What The Hell Is Going On In That Mass Effect Trailer?

What The Hell Is Going On In That Mass Effect Trailer?

I have not been able to stop thinking about the Mass Effect trailer from last night’s Game Awards. After the seemingly definitive end of the Shepard trilogy and the personally unsatisfying Mass Effect: Andromeda, I had given up hope that BioWare could create a new Mass Effect game that I could be excited about. But with just a one minute and 43 second trailer punctuated with a knowing smile from a beloved character, I’m ready to hope again.

Though a lot of fans were nonpluss by such a short trailer, lorehounds (your girl included) are piecing together how much information BioWare packed in a 103 second space. Here’s what’s been found.

BioWare has not punted the Andromeda system.

As the first four seconds of the trailer delve into the shining centre of the Milky Way galaxy, you can see another galaxy off in the distance. It’s Andromeda, and its presence seems to belie that BioWare still has plans for that galaxy. Taking a look at Mass Effect lead Mike Gamble’s Twitter feed would seem to confirm that theory.

Could the new game be a sequel to both Andromeda and the Shepard trilogy, or would it happen concurrently between the two galaxies? Or does this simply mean that BioWare hasn’t forgotten its ambitions of telling a new story in a new place, and the presence of the Andromeda galaxy only implies that one day the games will return there?

Yeah, That’s Liara.

I mentioned in my brief write-up of the trailer news that the asari we see in the trailer could be Liara. Personally, I didn’t get a good look at the face, my vision too obscured by the tears of joy of the thought of having a new Mass Effect. But it’s the freckles and the drawn on eyebrows for me; distinct features that conclude the blue lady is indeed Liara — beloved companion and possible love interest from the first trilogy. Liara is an asari, a race of blue-skinned head be-tentacled aliens that live for thousands of years. Her presence allows BioWare to set the story any-when they want. But even if we don’t know when Liara is, we can somewhat infer where she is.

Yup, that’s a Reaper.

Fuck Reapers, all my homies hate Reapers. In the trailer you can see Liara walking up a snow bank with an extremely large structure looming in the distance. Taking a peek at Gamble’s Twitter again, he confirms it’s a Reaper — the big galaxy-ending bad guys that plagued Commander Shepard through the first three games.

The presence of a seemingly inactive or destroyed (dare I say…derelict) Reaper in the background possibly confirms two big pieces of information: the destroy ending is canon and Liara, right now, is not in the Andromeda galaxy.

At the end of Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard is given three choices: You can destroy the Reapers with a massive chain reaction explosion of the mass relays. You can plug your consciousness into the Reaper hive mind and control them, sending them away forever. Or you can synthesise with them, altering the DNA of every organic species by combining it with synthetic matter, essentially doing the Reapers’ job for them albeit in a far more peaceful (but far more horrifying) manner. In both control and synthesis endings, the Reapers just disappear, returning to whatever corner of the galaxy they came from. In the destroy ending they’re destroyed, presumably leaving their massive corpses all over the galaxy — the Sol galaxy.

Reapers are a long-lived, technologically-advanced, space-faring species of arsehole. If they wanted to, they could get to the Andromeda galaxy to resume their quest to forcibly assimilate all organic life into themselves. But Andromeda creative director Mac Walters confirmed in a video with Game Informer that Reapers never made the trip to the Andromeda galaxy. Now, it’d be easy to retcon that information or just concoct a story where surprise — a rogue sect of Reapers decide they just don’t wanna deal with Shepard’s bullshit anymore and travel to a place where the pickings would be easier. But assuming everything we know about the two galaxies has remained intact, the Reapers have been destroyed and Liara is in the Sol galaxy. Or is she?

Who’s That Poké-crewmate?

As we see Liara smirk right before the ending of the trailer, there are three creatures in the distance. You can’t see who they are, and much discussion has been made over their species. The picture isn’t clear, and you can only see them for a second before they fade out, but I’m certain of the species of two of them. The creature on the far left is a salarian; I can tell via the distinct arc of their spine:

It's very hard to see, but trust me when I say far left is a salarian. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)
It’s very hard to see, but trust me when I say far left is a salarian. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

The creature on the far right is a krogan. I know some people could argue that creature is an angara — the new race introduced in and native to Andromeda — and while angara are kinda thick chested, that “hump” toward the top of the body on the creature in the trailer screams krogan, not angara.

The creature on the far right is a krogan. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)
The creature on the far right is a krogan. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

There is a creature in the middle who remains a mystery to me and others. That creature could be an angara, could be a human, an asari, or even a drell.

Screenshot: BioWare
Screenshot: BioWare

But! I’ve figured out how we might be able to tell what species it is. We’ve seen a version of this last shot of the trailer before, in a BioWare blog post:

Very similar to the shot in the trailer. (Image: BioWare)
Very similar to the shot in the trailer. (Image: BioWare)

Now I know the picture is not a one for one duplication of the shot in the trailer, but they’re similar enough to me to suggest what we see in the trailer could be based on this piece of artwork. Here it’s more clear who is what. The furthest left character can fuck off, it’s a distinctless blob, but from left to right that’s an angara (the upper body is too bulky to be human, asari, or quarian but not bulky enough to be a krogan), a drell (that looks exactly like Thane’s silhouette from the party select screen in ME2), and a salarian — further suggesting that if the trailer shot is based on this still image, it’s possible the creature in the middle in the trailer could be an angara or a drell.

Extremely similar shot compositions, since the picture on the right is taken from a YouTube preview still, the play button and Liara's face obscures the two suns.  (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)
Extremely similar shot compositions, since the picture on the right is taken from a YouTube preview still, the play button and Liara’s face obscures the two suns. (Screenshot: BioWare / Kotaku)

If that middle crewmate is indeed an angara, either Liara is in Andromeda, which contradicts the established canon of Reapers not being there (and makes the origin of the piece of the N7 armour she pulls out of the snow a complete mystery, since it ostensibly belongs to Commander Shepard and they’ve never been to the Andromeda galaxy), or — more likely — somehow an angara has managed to travel to the Sol system.

The next few years are going to be exciting for me as I consume every clue my Mass Effect starved body can handle. I can already tell my wheels are going to be spinning as more people dissect this trailer down to its atoms to figure out what clue BioWare left for us to find. From Gamble’s tweets, they left a lot.

Happy hunting. Please let me know immediately if Garrus Vakarian shows up.

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