Feature Part 2 – Let’s Talk: Mass Effect 4

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Part 1    –    Part 2    –    Part 3    –    Part 4

Yesterday I started exploring the possibilities for the Mass Effect 4 storyline, starting with considerations for a prequel based on character. If you haven’t read it already, you can do so using the links above! In the second part out of four in the feature, I will explore the next part of my considerations for a prequel, which focus more on the events that could be used from the extensive lore and backstory the ME universe has to offer.

What/When

There are several defining moments in the history of the Mass Effect universe that sometimes get brushed over in dialogue or mentioned in the codex for interested parties. Most of them are wars fought by factions before the entrance of the Human Alliance, which may explain why they get left in the dark a little bit. However, there is still enough information there for me to pick them out as possibilities for potential prequels, and that’s a start. It should also be noted that each and every one of these events has massive multiplayer potential, either a horde style scenario similar to ME3 or even competitive online multiplayer with some of them.

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Skyllian Blitz (2176 CE)

“He proved himself during the Blitz. Held off enemy force on the ground until reinforcements arrived.”

“He’s the only reason Elysium is still standing.”

Let’s be honest, not many people learn to ride a bike without stabilisers. Perhaps jumping straight into humanless areas of history in the ME universe is a bit premature. So with that in mind, let’s look at the Skyllian Blitz.

First up, some context on the conflict. The Skyllian Blitz was an assault on the human colony of Elysium in the Skyllian Verge by pirates, slavers and Batarian warlords in 2176. Partly a Batarian counter against human expansion in the Verge, a War Hero background Shepard took part in the defence of the colony alongside fellow colonists and Alliance soldiers, and was the main reason for Spectre selection.

Why the blitz, which seems so small scale compared to the other conflicts that I go on to list here? You can include human Alliance soldiers for players to use against Batarians, rather than jumping back over 2000 years to the dark ages of just those pesky aliens. You can also name-drop or even feature Shepard (depending on your choices for your character setup in ME1) if devs are feeling a little uncomfortable leaving their flagship hero/heroine behind. Personally, it wouldn’t be my first choice (or anywhere near it for that matter) but it’s a possibility in the fact that it provides a level of safety you might not find in many other places. It’s easy to tie back in, and may not feel like as much of a shameless spin-off.

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The First Contact War (2157 CE)

“So there we were. About to face an enemy as different and unknown as you can imagine. I knew I had to say something to keep the men relaxed. So I turned to the soldier beside me, Hendricks I think, and asked him how his mother was doing. ‘Fine’, he said, ‘why?’ ‘Cause I heard your momma’s so ugly the marines thought she was a Turian… almost shot her.’ That got a few smiles. Then Hendricks turned to me and said, ‘Hell Anderson, I heard it was a picture of your momma that started this goddamn war in the first place. Scared the Turians shitless.’ Everyone had a good laugh at that. And the boys fought great that night.”

Also known as the Relay 314 Incident if you want to get all Turian/technical on me. This conflict lasted just three months, but it marked the entrance of the Systems Alliance into the galaxy, and is the main reason for the animosity between Turian and Human forces during the course of the original trilogy.

A very brief history on the subject (I don’t *quite* know this off by heart, honest!): the Systems Alliance got a little too over-curious during their expansion and set about activating a whole bunch of random mass relays. Because you know, we’re human and that’s what we do. The Turians got a little annoyed when one of these activations involved a forbidden relay from the Rachni Wars. And so they shot at us. Classic Turian military, with their well-known peacekeeping tactic of “if it’s not being peaceful, shoot at it until it’s peaceful”. Eventually the Council managed to organise a peace treaty, before the Turians managed to make us peaceful once and for all.

But even three months is enough for Bioware to make a game out of it surely? I figure that the game could focus on the conflict with battles across several systems and the infamous siege at Shanxi. You’ve also got the possibility to involve David Anderson and Saren Arterius here too, if that’s what you’re aiming for. If you’re one for familiar faces, Hackett, Chakwas and Victus also played a part in the events of First Contact.

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 The Rachni Wars (1  – 300 CE)

“I do not know what happened in the war. We only heard discordance, songs the colour of oily shadows.”

The Rachni Wars gets pretty brushed over as far as I’m concerned: it’s a major conflict that helps to shape the universe as we know it. The Rachni wars are the reason the Council bitches at you for releasing the Queen, the reason for the uplifting of the Krogan and resulting Genophage years after, and one of the largest conflicts seen in the history of the galaxy.

Let me hit you with some history. The series of conflicts known as the Rachni Wars began when a Council expedition activated a dormant mass relay, which unfortunately for them led to Rachni territory (a pretty bad part of town by all accounts). The Rachni, a powerful race of spacefaring insect-like creatures controlled by a hive mind and great in number, proved to be incredibly hostile towards the intruders, and could not be negotiated with. The resulting conflict lasted for a few hundred years and was the main reason for the Salarian uplifting of the Krogan, who proved the only race capable of taking the Rachni on.

As a major plot point in the universe’s history, and with the resulting aftermath of the Krogan uplift and subsequent Genophage, the Rachni Wars provide boundless opportunity for a prequel. In fact, you could tie the next set of suggestions together for one massive game of conflicts for a history of the franchise (though granted, we’re talking about 700+ years here). Hint hint. And, perhaps most interesting, the prequel would prove to be not only 100% Shepard free, but also 100% human free. Now that’s food for thought if you ask me. Which you didn’t, but yeah, cool.

