When talking to players about Thane’s story and characterization in ME3, it’s not uncommon to find that they have wildly different opinions. This is something that at first glance seems very strange. How can two people who have played the same game, with this same character, have such different expectations and interpretations of that character in the following game?
In Thane’s case, the disconnect results from a combination of things, one of which is the players own decisions. The rest comes from Thane’s ME2 game mechanics and story. As I’ve been developing TMv3.0, I’ve come to call this phenomenon:
The Many Faces of Thane.
So, why is Thane so special? Four reasons:
- He’s a love interest
- His loyalty mission can be failed
- He’s dying
- His “battle sleep”
There are of course many other love interests in ME2: Garrus, Jacob, Miranda, Jack, and Tali (and, sort of, Kelly). It’s also possible to fail the loyalty missions of other squadmates: Zaeed, Tali, and Samara (and Miranda/Jack if you count the confrontation). However, it’s these mechanics along with Thane’s story that makes his situation unique. Namely, his terminal illness and battle sleep.
Thane Krios: The Assassin
The measure of an individual can be difficult to discern by actions alone. Take you, for instance. All this destruction… chaos. I was curious to see how far you’d go to find me. Well, here I am.
A suicide mission. Yes. A suicide mission will do nicely. I’m dying. Low survival odds don’t concern me. The abduction of your colonists does.
Upon meeting Thane in ME2 we immediately learn two things. One, he’s dying. Two, he is detached and calculating in his work, which is all his life consists of at that point. This is what Thane later reveals is his “battle sleep”:
Irikah woke me up. When she passed, I returned to my battle sleep.
We also learn that Thane’s resigned to his death, and is, perhaps, slightly fatalistic. He sees Shepard’s suicide mission as a way to allow him to do some good before the inevitable. Later on, Thane reveals he actually intended to die on Nassana’s mission and makes another reference to the “death” of his mind via battle sleep:
You’re right. It’s not. Looking back now, it’s clear I’d resigned myself to death. It wasn’t a plan. My body had accepted it’s death. My mind had been dead a long time.
Thane’s battle sleep and his resignation about his impending death are key components his ME2 characterization. This is the state he’s in when first met. Therefore, if and when this state changes, it will have a significant effect on his character and on what the player experiences when interacting with Thane in game.
It turns out Thane’s battle sleep and resignation toward his impending death can change during the course of ME2. Drastically. Neither are guaranteed to change, but they can depending on player decision.
In fact, by the end of Mass Effect 2, Thane can be in profoundly different states of mind. As a result, player expectations about Thane going into the next game can also be profoundly different. Below is a brief account of Thane’s potential outcomes at the end of ME2.
No Loyalty Mission
This version of Thane remains in battle sleep. His relationship with Shepard is cordial. He’s still resigned to death, but he’s less accepting due to the unresolved difficulties with his son. Thane’s Normandy content ends with:
I’ll be meditating until you need me.
Unromanced + Loyalty Mission Success
This version of Thane does not explicitly mention waking from battle sleep, but he has become friendlier with Shepard. The player controls how much of the friendship is reciprocated. Thane has reunited with his son and remains resigned to death, but he is now at peace. His Normandy content ends with:
Your mission gave me purpose. A cause to die for. A chance to atone. I was able to speak to my son again. I can leave my body in peace.
Flirtatious + Loyalty Mission Success
This version of Thane is similar to the above, in that waking from battle sleep isn’t explicitly mentioned. However, if the player triggers the romance option and then rejects Thane, he remains pining for Shepard. His Normandy content ends with:
I’ll respect your wishes. I won’t speak of it again. I hope it won’t offend you if I carry you in my heart.
Loyalty Mission Failure
This version of Thane is in full battle sleep, is extremely hostile, and is highly fatalistic. His final conversation on Normandy varies but contains some or all of the following:
And so the wheel of fire mills another soul. Entropy wins. Entropy always wins.
I will either die on this mission, or I will die a few months after. My wife is dead. My son is lost. My body’s acts in this life are tales never to be told. When I’m gone, it will be as if I’d never lived. So I ask you: what is the point? The dark between the stars is enormous.
