Mass Effect: Andromeda

It’s been so long since I got to enjoy a brand new Mass Effect adventure, but with the release of Andromeda, it has begun! This game takes place in a different part of the universe, far from Commander Shepard and her experiences with the Reapers of the original Mass Effect trilogy.

In Andromeda, you play as Ryder, a young man or woman (totally customizable!) who has just awoken from a 600+ year sleep in cryo. You’re on a colony ship that’s arriving at their destination, a new home on a planet called Habitat 7…

And so, without further adieu, here are the adventures of my Sara Ryder. =)

Part I: No Home Here

Here’s my Ryder. (I kept her name as Sara, the default name, because I have no creativity this week.) She has a background in biotics, which means she can throw enemies in the air and push them backwards and stuff, with mass effect fields.

Sara Ryder 2

I don’t plan to make her a full-on biotic powerhouse — in previous Mass Effect games, I liked the mix of tech skills and biotics in the Sentinel class, which allowed my Shepard to perform cool moves like Warp, Pull, and Override, as well as good old always-super-useful healing of myself and teammates. But Andromeda has skipped the traditional character classes so you’re not locked into any one set of unlockable abilities. You just choose what you start with, and build something  unique from there. That’s why I went with biotics to begin — there are some strong attack moves there, and what’s more fun than hurling energy at an enemy to take them out? (I’ll admit, I considered the Operative training instead, because you get the cloaking ability… but I’m not one for stealth and I’m playing on the Casual difficulty, so I decided to go with something more aggressive.)

My Ryder has a background with the Alliance, and she’s spent time exploring Prothean ruins. I haven’t decided on her personality quite yet. Rather than the old tough-guy Renegade options and good-guy Paragon options of previous games, this installment of Mass Effect features four different tones. It’s a little overwhelming to begin with. Even in Dragon Age 2, I remember having fun choosing between nice-guy, sarcastic, or aggressive options. But here, I’m not sure how the choices correlate to a well-defined personality, so I’m still experimenting. I want to take a break from my traditional aggressive playthroughs, though — a logical girl with a sense of humor would be perfect here.

Sara Ryder 1
Sara Ryder

Anyway, check out that makeup. It really held up over those centuries in cryosleep. The makeup of the future!

After waking up, Sara grabs a cup of coffee and prepares to meet her twin brother, who’s also waking up. Or at least he’s supposed to, but there’s something wrong with his pod. The doctor says not to worry, so Sara goes to find her father on the ship.

There are some politics on this particular colony ship. Captain Dunn is leading the ship, but Sara’s dad Alec is the Pathfinder — meaning his job is, at least in part, leading the people on their new home when they arrive. Meanwhile, Cora is Alec’s second-in-command and shows Sara around the place.

But there’s a problem: Habitat 7 doesn’t look so habitable. The only way to know for sure is to go to ground and inspect it. Though Sara sides with Dunn in saying that it’s her ship, her rules, she follows her dad’s orders to go investigate the planet. Going with her is Liam, an ex-cop her dad recruited. They nearly crash onto the planet — a place with strange energy fields, weird lightning on the ground, and floating rocks-slash-mountains. And then the two are off.

Mass Effect Andromeda
Liam. I’m mildly obsessed with the fact that his armor has a zipper! I want one!

One thing I’m already loving about this game is all the banter between Sara and Liam. They’re constantly chatting as they explore the place. Liam is friendly, although he seems a little too ready for action when they encounter aliens. On the other hand, Sara wants to follow protocol and approach the aliens with her hands up to see if they can communicate rather than shoot each other on sight. But her approach doesn’t work. The aliens start shooting, and both Sara and Liam pull out their firearms to shoot back.

It turns out the aliens have taken quite a few humans from the ship captive. While Sara and Liam save some, one (Kirkland) dies. It may seem like these aliens are being cruel — and they are — but Sara points out that it’s them, the humans, who are the aliens on this world, and she wonders if people back home would act any differently if a bunch of aliens turned up on Earth fully armed. It’s these kinds of thoughts that make me enjoy Mass Effect so much. You might shoot at some aliens, but you also become friends with quite a few. Working together is always preferable to dying from each other’s bullets. But that doesn’t mean diplomacy is always a given.

C7yMP1wVUAAZ6yqNow, the planet they’re exploring isn’t the prettiest, but it’s certainly mysterious. Sara mentions that she enjoys solving mysteries — and that’s her and Liam’s job here. The lightning storms on the ground are one anomaly. So are the floating rocks and giant glowing mushrooms. And the big alien dogs that can turn invisible, but have no cloaking tech — or any tech — on them. There are also caves to explore and alien structures to investigate. Sara uses her scanner to scan everything she can, but a lot of the composition of these things — including the aliens themselves — is unknown. SAM, her AI who can help her detect what everything is, is offline at first, so that’s part of the problem. But this place is still strange.

As for the combat, it feels pretty good. I’ve gotten much more comfortable with shooters since the last time I played a Mass Effect game for the first time, but this one feels different. You can tell that it’s not a shooter first, it’s an RPG. What’s fun now is that there’s a lot more movement. You can dodge a great distance to the side with a single button press, and Ryder has jump-jets that let her leap high into the air and even hover. It makes combat feel more active, if not necessarily as fluid as gameplay in other shooters I’ve played. The thing that’s really driving me nuts is that in cover, Ryder will face to one side or the other, but to switch sides, you have to click the right stick. In other words, it’s very possible for her to duck into cover and be facing the opposite direction of the enemies. I don’t understand why that’s not automated, at least a little, to feel more natural. (Whatever. I’ll get used to it.)

Sara and Liam explore an alien site and discover that the aliens there are studying an ancient civilization that used to live there. Which has robots protecting the sites, too. There’s clearly a lot more to learn about this galaxy. Also, Mass Effect has a complex about ancient alien civilizations with progressive technology, and the exo-archaeologists who study them…

Sara’s dad in N7 amor!

