- slide 1 of 6
A Guide to Mass Romance
There were a lot of things interesting about Mass Effect, but the most interesting of all was the romantic relationships the main character, Shepard, could have with other members of the crew. Paced alongside the main plot, the romance options in Mass Effect eventually, if fully played, resulted in a brief sex scene between Shepard and his or her romantic interest.
There was some controversy about it, but Bioware clearly likes giving players the option to engage in romantic relationships as the same type of romance sub-plots are included in Mass Effect 2. But because effects from Mass Effect carry over to Mass Effect 2, players also can meet and interact with some romantic interests from the previous game.
- slide 2 of 6
The Romantic Options
If your Shepard is male, you can go after Miranda, Jack, and Tali. If your Shepard is female, you can go after Garrus, Jacob, and Thane.
Both male and female Shepards can attempt a romance with the personal assistant, Kelly, or with Samara. These sub-plots don't follow the normal rules of romance, however, and will be explained later.
- slide 3 of 6
Mass Effect 2 Romance Mechanics
The basic mechanics for all of these romantic relationships, despite the vastly different dialogue which plays over them, are exactly the same. All Shepard needs to do to impress his or her would-be lover is to talk to them aboard the Normandy. You'll always have this option when you're not on a planet, and in fact the option to talk exists with every character in the game and usually shows up on the dialogue wheel as something like "Do you have time to talk?"
With romantic interests, however, a larger number of dialogue options will begin to unfold over time. The results of these options are, to be frank, very obvious. For example, Miranda will talk about how her body was genetically manipulated to be perfect, leaving Shepard open to some obvious pick-up lines. As in the rest of the game, the Paragon or "good" options are located at the top of the dialogue wheel while the Renegade or "bad" options are located at the bottom. In most cases picking the bottom options will cause Shepard to same something offensive, and there is sometimes a middle options on the dialogue wheel which simply allows Shepard to opt out.
Eventually the dialogue with a romantic interest will reach a sort of road-block, at which point the romantic interest will say that they need time or are waiting for the right moment. If you try to go further you'll reach a dead-end of dialogue options where both Shepard and the NPC repeat themselves. Once a romance has reached this point, it can go no further until Shepard commands the ship to enter the Omega 4 relay. This is what triggers the final scene of the romance.
- slide 4 of 6
Conflicts of Interest
It is possible to try and go after two romantic interests at once. This will usually result in a conflict scene between Shepard and the two romantic interests. Shepard will be forced to pick a side, and once Shepard as done so it is impossible to go back. There are an exception to this, however. A male Shepard can have a one night stand with Jack (this is a Renegade option) and then go after Miranda or Tali. There is no one night stand option with any character a female Shepard can pursue.
Also, both male and female Shepards can invite Kelly Chambers to the captain's quarters for a "private dinner". This isn't considered a full romance and won't prevent the character from choosing other romantic interests later in the game.
Finally, there is Samara. Samara is a romance which both male and female Shepards can choose, but it is a sub-plot. Eventually, no matter what Shepard does, Samara will say that she can't take the relationship and further because of her duties. Shepard can choose a new romantic interest after this as well.
- slide 5 of 6
Original Mass Effect Romances (Liara, Kaidan, and Ashley)
While all of the romance options in Mass Effect 2 are new, that doesn't mean that all of the romances from the first game are out the window. Ashley or Kaidan (depending on your choices from the first Mass Effect) are still around, as is Liara. Shepard will meet with these characters in the game, and if they were the romantic interest in Mass Effect Shepard will greet them with a kiss.
There is no way to go further with these relationships. There have been many rumors that choosing to engage in a romantic relationship with a new character in Mass Effect 2 will have an impact when Shepard meets their original love interest in Mass Effect 3. Some players have said that there is usually a picture of the old love interest on Shepard's desk in the captain's quarters, and if a new romance is completed this picture is placed face down. I can't confirm this personally because my Shepard did not have a romance in the first game.
In any case, it is hard to say how this will play out. It is doubtful that even Bioware knows what characters will end up being in Mass Effect 3.