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The Krogan Rebellions (700 – 710 CE)

“To thank us for wiping out the Rachni they neutered us all.”

You hear (and more importantly, see) a lot more information about the Krogan Rebellions over the course of the trilogy. You even get the choice to cure the Genophage and piss off the Salarians, which is always good fun! From Turian/Krogan animosity to a blitzed and scarred landscape of Tuchanka (before anyone points this out, this was before the rebellions) you get a really good look at the Krogan in the ME universe, and start to feel for them in their plight for survival. All they wanted was to be loved. Probably.

Welcome to the Krogan Rebellions, 700 CE. Aggressive Krogan expansion has led to high tensions and finally a massive ass war with the Council. Krogan have been colonising worlds whether they’re allowed to or not, thanks to the their explosive population growth having left Tuchanka to fight the Rachni in 300 CE.  Decades of war ensue, until the Salarians and Turians deploy the Genophage, a bio-weapon to control the Krogan population growth by means of genetic mutation. As numbers start to fall, the relentless armies of no-surrender Krogan dwindle and finally fizzle out at Canrum against the tactical and surgical precision of, yep, you guessed it, the Turian (“peacekeeper”) military.

Personally, I think a prequel involving all or part of the last three topics would be epic. You could fight for either (or possibly even both) sides, and really get a feel for the Rebellions that resulted in the Genophage. You know, the thing that you hopefully decided to cure. Once again, no human involvement brings in a new approach for Bioware to play with, and you’ve got HUGE amounts of multiplayer potential too!

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Geth War (1895 CE)

“The Geth killed billions and forced us from our homeworld. Most Quarians believe we have paid properly for our mistake.”

Legion would never forgive me if I didn’t give it the Geth name, as to them it’s known as the Morning War. Lasting just under a year, it’s another infrequently mentioned part of the ME timeline. Unless you’re speaking to a Quarian. But it’s another point in the history which, without it, the world would be completely different. The Morning War is the whole reason the Geth fight against the humans at all, and the only reason Quarians now need to travel the galaxy as delicate space-suit clad refugees.

For the final time, here’s the basics: the Quarians created the Geth (“Servant of the People” in Khelish… [sheesh, this guy needs to get a life]), a “race” of networked AI, as labourers and potential tools of war. However, as the numbers of Geth increased, the networked intelligence got closer and closer to sentience. The first fears of sentience were triggered by questions asked by Geth to Quarian overseers, namely “does this unit have a soul?”, and the Quarian Government soon tried to react with a crackdown on the Geth via mass termination of geth systems. The Geth soon figured out the plan of their Quarian masters, and started to fight back, culminating in the Morning War. After less than a year, the Geth overran the Quarians and forced them off of Rannoch, their homeplanet, and neighbouring colonies, forever to wander the stars in search of a new home.

This conflict resulted in the formation of the Migrant Fleet, which is arguably a massive part of the later story within the ME trilogy. The war also resulted in massive culture and economy changes for the Quarians, along with leaving an entire army of AI for the Reapers to later manipulate and turn against the galaxy. Say what you like about the Quarians or the Geth though, I happen to think that the Morning War has some serious potential for expansion through a prequel. Once again, it’s a no human involvement deal too!

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How about backtracking… maybe, I don’t know, 50,000 years?

“Each star system was isolated, cut off from the others, easy prey for the Reaper fleets.Over the next decades, the Reapers systematically obliterated our people: world by world, system by system, they methodically wiped us out.”

Before our cycle? We’ve seen a living Prothean in Javik, one of Shepard’s squad members from ME3 with the From Ashes DLC. We’ve seen Prothean architecture on Ilos, and their last ditch attempt at survival with their brightest and best, most notably on Ilos in ME1. Throughout the trilogy, the Protheans guide Shepard against the Reapers: beacons, technology even VI programs such as Vigil. There’s nothing stopping Bioware from winding the clocks back to play as the Protheans in their plight against the Reapers. A lot of people would think this is pointless, for the same reason they think a prequel is pointless: the end is predetermined,  the Protheans lose. They must do, because they need to die for the cycle to begin again.

But think about it. A whole new empire to explore, a new look on the galaxy, and yet it’s still ME. And you’re right. You’re going to lose. But what happens along the way? What did the Protheans do as their Empire fell around them? Perhaps the trouble these days is that everyone is always expecting the happily ever after ending. One day, you may have to accept that no matter how hard you fight, the end is inevitable. In the end, you’re going to lose. Some people may say that it would take the fun out of the fight: why bother if you can’t win? The end is predetermined, my game doesn’t matter. But win or lose, a game is a game. An RPG tells a story. Nobody said you had to win every time. Approaching not just a Prothean storyline, but any of the prequel suggestions with an open mind allows you to see a lot of potential in 50,000 years of lore.

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I guess by now you’re probably starting to realise why we had to break the feature into parts! Hopefully this second part of this feature has given some insight into the other possibilities for a prequel, and maybe even persuaded you that maybe a prequel isn’t such a bad thing after all. If not, you may still be interested in the next parts of the feature, three and four, which should be up tomorrow and Monday, where I’ll explore the possibilities presented by a sequel with the help of APB’s Editor, Sam.

Thanks for reading!

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