Character Analysis: Liara T’Soni

I dedicate my very first character analysis to the amazing Liara T’Soni just for the fact that she is one of my favorite characters in the gaming universe! For me, she is what makes Mass Effect tick. She is the character that helps ignite the story surrounding the Protheans and their involvement with the Reapers. But more importantly, as a character, she carries a very complex aura that deepens the Mass Effect story and transforms her from a simple supporting character to a symbol of something more meaningful.

Introduced in Mass Effect, Liara is a young maiden. At only 106, she is an expert on Prothean artifacts and is the one that introduces the information of the Reapers’ violent cycle. But because she is so young in asari standards, her theories aren’t taken seriously despite her determination.

And now she has been swept into a brand new scenario and she has no idea how to wrap her head around it. Not only is she an alien on a human military vessel, she’s an alien that is directly related to a powerful being that is openly supporting Saren. Liara is faced with contempt and distrust from the other occupants on the Normandy.

Except for Shepard.

The bond that grows between Shepard and Liara immediately creates one of the best relationships in the game, regardless if the player romances the asari or not. It’s obvious that Liara is enamored by the commander, and that loyalty was what solidified my love for her character. She’s not just interested in their newfound mission. She’s interested in Shepard as a person, a Spectre, and as the human that interacted with the beacon.

“Either you pay me or I flay you alive… with my mind.”

The events that occur after this begin to mold Liara into a more complex character.

Her transformation in Mass Effect 2 didn’t surprise me. It was heartbreaking and I hated it, but it didn’t surprise me. For two years, the world has believed that Commander Shepard has been dead. When we find Liara on Illium, she is cold and detached. Her new profession as a broker has undoubtedly shot her into the hidden world of criminals and blackmail. This new Liara is now easy to anger and use threats to achieve her goals, and for a while, it’s difficult to understand this transformation.

The ties that bind Shepard, Liara, and Liara’s hatred for the Shadow Broker only strengthen their relationship, even if it is veiled with negativity. Liara’s ultimate devotion to you is exposed. She was the one that retrieved your body and handed it over to Cerberus. Even if you never once initiated a romance with Liara, this news is absolutely stunning, and it shows the lengths that she will go for you.

Her transformation into the Shadow Broker is highly important. Because not only does it reiterate just how much Liara has changed, it retains one important thing about Liara that never changes: She wants to be useful. She has constantly believed herself to be a burden to Shepard, someone that needed rescuing and comfort, and she sees herself as a weak figure because of it. Her new role as the Shadow Broker gives her the ability to be useful, something she has always wanted.

Combining Liara and Shepard’s reunion with the choice to remain on Hagalaz instead of joining with the Normandy kind of makes their meeting bittersweet, and it adds tremendous depth to their relationship. I remember yelling at my television because I wanted Liara as a crew member. Not to mention I wanted little blue children. Right then.

“I spent two years mourning you. So if we’re going to try this, I need to know you’re always coming back.”

When Liara is introduced in Mass Effect 3, it is obvious that she is a very mature and respected individual. Not to mention that it’s a bit of a relief to find her on a dig in Mars instead of threatening people with information. It seems that Liara has found a sense of peace with herself. There are only a few things to focus on in the 3rd game: The events on Thessia and the ending.

Liara’s self-derived insignificance intensifies after the events on Thessia. She feels guilty for not having done enough. What is important about this moment is the fact that both Liara and Shepard can now empathize with each other over the loss of their homeworlds. I felt a sense of guilt about leaving Earth after the Reapers attacked, and it’s no secret that Liara feels the same way, perhaps even more because of her research and involvement with the Protheans.

Not only is she feeling guilt, but she’s overcome with disappointment. A Prothean beacon had existed right under her nose for years, and she was let down by the lack of information. Throughout the series, we’ve been led to believe that all of the answers resided with the Protheans, when in actuality, the hope has rested solely on our shoulders. Liara’s faith has been damaged.

And things only escalated from there. As the end of the game approached, it became obvious to me that survival was just… unlikely. That has been the message throughout the whole series, but as the story progresses, everything simply becomes clearer. What happens if Shepard dies? But more importantly, what happens if Shepard lives?

