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Mass Effect Morality: Paragon and Renegade Explained

Curious about how morality works in Mass Effect? Here's our breakdown of Paragon, Renegade, and what choices you should make.
Curious about how morality works in Mass Effect? Here's our breakdown of Paragon, Renegade, and what choices you should make. / EA, Bioware

Curious about how morality works in Mass Effect? Here's our breakdown of Paragon, Renegade, and what choices you should make.

Morality is an integral part of most roleplaying-heavy games—and Mass Effect is no exception. The player's--and, by extension, Commander Shepard's—choices inform everything from how their reputation travels throughout the galaxy to how others perceive them, their crew, and possibly even the human race. Beyond that--Shepard's decisions can change the very fate of the galaxy as we know it.

That all depends on whether Shepard is a Paragon of honor or a Renegade soldier.

Mass Effect Morality: Paragon and Renegade

Paragon and Renegade are "positive" and "negative" sides of the morality spectrum, respectively. In short: Paragon choices are typically nice, cooperative, and friendly while Renegade choices are blunt, aggressive, and sharp. These are commonly chosen through dialogue with Paragon being either in blue or on the top-right of the conversation wheel and Renegade in red or on the bottom-right.

Unlike other titles, however, instead of a concrete sliding scale, Paragon and Renegade are measured separately in different amounts. Shepard will gain a certain amount of points one way or the other depending on the decisions in-game both in and out of conversations.

Once they amass enough points in either direction, new dialogue options will be available to them according to their Paragon and/or Renegade total. In turn, if the player has too many points in one direction, certain options of the opposite will be grayed out and no longer selectable.

Like many skills in the franchise, Mass Effect 1 operates differently from its younger siblings. Paragon and Renegade advancements will unlock further progress segments for Charm and Intimidate skills—including their dialogue options. This changes in Mass Effect 2, where Paragon and Renegade unlock the dialogue options directly.

Additionally, Mass Effect 2 introduces timed "Interrupt" actions at various points of the game. Executing these will award a large number of morality points according to player choice. Renegade players in Mass Effect 2 will also notice a change in facial scarring—worsening with each associated action.

The scarring carries into Mass Effect 3, which adopts the traditional sliding scale. However, facial scarring is more or less permanent regardless if Shepard decides to go full Paragon at the last moment.

Morality will affect the tone of the ending in Mass Effect 1 and 2. However, Mass Effect 3's ending is more dependent on the actual last battle rather than Shepard's reputation.