(Disclaimer: All the information below is in context to my play through I put in an effort to save all the crew members and to play as a paragon. It is possible for Tali to die and almost none of this to be true.)
The story of Tali’Zorah is one of her people, the Quarians. Possessing a frail body yet having a spirit of courage and willing to do whatever it takes to find her people a new home, Tali has become one of the fan favorite characters of the Mass Effect saga.
The history of the Quarians is one of a people without a home. The Quarians had envisioned a world where mechanical constructs were used to complete the labor intensive tasks and the actual Quarian race could live in peace. To this end the Quarians built the Geth, a “species” of synthetics that were assigned as the workers of the world. There was peace for a time yet the Geth soon began to develop signs of sentience. This was seen as a danger by the Quarians and they attempted to put the Geth down. Unfortunately, the Geth rose up against the Quarians and eventually drove them from their home world. In the years since then the Quarians have lived in a giant “Migrant Fleet” and have been looking for a new world to call home.
Rannoch, the Quarian home world, possesses no insect life so the plants there rely on animals to transport their spores. This has led to the Quarians not possessing as developed of an immune system as the other species in the galaxy and thus have to almost always where environmental protection gear while outside of the Migrant Fleet.
Tali’Zorah began her life aboard the Migrant Fleet. All she has known is the constant search for a new home.
At a certain age it is custom for young Quarians to leave the Migrant Fleet and go on a pilgrimage to not only find their true calling but to find resources for the fleet. It was during Tali’s pilgrimage that she discovered the plot of the rogue spectre Saren. She decided to investigate herself yet fell into a trap. It was only through the intervention of Commander Shepard and his crew that Tali survived. Because of this, Tali joined the crew of the Normandy in order to put a stop to Saren, not to mention that Saren was using some factions of the Geth as his front line troops.
After realizing the true threat that Saren and his Reaper allies posed to the galaxy as a whole, Tali dedicated herself to serving alongside Shepard to putting a stop to all of it. This led her to be a part of many adventures through the Mass Effect games. She begins her quest as more of a naive young girl but ends up as a mature and thankful young lady.
Tali’s Quarian leaders did not always understand her reasoning behind sticking with Shepard and often questioned her loyalty. It was through Shepard’s actions in saving the Quarian fleet from a Geth infestation that she gained their trust again.
Tali’Zorah, choosing the surname “vas Normandy” after Shepard stood up for her when no one else would, eventually led the Quarians to come back to Rannoch. Alongside Shepard and the Normandy, Tali made peace with the Geth. The Geth where simply concerned about their own self-preservation and had fought the Quarians because the Quarians where trying to exterminate them. Once the two groups discussed their differences and aligned themselves against the Reaper threat, the Quarians came back home. If it hadn’t been for the efforts of Tali and the crew of the Normandy this would have probably never have been possible.
What makes Tali one of the fan favorite characters? I think it is a mixture of several things. First is the fact that Tali looks like someone who would need protected yet can stand up for herself quiet well. Only under overwhelming odds does she find herself in danger. She is smart and one of the most technically proficient members of the Normandy crew. Also, Tali always wore her environmental suit and it was a mystery to what she actually looked like. Only players who developed a romance with her, which had to be built and sustained since the first Mass Effect game, did they get a chance to see what she looked like under the mask.
Tali’Zorah vas Normandy is right behind Garrus as my favorite side character in the Mass Effect saga. The voice acting and writing for her are extremely well done and evoke the player to actually care about the character. There are so many stories to tell in the Mass Effect universe and Tali’s is one that I would like to learn more about.
Shepard standing with Tali during her trial