Liara remains a solid presence as the end approaches, relentlessly strong, and I see her as an anchor to Shepard, whereas it would be so easy for her to simply break apart. This is only enhanced by the Extended Cut, and the absolutely painful scene where Shepard sends her crew back onto the Normandy. During this moment I remembered my promise from the second game, that my Shepard would always return to Liara, and I was determined to do that.

Because damn it, I want my blue children!


7 thoughts on “Character Analysis: Liara T’Soni

  1. I agree, they did do a pretty good job developing Liara’s character. She could be a bit annoying at times (depending on your in-game choices) but that’s what helps add to a believable character.

    I can’t agree that she’s the BEST Mass Effect character, but I think the thing here is that you could ask 10 people which character they liked the most, and you’d probably get almost 10 different answers. I believe they specifically designed all of the different characters to not only compliment/cover Shepards strengths/weaknesses, but to really appeal to different people. For me, Wrex was my favorite character.

    This is what’s beautiful about Mass Effect, there is pretty much a character that everyone can relate to.

    • The diversity of the characters is what really attracted me to the storyline. I don’t think there’s actually a character I DON’T like… but Liara will always be a favorite. It’s always fun to ask other ME fans who their favorite characters are, simply for the fact that they’re not always obvious answers.

      • Exactly, more and more you’re starting to see more titles where writing and character development are actually in the pre-planning process versus, “How can we make bigger guns”.

        I also loved the risks ME took by addressing modern day societal issues we have. Such as strong female characters (some might argue that point), and Gay/Lesbian relationships. (I created a femshep and was totally went that route). Not so satisfy any boyish fantasies, but to see just how well thought out and developed they would make the relationship. Would it actually be a relationship? Or just the typical Women + Women = Business Time, as seen in other video games. Other than the awkward fling you can have with the reported in ME3, I felt the relationships that could be pursued were well thought out and developed.

        I just hope future developers take the same risks and challenge the way we see and consume this medium.

  2. I agree completely with CKM, there are no unlikable characters in Mass Effect, with the possible exception of Diana Allers (What that was I will never understand).
    Unfortunately there are those characters that tend to completely overshadow others, especially the humans. There are simply amazingly badass characters like Grunt, Zaeed, Jack, badass characters with a surprising emotional depth: Garrus, Thane, Wrex and Miranda, characters who are just loved because of their traits and quirks: Javik, Tali, Mordin, and characters who are interesting and great but do not receive as much exposition and depth, I.E. Samara, Legion. Then there’s Kaidan, who went from quietly pensive to quietly pensive AND interesting after 2 games. And Liara who probably received the most character development of them all, while at the same time being a solid and well loved character.
    I really don’t hate any single character. Believe me, I’ve tried, but the writing is just so solid, even though most characters are taken from alien stereotypes. I’ve tried to hate Ashley, who just seemed obnoxious during my first few hours in the game, I tried to hate Jacob, who just didn’t seem to have anything going for him, and I almost succeeded in hating Vega. Ultimately though, the voice acting, the dialogue and the interactions (which they definitely got right in Mass Effect 3) just won me over completely.
    However, I really had hoped for a batarian character in ME3, instead of/ or even alongside Vega,
    You’ll notice the characters I like least are Vega, Ashley, Jacob and Kasumi (in that order), so I was really hoping in something different. I pictured maybe a high ranking survivor or a witness to the events in Arrival, who hates Shepard but is forced to work with him after the invasion of Earth and Khar’Shan and gradually comes around to working with the universe and leading the remaining batarians. Maybe an alternative to Balak? The Batarian Slasher class even proves the Batarians can be meat shields! Meh

    But I digress… Liara is probably my second favourite character, and the one I will always romance, even though I can’t seem to get Lair of the Shadow Broker to work. From damsel in distress to ruthless info broker to architect of the Catalyst… She is just one cool alien lady and I DEMAND my goddamn blue children. THAT is the main reason I will always choose Destroy.
    Great article by the way, I really enjoyed it and it provided a lot of food for thought.

  3. Given Asari lifespans, I still hope that Liara will play a role, no matter how minor, in the next Mass Effect instalment.

    It’ll make up for the lack of little blue children. (Though I suppose you can always imagine that she got pregnant during the final mindmeld.)

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