Mass Effect Andromeda begins as a rather slow colonization story, but its plot soon blossoms into something broader: we have races at war, a galactic-scale invasion force, an ark for space-dispersed colonization transmitting a signal of alarm and a gigantic conspiracy behind the very presence of the Milky Way races within Andromeda.
These narrative lines take time to progress (much of Mass Effect Andromeda simply focuses on the other races in the Milky Way trying to establish themselves) but over time they unravel a much deeper and more intriguing set of mysteries. Exploring these storylines can take hours of side quests, and some of the details, found in the game’s written documents or labyrinthine codexes, can easily be skipped. Below I will therefore try to expose what we know about the Relictum and the Jaardan, the Kett, the Quarian Ark and the conspiracy plans of the Initiative, including the mysterious Benefactor. Much has been purposely left unresolved, to allow for continuation in future games or DLCs, but there are clear hints of what lies ahead.
In case it’s not clear, there will be spoilers from the latest Mass Effect from here on out.
What will happen to the crew of the Tempest in a DLC or sequel?
We begin with the main story of Andromeda, the one centered on the vaults of the Relictums that terraform worlds throughout the Heleus cluster and the mystery of who made them, as well as the phenomenon of the Scourge that has caused several problems during the nearly 100 years in which the races of the Milky Way were traveling to Andromeda in a cryogenic sleep. Andromeda’s penultimate mission finally sheds some light on the creators of the Relictum, a race called the Jardaan, and their intentions. Not only were they transforming the Heleus cluster using incredibly advanced technology (the vaults in each of the visitable worlds), but they were also working on the popular Heleus with a race created entirely by them: yes, the adorable Angara are themselves creations of the Jardaan.
The Relictum space station you visit on the penultimate mission, called Khi Tasira dai Kett, hosts several Angara projects. The Jaardans have been working for some time to perfect a species with biological traits suitable for Heleus and placed them within the cluster something like 600 years ago. It is unclear however how much the early Angara knew about the Jardaan, as this civilization lost many of its records and documents due to the double Scourge catastrophes several hundred years before the start of Andromeda, and also due to the invasion of the Kett, about 75 years ago.
Why were the Jardaans so interested in terraforming the Heleus cluster and introducing the Angara race? Why did they also create Relictum? It is a question that the game leaves open but of which we are left with some clues. The theory that I find most convincing is based on the fact that only Ryder, as an organic being equipped with an AI, is able to activate the relictum vaults. This is a useful game concept for making your character appear special, but it could also indicate the Jardaan’s ultimate goal: to leave behind a technology that can only be used by organic species that have achieved union with an AI. Consider the Jardaan legacy in Heleus: an organic and a synthetic race. Certainly it is something that would connect to the frequent theme, present in the Mass Effect franchise, of the conflict between organic and synthetic life and the need for a solution to it.
The plans of the Jardaan were interrupted by the emergence of the Scourge which, as always revealed in the penultimate mission, was the result of a huge weapon detonated by a mysterious opponent. The documents in which this aspect is revealed refer to the “Opposition”, a group that appears to be a faction of the Jardaan themselves. It would surely explain why, after the Scourge arrives and the entire Jardaan race leaves, there is no sign of this Opposition. The Scourge was detonated by Khi Tasira and from there spread throughout Heleus, chasing and destroying Relictum technology wherever it was. One theory posits the Opposition as a faction of the Jardaan opposed to terraforming and the creation of life (of the Relictum, the Angara or both). Mention is made of an entity or group known as the Jheln who may have passed on information about the Scourge. In any case, a faction opposed to the Relictums seems the most likely hypothesis, as the weapon that created the Scourge appears to have been designed to strike them.
Andromeda’s final mission sees Ryder reactivate the vault network made dormant by the Scourge. The key to this goal is Meridian, a planet reminiscent of the Dyson Sphere, the ultimate success of the Jardaan that humanity proclaims as a new home. The garden planets of Heleus can easily host life and this is also the final stand of the Archon, the leader of the Kett forces in the cluster.
Will we see more of Meridian?
While the Jardaan were native to Heleus, the Kett arrived as an invading force. Dialogues with the Archon suggest that the Kett invaded several star systems and enslaved countless races before reaching Heleus (this is only the latest of their ventures and the Angara are only the latest prey). The bulk of the Kett forces within Heleus are, as revealed throughout the game, made up of converted or “exalted” Angara. Once again a typical Mass Effect theme, reminiscent of the Collectors’ Prothean origins before they came into contact with the Reapers.
At the end of the game, with the main force Kett defeated and the Archon killed, some Kett remain in Heleus led by the second in charge after the Archon, Primus. It’s easy to see this group of Kett as antagonists in a future DLC or the general return of the Kett as enemies in a future game set in a different cluster. It would be interesting to see how the Kett fared in other parts of Andromeda or if Ryder will bring the war right into the Kett house. The game takes some time to show the Kett as something other than unknown enemies, but towards the end something changes. Could the Kett faction sooner or later become an ally? The fact that Primus offers his help to defeat the Archon, a rival and our enemy, suggests a possibility from this point of view.
