We’ve come a long way since Shepard and his crew encountered Sovereign, The Collectors, and eventually confronted The Reapers themselves. We watched while the game transitioned from a new age RPG, with mechanics we both loved and hated, to a finely honed Action/Tactical RPG with such excellent combat execution it almost makes us cringe thinking back to how the series began.
Everything had changed. The way we move, our weapon options, our character progression, it was all overhauled, and most of these changes were for the best. We learned to accept the talents of our individual squad mates, even if we chose to bring the same trio along for nearly every mission. We spend countless hours (and countless dollars) investing those characters. So much so, that they had felt alive. More than any game characters had in the past decade. Some of us may have even suffered loses of those characters at the hand of the numerous perils the Milky Way galaxy threw at us. But in the end we persevered. We rose from the ashes of a thousand civilizations and united the races against The Reapers.
But where do we go from here? Shepard’s story has ended but our actions live on in the memory of humans and every other race who’s existence they owe to our team. Nearly every home world was decimated by The Reapers (or other sources). And depending on your actions some entire races have even been completely wiped out of the galaxy.
It’s almost impossible to think of a situation that allows us to come back from this scenario without some sort of interlude that takes us several thousands of years into the future. By the way I’m not even considering the possibility that anything aboard the catalyst even happened. That’s a whole other paradoxical can of worms.
Where this does leave us is the possibility that we have a parallel timeline. This is a theory I originally heard and subscribed to on the very first reveal of Mass Effect: Andromeda. The theory is that a vessel outfitted for deep space travel, and supported by a group of scientists was launched from the edges of the Milky Way at or around the same time that the humans were first making use of the Mass Relays. The mission of this ship was pretty simple, keep moving forward. Make it to our nearest galactic neighbor; Andromeda Galaxy.
So assuming this ship reaches Andromeda around the same time that Shepard and our crew was discovering our impending destruction at the hands The Reapers it leaves us with a few questions.
- How far was the sphere of influence The Reapers had over the cosmos?
- Were the actions of Shepard and the others known, or even assisted by, our Andromeda crew?
Let’s run with both of these ideas for a moment beginning with question one. It was strongly suggested, and proven, that The Reapers had the ability to sense and reach out to all organic life in the galaxy. It was even shown multiple times that they would assist races in their development just to begin harvesting them at a later time. All of this implies The Reapers have no knowledge of a threat beyond themselves. Nothing further up on the food chain. It’s later discovered that the origins of The Reapers are a being called the Leviathans. They created The Reapers to keep watch of the escalating threats the organics would pose to themselves. Eventually The Reapers overthrow the Leviathans seeing them a threat to themselves in the same way the Leviathans saw other organics. Thus the cycles were born.
But there is no mention that The Reapers exist beyond the Milky Way galaxy. The Leviathan’s lived within the Galaxy so to that point we can imagine they created The Reapers with only the intention to govern the organics that they themselves had control over. So we can safely assume that The Reapers were never intended to leave the Milky Way, and quite possibly do not have the ability to do so.
If that is the case than we can think of Andromeda as a completely blank slate. In a sense it’s our only option given the events of the Milky Way that I described in the introduction. It would give us the ability to press the reset button on our minds and get ready for a completely new experience, new races, new conflicts, new story. All outside the reach of the stresses, and safe havens of our original Mass Effect adventures.
Now for question two. Let’s keep with the thought that our Andromeda timeline is happening in parallel with our original Trilogy. How much knowledge of the Milky Way does the Andromeda crew have? Are they even aware of the cataclysmic events taking place back in their home galaxy? Have they even heard the name “Reapers”? For the answer to be no we have to assume the only contact the Andromeda crew has is with other life outside the Milky Way. Perhaps they lose communication and are left stranded and unable to discover the fate of their home world. This would also imply that the other races here are not connected with the Milky Way at all. So we will not be seeing a return of our classic Mass Effect cast. We will be drawing from scratch.
There is another alternative, and that is the mission to Andromeda was of such vital importance to our mission back on the Milky Way that neither Commander Shepard, Admiral Anderson, or the council had any idea what was happening beyond their galaxy. Is it possible the another council, a more secret counterpart broke off from the Citadel and pursued a means to stop The Reapers on their own. What if The Reapers of the Milky Way were only a small fraction of the total Reaper count. Maybe The Reapers only left what they thought they would need in order to safely secure the Milky Way while the bulk of their fleet was beyond the stars ready to, at any moment, jump to the next galaxy in order to stop an uprising. Could it be then that our Andromeda team is actually going to be responsible for stopping the real Reaper threat?
Either of these scenarios would leave us in a great place for our next Mass Effect adventure. But when it’s all said and done how will the gameplay evolve? I began this article talking about the evolution of the series in terms of gameplay but where will it go from here?
I have a few thoughts on that matter. Check back soon to hear my theories on the Mass Effect: Andromeda gameplay.
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