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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.

Two years from his death, in the year 2185, Commander Shepard wakes up on a medical bed inside a space station whose residents are under attack by their own hacked security mechs. Overcoming lingering scars he manages to fight through the mechs and team up with Miranda Lawson and Jacob Taylor, the senior officers on the station and agents of Cerberus.

Shepard is transported to another Cerberus outpost where he meets the Illusive Man, the leader of Cerberus. The Illusive Man explains that they spent the last two years using all available means to resurrect Shepard, who is now partially cybernetic, so that the fight against the Reapers could continue.

Human colonies have recently come under sudden attack; their occupants mysteriously vanishing with no clues as to who could be behind it. The Illusive Man asks Shepard to lead a team to investigate the most recent attack site, Freedom’s Progress. Upon arriving, the team comes into contact with Tali’Zorah vas Neema who is on the colony to rescue a Quarian that was visiting the colony at the time of the attacks and has holed up inside the security center. Working together, the two teams learn that the Collectors, a mysterious insect-like race, is behind the attacks, somehow freezing the colonist occupants and carting them off. Once this is reported to the Illusive Man, Shepard is assigned the Normandy SR-2, a highly advanced ship based off its namesake. Joker, the pilot of the previous Normandy has signed up with Cerberus in order to work with Shepard again and Shepard also encounters EDI, a true artificial intelligence embedded in the ship.

While the Illusive Man and Cerberus begin their research on the Collectors, Shepard is tasked with assembling a team of elite individuals to perform a surgical, but likely suicidal, attack against the Collectors once the location of their base of operations is determined. The first four suggested team members consist of a Salarian scientist, a vigilante known as Archangel, a Krogan warlord, and a powerful but unstable biotic. The Salarian, Mordin, is working on the space station Omega combating a Collector engineered plague spreading through the station. Archangel turns out to be Garrus, having turned to this role after Shepard’s death. The Krogan warlord, Okeer, was performing cloning experiments in an effort to make the perfect Krogan.  Even though he dies, his final creation, Grunt, is left in Shepard’s care. Jack, the biotic, is on a prison space ship and even though Shepard has the money to buy her freedom, the warden turns on the Commander, forcing the destruction of the entire vessel.

Depending if certain DLC was purchased or not, Shepard can at this point also acquire the services of a feared mercenary known as Zaeed Massani hired by the Illusive Man, and a legendary thief known as Kasumi.

Before Shepard can continue building a team he learns that the human colony, Horizon, is under attack from Collectors and that Shepard’s old squad mate, Kaidan Alenko or Ashley Williams (whichever survived the first game – those that did not play the first will encounter Ashley), has been stationed there. The team arrives to find most of the colonists already missing and the rest frozen in some kind of paralyzed state. Eventually managing to activate some defense towers, the team forces the collectors to flee in a ship that looks identical to the one that attacked and killed Shepard two years ago.

Back on the Normandy the Illusive Man admits to letting it slip out that Shepard was alive and working for Cerberus. As soon as the Collectors received this information they attacked Horizon in an effort to get to the Commander’s former squad mate. This is proof that the Collectors are targeting Shepard specifically. While the Illusive Man continues his research he provides three more potential team members; Tali, Thane Krios, a Drell assassin and an Asari Justicar, Samara. Tali is found deep in Geth territory on an originally Quarian world trying to investigate why the system’s sun is rapidly dying. Some sort of interaction with dark energy seems to be the culprit, but Tali is trapped by Geth forces before reaching a conclusion. Thane Krios, and Samara, are all on the planet of Illium.

After the last teammate is acquired the Illusive Man tells Shepard that a Turian patrol engaged a collector ship and even though they were destroyed, managed to cripple the ship. He wants the Commander to investigate before anyone else gets there. On board the ship, the team comes across numerous experiments performed not only on humans but on the Collectors themselves. EDI, the Normandy’s AI, analyzes the genetic material and learns that the Collectors are in fact the previously assumed extinct Protheans subjected to massive genetic alterations by the Reapers. Joker also discovers that this is the same ship as the one that attacked both Horizon and the original Normandy. Shepard has EDI connect into the Collector ship mainframe computer when suddenly the team comes under attack, as it is revealed the ship was not crippled at all. In fact it was an elaborate ruse that EDI confirms the Illusive Man suspected was likely, but deemed it worth the risk.

After surviving the encounter, and getting in an argument with the Illusive Man, EDI is able to confirm that the Collector home world is on the other side of the Omega 4 Relay. A relay that no ship has ever successfully returned from, likely due to the fact that it required a specific Reaper IFF code, a piece of information also discovered by EDI from her hack into the Collector ship. The way to get this IFF is revealed by the Illusive Man – a derelict reaper, apparently crippled millions of years ago by some massive attack. According to the Illusive Man, a science team has already been sent to retrieve and ready it.

The Normandy arrives at the coordinates and discovers the team dead and the ship overrun with Husks, confirming that the Geth have acquired that technology from the Reapers. While retrieving the IFF the team finds that the Reaper ship has somehow activated its shields, forcing the team to attempt to destroy its mass effect core. Along the way they encounter a Geth unit wearing a piece of Shepard’s old armor that can both talk and is actively aiding the team. Escaping the reaper ship after destroying its core, Shepard talks to the captured Geth and allows it to join the team under the name of Legion.

Eventually the reaper IFF is integrated into the Normandy and while Shepard and team take a shuttle to their next mission, the device is tested. The test triggers another trap set by the Collectors that disables the Normandy and broadcasts their position to the Collector ship, which arrives and begins to abduct the crew. Everyone, save Joker, is captured as he eventually manages to return control of the Normandy to EDI who opens all the airlocks and flies off, blasting the collectors on board into space and escaping. At this point Shepard has the choice of either going after the crew members immediately or waiting until they are more prepared.

The Normandy eventually activates the Omega 4 Relay and finds itself in a vast debris field located near the galactic core, explaining why the base had been so hard to find. As the Normandy approaches the collector base it must deal with automated defenses, the congested space, and the Collector ship. The various upgrades that have been purchased for the Normandy will determine the outcome of these encounters and whether or not any crew is lost. Eventually the Normandy crashes onto the surface of the Collector base and an infiltration plan is made on how to get into the base and destroy it. At this point any of the crew, including Shepard, can be killed.

Fighting their way through an almost endless horde of collectors, the team comes upon the heart of the base and discovers what has been happening to the abducted human colonists. Each of them was being broken down into base organic matter and fed into a new Reaper construct, one that looks eerily like a human. EDI guesses that each reaper is actually a synthetic blend of both organic and inorganic materials and that is how they reproduce. She goes on to theorize that the Prothean's material was not able to make a new Reaper so they were instead turned into slaves.

Not wanting a new Reaper to be born, Shepard and team destroy the support tubing holding up the Reaper and cause it to fall into a deep pit. The team then moves forward with destroying the base by overloading its power plant. At this point the Illusive Man contacts Shepard and tries to convince him to save the base, configuring the explosion just to kill organic material, and to salvage the technology for Cerberus.

Regardless of the decision, the human-Reaper crawls back up the pit and attacks the team in a final showdown before being destroyed. The game ends aboard the Normandy with whatever crew members survive, as a final cinematic reveals hundreds of Reapers activating in dark space and flying towards Earth.

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