With Mass Effect: Legendary Edition – Bioware’s beloved trilogy, recalibrated and remastered – coming May 14th, many are wondering what impact this may have on the future of the series with its next instalment.
Could the remaster be used as a unified platform on current-gen hardware to record our choices as Shepard once more, that they might be imported into the next game?
We know that Liara will be returning. She’s only 109 at the end of the trilogy and asari live for a thousand years. We also know that the Milky Way and Andromeda stories will be colliding in some way, so the next game will likely pick up around 2819 CE – just over 633 years after Mass Effect 3. That puts Liara in her mid-700s.
But with that timeline in mind, who else from the original trilogy could still be around?
KEEPING UP WITH THE URDNOTS
So, here’s the thing. We never actually learn how long krogan lifespans are in the Mass Effect universe.
In the original game’s Codex, it is said:
“Until the invention of gunpowder weapons, ‘eaten by predators’ was still the number one cause of krogan fatalities. Afterwards, it was ‘death by gunshot’.”
Nakmor Drack (a squadmate in Mass Effect: Andromeda) is over 1400, having lived through the Krogan Rebellions and showing no sign of slowing down.
Okeer, the krogan warlord who created Grunt (one of Shepard’s squadmates), is something around 2000 years old.
It seems that the redundant nervous systems and rapid regeneration rate that defines krogan biology means they just… might be biologically immortal.
The trilogy never explicitly addresses Wrex’s age, but we do know that he was around in the aftermath of the Krogan Rebellions. His father, Jerrod, was one of the few warlords who survived this conflict – and the warlords themselves were notably veterans of the Rachni Wars, which spanned 1CE to 300CE (hence Okeer’s advanced age).
Depending on your choices, Wrex is either dead (shame on you!) or the progressive-minded leader of the krogan – guiding his people to their next renaissance alongside Urdnot Bakara.
Come the time of Mass Effect 4, Wrex would be around the same age as Okeer (and therefore could very much be alive and well at this point in the timeline).The epilogue slides in Mass Effect 3 depict a hopeful future for the krogan, assuming Wrex and Bakara are alive and the genophage is cured. Their homeworld is in the process of being rebuilt, and a newborn infant is shown being lovingly tended to by its parents.
But what becomes of Wrex and Bakara in the long-term, and what kind of societal structure the krogan will have all these centuries later, is unknown.
(Perhaps, in Mass Effect 4, we’ll encounter an ‘Urdnot Shepard’ and ‘Urdnot Mordin’ at some point…)
On a similar note, Grunt is a tank-bred krogan who was only ‘born’ in Mass Effect 2, set in 2185 CE.
Engineered to be the perfect krogan, Grunt is only at the very start of his life during the events of the trilogy. There’s no doubt that he’s still knocking around within the timeframe the next game takes place.Grunt has a great contemplative line at the end of Mass Effect 2, after the Suicide Mission. A line that we’ll circle back to a little bit later…
“Something to think about. If you kill the most dangerous thing in the galaxy, that leaves… us.”
Grunt is somebody who is ever seeking greater challenges – titanic battles against the strongest enemies to continually prove himself.
Who might he go on to become in the hundreds of years after the greatest war of all is over?
PROTHY THE PROTHEAN
Shepard can encourage Javik to use the memory shard in his quarters. This contains the collective memories of the Protheans (from the apex of their hegemonic civilisation to their downfall), and reliving those stored experiences will lead Javik to decide that once the Reapers are defeated he will journey to the place where he was forced to put down his own crew… and join them.
However, if Shepard tells Javik to leave the past behind, he will decide to spend his remaining days experiencing the peace that he has fought his entire life to bring the galaxy – even writing a book with Liara.
Regardless of the choice made in this specific moment, there’s a lot of wiggle room for future circumstances to result in Javik changing his mind about ending things.
Furthermore, we can infer that Javik is only a few hundred years old at most, as he tells Shepard that he was born after their Cycle had already begun – long after the Reapers had taken the Citadel.
We don’t know how long the average Prothean lifespan is, but we might infer from the ways they uplifted the asari that it is over a thousand years.
(Hopefully we won’t have to pay extra for him this time!)
THE RACHNI QUEEN (DESERVES BETTER)
The Protheans bred them for war; the Reapers indoctrinated them and caused the Rachni Wars, until the krogan were uplifted to wipe them out.
Fast-forward to the events of Mass Effect and the Binary Helix corporation found an ancient ship carrying eggs in stasis and decided to breed them to create an army…
Suffice it to say, the rachni have had a pretty bad time over the last 50,000 years – and that’s before you’re even given the decision of whether to commit genocide against them or not.
As to what kind of role the rachni could have in the next game, Mass Effect 3 already provides a possible answer.
Speaking with Samantha Traynor after the mission with the Rachni Queen raises a very interesting piece of dialogue.
“You know, my lab studied the Rachni. Long-distance communication with no time lag, the ability to control workers, and – at close range – the queen can even speak through dead or dying members of other species. […] If we can develop instant long-range communication without quantum entanglement… Hmm, maybe when this war is over.”