Romanced + Culminated
A fully romanced, loyal Thane is explicit that Shepard (“Siha”) has woken him from his battle sleep. He also, for the first time, begins to indicate he’s no longer at ease with his impending death:
I’m looking forward to the end of the mission. It has been many years since I felt I could relax anywhere.
I spent two years dead. Every moment seems irreplaceable now. (Shepard)
I spent ten years dead. I understand the feeling. Strange that I should only reawaken now, when there is so little time left.
The cabin scene, prior to embarking on the suicide mission, is a pivotal moment for Thane’s story arc. He arrives in the cabin very upset, which is unusual for his typical stoic manner:
Siha. I– I have known I will die for many years. I’ve tried to leave the galaxy better than I found it. You helped me achieve more than I thought possible. We’ve righted many wrongs… I’ve spoken to my son. I should be at peace on the eve of battle.
At this point, Thane is very clear that he is no longer at peace. His comment about Kolyat and his previous conversations with Shepard explain why: Thane has woken from battle sleep and understands he has something to lose—Shepard and Kolyat.
If the player encourages Thane to stay, only then will he admit the full extent of his fear, regret, and shame:
I have worked so hard. Meditated and prayed and done good deeds. Atoned for the evils I’ve done. Prepared. I consider my body’s death, and a chill settles in my gut. I’m afraid, and it shames me.
This version of Thane no longer seeks death—he fears it and wishes to live.
Romanced + Unculminated
On the other hand, if the player attempts to placate Thane during the cabin scene he’ll provide a very pragmatic reply. Not unlike when we meet him at the beginning of the game:
It’s pre-combat jitters. It’s been a long time since you had anything to lose. We’ll be there for each other. That’s the best anyone can do. (Shepard)
Yes. Of course, you’re right. You must be feeling the same thing. I thought I’d moved beyond such things. It seems there’s always more to learn.
While the same theme and reasoning is touched upon by Shepard in this situation, Thane never comes to his own realization of how deeply afraid he is of his death—which also means he doesn’t come to terms with how important his relationship with Shepard has become. The difference is small, but significant.
Romanced + Hostile Breakup
If the player triggers a romance triangle, it’s possible to break up with Thane for a different love interest. In that case, Thane is loyal and is woken from battle sleep but is hostile and will no longer speak to Shepard:
I see. If you’re sure, I’ll accept it. But I would ask that we discontinue our talks here.
To make things particularly complicated, it’s possible to experience this type of breakup both before or after the suicide mission even when the romance is culminated.
Romanced + Amicable Breakup
In contrast, amicable breakups leave Thane woken from battle sleep and loyal—not too far unlike a friend or flirtatious Thane:
I understand. It isn’t easy to lose someone you care for. You’ve already lost a great deal in your life.
Mass Effect 3 doesn’t come anywhere close to accounting for all of these variations in Thane’s story arc or his relationship with Shepard’s relationship. A loyal friendship is, by far, handled the best and even that variant has its issues. Not every instance requires unique content, but many do. At least to maintain continuity and immersion across games. This helps explain why players went into ME3 with drastically different experiences and expectations. And why some were pleased and others were greatly disappointed.
Due to modding limitations, ThaneMOD v1.0 and v2.0 addressed these problems only in the context of trying to reinstate the romance. ThaneMOD v3.0 will attempt to fix this on a much larger and broader scale, altering every player interaction with Thane. From his first Huerta email, to his conversation in Huerta before the coup, to his death scene, to the large amount of new content ThaneMOD will add to the game in the case of Thane’s survival.
For example, culminated and unculminated romances will have slightly different emails and opening conversations at Huerta with Thane since the relationship was left in a different state. An unloyal, hostile Thane will no longer invite Shepard to Huerta. Why would he? They parted on extremely bad terms. Ditto to a Thane who was dumped for another love interest. Thane will still be around to speak to Shepard under these circumstances, but he won’t encourage it. This provides continuity from ME2 and stays true to both Thane’s decisions and the player’s decisions.
Well, this post got a bit long (how am I not surprised?). At any rate, next addition to the site will be a new page explaining the difference in scope and implementation of TMv2.0 versus v3.0. Long story short: they are substantial.