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Mass Effect Primer

Never played another game in the Mass Effect series? Looking for a refresher before taking up the helm of the Normandy again? Our Primer will help you get up to speed.

The year is now 2183. The SSV Normandy, a prototype Alliance stealth warship built in collaboration with the Turians is leaving Earth’s orbit on its way to Eden Prime, one of humanity’s first colonies. Staring out the window is Commander Shepard, an exemplary Alliance officer trained in Special Forces combat and currently the lead candidate put forth by Captain Andersen and Ambassador Udina to become the first human Spectre; An elite special operative of the Citadel Council.  Shepard’s acceptance by the Citadel would be considered a major political victory for the Systems Alliance if he passes muster.

During the transit Shepard is introduced to Nihlus, a Turian Spectre assigned to observe the commander, and is told that the Normandy’s first mission will be the recovery of a Prothean artifact found on Eden Prime. Any sense that it will be an easy recovery is shattered when a distress call is received from the colony, stating that they are under attack and showing a massive dreadnought hanging over the surface of the planet.

Upon reaching the planet, Shepard assembles a landing team composed of Corporal Jenkins and Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, while Nihlus runs on ahead. Within minutes of dropping, the team is attacked by Geth drones resulting in the death of Jenkins. The Geth are a synthetic race created by the Quarians almost three hundred years ago as a source of labor before becoming self-aware and rebelling against their creators. They had not been heard from until the current attack on Eden Prime.

Pushing forward, Shepard and Kaidan encounter Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams, one of the survivors in the colony. Williams has no knowledge of why the Geth have attacked and is ordered by Shepard to lead them to the artifact. While moving through the colony the group finds human corpses impaled on tall metal spikes, which suddenly lower and reveal the corpses of metal zombie/cyborg hybrids, labeled Husk, which rush to attack the team.

While the team battles through the hordes, Nihlus comes across Saren Arterius, a fellow Spectre. Nihlus assumes that Saren had arrived to aid the colony and lets his guard down. Revealing his true allegiance Saren shoots Nihlus in the back by Saren who then lifts off the planet in the dreadnaught after ordering the Geth to destroy the colony now that he has been able to examine the relic.

Managing to stop the remaining Geth while disarming their demolition charges, the team finds the Prothean artifact. While calling the Normandy for pickup, one of the team members gets too close and somehow activates the artifact, but Shepard pushes them out of the way and is forced to suffer an incredibly horrific vision of blood and technology before being thrown to the ground unconscious.

Fifteen hours later, Shepard wakes up in the Normandy’s medical unit. Captain Anderson informs Shepard that Saren is a legendary Spectre and that in order to go after him they must convince the Citadel Council to remove his status. In order to appeal to the Council, they must go to the Citadel, a massive indestructible space station believed to have been built by the Protheans.

Unfortunately, the hearing does not go well; the Council openly mocking the evidence presented against Saren and Shepard’s vision. Deciding that more evidence is needed, Anderson tells Shepard to look for Garrus, a Turian Citadel security (C-sec) officer who has been investigating Saren, as well as some additional leads. Tracking down Garrus leads to the knowledge that there is a female Quarian, Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, on the station with evidence of Saren’s connection to the Geth and is looking to sell it to the Shadow Broker, a trader of information whose identity is unknown.

Teaming up with a mercenary Krogan Battlemaster named Urdnot Wrex, the team raids the gambling den of crime lord, Fist, who was supposed to be the buyer. Unfortunately Tali is about to be ambushed by her buyer, forcing the team to race to save her. After the rescue she is taken to present the evidence to the Council - a Geth memory core that demonstrates Saren was behind the attacks, seemingly working with a powerful Asari, Matriarch Benezia. He is apparently looking for something known as the Conduit. Forced to accept that one of their own has turned traitor, the council strips Saren of his status as Spectre.

Reluctant to send an entire fleet after one man, the Council instead inducts Shepard as the first human Spectre and orders him to hunt down Saren. To aid him, Anderson hands the Normandy over to Shepard, along with some useful leads. The planets Noveria and Feros have reported Geth sightings, with one tied to Matriarch Benezia.

