Character Spotlight: Tali’Zorah vas Neema


You know a game has a good set of characters when while picking the #1 choice was easy, there’s several #2s right behind her. I could go heavily into detail about other lovely ladies like Liara, Kasumi Goto and Jack, but for this week, I have to start with the Queen of Mass Effect: Tali’Zorah. Which is really saying something when you consider you spend almost three entire games not knowing what her face looks like.


For those unfamiliar of the series (in which case, HOW HAVE YOU NOT PLAYED THIS SERIES?!), Tali is a member of the Quarian race, a small race of environmental suit wearing engineers that can build anything, especially using just junk parts. They have no homeworld and live on their ships, in particular the Migrant Fleet, a massive collection of ships, ranging from heavy-gunned ships to basic refugee crafts. The lack of a homeworld is also having to do with why they are always wearing environmental suits, their immune systems are extremely weak compared to other races, just being exposed to untreated air for a second can cause them to get sick. As we’re told over the series, if a soldier doesn’t die from a wound sustained they will likely die from the infection following. To get to our first time meeting Tali, we have to also note how she got where she did. Very few Quarians left the Migrant Fleet, but when the young ones reach a certain age, they’re sent out on a Pilgrimage. Their goal is to find something in the universe that will benefit the Migrant Fleet, whether it’s technology, or even another ship. In Tali’s case, she seeks to find a way to defeat the Geth, the artificially created race that the Quarians built and turned on them, kicking them out of their homeworld.

When we first meet her, she’s as innocent as can be. She’s also very naive, almost getting killed before being saved by Shepard. Given that she’s been only living with her own race at the Migrant Fleet, she’s not very sociable around other races at first. It’s when Shepard and company take her aboard as a member of their crew that we begin to see Tali mold into the perfect woman she is by the end of the series.


Once she gets comfortable with everyone, the game is over. In the first Mass Effect game, there are only two female options to romance: Ashley and Liara. Tali is not among them. A lot of people were disappointed with this, feeling Tali was the best girl in the game. I don’t know how I didn’t see this the first time I played through the game, I just went with Ashley. Now that I’ve gone through the entire series, she’s at the bottom of the list. But in Mass Effect 2, she becomes a romantic option and that’s when we really start to see her in a different light. She’s very shy and stumbles over her words a lot in the first game, by the second game she’s got a bit of a mouth on her. And that’s when we get to my favourite word in the entire series: Bosh’tet. There’s no direction translation for the word, but it’s essentially used in place of where you’d say shit, bitch, bastard, whatever insult you’d like. And Tali pulls it off flawlessly, sometimes out of nowhere, other times when you don’t want to fuck with her. And no matter how pissed off she is, it’s adorable to me every single time.

She’s definitely got the most real personality in the entire game. Ashley is a total bitch, Jack is fucking crazy, Liara’s very goody two-shoes (at least until the Shadow Broker DLC), Miranda’s got a great ass and Kasumi’s not an option, another disappointment for me. Samara’s also not an option, but she’s boring as fuck. And I’m never taking Morinth, so there’s no point mentioning her. I guess I could include Kelly Chambers and Samantha Traynor, but their roles are so minor, it’s hard to. But Tali is very real, she fluctuates from innocent, to shy, to downright pissed off. And when it’s hard enough to make her that real, you have to worry about the environmental suit. How she stumbles through her words with Shepard is adorable, and just watching how paranoid she gets when thinking about “linking her suit” with Shepard and the probably hundred different drugs and antibiotics she takes before it is just hilarious.


Which brings us to what would be the hardest part about pursuing a relationship with her if she was a real person. So many questions arise from the fact Quarians are so susceptible to infections. Aside from getting fevers and such, something the game never mentions, obviously cause it’s not something you really go in-depth on it the game, but I ask the questions no one else does! Think about it, all the sexually transmitted diseases we can get in real life. What would the risks actually be having sexual intercourse with a Quarian, ESPECIALLY if it’s a gay relationship between two males. We know Tali gets pretty sick from just taking her helmet off and presumably making out with Shepard. What would happen if the entire suit came off, even if it was in a treated environment? Anyways, I’m asking too many questions here, I think.


To our surprise, near the end of Mass Effect 3, we actually get to see Tali’s face and in the end get an idea what the Quarians look like. Generally speaking, they are human with a few noted differences. One, their hands have only three fingers. Two, their feet only have two long toes. Three, from what we can tell from the photograph there are some odd marks on their bodies, they look almost like wires running along their skin. We have no way of knowing if these marks are on their entire body or just the neck and up. But in terms of everything else, they’re very much an altered human race. Because Tali’s the only example we have, we don’t know things like skin colour within the Quarian race, if their frames are built differently, if the bone structure and placement of organs is any different.

A lot of people felt like this was a major cop out on Bioware’s part, but I fail to see the problem here. How would have we all reacted if Tali took her helmet off and turned out to be some hideous tentacle face. The Quarian race could’ve looked a lot like the Covenant from the HALO series for all we knew, so unlike a lot of people out there who didn’t like the Photoshop’d version of a Shutterstock photo (I believe it was), I didn’t mind because it made me more into Tali. I would’ve been absolutely heartbroken if she was an ugly alien. I’ve already got enough to look at with the Turians, Salarians and Krogan. At least the Asari make us perceive them as what we prefer.

art by brinx-II
art by brinx-II

Tali is one of the most memorable female characters I’ve ever played alongside in a video game. After all she’s #3 on the Video Game Girls I’d Marry list. There’s so much to her character that makes her so interesting and so irresistible and this is all happening before I even have any idea what she looks like under that helmet! She’s cute, funny, strong and most important, your best friend. Regardless of whether you choose her romantically or not in the series, she’s like your best friend or a sister to you the entire way through. She’s a total sweetheart and I love everything about her.

She’s also got a great ass. You’re not the only one, Miranda.


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