It’s November, which means that for Mass Effect fans, it’ll soon be N7 Day, in celebration of when the original Mass Effect came out in 2007. This year’s is going to be quite a big one, what with Mass Effect Andromeda coming out early next year, and Bioware’s definitely going to be revealing something for their new sci-fi game. They’ve been fairly mum on things; all we know for certain is that the Mako will return with hopefully some better controls, our new protagonist is a a human pair of siblings with the last name Ryder, and that we’re in a new galaxy with its own set of threats. Well, and that the game’s set “long” after the events of the original trilogy, but we didn’t really get an idea of just how long until this week’s trailer. The voice over from the man on the moon says that “the time has come to prepare ourselves for a future beyond the Milky Way…600 years from where we stand,” which implies that Andromeda is set 600 years in the future from the original trilogy.
Yeah, that’s quite a timeskip, for sure, and the trailer ends with a recruitment drive for something called the Andromeda Initiative, which functions as a newsletter in real life. But the Initiative may also give some hints as to the story and how our protagonists wind up in this new galaxy. Mass Effect fans have had theories as to how Andromeda would be tied to the Shepard trilogy without being affected by the endings, which eventually spawned into the Ark Theory. The general idea here is that the Council (and any other species that were willing to help fight against the Reapers) essentially made lifeboats filled with equipment and survivors of all sentient races in the chance that Shepard couldn’t stop the Reapers, then shot them off to a new galaxy. As for how they managed to jump all those ships, people, and equipment two million light years away? Well, the idea is that Collector and Reaper tech was harnessed so the survivors would be a safe distance away from certain destruction. So any lives onboard these ships would be placed under cryo freeze before being shot off, which explains Ryder’s first words in the E3 trailer from earlier this year: “We made it,” spoken in both awe and disbelief.
As far as fan theories for Mass Effect Andromeda go, it sounds preposterous, but could likely end up being the most true of them all. As much of a narrative cheat as it may seem, let’s face it, the Council has never fully been behind Shepard. They buried the truth about Sovereign pretty much the moment after the Commander died, and even when that same hero returned to warn them of the Collector and Reaper connection, the only thing they could muster were finger quotes and a snide tone. Shepard may have had a a 2-0 track record, and even though they managed to get old enemies to stand together, those are still some pretty grim odds to go up against. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Council was working on a fallback that at best, they never thought they’d need and at worst, they’d hope would ensure the survival of their respective species. There’s a line in ME3 after the fall of Thessia where the Asari councilor said that she must “see to preparations,” and while that could just mean for her people in general after such a loss, it may have also meant that she went to make sure that there would be plenty of Asari to make it on the Arks.
Not only would it make a lot of sense if that’s how they justified it narratively, but also look at the game’s visual style. If the game does indeed take place half a millennium after the original trilogy, it would explain why it doesn’t look like much has changed in terms of design for any of the N7 stuff. The armor looks fairly similar to the suits from the second and third game, as does the Omni-blade. Heck, even the Mako looks to have the same basic design overall.
Mass Effect Andromeda news has been few and far between, but this week’s trailer and what footage we got last year seems to lend even more credence to the Ark Theory. The narrator for our Andromeda Initiative trailer speaks with a sort of tragic resignation about the state of things that make the trailer appropriately sound like a recruitment drive as the music swells and the camera pans out to reveal a large space station. He even looks at Earth long enough for it to be a man soaking in the last image of the only home he’s ever known. That same feeling was present in last year’s N7 Day trailer, where Shepard says that “you” (as in the player) are the new explorer and have no choice but to move forward. And, if you look at that trailer, the one from E3, and the one from this week, they all share one thing in common: a giant space station that looks a lot like an ark, no?
Is the Ark Theory true? We won’t know for sure until next week at the earliest, but if it is, that’s a good hook to go off of for Mass Effect Andromeda. It definitely holds up more than some of the other theories out there, and it’ll be interesting to see how the story plays out from that point.