The team pursues the Matriarch Benezia lead first. She has a daughter known as Liara T’Soni, an expert on the Prothean race, who was last seen at the mining colony of Therum going through discovered Prothean ruins. In pursuit of Liara, the team heads to the colony, only to find Geth.

Shepard and a team of two others (Wrex, Tali, Ashley, or Kaidan) fight their way down a mine shaft to find Liara trapped behind a barrier curtain, having accidentally triggered the trap while running from the Geth. Before they can leave the unstable ruins the team is ambushed by a Krogan Battlemaster and several Geth before managing to escape the collapsing ruins. On the Normandy Liara explains her theory that the Protheans were not the first race to go extinct and vanish. She is amazed by Shepard’s vision and asks to stay on and help the team.

Arriving on the planet Noveria, a frozen world where corporations run experiments too controversial and dangerous for other planets, Shepard learns that Matriarch Benezia is actually on planet, having arrived as an investor of a Binary Helix lab on peak 15. After some elaborate effort, Shepard is finally able to get a pass to drive up to the lab.

Upon arriving he finds the lab deserted except for Geth and a strange race of insect-like creatures known as the Rachni that were thought to go extinct after they waged a genocidal war on the galaxy. Eventually managing to activate the labs virtual intelligence (VI), Shepard learns that Benezia has gone up to Rift Station, an isolated lab at the peak. Once there he discovers the science staff sheltering from constant Rachni attacks and learns that a Rachni queen egg had been discovered and that they were trying to breed an army until the Rachni suddenly turned.

Proceeding deeper into the lab, Shepard finally confronts the matriarch in front of the queen’s cage. After the battle, Benzia, who lies dying, manages to overcome a brainwashing Saren had used on her and tells Shepard that the Conduit is tied to the Mu mass effect relay and she was trying to retrieve it from the Rachni queen's genetic memory. At this point Shepard is spoken to by the Rachni queen via a telepathically controlled dead Asari commando. According to the queen, the Rachni war was somehow a mistake and she wants to live. Shepard has the choice of either killing or releasing her.

The final lead brings the crew of the Normandy to Feros, a terrestrial planet with over two-thirds of its land mass covered in Prothean ruins. The ExoGeni Corporation had founded a small colony on the planet, Zhu’s Hope, while studying the ruins. That colony had sent out a distress call while suffering repeated Geth attacks, which is received by the Normandy. Shepard manages to aid the colonists, who were acting incredibly odd, before venturing to the ExoGeni research headquarters. While there, he fights off more Geth and discovers that ExoGeni has been using the colony as a testing ground, building it over the home of a giant mind-controlling plant known as the Thorian.

Arriving back at the colony, Shepard subdues or kills the controlled colonist before descending underground to confront the Thorian. The Thorian releases a green Asari clone to speak for it, proving its sentience.  It explains that it has no desire to bargain anymore with meat and attacks the crew. After the battle, an Asari named Shiala falls from one of the Thorian’s pods and quickly explains that she was offered to the Thorian by Saren in an effort to gain the Cipher; the cultural experience of the Protheans that the Thorian had absorbed from their corpses. Shiala is able to transfer the Cipher to Shepard’s mind so that he can now understand the images he is seeing.

While Shepard tries to adjust to this new found knowledge, he is contacted by the council with another lead. A Salarian espionage team tasked with hunting down leads on Saren sent an emergency burst from the planet Virmire. After arriving and engaging in several battles with the Geth, Shepard learns from the team lead, Captain Kirrahe, that Saren is using the planet as a facility to reverse a Krogan sterility plague known as the genophage to breed an unstoppable army.

After talking with Shepard, Kirrahe realizes he won’t get any more reinforcements, and devises a plan for Shepard’s team to distract the guards while his team preps their shuttle's drive core into a makeshift nuke. At this point Shepard has to talk with Wrex, who is furious at the idea of destroying the cure to the Krogan genophage. Unless Shepard has worked hard on building a history with Wrex, or has made a deep commitment in social skills the talk has a high chance to turn violent, which results in Ashley killing Wrex as he refuses to listen to reason. Despite the outcome the mission must eventually proceed.