After fighting some of the aliens, Sara takes off to find her dad. He’s got an idea: destroy the tower before them, and it’ll stop the electrical storm plaguing the planet. They swoop in with Liam and Cora to take down the enemies guarding the tower. When Sara gets behind by even a few yards, her dad yells at her to keep up, which is pretty funny.

mass effect andromeda dadPapa Alec (that’s gonna be my name for him from now on) spends a little time unlocking the big old alien door to the tower, while Sara and crew fight off the aliens to keep him safe. Once they’re finally inside, Papa Alec interacts with the alien terminal there — but then he and Sara get blown backwards.

They land hard, and Sara’s helmet is completely shattered, leaving her exposed to the toxic atmosphere. Her dad removes his helmet and places it on her head. Everything goes quiet, and blurry, and then dark…

When Sara comes to, Cora, Liam, and the asari doctor Lexi are standing over her, trying to help her. Eventually she’s back on the ship, safe. When she asks about Papa Alec, their faces say everything. “It was you or him,” Cora says. “He chose you.”

mass effect andromeda dad moment
Sara’s last moment with her dad

That’s pretty heartbreaking. I honestly believe this is a great start to the story — but what’s more, apparently Papa Alec has named Sara his successor as Pathfinder. Her response? “Are you kidding me?” Yeah, she’s not trained, and let’s face it — she looks like she’s about 20 years old. It’s no wonder she doesn’t feel prepared, and I doubt anyone else is going to feel much faith in her until she proves herself in some way. She mentions that Cora, as Alec’s second-in-command, should be the new Pathfinder. But nope, for whatever reason, he chose Sara.

As Sara’s friends leave to give her a couple of hours’ rest, Liam mentions that he checked on Sara’s brother, but his status is the same. He’s in some sort of coma. It was sweet of Liam to check.

Then Sara spends a moment with her AI, SAM. She’s in a private space where she can talk to him, and he’s now a part of her — because she’s the Pathfinder now, she inherited him (I think). She asks him why her dad chose her, and SAM replies that he doesn’t know… but Alec always had a reason. He would want them to make the best of it.

I think I’m going to really like SAM.

After this, a cutscene shows the enemy aliens back on Habitat 7, pulling up a hologram of Papa Alec interacting with the terminal. It’s like they’re trying to learn how he interfaced with it… or something. They are clearly up to no good.

Back on the ship, they approach the NEXUS, a massive structure that Liam comments is almost as big as the Citadel. It looks pretty similar to it, too — just without as many wings. The NEXUS is the hub for all of the various arks that are traveling to this new world. Sara’s on the human one, led by Captain Dunn, but there are others too, with other aliens.

Sara is freaking out. I don’t even control her dialogue when she blurts out, “This has got to be rock bottom. Our world is uninhabitable, we might have just started a war with the first aliens we encountered, and our Pathfinder is dead.”

I guess we have a big job in front of us, if we’re going to find a new home! Can you tell I’m actually really digging this story so far?

Part II: Aboard the Nexus

So exploring the NEXUS is giving me Citadel flashbacks. It’s not quite as big; it’s more like Mass Effect 3‘s Citadel, where you travel between “floors” except that in this case it’s not floors — you don’t use an elevator, you take a tram. (And those tram rides are way faster than ME1‘s elevator rides, by the way.)

But what’s making me love this game so far is that it feels like Mass Effect, because as I run around the NEXUS, there are tons of people to talk to and side quests to pursue. Ones with real characters. It’s much more interesting (so far) than the fetch-style quests that seemed to populate the world of Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is giving me hope that I’ll dig this game a lot more than I did that one, open world and all.

C7yYieOU8AI0PwaSo, apparently the people on the NEXUS have been up and around for an entire year, trying to colonize planets to no avail, dealing with the local aliens who are being called the “kett,” and even handling some internal crises like traitors and uprisings. There are even some missing arks. The humans from the Hyperion Ark are certainly welcome around here, but with some of the arks missing, there’s some investigating to do — not to mention the fact that it will look pretty bad to everybody if the Andromeda Initiative has literally lost tens of thousands of potential colonists.

Addison who has inspired the tired face memes. She literally apologizes in her dialogue for her tired face.

Sara’s first order of business on the NEXUS is to meet the leaders she’ll be working with. First up is Addison, the director of colonial affairs (or something like that). She’s freaking out about the fact that the kett, along with uninhabitable atmospheres, have made colonization efforts futile so far. She also has absolutely no faith in Sara, it seems. She even refuses to call Sara a Pathfinder (didn’t call her dad one either), because to be a Pathfinder, you have to have Pathfound something, is what she says. I don’t want to stoop to calling her a bad name here, because she’s just doing her job, and she signed on for working with the far more experienced Papa Alec. But yeah. She’s gonna be a pain in the ass to work with.


Meanwhile, Kesh is the superintendent of the NEXUS. A female krogan, she is much more fun to talk to. She keeps everything here in working order, and she was also one of the people who helped build the place. It’s pretty cool to see a krogan who’s not a mercenary or warrior, for a change. Also who’s a woman. She and Sara discuss the genophage a little too — a salarian virus that caused the war-mongering krogan to be almost infertile. Only one in 1,000 krogan babies survived. But apparently Kesh’s tribe had a mutation that fought against it, and it’s been growing stronger in the 600+ years of cryo on the trip to Andromeda. The result? The krogan here now have a 4% chance at survival, which is still heartbreaking but way up from what it used to be.

Also interesting is talking to the head of the militia, Kandros. A turian, he’s got that dual-voice thing going on that reminds me just a tad of Garrus Vakarian.

