Focus Friday | Tali’Zorah vas Normandy
Tali’Zorah has come a long way during the course of the Mass Effect series. From her introduction to us in the back alleys of the Citadel outside of Chora’s Den, to her research on Haestrom in ME2, to her promotion to Admiral status in ME3. She has matured and grown as a character and as a member of quarian society.
Tali is fiercely loyal to her people, and her fans are fiercely loyal to her. Along with her turian, dextro counterpart, Tali is the only other character who is a constant throughout the entire Mass Effect series — a recruitable squadmate for every game. This has certainly played some role in her garnering such a large fan base. But beyond this, Tali has a sensitive, shining personality, brought to life by her writers and VA, Liz Sroka.
Tali is popular with male and female players, romancers and non-romancers. To many fans, her character fills the role of a little sister or best friend to their Shepard. To others, she is their constant romantic companion, supporting and aiding Shepard in his fight against Saren, the Collectors, and finally the Reapers. Read on to find out more what the 6200 players from our survey thought about the talented quarian engineer.
As a reminder, here are the statements that pertained to Tali’s section of the survey:
- I was satisfied with the quantity of content in the romance.
- I was satisfied with the quality of content in the romance.
- The image of Tali’s face was satisfactory.
- There should be extra interactions post-Rannoch if Tali is being romanced.
- Tali, as she is added late to the game, should have extra opportunities for dialogue.
- I have other comments.
Not familiar with Tali’s romance? After the break we have a heart-wrenching tribute video featuring her and BroShep. Courtesy of TheBroomKing on YouTube…
To start, a quick summary of Tali’s general survey results, including the new analysis published on the blog just before Christmas:
- Tali was romanced by about 2/5 of survey takers (2340 out of 5759)
- Exactly 10.5% of players romanced only Tali; almost one-quarter of players were monogamous to an LI
- Tali ranks 2nd in Love Interests for male players, behind Liara, but well ahead of Ashley & Miranda
- About 57% of all male players romanced Tali; only 22% of female players romanced her
- This gender divide differs by 35% and is similar to Thane and Garrus; it is somewhat close to Ashley and Miranda
- About 75% of Tali romancers are male & 25% are female; a split of 50%, similar to Ashley, Miranda, Kaidan, & Thane
Now, let’s move onto the results of Tali’s section of the survey.
Around 5000 players completed Tali’s section of the survey, with about 1200 skipping it. The number of players who responded with “Did Not Romance” ranged from approximately 1675 to 2475 depending on the statement. Six hundred one players left comments about Tali, 577 of which were included in the comment report.
Quantity vs Quality
Player response to the quality and quantity of Tali’s romance was quite similar to other ME1 romances. Generally speaking, players were much more satisfied about quality than quantity. In Tali’s case player response regarding lack of quantity makes a lot of sense as she isn’t recruited until fairly late in the game, just prior to Priority: The Citadel III. This meant that our favorite quarian had quite a bit less time on the Normandy as other squadmates/LIs, such as Liara or Garrus.
Let’s see exactly how Tali stacks up.
- Players satisfied with the quantity of Tali’s romance content: 14.5%
- Players unsatisfied with the quantity of Tali’s romance content: 35.3%
While a decent amount of players were satisfied with the quantity of content in Tali’s romance, many more found it lacking — by a margin of about 2.5:1. Player comments underscored this point and will be expanded upon below. Tali’s results for this question are actually most akin to Kaidan and Ashley who saw a similar type of response. In contrast, players were much more split regarding the amount of Garrus’ and Liara’s romance content, with many more being satisfied with the amount included in the game.
Let’s see how players felt about the quality.
- Players satisfied with the quantity of Tali’s romance content: 29.4%
- Players unsatisfied with the quantity of Tali’s romance content: 20.5%
As we can see, players were much more satisfied with the quality of content present in the romance. Compared to Kaidan, Liara, and Garrus, however, Tali still has a much larger split in this area — player opinion is only separated by a difference of less than 10%. She is still in better shape than Ashley, however, who is the only ME1 LI who still polled unsatisfactory to this question. From reading the comments, I suspect these results mostly reflect the handling of Tali’s romance scene and dialogues, along with her photograph and unmasking. The latter point brings us to the next survey section below.