While inside the facility, Shepard finds another Prothean beacon and then comes into contact with what was thought to be Saren’s dreadnaught, but is actually a being known as a Reaper; an ancient, synthetic race that wiped out the Protheans in a cycle of “harvesting” that is repeated every 50,000 years. Sovereign, the Reaper using Saren, explains that organic life is nothing but a mutation in the galaxy; something the Reapers allow to exist before killing.

The conversation is cut short as the nuke is setup, but Sovereign is now heading towards Virmire to slay Shepard. Shepard must choose to leave behind either Ashley or Kaidan while the nuke detonates to guarantee their mission is successful.

With the second beacon, the vision from the Protheans is complete. The vision was a distress call to warn Protheans about the reapers. Liara, aiding Shepard, realizes that the vision also has a roadmap to the planet Ilos, a legendary Prothean planet that was undiscovered. Ilos is unreachable unless one uses the Mu Relay.

Shepard then gets a message from the Council stating that they are putting together a fleet to attack Saren. Excited at the turn of events, Shepard returns to lead the assault, but discovers the council plans to protect the Citadel from a Geth invasion and refuses to believe in the possibility of a Reaper threat.

Shepard is grounded after asking permission to find the Mu Relay. With the aid of Captain Anderson, Shepard breaks the Council's grounding mandate and flies to the Mu Relay and the planet Ilos. During the trip, Shepard would have a romantic encounter with Liara, Ashley or Kaidan depending on his chosen path.

Using the Normandy’s stealth abilities to avoid a Geth fleet, Shepard and his team land on the planet Ilos and go after Saren. Before the commander can complete the chase, however, an ancient VI, Vigil, makes contact with Shepard and gives the commander crucial information.

The Citadel is actually a huge mass relay linking to dark space, an area outside of the galaxy, where the Reapers are waiting in a dormant state. The Keepers, an alien race thought to be caretakers of the Citadel, are supposedly one of the first races taken by the Reapers. They were given the task of maintaining the Citadel and activating the Citadel Relay when Sovereign signals them. Every 50,000 years the signal is sent and not even the Prothean scientists know why they do it. The Reapers were the ones who designed the Citadel and the mass relays in order to make future races grow along a predictable technology path chosen by them; thus allowing the genocides to be easier.

Ilos was a distant research planet and the scientist there managed to put themselves into cryogenic stasis in order to wait out the war. However, as the years wore on, Vigil was forced to shut off cryo pods in order to conserve energy. When the few surviving scientists emerged and realized their race was unable to recover they decided to strike back at the once again dormant reapers.

They would build the Conduit, a back door into the Citadel, which would enable them to alter the Keepers so they would not respond to the signal, preventing the reapers from returning. Saren's goal is to activate the Citadel manually for Sovereign, in the hope that by cooperating with the Reaper he would spare the Turian race.

Meanwhile back at the Citadel, Sovereign has moved to attack the Citadel with a fleet of Geth ships while Saren sneaks in through the Conduit and proceeds to the control center. Shepard races through the Conduit while the battle is in full glory and has to fight through an unending horde of opponents before confronting Saren at the control center.

The team manages to kill Saren and Shepard inserts a program from Vigil that overrides the Citadel controls. Shepard then can choose to have the arriving 5th Alliance Fleet try to save the Council flagship or not.

After Shepard makes his decision, Saren suddenly rises again as cybernetic implants given to him by Sovereign burn in a bright red fire and animate him as some sort of husk controlled directly by Sovereign.

The second fight is much more difficult, but with Saren's final death, Sovereign is hit with feedback and becomes temporarily weakened. He is subsequently destroyed by the surviving Citadel ships.

With the battle finally over, humanity has now earned a spot on the Citadel Council, either as the only member race if Shepard chose not to aid their ship, or the fourth. Shepard meanwhile walks out to continue his new mission: find a way to stop the Reapers.

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