Director Tann

But my favorite new person on the NEXUS is Director Tann, the salarian head of this whole operation. Apparently he didn’t intend to do this job — he used to be an accountant. But after the Andromeda Initiative’s visionary leader died, a series of unfortunate events led to him going from being about the 12th in line to being the one. But what I like about him is that he’s humble. He has a good head on his shoulders. He even has a sense of humor about his position, and he has that sarcasm that can make some salarians so likable. What’s more, he understands Sara’s situation — being thrust into a position she didn’t intend and having to don a heavy mantle, with a lot of people watching her every move as she proves herself. Because he’s in the same boat. He laughs a bit about Addison’s attitude, too. He also seems a little mistrustful of the krogan based on their history, but I’ll reserve judgment there.

After that, it’s time for some good old-fashioned side quests. First, Sara helps engineer Raj figure out who’s sabotaging him, wading through security footage and tracking things with her scanner. Next, she starts looking for evidence about Andromeda’s first murderer, a turian who supposedly killed his best friend — though he claims he didn’t do it.

Private time with SAM.

Sara also goes to the SAM Node to speak to her AI in private. This room is where SAM is based, but now that Sara is Pathfinder, he’s also a part of her and will have eyes wherever she goes. He can interact with her physiology to give her physical boosts depending on what situations she’s facing, via Profiles she can unlock. These are very similar to the previous games’ classes, so I can’t wait to invest some skill points in tech and biotics to unlock the Sentinel profile! For now, I have the Adept one.

SAM also shares some information about Sara’s father with her. Sara goes to his private quarters and looks around, reminiscing about the coffee maker her mom got her dad, checking out his first Alliance sidearm, and listening to some audiofiles from an archaeologist he was in touch with about Protheans — Liara T’Soni! Apparently he even invited Liara to join him in the Andromeda Initiative, but she couldn’t leave the Milky Way. (Probably feeling committed to Shepard and her cause! Awww.)

But what’s most interesting is learning about how controversial and AI like SAM was. After all, AI could be dangerous. After the quarian race made the geth machines back home, the geth tried to destroy the quarians and took their homeworld from them, leading the Citadel Council to outlaw AI. SAM broke the rules, but Papa Alec insisted that humans had no such laws.

Apparently Alec has some secrets, too. He admits this in an audiofile, but Sara still has to discover what that’s all about. What she does know is that he thought SAM could somehow help save Sara’s mom when she was diagnosed as terminally ill…

C7yUr41VYAAaOTdI’m really eager to find out more about Sara’s past. So far, I’m enjoying playing as her more than I thought. She feels more like “me” than Commander Shepard did, and I’m playing her with a mix of Logical and Casual/Humorous dialogue choices. It’s giving her a personality that feels much more natural to me than my typical badass Renegades, as much as I love them.

I believe Andromeda has just done a fantastic job with creating these varied “tones” for Ryder, so you can really personalize your character in a way that is much less black-and-white and more about their temperament. I’m hoping my Sara is someone with a good head on her shoulders and a sense of humor about things, to inspire loyalty with good decisions rather than a forceful attitude.

Part III: Landfall on Eos

After heading to the deck of her new ship, the Tempest (which I have not yet explored at all), Sara leads her new crew to a planet called Eos. The challenge is to make it habitable. There have already been some people down there checking it out, but apparently the kett just wouldn’t give up, leaving that first colonization attempt a bust. What they need is a Pathfinder!

Kallo and Sara

Also aboard the Tempest are new crewmates Kallo Jath, a fast-talking salarian pilot who sounds like he’s had too much caffeine, and Suvi, a human scientist who — I’m gonna be honest — is super hot. Sara and crew also meet a turian woman named Vetra Nyx who is part of the squad, although I’m not sure exactly what her role is yet. What I do know is that she knows how to get things done, even when that means a little old-fashioned bribery. (Nothing bad or illegal, don’t worry — she just told a guy she’d make sure to get his kid, who’s still in cryo, some of his favorite cereal if the guy would give them a break.)

Landing on Eos, there are a few things that Sara, Liam, and Cora need to accomplish. For one thing, there’s some radiation on this desert-like world making the place pretty unfriendly. There also seem to be pockets of kett that won’t let colonists settle down here just like that.

eos.jpgSara gets together a Nomad — this game’s version of the Mako — which seems to impress Liam quite a bit. (So far I love that he’s such a typical guy: beer, parties, and cool cars will all make his day.) Then she and her landing crew set off to figure out how they can fix this radiation poisoning the planet, by investigating a huge alien monolith. There’s an alien console there that Sara tries to interact with — until she’s tackled by an asari woman who goes by the name Peebee.


Ohhhh, Peebee. I’m going to be honest. In trailers for Mass Effect: Andromeda, I thought she was extremely annoying. And she does not make a good first impression. I don’t know why she feels the need to not only tackle Ryder to the ground, but then sit there straddling her, until I personally accepted the in-game prompt to push her off of Sara.

But actually, after spending a few minutes chatting with her, she started to win me over. She’s a nerd for all of these alien artifacts, in a similar way to Liara in previous games but with a completely different personality. Where Liara was shy and modest, Peebee is mysterious and quirky. And since I’m making my Sara a little bit of a nerd too, Peebee takes a liking to her right away; they may end up being friends with the same interests, in the end. We’ll see.

first murderer caseAnother loose end Sara ties up on Eos is with Nilken, the turian man who was accused of murdering his friend. His wife claims he didn’t do it, but eye witnesses say he was near the murdered man at the time — there are even audio recordings that sound like there was some kind of shit going down in that moment, though exactly what happened is unclear. However, in tracking down pieces of the murdered man’s armor, it becomes apparent that he was killed from behind by a kett — but Nilken, who was standing in front of him, also took a shot at him that missed. Back on the Nexus, Sara confronts him. It turns out he thought he had shot his friend — he wanted to do it — so Sara has to take this information to Director Tann. Tann is on the fence. He wants Sara’s opinion, since she has taken this investigation on. Sara says that because he thought he did it, he should be exiled rather than given reprieve. Tann agrees. It’s not even a question for me. It’s not a hard choice at all. So that’s that.

