. The direction that Commander Shepard, the player, provides him with will colour how he views the world, the law and his future.
Garrus is loyal, strong with guns and tech powers. He is always a valuable member to have in a sticky situation. At the very least, it is great to hear his quippy lines from the iconic voice Brandon Keener has endowed him with.
A young Asari researcher, Liara T'Soni, is an expert on all things Prothean, a mysterious progenitor race who left behind the Mass Relays that enable space travel. She is plucky, intelligent and shy, especially awkward among humans.
This does not mean she is weak, as she is a core biotic among the crew. Biotics are essentially "Space Magic" - as it can manipulate reality through biotic power. Liara's Biotic power is immense and dangerous - perfect to have on your side.
While "young" is accurate in relative terms, Liara is actually 106, as Asari live to be over a thousand years old. While she may look female, Asari are agendered by nature - therefore, Liara and all others of her race do not have any gender assignments. The Asari's age, beauty and wisdom are legendary among other species in the Milky Way. They are the core of the Citadel's council, the diplomatic leaders of the galactic core races.
Liara joins the crew to help uncover the mystery of the Protheans, as they are key to Saren's schemes. Although, she is also a romance option for Shepard and Femshep, as she grows closer and ever more fascinated with the character. Her coy, nervous curiosity is brought to life by Ali Hillis.
A young Quarian on her Pilgrimage, a rite of passage among her kind. The Quarian race is nomadic, exiled from their homeworld by The Geth, their Artificial Intelligence creations. The Quarians are left to wander the Galaxy in ships, The Flotilla, gathering scrap and preowned materials until they see their homeworld again. This race is forced to wear their airtight suits at all times due to their compromised immune systems after centuries onboard starships.
Tali'Zorah is looking to prove her worth to her own people, as much as she is looking to show the galaxy that the Quarians are more than scavengers. She is a fish-out-of-water, away from home. She holds vital information in regards to Saren and his Geth. She is hunted.
Shepard's job is to help and recruit Tali and help her prove herself to the universe by saving it. She is a powerful tech whiz who wields a shotgun. She is a great, unique companion with a voice that truly feels unique, even compared to the other races in the citadel council - made real by Liz Sroka.
Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams is a human soldier in the Alliance. An early companion, the final survivor of Saren and The Geth's attack on the human colony, Eden Prime, is itching for payback. She is a competent soldier to the core, with a family of military history.
Ash is ready to prove herself and her family name. Her Grandfather surrendered to the Turians during The First Contact War on the Shanxi colony. The only human surrender to an alien force, her family name, carries a stain that she hopes to wash away with the defeat of Saren.
As a result of her family history, heavily distrusting of aliens, she is brought aboard the crew as a muscle against Saren. However, she is not all war and blood. Ash has a sensitive side that loves poetry, deeply cares for family, and holds religious sentiment. Platonically, Shepard can learn and guide her in their travels, and a male Shepard can learn more of this sensitive side as she is romanceable.
Be warned; she is not afraid to lay her life on the line for the mission if you let her.
Staff Lieutenant Kaiden Alenko is the first companion in the game. He is a biotic, wired up with an implant that is considered controversial. The implants push the ability for a human to control biotic power to the max, with severe side effects, from migraines to serious neurological damage.
Kaiden is a straight-forward guy with a straight-up attitude. He will not shy away from his opinion, even if it is unpopular - often championing the cause of the alien races over humanity. He wants to prove to the galaxy that humanity can learn and join the community.
Kaiden is a romanceable character for Femshep. Where Shepard can open up Kaiden's history, trauma and thoughts. Kaiden is voiced by long-term Bioware vet Voice actor Raphael Sbarge.
Unique among The Krogan, Wrex stands as a bastion of the future. The Krogan are a race that a penchant for war and combat. Uplifted by Salarians and Krogans to fight an unwinnable war against an insectoid race, The Rachni, the Krogan are bred to kill. After the war, the threat of the Krogan turned toward the other council races, leading to the Genophage - severely limiting their capacity to reproduce. This wreaked havoc on the race, leading to infighting and the inevitability of extinction.
Wrex has seen the horrors of what the Krogan have become when he was forced to kill his own father due to holding revolutionary ideas. Wrex wanted to stop the war and rebuild, which lead to the conflict. After this event, Wrex has been left disillusioned and retreated from his race - taking on the life of a mercenary for three centuries.
Intelligent, competent and a brute, Wrex is a beloved companion for Shepard, often challenging the player's decisions. Given life through the performance of Steve Barr, he is fervently idealistic - willing to die for his cause, if forced to. Stay on his good side.
Captain Anderson is a mentor to Shepard. Once an N7 himself, Anderson is a brave leader and tactician. He provides Shepard with the Normandy and sets off the commander on their mission against Saren.
He is a man who has been loyal to the Alliance for decades and risen through the ranks, a man with a belief in Shepard. He is willing to break the rules if it means that the job gets done. Politics is second to his will and the fight of a soldier.
The renowned Keith David voices Anderson, a man well known for his acting and voice acting - he truly embodies Anderson's militaristic demeanour.
The best pilot in the Alliance. Joker is an ace pilot, able to navigate the ship through any situation, with unprecedented precision. He does not join Shepard and co on any ground missions, on account of his Vrolik Syndrome. Vrolik Syndrome, otherwise known as brittle bone disease, renders Joker disabled. His bones cannot stand up to any stress or trauma, at risk of shattering. As such, Joker is relegated to the ship.
However, the ship and Joker are practically one. He is the comic relief, who just likes to fly and make jokes (hence the name). Fitting that Seth Green is his voice actor.
A traitor to the council. Saren is using the Geth to murder humans after wiping out Eden Prime, a golden human colony. Using his status as a Special Tactics and Reconnaissance (Spectre) he is allowed to operate outside of the law.
Why he hates humanity and is seeking to destroy it is unknown. All that is to be certain is that he needs to be stopped and his motivations uncovered.
All is not what it seems.
An ancient machine, the bringer of galactic genocide, Nazara - "The One who Watches".
The Vanguard of your destruction.
Sovereign, while seeming a mere ship, is a Reaper itself. A being of unimaginable power that has existed for millions of years. A Vanguard for the Reaper fleet, Sovereign's job is to watch and wait for the right moment to activate the Citadel and bring the Reapers through Dark Space to begin the harvest.
Able to confront the entire Citadel fleet alone, a single Reaper Sovereign is nothing if not intimidating. His reasoning is unknown; his origin is lost to time millennia passed - his purpose is absolute - the eradication of all life. He must be stopped at all costs.
The performance by Peter Jessop is legendary, as the conversation between Shepard and Sovereign is among the greatest in gaming history.