The “Picture” Fiasco
When ME3 was released, many fans had an immediate — and negative reaction — to the handling of Tali’s framed picture on Shepard’s desk. It resulted in substantial debate amongst players, many of who were in agreement that BioWare missed the mark on this. Our survey results show a similar trend.
For those who don’t know (if you’ve been hiding under a rock since the game was released, lol), BioWare paid Getty Images a fee to utilize a stock photo of Hammasa Kohistani, Miss England 2005. They then”photoshopped” this image into a representation of Tali. Below is a graphic sent by a fan to the gaming blog Kokatu.com, which compares the stock photo of Miss Kohistani and the framed photo that Shepard holds in game, side-by-side:
- Players who felt the image of Tali’s face was satisfactory: 18.0%
- Players who felt the image of Tali’s face was not satisfactory: 82.0%
Unsurprisingly, most players were less than impressed for a variety of reasons. We’ll expand on this topic more in the comments section below. Note that this question, similar to a few others on the survey, did not provide a “Did Not Romance” option. This had the affect of it being answered by more respondents. In comparison, the folks who elected “yes” or “no” to the above 2 questions were mostly those who said they romanced Tali with Shepard.
Scenes & Dialogues
Similar to the other LIs, players polled overwhelmingly in support of additional scenes and dialogue with a romanced Tali. This isn’t surprising considering players had to wait through 2/3 (if not more) of the game to recruit her. Once they did finally get her recruited, players were hoping for more dialogue to compensate for her long absence. This is very similar, in aspects to player response regarding the handling of the Virmire Survivor, due to their extended absence during the middle of the game.
- Players who felt Tali’s late entrance to the game warranted additional opportunities for dialogue: 64.3%
- Players who felt Tali’s late entrance to the game did not warrant additional opportunities for dialogue: 2.1%
Players polled to this next question in an almost identical manner (overwhelmingly in favor), which makes sense as much of the issue overlaps with that above. As pointed out, Priority: Rannoch takes place 2/3 if not 3/4 into the game. This means that there is a relatively small window left for romance-related interactions and dialogue with Tali afterwards. In addition, the events that unfold on Rannoch are extremely significant to Tali’s character arc. Players were not only expecting the opportunity for substantial conversation and interactions after recruiting Tali, but also the ability to to talk with her a bit more about what occurred on the mission. Not having the ability to converse more with Tali detracted from the depth of her story and both disappointed and broke immersion for some players.
- Players who felt there should be extra interactions post-Rannoch if Tali is being romanced: 63.3%
- Players who did feel there should not be extra interactions post-Rannoch if Tali is being romanced 1.1%
Tali’s Comment Recap
Most fans were very much on the same page about Tali, and they left quite a few comments to illustrate their points. Comments typically revolved around Tali’s unmasking, her sexuality, lack of content, and end-game romance scene. The quote below summarizes player-reaction to many of these aspects quite well:
”What was in the game, I loved…for the most part. The exceptions to this are the picture of her face (I thought the moment when she took her mask off on Rannoch would have been an excellent time for an unveiling, or at least in the ‘romance’ scene we get before the Cerberus base), and the just-mentioned ‘romance’ scene we got before the Cerberus base. The dialogue and writing for it was excellent, but I mean…compare it to Ashley’s romance, or Liara’s romance. It just really felt like we didn’t get…anything, really, compared to those, in terms of an actual scene. Don’t get me wrong, what was there, I loved. All of it. I love the ‘spirit’ behind the Tali/Shepard romance, the playfulness and the flirting, with the core of trust that you can feel beneath it…I just really felt like I was jipped in terms of how much of it I got, compared to, say, Liara, who comes up into my cabin twice, and I didn’t even romance her.”
1. Image and Unmasking – We’ll go ahead and get this one out of the way off the bat, as it was possibly the most frequent comment category for Tali on the survey. Players had a few main qualms about how BioWare dealt with the execution of her unveiling:
Debate: First, some players were against any type of “unmasking”. They felt that no matter what her appearance would be, it likely would not live up to expectation. These folks would have preferred to let Tali’s appearance remain a mystery. However, a majority of players did support her unmasking.
