BioWare clearly put some love into the Mass Effect Legendary edition, with a host of small changes included for the biggest of Mass Effect fans. Players discovered one such change over the weekend, with a major, but easily missable, update to Tali’Zorah’s infamous maskless picture. The old stock image is gone, replaced with a visible rendering of Tali’s visible face, breathing in the non-toxic air of her homeworld, Rannoch.
Players who romance fellow Normandy crewmate Tali’Zorah nar Rayya (known as vas Normandy, due to her affiliation with Shepard’s ship) in both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 got a special treat in 2012: a picture of Tali without her mask on, set on their bedside table. Tali is a Quarian, an alien race that lives their entire lives on ships, leading to a compromised immune system that forces them to wear masks at all times.
This image of Tali should’ve been a big deal for players back in 2012, as it’s the only chance to see Tali’s true face, despite her presence in all three Mass Effect games. But the original version of the image was a stock photo of what appears to be a dark-haired woman posing in the country. BioWare planted the image in Mass Effect 3 back in 2012 — which was extremely blurry and hard to see — and never updated it.
But the Legendary Edition undoes one of Mass Effect 3’s greatest sins — at least for fans of the geeky, loyal Quarian. Players who rushed through the Legendary Edition found a fully rendered image of Tali, maskless, sitting on Shepard’s bed stand. The new image is so good that players in the thread on the Mass Effect subreddit called it an impressive photoshop. But as time passed and more players met the proper conditions to see the image, players realized the replacement image is now officially canon.
This is significant for Tali and Quarian fans alike. Not only does this give players the first real look of Tali’s face, it also shows what Quarians look like under the mask. Unlike the original stock image that showed Tali outside of her entire Quarian suit, the new image only shows Tali’s face, with the rest of her head covered in her usual purple headdress.
Her face looks almost human, with two notable exceptions. First, her eyes are almost entirely white, with some slight darkness around the pupils and iris. Tali’s eyes normally glow through her mask, so it’s likely the image doesn’t capture how bright they are without her mask. There are also some edge lines on Tali’s brow, suggesting a not-quite-Klingon forehead resting near her hairline.
Tali is one of the only two characters to appear as squad mates in all three games (with Garrus as the second and Liara being a close third if you include the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2). She holds a special place in the hearts of many fans, and to see her role in Mass Effect 3 bookended by a stock image has been a tough pill to swallow for nearly a decade. But the Mass Effect Legendary Edition delivered in one of the most unexpected ways, finally ending years of what-if fanart collections.