If the Milky Way and Andromeda stories are to overlap in the next game, with some kind of link being established between these galaxies, our answer to how that happens may well be evidenced from this easily missed bit of dialogue.
A similar allusion is made to the creation of new Mass Relays by Matriarch Aethyta in Mass Effect 2, where she raises the idea that the asari already have the potential capability to do so. This also led to her ‘exile’ to running a bar on Ilium.
“We need to get out daughters working earlier, not spending their wild maiden years stripping or in merc bands. When I started talking about making new Mass Relays ourselves, they laughed the blue off my ass. So now I serve drinks.”
If you’ve seen the snippets of concept art in last year’s BioWare: Stories and Secrets from 25 Years of Game Development, one of them shows a new Mass Relay that has been built by the survivors of the Reaper war.
Some of you may also recall a comment made by lead writer Mac Walters, just a week before the release of Mass Effect 3:
“[The presence of the Rachni] has huge consequences in Mass Effect 3. Even just in the final battle with the Reapers.” [Mac Walters, Entertainment Weekly, ‘Mass Effect 3’: Lead writer Mac Walters talks about ending the galactic videogame saga (28/2/2012)]
It came as a something of a surprise that the allied rachni appeared exclusively in an optional side-quest early in the game.
They net you 100 War Assets if you saved the Queen, and then they’re never seen again…
It’s fair to say that there is some justice yet to be done for the rachni.
HANDSOME JACK HARPER
In Mass Effect 3, we see that the Illusive Man (AKA Jack Harper) has been indoctrinated. He is single-mindedly devoted to the idea of controlling the Reapers in order to secure human dominance in the galaxy, modifying himself with Reaper ‘upgrades.’
One way or another (either by Shepard’s gun or by his own), the Illusive Man dies on the Citadel before Shepard makes their final choice.
Mass Effect: Andromeda strongly implies that the mysterious Benefactor – the one who helped fund the Andromeda Initiative and put Alec Ryder on it as Pathfinder – is the Illusive Man.
Who else would put a disgraced former-Alliance and N7 operative with a proclivity for outlawed artificial intelligence on such an ambitious project?
And that’s not even touching on the potential family connection with Ryder’s second-in-command, Cora Harper.It makes sense, of course, to send humanity to a new frontier not just to survive the Reapers, but to ensure that people like Alec Ryder were given the freedom to advance our species in ways that weren’t possible in the Milky Way.
As he says in Mass Effect 3, Cerberus isn’t just an organisation, it’s an idea. One that will live on beyond him.
Even if the Illusive Man himself isn’t actually alive, we know that the Milky Way and Andromeda stories are going to connect. The influence of this character on the setting will undoubtedly continue to be felt.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some inspiration pulled from what Tales from the Borderlands did with Handsome Jack, keeping one of the best antagonists of the series around just a little bit longer. I certainly wouldn’t say no to more Martin Sheen in Mass Effect…
After all, if there’s anybody who could find some way to cheat death, it’s the man who brought Shepard back.
Firstly, in order to defeat the Reapers, Commander Shepard has literally had to militarise the galaxy (remember that Grunt quote I said we’d get back to?)
And secondly, Commander Shepard reawakened and recruited the Reapers’ creators, who once held the people of the galaxy in their thrall.
The Leviathans saw themselves as an ‘apex race.’ They were capable of enthralling civilisations to serve their needs, and those loyal subjects (read: slaves) were then ‘protected.’
Indeed, we see a Sovereign-class Reaper taken down by the Leviathans just thinking at it for a few seconds.
When they saw that their subject species were creating synthetic constructs to assist them, who would then rebel upon attaining sentience (realising that they, too, were effectively slaves), the Leviathans created an artificial intelligence with a single mandate: preserve life, at all costs.
That intelligence came to the conclusion that the Leviathans were the problem. Through their destruction, the first Reaper – Harbinger – was created.
While they agree to help Shepard fight the Reapers, they have no true allegiance to the “lesser” races they would otherwise seek to enthrall.
Their numbers may have dwindled, but they have endured for millions of years, which makes them a shadow that will loom over this universe for a long time to come.
This definitely won’t be a problem in the future…
What is interesting to note with each of these characters and species is that their outcomes aren’t overly complex. Some of them are fixed, most of them simply have to deal with the binary of whether they’re confirmed dead or not, but they all have quite a bit of wiggle room beyond Shepard’s choices.
Due to the expansive time jump, all of them will go on to exist in a completely new context that is far removed from the trilogy when we knew them as Shepard.
As Bioware appears to be choosing the Destroy ending as the canonical foundation for the Mass Effect universe, it is inevitable that these things will also have to be addressed.
While the next movement of this cosmic odyssey is looking to go well beyond the time of Commander Shepard, their actions over the course of the trilogy ultimately defined the shape of the galaxy.
Regardless of whether Shepard is around or not, we are going to be living in the world forged by the consequences of their actions.
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