One of the gimmicks of the Mass Effect series has been the ability to play as the "good" or "bad" guy while saving the universe. Your actions earned Paragon and Renegade points--and you needed a certain amount to unlock some of the more important conversation options. Unfortunately, that meant that players that didn't play exclusively in one direction were penalized, unable to acquire a sufficient amount of morality points.
That problem is finally being fixed in Mass Effect 3, with BioWare promising a rewarding experience even for those that like to play a "morally gray" Shepard.
The reputation system has been tweaked in Mass Effect 3 to allow for "neutral" character growth. "In Mass Effect 2, after a mission that didn’t have any major choices, we would give both Paragon and Renegade points, to show that even without a major decision, Shepard was more famous and had more influence as a result," Patrick Weekes explained on the BioWare Blog. "This confused some players and made others angry – people who wanted to play pure Paragon didn’t like getting rewarded with both Paragon and Renegade points."
To rectify that, there is now a general "reputation" score that determines both Charm and Intimidate options. Every action can increase your generation reputation, including actions that didn't really have any morality choices to be made. Simply playing more will help unlock the game's more taxing conversation options. "You're still rewarded for being a completionist player and doing as much content as you can, but you can do it as a Paragon or Renegade player without penalty," Weekes explained, adding that your overall reputation is "determined by adding your Paragon and Renegade scores together."
While this sounds like a well-intentioned solution to enable more flexible playthrough, we'll have to play the game to see if it works as expected. Thankfully, it's only a few days until Mass Effect 3 releases on March 6th.