Back on Eos…

Although I’m sure Eos is a massive planet, the part I actually need to explore is pretty tidy. I appreciate that, for now.

meeting drack

Sara and crew meet up with Drack, a krogan who is happy fighting the local aliens on his own. But when Sara and her human teammates give him a hand in combat, he admits they’re cool and decides it would be fun to roll with them. He’s actually the granddad to Kesh back on the Nexus, which is cool.

remnant vault on eos
Inside the Vault

Meanwhile, Peebee is quickly becoming a favorite character. She’s been investigating these parts too, coming up against the local aliens (the kett) as well as old, hostile machines that seem to be guarding the mysterious monoliths here. (Maybe the monoliths are to blame for the radiation here?) With Peebee’s help and guidance, we dive into the alien structure to see what’s going on. Peebee calls the ancient aliens who built these monoliths the Remnants, so she’s on the lookout for “rem-tech,” as she calls it. The Remnant vault is huge, and after lots of fighting machines inside, we discover what we believe is its true purpose: it’s a terraforming station.

eos outpost
First Outpost!

After some fixes, the skies on Eos clear enough for Ryder to establish an Outpost. This is a big deal — it’s a place where colonists can come to begin their efforts at making Eos home! There’s still kett to fight, a former colonial site to investigate, and mining spots to find, but overall this is a very good start to life in the Andromeda galaxy.

In other exciting news, Addison at least acknowledges that Sara did something right in finally getting an Outpost down on Eos. Now Addison has some sort of colonial affairs to manage… which is her job and all.

I’d romance him if I could

I also meet her second, a young guy named Vladimir who is hilarious. He informs Sara she can start waking up colonists now that she’s made Eos more habitable, and these colonists can help her with… stuff. That sounds great. But between his Russian accent and his strange metaphors (like, “You cannot deploy omelet without deploying eggs”) make him so funny. I’d romance him if I could, believe me.

Crew Talk

Back on the Tempest, Sara takes time to chat with her growing crew…

Kallo: The salarian pilot, he misses other salarians since the salarian ark is missing.

Suvi: She’s not only a science nerd but super religious. All of the amazing things she discovers in science just deepen her belief in a higher power. Although my Sara isn’t religious, she nods along and says she appreciates Suvi’s point of view. She likes diversity on her team, and she’s equally awed by science to the point of feeling a certain spirituality, at least. In an e-mail later and even in another conversation, Suvi tells Sara how much she appreciates Sara’s understanding. She usually has to defend herself. I also overhear her talking to herself, so she seems like she’ll be a lot of fun in a nerdy sort of way.

drinnks with liamLiam: Sara shares a beer with Liam. He’s been wanting to do that for ages. He talks about how he was a cop who became a first responder, because that specialization just spoke to him more. So he’s a good guy who likes saving lives, and even appreciates working with aliens. That’s pretty cool. Now, I don’t know who I’m going to romance in Andromeda yet, but considering how awesome Liam was being… I chose a flirt option with him. When he asks Sara why she came all this way to Andromeda, she says, “Company like this.” He reacts weirdly: “You don’t even know me yet…” so yeah, Sara Ryder is awkward at flirting. Did I mention how much I love her and relate to her?! Flirting aside, I don’t think I’m going to romance Liam. He’s already friend-zoned, and I blame the beers for trying to bring him onto the field.

Peebee: I love Peebee so far. She set herself up in an escape pod, not wanting it to be too homey. She says she came here to Andromeda with a romantic partner, who has since left her after growing bored with her. I find that hard to believe. Peebee is super interesting, the sort of active nerd who doesn’t just study “rem-tech” but actually enjoys her time in the field trying to find it. I think she and Sara are kindred spirits in that sense. Still, she doesn’t like to talk very much about her past and dodges any questions about what she’s doing studying the Remnant. She has a secret project going…

Cora: She’s a biotic who was so good, she took up with the asari commandos. That’s pretty cool. Otherwise, she’s hard to figure out — but she’s growing on me. Since she was Alec Ryder’s second-in-command, she’s a little surprised that he didn’t make her his successor. I don’t think she’s truly jealous of Sara, though — just unsure of how to proceed. She wants to know why he made that decision. But she seems like a team player who is ready to look ahead and help Sara in any way she can, which is big of her. I like her for that. In another conversation later, she talks about how her asari commando mentor basically kicked her out and told her to join the Initiative. She felt rejected, but after meeting Alec Ryder, she felt she could have a place here with the Initiative. She says she has never felt like she belongs anywhere. She also grew up in space, apparently — but she loves the idea of having a garden, and she tends to plants in her quarters. I’m really excited to get to know her better, actually. (She reminds me of me in real life, a little. Others may think she’s uptight, but she’s actually a romantic!)

Drack: He’s a warrior at heart, and he admits that his priority will always be establishing a home for the krogan. I like that he is so fiercely supportive of his people. Since Kesh is his granddaughter, he also wants to visit her. (I later see him at her office, just hanging out.)

Vetra: A turian woman, she’s not just a jack-of-all-trades, she’s like a master at everything. She can get us guns off the black market. She can sweet-talk us out of bad situations. She also knows how to handle herself in a firefight. I can’t wait to get to know her more and see what she can do out in the field! When I come across her on the Nexus later, she’s watching people around the Tempest. Sara tells her to relax, but she seems to like staying on top of things.

Sara also meets a few other crew members on the Tempest who should be fun to get to know, like Gil and her doctor Lexi. I’m especially intrigued by Lexi, who specializes in alien anatomy and wants a dead kett to study. I like how she’s weird that way.

