When it comes to Bioware games the draw for playing them are for the story, the characters, and your ability to romance certain characters in the game…if you want to of course. I’ve romanced Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins, Anders from Dragon Age 2, and now Kaidan from the Mass Effect series. At some point I plan on writing a post where I compare these Bioware men and how they rate against each other. For now, this post will focus on my impressions of Kaidan as a love interest. After finishing Mass Effect 3 I realized I have a lot to say about this Alliance military soldier. Any comments I make concerning the romance with Kaidan has been experienced as a female Shepard.
Starting the first Mass Effect, I was coming off of an extensive gaming marathon with the Dragon Age series. I’m not a huge fangirl when it comes to sci-fi genres. I would say I’m picky with them. Give me swords and magic and I’m all over that. Playing Dragon Age was a no brainer for me. I picked up Mass Effect at the recommendation of a good friend.
I won’t lie, I had a hard time getting into it at first. I still had to warm up to my Shepard and the characters the game slowly introduced to the player. I was aware of the romance options before playing. I already knew I was going to romance Kaidan, but every time I spoke to the guy I didn’t instantly fall for him like I did with Alistair. Maybe it was because Alistair wasn’t afraid to look like a total goofball? Maybe it was the sexy accent? Or maybe it was because Kaidan wasn’t Alistair? I obviously had Alistair on the brain and couldn’t shake him off just yet. Even Anders who has some serious personality issues had me on a romantic high for a bit after I finished Dragon Age 2.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I hated Kaidan. I’ve read lots of views about him online with mainly male gamers and a few female ones hating on Kaidan for being whiny or boring. Some also hated Kaidan because the voice actor for him was the same one for Carth of Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic, which is another Bioware title. Not much love for Carth either as I found out, though I have never played KOTOR myself. Then again, Alistair is another Bioware guy most hated by male gamers too. Go figure. But Kaidan whiny? No. No where have I encountered him being a complainer. Unless you consider a guy talking about his feelings as being “whiny.” Boring? Maybe a bit, but it’s really a matter of going out of your way to talk to him. If I wasn’t already determined to romance Kaidan on my first go with Mass Effect, I would have passed over Kaidan as unremarkable eye candy.
When talking to Kaidan you find out a lot about his background and personality. He is a biotic soldier who got implanted with what’s called the L2 implants to enhance his biotic potential. He got taken from his home as a kid to control and train his biotics at a special school for biotics known as the Biotic Acclimation and Temperance Training or what most biotics nickname as “Brain Camp.” Kaidan is soft spoken, reserved about how he expresses himself, loyal, and is just an all out nice guy. Much of his personality is shaped from his experience at “Brain Camp” when he lost control of his biotic powers due to anger against his instructor for treating a girl named Rahna, who he had a crush on as a teen, too harshly. As a result, he snapped the instructor’s neck in half. After seeing Rahna become afraid of Kaidan and distant from him because of the accidental killing, he ended up being more cautious and self-controlled in how he approached things from then on.
When I had Shepard romance Kaidan in the first game, you can see how he is visibly interested in his commanding officer but is holding himself back from fully embracing it. It is quite cute to see him at a loss for words when you converse with him and choose the more flirty, romantic dialogue options for Shepard to say to him. He is very guarded throughout the courtship until it takes a point in the story where Shepard and the crew are grounded by the Council and then the possibility of dying from their mission on Ilos for him to finally let go and allow his feelings for Shepard to take over. I also think it’s fitting for female Shepard to be the more confident, take charge kind of woman when it comes to knowing what she wants. Hell, when their first kiss finally happens it is Shepard who initiates the kiss by pulling him to her and laying one on him. Any doubts Kaidan might have had in romancing his commanding officer goes out the window in that moment.
My first initial reaction to completing the romance with Kaidan in the first Mass Effect is––how should I describe it? It is nice, but I don’t think it set my heart beating rapidly in my chest like the scenes with Alistair did. It is lukewarm at best. Thinking about the first game and comparing it to how the romance plays out with the rest of the series, it makes sense why it isn’t as heart pounding for me at least. The romance in the first game is approached in such a way as a coming together of two people who probably never expected to find themselves looking for a relationship or love while on active duty.
