The original Mass Effect The trilogy is one of the most memorable RPGs of all time, in large part because of its vast universe and the characters that reside within it. Over the course of three matches, Mass Effect manages to flesh out its universe in subtle and interesting ways, ultimately forming a Milky Way galaxy that’s totally different from its real-world counterpart, but definitely memorable.
With a new Mass Effect game confirmed to be in development, speculation is growing on whether or not players will return to the Milky Way, how far the game will play in the future, and what state the galaxy will be in at that time. After all, the original Mass Effect The trilogy could leave the galaxy in one of four states, depending on the player’s final choice.
A brief timeline of the Milky Way from Mass Effect
As you would expect from a sprawling sci-fi epic like Mass Effect, the world of games has a long and detailed history, its mysterious roots stretching back over a billion years before “the common era” (when the Citadel Council was formed). The “prehistoric era” of the Milky Way galaxy sees a species known as the Leviathans having supremacy over space. The pride of the Leviathans led them to create an extremely intelligent form of AI simply called “Intelligence”, with the goal of harvesting and storing all organic life in the galaxy.
Eventually, Intelligence turned on its Leviathan creators, wiping them out and using their harvested organic matter to create the first Reaper. Intelligence, now in command of a huge armada of Reapers, begins to harvest all intelligent organic matter across the galaxy. Thus begins a cycle of annihilation of civilizations, allowing living beings to rebuild societies from scratch, before harvesting them again once they have reached a suitable level of intelligence. To speed up this process, Intelligence is building mass relays across the galaxy, allowing civilizations to advance their technology faster, meaning harvesting can take place earlier and more often.
Since much of the Mass Effect the chronology is still not explained, there are quite a few loopholes that can span thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. Therefore, the next major event in the Milky Way galaxy occurs almost a billion years later, in the year 68,000 BCE (BCE) when the Protheans established an empire in the scale of the galaxy to fight an unknown synthetic force.
20,000 years later, the Prothean Empire falls, the Reapers once again coming to harvest the galaxy and gradually wiping out every intelligent organic race planet by planet, until the harvest is complete. About 40,000 years later, the Asari alien race stumble upon the mass relays and use their technology to advance theirs, eventually developing space flight technology and using it to reach the Citadel (the original capital of the ‘Prothean Empire).
A few decades later, the Salarians do the same and open peace talks with the Asari. From this union, the Citadel Council is formed, and over the next hundred years, various races from across the galaxy join the Council in one form or another, providing their own unique resources and expertise to jointly develop the galaxy. of the Milky Way.
A species of beehive-minded arachnid known as Rachni uses a dormant mass relay to reach the citadel and begins to wage war across the galaxy. To help defend their worlds, the Council enlists the help of the Krogans, who defeat the Rachni forces and begin to spread throughout the galaxy. However, due to their skill in combat, the Krogans do not trust the Council, so a special task force is formed to keep a watchful eye on the species. The members of this working group are known as Specters.
As the Krogans begin to rise up, the Council turns to the Turians for help in combat. The Turians become the predominant military force of the Council and unleash biological weapons on the Krogans, sterilizing much of the species.
A few thousand years later, humans attempt to revive a dormant mass relay, banned by the Council since the Rachni Wars. The Turians begin a small-scale conflict with the humans and prepare for war, but the Council decides to offer humanity a place on their side.
How the events of the Mass Effect trilogy shaped the galaxy
In just under 30 years, humanity has spread across the galaxy, while maintaining a close connection with the Council. In the year AD 2183, the Eden Prime colony was attacked by the Geth, led by a renegade Turian Specter named Saren. Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy discover a plot to release the Reapers to the Milky Way, but Saren’s plans are thwarted in a battle at the Citadel.
A month later, the Normandy is attacked by a mysterious race of aliens known as The Collectors, and Shepard is killed in the process. Cerberus, a shady and secretive human organization, revives Shepard and tasks them with saving the galaxy from collectors. After a daring suicide mission, Shepard and their crew defeat the Collectors, who were being controlled by Reaper’s forces.
A few months later, at the Alpha Mass Relay, Dr. Kenson and his team of scientists discover that an invasion of Reapers is imminent and decide to destroy the Relay to hijack the Reapers. With Shepard’s help, the Alpha Relay is destroyed and the Reapers’ invasion is presumably delayed.
Barely six months later, the Reapers appear above the Earth and devastate the planet’s surface. Commander Shepard is tasked by the Council to stop the Reapers at all costs. Shepard frantically flies around the Milky Way in an effort to unite all the alien races for one last fight against the Reapers, and discovers an ancient Protheian superweapon called “The Crucible”, which can be used against the Reapers. During the final battle, Shepard is forced to make a choice that forever changes the state of the galaxy.
The first result sees Shepard using the Crucible to wipe out all synthetic life across the galaxy, which would kill all Geth and other artificial life, but presumably stop the Reaper threat. The much less clear second option sees Shepard fusing all organic and synthetic life together, creating hybrid artificial-organic civilizations. The final option sees Shepard following the Illusionary Man’s plan to take control of the Reapers with the Crucible, losing their physical form and becoming a sentient spirit form that now controls the Reapers’ armada.
Based on the little preview seen in the new Mass Effect trailer, it’s still unclear what the canon’s ending is. However, it seems fair to say that regardless of the outcome that turns canon, the Milky Way galaxy will not be the same that players have become accustomed to.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
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