Some fun side quests on the Nexus so far: Besides the case of the first murderer, I’ve enjoyed tracking hackers. One of them even went after Sara’s AI SAM! And it’s interesting to explore Alec Ryder’s personal quarters to get to know him — and through that, Sara’s family — a little better.

I’ve also had a blast reading the crew’s e-mails to each other. Cora is definitely the mother hen of the group — she set up everyone’s e-mail accounts and then took things from there. Peebee’s eccentricities make her a bit of a trouble-maker. Drack sent Sara pictures of guns to cheer her up about her dad dying. Liam keeps talking about beer. Lexi sent Sara some yoga poses (that I totally want to try in real life now) to complement her combat training. The list could go on… but you get the picture. This is an awesome group.

Part IV: Meeting the Angara


The crew of the Tempest head to a new planet called Aya, where an alien race known as the angara reside. What Sara really wants (and probably Peebee too) is to get into a vault there to continue research on ancient terraforming in the galaxy. But first, they need to win the angaras’ trust, as they can’t get into the vault without the approval of their leader, the Moshae. The trouble is that the Moshae is missing.

Sara meets Jaal, a pretty important member of the angaran resistance fighting the kett. They’re fighting the kett because apparently the kett have been abducting them, and they don’t know why. Since the angara need to find out if Sara is trustworthy… Jaal gets to play babysitter.

Jaal is definitely one of the most interesting characters in the game so far, so I can see why he’s such a popular romance option. Apparently the angara are unable to hide their emotions. Even so, he seems formal at first glance, just surprisingly upfront about things at times. He also has a great voice.

Already he and Sara have a special rapport they are building up. For instance, at one point Jaal says he has no interest in biology. To prove his point, he challenges Sara, “How does your eyeball work?” Being a nerd, she has a thorough answer to exactly how an eyeball works. Jaal’s response: “Of course you would use that question to show off.” Later, Jaal admits that Sara is very strange, but in a good way. =)

Part V: With the Resistance

voeld nomad
The Nomad approaching a kett base on Voeld

So they head to the planet Voeld, where they travel around in the Nomad, exploring the icy planet here, meeting with the Resistance, freeing angara from imprisonment in kett camps, and eventually infiltrating an important kett base of operations.

One of my favorite things about traveling around by Nomad so far is listening to the conversations between my companions. Since I can take two people with me at any time, I switch up the pairing once in a while to hear new convos. So far, I’ve been rolling mostly with Jaal (since these are angaran missions we’re on), Cora, and Vetra. It’s funny to hear how surprised Jaal is that Cora and Liam are only children, since he has a ton of siblings. I also enjoy hearing everybody talk “shop” about warfare.

Rescuing the Moshae

finding the moshaeFinally, it’s time to find the Moshae. With an angaran team acting as a distraction, Sara, Jaal, and Vetra head deeper into the compound where the Moshae is being held captive by the kett. The thing is, when they find the prisoners, they seem completely fine with their current state. They’re like zombies following the kett.

Eventually, the team finds several pods where the angara are being held captive, but it’s like they are being brainwashed, too. When their trail leads them to the Moshae, she’s in some sort of ceremony but is also being tortured. Anyway, that’s what the kett call this strange brainwashing: exaltation. The angara who have already been exalted think it’s a good thing, that they have achieved something other angara haven’t. Apparently the kett gain some genetic material from these exalted in the process. It’s similar — but way more messed up — than how the asari mate with other species for their genetics.

moshae exaltation

The Moshae wants to destroy the facility. She wants all of this evil wiped out. Meanwhile, Jaal wants to save all the angara he can from the facility, and the leader is willing to part with those who haven’t been turned yet. It’s up to Sara to decide, and she sides with Jaal. There are valuable people here, and she doesn’t want to kill them in blowing up the place. After all, they can always come back later to finish the job.

Back on the Tempest, the Moshae is grateful to be rescued, but she’s fierce. She does not appreciate the fact that Sara didn’t listen to her wisdom and blow up the base. After all, she is the angaran leader, she went through all of that with the kett… whereas Sara is a newcomer as the Pathfinder.

Newcomers, Concerned Citizens, and Making Sara a Nerd…

So she’s reserving judgment of Sara and her crew — but Sara wants the two races to get to know each other. The angara, obviously thankful to Sara for finding their leader, offer her a place on Aya. In return, Sara offers them space on the Nexus.

There’s a cool moment aboard the Nexus when a “concerned citizen” tells Sara she doesn’t trust these angaran newcomers, and Sara admits that yeah, they are still an unknown, but they have to open up to them if they want to get anywhere. The other option was to press the woman that the angara deserve trust, but being more realistic about it — we still need to get to know them, and they still need to get to know us, because trust goes both ways — actually made the citizen more understanding of the situation. It’s little moments like that I totally live for in Mass Effect games. Seeing the ripples from what your protagonist is doing, talking to others about it, hearing different opinions… it adds so much depth to the story.

In other news, Sara has a pet pyjak! He climbs around the Tempest making funny noises, which is how I locate him when I want to talk to him.

Sara also meets with a reporter on the Nexus, who seems to want to pen a controversial piece on Director Tann and the Initiative. But Sara is super cool about Tann, and she’s all about being positive and working together. So yeah… not my typical Renegade hero.

I also love how I can make Sara a nerd. I have never had that happen before in a Mass Effect game, but it’s an extra tier to the characterization. During one interview question about how Sara prepares between missions, she says, “I study. Or stargaze.” She also talks to researchers on the Nexus and offers to help them when she’s out in the field. Scientists seem to embrace her as a kindred spirit. Peebee has said they are two of a kind for their love of discovering Remnant technology and uncovering ancient secrets. Ryder is a daydreamer in this way, and I am having such a blast emphasizing that side of her.

