If you’ve never played a Mass Effect game before, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to know a shepherd from a Shepard or have an in-depth knowledge of the original trilogy to dive into Andromeda.
The choices made at the end of Mass Effect 3 have no bearing whatsoever on this new narrative. That’s because Andromeda’s characters departed the Milky Way in 2185 (the same year that marked the start of Mass Effect 2) meaning it’s entirely possible that the entire fleet has zero knowledge of what happened to the original protagonist, Commander Shepard, or the fate of their home.
Hence Andromeda is essentially a soft reboot, taking place 636 years after the events of the original in a totally different galaxy: Andromeda, rather than the Milky Way.
But despite this being a relatively clean slate, there are still a few things you should know…
2.5 million light years away from home, you play as either Scott or Sara Ryder. These siblings are twins and part of what’s known as the Andromeda Initiative, which sent scientists, explorers and civilians to boldly go forth and settle worlds where no man has settled before.
Scott and Sara are members of the Pathfinder team, a group of soldiers and scientists trained in diplomacy and combat that will be the first boots to tread upon alien soil. Mission briefings refer to them as the “tip of the spear” that subdues any threats on these new worlds, as well as the cartographers that fill in the blank spaces on the map.
In Andromeda the base of operations is an immense space station called the Nexus. It’s based off of something called the Citadel from the original trilogy – a colossal cosmic stepping stone that served as the political and cultural heart of the old galactic community.
The Nexus is inhabited by five races from the Milky Way that make up the diverse Pathfinder Project. The relationships you forge and the choices you make here will have consequences on a wider political stage, so you’ll need to choose your words wisely.
Then there are the inhabitants of the planets that you’re attempting to colonise. Given that the Andromeda Initiative is essentially a mass inter-galactic migration mission, those natives might have something to say about the droves of aliens arriving on their doorsteps.
So just who are these intrepid settlers? They’re being hauled in cryo-sleep on the centuries-long journey to Andromeda inside five space ships called “Arks,” which orbit the Nexus. These five races featured prominently in the original trilogy, so if you’re new, it pays to have an introduction to each.
The Asari were the earliest beings to grasp the ability to travel into space, and as such were looked to as leaders of the Milky Way’s galactic society. As well as lifespans that last for thousands of years, they are gifted with biotic powers – the ability to generate fields of energy that can tear enemies apart or form protective barriers around allies. Asari can also successfully mate or reproduce with any other gender or species. Ahem, more on that later.
Logical and unemotional, Salarians are sort of like Star Trek’s Vulcan – but a tad more tetchy.Their minds and bodies work on overdrive compared to other Milky Way races, functioning on just one hour of sleep a day, so they can seem… hyperactive. Still, they’re invaluable engineers for your squad, thanks to their intelligence and flair for invention.
If Salarians are Vulcans, Turians are Klingons. These military powerhouses are known for their strict discipline as the armed forces form the backbone of their society. While they can be distrustful of humans, Turians are invaluable in combat, and will be loyal companions once you’ve convinced them to throw their assault rifle behind yours.
Krogan numbers are thin after nuclear war and a biological attack all but wiped out the species. Still, physically, Krogan remain tough tanks with thick skin and a robust internal anatomy, including back up hearts, lungs, and even four spare testicles. Handy.
Battle-thirsty and blunt, Krogan will never be the diplomats of Andromeda, but will be worthy allies (or considerable foes) in combat.
Andromeda takes place in an uncharted corner of the universe, teeming with new lifeforms to forge diplomatic relationships with – and since this is Mass Effect, perhaps something more…
Romance has always been a big part of the series. Home to multiple species with diverse sexualities, your starship provides opportunities to get to know one or two members of your crew better than others.
But you need to be careful. Crewmates who see your private quarters might not respond kindly if you show them to others. Remember what I said earlier about your choices having consequence in Mass Effect? That applies here too.
Alysia Judge is IGN UK’s host, and wonders what happens if an Asari (who is gifted with biotic powers) is prescribed antibiotics for a cold. Tell her your theories on Twitter.