Cerberus plays one of the strangest roles of any organization in the original Mass Effect trilogy. For much of the series, the illusory man’s motivations are, as the pun suggests, elusive, even for players enjoying the story a second time in. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.
Cerberus is complicated, and stands out as one of the more interesting moral gray areas in a trilogy that sometimes portrays complex moral situations of its own design in black and white – or blue and red. Here’s the story of Cerberus, and why its inclusion in the story helps take Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to the next level.
The origins of Cerbère
Humanity’s first contact with aliens in the Mass Effect the timeline did not go well. After discovering the Mass Relay system and spreading among the stars, mankind encountered the Turians in 2157 CE. The Systems Alliance was activating the Charon Relay, an act that unbeknownst to mankind broke Citadel regulations after the Rachni Wars, starting with a group of scientists activating a relay leading to space Rachni.
The Turians attacked the humans, who retaliated. The conflict lasted three months and formed a solid basis of anti-alien suspicion on Earth. Even after the ceasefire, mankind had reason to be suspicious. He was suddenly ushered into a happy galactic civilization to take charge of the fate of the non-Citadel races. The Rachni Wars had ended not only with the elimination of almost all Rachni, but with the Citadel arming the Krogans and – after a rebellion – infecting them with the genophagus.
In the aftermath of the war, mercenary Jack Harper, who had served under Ashley Williams’ grandfather when he became the first human to surrender to the Turians, released the Cerberus manifesto. He claimed that one day aliens would also try to annihilate them. From that point on, he personally oversaw Cerberus’ operations as an illusionary man.
Cerberus in action
Cerberus has waged a campaign of assassinations and espionage, often killing public figures in order to allow more sympathetic successors to Cerberus to take their place. This included killing the Pope to allow for his replacement with a pontiff whose beliefs about the abduction were more closely aligned with Cerberus’ apocalyptic vision of the impending extinction of humanity. Explicitly pro-human groups were also not safe. The Illusionary Man had a candidate for the leadership of Terra Firma killed to allow his favorite candidate to win – Claude Menneau, who asks Shepard for his support in Mass effect 1. In 2182, they were responsible for the assassinations of the leaders of the United States of North America, China and the Turian hierarchy.
In Mass effect 1 Cerberus plays a key role, although it’s easy to miss. Cerberus is involved in experiments on the Rachni and the Thorian. It is even believed that Cerberus was behind Thresher Maw’s attack on Akuze, of which Shepard was the only survivor if the player chose this story. They also create EDI using the rogue VI encountered on Earth’s moon.
The organization was also the source of several other unethical experiments. Cerberus agents performed experiments on human children purchased from Batarian slavers, enhancing their biotic abilities. Ultimately, this research would lead to the creation of one of the most powerful human biotics in existence, Subject Zero, aka Jack.
After Shepard’s death early in Mass effect 2, Cerberus helped Liara T’Soni stop the Shadow Broker from selling Shepard’s body to collectors. As the Illusionary Man explains to Shepard when they first met, Project Lazarus brought Shepard back not only because of their skill, but also their value as a symbol. Shepard’s past cooperation with aliens has also made him a useful asset, with Cerberus’ pro-human reputation sometimes preventing the organization from achieving its ends.
The victory against the Collectors at the end of Mass effect 2 has made Cerberus more popular than ever among the citizens of the Systems Alliance, particularly with the Citadel Council and the Systems Alliance themselves seemingly unable to take the necessary steps to protect them. This reputation will not last long.
After Mass effect 2Suicide mission, Cerberus kidnapped former asset Paul Grayson and implanted Reaper technology in him. Grayson’s adopted daughter had previously been the subject of Cerberus experiments to improve biotics. Before being taken away, however, Grayson managed to leak information about Cerberus that was passed on to Shepard’s mentor, Captain Anderson. With Turian’s help, Anderson orchestrated several raids on Cerberus bases.
The Augmented Grayson escaped into chaos, and the Illusion Man hired Omega’s Aria T’Loak to find him, after which he was killed by Cerberus assassin Kai Leng. Aria’s alliance with Cerberus did not last long, however, taking control of the station and ousting it until the events of Mass effect 3the Omega DLC.
The fall of Cerberus
Through Mass effect 3, Cerberus’ research on Reaper had enabled the organization to create its own version of indoctrination and an army of brainwashed civilians. The Illusionary Man hoped to take control of the Reapers and conquer the galaxy for mankind. An attempt to take over the Citadel failed, and it was revealed that Humanity Advisor Udina had – through indoctrination or his own sympathies – been compromised by the group.
Shepard, however, managed to dismantle Cerberus’ operations, including killing Kai Leng. The illusory man appears for his last time just at the end of Mass effect 3, on the Citadel now stationed in orbit around the Earth. There, Shepard either killed him or convinced him he was brainwashed, which led to his suicide.
Cerberus is one of Mass Effectmost interesting factions of, although its representation tends to fluctuate between each of the games. In all versions, however, the Illusory Man is ready to do whatever it takes to prevent what he sees as the inevitable destruction of humanity at the hands of his newly discovered alien neighbors.
The formation of Cerberus in the aftermath of the War of First Contact makes a lot of sense, but in just a few decades the main motivation for the organization has shifted from self-preservation to galactic domination. Perhaps it was because the Illusory Man believed that this was the only way to prevent the extinction of mankind, or maybe it was the influence of the Reapers. One thing is for sure – when players relive the story in Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, keen-eyed fans will notice Cerberus’ fingerprints throughout the trilogy.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is now available for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
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