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• 12/3/2016

Mass Effect 3’s Ending, the Upcoming Andromeda, and Beyond (Spoilers…)

(Via @the-reel-evan-kern on tumblr):

Although my love for the entertainment industry mainly rests with film and - in recent years - the resurgence of television as a serious mass media outlet, I also dabble in videogames. By “dabble”, I mean I’ve been gaming since I was around five, when I got my first N64 bundle, complete with Star Wars, Episode I: Racer. And by “gaming since I was around five”, I mean that I have an addiction problem. Send help.

I recently received my December issue of GameInformer in the mail. Gracing the cover is the until-now mysterious protagonist of the anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda, known only as “Ryder”. While I’ve been hooked on this developing project since I first heard about it, years and years ago, the game’s 15-page spread in GameInformer piqued, yet again, my already-brimming interest in this expansion of one of my top three favorite sci-fi franchises. There are *actual strides* being made - big ones - as the spring, 2017 release of Andromeda approaches. However, there’s something that very few people within the project - or those on the outside, looking in - have discussed candidly that, I think, should be addressed: the dénouement of the original trilogy and its repercussions as we move forward into the next era of Mass Effect.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the limited choices at the end of Mass Effect 3, take a minute to visualize the fallout from the point-of-view of any random civilian, just watching on during the final battle…
If such an event *is* televised - assuming that television satellites are still in orbit, after the Reapers touch down - then you’re watching Earth be harvested, tens of thousands of poor souls at a time. For months, it’s hit-and-miss coverage of Admiral Anderson and his resistance fighters targeting the Reapers with small, guerrilla-style ambushes in the major metropolitan centers, where the terrain is familiar and, thus, still theirs to command. It’s an uphill battle, though. All you know is, Shepard is gone - left Earth, seemingly on a whim. Out of cowardice or with a sense of unknown purpose, you’ve no idea. But the Normandy left you behind, stranded, and the only end in sight is the Harvest. Then, out of nowhere, there’s a massive, intergalactic fleet - millions upon millions-strong - in the skies over Earth. If you’re lucky to have survived this long, then your eyes and those of everyone else in the galaxy are watching this moment, as (slowly but surely) Shepard and the combined fleets seem to be actually *winning*. There’s a thrilling ground battle as every able-bodied soul with a gun makes the final push to what is assumed to be the Reapers’ staging area in London, and then…nothing.

Moments later, one of three things happens:

1. There’s a blinding flash of blue light, and all the Reaper forces suddenly up and leave Earth, just as quickly as they came. Shepard has been swayed by the shady advice of the Illusive Man and has chosen to control the Reapers, forcing them to help rebuild the galaxy they destroyed, and supposedly bolstering it against other, stranger threats from beyond the rim…

2. An aura of red light fills the sky, and (all at once, it seems) the Reaper forces are wiped out - collapsing onto the streets they loom over, exploding, or otherwise disintegrating. Shepard’s conscience and gut instinct - culminated in the form of Anderson’s wise counsel - has held fast. The only way to end this threat, once and for all, is to destroy the Reapers. Now, the galaxy can pick up the pieces and move on, unfettered by the shadow of mechanical tyranny that has had a foothold on organic life for so long…

3. There’s a flash of green light, and all the Reapers cease their genocidal assault. They lift off into the sky, leaving just as fast as they arrived. Shepard has chosen to neither control nor destroy the Reapers, but to merge all synthetic life with the organic, creating a new, symbiotic relationship throughout the cosmos. In effect, Shepard bypasses the singularity (see: entirely, and forces a cooperation between machine and organic life, where a truce was already being drawn up, prior to the events of ME3 - depending upon Shepard’s choices and diplomatic outlook…

In all three instances, the mass relays are destroyed, leaving the species of the Milky Way stranded, disparate, and even weaker than before the relays’ discovery. The level of destruction differs, depending on the decided outcome, but it can be assumed that their repair is made a top priority, if rebuilding home-worlds and defenses is to happen on a galactic scale. Any way that Shepard chooses to end the Harvest, there are bound to be consequences that would last the inhabitants of the Milky Way many, many generations.

By the time the story of Andromeda starts, we know that it’s 100 years in the future from Mass Effect 3. The Ark ships are well on their way to - or have already arrived in - our closest galactic neighbor, and have begun the exhausting effort of exploration and colonization. However, it’s sheer, blind ambition to think that the events of Mass Effect 3 had no impact on the Arks’ voyage; either Shepard now owns the Reapers, and they’re able to help the Ark passengers colonize Andromeda, they’re completely destroyed, and the only place to go is outside our cozy, spiral home, or everyone’s a cyborg now, linked into a larger, inter-species hive-mind that reaches far beyond the halo of a given galaxy. Whether or not the Ark ships departed before or after the Reaper invasion is of no consequence: Shepard’s choices would, hands-down, have an effect on every life in the Milky Way, and would play out in their exploits to come, both foreign and domestic.

So, what would these effects be, you ask? We’ll have to wait until Andromeda drops in the spring to really find out. This is all conjecture for right now, but I would be greatly disappointed if BioWare doesn’t *some*how incorporate the ultimate player choice from ME3 into their new project. There’s no such thing as a “clean slate”, even if one is making the move many, many millions of light-years away.

The way I envision it going down:

Ryder is but a youngster aboard humanity’s Ark ship. Seated in a classroom setting, a “teacher” type is at the head of the group of kiddies, and is educating them on the events that transpired in their species’s history. Arriving at the Reaper War, Ryder is raising his/her hand to answer every question - having idolized Shepard in thought, word, and deed - knowing every little tidbit about their savior’s military career. These answers, then, have *some* merit in deciding how the story of Andromeda starts off, at least, and acts as a tie-in between the latter two installments. It would also work in crafting Ryder as a character - how, exactly, Shepard is looked upon as a role model to our new protagonist, and what psychological, moral, and perennial effects such a deifying attitude would have upon Ryder, going forward in what we can assume to be a new trilogy of games.

However, this is just the educated conjecture of one die-hard fan. I’m sure there are many theories out there, concerning the impact of the original trilogy upon the new, and I’m sure they’re all well-founded and exciting. All I can say is, I hope BioWare can hold up their end of the bargain, delivering a new and exhilarating experience in a role-paying game, without losing sight of what made Mass Effect so lovable in the first place.

I’ll link the GameInformer extended article(s) from their site below.

See you all in Andromeda…

- E.

Technological singularity - Wikipedia
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• 12/4/2016
According to the Devs, the Andromeda Initiative departed around the same time as the beginning of Mass Effect 2: there is no Reaper War (nor any Reaper threat, as far as the Council lets the populace know) .

As to young Ryder sitting in class aboard Hyperion- they're all in suspended animation for the trip, and the Ryder twins are (physically) twenty-something at both ends of the journey, they aren't schoolkids.

It becomes an interesting question how much the Andromeda colonists may know, if anything, about events in the Milky Way after their departure. One would assume there has to be a tangled-pair comm system, right?
• 12/4/2016
Ya, you should probably do your research first
• 12/10/2016
It was fun to write and think about, seeing as Mass Effect has been a huge springboard into my exploration of advanced sci-fi. I'm trying to stay mostly in the dark on this project - I'd like to go in completely blind, upon release.

Bull to your research.

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