Mass Effect Andromeda Preview: where no Shepard has gone before
When writing a preview for a sequel or one kind or another, it’s usually a good idea to recap the most essential things about the predecessors. But I doubt recapping Mass Effect is really necessary. The franchise is modern BioWare’s crowning achievement. So let’s skip over the truisms and things we already know and jump right in.
What awaits us in the Mass Effect Andromeda? Let’s take a look.
Welcome to the Initiative
The core story behind Mass Effect Andromeda is one of exploration and discovery. The Andromeda Initiative is a project spearheaded by the Asari, Turians, Salarians, and humans to send large groups of each race’s representative on a journey to the Andromeda galaxy in a search for new places to live.
The central piece of the journey is the Nexus, a massive space station reminiscent of the Citadel from the original trilogy. Just like the Citadel, the Nexus will serve as one of the hubs, and will contain enough activities to make going there worthwhile.
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Docked to the nexus will be four Arks, each holding thousands of souls, each holding primarily one of the leading races. The known Ark names are Parcero, the Turian-dominated Ark, and Hyperion, with human majority.
Are we there yet?
It turns out travelling to another galaxy takes a long while. The Nexus and the Arks took a good 600 years to get there. Yes. Mass Effect Andromeda will take place well over half a millennium after whatever happened to the Reapers in your playthrough. So unlike some heavy-duty shenanigans happen, no familiar humans, no familiar Salarians. The Asari and Krogans are fair game, although I don’t think we’ll see some old friendlies.
New story, new characters, sort of old universe.
It wouldn’t be a BioWare game if we didn’t get a full team to take care of, talk to, and generally enjoy having aboard. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Each Ark is led by a designated Pathfinder. As one of the in-story trailers describes the role, Pathfinders are ‘experts in survival, diplomacy, and if that fails: combat”. The leading Pathfinder for the human Ark is Alec Ryder, an N7 soldier, and a member of the task force which made the first human jump through the Charon mass relay back in 2149 (the Initiative ships launch in 2185). He’s not only a veteran soldier, but also a scientist (he made the ship’s AI: SAM). He’s an NPC.
So who do we play as?
We play as either Sarah or Scott Ryder, Alec’s offspring. They are Alliance-trained, and each has previously served in military outposts and scientific bases. Whichever of the two you pick during character creation, the other will be available as an NPC in some capacity. It remains unclear if, when, and how the PC will become a Pathfinder, but let’s all hope that ifwhen it happens Alec Ryder won’t end up being just a BioWare Tutorial Character.
There is but a handful of confirmed companions at the moment. There’s Liam Kosta, an ex-jack of all trades, serving as a security specialist. There’s Drack, a Krogan with 1600 years’ worth of experience in being unkillable. We have Vetra, a female Turian with penchant for custom armors. There’s an obligatory Asari, PeeBee, who joined the Initiative mostly because of being bored with the Milky Way.
The last revealed crew member is Cora Harper, and she gets her own paragraph because of a potential connection spotted by eagle-eyed fans. “Harper” is the last name of the Illusive Man, known from the original games. What that means remains to be seen. Is she a relative? Or maybe just happens to have the same last name? Yeah, right. When has that ever happened in fiction? Oh, and she’s biotic who trained with Asari commandos too. So, you know, don’t mess with her.