The following will contain spoilers for Mass Effect 3, and if you’re about to play the series for the first time with the Legendary Edition remasters, we recommend you come back in May after you’ve played through all three games to read beyond this bold text.
The Drell assassin Thane Krios is widely considered a standout character in the Mass Effect trilogy, and while the decision-driven series has often had means for players to save characters from death, Thane carries the distinction (alongside with the Geth platform Legion) as a party member whose death is unavoidable across the trilogy. He’ll either die during Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission or after being fatally injured in a fight with Worst Villain in Mass Effect Kai Leng.
But it wasn’t the stab wound alone that killed him. He also was suffering from a fictional disease called Kepral’s Syndrome, which is exclusive to the Drell. The illness affects their ability to take in oxygen, eventually resulting in death. However, it sounds like there was, at one point, ideas within developer Bioware to allow players to cure Thane.
In an interview with The Gamer, Thane’s writer Chris Hepler explained that early drafts of Mass Effect 3 involved making a whole questline dedicated to finding a cure for the Drell. However, established lore made it challenging, as Kepral’s Syndrome had been described in Mass Effect 2 as near incurable.
“We kicked around ideas for a cure for Thane in early concepting, but Kepral’s Syndrome was described in Mass Effect 2 as really, really, bogusly incurable,” Hepler said. “The only ones with tech that might cure him would be the Reapers, and so we had some rough ideas that maybe Cerberus or someone would try to lure Shep into a trap with the promise of a cure. But it never panned out.
“So [Lead Writer] Mac Walters and I eventually concluded that Thane wasn’t going to make it. Shepard could kill just about anything that walks, but ultimately, Thane would serve as a reminder that you can’t beat mortality itself. The issue got slightly muddied because of Kai Leng stabbing him, but it’s a combination of his wound and Kepral’s Syndrome that kills him – all the medi-gel in the world can’t clear his lungs.”
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Ultimately, Thane’s death in Mass Effect 3 was one of the most poignant and affecting scenes in a game full of those moments. But at some point in the development process the assassin could have seen the end of the Reaper War. But Hepler explained that it felt both in keeping with established lore and the themes of Mass Effect 3 for Thane to become an unavoidable casualty of the war.
“Basically, the codex and Thane’s dialogue in ME2 say that there is no cure, even with the high tech available to Citadel races like gene therapy,” Hepler said. “So any cure would have to be a serious breakthrough. Thus, maybe the Reapers might know how to cure it, but they aren’t telling.
“So we explored that possibility, but eventually concluded that we could write a better story about loss than we could about Shepard taking time out from saving the galaxy to save one person. We wanted to keep the tension high.
“I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘impossible’ to cure, because writers can retcon in a lot if they really try – I mean, omni-tools aren’t supposed to make diamonds and bulletproof armor, either, and in Mass Effect 3 I violated that a little bit by saying it can create silicon carbide, which is used in some ballistic armor today.”