Omega: Writing one of Mass Effect’s wrongs

I’ve written here before criticising Bioware for only featuring male Turians in their Mass Effect series. As a quick reminder, Bioware essentially didn’t include female Turians because they had no idea how to denote female characters other than by adding lipstick and breasts.

However, I’m happy to be able to say that with the release of Omega, the latest DLC for Mass Effect 3, they’ve now fixed this oversight. Omega contains a female Turian called Nyreen Kandros who, shockingly, does not actually look just like a male Turian with breasts and lipstick.

Nyreen Kandros from Mass Effect 3: Omega.
(Image courtesy of the Mass Effect wiki)

Instead, they’ve given her less prominent crests (which is reminiscent of many real life bird species, where the males tend to be more highly decorated), but more prominent mandibles. She’s clearly the same species, but also clearly not the same as the males we’ve seen before.

So, kudos to Bioware for finally getting with the program. That wasn’t too hard now, was it?

About rho

Scientist, woman, lesbian, transsexual, gamer, geek, feminist, liberal, rationalist, and various other labels. Gamer since the days of the ZX81. Feminist since the time I realised that the label was not synonymous with transphobe. I keep a sporadically-updated personal blog about whatever's on my mind at the time.
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17 Responses to Omega: Writing one of Mass Effect’s wrongs

  1. Callan says:

    I am very fond of Nyreen’s design. However, what they did with her plotwise was disappointing. I’d love to get into it here, but spoilers.

  2. bq says:

    It’s a relief, sure. I would have loved if Turian (or any of the other races, still waiting on Elcor squadmates) sex differences weren’t easily recognizable to humans. Why should a “female” alien have any physiological similarities to a female human? I get that it’s easier for somebody on the development end if they’re all bipedal, etc with only superficial differences a la Star Trek, but missed opportunity, you know?

  3. Zaewen says:

    I haven’t played the DLC yet, so I’ve only seen screenshots. I think they did a fantastic job with the female turian design. It’s alien and definitely still looks Turian, but still has enough of what we humans recognize as feminine to easily be recognizable as such.

    My only complaint about what I’ve seen of her is that she looks so skinny and waifish in the screenshots. Especially when compared to (at least what my memory says) male turians looks like.

    • Agrona says:

      I seem to remember being surprised in ME3 by how thin Turians were at their waists (metathorax? metathoraxes? — I’ve never actually considered them insect-like before). The big bulky shoulder/chest thing inflates their frame quite a bit.

      So I’m not entirely certain Nyreen is unnecessarily skinnier than other Turians. I tried to verify this but either there aren’t many screenshots or I’m terrible at Google today.

  4. stille says:

    I’m kinda dissapointed that they didn’t have her look exactly like a male Turian and have only maybe her voice be different, since there goes my “there are plenty female Turians around, I just haven’t talked to any” headcanon .

  5. Allegra says:

    I loved the gender dimorphism, but likewise wasn’t hugely impressed with Nyreen’s story. It is, however, fantastic to see a species where the males and females have physiological differences without resorting to the ‘breasts and lipstick’ trope. If nothing else, the turians aren’t mammalian, so that would have been hugely inappropriate.

    Omega did, however, give me the kiss with Aria T’Loak that my Shepard’s pretty much been chasing since she landed on Omega, so I can’t complain about the plot -too- much :)

    • Momiji says:

      I actually really liked Nyreen’s story, even if I understand that its not something everyone will enjoy. Her codex entry made me want to know more about her past though, so I kind of hope that Bioware lets Ann Lemay (who seems to have been the writer in charage of Nyreen) write a comic one-shot about her or something one day.

      My Shepard (who’s single) was also really happy to get a kiss from Aria btw. I hope she and Aria hooked up before returning to the war. :)

      • Allegra says:

        I haven’t read her codex (my tv is a little on the small side, and I’m mostly too impatient when I’m gaming), but now I’m curious. I shall have to have a look!

        I did like the fact that she seemed to be suffering with PTSD. I would have liked to have seen that whole thing explored a little more. The main problem that I had with her is the same problem I have with any ‘beam of light shining into dark places’ character, in that they come across as holier than thou and I lose interest.

        To me, Omega is a dark, dangerous place where the ‘right thing’ isn’t always possible. ME2 only just got away with the whole Garrus/Archangel thing because Garrus was obviously darkened by the whole experience of trying to be a good guy in a bad world. His anger and lust for vengeance saved the storyline, and Nyreen just didn’t have anything equivalent. She seemed to spend the whole DLC pretty much going “OMG, won’t somebody think of the -people-?!”

        Eventually, that started to wear a little thin.

        Heh, and I think if Aria had let my FemShep hook up with her, the Alliance may have had a hard time convincing Shep that she needed to leave Omega and fight a war for them ;)

        • Momiji says:

          I think the main problem was that Nyreen was created as an oposite to Aria of all characters, because Aria’s such a charismatic and dynamic character that she sort of drowned Nyreen in comparison. And as you said, to make them balanced, Nyreen had to be as bright a light as Aria was dark, which probably made Nyreen come off as a bit naive and too pure.

          Though to me, I felt that Nyreen most of all came across as a “reformed” former dark character, someone who had become an idealist because of her past and now aspired to do better, but she was flawed in that she failed to truly understand Omega’s needs even as she tried to save it (she kept focusing on her own ideals for what she wanted it to be). There was definitely more to explore with her (a lot of it was merely hinted), but I also felt that Aria was the one who Omega was really about, so I was ok with her being the one who stole most of the spotlight. :)

          Btw, Omega and Nyreen made me interested enough in seeing what the new ME development team will do with the next game. I hope they can stay true to the trilogy but still create something that feels fresh. ME3 was all about the nostalgia, but I kind of want something new next.

          • Allegra says:

            I’m… vaguely apprehensive about what comes next. This story is told, and opening a new book to tell a different one will be a tough job. It’s not impossible, but it won’t be easy, either.

            I think you’re pretty much on the money with Nyreen/Aria. They needed to be equal, and for that to happen, Nyreen needed to be as much of a character as Aria is. Sometimes that happens entirely by accident, and you get a character (like Aria) who is fully-formed and fully-present with actually very little space and time given over to her. Most of the time, it takes time, patience, and character development.

            Hell, I love Kaidan to bits, but I think it really took the full three games for him to actually develop some sort of personality. Nyreen gets about ten minutes of dialogue options, and it isn’t enough.

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