This is perhaps a good time to speculate on the setting of a future Andromeda game. You will surely stay inside the galaxy but with the mysteries of Heleus revealed you are ready to move elsewhere. Any future game will undoubtedly focus on the influence of the Jardaan (perhaps in other clusters as well? Or where they went after the Scourge arrived). At the same time, another game could show more of the Kett empire and make them more multifaceted enemies. However, the possibility that Heleus will not be abandoned also seems likely. The Mass Effect trilogy featured dozens of clusters, and while BioWare may want to keep large parts of Andromeda intact for the future of the franchise, it will be hard not to see a sequel with a multi-cluster focus. The importance of the Nexus as the cultural and political center of the Milky Way, Meridian as the new home of humanity and the worlds of the Angara – all too valuable to be abandoned entirely.
There is also the question of the Ark of the Quarians which, as revealed in the finale, reached Andromeda intact or at least intact enough to send a distress signal, indicating that no one should approach. It’s perhaps the most obvious hint of a plot that could unfold over the course of an expansion, an immediate story to tell, and a way to reintroduce not only the Quarians but also their companions Volus, Hanar, Drell and Elcor (Batharian and Vorcha are not mentioned but have they been completely excluded?). The distress signal recording mentions an emergency on board and again there are several theories of why. The Geth, the Quarian-created AI race that rebels against their creators, is one of the most popular parts of Mass Effect fans. What better way to introduce them to Andromeda than as stowaways on the Quarian ark? Their presence, once discovered after arriving on Andromeda, would certainly be considered an emergency. Having left before the events of Mass Effect 3, the Quarians and Geth aboard would still be sworn enemies. The Geth are almost certainly aware of the mission to Andromeda, as the Initiative used the Geth data to map the worlds of the Heleus cluster. The Geth were also aware of the impending Reaper invasion (it is implied that Initiative data comes from the Reapers research carried out by the Geth) and so they too would have a good reason for wanting to escape the Milky Way.
Will we find out who killed the Initiative’s founder, Jien Garson?
Although it is a threat confined to the Milky Way, the shadow of the Reapers looms large over the origins of the Andromeda Initiative. Collecting snippets of SAM’s memory over the course of the game reveals that only a couple of people within the Initiative, including Ryder Senior, knew that the reason for the escape was the impending Reaper invasion and that the departure from Milky Way had been speeded up by a mysterious Benefactor, with the aim of ensuring that the departure took place before the descent of the historical enemies. The Initiative’s founder, Jien Garson, was the only other person we know to have known about the Benefactor and it was her decision to keep it secret so as not to disturb the Initiative’s plans.
Upon arrival at Heleus, Garson is murdered by an agent of the Benefactor to ensure his existence remains a secret. There are few clues as to who the killer is but in any case there are some obvious candidates for the identity of the Benefactor himself. Ryder senior and Garson refer to someone with the ability to guarantee large amounts of money and resources, elements that suggest the Illusive Man. Funding the Andromeda Initiative would also be in line with its goals: to ensure that humanity prevails at all costs, even if its plans, developed over the course of Mass Effect 3, are not successful. Ryder senior is also shown talking to The Shadow Broker, probably the former one killed by Shepard, later replaced by Liara and another candidate for the role of Benefactor.
But the possibility also remains that the Benefactor is someone who has traveled to Andromeda and whose identity has yet to be revealed. After all, why set up the Initiative to take advantage of the Reapers and then not take advantage of them? Fans immediately noticed the surname of teammate Cora Harper, identical to that of Jack Harper AKA The Mysterious Man himself. There is also the fact that Cora was mysteriously abandoned by her Asari team, eventually ending up within the Initiative, possibly by her father’s action. Cora may not be aware of any of this or BioWare may turn the tide by revealing Cora’s involvement from the start. She was meant to be Pathfinder, perhaps she was assigned the task of eliminating Ryder Senior so that knowledge of the Benefactor’s existence would die with him. It would certainly not be the first time that BioWare proposes an ally that turns out to be something more.
There are also many other story lines continuing: Ryder’s mother waiting for a cure to be awakened by cryostasis, the consequences of saving the ancient Angarian AI or not saving Dr. Okeer’s genophage research or not. , the fact that Ryder now knows that the Milky Way has been attacked by the Reapers and the very future of the Initiative, including the first official advisor whose identity you can choose at the end of the game. BioWare has yet to clarify its plans regarding the future of Mass Effect Andromeda and we can only hope that BioWare’s grand plan has a way to fully prove itself, as there is gigantic narrative potential in this franchise just waiting to attract the masses again.
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