“The face should have been left out, after 5 years most players will have their own ideas of what Tali looks like, there was no way you could please everyone so you should have just left it to player imagination instead.”
Timing: Assuming Tali’s appearance would be finally revealed, many of players felt the timing was of the reveal in game was “off”. Popular opinion was that the most appropriate time to show Tali’s face would have been when she took her mask off on Rannoch. This would also have meant that both a romanced and non-romanced Shepard would have been able to see her face. In addition, players felt the significance of the event would have lended even more emotional impact to Tali’s story, and would have been tremendously satisfying.
“The image of Tali’s face was actually a good design, the presentation, however, was completely flawed. Her face should have been revealed on Rannoch when she took off her mask, and not just for players who romanced her. It would have been fitting and rewarding. People who romanced her should have been able to see her face more frequently.”
Photograph: A large majority of players did not appreciate the execution of Tali’s unmasking via the photograph. Not only because they felt it should have been done on Rannoch via a full 3D-character rendering, but because of the use of the “photoshopped” image. Many were flat out angry.
“The “reveal” of Tali’s face was half-assed, to put it mildly. The editing was poor and it was obviously a stock photo. Her face should have been revealed when she took her mask off on Rannoch.”
Players had a variety of complaints including issues with her looking too human, the presence of hair, the incorrect anatomy of the hand, etc. Ultimately, fans just felt it was an incredibly lazy effort, and disrespectful to both them and her character.
“She looks too human. Dextro amino acids should lead to some vastly different aesthetic characteristics, as we see with Turians.”
2. Sexuality – Similar to essentially every other female LI only available to BroShep, players wanted Tali available to FemShep, as well. In short, players want all LIs to be “Shepard-sexual”.
“I really REALLY wish Tali had been a romance option for Female Shepard. They had a strong bond and they were very good friends and I would have liked to pursue that, given the inclusion of same-sex romance in the third game.”
3. Lack of Content -- This category covers several issues with Tali’s romance and characterization.
Late Entrance: As touched on above, Tali’s entrance into the game comes quite late into the story. Those romancing her essentially have to go through about 3/4 of the game waiting for her to appear. As such, once she did make he way onto the Normandy, they were expecting a larger amount of content to compensate, unfortunately, this was not the case. Players suggested Shepard having the ability to communicate with Tali on the Normandy prior to her recruitment, as one way to deal with this issue.
“Tali should send me a message earlier in the game if I’m romancing her.”
Side Missions: Players were also hoping for a side mission with Tali. One idea was helping the Quarians regain their embassy to the Council.
Dialogues & Interactions: While players enjoyed the included dialogues and scenes, they were really hoping for more content. They felt the romance was ultimately cut a bit short with never having reached it’s full potential, and especially considering ME3 was the final installment of the trilogy, it left them wanting for more. Many were disappointed that Shepard did not have the opportunity for a “date” with Tali, similar to that with Garrus.
“Tali’s romance was well written, but would have loved to have seen more scenes with her and Shepard. I would have liked to see them on a date on the Citadel and have the option to invite her to Shepard’s cabin like in ME2. I also wish there was more to their final romance scene before the Cerberus base assault.”
End-game Scene: Players were disappointed with the quality of Tali and Shepard’s romance scene. Similar to many comments for the other LIs, they cited the desire for all romance interests to be on a level playing-field. They were hoping for a more intimate moment, something more along the lines of Liara and/or the VS, rather than the “fade-to-black” scene that was included.
“Tali’s romance, as opposed to, say, Liara, was lacking in the amount of content. Whereas those who romanced Ms. T’soni received an, admittedly, lengthy romance cut scene before the final mission, those who romanced Tali received little.”
Epilogue: Many players wanted Tali and Shepard to have their happy ending on Rannoch –complete with unmasking and house-building.
“I would still like to build that house on Rannoch “
After six months, this wraps up essentially every question from the survey — and then some. Next week we’ll have a bit of a summary of sorts, comparing player opinion across LI’s that shared some of the same survey questions (quality, quantity, etc.) We hope you enjoyed this edition of Focus Friday. Have a fantastic weekend!