Since Sara brings scientific researchers out of cryo first — she can bring back one group at a time as she increases the galaxy’s overall viability for life — a group of protesters with military families in cryo confront Sara about her choice. They want their relatives awakened too. (This is another great example of the ripple effect!) Sara chooses to talk them through the situation, and they eventually appreciate that she had to make a tough call with good intentions. But it’s a pretty hostile environment for a little while there, and Sara has the option to make things get even uglier if she just wants to squash the rebellion. That’s not her style, though. Communication is everything.

Part VI: Rescuing the Other Arks (Pt. 1)

When Cora gets a clue about the whereabouts of the missing asari ark, Sara takes her and Peebee back to that iceberg of a planet Voeld to search for it. It’s interesting to listen to Cora and Peebee banter. Or argue, more like. Cora cares deeply for the asari, having trained and worked alongside the asari commandos for so long, even though she’s human. Meanwhile, Peebee has a shrugging attitude about saving the asari. This pisses of Cora, who accuses her of not caring. Peebee replies, “You care. You do it. That way I don’t have to.” So yeah.

We don’t find the asari ark itself, but we unlock new clues and will continue our search.

We next head to Havarl, the former angaran homeworld, a jungle planet where Sara rescues scientists and then discovers turians on the planet. She meets up with a turian, Avitus Rix, who is one of the coolest guys I’ve met in the game so far. He says he escaped after the turian ark crashed, but he doesn’t know where it is. He and Sara agree to split up to cover more ground in searching for it. However, I don’t spend a lot of time on Havarl — at least not yet…

Vault on Aya

Aya vault
The Moshae totally likes me now

Instead, Sara accompanies the Moshae to the vault on Aya. It seems this is the hub for the terraforming efforts around the galaxy. Not a lot of information is unlocked yet, but it’s intriguing nonetheless. Also, I’m happy to report that the Moshae likes Sara better now. I think.

Part VII: Trouble on Kadara

Now it’s time to devote time to Kadara, a chaotic planet of rebels and outcasts. It has become home to exiles from the Nexus — people who have left the Initiative to start a new life for themselves away from Director Tann’s authority. Many of the exiles are from a rebellion that happened aboard the Nexus, during a tumultuous time before Sara was ever awakened. The leader of this revolt was the chief of Nexus security, a human woman named Sloane Kelly.

Kadara port
Kadara’s port

Now, Kadara is home to a port where people seem to spend most of their time drinking, engaging in illegal trades, and murdering each other. The presence of rival factions there and the high incidence of crime reminds me of Omega from the Mass Effect trilogy.

Our first order of business here is to track down the traitor who turned in the Moshae to the kett. He’s imprisoned here. Since the port is under Sloane Kelly’s authority, Sara approaches Sloane to see if she can get permission to see the prisoner — but Sloane (who by the way is a total badass) refuses Sara. Let’s just say they don’t see eye to eye on things.

I also didn’t romance him because sometimes his lips look like that.

Fortunately, Sara meets up with a new contact named Reyes Vidal who can help her. When I first meet him, a part of me wants Sara to romance him. He’s flirtatious and has an accent that reminds me of Zevran’s in Dragon Age: Origins — so, you know, hot. But Sara’s first meeting with him is in a bar, which is a great place to exchange quips. It makes sense they get along then. However, Sara later meets him in a private room he’s been in with an asari dancer; as the dancer leaves, Reyes calls after her to leave the bottle. Seeing the somewhat sad state of affairs turns Sara off, and she proceeds to ignore the many flirt options that pop up for the rest of their time together. (There’s a lot, guys. This game really wants you to hit on Reyes.)

Anyway, Reyes helps Sara sneak into the prison to speak to the traitor. He says he did it for the greater good, thinking if he gave the kett the Moshae, they would stop kidnapping other angara. So yeah, a little naive on his part, but I get it. I guess.

Sara helps Reyes with some other missions after that. Like how there are murderers everywhere, and kett in the badlands, and people stealing stuff and… stuff. I honestly do so much on Kadara that I start getting the missions mixed up. At one point, though, Sara helps Reyes track down his ex, a badass woman named Zia, who has stolen some precious cargo from Reyes in retaliation for him dumping her. Something like that.

In other news, Sara spends some time with Peebee, Vetra, Jaal, and Drack, exploring Kadara and completing a whole string of side quests. Let’s just say there’s a lot of stealing and set-ups on this planet. It’s a mess of this place, but really beautiful with giant, bright coral-like plants. In my Mass Effect: Andromeda art book, it says this is supposed to imply that Kadara may once have been underwater.

Hearing Drack and Peebee together is a lot of fun. My fellow blogger Tyler at Super Realities recommend putting them together, and I’m so glad I did. They’re both from species that live for hundreds of years, but they’re on opposite ends of their life spectrums. Peebee is just 100, which for asari is young. Meanwhile, Drack has lived for a millenium and treats Peebee like a pibsqueak, which is hilarious.

Kadara monolith
A monolith on Kadara

Anyway, we activate the monoliths on this planet and then dive into the vault to get it going. I get a little lost in these parts, because one of the monoliths is really tricky to enter — there’s a hidden cave a little ways away from it that I have to track down, but it required me to look it up online. (Sad, I know. I caved! haha) The vault is also a bit of a maze, which requires a couple of sit-downs to get through because I get so frustrated at one point. Ohhhh, Kadara.

Another fun thing to do back at Kadara’s port is track down my Tempest friends. Peebee is on a balcony overlooking the port, acting nervous and talking to random people even though nobody is around. She doesn’t want to make any enemies while she’s here. Cora is hanging out near the Tempest but says she’s actually protecting the Nomad; apparently, in true Kadaran fashion, people keep trying to steal it. Drack is drinking at a bar, totally at ease and ready to have some fun. Just a few meters away, Jaal is standing awkwardly near the bar, complaining that this is basically his personal hell. I love how uncomfortable he is in a place like this, although, you know, I feel for him too. And Liam kind of just wants to get out of here. This is a dodgy place, after all.