The romance is a little ambiguous too because neither Kaidan or Shepard ever mention the words, “I love you.” This is quite different in my opinion. Playing the Dragon Age games and having the much expected consummation of the relationship after successfully completing a romance with someone, you will almost always have the character mention how much they love your playable character. In regards to Kaidan from the first Mass Effect game, he and Shepard know they are drawn to each other but they both aren’t quite sure if what they feel is love just yet. Kaidan does admit he cares for her and doesn’t want anything to happen to her, but that’s it. Most of the time they address their flirting and sweetness on each other as, “whatever this is.” They are trying to figure out if they have a serious relationship developing, but with all the major missions like stopping Saren and then Sovereign, it doesn’t give them much time to sort things out yet.
This leads into Mass Effect 2 where I believe only a few weeks have passed since stopping Saren and Sovereign from obliterating the Citadel from the first game. The Normandy is attacked by the Collectors. Shepard tells Kaidan to abandon ship while she goes to the cockpit to get Joker and to help him onto the escape pods. Joker makes it into one, but Shepard gets thrown into space after the Normandy explodes and she dies. Two years later and a miraculous resurrection thanks to Cerberus, Shepard is alive and kicking.
The romance scene between Shepard and Kaidan is very brief, and it’s the only time the player gets to see Kaidan for the entire game. In it, Kaidan is overcome with a multitude of emotions as he embraces the woman he thought died the day the Normandy was blown to pieces. However, the tender moment is short lived as Kaidan remembers how it took him two years to get over Shepard and is now angry with her. He goes on to say how it was painful for him to try and cope with the loss of the woman he loved only to find her alive but working with Cerberus. It becomes too much for him to handle. Shepard can try to appeal to Kaidan to join her team, but he refuses and walks away leaving Shepard at a loss for words over the confrontation.
When it comes to the infamous meeting with Kaidan on Horizon in Mass Effect 2, the opinions I’ve read about this meeting had many players upset over how he reacts to their Shepards. Most saw it as Kaidan being harsh and not understanding, or having an option where Shepard tries to reason with him and have him see things from Shepard’s perspective. When I watched the scene unfold, I’m of the opinion that Kaidan’s reaction to seeing the woman he fell for suddenly alive again after two years of trying to get past her death is justified. I agree, Shepard should have been able to explain her side of things to Kaidan, but in all honesty what person would listen to reason after having feelings they thought they put behind them suddenly resurface like a punch to the gut? It’s too much to process at that very moment. The man did think Shepard was dead for two years. You can’t suddenly reappear into someone’s life and then act as if what that person went through is no big deal. It also doesn’t help to discover the woman Kaidan loves and respects is now working for Cerberus, a shady organization that has a bad reputation for being a pro-human terrorist organization.
No amount of pleading and begging will get someone to stick around to hear anything the other has to say. In Kaidan’s case, he needed his space. Rather than choose the options where my Shepard responded to Kaidan’s anger in a defensive way, I chose to go with the “good” responses. Playing as Shepard during Mass Effect 2, I always pictured her to be hurt that Kaidan doesn’t welcome her back easily, but she would understand where he was coming from and not really blame him either for reacting the way he does. They both reach points in their lives where things are different and uncertain. The world and each other doesn’t look the same as it did before.
The email Shepard receives from Kaidan later in the game details an apology for how he reacted to her on Horizon. The email is full of emotion and uncertainty. He explains how it really was tough for him to get over the loss of Shepard and how much the night they spent together before the Ilos mission from the first Mass Effect meant everything to him. The closing of the letter does open up a possibility of hope for their relationship by saying, “When things settle down a little…maybe…I don’t know. Just take care.” Obviously, at some point between the events of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 Kaidan realized he loves Shepard. The meeting on Horizon confirms that he “loved her” by saying it to her as he takes his anger out on Shepard for not contacting him sooner after she came back from the dead. I have to note that Shepard doesn’t have any dialogue options where she says she loves Kaidan, but I guess for the meeting on Horizon it would be difficult for Shepard to pull out an “I love you” when your love interest is too angry to think straight.
In Mass Effect 2, Kaidan’s appearance may be all too brief but you do learn new things about him. He has risen up in the ranks with the Alliance to become a Commander, and he’s less reserved about his emotions when he confronts Shepard. The player watches Kaidan subtly change over the span of two years. I actually wished there was more chances in the second game to see more of his character develop, but I suppose a brief meet up is better than nothing. If anything, Shepard’s death and then resurrection in Mass Effect 2 along with Kaidan’s emotion filled confrontation with her on Horizon adds a layer of uncertainty and a huge hurdle to the romantic subplot. If Mass Effect presented the idea of a romance just starting and finding how two people fit into each other’s lives, Mass Effect 2 gives us a scenario where two people have changed a great deal and they just don’t know how to get back to each other after so much time has passed.
