The N00b’s Guide to Mass Effect

Shepard stands before all of his/her conquests

600 years in the making, Mass Effect: Andromeda continues the story told in the standalone Mass Effect trilogy. Since the original trilogy stood on its own so well and Andromeda represents a new beginning for the franchise, geared toward new players who don’t know their Asari from their Krogans, Silent Protagonist is here to get you up to speed — so once Andromeda hits, we can all Mass Effecturbate together.

Andromeda finds your character Scott/Sara Ryder having been cryogenically frozen alongside the likes of Walt Disney and sent with a group of a few thousand of your best friends on a 600 year journey to colonise the Andromeda galaxy. They departed during the original trilogy, so save files don’t have to reflect decisions made in those earlier games, and in the hope that if they don’t reference Mass Effect 3’s shit ending, everybody will forget about it.

The Beginning

Shepard knows what's really important

The original trilogy is set in the Milky Way during the 22nd century, roughly fifty years after humans discovered an alien wreckage, made contact with said aliens, and as humans are wont to do, started having sex with them.

The alien technology is for some reason called Mass Effect technology. Not ones to drum the franchise title into people’s heads, the Mass Effect technology relies on Mass Effect fields which harness the power of an element called Not-Mass Effect Element Zero. With Mass Effect drives and Mass Effect relays, humans are now free to explore space and screw the galaxy over, just like we’ve been doing to Earth since we first evolved from monkeys.

Regardless of humanity’s dickish nature, humans have reluctantly been invited to the Citadel, a space station that serves as the centre of galactic trade and government. The original trilogy’s protagonist, Commander Shepard worked with those on the Citadel to fight a war against the Reapers, a race of ancient killing machines determined to kill all life in the galaxy.

Aliens you may or may not want to have relations with

Mass Effect taught us that aliens are only good for one thing

The universe is full of alien species you can talk to, shoot, or fuck. If you’re lucky, you can do all three:

  • Asari are a blue skinned race of aliens that all look like beautiful women, filling the sci-fi trope of bangable aliens who find William Shatner irresistible.
  • Salarians are the nerds of the galaxy, a race filled with scientists, researchers, and Gilbert and Sullivan fans.
  • Turians are basically talking catfish (the animal, not those evildoers tricking you into falling in love with them online) who like to kick ass and take names.
  • Krogans are a toad-like race of violent warriors who fought so much they accidentally destroyed their home planet before killing giant spiders for the Silurians in return for being allowed to join the galactic community.
  • Quarians are a nomadic, tribal and germophobic race who wear fish tanks over their heads to filter out germs from any other species
  • Hanar are a race of jellyfish that worship the Protheans. Sadly, this worship is not returned.
  • Protheans are a precursor race that has disappeared, but mysteriously left behind all the technology that has “Mass Effect” in its name.
  • Geth were created by the Salarians, but rose up against them all Terminator-like.
  • Rachni are bug-like aliens who threatened to take over the galaxy until they were taken down with the assistance of Krogans and their cans of Raid.
  • The Reapers are the big bad sentient machines determined to exterminate all life and create the sequence of events leading to [insert bad Mass Effect 3 ending here].

What You Missed in the Original Trilogy

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present EA

If the reviews are to be believed (without having yet played the game, Silent Protagonist can confirm they most certainly can be), Andromeda isn’t as good as the original trilogy, so be warned that I am spoiling the good story while you prepare to play the crap one.

Mass Effect

The first Mass Effect focused on a rogue Turian named Saren, and he’s a real bad hombre. Saren was a widely respected Specter (because “elite operative” just doesn’t sound impressive enough), who worked above the law to do the Citadel’s bidding, just like any elite operative in any work of fiction. Commander Shepard is a special operations soldier who may or may not be morally upstanding, depending on if you play as a Paragon or Renegade. The two clash.

As things start to go from bad to worse, Shepard scores himself/herself a ship called the Normandy, and is told to do whatever it takes to save the day. Whatever it takes includes recruiting a ragtag bunch of misfits (the Krogan, Wrex; the Quarian, Tali; the Turian, Garrus; the Asari, Liara; and humans Kaiden, Ashley and Joker — who unfortunately has no relationship with Batman, but is voiced by Seth Green).

Shepard tracks Saren across the galaxy, eventually uncovers the truth behind his actions, and discovers that his mind has been corrupted by a Reaper. Shepard kills him. Kills him real good.

Mass Effect 2

The Normandy is under attack! The Normandy is destroyed! Shepard is dead! And so, Mass Effect 2 begins. A shadowy group known as Cerberus gathers Shepard’s remains and uses special technology (which, surprisingly does not have “Mass Effect” in its name) to rebuild Shepard’s cells and bring him/her back to life. The resurrected Shepard meets Martin Sheen. Martin Sheen brought Shepard back to life so he can investigate attacks that have been carried out in remote human colonies, because he/she is apparently the only man/woman in the galaxy capable of detective work.

Shepard again puts together a ragtag group of misfits. Joker, Garrus and Tali all return; a new Krogan called Grunt joins the team as an easy fix for anyone who killed Wrex; along with a surprisingly attractive AI called EDI. The new Normandy crew soon learn that there is a new threat to contend with; this time, the Collectors, who are collecting people.

Upon learning that the collecting Collectors are Prometheans collecting humans to melt down and build a giant robot Reaper out of, Shepard realises that he was only resurrected to embark on a suicide mission. The mission? Kill the robot made out of melted people, and kill it real good. Oh, and delay the final battle with the Reapers until Mass Effect 3, so EA can make some extra money.

Mass Effect 3

While your Mass Effect: Andromeda character was busy chilling in a cryogenic sleep, Commander Shepard was engaging in the final showdown that had been built up ever so ominously during the first two games in the trilogy. Shepard is tasked with commanding the combined war effort on behalf of all the galaxy’s sentient life. Refusing to feel the pressure, Shepard yet again puts together a ragtag group of misfits, largely similar to the previous ragtag groups of misfits he put together on two previous occasions.

During the heat of battle, Shepard sadly watched on as Tali committed suicide. Or not. Shepard allied himself with the Geth. Or not. Shepard watched his entire crew die in front of him. Or not. It all depends on how you played the game! Or not.

Regardless, it comes down to a final showdown between the Reapers and Shepard who wants to kill them, and kill them real good. But Martin Sheen convinces Shepard that he/she can take control of the Reapers, and Shepard does that, choosing the end of the trilogy via multiple choice:

  • Permanently taking control of the Reapers, and by all accounts dying in the process.
  • Synthesising organic life and artificial life, and by all accounts dying in the process.
  • Killing the Reapers real good, and by all accounts dying in the process.

Mass Effect 3 DLC

After online outrage about Shepard’s stupid decisions reached boiling point, Bioware released a new ending for the game. In this reimagining, Shepard still makes the same stupid decision, but spends a few extra minutes justifying it before the credits roll.

Where to from here?

New galaxy, new Asari to seduce

No matter the ending to Mass Effect 3, a whole ton of people died, and it remained unclear of how Shepard’s final act shaped the universe moving forward. But that doesn’t matter, since Andromeda kicks off 600 years later many, many lightyears away. Whatever happened has long since been forgotten.