One of the latest Kadara side quests Sara completes is a total mess. She meets up with Dr. Nakamoto, who claims his partner stole a medicine formula to sell as a drug called Oblivion. Apparently it has healing properties but, in large doses, causes hallucinations. Sara sets off to find this partner, but when she meets up with her, the partner says it’s Nakamoto who wants to sell the drug to Sloane; she’s trying to keep it out of his hands. And guess what? Sara believes her. When she returns to Nakamoto, the young doctor tells her she’s been duped. Which she has. I guess I should have thought more about it, or looked for clues in the old lab to see who to trust. But I went with my gut, and now the Kadara drug trade is flowing freely. Sorry, Dr. Nakamoto. I don’t believe in reloading saves.

Crew Talk

So I’ve been spending more time with my fellow Tempest crew members. Here are some findings:

Vetra: She is really hard to get to know, but that’s because after her parents died, she raised her little sister. This forced her to grow up fast. She took odd jobs doing the dangerous work others didn’t want to do, because she had to make money to support herself and her sister. The two of them are obviously really close. They’ve also lived all over the place, so it’s not like Vetra has ever felt too attached to a “home” before. She says she hasn’t had time for any relationships in the past, and she doesn’t seem too interested in them now, either. I don’t mind that she’s hard to get to know, though. You can see her character very clearly: She works hard, she fiercely supports those she cares about, and she gets the job done. Whether that means killing bad guys or dealing in the black market, she can accomplish anything. Which is pretty cool.

Cora: Having been an asari commando for so long, Cora feels almost like an asari character — but she’s human. I think that’s so awesome. Personally, I’ve traveled in my life and met people from different places, and I love the feeling of belonging you can find with people who might not be the same race as you or have the same background. Cora is totally like that. She’s an odd fish, for sure — but she loves the asari. She is intent on finding their ark, wherever it may be.

Peebee: She has an attitude, craves adventure, and seems infinitely curious about everything she comes across. I love that enthusiasm she has. Nothing is faked. I can see where some might find her flaky or shallow, but she’s very intelligent. Even wily. She has a secret project that she eventually shows Sara — she’s been building/hacking a Remnant! — and clearly has a lot of passions she likes to keep under wraps. It’s like she’s in her own little bubble of nerdy excitement.

Drack: Drack has lived for 1,000 years and doesn’t necessarily have many left. He even admits he’s surprised that, as a krogan warrior, he’s survived this long. He tells Peebee at one point that she should enjoy everything in life, that’s what’s important. (Not that Peebee needs that lesson!) He clearly cares about his granddaughter Kesh, and he has a lot of war stories — but you can tell he’s also just in this mission because he wants something to believe in, a last hurrah, for however long he has left.

Reyes: I told you already that I almost romanced Reyes. He is the hottest guy in the game, for sure, and he has a sexy accent to boot. As a smuggler on the lawless planet of Kadara, he’s pretty badass — but that’s also why I shrugged him off in the end. He’s a cool “dangerous” guy but seems a little flakey. I’m going to pass on the romance and leave him to his asari strippers. Still, he’s a badass who is really easy to joke around with. As friends, he and Sara have a great chemistry that revolves mainly around who owes whom a drink. (Somehow Sara always ends up paying.) I’m excited to keep working with him on Kadara.

Jaal: Oh, Jaal. He sounds formal with his deep voice, and he looks intimidating with his bulky, muscular build and large… I don’t know, mane? But as an angaran, he can’t hide his emotions and he’s crazy about his family. I love that about him. At one point, he even tells Sara about his one former lover — after Sara pesters him about it, of course — in such a wistful way, it made me fall for him even more. I love that despite that initial rigidity, he’s able to be sarcastic with Sara while also staying on target during any mission. He’s a lot like Sara, in that sense — just seems much more mature and pulled together, while Sara flounders like a fish out of water now that she most definitely has a crush on him.

Gil: If I ever play a dude in Andromeda, I’d like to romance Gil. He is the coolest guy on the Tempest. Always talking about he he stayed up late tinkering with his projects — he’s the engineer and Nomad specialist aboard the ship — he’s also an ace at poker and admits that he just likes to have a good time. He doesn’t always think before he acts. He shares that enthusiastic passion for his work that Peebee does. But he feels less hyper than Peebee, more laidback. He talks a lot about his best friend, a fertility specialist, and has the hilarious epiphany that everybody here in Andromeda is just supposed to make babies to keep their species going. Not that he’s thought about that for himself. He’s just such a typical guy, easy to talk to, super smart about what he is good at but also a little clueless about the rest of things. I’ve been having a lot of fun getting to know him, and I consider him one of my Ryder’s best friends. (If only I could take him out on missions…)

Gil poetry
Gil’s poetry

Suvi: Suvi is hilarious. She wants so much to do “science” in this galaxy. To the point of wanting to not just lick things to test them out, like researchers did in the old days, but also actually eat them. After all, she says if they’re going to live here, they’d better start eating whatever things grow here. She also works hard to be “social” and wants to put together treats for the crew’s movie night (which Liam suggested). I don’t know. I love that she’s nerdy, and rather than being outright shy or uptight, she’s just plain wacky about things. Luna Lovegood could be her cousin.

Part VIII: Side Questing

There are some interesting things to investigate in this new galaxy. One story is that someone woke up a relative from cryo before they should have — and it turns out this person who was woken up has a very deadly and contagious disease.

andromeda debris
Even this debris is pretty…

Sara and crew set off on a chase across the galaxy map, following the radiation trail left by her stolen shuttle. It’s pretty cool to spend some time with the galaxy map, as traveling from one point on the map to another reveals more beautiful space scenery. I could spend a day just taking screenshots of the galaxy.