The height of the romance and character development for Kaidan comes in Mass Effect 3. By the third game, Kaidan has been promoted to the rank of Major and heads the 1st Special Operations Biotic Company. Much later in the game, he gets promoted as the second human Spectre for the Council. His development as a character sees him as confident, a leader, and not as guarded as he was from the first game. Kaidan as a character comes a long way from the first game as do many of the original characters from the first game. The romance and drama heats up several degrees higher than what we get from the first game as well.
During the mission on Mars, Shepard and Kaidan are working together again but they still have some unresolved issues to discuss. Kaidan is still uncertain about Shepard’s loyalties based on her past association with Cerberus. It’s up to Shepard to regain his trust again and convince him that her alliance with Cerberus was always temporary and an unwilling one at that. It takes a near death experience for Kaidan on Mars and then a test of faith during the assault on the Citadel to have him willing to trust Shepard again. There are just so many great romantic moments between Shepard and Kaidan in Mass Effect 3. The hospital scenes with Kaidan are very heartbreaking to watch, but brings out more tender moments between Shepard and Kaidan. My all time favorite scene from the romance is the date on the Citadel Shepard and Kaidan have after he is accepted back onto the Normandy. It’s in this scene where we have Shepard and Kaidan reestablish their relationship and love for each other. A lot of the voice acting done by Jennifer Hale as female Commander Shepard and Raphael Sbarge as Kaidan is one of the best I’ve heard by far in this third installment. They really sell this romance path very well to be convincing.
Mass Effect 3 is the best installment for the romance subplot for Shepard and Kaidan. I found myself falling for Kaidan by the third installment when I still had a mild interest in the romance story in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2. The romance also reached a good place storywise. By Mass Effect 3 you can tell these two characters have been through a lot and have changed a lot because of their experiences. With all the life and death missions they seem to find themselves in, Shepard and Kaidan both realize that life is too short and they need to spend the moments they have together and accept their feelings for one another. Both characters freely tell each other they love each other, though Kaidan may have said it more freely than Shepard, taking her the third game to finally tell it to him. The only thing I wish Mass Effect 3 had more of was interactions between Shepard and Kaidan. The click on a character and hear pre-prepared dialogue from the character is a bit lacking in my opinion. Despite that, you get a really great and emotionally satisfying romance subplot with Kaidan. It ties up their developing relationship since the first game, and gives all the loyal Kaidan fangirls the warm, sexy, and beautiful romance we all dream about.
For those who think Kaidan is an uninteresting character to get to know, let alone romance, are wrong. Kaidan is probably the more normal of the Bioware men I have romanced so far. I won’t get into the comparisons here, but maybe people find Kaidan boring because he’s closer to a real person you may actually meet in your own life. Alistair and Anders both have a doozy of emotional baggage and are probably not the most stable type of love interests a girl would want when you really think about it.
With Kaidan, he doesn’t have any overwhelming emotional baggage, and the slightly tragic things in his past like accidentally breaking the neck of his instructor for the sake of protecting a girl he liked then are things he acknowledges has happened to him, but he is able to move on. He isn’t crippled by the experience and he doesn’t hate all alien races based on the action of one during his time at “Brain Camp.” He is thoughtful, open minded, respectful, loyal, has a wry sense of humor, and he loves deeply. And yes, it doesn’t hurt that Kaidan is gorgeous to look at. He’s also a sensitive kind of military soldier. Instead of getting the usual tough, macho kind of soldiers, you get Kaidan who is a capable fighter but isn’t unwilling to wear his heart on his sleeve. The bottom line is Kaidan exhibits the kind of characteristics most girls would want in a guy. If these qualities make him bland, then I’d rather take him over a character who has emotional instability issues.
I consider Kaidan to be one of the most well developed characters in the game with a great romance story a Shepard can explore with him in the Mass Effect universe. I would categorize this romance subplot as one where a lot of obstacles need to be overcome before two people can settle into the beauty of being able to find each other against all odds, and have the opportunity to love each other even as the world may be crumbling around them. This romance has the feel of a great love story that can go either way, whether it’s in tragedy or with a warm and fuzzy happy ending. After romancing Kaidan, I wouldn’t hesitate to romance him again in another playthrough. Kaidan is just too charming to pass up along with Alistair of Dragon Age: Origins.