We trace the shuttle back to Kadara, where more quests await us. The contagious person tried to blow themselves up so they wouldn’t infect anyone else, which is such a courageous and selfless act — except someone picked her up before she could do it. We eventually track her down — she’s being kidnapped by another dude — and a shoot-out ensues that leaves both her and the guy kidnapping her dead. But she wanted peace, and not to infect anyone else. She got that.

In another nearby quest, we discover that someone tampered with a water filtration system, killing everyone there. (Kadara’s water is a mess, by the way.) It turns out the settlers from the arks asked the angara for help with the water, because the angara are the only ones who know how to filter it — but the angara didn’t help. This led the settlers to not only steal the angaran design for the water filtration — which would be justified, since they need water to survive — but also poison the angara who cast them away. That’s just wrong. The whole situation is pretty messed up, but Sara won’t let the turian who poisoned the angara get away with that. This leads to a big old shoot-out.

A little later, Reyes calls Sara and invites her to a party at Sloane’s on Kadara. Yep, Sloane throws parties. I mean, when Sara gets there, Sloane is just sitting on her chair (which I think she thinks is a throne) not really talking to anybody. When Sara approaches her for a chat — Sara is so friendly, right? — Sloane says something like, “I should talk to the guards about who they let into these parties.” So yeah, not so friendly. But I think Sloane and Sara have a begrudging respect for each other, which is something.

The thing is, Reyes just disappears from the party for a long spell. Sara mingles, but after awhile she leaves the party to go track down Reyes. Who’s always doing business. Who’s always a little bit suspicious. And where does she find him but in a back room where Sloane keeps her private stash of supplies… stealing them. He’s especially keen to steal a bottle of whiskey which, given how long everybody’s been in stasis to get to this galaxy, is now over 600 years old.

What’s weird here is that at one point, one of Sloane’s guards comes sniffing around. Reyes says to make a distraction, and I get an onscreen prompt to punch Reyes — which I don’t take. After the moment passes, Reyes says, “Hide!” and they duck behind some crates together. No big deal. But what I think is if you and Reyes are just friends, you get to punch him then if you want… whereas I bet if you are romancing him, you get to kiss him. And I have to admit, a part of me wanted to kiss that stupid bastard then. Maybe with another character, in another playthrough…

drinking with reyesAfter that, the two pals go sit on top of a building overlooking Kadara’s port, enjoying the sunset and the whiskey as they have their first truly deep conversation. When Sara asks Reyes why he came here, he says he wanted to be somebody. That’s all. I guess I get that, and Sara admits she’s surprised at the honest answer. I love the chemistry these two have, even as friends. I think Sara’s pragmatism and sarcasm make her a great match for him, however their relationship pans out.

As for Kadara itself… There’s so much to do on this planet, and I’ve spent more time here (so far) than anywhere else — so despite the planet being pretty rough around the edges and home to people who don’t quite have their shit together, I’m starting to feel attached to Kadara. Despite what a mess it can be, there’s no pretending it’s not beautiful.

♥ Kadara ♥

In other news, Sara is becoming really tight with Peebee, who invites her to her escape pod/bedroom where they can turn off the artificial gravity and just float together. I guess it’s Peebee’s way of relaxing. It looks really fun. But in the middle of their floating session, Peebee comes out and asks Sara if she wants to do something else to relax… no strings attached. A part of me wants to say yes, because I really like Peebee and hey, she says she’ll be discreet. It’s not like Jaal is making a move quiet yet, so I’m not tied down yet. But I don’t think it’s Sara’s personality to do that. She’s a little more reserved with her feelings — maybe it’s family issues given that her mom died, her dad was distant and just died, and her brother’s in a coma — so a casual thing isn’t quite her style. (I kind of love the idea of another playthrough where she says yes and romances Reyes, though….) When Sara says no thanks, Peebee is cool about it. Later, she even sends Sara an e-mail saying how nice their floating session was, and how she feels like she can open up to Sara. Not that she wants to over-analyze it. She gets all weird when she starts getting mushy towards someone, which is so funny.

peebee evaluationAnyway, I spend some time exploring Aya, checking out the museum, hanging with Drack and Liam at the bar, learning about how to be a good citizen among the angara, and even acquiring some seeds from an angaran for a turian who wants to plant them on Eos. I also chat with the Moshae, who is so awesome. I honestly didn’t expect that. She is funny and humble, and she obviously cares for Jaal. I love that we can have a real, honest conversation now — it’s like Sara has truly earned her trust. That’s important to me, since Sara cares about Jaal and would never want to alienate the people he loves.

Back on the Nexus, Sara also takes time to talk to her brother. SAM is able to link to him so that they can have a conversation, even though Scott is completely incapacitated still. (Coma talk! It’s magic! I mean, science!) Sara tells the truth to Scott that their dad has died, but she also leaves him with some hope, saying they have found home rather than confessing this galaxy is a mess. It’s a brief chat but an important one. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Scott, and whether he’ll play a pivotal role in this story at some point…

nomad on eos
We will conquer you, Eos!

Next, we head to Eos to wrap up some missions there. It’s my first 100% viability on a planet! We have to take out a lot more kett, but everything goes well and the planet is now totally habitable.

my rem-bot
My pretty little Rem-bot

The fun thing here is that I have a new combat ability: thanks to Peebee’s rem-tech savvy, I can now deploy a Remnant drone to fight for me. It’s so useful. Sometimes I’ll be going in for a kill, and it beats me to it. And I’m not complaining at all about that. Plus, it’s kinda cute up there.

I have a lot of priority missions coming up — new planets to explore, character quests to complete with the crew, arks to track down, and clues to follow…

— Ashley